Monday, March 31, 2014

A List for Spring

My mom took this picture of the bunny a few years ago. My parents' farm is busting with interesting wildlife. Not that this bunny was so unique. He (or she) was just curious. The threat of being chased around the property by the BBD (Big Black Dog) was worth a looksee at the garden.

This, my friends, is 165 pounds of love. He wuvs me. He also wuvs the bunny. Just in a different way (if you catch my drift). 

So I've been experiencing a mighty vicious case of Spring Fever. Fortunately, I've not caught the other kind that seems to making its rounds.

I've got so much to do. So many things I want to do. There are too many cute blouses in my closet dying for some warm weather attention. Even hay fever sounds like a happy alternative to another week of dreary weather. Anybody with me?

Today I made a long list. I've got a massive amount of reviews I'm tackling...not to mention a few other blog projects I'm working on. I'm also trying to do some major decluttering and Spring Cleaning. This kind of action deserves a very special List.

I've decided that along with my List of "Things that must be done or I might has well hide" I am going to write down a list of "Things I have to do this Spring before it's Summer." Just because.

1. Get a pedicure and have my toes painted Bubble Gum Pink. My feet haven't seen the light of day all Winter. This could be scary.

2. Take trip with Josiah to the Botanical Gardens. I want to watch the birds, admire the spring flowers and tree buds. I want to gaze the swans on the lake and try and avoid the geese (ornery birds).

3. I want to plant a few herbs in pots for my balcony. Dill, chives, basil and parsley.

4. Along with my herbs, I want to plant a few little purple petunias to add to my balcony garden. They are good to wave their purple heads at friends and neighbors.

5. I want to sit for a whole afternoon outside. I want to feel the fresh and breezy clean of Spring on my face. I want to watch the clouds drift across the sky. If I fall asleep... so be it.

6. Walk barefoot in the grass. Squish my toes into fresh dirt and pretend I am just a girl again.

7. Make a Hummingbird Cake I can eat.

8. Take my family on a picnic. Nothing beats a pasta salad and cold chicken for a picnic.

9. Visit the farmer's market. Somebody probably has something I absolutely need.

10. Make a point to smile every day.

So what is one your List to do this spring?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Weight Loss Journal: Sweetie

Hiya! My intention was that I would sneak last week's weight loss journal in before I needed to post this week's weight loss journal. Then I realized I hadn't posted a weight loss journal from the week before.

I do believe that is called a mighty big avoidance issue.

I do have good news to report. I have been losing inches! I have been very consistent with my T-Tapp workout and I can see results.

I think the issue comes when I don't see it as fast as I would like. That has always been a big problem with me. I don't get bored in the sense that I am itching for something different to do. I get bored with routine. If I don't feel and see results I get discouraged. I also get bored with my decor easily. Which is a problem when living in a 700sqft. apartment. But, that it for a different blog post altogether.

Losing another person is tough. I think because of the popularity of weight loss shows, etc., we think it should happen faster than it really does. Real life does not resemble reality tv.

The "word" for 2014 I chose was Consistency. I think consistency is pretty much the key to the whole weight loss journey. And patience. And maybe tenacity.

I am planning in the next few weeks to possibly photograph my daily meals. I am frequently asked, "What have you done to lose so much weight?" Maybe my current path will give somebody motivation to keep on (keeping on).

Yesterday, I shared with you the beautiful Carrot Cake recipe my mama made for me on my birthday. It is gluten and sugar free. Which was such a blessing. I inhaled it like Josiah inhales Cheetos. I honestly used to think I didn't have much of a sweet tooth. I have been diabetic for years and really did  well with the whole "sweet eating" thing. It wasn't until I started my low GI (glycemic index) plan that I realized how many extra sugars I had been allowing into my diet. Just because it isn't a sweet dessert doesn't mean it isn't loaded with sugars.

I have a few resources that have been helpful for me.

I follow (loosely) the Trim Healthy Mama plan. That plan also really eliminates hidden sugars. I challenge you to start reading labels and doing research on the whole thing. Some other good resources are the "Eat This, Not That" books by . We have the Eat This, Not That Supermarket Survival Guide. You should have seen how crazy the The Studly Muffin and I were when we first got the book. We carried it everywhere. I still like to refer to it.

You do realize, however, that all the books and the plans in the world will only work if  you WORK.  I also have come to understand that my weight loss journey is not defined by those less desirable choices. Say for example, I give into my craving of a Turtle Pecan Master Blast from Sonic (say on a pleasant Thursday evening).

This is the deal. I am far enough along in this journey to know that beating myself up about that Turtle Pecan Master Blast from Sonic (say on a pleasant Thursday evening) isn't going to be helpful.

 It's even less helpful if I give up. Being a mature person means I take responsibility for those choices. I pick myself up (literally. That Master Blaster knocked me out!) and continue on the journey.

So my friends. Don't quit! Even if you aren't seeing results. There have been months I haven't seen the scale drop, then all of the sudden it starts to move again. Sometimes the body needs to adjust and adapt. You can't go wrong with moving, eating well and taking care of yourself.

Random alert! I just typed "Live Long and Prosper!" Then promptly hit the backspace button. I was in the moment and channeling my inner Dr. Spock. Just a thought...Did you ever see any chubby folks on Star Trek? I honestly don't remember any. They must not have had a Sonic on board.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Carrot Cake with Coconut Cream Frosting (GF/SF)

As promised I am passing along the recipe for the delicious carrot cake my mom made me on my birthday a few weeks ago. I enjoyed every bite of it. I even had it for breakfast the next day. 

 The frosting that comes with it is rich and creamy. I didn't even miss the traditional powdered sugar/cream cheese concoction. 

I am hoping this same makes an appearance at Easter Dinner. We have traditionally had a Coconut Cream Cake or Hummingbird Cake. Mom. If you are reading this maybe you can make me another one. I promise to clean my room. Aren't I shameless? No really. You should see my room. 

Carrot Cake (gluten and sugar free)
3 cups blanched almond flour
½ cup flax meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup sugar free marmalade
¼ cup coconut oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup raisins ( used some dried melon)
1 cup walnuts or pecans
Sweetener to taste

In a large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg
In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, marmalade and oil.

Stir carrots, raisins and nuts into wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into dry. Be sure to taste your batter to see if you need to add any extra sweetener. Place batter into 2 well-greased, round 9-Inch cake pans. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes

Cool to room temperature and spread with frosting. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and toasted nuts.

Coconut Cream Frosting

A can of FULL FAT Coconut Milk
1 block of cream cheese
1 container of Greek Pineapple Yogurt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
You can add a little sweetener to taste

Put a can of coconut milk in the fridge. Let it sit there all night or all day. The fat of the coconut milk will rise to the top. Spoon that part out and put in your mixing bowl.  Now just mix and mix until it starts to thicken. Then add the cream cheese and yogurt. Mix some more. Next add the vanilla extract and sweeten to taste. It will be beautiful and creamy. 

 Goodness Gracious! That was good cake. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom's French Country Chicken

You might have heard it was my birthday last week. Next week I want to share the delicious recipe for the Carrot Cake (gluten and sugar free) my mom made me for my birthday.

This week I want to pass along a truly scrumptious recipe. When I was growing up this was what I asked my Mom to took for my birthday meal. Last week (before I got old) I made this for my own little family. I love it because it is relatively simple, yet tastes rich and fancy. It tastes like you've been simmering it all day.

Years ago, Mom and I created our own little cookbook. We gathered special family recipes. Mom illustrated the pages after I wrote all the copy. I then hand bound books for family and friends. They are really quite lovely.

This is the page for the French Chicken. 

Just so we're clear here. My artistic talents don't lie in this direction.

I can doodle respectably. That's about it.

So pretty.

The original recipe calls for a whole chicken, but I find that you can get away with what you have. Even a few chicken breasts will work. This day I used chicken thighs. They had been on sale at my grocery store for .99 a pound.

I started by cooking the chicken in salted water. The cooking time depends on what cut of chicken you are using. Anything with bones takes a little more time. 

While the chicken was cooking, I set Josiah cutting up the veggies.  For this recipe I used 3-4 carrots cut in chunks. I'm sure I had the same job when I was his age.

Then 2-3 stalks of celery needed to have the same treatment. He had a much easier time with celery. I wish he felt the same way about eating it.

Josiah decided he wanted to brave the onion, too. The recipe says just to chunk it up, but I like my onion pieces just a bit smaller. I did give them another good chop when Josiah left the kitchen.

After the chicken cooked I took it out of the broth (which I set aside) to cool. After it cooled I boned and skinned it.  I kept my pieces fairly big. My men like their chicken. I did remove the skin as well.

I then put the veggies on to saute in a big pot in 1/2 cup of the chicken broth. I started out by sauteing them in a little olive oil, but you don't have to do that. I imagine I let them simmer 5 minutes or so.

After the veggies hadsimmered, they got covered in 2 cups of the leftover chicken broth, 1 cup of cooking wine, a bay leaf and a little thyme. You can substitute  chicken broth for the cooking wine if you wish. This is when I added my deboned chicken. I do have a suggestion. If you have used chicken breast, don't add until the end. This mixture simmered for 30 minutes.

While the chicken mixture cooked I got the rest of my ingredients together. The recipe calls for milk, but I had this in my fridge. It was crying out for attention. I was happy to oblige.In a sauce pan, I combined 2 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of the Half & Half.

I also added a teaspoon or so of my soup base. My leftover chicken broth quite didn't fill my 4 cup measuring cup so I filled the rest with water. This helped give it some flavor. I got this at a Mennonite grocery. No MSG!

I then added 5 Tablespoons of flour to the chicken stock. I worried a minute about this. You make a roux with butter, flour and broth. However, the recipe didn't say anything about a roux. I just shut my eyes and dumped everything into my little sauce pan. Thankfully, my French Chicken turned out lump free.

Add 4 Tablespoons of Buttah (yes, I went there)! And whisk into your chicken mixture. Then stir in 3 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Cook until its thickened. It won't take very long.

The final product is just wonderful! And pretty! And wonderful! And pretty!

I served my French Country Chicken with some baked brown rice and roasted asparagus.

Here is the recipe (minus my ramblings)

3-4 carrots, cut in large pieces
2-3 celery stalks, cut in large pieces
1 onion, chunked up
1 whole chicken
1 bay leaf
1 cup of cooking wine (may substitute chicken broth)
3 T Parmesan cheese
4 1/2 cups of chicken broth (divided)
4 T of butter
5 T of flour

Cook chicken in salted water. Save 4-5 cups of the broth for the sauce and debone the chicken. Saute carrots, celery and onions in one-half cup of chicken broth. Cover with chicken, cooking wine and 2 cups of broth. Simmer for 30 minutes. In a separate sauce pan mix together milk, parmesan cheese, 2 cups of chicken broth, flour and butter. Pour over chicken dish and cook until thickened. 

bon app├ętit! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Star Chronicles Giveaway ($275 Value!)

Do you have any stargazers at your house? Our vast universe has always been something of a fascination to me. I am in awe of creation and the Creator. 

I am currently reviewing, Star Chronicles: A Bible-Based Study of the Stars by Dawnita Fogleman. I am also excited to be a part of the Star Chronicles Launch Team. You can find out more by checking out Dawnita's (doesn't she have a fabulous name?) website.

star chronicles giveaway

cover flat 500x333 shadow 

In honor of the upcoming release of Star Chronicles, I am excited to share this fantastic giveaway, a perfect compliment to the Star Chronicles study and just plain fun for your homeschool! 

Here's what you can win: 

Moonfinder by Jay Ryan $15

A total value of $275!

Enter to win!

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Residents of the U. S. and Canada (excluding Quebec), age 18 and older only. See Rafflecopter for additional terms and conditions. 

star disclaimer

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Weekend in Pictures

It's been a little quiet on the blog. I had computer trouble. My laptop decided that it didn't like being connected up to  internet anymore via WiFi.  What's with that? I like to be able to wander around with my laptop. Being tethered to a desk cramps my style. Thankfully, my mom is some sort of computer whisperer. I am now propped up in the corner of my couch with my laptop. All is right with the world again.

So. This girl turned 42 on Friday. I had a wonderful day and a beautiful weekend. I wanted to share a few (relatively) pictures. With limited commentary. Maybe.

I can't believe I am posting this. This was the morning of my birthday. I intended to take a picture of my cute headband. I must have gotten distracted and possibly startled (hence the strange expression).  I don't do selfies. And this, my friends, is why. Plus, it looks like the maid forgot to clean the mirror.  Not to mention you can see my double chin in all its glory.Anybody got some duct tape?

The Studly Muffin and Josiah first took me shopping. Yay! And then we went and had Sushi for my birthday lunch. Do you know how many years I've chosen Sushi as my birthday lunch? Neither do I, but it's been a bunch. I didn't get any pictures. I was too busy eating.

We headed to Joplin (about an hour away) after lunch to pick up a bike The Muffin had ordered. Yes...I know it was my birthday, but he had ordered it 2 weeks ago. Plus, it was a gift to me to see how excited he was. I love this man!

After shopping The Goodwill in Joplin (which is a great Goodwill), we headed to my parents' farm. My mom made fish tacos and This.

It is a Gluten Free, Sugar Free Carrot Cake. Oh, yes! It was delish. Recipe coming later. I promise. I wrote it down.

There was also this. Homemade Mango Sorbet. Yummy. Sugar Free.

Saturday morning was cloudy, but perfectly lovely.

Josiah attacked a trash pile. We burn our trash out in the country. Trash service doesn't get out everywhere. Josiah stood over it like a sheep herder of old. Nothing was getting by him. He loves burning trash. It must be a boy thing.

My Dad did gardeny things. This little patch is quite vibrant during gardening seasoning. Now it's plot of nothingness. Wow! I'm getting kind of philosophical in my old age. I am not sure what he's planting. Old age has done nothing to help me there.

The afternoon was spent at my Great-Aunt Ruby's 95th Birthday party. We all got in the car and headed 30 miles south to Anderson.

This is my Dad, Aunt Phyllis and Aunt Ruby. My Aunt Phyllis is one of my Dad's older sisters. He has 6 sisters. Yes, sir! He is 3rd to the youngest. 

Aunt Phyllis made cake. And punch. And this was not Sugar Free or Gluten Free. But who can turn down such yummy treats at her Great-Aunt Ruby's 95th birthday party? Not this girl!

After Aunt Ruby's party we headed south just a bit more so we could show Josiah the cliffs that hang over the road. At least I think it was south. I do know we used to go this way when we visited Aunt Nancy and Uncle Gerald and they live in Arkansas. Which is most certainly South of Missouri. Didn't think you would get a geography lesson today, did ya?

There were canoe rentals, etc. everywhere along this stretch. Which sounds like fun if I were into canoes and such. Which I'm not.

Ooo. Cliff's and stuff. And a sign for a windy road. And my Mom's little hedgehog/bear/dog thingie. Aren't you glad you stopped by the blog today?

There is one part of this road in which the cliffs almost completely hang over the whole road. Pretty nifty. As long as there aren't any falling rocks.

This is a little restaurant outside of Anderson in a cave. I really wanted to stop, but nobody else in the car acted like they were so inclined. There was also a great dollar store...Another day!

Sunday (after enjoying temps in the upper 60's) we enjoyed some of this.

I'm still cold. And it reached 66 today. We better have a great Spring. That's all I'm saying.

Meanwhile, this old woman needs to go do something productive. I think that mirror in the bathroom needs some attention.

A TOS Review: Mango Languages (Homeschool Edition)

It’s a small world, after all. When I was in High School (many moons ago) the only Foreign languages offered were French and Spanish. Even though I thought that I would do my French ancestors proud and learn the language of love (or is that Italian?), my parents felt that Spanish would be more practical. After all, they were on the Mission field in Nicaragua when I was born. It had certainly come in handy for both of them.

I was a baby when we left Nicaragua and unfortunately, the country of my birth afforded me a dual citizenship for a time…but not an intrinsic knowledge of the language. I left High School with 2 years of Spanish under my belt. Which means according to the standards of the time I could ask basic questions (maybe) and sing a few songs in Spanish. But that could have been because of parental influence. I could also sing a few songs in Italian, Latin and German. Thank goodness for Concert Choir!

As Josiah inches towards High School (have mercy!), I am more aware of what he needs to help him accomplish his High School goals. When I was in school I don't believe that we had to have a foreign language credit to graduate. That changed shortly thereafter. It's my desire to provide him a "leg up" on his foreign language before he actually needs it to graduate.. Have you heard of Mango Languages? I have to admit I hadn’t. I really have been out of the loop. Mango Languages has been available through the Public Library for a number of years. When an opportunity came to review Mango Homeschool Edition I was all about it. For one, I have reviewed a few good foreign language programs for The Crew, but the Mango Homeschool Edition is in a class by itself. More on that in a minute.

What I Received
I received an online subscription to Mango Homeschool Edition. This homeschool curriculum has not 1, or 2, or even 20, but over 60 languages to choose from. The choices here are really incredible. Do you want to learn German? Got it. How about Russian? No problem. Fancy a dive into Farsi? Mango is happy to oblige.

PRICE: This is their introductory pricing. 

1 subscription is $18/month or $125/year total 
2 subscriptions is $28/month or $175 /year total                     
3 subscriptions is $38/month or $225/year total                    
4 subscriptions is $48/month or $275/year total                
5 subscriptions is $58/month or $325/year total

If you have over 6 subscriptions it will depend on the number in your group.
It is recommended for ages 6 to adult. I think this is dependent on the individual child. I really think if you have younger kids you will need to assist them. Older kids can certainly handle it on their own.
Currently, the Homeschool Edition offers:
  •     more than 60 different languages
  •     progress assessments
  •     journals and discussions
  •     collaborative learning spaces
  •     eNote messaging and chat rooms
  •     access to embedded and downloadable content
  •     support from other community members
  •     calendars to schedule meetings or study-groups
All it took to run Mango on our computer was a good set of speakers (or ear buds) and the free installation of Adobe Flash Player.

How We Used It
I decided that I would sign up Josiah for Spanish as his primary foreign language. He has had quite a bit of exposure to Spanish. I also felt my Spanish speaking skills could use a big brush up and we did most of the lessons together. Josiah did review on his own every week, but our daily Spanish lessons together were a lot of fun.  
Now. I told Josiah he could pick another language for fun. And would you believe it? He chose Pirate. What well-respecting boy wouldn’t?
It wasn’t hard to get going on either languages. I want to share with you what a typical lesson looks like.

I first started by creating an account. It was easy peasy. I then wandered over to section called The Commons which brought me to this page. This is Mango's Course Directory. So many choices!

I set us up for both Spanish (Latin America) and Pirate. Then we were off!

These are actually screen shots from Spanish Lesson 5. At this point, Josiah has taken the Chapter Quiz for Journey 1 and we are now working through Journey 2. You do realize that there was no testing for me. Mamma has already been there (and done that).  

We started everyday by clicking on the Login to Mango. I have created a handy dandy yellow arrow for your viewing enjoyment. Please be aware that the yellow arrow won't be in the actually curriculum itself. That's all me.

The Welcome Screen provides some choices. Either we can resume a Lesson, Browse the Course Menu or Take an Assessment Test. It also has the date stamped on it. You can see that I took this shot just days ago.

On this day, I chose to resume the lesson. The narration is pleasant and every screen is interactive. I have pointed the arrow to our favorite button. The replay button. The pink arrows on either side of the card let you go forwards our backwards in the lesson.

This screen is introducing "hablar," which means "to speak." Not only can we replay it as often as we wish, but Mango also allows us to see the pronunciation by clicking on a box, If you have the capabilities to record yourself there is a tool that tests your pronunciation. We did not use this feature as we don't have a microphone that can be connected to the computer. I think that is a pretty handy tool to have, regardless.

This screen is giving us a Grammar Note. They are sprinkled throughout the lessons. The narrator has such a pleasant voice. I do believe that there is an option to turn her off, but we enjoyed her speaking to us everyday. Plus, it was helpful to my dyslexic boy.

Here is a brief timed test to see if we are grasping the lesson. Up at the top there is a clock. You can add more time if necessary or hear the correct answer.

During this lesson was a Culture Note. Both Josiah and I found these to be very interesting. They were brief enough to keep Josiah's attention, but also supplied pertinent facts.

The closing screen for this Lesson gives the chance for review. This particular phrase is one we learned in Journey 1. It was nice to have this review throughout.

One feature that we did not even explore are the chat rooms. It is possible to interact with other students. I think this is a great idea for some, but I don’t feel comfortable with Josiah interacting with people I don’t know. I am sure that it is perfectly safe and monitored, but he is 12. And a little  impulsive. 

Now I have recorded a little bit of a treat for you. I mentioned that Josiah is also learning Pirate. I recorded a whole lesson and tried to edit it, but had issues (what's new?). I was only able to download this brief bit. Ironically, at the end I tell Josiah I won't be able to use it. He really got into it.  

Belay yer carousing and haul wind smartly! Basically. Stop messing around!

My Thoughts (and other Tidbits)
I found this program to be tailor made for us.As I mentioned,  Josiah is dyslexic and the conversation aspect of Mango is really a big plus.  Josiah did quite a bit of independent work, but I liked that this was something we could also do together.
It was so easy! Basically, just point and click. I had trouble initially deciding where everything was, but after browsing around and watching the introductory videos I found it a piece of cake.
I need to mention that we actually reviewed the beta version of Mango Homeschool Edition.Basically, we took it out for a spin.

In the coming months, Mango is going to add to the Homeschool Edition and will include:
  • enhanced tracking and progress monitoring for students and parents
  • goals and personal lesson plans (both stand-alone and tied into Mango courses)
  • a resume and portfolio builder

Josiah and I used a whole week to go through one Lesson. We simply would repeat the same Lesson everyday. That worked best for us. I love that I could set my own schedule and speed based on our specific needs. I also love that we can dabble with other languages. If Josiah decides he wants to add Telugu to his education we can do that! With Mango Homeschool Edition you are not limited to one language. You can choose as many as you would like to learn!

I was a bit disappointed with the Chapter Quiz. It didn’t show what Josiah missed after he took it. I felt it would have been helpful to let him see (or correct) any mistakes. There might have been a way to review it, but I didn’t see it. I am not worried about his test scores necessarily. However, there are plenty of High School students who would like to use this as a foreign language credit.That being said I am sure that this will be addressed in the months to come. 

Connect with Mango! 


This was a great experience! I look forward to continuing our Mango Experience. Adios!

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