Thursday, November 12, 2015

Printable Packs for Young Children

Hi friends,

Here are some links to printable packs for tots, preschoolers and kindergartners. I've used these from time to time for some fun around holidays and just to liven things up a bit, when I need to give the kids something to do while I get a project done, and for extra skill practice.

Enjoy! - a ridiculous amount of printables!!! (How do these people have time to come up with all of this???) - these are printable per say but are  "lap books" mostly that go along with picture books. Just something to add variety. - this is a site that has lots of themes and letter stuff. I’ve used it a lot! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Menu Planning

A few friends of mine have asked over the last weeks and months or even years if I do a menu plan or how I do grocery shopping and menu planning. I just made up my grocery list and menu plan for the week and thought I’d just write it down here just to give you an idea of what our meals look like and what my weekly menu plans look like. I try to go to the grocery store on Saturday afternoons when Eric is home and the kids are taking a nap. Today we are all going to go together though. Sometimes it’s a fun outing to all go together. 
So where do I get my recipes from to do my meal planning? I have 2 recipe boxes of collected recipes from various resources such as family, friends, cookbooks, library books, websites. I keep new recipe ideas in a folder on my desk. Usually, if I make a new recipe and we really like it, I transfer it to one of  my boxes - although I’m really behind on this at the moment! One box is mainly for dinner type items, appetizers, holiday, etc. The other is breakfast, breads, muffins, cookies, dessert, beverages and the like. I also have about 10 cookbooks and I use pinterest. I did not come by this quasi organization naturally and it is still a work in progress. It has taken me years to get to this point and I’ve tried lots of organizational methods. Mostly, I remember how my mom did/does it. My mom went shopping every Tuesday for as long as I can remember (and still did up until she turned 65 last year and has now switched to Wednesday because she can get a senior discount on Wed at her grocery store). She always makes a list and arranges it by aisles (I haven’t gotten that organized yet!) and does a kind of menu plan before hand, although she’s gotten more lax with it lately. I think she generally tries to have enough meat and veggies for the week and basic staples on hand so she can make whatever she wants. I do that a lot too! Also, lately, I’m all about the easiest and simplest recipes I can find that don’t require much prep or time.

So here's how I do it.  I plan for 4 or 5 meals and I try to have one each of chicken, fish, and beef each week plus an extra, usually chicken or sausage. And with all our meals I try to have some raw veggies on the table.  I usually have a super easy, quick meal for Monday and Wednesday because I’m doing all our laundry on Monday and prepping the house for our small group on Wednesdays. I usually cook my new or more involved recipes on Thursday - but they are still fairly quick and easy. On Friday’s we usually have pizza and Saturdays we either cook out burgers or something else. Sundays we have leftovers or something simple I can whip up with what we have like omelets or a quiche or soup or sandwiches or pancakes or we eat out with folks from church. Lately, I’ve tried to have either a freezer meal or a healthy frozen meal from the store on hand, or ingredients for spaghetti, etc  that I can throw together fast if I don’t feel like making what I have on the menu or our plans change and we are crunched for time, etc. Right now I have two bags of chicken stir fry from Trader Joe’s in the freezer and some jars of homemade soup for such an occasion. 

I usually just do a written out plan for dinner. We eat oatmeal and sausage 3-4 times a week for breakfast, with eggs and toast or yogurt and muffins thrown in between, pancakes or waffles or french toast on the weekends. For lunch, I try to do left overs, pulling out whatever is in the fridge, trying to use it all up or sandwiches with veggies and fruit.

So here’s my menu plan I made for this week.

Roasted Chicken - Easy!!! (probably Monday) - make broth with the chicken carcass and we’ll use the left over meat for a meal later in the week - I have several recipes for this in various places
 - left over sweet potatoes, mashed
 - Brussels sprouts
 - pears

Balsamic Glaze Salmon (probably Tuesday) - a recipe on pinterest I just found
 - roasted cauliflower
 - squash (we have a lot that we bought at the pumpkin farm!)
 - grapes

Crockpot Beef Stew with potatoes and carrots (probably Wednesday)- from my box - from
- green beans (I’ll either roast, saute or boil them)
- salad
- apples

Crunchy Baked Chimichangas (chicken left over from roasted chicken) (probably Thursday) - from my box from Family Feast for $75 a Week (Ha! In my dreams!!!)
- southwest pumpkin soup
- salad
- oranges

Friday, October 9, 2015

Preschool Curriculum and Resources

Last year I "homeschooled" Wesley for Preschool. He called it "tivity" time - his version of "activity time" - which is what I called "school." I put it in quotation marks because it didn't seem like school at all. Just part of helping him learn and grow as a child with a little direction and organization.  He loved it and I had a lot of fun. Our activity time was very laid back. Sometimes we spent only a few minutes and sometimes over an hour and we didn't do it everyday. Many people have asked me what we did and the books we used so I thought I would just compile it all in a blog entry. I've done countless hours of reading and research (and I really love it!). I hope this takes the load off of you so you don't have to do it (unless you really love it too!)

First of all, to really understand why I chose the books and resources I did, you should check out my Preschool Education philosophy. It really did/does guide how I think about what to include in my curriculum.

God’s Little Explorers ( was our PK4 base. It is a simple 28 week curriculum that centers on chronological Bible stories matched with a letter and topic that begins with that word (for Q we read about the manna and the quail in the dessert with Moses and learned about quails and other birds). It also included simple math concepts and other subjects thrown in here and there. as well as a memory verse, songs, and lots of extras for each week. And best of all, it’s free! Or you can get even more and pay $15. We did the free version and loved it. I didn't focus on writing very much, just familiarity with the name of the capital letters and a bit with the sounds. There were many activities you could do each day but I only picked two or three at most.

In addition to this curriculum I added some other resources. Here's a short summary. At the beginning of each week, I read from The A-Z Picture Book on the page that represented the letter for the week. On other days of the week, I read stories that represented that letter,  and read the Bible story suggested from the curriculum and the activities that went along with it.  We also did a coloring page for the bible story. I tried to find science concepts that matched the letters, like animals that started with the letter, etc.  Also, I read from A Year at Maple Hill Farm at the start of each new month and we read poems that were about things that started with the letter of the week. We did holiday themes and lap books occasionally too. Sometimes we did Before Five in a Row books and activities. I threw in simple art projects here and there too. We also talked about the calendar and the seasons - but not consistently. We played card games often to encourage number recognition and some other math concepts - like War (a very slow version!), Crazy 8s, Go Fish, Uno and matching games. I made up a few other card games and little dice games too. Of course, Pinterest has a ridiculous amount of anything you want to find! I learned quickly though that much of the activities on Pinterest take too much time and resources to put together and that simple is always better, and honestly most of those kinds of things can be taught just through natural living and learning like colors, shapes, numbers, counting, etc. We also went on nature walks and watched youtube videos that went along with whatever peaked their interests or went along with what we were "studying."

I know this sounds like a lot, especially when you look at the other lists of books below but again, as I said before, I didn't spend more than an average of 30 minutes of concentrated time a day on this! I was able to do all of this by reading poems and rhymes and watching at snack times. I read to them before nap/rest time every day and before bed every night and sometimes at other times of the day here and there. Also, my boys love to listen to stories on cd. They listen to one each night when we turn out their light.

Other Teacher Resources/Student Workbooks
The Three Rs - Ruth Beechick - excellent resource for teaching in a natural way

Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready (for birth through age 4, I liked it especially for 2’s and 3’s)

Before Five in a Row - Jane Claire Lambert

Alphabet Art - Judy Press

Rod and Staff workbooks set 1 ( for 3-4), set (for 4-6) A-L (

Explode the Code Books A,B,C (if ready for it - 4’s or 5’s) We didn’t start this until Kindergarten this year with Wes, but David might be ready for it next year in PreK4. It is excellent!

Count on Math (4’s and up) or Math Play (3-6)

5-10 Minute Science Activities for Young Learners (I didn't have this book at the time but I would have used it if I had known about it).

Read Aloud Books We Used Often
Animals, Animals by Eric Carle (Poems about animals with Carle's beautiful illustrations)

Tomie DePaola’s Favorite Nursery Tales - Tomie DePaola (I've looked at a TON of nursery tale books - most of them have very dark tales that I don't think 3-6 year olds are ready for or should even be exposed to - strong words, I know! This book does a good job of including only stories that don't have that dark element to them, or at least retells them in a way that takes most of the darkness out.)

Read Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young

A Year at Maple Hill Farm - Provensen (I love their books - beautiful illustrations!)

What Do People Do All Day? and other Richard Scarry books

The A-Z Picture Book - Gyo Fugikawa (there are a couple of kind of scary pictures in this book but they didn’t seem to bother my boys)

Let’s Read and Find Out About Science Series Level 1 - I love this science series, many titles!

Henry Pluckrose books for math concepts - shapes, lines, length, etc.

Other Books We Love
Friends at Maple Hill Farm  - Provensen
Oh, What a Busy Day! - Gyo Fugikawa (her books are beautiful! I now own 7 of her books!)
Bear Snores On - Karma Wilson (and many others)
Madeline - Ludwig Bemelmens
Haircuts for Woolseys - Tomie DePaola (and many more)
Make Way for Ducklings - Robert Mccloskey
Blueberries for Sal - Robert McCloskey
A House is a House for Me - Mary Ann Hoberman
Rosie’s Walk; The Wind Blew; Good Night Owl - Pat Hutchins
Ferdinand - Munroe Leaf
Over in the Meadow -  John Longstaff
Snowy Day and others - Ezra Jack Keats
The Tale of Peter Rabbit - Beatrice Potter (and many others)
The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit - Emma Thompson
Owl Moon - Jane Yolen
Jobs Around Town - Jan Berenstain
My First Little House books series
The Story of Ping; Angus Lost - Marjorie Flack
Corduroy - Don Freeman
A House for Hermit Crab; Walter the Baker; The Mixed Up Chamelion; The Grouchy Ladybug; The Very Busy Spider; The Very Hungry Caterpillar; The Very Quiet Cricket; 123 to the Zoo; Head to Toe: Pancakes, Pancakes - Eric Carle
Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
Lyle the Crocodile - Bernard Weber
Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion
Feathers For Lunch - Lois Ehlers
Little Bear - Else Holmelund Minarik
Frog and Toad (all); Grasshopper on the Road; Owl at Home - Arnold Lobel
The Little Engine that Could - Watty Piper
Katy No-Pocket - Emmy Payne
Tikki Tikki Tembo - Arlene Mosel
The Little House; Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel; Choo-Choo - Virginia Lee Burton
The Giant Jam Sandwich - John Vernon Lord
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - Michael Rosen
Go Dogs Go - P.D. Eastman
Ten Apples Up on Top - Theo LeSieg
Green Eggs and Ham; One Fish, Two Fish; Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss
Amos and Boris - William Steig
The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night - Peter Spier
The Quilt Story - Tony Johnston
Wait Till the Moon is Full - Margaret Wise Brown (and many others we love)
Goodnight Little Bear - Richard Scarry
Scuffy the Tugboat - Gertrude Crampton
The Jolly Barnyard - Annie North Bedford
Apple Farmer Annie - Monica Wellington
Ox Cart Man - Donald Hall
Angus Lost; The Story About Ping; Ask Mr. Bear - Marjorie Flack
Harry the Dirty Dog - Gene Zion
Trainstop - Barbara Lehman
Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
Danny Meadow Mouse - Thornton Burgess (and many others!)
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Other Resources (Some we have, some we don’t)
Elizabeth Mitchell Music (the Woodie Guthrie remake is great!)
Songs for Saplings (and others) Dana Dirkson
Wee Sing Children’s Songs and Fingerplays - a big hit!
Wee Sing ABC
100 Bible Stories and Songs
Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes Little and Big Animal Folk Songs - Pete Seager
Classical Baby HBO DVD Series
Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD
I Spy Shapes in Art; I Spy Colors in Art, etc.
Smithsonian Backyard Series
Preschool Busy Book (didn’t have this one but checked it out from the library)

Other Good Authors for 3’s and 4’s (and there are many more!)
Cynthia Rylant
Kevin Henkes
Lois Lenski
Leo Lionni
Tony Mitton
Patricia Machlachlan
Bill Martin
Patricia Polocco
Marjorie Priceman
Eloise Wilkins
Vera Williams
Denise Fleming
Lucy Cousins
Eve Bunting
Jan Bret
Donald Crews
Ruth Krauss
Bill Barton
Audrey Wood
Jim Arnosky

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Help the Syrian Refugees!

I’ve really been burdened by the plight of the Syrian refugees.God has put Syria in my path many times - I visited there 10 times while I lived in Lebanon - for visa trips combined with either visiting a couple of other missionary friends who were living there or for sightseeing. It was a tough, dark place with hardly any western influence. But I'd like to share a little so you can get an idea for the people and the country.

At first I really did not enjoy going there - it honestly creeped me out. We (my friends and I) couldn’t openly share the gospel. We had to meet in secret to have bible study. We knew people were watching us and the people we visited. People were very different from the jovial, fun-loving, boisterous people of Lebanon I had come to love. The Syrians were still hospitable but guarded and more stoic- for good reason. People would just disappear! The darkness and evil and oppression were tangible. 

But then God changed my heart and gave me compassion for the people and when I visited I began to pray as I walked along. I came to really love the people and even the place so shrouded in darkness and intrigue. I went from requesting of God that He never send me to live there to dreaming up plans with my missionary friends on how we could reach unreached people there! 

It was there that I had my first real taste of unadulterated Arab/Muslim culture with all its sights and sounds - the desert, the spices, the street vendors, the houses - all had a flavor of what most of us think of when we think of the Arab world. I ate camel meat! I ate on the floor with my hands with a group of women and with other families. It was there that I befriended a little girl who greeted me every time in her village with great enthusiasm. On New Year's Eve she took me around to rooftops and people’s homes. I had no idea where she would take me next since my Arabic wasn't very good (it was a little scary but turned out the be the most memorable New Year’s Eve of my life). 

On a bouncy, zippy, dusty drive to Damascus one afternoon I first learned more about Eric from his team leaders. And that night we had our first quasi date at Starbucks! My love for history was greatly satisfied in Syria - it still had many ancient and medieval buildings and homes. I walked along the road to Ananias' house, and along Straight Street (from Acts). Would you believe it is still called Straight Street ???!!!! I also had the great pleasure going on a bonafide, very memorable (for many reasons) adventure to one of the most well preserved medieval/crusader castles in the world - Krak des Chevaliers. What a dream come true! I can think of many more great moments connected to Syria. 

But also, it was there that I first walked into a mosque - the Umayyad Mosque, where many Muslims believe Jesus will return to judge the world and is supposedly where John the Baptist's head is kept. One particular dark corner of it made the hair on my arms stand on end.  And I couldn’t get out fast enough! It was also there that I saw missiles/rockets on the back of flatbeds. It was there that my Christian Lebanese driver flew like the wind to get me out as fast as he could because he hated it there so much - the two countries have a long, terrible history of war and unrest. 

After Eric and I were married we “adopted” a Syrian OU student for a year. She was from Aleppo. Her family was quite wealthy I think. She told us all about life in Syria and the political situation. She said she could never speak of such things in her country; she would have been arrested. We visited with her a lot and were able to share the gospel with her many times. She came to Eric’s parents' house for Thanksgiving with us. She could understand Jesus and even accepted His death on the cross but she couldn’t wrap her head around grace and the fact that we can’t earn God’s approval. We learned a lot about how Muslims think and their strongholds through her as well as more about the hardship of living in such a dark place. 

Then in London in 2006 we met a Christian couple from Syria who helped us with Bible distribution on the streets in London to vacationing Arabs. They were precious. We learned a lot from them about the work that God is doing among Syrians to bring them to Christ and the work of the church there. They did really hard, dangerous work and life was not easy for them because of the political situation. They had to be really careful. We still have their prayer sheet. 

So, God has put Syria on my heart time and time again. After reading and watching the plight of these refugees I have wept and prayed and wept more. It really breaks my heart. So, I’ve wanted to do something and thought others in our church might want to do something too. Or maybe they don’t even know much about it. I think they should. It’s a big, global, history-making, deal! I’ve done some researching and found these sights to be good. - I worked with baptist relief at ground zero in  2001. They do awesome work and have a great reputation. - one of my missionary friends in Lebanon who started a refugee ministry in 2006 in Tucson, AZ suggested this sight. It is just getting going but it looks like it will be a great resource for connecting with churches in Europe and mobilizing the church here and there to rise up to meet this challenge. Please join me in helping these people whom have been made in the image of God and simply want to get away from the ravages of war. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

Lately I've been pondering the importance of studying history. I took a break from reading history for a while, not intentionally, but it just happened that way for lots of reasons I think, that I might expound on later in another post. Anyway, as I've read other books by Christian authors and have really loved reading the Bible over the last year, I've wondered if it is really worth while at all to read history and want to study again. I LOVE history, so much so that I got a Master's degree in it. Lately, I've sunk my nose deep into a David McCullough book about Teddy Roosevelt, Mornings on Horseback, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. But sometimes I wonder what's the point in the grand scheme of things of God's glory and the advancement of His Kingdom? Is it just for simple pleasure or interest or is there purpose in looking back? I don't want to waste the precious time on earth just pursuing something only for interest and pleasure.

Eric and I have talked about it and it seems studying and reading history does have merit. In the Bible, there is an ever-present looking back at what God has done, for His glory. It points to His love for His people and His rescue of them, for His name sake. What God has done throughout the Old Testament gives context for what is in the New Testament. Though we don't look back on history quite the same way as the Israelites would have there is a definite need to look back and see the hand of God on history, on the rise and fall of kingdoms and rulers. It gives context to the world we live in now and the forces of change we experience. It should be a guide to keep us from going down the same wrong roads individually and as a nation and world.

Here's a quote I came across just today in a very odd place - quoted in a Christian homeschooling book. It is in a chapter about how to teach history and it's importance! I thought it was very fitting for what I've been pondering.

If we look familiarly into the daily life of our fellow-men thousands of years ago, it is to find them toiling at the same problems which perplex us; suffering the same conflict of passion and principle; failing, it may be, for our warning, or winning for our encouragement; in any case, reaching results which ought to prevent our repeating their mistakes. The national questions which fill our newspapers were discussed long ago in the Grove, the Agora, and the Forum... and no man whose vote...may sway in ever so small a degree the destinies of our Republic, can  afford to be ignorant of what has already been so wisely and fully accomplished. Present tasks can only be clearly seen and worthily performed in light of long experience; and that liberal acquaintance with history which, under a monarchical government, might safely be left as an ornament and privilege of the few, is here (in the US) the duty of the many. Preface to Thalmeier's Ancient History

We are citizens of the nations in which we were born or reside, by God's design. We should be good citizens and good stewards of the responsibility we are given to be good citizens, especially in our own country (the US) where its existence stands on the informed vote of its citizens. And much of that hinges on knowing the history, the "long experience" of our nation and of the thousands of years past. "No man... can afford to be ignorant of what has already been so wisely and fully accomplished."

And when the government in which we participate fails morally on an issue, we can be used of God as a light to bring about change, by being well-informed of the past which sheds light on the present wrong. For instance, William Wilberforce, a man who passionately loved the Lord, fought a hard battle to eventually end the long history of the slave trade in the British Empire.

Most importantly,  history points directly at our very definite need for a Savior. Man has tried through the ages, through all kinds of changing philosophies to make his own way and always it is a failure. Even in the US, though our nation has been a great one, and it's founding causes and virtues are noble and good and somewhat founded on the basis of God's law, it was/is still an effort by man to make life better through man's invention. Our satisfaction and hope does not lie in our national freedom and individual political liberty. It comes from freedom in Christ. As followers of Christ, we are free from the burden, not of an empirical monarch, but from our own heavy, tyrannical sin. He has fought the hard battle for us and won, once and for all. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, with Christ and His bride the church.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Favorite Breakfast Recipes, Part 2

Hi Again!

I didn't get back to my blog as soon as I wanted but it is better than it has been!

Here are some more of our favorite everyday breakfast fares. These are eggy breakfasts. I wanted to put a picture of the breakfast pie but alas, that didn't work out. I put it in the oven, went upstairs and 2 1/2 hours later (this was in the evening) came down and heard the oven beeping. Needless to say it was toast and definitely not picture worthy. Eric said it looked like fudge brownies!

Breakfast Pie
This is a delicious unique "pie" that we first ate at the Eastholm Bed & Breakfast in Cascade, Co, just west of Colorado Springs, at the base of Pike's Peak. I asked for the recipe because I liked it so much and the owner gave it to me! It is really easy to make. We eat it about once a month or so and I've also made it for brunch-time baby showers. When I make it at home, I usually half the recipe, unless we have company or if I make it on the weekends now. Half the recipe is enough for the kids and I, but not enough if Eric is with us, especially if we want leftovers. Wesley can eat as much or more than I do at times! I have also made this with almond meal and gluten-free flour in place of the flour in the Bisquick. I like to serve this with bacon.

1 stick of butter
2 lbs small curd cottage cheese (4 cups)
6 eggs
6T sugar (I use only half that)
1 cup Bisquick (my homemade version - 1 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 TBS butter)

Melt butter & pour over cottage cheese in a large bowl. Add eggs, sugar and Bisquick, mixing well after each addition. Pour entire mixture into a 3 qt rectangular pyrex dish (lightly greased). Sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar, if desired. Bake at 350 F fro 45 minutes. Cut into squares & serve with fresh berries or fruit topped with plain or vanilla yogurt.

Family Omelet with Spinach and Cheddar
This is one I had forgotten about but made again recently. It is so easy that I'm going to put it back into the breakfast rotation. The original directions use parchment lining a sheet pan to roll up the omelet, but I find that takes too many steps so I changed it some.

Olive Oil for pan
1 cup of milk
1/3 cup all purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (almond meal or other substitutes are fine)
8 large eggs
1 TBS Dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed & drained (about 1 cup)
1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with olive oil. In a bowl whisk together milk and flour. Add eggs, Dijon, 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper. Pour into pan. Sprinkle spinach on top. Bake until edges are set 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle with cheddar and bake for 6-9 minutes. Slice and serve. This is also good with bacon and/or toast or muffins.

You probably don't need a recipe for this. But maybe someone out there is like me. I've tried all kinds of recipes for making omelets and none of them really turned out very pretty and were too complicated for this no-fuss-please cook. However, lately I found a simple recipe in a book called The Everlasting Meal. And also, my father in law makes good omelets. I've learned some from him too!

a bit of cream
cheese of your choice, shredded or thinly sliced
other ingredients as desired (red onion, peppers, chives, basil, mint, bacon, etc)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in your pan. In a small bowl or measuring cup, beat desired amount of eggs with a bit of cream. Pour into your pan and scramble around a bit and then let it spread out. Then pull the sides away so that runny egg can run to the edges. Once all the runny part has set, add your other ingredients as desired. I sometimes cook the red onion before I cook the omelets. (I'm really in love with red onions at the moment!) Then lower the temp a bit (or take off the heat if you have an awful electric stove like mine), cover the pan with a lid for a bit to ensure the top of your omelet gets cooked through without burning the bottom (I still over cook the bottom a lot!). Then fold in half and slip onto a plate. Yummy!

NOTE: For my children, I only make 1-egg omelets. These are easier and super quick! I simply crack an egg in the pan, stir it around a bit with some cream (or I just leave it out) and let the runny parts fill in. I sprinkle with cheese and maybe some chives or garlic and fold it in half and serve.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Favorite Breakfast Recipes, Part 1

I've haven't written much in the last year or so, but I hope to write more. I like to write and share at least a few people read here. So, I thought I'd start with something easy.

So, we are trying to eliminate as much processed food as possible. However, I am not being a Nazi about it! At first when I have an idea to do something I just jump in whole hog and then burn out, beat myself up and get frustrated, feel like a failure, etc, etc, etc. You'd think by now I would learn that this is my pattern and go little bits at a time with a big endeavor/lifestyle change! But alas, I still do it! That has been the case with trying to not eat processed food (and just about every other endeavor I've tried) and would feel bad for feeding Catherine Multigrain Cheerios which besides bananas and strawberries and milk with molasses, has to be her favorite food! After several falls down this road, I've lightened up a little and decided that I'll just go a little at a time and if we never get rid of the Cheerios, it will be ok!

Catherine enjoying her oatmeal!

After so much reading and research and scouring of the internet and books about food and sugar, toxins, pesticides, organics, etc., etc, I've come to realize that something bad can be said about almost everything we eat, even the whole unprocessed food found on the perimeters of the grocery store. Yes, there are some really bad things I don't want to touch, but definitely not all.

Take eggs for instance. For years we've heard that eggs are bad, they raise cholesterol, etc. But I've read lately that that has been proven not to be the case. And in fact we need cholesterol for our brains and hormones to function properly. Yes, some people have high cholesterol but from what I've read there are other factors coming into play from a myriad of malfunctions that cause this, one of them being our processed food-sugar laden -Western diet, not from eating a pure food like eggs.

But then, what kind of eggs? There are so many options! Just normal? Cage-free? Pastured? Unpasteurized? Vegetarian fed? Added Omega 3???? It is really ridiculous!!!! And this is just for eggs! There are this many options for most of our food! No wonder I almost despise grocery shopping and menu planning. What kind of eggs do I buy? Well, I'd love to buy the ones from pastured chickens, that have been able to run around in the grass eating bugs and worms and seeds and all things that chickens are supposed to eat in the fresh air like the chickens that used to roam around in their yard down the road from us in the village in Lebanon, beside the donkey in the field next door. :) Not cooped up tightly in an artificial environment where they can hardly move! BUT, these pastured eggs are very expensive! So, I've tested a lot of different eggs and I've hit a middle of the road priced egg that I like. I picked the ones that have the brightest yellow yolk. That means there's lots of good stuff in there. These were not from the amish farms or the local farms, but just the Whole Foods brand, not organic eggs.

Trying to buy the purest food can be STRESSFUL and EXPENSIVE, so, I'll do what I can and not fret about it.

All that to say, breakfast has been relatively easy to go unprocessed for us. Yes, we do still eat cereal occasionally, mostly on Sunday mornings when we are in more of a hurry. It is usually some sort of Cheerio type cereal of varying brands with as little sugar as possible along with Rice Chex and/or Barbara's Oat Crunch that I get at Whole Foods or Natural Grocers. But usually I try to add some sort of protein like bacon, sausage, nuts, etc.

But here is out normal routine. On Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, I try to have some sort of oatmeal dish. This normally is comprised of an oatmeal mix I make up ahead of time that has mostly organic quick oats, some cinnamon, chopped pecans, naturally sweetened cranberries and some salt. Let's be honest. I can't eat oatmeal without the salt! Oatmeal has been one of those things that I have a hard time getting down without lots of added ingredients! So, I scoop that mix into our bowls, slap a slab of salted butter in each bowl along with a bit of maple syrup and sometimes a scoop of pumpkin or butternut squash puree. Then I pour hot water over it all, mix it up and let it sit for a few minutes. While that sits, I heat up some chicken apple sausage. (I know many say that microwaves are bad and I would probably agree but I just haven't made it that far down this journey to be able to eliminate it altogether!) Then I add bananas to fare and that is our meal for all of us for at least a few days a week. All my kids love it and me too. Eric gets a variation in that I put a 1/2 cup scoop of my oatmeal mix in a snack bag that he takes to work. He heats it up in water and puts honey on it.

Another oatmeal dish I make from time to time is baked oatmeal. Here is my recipe for that. It is a combination of my sister's recipe and one from Simply in Season, a cookbook I've grown to love and use often.

Baked Oatmeal for a Crowd (or for a family with children & husband that eat a lot!)

Preheat Oven to 350F.

Dry Ingredients: Mix together in a large bowl-
4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar (or sucanat or raw sugar) - you can use less!
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup total of nuts, seeds & dried fruit of your choice, in any combination.

Wet Ingredients: In a separate bowl, mix together -
2 cups of milk (any kind you like!)
3 eggs
4 TBS coconut oil or olive oil or melted butter (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup each applesauce and pumpkin or butternut squash puree or any 1 cup combo or single.
2 tsp vanilla

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Spread into a 9x13 inch pan. Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes.

I've also seen recipes where you can take crumble up this baked oatmeal and heat it in the oven again until it is toasted and then use it like cereal. Put some in a bowl and pour milk over it and voila! We haven't tried that yet though.