Thursday, January 31, 2013

T is for Tomato Soup Recipe

We don't have a lot of cold days in Arizona, but we have had a day or two that just begged for a soup-and-sandwich meal.

I've recently perfected a tomato soup recipe that's both allergy-friendly and better tasting than canned. It was perfect to pair with some grilled cheese (or cheese substitute) sandwiches. The recipe makes at least four generous servings of soup, and it doesn't take long at all to make. The pot I made for my lunch today was ready before my oldest daughter finished making Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and she started first.

Easy Tomato Soup

4 Tablespoons bacon grease, divided
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
4 Tablespoons flour -- I used a gluten-free all purpose blend
1 large can tomato juice

Heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in a large saucepan. (If you don't already have a jar of bacon grease in your fridge, you'll have to fry some bacon. Trust me, the bacon grease is important.)

While the grease is heating, chop the onion into the tiniest pieces you can. Add them to the hot grease, and allow to cook for a few minutes. You want them softened, but not browned.

Add another 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and 4 tablespoons of flour. Stir until the flour is all mixed in and starts to brown slightly.

Lower the heat on the stove and pour in about a cup of the tomato juice. Stir until it is smooth. Add the rest of the tomato juice. Bring to a boil. It should thicken slightly as it cooks.

Serve with grilled cheese (or cheese toast made with gluten-free bread and Daiya cheese for an allergy-friendly lunch).

I'm linking my delicious (and easy) soup recipe in several places this week. Feel free to hop around and find some more fun recipes at Home to 4 Kiddos, learn some tips on being frugal with Frugal Family 2013, or read some other "T" posts at Ben and Me's Blogging through the Alphabet.

Blogging Through the AlphabetFrugal Family 2013

©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reading aloud now, reading aloud to come

Last night I was posting about what book I am reading, and I made a comment about how it helped when I knew that I had another book waiting.

Today I started thinking about how that concept could apply to the books I read to Lauren and Brennan. I often wait until we finish one book before I start thinking about the next book. If it takes me a few days to decide what to read and then perhaps a few more days to find the book at the library, we've lost our momentum. Sometimes we lose our momentum towards the end of a book because we just don't want it to end and don't have anything else to look forward to.

Instead of just sharing what we're currently reading, I'm going to share what we're going to read next.

Brennan and I are reading Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson. I don't usually pick futuristic type books, but since it's set at Disney World, I thought it would be an interesting read. So far, Brennan and I are intrigued.

This evening, Addison told me about a book that is going to be our next read aloud -- The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. She said it was "a lot like Grease, except it's junior high, and it's cleaner, and it's a decade later." I'm still not sure what she meant, but she did say it would be a great read-aloud for us.

Lauren and I started reading The Magic Treehouse series this week. We're a few chapters into the second book now. I'm nearly certain she could be reading these on her own, but she doesn't think she's ready for chapter books yet. The good thing about starting a series of books is that we'll always know which one could be next on our reading list.

We're only going to continue reading Magic Treehouse books for the rest of this week, though. Starting next week, we're going to be using some materials from Girls of American History for much of her schoolwork. The materials are based on the American Girl books, and we'll most likely be starting with Kaya. Luckily, my little sister had a collection of nearly all of the American Girl books, and it was passed down to my girls.

I'm going to link my read-aloud selections for this week (and for the weeks afterwards) with the ones Debra is listing at Footprints in the Butter. You're invited to come get ideas or to share your own book selections.

©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Goal Planning Monday {January 28th}

I sat down to write tonight and thought that I'm just saying the same things every week. I guess that's a good thing when I'm reporting goals that I've accomplished during the week. I also enjoy the challenge of seeing what sorts of baby steps I can challenge myself with so that I can get a little bit closer to my long term goals than I was a week ago.

Progress on ongoing goals:
1. Exercise: I'm on week 4 of my Couch 2 5K program, and my knee is still holding up well. Last week, I did my kickboxing class plus three runs. I just got home from kickboxing tonight, and I have run plans for tomorrow.

2. Bible Reading: I'm caught up (as of this afternoon) and a few chapters ahead.

3. Scripture Memory: All of our verses are on index cards that I've been reviewing several times a day, and I'm closet to having them all down. I spent some time on ScriptureTyper last night, and it helped quite a bit.

4. Read: I finished Fly Girl by Sherri L. Smith last weekend, and I've already started The Racketeer by John Grisham. It helps if I pick out my next book before I finish the one I'm reading.

5. Blog: I'm settling into a routine. This week I need to make some notes about my current review products so that they'll come together nicely when it gets closer to the due date. I'm also thinking about setting a goal for a specific number of comments I'd like to post on other friends' blogs each day/week. I want to be better about letting people know that someone is reading what they are spending so much effort writing.

Accomplishments (aka last week's goals):
1. Digital Photo Organization: I sorted through three months of photos from 2012. Baby steps.

2. I not only sent the one email that I was procrastinating about, I sent another one today.

3. I put the Christmas thank you notes in the mail. I thought of a few more that I need to write. (I'm really bad at thank you notes and birthday cards, but I'm trying harder this year.)

New goals:
1. Digital Photo Organization: I've looked ahead at the pictures I took in 2012. Both April and May have an insane number of pictures to look through. I'll be thrilled if I get through just two months worth of pictures this week.

2. Write and mail the two thank you notes that got overlooked earlier.

3. I'm going out on a limb here with my last one. I bought some fabric last November when my mom was visiting, and I had grand plans of sewing a simple tunic top for Lauren. Now that the Christmas busyness is behind me, I'm going to get started. The fabric is already washed, so my first goal is to print out the pattern and cut out the pieces. I'd love to pull out the sewing machine and start sewing it together on Saturday, but that might be too ambitious for one week.

I'm adding my list of goals and accomplishments to the others at Real Life Unscripted.

©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

5 Reasons I love Boy Scouts

A few years ago we sort of stumbled across a great Cub Scout troop for Brennan. Since then, he earned his Arrow of Light award and bridged to Boy Scouts. I'm convinced that scouting is one of the most beneficial activities that Brennan has participated in.

1. Brennan is learning useful life skills. Last summer, he completed a first aid merit badge at camp and then showed off his knowledge to one of the assistant scoutmasters. He used his little sister as a CPR dummy at one point and then made a make-shift stretcher to carry her around the living room.

He can also safely light a fire. It's a wonderful treat to send him out in the backyard to light the charcoal so that we can grill something for dinner.

2. We can combine school subjects with Brennan's merit badge work. Right now, he's working on his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, and we're studying American History (The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, etc) in order to fulfill those requirements.

3. Brennan is developing public speaking skills. A few months ago, he helped narrate the quarterly Court of Honor, an award ceremony that all the parents attend.

4. He had the opportunity to practice budgeting and bargain shopping skills when he was the grubmaster for a campout last fall. Instead of just going shopping for the food they needed, I gave him all of the grocery store ads and made him figure out the best place for us to go shop. He was thrilled to find everything they needed for about $5 less than the grub money he had collected from everybody. The boys love it when the grubmaster has leftover money and uses it to buy a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper to enjoy on the campout.

5. Most importantly, I love the way Boy Scouts gives Brennan an opportunity to lead. Far to many programs these days are so controlled by the supervising adults that the children rarely have the chance to develop leadership skills. Our scout troop does a great job of letting the boys plan the activities, run the meetings, and take care of themselves on campouts. It's a safe environment where boys can make decisions for themselves and then deal with the outcome. I firmly believe that none of us can learn to be a leader unless we are in a situation where we have the freedom to either succeed or to fail.

I'm sharing my love of Scouting as part of my part in a Blogging through the Alphabet challenge at Ben and Me. Even though we're nearing the end of the alphabet, you can still jump in and join us.

Blogging Through the Alphabet

©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

With your heart {Scripture and a Snapshot}

"For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Romans 10:10

Scripture and Snapshot 100 Bible Verses in 2013
©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A "no journals required" approach to nature study

Sometimes when I think of homeschool nature studies, I often think of pretty journals filled with sketches of plants and pressed flower petals. In my imaginary nature study scene, all three of my kids are also calmly walking down a dirt path through the woods towards a field of blooming wild flowers.

Nature study for our family looks more like this:

Instead of dreaming of an idealistic nature study with beautiful journal pages, we've embraced studying nature as simply a fun endeavor. We didn't necessarily set off with learning objectives, but we've learned a lot along the way.

How do we study nature?

Plan to spend holidays outdoors.
We're lucky to have warm weather so this year we hiked on both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. We also went exploring on Labor Day weekend. Instead of sitting around the house or going shopping, we look for someplace fun to explore.

Christmas Eve, Chiricahua National Monument
Thanksgiving Day, Saguaro National Park
Drag relatives along to enjoy the fun.
Since we're living in a new location this year, we've had family come to visit. Instead of just showing them the best places to shop, we've taken them to some of our favorite places to hike.

Papa and Nana with all three grandkids
Col Opa posing with Tim and the big kids
Oma and Lauren waiting at the bottom of the cliff

Pack a picnic.
Sometimes we have rather elaborate picnics. This year, I actually packed up our entire Thanksgiving dinner and took it to the national park nearest to our house. At other times, we just carry a camp stove so we can make fried Spam sandwiches.

Take time on vacation to explore a little.
We recently drove from Arizona to California for a short vacation. Instead of rushing through the drive with the sole intent of getting there as quickly as possible, we stopped along the way at the Joshua Tree National Park. Before we headed home, we took some time to walk along the beach and gaze out at the Pacific Ocean.

Remember that enjoying nature doesn't have to take a long time.
Sometimes when we've been traveling, we've had a little extra time in an area. I took both of these pictures last summer when we were driving across Texas. When we got to our next night's stop before we wanted to go get dinner, we looked up a few geocaches to go hunt for.

Texarkana, Texas (at least I think it was the Texas side)
Abilene, Texas
I never gave myself credit for being a "nature study" type of homeschooler until recently. I realize that I can teach my children about nature and about God's glorious creation without making them draw sketches in a journal or slow down to examine a flower petal. We're learning to enjoy the great outdoors, and along the way, we're learning an awful lot about the world around us.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are writing blog posts about Winter Nature Studies this week. Since we don't really have winter here, I'm just sharing what we've been doing over the past few months. If you'd like to see what other homeschoolers are studying outside this winter, visit the Crew blog any time after Tuesday morning January 29th to see the list of what everyone else is sharing.


©2009-2013 Through the Calm and Through the Storm. All rights reserved. Photos and content may not be reproduced.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cranberry-Ginger Pork Chops

When we moved to Arizona, we realized that we could grill nearly year round. Recently, I made a few substitutions to an old BBQ recipe and found a new favorite.

Cranberry Ginger Pork Chops

1/2 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
1/4 - 1/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh ginger root (chopped finely or grated)
Boneless pork chops or chicken

Mix all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside half of the mixture and use the rest to marinate the meat for at least 15 minutes or up to several hours. Grill until meat reaches a safe temperature using a meat thermometer (160-170 degrees for pork). If desired, the reserved sauce may be brushed on the meat while grilling.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Goal Planning Monday (Jan 21st)

I missed a week of Goal Planning Monday posting because the only real goal I had in mind last week was to have fun at Disneyland (and to try to stay warm).

Progress on ongoing goals:
1. Exercise: I only ran once last week, but I'm counting all the walking we did on vacation as exercise. I'm still on track for the Couch 2 5K training program that several of us at church are doing together.

2. Bible Reading: I'm one day behind, but I have a good opportunity to catch up while Lauren's doing physical therapy tomorrow afternoon.

3. Scripture Memory: I've been a little lazy with this because the verses were easy. I need to get to work this week.

4. Read: I read a novel while we were gone, and I have another one already picked out to start next. I need to take advantage of the momentum.

5. Blog: I had everything finished and scheduled prior to our trip, perhaps even more than I thought I'd get done. My big priority now is completing a few more items on my "to-review" list and not waiting until the last minute for some of the product reviews I have coming up in February.

In addition to the progress I made on the ongoing goals for this year, I also finished the photo book that I promised to make for my niece's first birthday. According to the tracking information, it is already on its way to my sister.

New goals:
1. Digital Photo Organization: I have tons and tons of pictures that need to be sorted through, edited, organized, and moved to discs for back-up storage. Realistically, I hope to get through the first three months of 2012.

2. Finish the email that I've been procrastinating about for the past few nights.

3. Put our Christmas thank you notes in the mail. Writing them doesn't count for anything if I don't put a stamp on the envelopes and take them to the mailbox.

I'm adding my list of goals and accomplishments to the others at Real Life Unscripted.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Confess with your mouth {Scripture and a Snapshot}

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9

This picture was taken the day that both Addison and Brennan were baptized (January 3, 2010).

Scripture and Snapshot 100 Bible Verses in 2013

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Rides, Roller Coasters, and Radiant Colors

About ten minutes after I posted Lauren's quote from Space Mountain, it dawned on me that Space Mountain is indeed a Roller Coaster and that Roller Coaster starts with the letter R. Instead of renaming the post to count for this week's Blogging through the Alphabet, I'll just expand it and share more pictures from our Disneyland vacation last week.


Roller Coasters:

In addition to riding all of the more tame Disney rides, my family also loves riding the wild rides and roller coasters. Lauren was thrilled that there was only one ride that she wasn't quite tall enough to go on. For the most part, I like riding roller coasters but I'm picky about which ones. I don't like drops, especially drops just for the sake of dropping. Since I no longer had an excuse to avoid rides with steep drops by staying behind with a child that was too short for the ride, I got drug on all the rides -- even the Tower of Terror and Splash Mountain, rides that I've successfully avoided for years. Lauren loved them all, but Space Mountain perhaps best of all.

Lauren's favorite person to ride roller coasters with is Brennan. He nicely taught her to ride them with her arms straight up in the air. This is the view I had for many of our rides. Scared me to death.

and Radiant Colors (World of Color show at California Adventure):

I'm sharing all of my pictures of Rides, Roller Coasters, and Radiant Colors for Blogging Through the Alphabet this week.

Blogging Through the Alphabet


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