Monday, August 31, 2009

Inspiration for my Boy Room

Pardon the blurry photo--I'm not skilled at snapping shots of scrapbook paper--but Saturday night (as in laying in bed but not asleep) I was suddenly struck with a theme for the nursery/boys' room. Yes, all three boys will share a room . . . (But if I'm being honest, most of the sleeping #5 will do will occur in either my room in the co-sleeper or in the swing or in a sling or wrap of some sort. His crib, however, will be in with his older brothers. No, not my ideal, but we'll make it work.) Anyway, back to the photo of the paper: In case you can't tell what all is in there you will find trees with toadstools, deer, leaves, and OWLS. I've had some serious owl decor love lately. (I have no idea why). But we're about 99% sure we're going to name him Owen, and well, an owl theme seemed perfect--ya know OWen and OWl. Makes sense right? ;o) And even though Jackson and Emmett are still living up the whole ocean animal thing, I think I can sell them on woodland creatures like cute little squirrels and hedgehogs. I like the colors in the paper too, greens, browns, dark rusty orange . . . I'm not sure yet what I'll do for bedding. I may make some quilts--SIMPLE quilts (need to rummage up a bunk bed first) or I may go the easy way and start with something solid and embellish from there. It seems like the perfect kind of nesting project to keep busy with this fall. I've been perusing Etsy for owl ideas, and there are a ton. Like this and this and this (well, mainly the hedgehog and owl feltie on that one). My mind is brimming with ideas for wall art, soft wool felt creatures, mobiles, etc. This should be a lot of fun! If I had a girl I had wanted to do some sort of pink/green birdies on branches thing. (I really like nature stuff) I was a bit bummed to not be able to use that idea. Now, I've got a way to still do it, so I am pumped. Okay. Enough gushing. ;o)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Planning More Intentional Mornings

We're gotten three weeks accomplished in our new school year and it is going well. My afternoons have a nice rhythm to them, so now I'm determined to tackle our mornings (which tend to run the gamut of fairly productive to not productive at all). First stop is a breakfast schedule. I had one going up until sometime last spring, and then just stopped using it, so back we go to each day having it's own food: cereal on Sunday's, English muffins on Monday, etc. I'm looking forward to seeing how Thursday goes, it's "Oatmeal Bar" day. I have two oatmeal eaters, and two un-oatmeal eaters. I'm hoping if they are provided with a selection of things to sprinkle on, coconut, walnuts/pecans, raisins, etc. it will be more palatable to them. I have a little September calendar I printed off and filled in with everything we'll be having and I have it taped to the refrigerator. I'm certain Marissa will keep me accountable. She's good about that (and it's a very good argument in support of ILliteracy). ;o)

Next, full of inspiration from others who have implemented a "circle time" into their mornings or a "morning basket" I'm going to attempt something of the same. What I hope to accomplish:
Morning Bible Reading from The Day-by-Day Kids' Bible
Joy Journals for the girls and me (an exercise in counting blessings AND finding something to be thankful for in each family member, particularly little brothers) ;o)
Current Hymn we are learning
Seasonal Poem
Calendar/Meeting Books & Sheets for the girls (part of Saxon math)

From this point we'll begin our day. I'm going to start a "letter of the week" with the boys, nothing too intensive, but stuff geared more to their ages since sometimes I get too wrapped up in the big kid stuff. It's a blessing to have them napping while the girls work on school, but in the end they have been getting left out of any structured learning time. Hopefully, I can get this situation remedied. I've planned my work . . . now to work my plan. ;o)

Our Hymn/Poetry line-up for the fall:
Aug. 30- Sept. 12—Great is Thy Faithfulness
“September” Helen Hunt Jackson
Sept.13-Sept.26— All Creatures of Our God and King
“Autumn Fires” Robert Louis Stevenson
Sept.27-Oct. 10—For the Beauty of the Earth
“October’s Bright Blue Weather” Helen Hunt Jackson
Oct. 11-Oct.24—Bringing in the Sheaves
“The Squirrel” Anonymous

Oct.25-Nov.7—Come Ye Thankful People Come
“Down to Sleep” Helen Hunt Jackson
Nov. 8-Nov 21—We Gather Together
“God is the Maker of the World” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Nov. 22-Nov. 30—Let all Things now Living
“Thanksgiving Day” Lydia Maria Child

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Blog has a Birthday . . .

Today my blog celebrates one year with 155 posts to its credit. Perhaps a silly thing to take note of, but this whole blogging thing has been incredibly fun for me. Why?

--I've never been a big phone person, I just really don't enjoy talking on the phone. I would much rather write you a letter or talk to you in person. Now, I can have conversations with whoever is "listening" on my blog. ;o) I feel connected to others again.

--I'm writing again, nothing astounding or profound, but at least I'm writing. I used to write all the time (as a kid, a high school student). I didn't realize how much I missed it until I started doing it again. And I think, knowing I have some sort of audience inspires me to try a bit harder to string some cohesive words together. ;o)

--I'm documenting the things my kids do with much more regularity. I fell behind on scrapbooks around Jackson's babyhood and have never caught up since. Now I have something to refer to whenever I go back and try to get those scrapbooks caught up. I have discovered that a memory begins to blur numerous kids together after awhile . . . Writing things down is crucial.

--Blogging has helped fill the void left by a husband who must be gone a lot. In the past this has been a struggle for me, and left me lonely--you know, bursting with things to say, but no one to say them too? Well, now I can "talk" all I want, and find myself delighted when I discover a comment. I think it's that whole "connection" thing again.

And I have enjoyed reading the blogs of others. I have been so inspired by so many different people, in my spiritual walk, in ideas for homeschooling, in ideas for life management, through the projects and crafts people do. There are amazing women out there, just doing their own "little thing" in their own corner of the world. It encourages me to no end to see how others approach life.

I called my blog "A Steadfast Life" based on a sermon my pastor gave awhile back where he defined being steadfast as the ability to live a life under pressure. This has been my goal, that no matter what comes my way I would live my life well, and with no excuses. I want to be the person that remains resolute and stands firm in her convictions regardless of what's happening around her. I realize this is a life-long refinement process, but hopefully, one day at a time I can choose to make the right decisions that will result in a life lived steadfastly.

Thank YOU for following along and being an encouragement to me. Have a beautiful weekend!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Favorites . . .

~Bigelow's "Vanilla Caramel" tea. Yum.
~A fun fall catalogue from "Magic Cabin."
~Country Living Simple Country Wisdom--a library read I've just begun
~The anticipation of a few new books arriving from Amazon
~Our library's dear-to-me hold system for many of the books I would have liked to order from Amazon but could not ;o) ~The "Tree Tops" Connectagons my mom got the kids from Hearthsong (love those fall colors and birdies and nests)
~Josh has tonight off from work. Yippee!
~Getting to work on our respective spaces in our newly organized basement (a study area for him, a crafting area for me)

~A sweet tea party for my girlies and how they dressed themselves in their new dresses to match
~August's end and fall's approach
~The gift of celebrating the normal and mundane

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to School . . . for Josh

Yesterday, we sent Daddy off in pursuit of his master's degree, hopefully which will end with him teaching secondary science in the fall of 2011. He's taken a few classes already this year, but this is his first full-time semester, back at the university. He's taking a bunch of classes that sound really interesting, like Chemistry 110, Biology 101, Microbiology, Natural Resource Science, and Psychology of Adolescence. (Okay, I was being a bit sarcastic . . . there are a few that I could tolerate taking, although the majority I hope to find myself never a part of.) ;o) When it's all said and done he has a total of 20 hours to get accomplished--plus getting in the hours at work, which thankfully will fit in around all the classes. Unfortunately, that means we will kind of be "ships passing in the night." We've been dealing with an unconventional schedule for awhile now, so it's nothing completely new. Still, I'm facing the next few months with a bit of trepidation. It's going to be kind of crazy, and I'm going to just keep getting bigger and slower. His finals fall the week before our little one is due. I'm sure we will all be looking forward to the joys December will bring. Four months to go . . . And yes, I am counting. ;o)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy 4th to Jackson Macrae!!!

August 23, 2005 was my due date for you. I remember distinct feelings of devastation around noon of that day. I was in my third day of contractions that had no rhyme or reason to them, sometimes a half hour apart, sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes stopping for a few hours. I had pretty much given up on you making an appearance. And while I'd like to say that I was at peace with the whole situation the truth is I was REALLY BIG and it was SUMMER and I had some killer sciatic nerve pain that literally dropped me to the floor every evening. So, while my memory is a "bit fuzzy" there is a good chance I may not have been the most enjoyable person to be around. ;o)

However, things changed quickly. As afternoon rolled around it appeared I would not have to spend another day quite so rotund. We were settled in at the hospital by about 3 pm and you made your appearance an hour and a half later. All of the shocking 8 lbs. 5 oz. that you were--still holding the record for all my babies. Daddy was incredibly excited to meet his first boy. And all in all you were my best labor to date.

Your sisters adored you and you fit right in--you were a good baby and an easy adjustment to three children. And that was your first half year of life. Normal, sweet and rosy-hued.

And then came my brain tumor diagnosis, which really sliced it's way through life as we knew it. I'll never forget saying good-bye to you, nursing you for what would be the last time. I'll never forget seeing you for the first time after two weeks away. Going back to those moments still has the power to undo me.

But everything was okay, and life went on, and you kept growing and growing, until you looked like this:
Which still makes me laugh. You are my only claim to fame when it comes to a baby with some girth to him. You make your siblings look rather malnourished in comparison.

You have been my most challenging child and yet fascinating and delightful. Daily, you make me laugh with something you say or do, or one of your "notions." You baffle me at times. You make me keep stretching and growing and learning, just so I can figure out what makes you tick. You are maddening. You are hilarious. And you really, really love me. And I really, really love you. I can't believe you're already four and yet somehow it feels you have been a part of our lives for so much longer than that.

Happy birthday my Jackson-boy! May you grow up to be a man after God's own heart.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekend Plans . . .

I'm stopping right now, in the midst of preparations for Jackson's birthday party tonight, because my feet hurt. Like they were nine-month pregnant feet instead of a mere five. I should have put on some good shoes today. I remembered this afternoon, after they were hurting, but by then it was too late.

I have made a "Magic Schoolbus Cake" at Jackson's request. It is not my most outstanding culinary achievement. Marissa had checked out this book from the library about how to construct all of these fun little cakes, just in time for Jackson's birthday. He loved the schoolbus cake. So, I am obliging. It's kind of my tradition to make good old-fashioned from scratch cakes for birthdays, hopefully ones that will be tasty. Confession #1--I used a box mix today. Confession #2--it is really hard to frost a cake that has been cut and stacked to resemble a schoolbus (think crumbs, lots and lots of crumbs). Consequently, my yellow schoolbus looks like it has been doing a whole lot of off-roading (should have used a yellow cake mix, not chocolate!). Oh, well, It's the thought that counts, and the fact I have delighted my almost four-year old boy. He's had some pretty high expectations for this birthday. I wish I would have kept a list of everything he requested "for my birthday" over the last YEAR. I'm sure it would be hilarious.

Tomorrow should be quiet. But Sunday should do me in. ;o) First, it will "officially" be Jackson's birthday, there is church, a possible lunch at Val's, going to see "Julie and Julia" with my mom and sister, a 5:00 Girls of Grace meeting, and wrapping all that up with evening church. Definitely a full day. Thankfully, it looks like there will be a whole lot of sitting involved, and I think my feet should be okay. ;o)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Our Bee "Charmer"

For the most part of this summer I've had to keep my eye on this fellow when he is outside at Grandpa and Grandma C's house. They have a lot of flowers, that not only draw the attention of beautiful butterflies, but also, well, of course, bees.

Emmett loves the bees.

We've warned and lectured and whisked him away from potential danger. He wasn't getting it. Finally, this weekend, after more warning, lecturing, and whisking, he was stung. He was a bit surprised. A bit offended. He cried. Thankfully, there were no allergic reactions. Josh and I were actually glad it had happened, you know the whole "experience is the best teacher" kind of thing. Surely NOW he would understand why we leave bees alone.

Alas he did not.

This evening he was back at it. While the older siblings gleefully caught butterflies, Emmett was determined to catch another bee. I reminded him of his previous experience. I warned, I lectured. And then I saw his hands cupped around something. I thought he had finally gotten a butterfly, I actually saw a glimmer of fluttery wings through a space in his fingers.

Then I heard the angry buzz.

And once more I had a surprised, offended, and crying Emmett. Leaving me to wonder, as I watched him contemplating his favorite "bee hang-out" minutes later, just how many times will he need to be stung before he realizes bees do not like to be caught? Certainly at some point he will realize this fascination isn't worth it, right?

UPDATING ON THE 20TH TO ADD: and he was stung again this evening. Didn't even cry this time. This makes it his third sting in 6 days I believe.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth
~State Fair "Fare"~
This week's theme was "no theme" so I decided to go the "State Fair" route, which will be in town quite soon.

What we ate:

Mini Corn Dogs, Cotton Candy Flavored Dip'n Dots, Lemonade, "Blue Ribbon Veggies"
Carmel Apple Bites, and Funnel Cake

No, it was not the healthiest of meals--but it WAS fun. ;o) The Dip'n Dots or "ice cream balls" as Jackson liked to call them were a big hit--the kids have never had them before ( is where I bought these) and the funnel cake turned out okay. I've never made it, and honestly I'm not sure if I've actually eaten one. I always go for the carmel apples when I'm picking a treat. But I'm including a link for the recipe in case anyone is interested--or if you have a recipe for funnel cake that is awesome, let me know. I can tell you this--don't use canola oil for frying, it won't work as well as vegetable oil (unless you like the black-on-the-outside-uncooked-on-the-inside taste). ;o) Fortunately for me it is a mistake I made in the past, so everything was smooth sailing for the frying session today. They left the table with full tummies, and the blue ribbons stuck to their shirts for being some "first place kids." ;o)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Heart Pangs . . .

Would you think me silly if the new Marissa makes me a bit mournful inside? Even makes me a bit teary-eyed to realize she's growing up? Because it does. The pile of blond tresses on the floor of the salon invoking in me a different sort of sadness--one I hadn't known before. It was a haircut that needed to happen after two years of much sun and swimming, her hair definitely needed some new life brought to it. And she'll probably even grow it long again. But still, it's another step in leaving little girl-dom behind. She's happy and jubilant, fluffing her new 'do in the mirror. Isabella feels the autonomy it represents, now needing a short style of her own. And I recognize it as being one of those bittersweet moments. Why can't they just stay little forever?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How the Week Went Down--

~My globe now looks like this:(unfortunately, this was its condition even before the 2nd day of school--note-to-self, do not buy the $15 globe at Tar.get with the plastic stand--at least it's still basically usable, until somebody tries to balance on it that is)

~More "Mommy and Baby" love by Jackson, he is still utterly thrilled to find something occurring in both a large and small size.

~ Ocean animals everywhere, driving vans, flying planes, taking baths, swimming in sinks.
These were a special vacation purchase, that not only made for hours of minivan fun, but continue to be a hit at home nearly two months later. We call that money well spent. ;o)

~ Carefully arranged Care Bear sleepovers in the girls' room.
~The girls had a "midnight rendezvous" with Daddy to head out and watch the meteor shower on Tuesday night. Mommy and the boys slept blissfully unaware.
~Isabella is providing us with a near CONSTANT soundtrack of piano music, her adaptations of the VBS music and Marissa's violin songs. (Recognizable for the most part, but with sharp/flat variations here and there) ;o) I can only hope she wants to practice that much when she is officially taking lessons.
~School is figuring itself out, slowly but surely. We're honing our routine and attitudes, and the end of the week is already appearing much more promising than the beginning.
~And hopefully tomorrow will find us visiting the library, having a light school load, and maybe even a tea party.
All in all a good week.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Song

Complete in Thee
Complete in Thee, no work of mine
may take dear Lord the place of Thine.
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
and I shall stand complete in Thee.
Yea justified, oh blessed thought!
And sanctified salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
and glorified I, too, shall be.
Complete in Thee each want supplied
and no good thing to me denied;
Since Thou my portion, Lord will be
I ask no more, complete in Thee.
Yea justified, oh blessed thought!
And sanctified salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
and glorified I, too, shall be.
Dear Savior when, before Thy bar,
all tribes and tongues assembled are,
among Thy chosen will I be,
At Thy right hand, complete in Thee.
Yea justified, oh blessed thought!
And sanctified salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
and glorified I, too, shall be.
(We sang this--for I believe--the first time in church this past Sunday, and I have been humming it ever since. What a beautiful hymn, words and melody. I'm especially loving that second verse.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back to School . . .

The Good:
An exciting curriculum
A quietly diligent kindergartner happy to REALLY be doing school
A second grader who could already fill in 17 countries on her "Country Pretest"
Getting through everything in two hours
The Bad:
A three year old who woke up from his nap about 1 1/2 hours too early--sobbing
(but Yay! he went back to sleep)
But not before waking up the two year old
(who did not)
(who climbed up at the table, needing to be included and broke into the markers)
(and drew "snakes")
The Ugly:
A second grader proclaiming "I hate school!"
A kindergartner with a rather waning attention span towards the end
The feelings of sheer panic the teacher had as she tried to figure out what she was doing, how she was going to do it and if homeschooling two children at the same time was even possible?!?!
(and then realizing there was still supper, and laundry, and clean up, and violin to practice . . .)
Yep. That about sums it up.

Our First Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Monday at Her Cup Overfloweth
Theme: Planes, Trains, and AutomobilesWhat we have here: "airplanes" made from carrots/celery, ranch dressing, "automobiles" from pears/grapes, "wheels" in alfredo sauce, "railroad tie" cheese sticks, and "fuel" chocolate milk.

I must admit, this really stretched me creativitely! But the kids loved it, and there was much plane flying and car driving before the actual eating went on. ;o) Overall, a very happy lunch.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Some Serendipity

I own two muffin tins--a rather beat-up, normal-sized 12 cup one and a 24 cup mini-muffin pan. For the most part, recipes for muffins make 12 normal-sized muffins. Every now and then I come across one that doesn't, and I remind myself I need another muffin pan. (And of course promptly forget about it until I make a larger recipe again.) ;o)

And then I discovered the whole "Muffin Tin Monday" concept. I made it my goal to locate some cheap 6 cup muffin pans. Not that this was the driving force behind my day or anything, but if I happened to be at a store, I would check the baking aisle. Discovery #1--they don't seem to sell normal-sized 6 cup ones--unless they were those fancy-schmancy new silicon ones for $10 each. Discovery #2--it seemed it would be cheaper to get a 12 cup one. But I didn't want 12, I wanted 6--the thought of trying to fill 12 cups with creative food . . . Well, that seemed like A LOT of work. I really couldn't justify spending a total of $40 on the silicon ones either. For that I could get a whole set of four place-servings, you know?

Well, today we were at Ko.hl's, using our cool little discount on some stuff. We were in the kitchen wares, Josh contemplating a grill set that had been marked 50% off--otherwise I am usually not over in their kitchen area. He asked if there was anything on the other side of the clearance rack I needed, and wouldn't you know, there was a stack of muffin pans--the six cup jumbo ones. And there were four of them. They were clearanced out at $6 and some cents--plus I had 30% off to use--bringing them down to $4 and some odd cents a piece.
Can you believe it? I was beginning to think I would slowly purchase my pans over an extended period of time until I had the amount I needed to do this fun meal with my kids. Isn't it strange the things God works out for us? I'm always amazed--to think He would answer a silly wish, something I deemed too silly to even commit to prayer. I am humbled again, makes me wish I had prayed about it and gotten to see the answer come to fruition.

So, I have my pans. ;o) Now, to get creative in the meal department. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Species are These?

They use a sheet of stickers as their nest.
The mother cares for her young.
They eat styrofoam "cake."
"They drink milk from their mama."
They appear to have multiple ethnicities.
What am I?
(Just another peek into the mind that is Jackson's. Right now, obsessed with all things mama and baby--I have no idea why. ;o) Bet you never thought you would see the day that scissors nursed?)

Playing Games

"Naked Guess Who" (Similar to Strip Poker, however in this instance, you BEGIN without any clothes)
And, no, they really don't know what they are doing.
Jackson--"Are you a girl?"
Game over.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Because I haven't shared any good Jackson stories in awhile, I thought I would update you, beginning with a break-through we have had, smiling AND looking at the camera at the SAME TIME: Okay, so the smile is a bit cheesy, but it's better than the PAINED "CHEEEEESE!" expressions I've been getting for over a year now (and sorry the picture is a bit blurry, there was a fingerprint across my lens I discovered after the fact).
And also FINALLY I have a child who likes dolls. Ever since the ultrasound Jackson and his "baby brother" who (whom?) ;o) he likes to call "Alvin" have been spending a lot of time together. In fact, every night he makes sure Alvin is tucked in right next to him. I think it's sweet, and not quite as disturbing as the few days he was pregnant with Alvin. Lucky for him, HIS pregnancy was a short-lived affair. And no, Alvin is not a name we are considering, and I have no idea where he got it from.
A picture for Papa Roy--never mind the fact that it was I who drew the train--every color carefully thought out and handed to me. He returned a few minutes later to show me what he had added to the picture and low and behold, take a look at this:
Those look like letters to me! I asked him what they were. The first one he remembered right off, "That's an O!" The next one--with some prodding from me--he remembered "Eh," the sound the E makes. And the third I was certain would be either an a, b, d, or p. I remembered both the girls starting out that way, drawing the "stick" in the wrong direction.
"That's a sting ray."
Hmmm, not quite what I was hoping for, but I see it. Overall, it's just incredibly exciting that he is drawing stuff. It took him FOREVER.
Also, after subbing for his teachers in his Sunday School on Sunday, Jackson informed us, "I miss Dan and Sara." I laughed, because I figured we threw his schedule all awry by being in his class, but he went on to say, "I NEEEEEEED them!" Poor kid.
Just a few things "in the moment" with Jackson right now that are making me smile/laugh/shake my head in bemused delight. Oh, and did I mention what an awesome tattling voice he has honed? "Mo-om Emmett's not sleeping!" "Mo-om Emmett is stinky!" "Mo-om Emmett's crying!" Can you just hear it in your head? He's good, really good. ;o)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Getting Ready

On Monday we begin our '09/'10 school year, and of course, there's been a lot of organizing going on here (can you tell I'm kind of stuck on a theme--I think nesting has descended upon me a bit early . . .) So, because I'm excited about all the shiny new books and really sharp colored pencils, I thought I would let you share in my giddiness. ;o)
Storage crates for the girls to house all their subjects
A new system for organizing supplies, pint-sized canning jars in a tray
A new globe

An empty bookshelf awaiting all the library holds I placed tonight.
The bad thing about homeschooling two children is I reached my limit of 25 with just the books on Marissa's list. And because I may possibly be a wee bit behind in catching up on library fines on the other three cards *blushing furiously* I think I may sign Jackson up for a card. Oh, I'll get the other cards paid off eventually--trust me, the library has been funded quite well by my family.

I've also sorted through all the baby boy clothes, decided what will be usable for this little fellow, and reorganized the boys' closet. Marissa is practicing violin again. I grocery shopped for "Menu 1" today, it still needs some tweaking, but I'm sooooooo excited about my perpetual list. It may end up being the highlight of my year. Well, 2nd probably to the arrival of the new son. ;o) We're still hunting for a name. I'm kind of liking Owen--is that weird? I'm getting a lot of mixed reactions. Josh isn't overly fond of it, but will concede perhaps if his middle name is Joshua. ;o) But then his initials would be O.J. Which I either think of orange juice or O.J. Simp.son. The third time around it kind of feels like slim pickings. And not that there aren't a whole bunch of fabulous names out there, but I would like to find a name that no one in "my circle" already lays claim to.
Sorry, I've taken to rambling. But if you have a name that kind of sounds old-fashioned, but isn't too weird, and yet still original, do tell. Preferably having a different initial than all the rest of my kids. I've been through the name book at least three times now. Maybe I need a new name book. A few others on our list: Desmond (Josh's pick), Freeman, Pierson, or nice and normal Nathaniel. Decisions . . . :oP

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Meal Plan "Tutorial"

I have a week until we begin schooling, and I realized I need to get moving on my whole little menu planning idea. I spent some time yesterday compiling recipes and copying them off on my printer, and today I'm spending some time organizing, and I just thought I would share some things that have made this a fairly painless process for me. ;o) So, in case the idea intrigues you too, here are some helpful hints--hopefully (keeping in mind I'm not reinventing the wheel or anything). ;o)

Step 1:
--Go through your cooking magazines, cookbooks, etc. and IMMEDIATELY make a copy of the page the recipe is on. Don't jot down a page number and hope you'll remember where you found it. I used to have a code for everything like "TOH A/S '03 pg 16" (which meant a Taste of Home magazine the Aug/Sept issue . . . it got kind of complicated).

--Don't copy off a whole bunch of recipes that SOUND good but you've never actually tried them out. Your family might hate it or it might be too time consuming. Go for tried and true.

--Keep a running list of the recipes you find, divided into categories, like chicken, pork, casserole, fish, etc.

Step 2:
--Make yourself a 14 day grid (or 7 or 21, however long you want this menu to go for) Think about your schedule. I know that Sunday and Wednesday nights are crazy for our family once the school year gets going. My plans for Sunday evening will either be a simple cheese/crackers/apple slices meal, or soup that can simmer the afternoon away in a crock pot. Wednesdays are reserved for easy casseroles (preferably lacking a red sauce because that means more mess and clean up!).

--Designate a set day for everything. Mondays are chicken, Tuesdays are pork, etc. Friday at our house has been and will continue to be spaghetti night, it's something that both the kids and Josh love. If you have a meal that your family never tires of, schedule a day for it weekly. It's nice to have a day where you don't have to think. ;o)

--Fill in the blanks. Take into consideration if you made a roast chicken on Monday, that would be a good week to use the leftover chicken in a casserole, etc. If a recipe makes more than your family eats (like my BBQ meatballs does) freeze them. When that meal comes around again it's already made. Woohoo! ;o)

--Leave one free day for every two weeks if you like. I'm doing this in case there's a new recipe we want to try, the family is really wanting something not scheduled, or there's a meal that somehow didn't get made.
(Right now I'm still in the middle of "Step 2") ;o)

Step 3:
--Get a three ring binder, some dividers, and lots of plastic slip-cover "thingies."

--Get your master menu list made up. I will have three 2-week rotations when all said and done.

--Put your recipes in the slipcovers and divide them up according to which menu plan they belong to, Menu 1, Menu 2, etc. Keep your master menu as the first page for each section.

--Go through each recipe and write down the ingredients you need. Type it all up--preferably in the order you will find them at the grocery store you normally frequent. (This is obviously the most time consuming and least fun part) Print off a copy of each, put it in your recipe binder. SAVE the rest on your computer. That way the next time you need to go shopping for Menu 1 you just pull it up and hit "print" and you're all set.

And "voila" life is that much easier. ;o) At least I'm hoping so. Another thing I'm doing is keeping a section in the back of the binder for "celebrations" like the favorite punch recipe I have for a birthday party, a pumpkin pancake recipe to celebrate fall's beginning, etc. I'm always misplacing these recipes, so it will be good to FINALLY have a nice, organized place to keep them. Everything looks better in a plastic slipcover. ;o)

And if you want to take it just one step further, get a plastic dish pan/basket for each day of the week. When you return from grocery shopping divvy up the dry ingredients needed for each meal in a basket. Example: I'm making chili, and I have tomato puree', 4 different cans of beans, chili powder, etc. Keep those ALL TOGETHER in their basket. That way on Sunday, I pull out the Sunday basket, and everything I need for the meal is right there. I got this idea out of a Better.Homes.and Gar.dens magazine awhile back. I have yet to implement it, but I think it's a fabulous way to organize your pantry, and will make meal prep that much easier.

Anyway, hopefully this will be helpful for somebody. I am really excited to get this project completed. I won't dread grocery trips so much (I hope!). :o)