Wednesday, June 23, 2010

snacks vs. treats- repost

Since I closed down the old blog I've had quite a few people looking for this post, so I'll repost it here:

I know so many (too many) people who honestly don't know the difference between a snack and a treat. They are not happy with an apple or a piece of toast, it has to be a bag of chips, store-bought overly-sugared cookies, or something equally junky.

Don't get me wrong, we love chips and cookies too- but they are occasional treats, not part of our daily snacking.

snack~ noun 1. a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, esp. one eaten between regular meals.

treat~ noun 1. something considered choice to eat 2. an occurrence that causes special pleasure or delight

Two very different things.

The long list of healthy snacks that the kids can grab whenever they are hungry:

nuts and seeds
whole-grain pretzels
dried fruit

*the kids love to combine a variety of the above into a "bowl of stuff", AKA homemade trail mix

~ raw fruit
~ raw veggies
~ hummus or baba ganouj and whole-grain crackers or pita
~ tabouleh
~ a bowl of whole-grain cereal (or granola) with milk (rice milk for Baby) or yogurt
~ whole-grain or whole-wheat bread (or toast) with butter or peanut butter
~ leftover soup
~ supper leftovers
~ a whole wheat bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter
~ homemade cookies (made with whole wheat flour and other healthy ingredients)
~ a granola bar (organic, not overly sweetened, or homemade)
~ a whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter and topped with a banana
~ a whole wheat tortilla spread with cream cheese and sprinkled with dried cranberries
~ a whole wheat English muffin topped with cream cheese or peanut butter
~ a homemade muffin (made with whole wheat flour and other healthy ingredients)
~ a bowl of oatmeal
~ a slice of cheese
~ baked corn chips and salsa or guacamole
~ a bowl of applesauce
~ cooked, cold chickpeas (Baby eats them like popcorn!)
~ popcorn
~ a hard-boiled egg
~ a scrambled egg
~ a sandwich (on whole wheat or whole grain bread with any combination of healthy ingredients) ~ yogurt
~ a smoothie (yogurt and fruit)

**or any combination of the above, depending on appetite

Monday, May 31, 2010

Our favourite spring salad

We'll only be able to make this for a couple more weeks, and we are sad about that. Until then, there will always be a big bowlful in the fridge for side dishes and snacks.

1 box whole wheat macaroni
1 bunch asparagus cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pint cherry or strawberry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups cubed mozzarella
vinaigrette dressing of your choice, homemade or bottled (our favourites are Greek and Italian)

Bring pot of water to a boil, add macaroni, reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes less than recommended on package.

Add asparagus and simmer for 3 minutes more. Drain, rinse with cold water until cool, drain again and dump into large bowl.

Add tomatoes and mozzarella, and pour over about 1/4 cup of dressing. Stir gently, cover, and chill.

Just before serving, add a splash of dressing and gently stir again.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Love is not a big enough word...

Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning
Happy anniversary, Hon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

in the pot: 'dump chili' for Superbowl Sunday (with a vegetarian option)


1/2 lb ground beef (more or less- the amount really doesn't matter since the beef is not the 'base' of this chili)
2 med. onions, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped
1 lg can salt-free diced tomatoes
1 lg can tomato paste
1 lg can red kidney beans
1 lg can white kidney beans
2 cans brown beans in tomato sauce
2 cans whole button mushrooms
chili powder (I use about 1/4 cup- adjust to taste)
choice of liquid if necessary


~ fry up ground beef and onions until meat is no longer pink; drain

~ dump meat into large pot along with remaining ingredients

~ give pot a good stir; if mixture looks dry, add 1/2 bottle of beer OR a cup of water

~ leave simmering (occasionally checking that nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pot- add more liquid as necessary) for anywhere from 2-6 hours (it will taste better the longer it simmers)

~ serve as part of a 'chili bar' with a selection of toppings (sour cream, shredded cheese, etc.) and buttered whole wheat kaiser buns


~ this can be a super simple (and very hearty) vegetarian dish- omit the ground beef and add the chopped onion to the other ingredients

Friday, February 5, 2010

some Olympic school links

Original Olympic school post here.

Fun mascots page for kids.

Full list of participating Canadian athletes.

Schedule and results.

meal menu

*I get a lot of emails wondering how we manage to eat homemade meals every night, even with our busy schedule. I plan our meals depending on how much time I will have to make dinner and whether we are away from home that day or not. I have included notes on what is going on each day to illustrate that, but I'm wondering if it's really helpful to anyone??

Friday (Shmoo has a late game)- chicken soup, homemade bread

Saturday (only two trips to arenas, neither interferes with supper)- pulled beef sandwiches in the crock, homemade rolls (making extra for tomorrow), and cabbage salad made ahead

Sunday (lots of hockey, and the Superbowl!)- long-simmering chili (natch), homemade rolls leftover from yesterday

Monday (Shmoo has an early practice)- baked potatoes left in a low oven until we get back (about 1 1/2 hours), toppings and leftover chili

Tuesday (Gracie has a late game)- roast pork tenderloin, potatoes, carrots, and onions

Wednesday (power will be out from 9-3 for maintenance, so I'll make supper early in the morning and re-heat later)- soup made with Tuesday's leftovers, homemade bread

Thursday- veal scallopini with mushroom sauce and onions, rice, mixed frozen veggies

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

a recipe from The Boy- repost

Originally posted at Our Blue Castle way back in '05 (The Boy would have been 7). I've edited and updated a bit.

This is my favourite 'smack' n cheese recipe. Mom can't remember where she found it*, but we all love it a lot. It's my special lunch that I like to ask for.

2 cups of water
1 cup of milk
bit of butter or oil, whichever you like best

Boil these and add 2 cups of whole wheat macaroni. Make sure it's whole wheat, or it won't be as healthy. You have to stir it a lot so that it won't stick. It has to bubble a bit, but not crazy boiling.

While it is cooking, grate 2 cups of cheese. I like the un-coloured old cheddar from the cheese factory near Grandma's. I don't know if you can get there, it's near Perth and the ice cream store.

Then when almost all of the milk and water are gone and the macaroni is soft, put in the cheese and stir it until it's all melted and saucy.

I like to add some parsley and pepper, Gracie puts in a bit of garlic powder and parmesan, and Shmoo always has hers with chives.

However you want to eat it, just eat it! It's great! I even have the recipe memorized so that I can always eat it when I want to.

Oh, and do you want to know why I call it 'smack'aroni and cheese? Because it's so good, you smack your lips!

*Since posting this, I found the original- a piece of plastic that used to be part of a bag of pasta. Not sure what brand, though...

learning and fun this week

Added to our relaxed lessons...

It's time to Journey North! It'll be our first time participating- wish us luck.

Prep week for Olympic school.

Finishing this as background for this- we'll read through the series as a family in the afternoons.

Nature focus- snow and animal tracks.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

roasted root veggie soup

Meatless, but 'meaty' (Hubby's description). Easy, delicious, and no broth or stock needed! I promise it will warm you right down to your toes.


2 lg. yellow onions
1 med. sweet potato
2-3 carrots
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 bay leaves
1tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp peppercorns (or 1/4 tsp pepper)
10-12 potatoes
olive oil
kosher salt
milk or rice milk

~ wash onions (don't remove skins!), scrub sw. potato and carrots

~ peel all of the above, putting peelings and onion skins into a large soup pot; set aside veggies

~ add garlic (unpeeled), bay leaves, salt and pepper to pot and pour in enough water to cover by about an inch (6-8 cups); heat to boiling, cover, and reduce to a simmer

~ roughly chop onions, carrots, and sw. potato; peel and chop potatoes

~ put all veggies into a large roasting pan or glass baking dish (my 9x13 is the perfect size), drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to taste

~ leave peelings simmering while roasting veggies in a 350* oven for 45min to an hour (you want them nicely browned, but not burnt)

~ when veggies are done, strain solids from the lovely vegetable broth, add the roasted veggies to the broth along with enough water to just cover; bring to a boil, then simmer for 20min to a half hour, or until veggies have softened

~ using a stick blender (or transferring in batches to a conventional blender), puree until desired texture is reached

~ soup will be very thick, so after blending add milk (or rice milk) until soup is the consistency you like

~ serve with some homemade bread for the perfect winter supper

I've got my broth simmering and my bread baking for tonight's supper- the whole house smells heavenly!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

meal menu- the still trying to clean out the pantry, but we have guests coming so I'll have to buy some groceries edition

Friday (in-laws will be here)- Jamie's pork roast, parmesan risotto*, mixed frozen veggies

Saturday (a day filled with hockey, thus cold arenas- inlaws still here)- roasted root veggie soup and homemade bread

Sunday (inlaws will still be here, and we'll be celebrating Third Christmas)- roast chicken, potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts

Monday- chicken soup, homemade bread

Tuesday- potato bake, all-natural Italian sausage

Wednesday- pot roast, potatoes, carrots, celery

Thursday- 'leftover' soup, homemade bread

*recipe coming

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up playin' hockey.

Don't let 'em play pick-up or smack around pucks.

Make 'em play dollies and be Girl Guides and such.

Mamas don't let your babies grow up playin' hockey.

'Cos you'll never be home* and you'll always be cold.

It's a good thing I love her so much.

::she scores!::

*Just got an email from the head coach. It looks like Shmoo's season will be going into April- league finals in Feb, Provincials after Easter. Rep hockey- the sport that ate my life...

frog for breakfast

I used to do this. And it worked. And then I stopped. I don't know why. But it's time to put frog back on the morning menu.

Thanks, SimpleMom.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Hubby is watching this (while ironing his work shirts :-), then I'll be watching the second showing of this at 11PM.

My to-do list for this evening:

~ make supper

~ put a bottle of Hubby's wine in fridge to chill

~ after dinner, get Shmoo off to bed

~ dish out some 'man snacks' for Hubby and The Boy (cheese, pepperettes, pickles, shrimp)

~ work away at my Secret Santa knitting project while watching the game

~ tuck The Boy and Hubby into bed, say goodnight to Gracie

~ change into my jammies

~ pour myself a glass of Hubby's most delicious wine

~ curl into the corner of the sofa with my knitting

~ bliss-out for two hours

~ head to bed for a whopping five hours of sleep

Yes, I'll be tired tomorrow- but it'll be so worth it!

Olympic school

Links and plans for our two-week Olympic break:


CTV official Olympics site- everything from a list of competing nations to the official theme song :-)

Vancouver 2010 website

Olympic School sponsored by RBC (registration required, but free):

Canadian Olympic site (athlete info, etc.)


OWL magazine (thanks, Wendy!)

Starting this week

Read about the history of the Olympic games in whatever world history book has the best info (we have several to choose from), or here.

Read about the first winter Olympics here.

Discuss symbolism of Olympic flag, etc.

The Olympic flag has 5 rings representing the union of athletes from the five different regions of the world- Europe, Asia, the Americas, Oceania, and Africa (find and colour these five areas on a blank map of the world). The colours of the rings were chosen because at least one of these colours is found on the flag of every nation.

Learn the Olympic motto:
The Olympic motto consists of the Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." Discuss what exactly this means (the athletes are not encouraged to be better than their competitors, but to better themselves).

The Olympic Creed:
The creed, or guiding principle, of the modern Olympic Games is a quote by Baron de Coubertin:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Athletes' Oath:
At the opening ceremonies, an athlete from the host country takes the following oath on behalf of all the athletes:

"In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams."
Borrow books from the library about as many of the different sports as possible (our library has this new series)

Learn the rules of a sport we don’t know much about (The Boy is interested in the biathlon- they ski with guns!).

Week-before prep

Print lots of blank maps of Canada and the world.

Have a family movie night, and watch Cool Runnings ("Sanka, ya dead?" "Ya, mon.")

Mark all countries participating in the winter Olympics on a world map using a numbered key.

Mark all previous host cities of the winter games on a world map.

Find where we live and then Vancouver on a map of Canada- figure out the distance between.

Choose a sport to follow (a favourite or one we want to learn more about) and read about the team, the event(s), and the venue(s) (this info is available at some of the links listed above).

Make a chart to keep track of our team's times/ scores (and those of the other countries as well, depending on interest).

Make a chart (or print one) to keep track of medals won using these pictograms to show what event the medals were won for.

Choose a favourite athlete to learn more about and follow during the game (here’s mine- can you guess why? ;-)

Make huge batches of hot cocoa mix and marshmallows. We might also need cookies. Yes, we will most definitely need cookies.

During the games

Watch the parade of nations- on a blank world map colour in all countries in attendance. Look for patterns (countries in the same longitude, timezone, etc.). Learn to say ‘hello’ in some of the countries’ official languages (Tungjatjeta, Albania!).

Keep a ‘reporter’s journal’ to record the results in our chosen sport.

Keep track of our favourite athlete’s results.

Chart medals won.


Chart the weather in Vancouver (and where we live, for comparison). Will the weather affect the day’s events?

Watch as many events as possible.

Drink lots of hot chocolate.

Eat many cookies.

Spend a few extra minutes on the treadmill.

Friday, January 22, 2010

meal menu- still cleaning out the pantry*

Saturday (Shmoo and I will be on a 7-hour road trip with her hockey team- including prep and game time, we'll be gone for about 9 hours. The other two have early afternoon games.)- Hubby will make up some egg salad and raw veggies and eat with the other kids; Schmoo and I will eat when we get home

Sunday (all three have games or practices, but we'll be finished fairly early)- French onion soup with homemade bread and swiss

Monday (Shmoo has an evening game, so I'll feed the kids early and Hubby and I will eat when we get home)- potato and bean bake with roast chicken pieces for whoever wants them

Tuesday- roast pork, smashed potatoes and frozen mixed veggies (the girls will have the potatoes and veggies)

Wednesday- soup made with Tuesday's leftovers, homemade bread

Thursday (we'll be busy preparing for company and making an evening grocery run)- all natural frozen chicken strips, roast potatoes and veggies (without the beans)

*I only need to buy some potatoes for this week's suppers

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

in my knitting basket (it's a big basket)

Lark for The Boy (a Secret Santa gift*) in Lion Brand Cotton-Ease

French Press slippers for me (h/t Yarn Harlot, and also seen at Jennifer's blog) in Paton's Classic Wool

Yet another simple shawl for me (though if I leave my shawls lying around, Shmoo tends to claim them) in cotton denim- it will fade with washing, just like jeans! Problem: it turns my hands blue.


With needles appropriate to the yarn you are using, cast on 3 sts. K one row. On second row, K1, KFB, K to end. Repeat 2nd row until shawl is desired size (or you run out of yarn ;-)

* My in-laws were in Vietnam over Christmas, visiting Hubby's sister and family. We'll be having Third Christmas** when we see them next week.

** We had Second Christmas earlier this month when my parents were down for a quick visit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

apple cinnamon coffee cake

::Today's lunch (recipe here)::


~ mixed it by hand rather than with a mixer, and it turned out fine

~ used a couple of apples that were going soft (waste not...)

~ didn't add streusel, just a sprinkle of cinnamon-sugar (homemade with raw sugar)

~ used store-bought whole wheat flour, and it didn't turn out like a brick

Sunday, January 17, 2010

winter homeschooling

If you are an experienced homeschooler, you know what's coming- the 'February blahs'. Rather than dealing with it when it happens, the last couple of years we have actively tried to avoid it. Has it worked? Not perfectly, but things definitely went more smoothly than in previous winters.

We school very much like Lissa describes in her Tidal Homeschooling posts (please do read them all!), combining Charlotte Mason, a few aspects of Waldorf and the Brave Writer Lifestyle, with 'low tide' strewing and seasonal studies.

Schizophrenic? I guess so (and it's hard to answer the question, "How do you school?"), but the combination is a perfect fit since we pick and choose the aspects of each style that work for us.

And what does our schooling style have to do with the February blahs? We make our way through the dark (and cold!) winter months with a variety of studies and activities that keep us engaged and busy (in a good way!), but with flexibility and enough down time to keep burn-out at bay.

Sheesh, what an awkward paragraph. Oh well, moving on...

::some fun reading during a morning break::

Our first term (September- November) is usually pretty heavy academically, then we take a break in December to focus on the season- reading, crafts, making presents, baking... Our break usually takes us into the beginning of January, and we don't rush back to the academics. Hubby has holidays, I have a birthday, we usually have visitors, and the house is a wreck. All of that is done for this year, though, so we feel ready to start up a regular rhythm again.

One focus will be keeping the house tidy and clean. Since we're stuck indoors most days, we want our surroundings to be peaceful, warm, and uncluttered. This is a challenge for most of us since we are not naturally organized people (with the exception of Gracie), but with the steady picking away at our decluttering and simplifying projects, things are becoming more manageable.

Another focus will be seasonal studies. Animal tracking, feeding our wild birds and bunnies, scavenger-hunt nature walks, the science of snow (and weather in general), and the Olympics are on our list this winter.

::some helpful planning books::

Our morning academics will be streamlined and simplified, with fewer subjects but more depth. We will continue to tackle the three R's first thing when we are fresh and the morning sun is streaming through the family room/ library windows.

::working on the 3 R's::

We'll have a rotating list of readings and notebook work without days or times attached, giving us the freedom to draw a lesson out over as many days as we need (or want), or to do a couple of lessons on the same day if we have the time and inclination.

::very simple planning- a whole week on one page- and a random elbow::

This 'schedule' worked well for us last winter with the surprising result of going farther in almost every subject than I would have planned.

Afternoons will be a bit more unpredictable and depend on the weather and homeschool group activities. We have the option of playing shinny three times a week, with other group activities (art classes, rock climbing, field trips...) that come up on fairly short notice. We don't want to be so busy that we are out of the house more than home, so it will be an ongoing balancing act. We do want (and need) some afternoons free to add in the extras that make homeschooling a good fit for our family- art, nature study, living math and math games, family read-alouds, handwork, etc.

::our reading corner and read-aloud basket::

I am confident that we will get through this winter just fine; our new schedule and rhythm fit with my personal goals and our family motto for this year.

And to think- it only took me ten years to get it.
For more ideas for short-circuiting winter burn-out, see Sarah's Loveliness Fair at Amongst Lovely Things.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

meal menu- the Clean Out the Pantry edition

Tonight (Shmoo has a bowling-and-pizza party with her hockey team after her afternoon practice)- whole wheat spaghetti, no-salt tomato sauce with added Italian spices, all-natural frozen meatballs (Gracie doesn't eat meat or anything red, so she will have olive oil, parmesan, and parsley on her spaghetti)

Sunday (we'll be getting home right at dinner time from Shmoo's hockey game about two hours away)- roast pork, onions, potatoes, and carrots in the crockpot (the girls will eat the veggies with some cheese)

Monday (we need a quick supper before Shmoo's evening game)- in the morning I'll start a pot of broth from last night's leftovers, turn it into a pork-and-barley stew, and serve it alongside some fresh homemade bread (I will make a small separate pot of soup for the girls with no meat, and add some frozen edamame right before serving)

Tuesday- two pans of vegetarian lasagna made with fresh whole wheat lasagna sheets, frozen chopped spinach, cottage and ricotta cheeses (one pan with salt-free tomato sauce overtop)

Wednesday- baked potatoes with toppings (grated cheddar, sour cream, green onions, leftover spinach)

Thursday- steak fajitas and a fresh romaine salad (the girls will just have a Big Salad with some added nuts and seeds for protein)

Friday- chicken (cheese for Gracie) on fresh homemade buns with leftover salad

The only purchases I will have to make for this week's suppers are cheese, green onions, and whole wheat tortillas (for the fajitas).

Friday, January 15, 2010

my symphony

To live content with small means;
to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion;
to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich;
to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.

William Henry Channing