Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taco Week - Day Five

The best so far. Seriously, I was thinking that "Must Have Mushroom and Cheese" tacos would be, at best, weird. They are really delicious!!! My kids thought so too, and they are NOT mushroom fans. However, the pan was nearly licked clean after they had dinner! The recipe is posted over at the Penzey's website, so let me tell you a few things before you go over there and download this utterly fantastic recipe.

1. I have no pictures, because the tacos were eaten before I could get my camera out - yes, even mine. YUM!

2. the Chihuahua cheese is an absolute MUST, it is so mild and creamy, it really elevates the dish.

3. This taco doesn't really taste like Tex-Mex, or anything else you might order at a Mexican restaurant, but don't let that stop you from trying it out.

4. The mushrooms really are good. Even if you don't like mushrooms, and I have some kids here who really don't care for them tell me that these were good.

Tomorrow I'm going to try some dessert-type tacos, with any luck. Yum!!

Taco Week - Day Four

Today's tacos come complements to the Penzey's Spices catalog. I made the turkey tacos with Penzey's Arizona Dreaming spice mix, but I wasn't super impressed with these. Maybe the turkey was a little blander than the steak, it certainly seemed dryer. Fortunately, we topped these with guacamole and chopped red bell pepper, and that boosted the flavor right up to yummy. Next time I make tacos with ground turkey, I think I'll stick to a regular taco spice mix, for the extra flavor.

Tasty Turkey Tacos

1 lb. ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. Arizona Dreaming seasoning mix
1-2 cups guacamole

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and onion and cook for about 8 minutes, until nicely browned, breaking up the turkey into chunks and stirring it to brown on all sides. Shake the Arizona Dreaming seasoning mix and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Served topped with guacamole.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Taco Week - Day Three

Welcome to day three of Taco Week at the Heart household!!

Continuing the theme of TACO, is a classic, Steak Tacos. These tacos are really delish, getting thumbs up all around. What's new about them is the seasoning isn't my usual Penzey's Taco Seasoning, but rather Penzey's new Arizona Dreaming seasoning. The current catalog has an offer for a free bottle of it, so get a catalog, QUICK!

Arizona Dreaming seasoning mix has a different aroma than the normal taco seasoning. It smells like spice, of course, but also cinnamon and cocoa, and other savory things. The aroma really pops when it hits the heat, like nothing I've smelled before. Really good.

The recipe, is from the Penzey's catalog.

Steak Tacos

1 lb. boneless rib-eye steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (at $9.95/lb, this was too dear, so I substituted cheaper sirloin. It was still really good!)
1 Tb. canola oil
4 tsp. Arizona Dreaming seasoning mix

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Cook the steak in small batches until it is crispy brown and rare. Return all the cooked steak to the pan, and shake 1/2 of the Arizona Dreaming. Toss the steak around, and add the rest of the seasoning. Serve in your favorite shells with shredded cheddar if desired.

I used crisp corn shells, and topped mine with shredded Mexican blend cheese, and prepared salsa. I served it up with a bean salad with sweet and sour dressing, the kids preferred left over Mexican rice from yesterday.

My photo is a little odd. Nearly every one looks like carnage, thanks to the salsa. This one is the least gory.

The Arizona Dreaming

Taco Week - Day Two

Well for the second day in our week of tacos, I made a Tomato, Avocado and Black Bean Taco from the Weight Watchers in 20 Minutes cookbook, along with Knorr Mexican Rice mix. The kids were okay tending towards meh on the tacos, but they really liked the rice. I thought the tacos were pretty good, with the main bonus being that they were really quick to make. I'm not sure on the size of the tortillas. The recipe called for 6-inch tortillas, but there was way more bean filling than would fill 6 tortillas of that size. But, the extra will be good on a salad, I'll bet!

Tomato, Avocado, and Black Bean Taco

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon taco seasoning (like that from Penzey's)
1 (15 1/2-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 plum tomatoes (I used 2 regular ones from the garden!)
6 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups finely chopped romaine lettuce
1/2 small Hass avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
6 Tablespoons prepared salsa
1/4 cup light sour cream

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and taco seasoning and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the beans and the tomatoes, toss to combine.

Sprinkle the center of each tortilla with 1/3 cup of lettuce, 1/3 cup of beans, 1/6 of the avocado, 1 tablespoon of salsa, and 2 teaspoons of sour cream. Fold the tortilla to enclose the filling.

Serves 6

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Taco Week - Day One

Tonight's taco was technically a casserole, but with lots of yummy taco flavors.

The kids really like this one, Deuce and Three ate nearly half of it on their own, they kept going back for seconds until I reminded them that we still had apple cider donuts for dessert.

Taco Crescent Bake

1 (8-oz) tube refrigerated reduced-fat crescent roll dough
2 cups crushed corn chips, divided
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 can tomato sauce
1 pk. taco seasoning (or use 1/4 cup taco seasoning from Penzeys)
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

Unroll crescent dough into a rectangle; press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 13x9 in. pan. Seal seams and perforations. Sprinkle with 1 cup of chips, set aside.

In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in tomato sauce and seasonings; bring to a boil (I added some water as well.) Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Spoon over chips. Top with sour cream, cheese, and remaining chips. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned.

Yield: in theory 8 servings, but probably less, if they had their way.

Adapted from 2005 Taste of Home Quick Cooking Annual Recipe book.

Apple Fest!

The lovely town of Long Grove, Illinois has an apple fest every year. With the kids at home wanting to do something different, we ventured out to Apple Fest.

One "must" at Apple Fest is eating apple cider donuts. The lines for the donuts are long, long, but worth the wait, because they are so yummy. Here Three and Jack O'Hearts are keeping themselves busy playing "Miss Mary Mack" on the wall while waiting for the line to move.

Little Four wants to play too, but she would rather dance to the music being sung at the nearby pavilion. We could hear the music everywhere we went, luckily the band was a generic cover band, and not playing something weird.

Nice Hair!

AT LAST!! Apple cider donuts. Yum! We found a sunny spot out of the wind, and enjoyed our treat.
They are covered in messy cinnamon-sugar, but no one minded.

We walked around a bit, stopping in some of the cute little stores, but decided it was time to go. Before we got to our car, it began to rain lightly, and we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow.

Deuce gave Four a pony ride back to the car, since she was a little sad that I didn't pony out the cash for the real pony rides!

Maybe next time.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taco Week

This week is going to be Taco Week. Chicken tacos, Steak tacos, vegetarian tacos, pork tacos, bean tacos, and so on. Stay tuned, I'll even try (try - sigh) to post a picture and recipe or two.

Taco Week - Day One - Taco Crescent Casserole
Taco Week - Day Two - Tomato, Avocado and Black Bean Tacos
Taco Week - Day Three - Steak Tacos
Taco Week - Day Four - Tasty Turkey Tacos
Taco Week - Day Five - Must Have Mushroom & Cheese Tacos

Thursday, July 29, 2010

So Long Friend...

I've been dreading writing this post - Our newest Heart - Astro - Passed away from suspected heat stroke a couple of weeks ago. Ace and Deuce were in New York visiting relatives when it happened. Not the best telephone call I've ever made.

I still feel guilty about it, he was struck down while I was taking him for a walk. I miss him too. The King of Hearts and I have been discussing a new dog, but I think it will have to wait for a while. The summer is getting too busy for me to try to get a new dog assimilated to our routines. So for now, we are enjoying Carmen. It is hard to tell if she misses Astro or not. She is clingier, and more affectionate for sure, but that could also be because Ace, Deuce, and Three are off at camp right now. The house is very empty with them gone.

So the summer ticks by.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Great Ugly Knit Upcycle

Lil Blue Boo and Dharma Trading Co., are having an upcycle challenge to see how people can transform their UGLY knits into something lovely. My problem: I have two seriously ugly knits, and I just can't decide which one is the ugliest. This is where I'm counting on both of you to help me out. Here are the contenders:

Ugly knit #1 is an odd stamped looking pattern of - cuneiform? maybe? It's a little hard to tell. The colors are dark blue, navy blue, off white and white. It is really ghastly. The pros: There's a lot of this fabric, so I can make a dress in a larger size. Maybe. But maybe a little will go a long way.

Ugly knit fabric is an odd composition of brown fall... flowers. Yeah, because when I think of flowers, naturally the color BROWN comes to mind. Even I'm a better gardener that this! I'd like to know what the designer was thinking when they came up with this pattern. Seriously, brown flowers? The colors here are brown, dark brown, light brown, tan and white.

So folks these are the competing knits. Which one do you think takes the (boobie) prize as the ugliest? You can vote in the poll.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Getting my act together.

I spent the day sorting, filing, pitching and winnowing the books that fill my basement homeschool library. Partially because I CANT STAND the mess anymore, and also, to start pulling resources for our upcoming units. Mary Potter Kenyon states that "A personal home library is as important as access to a public library," and I totally agree. I love, love, love the fact that for (pretty much) any topic that strikes my kids' fancy (or mine, let's be honest here), I can jog down to the basement and pull at least one book that has something to do with the subject.

So while I'm on the subject of getting stuff ready, I'm also organizing my computer stuff as well. Our upcoming history unit is pre-history. Since most homeschool books on it are pretty sketchy on the subject, here is my growing website list. I'm making this list, in part, so that I can find these again as well.

1. Nova Evolution - Actually this might be all I need. There's loads here! There's an Evolution video series too. "Becoming Human" which our library has - score!

2. Becoming Human - This one is by the Institute of Human Origins (who knew there was such a thing??) It has lots of interactive things, plus lesson plans.

3. Human Origins - A really neat looking site by the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History. Pretty cool.

We'll also be doing a literature study of Boy of the Painted Cave. We've read this book before, and it is really a great read aloud. It gives lots of information of what life during that time before written history was like.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playing Cowboy

Jack O'Heart's latest passion is for cowboys. I love that we can do these "boys" units together, and he really likes to learn. For the cowboys unit, I've been reading aloud Ralph Moody's book, The Home Ranch. Although the boy drifts in and out of listening, while coloring pictures from the Dover "History of the Cowboy" coloring book, I think he's been mostly getting it.

Along with the book and coloring pages, we've been doing some activities out of Kicking Up Some Cowboy Fun! book. Mostly I like the book. It is full of interesting tidbits of information, and lots and lots of different things to do, from crafts to activities, to just thinking about things.The main drawback? It is completely disorganized, and there is no index. Argh! How frustrating to find just what you're looking for!

Today's activities were learning about the chuck wagon. Here is our chuck wagon. As you can see, Jack O'Hearts is our cookie!
The box at the back holds the food and cooking supplies. In the front is the bedroll, first aid, and clothing for the other cowboys (cowgirls.)
Three and four are enjoying their nice light, plastic meal of plastic play food. Yum-o!
Unrolling the bedroll - actually a blanket that I've had since I was a very little girl. It's a little threadbare, and stitched in a few places, but I don't feel bad playing with it out in the lawn!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sewing Stuff

I've been sewing some stuff for my littlest daughter, fondly known as "the fourth daughter." These dresses are made using a pattern I purchased from Lil Blue Boo - The Sienna Dress.

The best part about the pattern is that the dresses are made from old t-shirts! What a way to recycle.

The Popeye one is pretty cute! Although she doesn't know who Popeye is, and keeps asking "Who's this guy?" Three tells her that his name is Adidas. Hmmmm.......

This last one is totally random, but I like the way it ended up. My next experiment is tie-dying some to see how that looks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Darth Vader Leadership Tip #2

Darth Vader Leadership Tip #2

Hire not just for the job at hand. Try to determine the candidate’s potential career track and how he will develop.

Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny.
D. Vader

ht. Nolo Promiterre

"So what do you want to be when you grow up?" has got to be a kids' worst question. Right up there with "What are you doing to the dog with that Sharpie?"

The problem with what do you want to do when you grow up is that kids don't have a clue what they want to be when they grow up. They look at the future, and the figure they could really be the next president, Pulitzer prize winner, astronaut, or in my case, ballerina. Its just not a fair question.

On the other hand, looking at your kids strengths can help them choose a more likely end result (or for that matter, intermediate result, we all have the same end result.) then it becomes a little easier to plot a path to get there. How will your child develop? Is college in the future? Then it might be a good idea to see whether you child can begin accumulating credits through CLEP course tests, AP tests, and Dual credit enrollment with a local community college. Maybe a class or two here and there, but it will pay off in time and money on the other side.

On the other hand, maybe you child has a passion for music, art, or drama. That might be in the future, as it sure looks for a few of my kiddos. How can I help them to achieve the goals of music school? Obviously by taking the kid to lessons and encouraging (meaningful) practice.

Looking ahead doesn't mean fitting your kid into a mold they cannot break out of, just - looking ahead - and trying to see the steps to take before the kid actually takes them.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Darth Vader Leadership Tip #1

I was poking around the Carnival of Homeschooling, and I stumbled across a blog, new to me: Nolo Promiterre, where the author discusses Darth Vader leadership tips. I thought they were wonderful, and great fodder for thought on leading our own homeschool.

Darth Vader Leadership Tip #1 reads:

There ARE no good excuses. Even if a problem seems insurmountable, you address it, overcome it or find a way around it and continue on to your goal.

“Asteroids do not concern me, Admiral. I want that ship, not excuses.”
D. Vader
(Nolo Promiterre)

Deuce, my second daughter, has mild dysgraphia, which in short, means she has a hard time writing things. At fifth grade, normally, you would expect a student to be able to write a short essay, story, poem, book report or other written work.

Ace has always been a writer, and when I compare Deuce's written work with Ace's at the same age, I wonder where I've gone wrong. There is, however, no reason not to learn the subject matter, or to write well when it is necessary.

I have no good excuse here: First and foremost, I need to stop comparing them. These are girls with different strengths and interests. Sure Deuce is no natural born writer, but then neither are many wonderful authors.

Second, play to her strengths, and try to support her weaknesses. Deuce may not be a natural born writer, but she is phenomenally artistic. She draws with passion and detail. She builds and designs with flair and attention to detail. She also is gifted musically, and in mathematics. So for reading comprehension, do I have to have her write a book report, or can I have her interpret what she has read into something at which she can succeed, like an art project?

Third, typing is our friend here. She may have pain when asked to hold a pen and write legibly, but typing seems to be working out well for her. Deuce is almost as fast a keyboarder as I am, although she is slowed by poor spelling - and that is getting better daily, thanks to programs such as SpellingCity, the spell catcher on the computer, and daily exposure to words.

Fourth, daily practice with the pen. Here is a need to be sneaky. (If you're reading this, Deuce, I guess the jig is up!) Of course there is the handwriting book, but there are also the other things, like shopping lists (did I mention that Deuce loves to bake?), letters to relatives and friends, and her journal to name a few. These don't have to be formal, just worked in from time to time.

Little by little, the penmanship is improving, while all the while, I am giving her no excuse to not learn a subject or to read a book.

Tune into Deuce's blog here: My Place, My Space

Saturday, February 13, 2010

DisneyWorld - Day One

Disney, Part 1: As you can tell, the flight was long, and the kids were TIRED when we arrived! We had to be at the airport at 7:00 or so - which meant getting up at 5:00 to eat, load the car and drive the hour or so to the airport.

What makes sitting on an airplane so dad-gum tiring, when all you are doing is sitting? Another mystery.

The weather in Orlando was certainly warmer than Illinois, though, and we were able to walk to Downtown Disney from our hotel. Downtown Disney is a nice place to wander around. There is plenty of Disney "flavor" to get the kids excited about going to the actual park, plus there are some decent restaurants there too.

Heading into Downtown Disney there is a great toy shop, with this neat giant Tinkertoy Sculpture. The kids are starting to perk up a bit.

Stopping for ice cream at the Ghiredelli Chocolate shop. Yum!

Double Yum!

Could anyone enjoy their ice-cream any more than this??

The Lego store in Downtown Disney is really neat. There are loads of models, big and small for people to see, and to be inspired by. My kids really liked the around the world models that were mounted on the outside of the store. This one is of Sydney, Australia.

Not in this picture: The gigantic Lego Sea Monster that was placed in the lagoon. It was really huge. I can't imagine how many green Legos it must have taken to create it.

"Mom - can I make this one?" Sure. Right. You just go right ahead.

We hung out for a while in Downtown Disney, but eventually made our way back to the hotel to rest up for the next day's adventure at The Magic Kingdom.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making More Stuff

Here are some more things I've been making:This one is for my df Karen (out of her own beads.) Now I did add some of my own, but the beautiful blue ones came from her. (I would like everyone to disregard the ray-gun in the background. It was a gift to my son from my sister and it just won't go away. Note to D.J., this was the best dollar you ever could have spent. It is perfect for cowboys, robots and superheroes.)

I made this bracelet and earring combo too:

This one also for Karen. Like it?

Lastly, this one is a gift for my niece:
I really like how the stones and crystals contrast. The big grey ceramic hearts were a find too! You can't really tell from the picture, but I found some nice gunmetal toned findings for this one too. It is really sweet. I've been doing a lot of "test wearing" of it to make sure it isn't pokey. Riiight.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Not for the kids!

Okay, lets talk about grown-up stuff here, that is, some TV shows that I heart, but that are SO not for kids.

1. Coupling. Coupling was a series that was put out by the BBC for four seasons. You can get them on DVD. It was about the relationships that developed between a girl, a guy, his ex, her ex, his best friend and her best friend. It was not Friends. But it is very, very funny. Laugh out loud and roll on the floor funny. Worth watching after the kids are in bed. There's no excessive skin, so if they wander out to see what's so funny, you won't be embarrassed by the shot on the television when you put it on hold.

2. Torchwood. Torchwood is a spin off of Dr. Who (Yes, I am a geek) but there is actually very little interplay between the two series. Most of the show is actually relatively tame, but there is some guy-on-guy kissing from time to time, and naturally, the other type as well. The series is heavily sci-fi, but there is a lot of interesting interplay between the characters that makes it worth watching even if the plot seems a little... far fetched. Watch after the kids are in bed, but some episodes might be okay for the older kids to watch. Little nudity, but kissing (sometimes suggested more) between all genders, including alien (if you consider that a gender.)

3. TrueBlood. TrueBlood is an HBO series based on the Sookie Stackhouse books written by Charlaine Harris. I've read the books, and didn't hold high hopes for the TV series to be as good. It is. I still question the casting of Anna Paquin as Sookie, mainly because in the book she's supposed to be prettier, but she is a solid actress, and sells the part, so this is only a minor quibble. The male actors are drool-worthy (pant, pant) especially Sam Trammell, who plays Sookie's boss, Sam. Watch when the kids are out of the house. Loads of nudity and everything that goes with it. Very R-rated.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Favorite Thing of the Week - Clipboards

Okay, call me nerdy, but clipboards have so made our homeschool easier, neater, and more portable. I think we have something like 20 clipboards or so scattered around the house. We use them for drawing outside, eating on in the living room, and hanging up artwork.

You may not aware of the fact that there are a number of different kinds of clipboards on the market today. Along with the basic pressboard model equipped with the large metal clip, other boards are designed for use in specific situations and provide functions other than holding paper in a secure position. Here are a few examples of clipboard types:

- The dry erase clipboard - very cool! (and can be printed with sport courts for planning too)
- The storage clipboard - to keep your stuff handy
- Timer and calculator clipboards - to see how long you've been working and help with the math
- Recycled aluminum clipboard - shiny!
- Lapdesk clipboard - easy to use in the car

Three is using a clipboard system for her homework this year. I take worksheets from her math, grammar, reading, and science, and clip them to her clipboard. She then just works her way through them, and the work is done.

Here are some really neat ways you can use clipboards:
Hang your art with a custom clipboard
As a photo hanger
To hold the end of the bracelet as you make it
Six other ways to use clipboards
Holding your map while you drive

And some crafts using a clipboard:
Make an altered clipboard
A circuit board clipboard
Stamped Clipboard

Here are some AMAZING altered clipboards

Friday, January 8, 2010

Potato Soup

The good thing about soup in the winter is that it is warming on a cold day. It is a great meal for anyone who doesn't want to spend a lot on food, and it is also a great meal for anyone who likes to eat good food.

Originally this meal came from the Everyday Cheapskate, but I've modified it just a little to suit our family.

Quick, Easy and Fabulous Potato Soup

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups water
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups milk

1 can creamed corn

Place potatoes and water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, sauté chopped onion in the butter until tender. Stir in the flour, salt, thyme, rosemary and pepper. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add corn and potatoes with hot water. Heat through and serve hot. Serves: 7.

Cheap and yummy!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Favorite Thing of the Week - Bamboo Yarn

Let me say this, bamboo yarn is amazingly soft. Incredibly soft. Microfiber soft. It is perfect for babies, or for my son, for whom I'm knitting a bamboo yarn scarf, or for that matter for me. I adore the way it feels, and the nubbly texture it has when knitted up. It has a soft drape that can't be matched in a lot of other yarns either.


  • Bamboo is a renewable resource.
  • Bamboo can be harvested without killing the plant, and it only takes a few months before the plant is ready to be harvested again. That makes it an environmentally friendly choice.
  • Bamboo yarn, when not mixed with unnatural fibers, is biodegradable.
  • Bamboo yarn is often dyed with more natural dyes that are safer for the environment.
  • Bamboo fabric is naturally antibacterial.
  • Bamboo also has ultra-violet protective properties.
  • Fabric knitted with bamboo is quite breathable and cool and has great drape.
  • Bamboo has a good luster, similar to mercerized cotton.
  • Bamboo is strong, flexible, and can be softer than silk when spun into yarn.

Potential Bamboo Negatives

  • Bamboo yarn loses strength when it is wet and swells considerably in water.
  • The yarn may not be very cohesive. Some brands split much more than others.
  • Bamboo needs to be hand-washed, so it isn't a great choice for things that need to be washed frequently.
Here are some places you can find bamboo yarn:
Classic Elite Bam-Boo
Rowan Bamboo
Plymouth Yarn - Royal Bamboo
Bernat Bamboo

Now to get back to the needles!