Monday, February 25, 2013

Wintry Weather~ Low Budget~ Lentil Stew/Chili

I've only fairly recently become acquainted with Lentils ~ their flavor AND their budget-boosting value. Shocking, I know, but there it is. ;)

So, on with one of my more recent recipes that was a hit with young and old ~

Lentil Stew/Chili 
2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-low to medium heat.
Chop and add:
1 onion,
1/2 pepper
2 large carrots

Saute' for 6-20 minutes, depending on whether you prefer to have your veggies more caramelized (my usual option when I have the time), or just softened.

When you are happy with the condition of your veggies, add the following to the pot
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 bag lentils (rinsed)
1 Tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika

2 cups of water
Bring to boil, cook covered for 20 minutes
At this point add
1 large can of tomatoes ( or in my case tomato purée~ Can of tomatoes tossed in the blender),

1 can pumpkin

1 tub of knorr concentrated broth 

2 more cups of water
*Note: I didn't add the broth or tomatoes earlier because I have read that cooking lentils with salt inhibits softening, and we wouldn't want that, would we? (smile)

In a sauté pan brown
1 package of ground turkey (Approximately 1 lb)
(I like to add a splash of Worcestershire sauce to the turkey for flavor)

Add to the cooked meat to the soupy mixture along with
1 cup frozen corn

Allow to simmer for another 15-20 minutes and serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired.

If you have leftovers, they make an interesting quesadilla filling~ for another budget friendly meal! :) 

Menu-planning this week?
Monday~ Hamburgers (well, actually TurkeyBurgers, but you get the idea... The kiddos have been asking for hamburgers for a bit.... George Forman Grill... here we come! :D )
Tuesday~ Tuna Tomato casserole w/ Baked Potatoes (If we have time before dance~ fall back plan~ cold-cut wraps)
Wednesday~ Fish tacos with mango salsa (Jury duty day)
Thursday~ Lentil Stew
Friday~ Quesadillas


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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Wet-Dry-Try... What?

Home Screen

When the opportunity to review a new handwriting app rolled around I thought it might be a case of perfect timing, as youngest has been writing tags (Started with Christmas), and was *just* asking how to make a "3" and a "5" as he was making price tags for yard-sales and craft items (Enterprising little fellow :D).

Pick and Practice Screen
Handwriting Without Tears is a company name that I have heard mentioned frequently in my years as a homeschooling mom, but I have never gotten a close look at any of their products before. The app that we used for this review, the Wet-Dry-Try app, is based on the HWT Slate Chalkboard activity. Pretty nifty to have the activity without all the accompanying pieces (chalk, sponge, paper towel).

Winning Order Screen
The app covers numbers and uppercase letters. Once a user is set up, there are options to follow the HWT "Winning Order" or "Pick and Practice" depending on what one is trying to accomplish. What we did varied depending on the day. For "General use" we followed the "Winning Order," but if youngest was itching to know how to write a specific letter or numeral we went straight to Pick and Practice.

Getting ready to do the final "Try"
after the "Wet and the Dry"
The basic concept is that the specific letter or numeral is first drawn by the app, with a narrator who talks through the first writing of letter while it is drawn for the child. Next the child follows the chalk drawing with a "wet" sponge, and then a "dry" towel. There are settings to allow for easier or more challenging "Stroke Tolerance," which relates to how closely the child can follow the initial strokes. If they slip too far from the path there is a "Whoa! Let's try that again." prompt from the narrator.

Each letter must be "Traced" correctly 3 times at a minimum (wet, dry, try) before the child earns a star, and 3 stars must be earned before the child earns a colored in "letter card" for their chart. The third "Star" is earned with no prompts on how the letters or numerals are formed.
Yes! Here comes the twirling star!

The initial reaction the first day:
"I want to do this every day! "
"Listen to the lady, Mamma. She's like you! She's nice!" (Awwww.....)
He loved the number and letter cards.
(It drives me just a little nutty with the "You are smart!" comment. I'd prefer something like "That was great!" but hey~ different strokes for different folks... except when you're forming your letters... ;) )

Now, I do have to mention that we did have some technical difficulties to begin with when we first set up the app, which was rather unfortunate. With all the excitement of trying the new app (and his reactions quoted above) Youngest spent a fair amount of time going through the winning order, unlocking letters and earning stars. However, the app "glitched" and when we picked it up the next day, all of his progress was lost. :( After a few days, emails, and troubleshooting ideas from the good folk at HWT, the app finally started to behave.

*Troubleshooting tip: We had to delete and reinstall a couple of times before we got a "clean" install that wasn't corrupted... something to remember when having issues with apps in general~ when they aren't responding as expected they might have loaded incorrectly. I have also learned that I might want to "Try" certain "Reward-based" apps myself before handing them over to Youngest, to avoid disappearing disappointment.

See, Mom!
I have ALL the number cards! 
By and large, I am appreciating the ability to have Youngest work on letters and numerals that he is asking to write, or that I see need some work as I watch his writing, as well as the ability to go through sets of letters that are in a particular order, based on their formation. Youngest loves earning the stars and the Letter/Number cards~

Best of all, now when he starts to form a letter or number incorrectly, sometimes all it takes is a reminder of what how the wet-dry-try app  drew it to correct his strokes. Sounds like success to me! :)

Note, while I would like to see lowercase letters included, as that would seem to be a natural progression, I suspect that HWT does not use the slate for the lowercase practice, as it seems uniquely suited for uppercase and numeral work.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this app, as well as reviews of the new editions of HWT Student books and Teacher guides for grades K-3. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

Disclaimer: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Review Crew Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, February 22, 2013

What Mamma Did... (Five Minute Friday)

 What my Mamma did... what makes her special,  MY mamma? 

My mamma taught me to read, 
not only with black tiles arranged on masking tape and trays, 
but to read "nature"~ the Glory of God's Creation
to stop and notice the small things~ 
to see the beauty in a bouquet of dried weeds, 
to listen to the wind, the birds, the rushing water
My mamma taught me the joy of baking
Bread, biscuits, donuts, cookies
 Candy making~ fudge and taffy
She taught me to always try new things, be creative ~ 
Enter the fair~ art, food, needlework ~ 
you never know if you'll win a ribbon unless you try~

She started my musical journey~ 
Teaching me notes on the staff of life.... 
(Love you!)

Note~ photographs added after the 5 minutes were up. All photographs taken by me, but the painting on the right in the bottom strip is an original painting by my mom.

Five Minute FridayOn Fridays a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write without worrying if it’s just right gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes.  No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.
Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy *Valentime's* Day!

We had a pleasant Valentine's day~ if a little busy
(which is why I'm posting the day after... :) )
Watching some funny videos from Kid Snippets
"Happy Valentime's Day" 

And our Favorite.... Fast Food....... (how ironic)

I had some fun treat bags for the kids.... 

Nifty bag headers I found on pinterest 
printed up from Love From The Oven

Eldest got a new pair of socks and the daily calendar I forgot to give her in her stocking ... 

Middlest got two new packs of chewing gum.

Youngest's   special item was a teddy bear pez. :) 

I especially liked the handmade bracelets that are looped through the headers~ I purchased these "Threads of Love" as part of an Adoption Fundraiser for my friend Ami over at Walking By The Way.  :) 

Dinner was good Comfort Food~ Cornish Pasties ~ Basically a meat and vegetable turnover~ typically served with gravy (Didn't have time to make it today) or ketchup (My favorite condiment for THIS dish, albeit hardly any other....). A little messy, but the hearst added a little bit of festive flavor. :)  

After a quick dinner for Eldest and I, it was off to dance class, and finally home. I'll have to take pictures later of the chocolate hearts that DH brought home, as well as the new orchid plant for me, and the traditional balloons for the kiddos. 

I know that there are folks who don't care for "Hallmark holidays," but personally, I think that any excuse to go out of our way to show love for our family and friends is a GOOD thing. :) 

The Greatest Valentine of all time.... 
I've seen this a few times, so thought I'd share~ :)

                                For God So loVed the world
                                        that He gAve
                                             His onLy
                                                       That whosever 
                                         believes In Him
                                           should Not perish but have
                                                   evErlasting  life. John 3:16

What did you do to celebrate Love?  I'd love to hear your family-friendly activities and traditions in the comments.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Winter Snow Fun (Wordless Wednesday)

Joining in on Wordless Wednesday~ Come up with your own captions..... :) 
(photos from early Saturday morning - Sunday afternoon)


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

French Fry Soup

French Fry Soup
Decided to migrate this recipe over here from my *mostly* defunct Small Change Adds Up blog...
We still love this recipe, 4 years (really? has it been that long?) later. Especially since I have a friend who is hosting a "Soup Swap" (of recipes) on her blog.

It's a little bit of a glorified (Fast) version of potato soup that I came up with in 2009.



2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Butter
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 bag of frozen French Fries (The healthier the better...)
2 qts chicken broth (I used these great boxes of Rachel Ray's Natural Chicken Stock)

Melting butter, and olive Oil
Melt your butter with the olive oil in the bottom of a heavy stockpot over medium low heat.

Chop your onion (don't cry too hard), and saute in the hot oil/butter mixture until transparent and starting to turn golden. (They should just about melt in your mouth)

Add your bag of frozen french fries and your chicken broth/stock and bring to a boil. Then let it simmer for about 15 minutes, to cook the potatoes.

Finished Product
Mash your potatoes up to the consistency you prefer (Or really pulverize it in the blender, if you want CREAMY.... I prefer some chuncks in mine), and serve with yummy, crusty, toasted bread.

Variations on a theme: You can use any frozen french fries you like, but I highly recommend the less "processed", closer to the garden varieties. Some that we have used, all from Trader Joe's: Garlic French Fries, Chipotle French Fries, Sweet Potato French Fries

Sometimes I add some Basil... but then it is less "French Fry" soup.

Also linking up at

and Tempt My Tummy Tuesday



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