Monday, April 28, 2014

Zoo Atlanta field trip

We traveled to Zoo Atlanta today with some friends for a fun, educational field trip. The weather was supposed to be rainy and dreary, but we ended up having a lovely time. The temperatures were just right at around 80 degrees for most of the day.

We loved seeing the colorful birds - what a gorgeous example of the beauty of God's creations!
The lions and their cubs were so much fun to watch. It was like they knew they had an audience.
We caught a few glimpses of a Sumatran tiger.
Is he licking his lips while watching us???
I think our favorite animals to see were the giant pandas. It was the very first time I'd ever seen on in person - probably because Zoo Atlanta is only one of 4 zoos in the US that have giant pandas.

Two of the pandas are being prepared to leave for China, where they will participate in breeding programs that will help bring giant pandas back from the brink of extinction.

This is one of them, Po. She didn't move the entire time we watched her.
And the 9-month-old twins are Mei Lun and Mei Huan. They were so amazing to watch! Their mama, Lun Lun, is resting in the front. I imagine that caring for rambunctious twins can wear a panda out!
We had a fun-filled day, observing the wondrous animals God made. Every one of them is important to Him, and He designed them with such intricate detail. It was enjoyable seeing those creations up close.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Menu Plan April 28 - May 4

We had a week of absolutely gorgeous weather here in the Deep South. Tomorrow we're supposed to get hit with a round of spring storms that might be severe. And we're scheduled to go to the zoo in Atlanta - we're going to see pandas! Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us.

We're finishing up our seventh homeschool year a little at a time. Last week we completed our math curriculum. This week I'm anticipating that we'll be done with our grammar and spelling. We should be completely finished the following week once our science and history lessons are done. Yay! I'm looking forward to a little break for the summer.

Now here's what I've got planned for this week's meals:

Eating out on our way back from the zoo

Crockpot chicken curry

One pot cheeseburger macaroni (recipe to come), broccoli

Philly cheese steak sandwiches, crockpot roasted potatoes

Queso fundido on corn tortillas, corn salad

Creamy ham and potato soup, crusty bread

Pot roast with potatoes and carrots

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Menu Plan April 21-27

I hope everyone had a lovely Easter. We enjoyed a great morning at church, then a fun evening of fellowship for our annual dessert party. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that I forgot to take pictures of our friends and the yummy food!
The kids bright and early on Easter morning
This week's menu will be an easy one. Charles will be going on a mountain retreat with some friends on Friday, so we'll just get some Mexican takeout, something he doesn't usually like.

So here's what I've got planned:

Philly cheesesteaks, fries

Parmesan crusted tilapia, couscous

Asian meatballs over rice

Italian chicken, zucchini & squash saute

Mexican takeout


Pasta fagioli
For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, April 18, 2014

One Pot Sausage and Tortellini

Recently I've been experimenting with one pot meals. Usually they consist of a meat/protein along with a starch like pasta, rice or potatoes. Only one pan is used in cooking the dish, hence the one pot name.

I have to say, I resisted this idea for awhile. I've always cooked pasta separately, then added it to the dish I'm making. It's just the way it was done. At least, in my house. But I decided to give this new method a try. I'm glad I did. Clean up is a breeze, and the pasta had a very rich flavor from simmering in the sauce.

Here's what you need:

1 lb Italian sausage links, casings removed
2 teas minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (19 oz) pkg frozen tortellini

In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil. Cook the sausages, breaking them up into smaller chunks. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Drain any excess grease from the pan.

Stir in the broth, tomato sauce and heavy cream. Bring to a low boil, stirring often. Add the frozen tortellini and stir to make sure all of it is coated with the liquid. Cover and simmer for 12 minutes, or until the tortellini is tender.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Menu Plan April 14-20

This is going to be a busy week for us. I'm administering achievement tests to my nephews, who are also homeschoolers. It will take us three days. Then I'll meet my sister-in-law halfway between our house and theirs (they live in South Carolina, about 4 hours away) and give her angels back.

In addition to that, we're doing some spring cleaning in preparation for a dessert party we're hosting for our Sunday school class on Easter evening. We've done this for several years now, and it's always been a fantastic time of tasty food and Christian fellowship. Every family brings a dessert to share with the entire group. It's a great way to try some new desserts and share our favorites, too.

I'm grateful for a husband with the gift of hospitality who loves to open our home and entertain along with me. In fact, it's because of his efforts and planning that we even do this. I'll post some pics of our yummy desserts after our party.

Now on to this week's menu:

Pretzel dogs (nephews' request), tater tots

Spaghetti and meatballs, crusty bread

BBQ chicken sandwiches (crockpot), roasted potatoes

Italian sausage sandwiches, corn

Chicken and wild rice soup with bacon (crockpot), cheddar biscuits

Ham, potatoes, green beans (Easter dinner)

Out to eat

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Oven Roasted Sausage and Potatoes

I adore simple meals like this one. No fuss. Just stick-to-your-ribs goodness. And so easy to prepare!

The most difficult thing is dicing the potatoes. I don't peel mine, just scrub them really well to remove any dirt. But leaving the skins on adds to the yumminess of the dish, I think.

Here's what you need:

1 lb smoked sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
3 lbs small potatoes, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2-3 TBSP olive oil
2 teas Creole seasoning
salt, to taste

Brush 1 TBSP olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place the sausage, potatoes, pepper, and onion on the baking sheet. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with the Creole seasoning and salt. Stir to coat. I just dig my hands in and combine it all.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

My New Fridge

Here's a picture of the old one.
And here's the new one:
We gained 12 cubic feet of space and I've got a water and ice dispenser in the door.

I'm a happy girl!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Menu Plan April 7-13

Tomorrow I'm getting a new fridge! Our refrigerator is over 13 years old, it's missing a handle, and it's starting to make scary noises. We decided to make a pre-emptive strike and purchase a new one before we absolutely had to - in other words, before the old one died and we lost all our cold stuff! Or do things like that only happen to us?

Want to hear something really cool? After we had made the purchase on Saturday (we had to dip into our savings, but felt in the long run it was worth it), Charles got a phone call from his boss. Who told him he was getting a bonus. And the amount was slightly greater than what we had just paid for the new fridge! Isn't that amazing? We had no idea the bonus was coming! And now we can replenish our savings with it. God is so good!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Roast beef (left over from Sunday), crusty bread

Sausage & tortellini skillet, broccoli

Beef stir fry, rice

Pretzel dogs, fries

Homemade pizza pockets


Chicken and wild rice soup with bacon (crockpot)
For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Favorite Essential Oil Company

Over the past several years I've used essential oils in making homemade beauty products and cleaners, but I decided I really wanted to do more research and find out what essential oils could do for me and my family.

I've seen a lot of bloggers touting the essential oils from a few big name brands, but it seemed like to get the best prices, you had to join those companies as a "rep" even if you didn't want to sell the oils to others. And the oils were pretty darn pricey, too - because the oils were so pure, I was told.

So I quickly learned to research outside of the big companies and find sources that weren't intent on selling me something or getting me to make a financial investment. One of my favorite informational websites is Learning About EOs. The founder of LAEO is Lea Harris, a certified aromatherapist. Her mission is education about essential oils, not selling a product.

I've also read some books on aromatherapy, all of which DO NOT recommend ingesting oils unless you're under the direction of a qualified health care provider or certified aromatherapist. Whoa! That was an eye opener for me, especially since some of the big companies promote internal usage as a daily routine. Eek!

So that became a huge red flag for me. If a company promoted internal usage, I was very wary of them. It seems quite simple to me why they do it. More usage equals more need for their products.

And so I came across Plant Therapy. Their oils were affordable (please don't confuse higher price with higher quality - you might just be paying for someone's Hawaiian vacation or some slick marketing tools). And they were very clear that ingestion without a qualified health provider's direction was a bad idea. They also offered free shipping in the US and a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

My husband ordered this set of 14 oils for me as part of my birthday present. I have loved getting to know these oils and their uses! I also ordered the Top 14 Synergy set as well. I have really enjoyed diffusing the Tranquil synergy in the evening after a long day.

I have been very pleased with the oils I've purchased from Plant Therapy. Their customer service is also amazing! They are very responsive and willing to answer any questions a consumer might have. They've earned my loyalty as a customer.

Now I know everyone has their favorite companies. I'm not trying to change your mind about whom you prefer. I'm just offering my opinion. Since it's my blog, I get to do that. ;)

Some helpful links:

What to Look for in an Essential Oil Company

Common Essential Oil "Mythstakes" Part One

Common Essential Oil "Mythstakes" Part Two

Can Essential Oils Be Ingested?