Monday, November 24, 2008

Meals this Week

This week, I will attempt to sketch out all of our meals. Keep in mind however, that lunch and snacks are far more flexible than dinner.


  • Breakfast: cereal
  • Lunch: Beer-poached chicken, roasted squash, bean salad
  • Dinner: Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling*
  • Brunch: pancakes and sausage (mr warillever)
  • Dinner: egg rolls (prepackaged), rice, mixed veggies
  • Breakfast: yogurt, toast**
  • Lunch: Chicken soup [read Stone Soup]
  • Dinner: Meatball calzones, Collard Greens (Glory Foods)
  • Breakfast: yogurt with mix-ins (wheat germ, nuts....)
  • Lunch: Chicken soup with rice [read Chicken Soup with Rice]
  • Dinner: Kitchen-Sink-Fritatta -- eggs with any perishable foods mixed in, rice
  • Breakfast: cereal
  • Lunch: PBJ on honey wheat (on the road)
  • Dinner: at Grandmas
* Our new recipe this week is "Ravioli with Butternut Squash Filling." The recipe is from Martha Stewart's Cooking School. Don't worry, I didn't go all-Martha on you. Although the filling was prepared according to the recipe, I used wonton-wrappers instead of homemade pasta. I served it with a mixture of olive oil and melted butter and sage.

** I made a loaf of Spelt-and-Oat bread according to the recipe Jenny suggested. Delicious! Boiling the oats resulted in a very moist loaf. The spelt is very mild, and does not have the nutty whole-grain taste. If I made this recipe again I would reduce the amount of molasses, but would otherwise highly recomend it.

Being Thankful

As in past years, we have spent a few minutes a day throughout November noting what we are grateful for.

Inspired by other bloggers, I have previously attempted to paint a "Thankful Tree." That has failed spectacularly every time. This year we went simple. Very simple.

Using an abandoned autumn themed painting (use #427 for kids' paintings), I cut out leaf shapes. We wrote our "thankful thing" on the back of leaves, then taped them to threads hanging in front of the bay window. You'll have to trust me on this (since I have no pictures to prove my point), but it looks just like falling leaves inside of our house.

I am grateful to have such a fun way to show our gratitude.

I awarded a few prizes throughout the month.

The Meta-Gratefulness award goes to Agent 004 for "I am thankful for having leaves to write thankful things on."

Agent 004 also wins the Brownie Award for her thankfulness for "Saints" and "Veterans." Maybe she was earnest, or maybe she was inspired by the two holidays we had just celebrated at the beginning of November. A part of me had has a sneaking suspicion that those two items might have been chosen for their assued grown-up appeal.

Cousin F gets the Down-to-Earth Award for realizing that she is most grateful for "dresses," "shoes," "slippers," "Mommy and Daddy" and "loving my brother P."

The Covering-All-Bases-Award goes to me, for writing (on two separate days) "I am thankful for the sun" and I am thankful for rainy days."
I am also grateful for the opportunity to take part in Unplugged Projects, where families accross the world-wide-web share their non-television inspired creativity.

Friday, November 21, 2008

7 Quick Takes (Vol. II)

  1. The cousins have already headed off to their Memère's house for Thanksgiving, so Agent 004 and I had the day to ourselves. She insisted that we go to the indoor play area in the "big city." I willingly obliged, and we had a wonderful time together, lavish expenditures and all. It really is nice to get some one-on-one time with the kids sometimes.

  2. As I type, father and son are getting their own bonding time in front of a movie. I love that they get to be guys together, too.

  3. Our English Muffin experiment went well. Given that it was y first time through, I very cautiously followed the recipe. Next time through I will try a whole wheat dough.

  4. I would share some pictures of the muffins, but my camera and computer aren't talking to each other again. A couple of old biddies set in their ways.... The computer is eight years old now -- that is what, 105 in people years? And a six-year-old digital camera is the human equivalent of 240, right?

  5. NaPraMoGo is going well. I haven't been following the prompts everyday, but I have been praying. Once you form the habit, it becomes second nature to pray in the down times that are a natural part of parenting and child care. Some of my prayers may be pleas for intercession, but they are prayers nonetheless...

  6. The weather has been freezing this week, but no snow yet. My mother-in-law 300 miles to the south had to brush the snow off of her car on Wednesday. I don't want to rush things, but snow is so much more fun than 14 degrees and green grass... We found some used skis for the kids already, so we are ready to play!

  7. I have already received one quinoa recipe, but I'd love some more. And anyone know how to use spelt? Can I just substitute it for whole wheat flour in a yeast recipe?
I am sticking with 7 Quick Takes too, Jennifer.

My Spending Problem

Those of you who know me in real life think that I am frugal. Miserly, even (although I try very hard not to be).

What you may not know is that I have a serious shopping weakness.

Organic vegetables.

For some reason this tendency only surfaces when I am alone with Agent 004.

The last time we went out together (for a doctor's appointment), we came home with organic brussel sprouts. The time before that it was a peck of local apples. Today it was spelt and quinoa from the natural foods store.

Anyone know how to cook quiona? Have any good spelt recipes?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dork Dates

Some of you expressed envy that I got to go on a date last week.

What I didn't tell you is that mr warillever and I actually go on dates several nights a week.

Well, we don't exactly go anywhere, but our philosophy is that if the two of us are alone, we can make it a date. According to Miss Manners, all we need is fun, food. and affection.*

We've been known to spend hours quizzing each other on factoids from the The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2008. You know, exciting stuff like "How many cities in Iowa have a population of 50,000 people or more?" or "What are the seven largest countries in Africa in land area?"

Before the presidential election, we spent hours on planning different scenarios for the electoral college distribution.

We spent two evenings last week ogling the maps at

But the ultimate in time-wasting dorkitude?

Line Rider


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dinner This Week

I had this planned out this weekend, but forgot to post!


Leftover Veggie Fried Rice
Vegetable Minestrone
Honey Wheat Bread
Chicken Teriyaki
Boiled Potatoes
Pea Salad*
Lima Beans
French Bread
Chicken in Peanut Sauce
Whole Wheat Pasta
Tuna Salad
English Muffins
4 Bean Salad

This is a much better menu plan than last week. Although it wasn't a big hit, we did try a new recipe (Pea Salad), there are very few processed foods, and we are eating fish on Friday evening. I'll also be making English muffins for the first time. I'll tell you how that goes!

We have entered winter mode; there are no green salads or steamed vegetables. Other than the butternut squash I am saving for next week, don't expect to see any local produce in my menus for the next few months.

The chicken on Wednesday are "planned-overs" from Tuesday's dinner.

Beginning - To - Read- Resources

The Agents are both on a reading kick, and it is me that is struggling to keep up with them. Where do I find activities and age-appropriate reading materials?

Agent 004 is working through the Reading A-Z phonics program. I downloaded it for free during their trial week last spring, and from our experience would recommend it to other families. We supplement that with some word family work. She is most proud of her "Word Book" which lists every word that she can read. We are up to 47 words!

I have been writing some of her stories, but I am just not creative enough to make it all from scratch. That is when I refer to various sites online. This is what I have been visiting this week:

  • Hubbard's Cupboard : A free, comprehensive, Christian preschool curriculum. We used the Bible and Rhyme 3's Curriculum when the Agents were 2 and 4 years old. It covers the Bible, letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and anything else that a preschooler needs to know. We no longer use it as a curriculum, but we constantly integrate components including the sorting letters, playdough recipes and printable books.

  • Carl's Corner : Maintained by a retired elementary school Language Arts specialist, Carl's Corner is an amazing resource for reading resources. In particular, F uses the alphabet activitied and Agent 004 uses the Word Family activities.

  • Mrs. Meacham's Classroom Snapshots : Although this site's intended audience is elementary school teachers, mnay of the ideas are easily adaptable to the home. Our circle time activities are strongly influenced by her calendar page. Since I have a "multi-age" classroom, I plan on making each of the children a mini-office highlighting the areas that he or she is currently working on. I also get a lot of ideas fro Mrs. Meacham's literacy centers.
These Work for me. Do you have any more suggestions of resources for early reading instruction?

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Favorite Store

I went on a shopping spree this weekend.

For someone that hates shopping, it was a rather successful outing -- I secured seventeen dresses, fourteen skirts, twenty-nine sweaters, forty two winter shirts, six business suits and one pair of jeans.

An entirely new wardrobe, all in colors that I love. And they all fit perfectly.

I'd bring you shopping there, but the inventory has been severely depleted. In fact, rumor is that the shelves will be completely empty by this evening!

I should probably give you some back-story here: When we bought this house we were enamored with the wood floors, tin ceilings and period wall coverings. We envisioned ourselves sleeping in one of the spacious south-facing bedrooms with three windows and a large closet. The children would be accross the hall from us in their own large bright rooms with bookshelves and a rocking chair in each room.

That is exactly how we lived in the summer of 2005. Oh, there were some inconveniences -- the lack of a second floor bathroom meant that trip to the bathroom with a toilet-training toddler required traipsing down the stairs and through three unlit rooms -- but it was nothing that a portable potty chair couldn't solve.

Then the weather turned. Our bedroom, which was so bright and sunny during the day, dropped to freezing temperatures overnight. Those large windows were uninsulated, as were the walls behind the pretty wallpaper. Our poor ancient oil burner was no match for a New England winter. The oil prices didn't make us any happier about the situation, either.

We promptly moved into more humble accommodations -- the "ell" of the house which had been walled and insulated in the 1970s. There are three inter-connected rooms arranged train-car style. Where in our old room we had tin ceilings, in our new room we had sloping walls. In the place of pine floors we had shag carpeting. And there is no antique wallpaper in our new digs, just sheetrock painted pale blue. What it lacked in charm it made up for in convenience though -- we now had a full bathroom, insulated walls, and a close proximity to the woodstove.

So what does this have to do with my weekend shopping trip?

My hanging clothes never made the move from the old bedroom to the Winter Palace. Since my current job requires nothing more than sweatpants and a flannel shirt, I haven't felt the need for easy access to my business suits. When I do feel the need to wear a cocktail dress, I can don a parka and mittens and rifle through my old closet.

But now that I have my very own walk-in closet......
Isn't it great to have a handy husband? He fashioned this out of a previously unused corner of our bedroom. With just a coat of paint, two hanging racks and a carpet remnant, we have our very own bit of luxury in our pedestrian bedroom.

All of his hard work me with a lot of work too -- the fun kind of work in which I got to pretend that I was a fashion model. I tried on every scrap of clothing in the room,
sorting the clothes into
and discard.

Once I finish sorting through the sweaters, I hope that I leave enough closet space for mr warillver!
Though I didn't plan this to coordinate with this week's Unplugged project, I'm pretty sure that this fits the "sort-junk-donate" theme! Click over there to see what everyone else is junking and donating.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Retrospective Menu Plan

This week's menu plan falls short on four of my menu planning objectives. It was not completed in advance, it includes too many processed foods, it does not include a single new recipe, and it does not include any fish (we aim for once a fortnight, but have not had any in almost a month).

Given that, however, I think we muddled through okay.


Mama and Papa on date;
Agents ate pasta with the Cousins
Baked ziti (from freezer)
Rotisserie chicken (purchased hot), steak fries, frozen mixed veggies
Chicken-barley chili
Vegetable fried rice
Church potluck
We are bringing deviled eggs

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Decluttering my Brain

To accomplish today:

  • clear pile of papers from the counter next to the computer
  • finish putting groceries away -- make sure that the pantry floor is cleared
  • fold and put away "first floor laundry" (towels and sheets)
  • put new audio book(A Short History of Nearly Everything) onto Shuffle
  • draft a non-list blog post
To accomplish this week
  • Sort my hanging clothes into keep / store / donate / discard piles
  • Sort mr warillever's hanging clothes into keep / store / donate / discard piles
  • Move our clothes into our new walk-in closet
  • plan Sunday's kindergarten religion class
  • plan next week of preschool
To figure out
  • How to approach "math" with my precocious 4yo
  • A Christmas budget and shopping plan
  • How to keep up with a grocery pricebook
  • Whether I should start couponing (and if so, where to find the mental energy to do so)
  • A family values plan like Julie's ROCK.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

7 Quick Takes

In a nod to Jennifer (and to my inability to focus on one topic), today's post will feature seven short bits.

  1. We have been passing a head cold through the house for the past month. Nothing major, but just enough to render its victim a boogery embodiment of grumpitude. The latest casualty? Me. I spent most of the past week in a mucousy haze. Thus....
  2. ... no menu planning. Despite the absence of a plan, we have continued to eat. In fact, we have had some of our favorite dishes like Cincinnati Chili and homemade pizza. If I settle down and make a plan for this week I'll post it. But don't count on it, because I have been very busy...
  3. ...getting the garden ready for next spring. I had started building long narrow beds before I read and became enamored with Square Foot Gardening, but I think that we can make it work. The lumber was all free, as was the leaf mold. The sole cost of rebuilding our veggie patch? $12 for peat moss. If I get the time and motivation I will put up some process pictures so that you can learn how to garden like a real amateur.
  4. Don't be insulted if I haven't visited your blog in a while; Google Reader has been on the fritz for a few days. It looks like it is working today, so I'll be commenting away on all your lovely blogs.
  5. Remember how I told you that I would be cutting back on the number of blogs that I read? That was until I started clicking through the links on the Stephanie's sidebar on Montessori Free Fall. Despite my practical and philosophical issues with Montessori, we seem to be sliding more and more in that direction. And I am so inspired.
  6. My religious ed class was learning about "discovering God's world" this past Sunday. So what does this this non-Montessori teacher do? I brought in a mystery bag, sound jars, and smelling bottles for my kindergartners to work with. They loved it, and really learned a lot from the experience. So glad that I have this kind of thing just lying around our non-Montessori house.
  7. We had our annual teacher conference with Agent 002's teacher last night. No new news there, but it was a momentous occasion for us -- my sister watched the Agents while we were out, and offered to keep them for the night. We went out for a date last night and slept in until 7 this morning. Wonderfully refreshing, and what allowed me to write this post. The house is so quiet! I should probably go pick them up now, or maybe I'll savor the solitude for a few more minutes....

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanking Our Veterans

Our "preschool" task this morning was making Thank You cards for the Veterans in our family -- Uncle Ichabod (Iraq), Uncle E (Korea) and Uncle W (World War II). We will mail them this afternoon.

A quick tip for those of you making cards with emergent writers: Make the card from construction paper or cardstock, but have the child write her signature on a piece of lined paper and glue it into place. This way the perfectionist won't stress about messing up the card, and the sloppy child won't make random marks on the card.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Toys Worth Buying

Shannon is hosting a special themed edition of Works for Me Wednesday - the Toys Worth Buying Edition. Since I plan on leaning heavily on these "Kid-tested, Mother approved" ideas in my Christmas shopping, I thought it would be only fair for me to contribute. This is a quick list of those toys that I never need to rotate out, because they are in constant use
  • Don't Break the Ice -- a classic for a reason! Probably the best "first" game for an older toddler.
  • UNO Stacko -- stacking blocks like Jenga, but played by matching color or number like the Uno Card Game
  • Chairs -- even a toddler can play this stacking game, but it is complex enough for the adults to join in
Dolls and Doll Accessories
  • Dolls and Animals -- their collection is probably excessive (at my last count we had 12 dolls and 200 stuffed animals), but a variety of people and animals is a requirement for imaginative fun.
  • Clothes -- the dolls have their own dresser (a 3-drawer wooden nightstand shared with the dress-up clothes) and the kids are constantly dressing their babies. Cabbage Patch and other large dolls can wear infant clothing which is very easily purchased at yard sales.
  • Strollers -- THE INDISPENSABLE TOY. All four children love to wrap their babies and blankets and walk them through the house. Cousin P has been pushing the blue Graco around since he could barely walk.
  • Almost-Homemade Crib -- It doesn't need to be anything special (one of my nephews used a shoe box when he was a toddler), but every imaginary baby needs a place to sleep. Our crib is large enough for several babies and the cat loves it for naps.
  • High chair, diaper changing table and other "real" things
Dress Up Clothes --
Musical Instruments
  • electric keyboards
  • harmonica
  • whistles
  • homemade shakers / rainsticks / drums
Wheels and Transportation toys
  • We love our ThomasTrains, but at that price we wouldn't have them if we didn't get them as a hand-me-down.
  • Shake 'N Go Racers -- annoyingly loud, but even a toddler can shake the car and make it zoom accross the room. We also have the Shake 'n Go Speedway, but I would not consider it indispensable
  • Hot Wheels - the brand name is important on this one. The cheap imitations are not as durable. Don't worry, the real ones last -- my children are playing with the ones that my husband asn I played with as children.
  • Playmat -- a place to drive all of those cars. We have and love the Discovery mat which has roads and railroad tracks.
  • Fisher Price Garage - we have an older version of this toy, big enough for four children to play together. It has ramps, elevators, and adequate parking for a convoy of wheeled vehicles. It is also on its third generation of play, it is a very durable toy.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pray With Me

The world needs our prayers -- do the NaPraGoMo in 2008. Pray 15 minutes more every day in November, and maybe we can change the world.

Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? Or NaBloPoMo?

This is kind of like that, except instead of writing a novel or blathering in your blog, you pray.

Sound good? Then join in.

I won't be blogging about it every day -- I'll be praying in the time that I am usually on the computer in the evening -- but I'll be doing it.

Pray hard!

Monday, November 03, 2008

What Else is She Hiding From Me?

Agent 004 came accross a picture of a man holding balloons in an activity book.

Without any direction from me, she colored each balloon the color that it was labeled.

Since when does this four-year old child read?

And since when does she follow directions?

Feast Before the Fest

6 muffin cups per person (2 per row)
Row 1: mashed squash, tomato-cuke salad
Row 2: zucchini bread, crackers
Row 3: crackers, tuna salad

I tried to load everyone up on nutrients before trick-or-treating. Here is the tin that mr warillever and Agent 002 shared before trick-or-treating Friday night; Agent 004 and I had a similar presentation.