Everyday Life, Saturday Cooking

Simple and Creamy Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

This is absolutely the recipe I have missed the most during our Whole30. It’s the easiest hot breakfast ever, my whole family gobbles it up, and it’s healthy! I’ll be making this Saturday morning when our Whole30 is over (with almond milk, so as not to throw our systems into shock just yet…). I’m sharing it today in honor of National Oatmeal Day (is that really a thing? apparently it is).

A lot of baked oatmeal recipes will give you a drier, more bread-like pan of oatmeal that you can cut into bars. This is a creamy recipe that you will want to scoop into a bowl, which is more comforting somehow. It’s awesome for winter, but we make it all year round. My kids love to take their bowls of creamy oatmeal to the play house on bright summer mornings.

Ingredients:

2 cups of old fashioned oats

1.5 cups of milk

1.5 cups of water

1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries

3-4 Tbsps of brown sugar

1 tsp of cinnamon

Here’s all you do: dump all the ingredients into your 9×9 or thereabouts baking dish, stir it all together, bake it for 15-20 minutes at 350. Seriously, you don’t even have to wait for the oven to preheat, though it’s a good idea to turn it on first thing. I check on mine around the ten minute mark and add a little more milk or water if it’s looking too dry for our liking.

And that’s it! Creamy blueberry oatmeal for everyone. This recipe serves our family of two adults and three small children with no leftovers. I need to start doubling it! It’s pretty good leftover, too, heated in the microwave with just a little extra milk to keep it moist. Mmmm….I can’t wait til Saturday.

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Reading, Reviews, Three Book Thursday

Three Book Thursday: Frontiersman Edition

Welcome to Three Book Thursday! Three Book Thursday is a feature that’s all about sharing the joy of books with children. To read more posts like this one, go here!

My children and I are in the middle of the best unit study for young kids ever. We’re studying frontiersmen (and frontierswomen? frontierspeople?). Seriously, what kids do not want to pretend they’re churning butter in the mud pit under the swing set? Or tying meat onto their horse after hunting (but the horse is actually a mop and the meat is actually your sister’s pink cupcake purse…)? It has been an amusing for me to watch them play after doing this study, at any rate!

(Side note on our history theory: A lot of people say “It’s important to study history chronologically,” in a more classical method like Susan Wise Bauer‘s books follow. Another group says “read what your kids are interested in” or “start with U.S. history because it has the best literature for young children to go with it!” Rea Berg is a big proponent for this theory. Since I’m crazy about reading, I’m a big fan of the route with lots of stories and literature. And we also pick up The Story of the World and read that, too. In other words, we like it all! But mostly we stick with a literature based approach to history, so sometimes our just-for-fun books will also be our school books, but please know that these books stand alone as great books to read with your kids and it’s important to pick the educational method that fits you and your children best.)

Without further ado, here are our favorite books this week!

Daniel Boone's Great EscapeDaniel Boone’s Great Escape by Michael P. Spradlin is currently Isaac’s very favorite book. It’s just a snippet of what Daniel Boone did in his life, but it works well for young children because it’s an exciting adventure through and through. In the later part of Daniel Boone’s life, after he’s founded Boonsborough and even become a grandfather, he was captured by Shawnee warriors. His escape is pretty amazing! This book definitely falls in the Heroes For Boys category that I’m always seeking out on our library trips.

We’ve also enjoyed Who Was Here: Discovering Wild Animal Tracks as we talk about tracking animals.  One page has a clue about the animal and a picture of its print, and the next page has the answer. It’s a good combination of learning about 18769496the animals’ tracks, their habitats, and some interesting facts about them. We read Tracks in the Snow as another track-themed book, but it was definitely more for the 2-3-year-old age group than for a 4-year-old or 6-year-old. It was very cute and Violet loved it, though the concept of snow was totally lost on her.

I’m thankful we get to investigate tracks for fun instead of for food, but I also think it’s good for our modern-day children to know how much hard work frontiersmen went through. So of course, I chose Little House in the Big Woods as our read aloud for this month. Last time we read it, Ella was only four. She doesn’t remember much of it, and it’s all new to Isaac this time around. Does homeschooling mean I get to read the Little House books to my children every two years? Sold! =) I feel like I need to reread these books for my own perspective on how much easier my life is than Caroline Wilder’s was. And if you want to put Christmas gifts into perspective for your kids, read them just the Christmas chapters from Little House in the Big Woods or Little House on the Prairie.  Wow. Besides the perspective, these are simply some of the best books ever. And the great part is I hardly remember On The Shores of Silver Lake! Can’t wait ’til we get to that one.

So that’s what’s in our reading basket this week. What have you and your kids been reading?

Everyday Life, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

The Whole30 – Our Review {Saturday Cooking On A Wednesday}

As mentioned in this post, I’ve been poring over The Whole30: The Thirty Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom a lot over the last few weeks. Today, my husband and I have reached Day 28 (justtwomoredays!!!!) of our Whole30 experience.

What is The Whole30?

It’s thirty day period of taking everything out of your diet but fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and some nuts. That is all you eat for 30 days. It’s along the the lines of paleo, but with a different theory and intention. The theory isn’t that we should eat like this because our ancestors ate like this, or even that we should always eat like this. The theory is that what we put in our body effects us and wouldn’t it be a good idea to figure out how the stuff we eat makes us feel? Maybe you have zero problems with dairy, or maybe you’ll find you actually have an intolerance. Maybe you’ve been eating way more processed grains than you realized, or that your diet is a lot further from “natural” than you would have thought. (Maybe I’m speaking from experience…). Oh, and it’s very likely you’re addicted to sugar. And it’s also likely that your body is completely hooked on sugars as an energy source instead of using fats .That’s the number one reason why I did this program, in fact. I reached for some form of sugar, be it unhealthy sweets or “wholesome” granola bars, pretty much any time I was hungry.

But really, the reason we got to this point where we decided to do something that makes everyone who knows us think we’re lunatics is that we wanted to get our indulgences under control. We’d spent years eating whatever dessert was available, whatever meal was easiest to make on a rough day, etc. It was time for a change, and how hard could it be to do this for 30 days?

So, how’d it go?

There were some great times and some hard times! I was extremely tired at first. Melissa Hartwig and Dale Hartwig write in their book that we have trained our bodies at a cellular level to use energy from the sugar we eat instead of the fat we eat or store. I was kind of skeptical about this, but when I felt how tired I was on about Day 3, I decided, “Yes. I am tried on a cellular level right now.” And then around Day 6, I felt a steady energy, much different than the kind of energy swings I had been experiencing. Other than better energy, losing an inch or two, and feeling pretty good overall, my husband and I did not make any amazing discoveries about what foods affect us negatively. Our bodies seem quite happy with wheat and dairy! In fact, since about Day 25, we’ve been feeling the pendulum swing from too much wheat in our diet to not enough. Our bodies need some grains!

I was very hopeful that my complexion would improve on this program, but alas, it all seems to be unrelated to what I eat. On the bright side, no guilt about chocolate. =)

How About The Recipes?

I’m really glad I bought the Whole30 book, because many of the recipes are keepers! We will keep eating menu items like Chicken Cacciatore, Harvest Grilled Chicken, Salad, and the beef brisket recipe found in the book. The salmon recipes we tried from the book were not our favorites. It’s our humble opinion that salmon needs some kind of sweetness in the marinade or sauce to take it from “meh” to delicious. We also were not fans of two of the breakfast recipes we tried that I found on Pinterest: Cauliflower Sausage Casserole (the smell was one of the worst smells ever! I ate it a few times, but my husband hated it and we won’t be making that again.) and Breakfast Pumpkin Custard (it was icky). This online recipe for Greek Meatballs was awesome, though! And we discovered we actually like sweet potatoes, though not as a sweet dish but a savory side dish.

While we’re on the topic of recipes, I would just like to say that the absolute hardest part of The Whole30 was all the cooking you must do in order to eat. You cook at every meal, or you cook lots at once and eat leftovers. You may find a few convenience foods like a rotisserie chicken, but even those often have some added sugar in the rub or marinade. So, if you do not cook, you’re going to need another kind of plan for getting jump started on healthy eating. We all know that homemade is best, but not all of us are there yet.

What’s Next?

The Whole30 has lots of benefits, but what we are most excited about is the re-wiring our habits have gone through. Where we once ate mostly carbs for breakfast, we now eat eggs. (And eggs. And eggs). We’re planning on adding oatmeal back into our normal routines right away, but we also plan to keep the majority of our breakfasts protein-based. For snacks we used to grab crackers or whatever the kids were eating, but now I reach for nuts or fruit. And we haven’t eaten this many vegetables per day in our whole lives!

I will tell you this though: as soon as I wake up on Day 31, I’m grabbing the half and half and enjoying some creamy coffee! The almond milk has grown on me, but it’s still not cutting it.  So the plan going forward is to keep our new good habits, but allow ourselves flour tortillas with our fajitas, and some cheese in our scrambled eggs, and see what happens.

Have you done the Whole30 before? Thinking about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For other food related posts from Miathereader.com, click on over here!

Uncategorized

A Classic Re-Read, A New Release, and A Nonfiction Book

It’s been so long since I posted an actual book review! My reading has slowed down over the last month or so for three reasons.

Reason #1: The Classic Re-read.

The beauty of classic literature is that it so full of nuance, well chosen words, and fully Great Expectationsdeveloped characters and plot, you get sucked in heart and mind. You feel stretched and grown when you’re done. The fact that goes along with all that beauty: reading a classic takes longer than reading most current fiction! Even for the fastest readers, or for those who feel right at home in 19th century English lit, Great Expectations is going to take a while! That is the classic I decided to re-read this fall. I love using the back-to-school vibe to get me back into a classic frame of mind. This is the fourth time I’ve read Great Expectations, but it’s been about ten years. I can honestly say it is still one of my favorite books. It’s amazing how my thoughts changed on the characters. Suddenly Pip seems so emotionally unstable and self-conscious and paranoid! Maybe for good reason, though… but I totally like Herbert better than any of the other characters now. He’s like the Ronald Weasley to Harry Potter, except for Herbert is good and noble through and through. My overriding conclusion after re-reading Great Expectations: Dickens is the man.

Reason #2: The New Release

This new release slowed my reading down so much! It’s called The Race for Paris, and it The Race for Parisis wonderful. Why is it so slow, then? Well, I feel compelled by overwhelming curiosity to stop and research the real people and situations included in this novel about female photographers fighting against all odds to be the first photojournalists on the scene at the liberation of Paris in 1945. Meg Waite Clayton has done an incredible job of mixing true history and new characters. This book is as good as a history lesson, if not better. I haven’t reached the end of it yet, so I can’t speak for how much I love the whole plot, but the setting alone has me won over as a fan. If you liked Code Name Verity, you’ll probably like this one as well (and so far it’s not as brutal in war crime content).  (Also, speaking of Meg Waite Clayton, I am a big fan of her book The Wednesday Sisters).

Reason #3: The Whole30

I’m blaming The Whole30 for all kinds of things this month. I got the book from the library out of curiosity in September because I knew our eating habits had been sliding down a hill that only leads to pancakes for dinner two times in one week,  and a sugar addiction as deep and as wide as the river of maple syrup my son leaves on his plate after said pancake dinners.  After trying all summer to right the eating habits by gradual, subtle changes, I declared myself beat. I needed a plan. The Whole30 made sense because it’s only for 30 days and it doesn’t claim that all the good stuff in life is bad for you, necessarily, but that it’s a good idea to cut some things out and see for yourself what makes you feel well and what doesn’t. I’ll write a whole review of the experience later, but right now what you need to know is that I’ve been poring over this book more than any other book this month.

Other books I’ve picked up this Fall:

The Royal We – Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance, but the first two chapters felt too much like chick lit. Status: abandoned.

Far from the Madding Crowd Far From The Madding Crowd – I intend to finish this one, but right now I’m having trouble getting into it. I’m on chapter four, and I adore Hardy’s ability to paint a picturesque landscape of rural England, but I am greatly fearful that I already know how it’s going to end and Tess of the D’Urbervilles ruined me for that sort of thing. <sob>

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – I listened to about a quarter of this audiobook while getting a cavity filled last week, and I keep trying to squeeze in time to finish the rest, but it’s proving difficult. I’ll probably just have to check out the paper book and finish it up, but I’d rather hear the rest of the narration by Kathleen Wilhoite, who does a fabulous job.

I’m looking forward to all the other books on my to-be-read list this fall. A tall stack of books on my bedside table is one of life’s simplest pleasures.  Happy reading!

Uncategorized

Fall 2015: What Autumn Looks Like Around Here

Fact: activities with children never go like you think they will. This statement sums up Autumn with my children thus far. My only comfort is this phrase: “I tried.” Here is a foray into our Fall-ish activities.

First, we went apple picking. It was a gorgeous, September day in the Carolinas, which means it was almost 90 degrees. We picked apples in shorts and t-shirts, and it was a glorious experience.

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It’s too bad the actual apple picking only takes about 30 minutes. Here’s how everyone looked on the walk back from the orchard.

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They perked up when they saw the play area. I had to laugh when they spent the majority of their time playing in the massive sand box.

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What can I say? The kids and I are beach people, much to my husband’s chagrin. (We like the mountains, too! But we loooove the beach). We bought our apples, ate delicious apple donuts, and took the wrong road home that added thirty minutes extra to our trip.

On to more fall fun! We live near a zoo, and fall is always a great time to make a visit. It’s awesome that we have such a wonderful zoo. It’s sad that I hate going there. I love the first ten minutes when we look at the actual animals. But after that…oh, after that…all the kids want to do is CLIMB. ON. EVERYTHING. Rocks, fences, statues, everything. For the love of all that is educational, can we please show some interest in these incredible animals? I mean, there is a real live tiger right on the other side of this ditch! But, no. We’re just looking for the next “pay all your money for this awesome ride” carousel or tiny train. This must be simply the way it goes when children go to the zoo twelve times by the time they’re three years old. So. The zoo was delightful in and of itself, and yet no fun at all. Except for our toddler actually enjoyed watching the animals. Therefore, she gets to be in the zoo picture.

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On to the next fall activity! I decided to do this craft because the end result looked pretty cool and I knew Ella would love it because glitter. This one actually turned out be a fairly sweet experience with the children. Maybe because it was only twenty minutes long? We painted some fabric leaves with craft glue, sprinkled it with different colors of glitter, and it was done. Their enthusiasm was catching. Each child became quite industrious and quiet for the duration of this craft. It was miraculous. Also, the fact that nothing picks glitter up off of a hardwood floor is rather miraculous. We had glitter in our dinner that night. It was delicious.

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This week, we’re going to the park with our MOPS group to paint pumpkins. Let’s hope the experience is on the “meets expectations” side of the spectrum instead of “total disaster.” Either way, one thing is sure. Fall with children is always an adventure!

Everyday Life, Parenting

Loving The Littles Who Persecute Us

I wrote this as a devotional for the leaders meeting of my MOPS group last week. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot in the last month. I’m sharing it on the blog today in hopes that we can all find some encouragement to keep on loving when we don’t know how. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Romans, trying for the 40-billionth time to get into my head how to extend love and grace to others, specifically….my own children. Maybe you’re thinking love and grace shouldn’t that difficult to give our kids, but sometimes, it is. I’d been through a trying week and I was feeling particularly resentful about my day-to-day life. There were some moments of joy and pure love for my children, yes, but there were more moments clouded with dark thoughts about how I’m wasting any talents I have, or feeling used and unappreciated, or just desperately wanting five minutes without being yelled for. I didn’t like feeling so oppressed by my everyday reality. So I was in Romans on that rare early morning that I actually made it out of bed before the kids got up, seeking some hope and some help, when I came upon these verses:

Romans 12: 13-14 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice Hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

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My official Boiled Egg Peeler

It hit me, hard: I was feeling persecuted by my children. Their constant neediness wasn’t their fault, they’re still so little after all, but I was feeling persecuted by it, and the resentment was like my own form of cursing them – rolled eyes at their whining, pursed lips at their calling me for one more drink of water at bed time, or straight out anger at misbehavior when I had “just had enough.”

Do you ever feel persecuted by your children? Whether they mean to or not, they can put us parents through the wringer some days! We can walk around feeling persecuted by these human beings only three feet tall, or less, sometimes only 22 inches tall (when will she stop crying all day and all night so I can get some sleep!?!)  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling persecuted by my children, I don’t usually respond with a heart of blessing. After reading these verses and realizing where my spirit was, I sure wanted to respond better! The word “curse” is the opposite of “bless,” and if I’m not blessing my children in my heart and in my attitude, what exactly am I doing? I think we all want to bless our children every minute of every day.

But how?

This is how we can bless people, even our children:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” v.

Well. I could start with being empathetic with my children. They need me to pay attention to their feelings, instead of brushing them aside as childish or inconvenient. I could continue by pursuing peace in my household – what a blessing it is when a mom is a force for peace in her home, in her marriage, in all of her relationships! And I could IMG_4446embrace the fact that these “people of low position” in my house, these powerless, small people I am entrusted with, who are not beneath me in any way besides physical stature. I need to stop being conceited about how I might be “wasting my intellect” or spending all my time in the mundane actions of life, but realize that this is a work of blessing and of loving the way God wants me to love.

Could these verses in Romans be a new mothering template? Be welcoming and serving to our needy children. Bless them when we feel persecuted by them. Empathize with them. Be at peace with them. Realize that they are equals with us in the family of God, and it is our honor to communicate to them how precious they are in His sight, and in ours.

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Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Fall And Poems: Three Book Thursday, The Poem Edition

Welcome to Three Book Thursday! Three Book Thursday is a feature that’s all about sharing the joy of books with children. To read more posts like this one, go here!

Autumn is so lovely.  I always find myself saying this with surprise, because I am decidedly not an “I love all things fall!” type of person. I despise pumpkin spice lattes. I could not care less for sweaters and boots. Layering clothes for myself and three little one is just frustrating, and coats make me straight up angry. I am a throw on a tank top and shorts and call it done type of girl. But when Fall actually comes, I taste its delights. An October sky is the deepest blue imaginable. A chill in the air makes eyes twinkle with the sheer delight of change and the whisper of holidays ahead. The warm blankets and the early darkness draw us into a more restful time.

And then there is the poetry. Fall always calls me to read poetry. (It also screams “Fantasy” at me, but that’s another post). This year, I followed the lead of so many wise Wings from the Wind: An Anthology of Poemsmothers and educators, and sought out some poetry to share with my children. The book I’m using to do this right now is Wings from the Wind: An Anthology of Poems Selected and Illustrated by Tasha Tudor.  I have always loved Tasha Tudor’s illustrations. We just read Pumpkin Moonshine for school this week, too. I usually find that her illustrations are what I love about her books the most. The actual text isn’t usually as enthralling or entertaining as I hope it will be.  This anthology is the perfect marriage! She includes poems from Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Dickinson, and Rachel Field, among many others, with illustrations on every page to make the poems come alive to little ones. For whatever reason, I get a deep level of comfort from reading this book, by myself or with my littles.

I haven’t had a chance to dive further into poetry books yet this week, but I plan to in the coming months of Fall. What are your favorite children’s poetry books, or grown up poetry that the whole family can enjoy? I’d love to hear from you!

Children's Books, Three Book Thursday

Three Book Thursday -What The Kids Love This Week

girlreadingjwsmithOur library stack of picture books is ridiculously tall this week! I think our librarian must have let us check out over the limit. I had just payed $9.00 is fines, so maybe she figures I’m good for the library’s economy. It’s a good thing we had so many books, too, because we couldn’t go anywhere for four days with all the flooding around us. It’s been hard to watch, but we have so much to be thankful for and one of those things is that we had these three favorite books to read during our cabin fever.

Pancakes For SupperPancakes for Supper – I picked out this story without looking inside because I thought, “Hey, now the kids will know we’re totally normal and pancakes are a real supper food!” It turns it, this is a fun American tall tale version of Little Black Sambo that my 4-year-old son absolutely loves. After he reading it the first time, he laughed out loud so suddenly and loudly, it made me jump! The words are simple yet descriptive and the illustrations of the animals dressed in the main character’s clothes are hilarious. We give it two thumbs up.

885187The Doorbell  Rang – Pat Hutchins wrote and illustrated some  awesome books in the 1970s that we’re just now discovering. This one is about two children with a plate full of cookies, a lot of neighbors who ring their doorbell, and a good ability to do division. I love the community aspect of this book, the mother’s and children’s sharing attitudes. Side note: if you’re looking for a story book about math, this is a great one! Another side note: you will crave chocolate chip cookies when you’re done with this one. Another of our favorite Pat Hutchins books is Don’t Forget The Bacon.

Mystery on the Docks (Reading Rainbow Book)Mystery on The Docks – A kidnapping, an opera singer, a bunch of boats, and a gang of rats…all children will love this book!My childhood is on every page of this book. I must have watched The Reading Rainbow that goes with it ten times at least because I can hear all the sound effects in my head as I read.  We highly recommend both the book and The Reading Rainbow episode!

That’s all from us this week! I hope to update my own “what I’ve been reading list” soon!