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Cous Cous with Kale, Mushrooms Dried Cranberries & Sunflower Seeds Recipe

     I buy cous cous in bulk because we use so much of it and to cut down on packages. For the two of us I just use one cup of cous cous but for larger families you can use more as needed. I start by putting 1 cup of water and a little oil and salt into a pot. You an add oil and salt to taste. I use olive oil instead of butter or margarine. I put it on high heat and wait until it starts to boil. In the mean time I get out a frying pan, kale, mushrooms, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds. I add oil to cover the bottom of the pan so I can sautee everything without burning it. I usually use 3 piece of kale but you can use less or more to taste. You can use the stems if you like, if not just use the leaves. I rinse mine, then I rip it into pieces and put it in my frying pan. I will take 2 big mushrooms or 3-4 little mushrooms, wash them, and then chop them up. I like my pieces chunky. I will set the heat for the frying pan at medium high.

     By now the water in the pot is usually boiling so I remove it from heat and slowly add 1 cup of cous cous. I stir it so it’s all evenly covered with water and then leave it alone. I sautee my kale and mushrooms and then add the sunflower seeds and dried cranberries a couple minutes before they are done. I use a handful of cranberries and a handful of sunflower seeds, but you can add the amount you prefer. Once the food in the frying pan is done I add it to the pot with the cous cous. Sometimes because I don’t use butter the cous cous can be a little dry so adding the oil in the pan I sauteed with gives it moisture and more flavor. I add salt to taste and then it’s done! It’s pretty filling and it’s child approved – my daughter loves it! (:

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Weekly Links

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11 Beautiful Books to Read With Your Children
A Guide to Navigating the Homeschooling Community50 Shades of Grey is Bad for Your Marriage
Wild About Insects! The Care and Keeping of Junior Entomologists
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How I Started To Get Myself Un-Busy
4 ways (and reasons) to make wedding cards and gifts more heart-filled
You Can’t Have Her!
10 questions to ask & answer about your family

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Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson Review

 
EDIT: THERE IS SOME CONTROVERSY OVER WHETHER MR. MORTENSON EMBELLISHED ACCOUNTS OF THINGS THAT HAPPENED AND SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE ACCOUNTING AT CAI. I have researched BOTH sides, and while I feel neither one can fully back up their arguments, I feel it is important to use CAUTION here. Feel free to read the book and let it motivate you to do great things in your community! But please be leery of donating to this organization CAI, it’s safer to donate to a group that shows you how they spend your money and has not had any questioning about the truth of their stories. And feel free to research these claims yourself and come your own decisions! ALSO, PLEASE CHECK OUT SOME OTHER WONDERFUL ORGANIZATIONS THAT YOU CAN DONATE TO IF YOU WANT TO HELP OTHERS DOING WONDERFUL THINGS:
 

      Three Cups of Tea is a book I HIGHLY recommend reading! This is a book about a man who started off attempting to reach the summit of the world’s 2nd tallest mountain, and ended up creating an organization to build schools and other needed buildings in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am sure that there are those who are anti both places, but you needn’t be lumping the whole of these people into one group of terrorists. They are not all out to kill and destroy us. Most of the people there are peace-minded, which shows in the book. Through this book you not only get the amazing story of how this organization came to be and has helped so many, or completely motivated to help however you can. You also get to see a different view of the people in these countries, one many times we do not think of learning about. These are impoverished people who want nothing more than the best for their villages and their children. These are people who desperately want schools, and whole heartedly believe that education can change their worlds. I have to agree – schooling and education can make a huge difference in the lives of children. It’s a perspective many people don’t see, or don’t choose to see, and it’s incredibly humbling.

      Greg Mortenson is the author, and we get to follow his journey in building schools, providing ways to water and food, homes and medical buildings for so many villages. Through him we can learn about other countries in need, and why it’s so important for us to help. Americans are extremely spoiled, wasteful, materialistic and selfish. I know I have been most of my life! Reading Three Cups of Tea gives you a chance to be different, and to see what putting others first can do. It’s amazing how a man with no money and no means of building a school in this foreign country, beat the obstacles to do just that – and go on to do so much more! This book can provide us much-needed motivation to start impacting the lives of others however we can. You can let this book motivate you to find ways to make an impact yourself. You can raise money for organizations that are important to you, or even create your own! Let this book spur you on to change the lives of others in need for the good, and to stop living a useless life of materialism and waste. Instead of buying expensive coffee drinks, a new lipstick, new shoes, a new game system, a new blender, or some ridiculous vacation, consider giving to people who need it more than you do! And trust me, you do not need those items as much as these people need medical assistance and schools! These are very poor people by our living standards. Even the poorest in our country is richer than them by tenfold. So please keep that in mind when you are about to purchase some item you really don’t need. It is so much more important to help others than it is to buy a drink, another pair of shoes or sunglasses, or buy a game system. “To know that even one life breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson. This should be the motto of each of us, as we strive to be a help at so least one other life breathe easier!

      For those of you, like me, who feel the importance if inspiring our children to be better and do greater, there is a young readers version of this book available here: Three Cups of Tea (Young Readers Edition). With this version you get an interview with the daughter of the author, and she shares insight that most adults I’ve met don’t have! One of my favorite quotes of hers is, “Here (America), it’s like we live to eat, and there it’s like they eat to live.” I couldn’t think of anything more true! We have made eating here go beyond just sustenance, or eating to live. We eat just for the heck of it while people all over the world have so little to eat. It makes you think twice about wasting food and about money wasted on food in ways it doesn’t need to be. For those who teach children or who have kids who’d love to do a fundraiser for a good cause, look into local fundraising ideas you can do with your kids. My daughter created a donation box necklace she takes with her to raise money for saving cheetah’s. You can have a bake sale and make animal shaped cookies, do a car wash, and more! It’s a great way to get kids involved in helping others! (:

      Please take the time to check out the books! Get inspired to change lives!

Click here to purchase the book through Amazon:

 

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Why I Chose To Homeschool

     I get asked this many times, “Why are you homeschooling your daughter?” I didn’t realize when I decided to homeschool years ago that I would face so many doubters and nay-sayers. So let me share what led me to this choice with my daughter’s, and any future children’s, education.

     I was actually homeschooled my senior year of high school. I wish I had been homeschooled long before that honestly. I really enjoyed working at my own pace and on my own time table. I enjoyed the freedom of it and the laid back environment. When I was younger I was considered “gifted” and tested often. I felt like the standards placed on me were of a perfection I could not achieve in an environment that was not loving and supportive, so I rebelled. For a very smart child I did very poorly in school. But the intelligence was there. I was not in an environment at home or in school to nurture and foster that, and to direct it in healthy ways. My parents had divorced and the split also caused a lot of emotional complications for me. So my own education experiences as a child and teen are a big part of why I made the decision to educate my daughter myself.

     I am one of those people who likes to research just about everything. I want to know what’s in my food, clothes, home, what books are the best, what ways to improve our lives, and what things can benefit my family. So with the pregnancy of my daughter I began massively reading parenting books. As my daughter got older I read parenting books congruent with her age. I worked in childcare and education so the teacher in me blossomed and I began to look into educational materials more. In my church many families homeschool, and I began to look at homeschooling websites to learn more. I like what I found. I loved that my daughter’s education could be tailored just for her – something you CAN NOT get in public school. No matter what the school a child is in, there are 15 or more other children so things cannot be one on one. This was important for me because I feel like kids would succeed and thrive more if they had a personalized education.

     The next thing that really thrilled me was that my daughter could advance or take more time as needed. This means we could be going at her pace in each subject. No having to try to keep up with other kids in a class. No being limited by her age. My daughter knew her ABC’s, color, shapes and the names of at least 20 animals at age one. She could talk well and was very advanced for her age. With that I knew that she would probably advance in some areas in school, such as reading and writing. With homeschooling she can do just that. We work on her level, we work at her pace. Yes she has school most days, just like a regular school. But it’s done in a way that works for her.

     I worked in daycare for many years and many of the things I saw were quite disturbing. Seven year old children having sex with others to trade for a cell phone, 8-year-olds threatening to blow up the daycare and kill everyone in it, 6-year-olds laying on top of boys and kissing on them, 5-year-olds having boyfriends and girlfriends, 9-year-old girls wearing mini skirts and high heels, 8-year-old boys talking about beating people up and getting in fights. And those are just a FEW examples. A lot of people comment about homeschooling children not getting “socialized” enough. Personally, this is not the kind of socialization I want for my children! The things they are exposed to at such a young age are so inappropriate and can do so much damage. The world is a dark enough place without me exposing my small child to extra garbage before she can handle it. No, I do not believe in completely sheltering children, but I do believe in using discernment and wisdom with what they are exposed to, and keeping them children as long as possible.

     With church, the kids that I watch in my home childcare business, activities, sports, etc. my daughter gets LOTS of socialization. And it isn’t all butterflies and kittens. She has to deal with mean kids, kids who have different beliefs, kids who do things for attention they don’t get at home, kids who have had different home lives than she has. We do a lot of talking about right and wrong, what’s okay and not okay in our home that may be different in other homes, and what we can learn from our experiences. She is an extremely well-adjusted, healthily socialized child. I have no fears in that area at all.

     My daughter is 5 and finishing up 1st grade. I say this not to brag, but to show how homeschooling has benefited us. This is something we could not do in the public, or private, school system. She would be put in kindergarten and bored to tears. She would not be learning or reaching her full potential. This is why we homeschool. And I absolutely love it! I love the joy I get in seeing her take in new knowledge and work through things she is learning. I love to see her accomplish things she may not think she can in the beginning. I love seeing the look of pride on her face when she finishes a book or a grade. I love that I get to be there for her through it all. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

     I know that homeschooling is not for everyone. Some folks feel they did inadequately in school so it’s hard for them to imagine teaching their own children. I share this not to say you must homeschool or else, I am sharing this to explain why WE do it, how it works well for US, and how it has benefited OUR FAMILY. It has been a huge blessing for us, even though we have our bad days along with the good. It’s not perfect, nor is any education, but it’s what we enjoy and thrive on. I encourage you to find education for your children that they thrive on as well! (:

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Weekly Links

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20 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds and Tea Leaves
I’m Not Afraid of Aging (Okay, Maybe Just a Little…)
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Kindergarten Activity Bag…Sight Words Beans
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Ten Ways to Tame a Tantrum

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Happy Green Bee – Organic Clothing For Kids Review

Picture courtesy of kidpop.com

     For any mom who has learned about the massive amount of chemicals on conventional cotton, a quest of sorts begins to find organic clothing. Most mom’s don’t want to go broke buying organic clothing, but usually organic tends to be more expensive. Why? Because the workers are actually paid fair wages and you are paying for health and a piece of sustainability. It’s worth the cost. I am by no means a rich woman, but we manage to wear only organic clothing just fine. And we look good doing it, especially my daughter! (:

     While scouring the internet for places that sell organic clothing, I stumbled upon the Happy Green Bee website. Here I found some amazingly adorable, totally unique, organic clothes! Everything is 100% organic and fair trade as well, which is always an extra comfort. The clothing is not only beautiful, but it’s quality clothing. When our package arrived it was filled with quality cotton clothing, not cheap thin material you can see through and that doesn’t last long. The clothes are well made and the designs are very unique – I haven’t seen anything else like them. I ordered 4 dresses all with matching pants or leggings. I believe little girls should wear something under their dresses because they are little ladies, and they don’t always remember how to sit like ladies. Above is my daughter wearing the A-Line Sundress in pumpkin/butterscotch/radish/bean with matching pants. It’s adorable and very soft. We also picked up the Petal Dress in the same color scheme because my daughter just loved the colors. That dress is pictured below.

     We also got the Petal Dress in watermelon/sky as well. That dress and her blanket in the same color scheme match her lovely doll. Now this was my daughter’s favorite item in the whole package! She did not let this doll leave her side upon it’s arrival. It’s so soft and it matches her watermelon/sky Petal Dress – something my daughter thinks is so wonderful! Many months later her doll Amber is still her favorite and goes many places with us.

     We also got a Blossom Dress in bluebell with matching tights, and two adorable little hats. One hat is the Sock Hat and it’s long and got a pointed tip on top which is too cute, and the other is the Muffin Hat which looks like a smaller version of a colorful bakers hat. That’s exactly what my daughter decided it was for – her to bake in her play kitchen while wearing her new hat. Lastly we got the Girls Sport Suit bathing suit in pumpkin/butterscotch/radish/bean color scheme. It’s adorable!

     They offer such great organic alternatives to the massive amounts of pesticide covered or synthetic chemical created clothing in most stores. When you find a company that makes good quality organic clothing like this you are so thankful and appreciative. If you haven’t already please check out their website: Happy Green Bee. The only issue I’ve had with the clothes is fading from repeated washing, but we have had them for a while now & washed them many times. A color booster in the laundry might help with this issue!

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Homemade Lace and Trace Activity

     I enjoy making things for free or for cents on the dollar when I can, especially when the thing I am creating sells for a lot in a store. It’s hard to find a good set of lace and trace shapes or animals or letters for a few bucks. And the nice thing about making them at home is that they can be customized to suit your child. So if your child likes dogs, you can do a whole set on dogs. Or if your child likes food, you can do a whole food items set. Or if your child is not picky you can keep it simple and basic. It’s up to you and your child!

     For supplies you will need scissors, cardboard of some kind, yarn or shoe laces, small clear tape, and a hole punch. If you are putting pictures on your cardboard then you will need print outs cut to the shape you want, glued onto the cardboard. You can use pieces of a cereal box, piece of a box, any cardboard you have will work.

     First, cut the cardboard into the shapes you want. Big shapes, little shapes, simple shapes, fancy shapes. There are a lot of options. I chose basically simple shapes for our starter lace ups. For this large triangle I varied the locations of the holes a bit. You can punch your holes close together or farther apart depending on your child’s age and ability. Originally I punched the holes far apart and my daughter was done lacing it very quickly, so I added more holes for her.

     I kept the holes on the heart all in a row on the edge because the heart was really big. I varied my sizes of shapes for her and then matched up my yarn to the different sizes.

     I chose a bright red yarn for ours because it’s bright and stands out on the cardboard. On each end I made a point by wrapping a piece of clear tape around it tightly. On one end you can tie a knot to keep it in place as well.

     Shoe laces also work great for this because the tip is already taken care of and they are pretty durable. You can get different lengths and colors as well.

     My daughter immediately went to work on all of our shapes. It took me less than 10 minutes to create for her. It’s great to teach hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. And as my daughter said, she is “learning how to sew.” (: A basically free activity that will provide many hours of learning and amusement!

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Weekly Links

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Mommy Wars Ceasefire
Creating a visual schedule for kids
GSE– grapefruit seed extract
The Well-Trained Mind: A Road Map for Our Homeschool
18 Ways to Clean With Lemon & Salt
Successful Teen Homeschooling: Two Vital Factors
Teaching Kids To Sew
Bucket list for kids: 50 things to do before they’re 12
Homeschooled Students Well-Prepared For College, Study Finds
Rush To Judgement

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Brown Rice with Egg and Cabbage Recipe

     This was lunch today and it was delicious! I’ve found it’s much easier to keep a menu planned so I always have something to make, and it cuts down on grocery costs. Usually I stick with it. Sometimes I like to go into my kitchen, look at what I have and then put something together from what sounds good. Today I decided to try something new.

     I had brown rice already made and I had been wanting to try something new with the purple cabbage my daughter picked out from the grocery store. For some reason it sounded really good to add egg to the mix. So I chopped the head of cabbage in half, cut it up and put it to boil, adding a little salt to the water. Once it reached a boil lowered it to simmer and covered it. I then scrambled 3 eggs, and then added in the rice to heat with the cooked eggs. Once the cabbage was done I strained it over an empty bowl to catch the now purple blue cabbage water. I added the cabbage to the rice and egg mix, then added some of the cabbage water to it for flavor while cooking them together. I added a bit more salt and some olive oil to taste, and voila!

     Next time I plan to try this with green cabbage as to avoid the bluish tint it gave the food, which was highly amusing to my daughter. (: But it was delicious! We both finished off the whole pan full. The meal was a hit and full of protein.

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Creating One Big Book From Several Paperback Books

     One thing I try to avoid is too much clutter, too many small things, too many loose things. It’s not easy to do when you live with a child, but it keeps me on my toes finding new ways to organize and condense things. A few years ago when I was selling Avon products, they were selling a set of “Dear God” books. I ordered them and found they were all very thin, small paperback books. Needless to say I was disappointed, I thought they would be more book quality. So since then, they’ve been on my daughter’s bookshelf, getting put under other books, inside of other books, in the back of all the other books. I worried they would get ripped up or lost, or just not read because they were getting lost among the other books.

     So today I decided to combine all the books into one big “Dear God” book. What I did was very simple, and not very fancy, but you decorate your combined book as much or as little as you want. First I decided how many holes to put in the books. Our books had writing in the middle so I could only do holes at the top and at the bottom of the spine of each book. I picked where I wanted my holes, and punched holes in one book. I then set it on top of the other books one buy one, and traced inside the holes. I then punched holes in each of the books, and stacked them in the order I wanted them when done. I used metal book rings in ours, just to make turning the pages in all the books easy for my daughter, but twine, ribbon or yarn would work just as well. I put a ring in the top holes and bottom holes and had one big book! (: I grouped books together that were from a set, but you can group books together that have the same main characters, or by type of books, whatever works for you. It’s nice because it keeps paper books together and more organized. My daughter loves it and has paid much more attention to these books. You could even create your own cover with card stock paper and add embellishments to it if you want.

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