Saturday, May 31, 2008

Healthy Lunch Planner #3


Chicken Pasta Salad - Toss together: 12 oz cubed, cooked chicken breast, 2 cups whole wheat pasta, 1 cup rinsed red kidney beans, 2 oz cubed cheddar cheese, 1 cup diced tomato, 1 cup chopped raw broccoli, 2 Tablespoons Light Italian Dressing. Divide into 4 containers and place in refrigerator.

Butternut Squash Soup (prepackaged) with
Whole Wheat Tuna Pita Pocket (made with Light mayo and minced celery) topped with tomato & lettuce

Cottage Cheese with Apple Butter - Place the following in 4 bowls or take-away containers and mix well: 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese, 4 Tablespoons apple butter, unsweetened, 2 sliced bananas, 3 Tablespoons sunflower or other seeds. Serve with whole wheat toast and baby carrots

Whole Wheat Egg Salad Sandwich with Tomatoes and Lettuce. Serve with fresh fruit.

Chicken Burrito - Whole wheat tortillas filled with portions of the following fixins: 2 cups cubed or shredded chicken (can use the whole, cooked chicken from the grocery store), 1 cup vegetarian refried beans, 1 cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup shredded Romaine lettuce, 1 cup diced tomato, salsa to taste. Sour cream or shredded cheese optional.


For me, the hardest part about eating clean is planning and shopping. The planning is now done! Now I just need to shope and do a little prep. Here are some other items on my "To Do" list:

WEEK-END PREP: Go shopping! : ) Cook and pull off chicken (can use whole chicken, thighs or drumsticks) for Monday and Friday recipes. Freeze or refrigerate until needed.

THURSDAY PREP: Cook a double recipe of Brown Rice (I like Lundberg's Brown Rice Blends) and consider having as a dinner side dish, while using leftovers for Fridays' Chicken Burritos.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From Our Nature Notebook: Flower Power

This week our nature study focus has been flowers. I thought I would post how this nature study unit is being planned and a bit on how it's going.

Teacher Prep - The first thing I did as teacher background was read "How to Begin the Study of Plants and Flowers" by Anna Comstock (Handbook of Nature Study pp 453-460). Then I stopped by the library and picked up a few flower and plant-related books, field guides and magazines. The new June issue of Nature Friend magazine arrived (yay!!!) and I scanned it for flower-related articles and activities. (There were some!) I also marked the pressed flower project directions in my Nature Smart book.

Getting "Out There" Well, in this case, "out there" was in our backyard. : ) I announced that we were going to be finding some flowers to look at and press. Immediately, Miss M excitedly scampered out into our back yard to collect some fragrant lilacs. When she came back in she had a crown of lilacs and plenty of specimens to press.

Informal Lesson With my Handbook of Nature Study and Eyewitness Plant open, we each took one of the small lilac flowers collected and found some the parts listed in the Handbook on p. 456 - lobes of corolla, corolla tube, calyx lobes, calyx tube, stamen, and sepal. We looked at the beautiful pages entitled "A simple flower dissected" (pp 16-17) in Eyewitness Plant. After learning the parts of the lilac flower and discussing their functions, Miss M made a drawing for her notebook, labeling some of the parts.

Expand From here Miss M may press more flowers and make notecards and candles with them, using the directions in Nature Smart. We plan to make it to our local floral shop to see, smell, and compare different flowers. Adding to the nature notebook by identifying and drawing 3 or 4 local flowers and reading some books and articles will round out our Flower Power focus. I hope to do a few of Anna Comstock-style observation lessons with whatever flowers Miss M decides to identify. Using the Handbook makes it pretty easy, even though I'm not a botanist or even a gardener!

Art will be the flower illustrations, and maybe a sketch from the
Draw 50 book. For Practical Life, we also plan to try our hand at flower arranging using some cheap, grocery store flowers mixed with backyard flowers and weeds and possibly try some edible flowers.

Resources Used

Here are some basic books we found at the library:
  • Eyewitness Plants
  • Eyewitness Explorers: Flowers
  • Flowering Plants by Wendy Madgwick
  • A Golden Guide: Flowers
  • A state Horticulture Society magazine
  • Draw 50 Flowers, Trees, and Other Plants by Ames

Here are the books on my shelf:
  • Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock
  • Nature Smart: Awesome Projects to Make With "Mother Nature's" Help
  • Nature Friend magazine, June 2008 issue

I will close with a sample lesson from
Handbook of Nature Study. As you can see, this handbook is easy to use, practical, and just as useful today as when it was printed in the early 1900's. This method could be modified to use with any flower in YOUR backyard. : )

LEADING THOUGHT The trilliums are
lilies, and are often called wood lilies, be-

cause of their favorite haunts. There are
several species, but they are all alike in
that they have three sepals, three petals,
and three leaves.

METHOD This lesson may be given
from trilliums observed in the woods by
the pupils, who should be encouraged to
watch the development of the berry and
also to learn all the different species com-
mon to a locality.


1. How many leaves

has the trillium? How are they arranged?
Draw a leaf, showing its shape and veins.
Describe the stem of the plant below the
leaves, giving the length and color.

2. How far above the leaves does the
flowerstalk or peduncle extend? Does the
flower stand upright or droop? Describe or
sketch the colors, shape, and arrangement
of the petals and sepals. Do the petals
have raffled margins?

3. Describe the pistil and the stigmas.
Describe the stamens and how they are
placed in relation to the pistil.

4. Do the flowers remain open during
cloudy days and nights?

5. What insects do you find visiting the
trilliums? Do the same insects visit the
purple and the white trilliums? What is
the difference in odor between the purple
and the white trillium? Does this seem
to bring different kinds of insects to each?

6. How does the color of the white tril-
lium change as the blossom matures?
What is the color and shape of the fruit
of each different species of trillium?
When is the fruit ripe?

Wordless Wednesday

Viva La Veggies

Our family, ok -- it's really just my husband and I, are committed to healthy family eating. One goal that I have is to eat a minimum of 4 servings of veggies a day. And, salty corn out of a can does not count. : ) As a former junk food junkie, this has been a challenge. However, it is amazing how much energy I feel when I am eathing right. Oh, and I have also dropped 40 pounds so far. ; )

Here are some principles that have really helped us:

1) Get a simple vegetarian cookbook and use the ideas to make vegetarian lunches. Recipes like Brown Rice Salad can be made the night before! Barnes and Noble and Borders have these types of books in the sale aisles all the time; that's where I picked up mine.

2) Instead of potatoes or white rice with dinner, make a second veggie. For us, that often means one cooked veggie and one raw one. For example, cooked carrots with raw broccoli or mashed cauliflower with raw baby carrots. For men or teens, add a slice or two of flaxseed or whole wheat bread.

3) Make a rule that snacks will include a raw fruit or raw veggie and have these readily available. I love to keep a beautiful fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. Cheese, nuts or low-fat popcorn are optional.

4) Every time you leave the house, pack a cooler of food. Bring water, fruit, low fat cheese sticks, baby carrots, almonds, and other healthy snacks. This will prevent you and the kids from getting over hungry and stopping by the McYuck Drive Thru.

5) Get the junk food out of the house. Your kids don't need it, and neither do you. When your kids' palates are used to high salt and heavy sugar, it will take a few weeks to acquire a taste for clean, fresh foods. Persevere -- instead of following your children in their bad habits by enabling them, lead them toward better choices. This is going to take time if you are a junk food junkie like I was.

Eating more fresh fruits and veggies will lay down a foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits for your children and your grandchildren. We can serve the Lord better with healthy, strong bodies than with frail, tired ones!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From Our Nature Notebook

Miss M sketched this chickadee yesterday. I think she did a beautiful job! : ) We are studying backyard birds and have had quite a few chickadees at our feeder. Miss M read that they supposedly are easy to coax into feeding from your hand, and she is going to try just that! The Handbook of Nature Study confirms that these friendly birds are easy to tame.

She also read about the habits and lives of the common backyard robin yesterday. We have not seen any robin's nests in our backyard this year as we have in past years, though. Did you know that a hungry baby robin must be fed every ten minutes by his busy parents?

For more information and an observation lesson on chickadees, see Handbook of Nature Study pages 68-69.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Lunch Menu

This week we will experiment with intentional leftovers at lunch time. These particular recipes are old standbys at our house! I am also following the Eat Clean breakfast/snack lists (downloaded from the Eat Clean Magazine website) pretty closely, and trying to drink lots of water. It is amazing how eating well makes me feel so much better in such a short time! I am committed to eating clean until the end of May and will reassess in June.

Thankfully, the Saving Dinner Low Carb system is in line with Eat Clean ideas, and it saves me from having to plan out a shopping list or pick out recipes. I am the type of cook who just wants to be told what to make and exactly how to do it; I am not very creative in the kitchen at ALL! We are still finishing up last week's Saving Dinner menu, and will start a new SD menu Wednesday.

Snacks this week are choice of: watermelon, apples, bananas, low fat cheese sticks, raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, almond butter on Ezekiel bread, plain yogurt with chopped banana, baked blue corn tortilla chips with organic fresh salsa and baby carrots, peppers or cucumber with roasted garlic hummus.


Mexican Wrap – whole wheat tortilla wrap or other flat bread, fill with heated, vegetarian refried beans or chili beans (a can is fine but dry the beans well), crispy lettuce and some cherry tomatoes. Put a spoonful of salsa on top. Serve with fresh fruit.


Wild & Brown Rice Salad – Toss together 2 1/2 cups of cooked and cooled Wild/Brown Rice Blend (I buy the pre-blended type so I can cook it altogether), 3-6 chopped green onions, 1/3 cup craisins, raisins, or dried cherries, 2 T chopped fresh cilantro, 1 T chopped fresh parsley with Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing (I love Paul Newman's). You can make this the night before and store in the frig. Just before serving, top with pecans or cashews. Serve with fresh fruit.


Hummus, Tomato & Cucumber Sandwich. Serve with fresh fruit and cheese sticks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Weekly Report

School here will be light from now until August, so I may combine weekly reports. We did a bit of this and a bit of that - mainly focusi
ng on nature study and health. Personally, I have been working on my nutrition/fitness goals, and I have happily noticed Miss M following my lead in this area by reading nutrition labels and being aware of more mindful eating. Today when her friend asked her for something sweet to eat, she exclaimed, "Oh, we are trying to avoid sugar around here. It's not good for you, you know! How about a whole wheat bagel?" : D


Nothing too formal here. Miss M did a notebook page on Cardinals, and she made several dog-themed bookmarks. They turned out really cute!

Did some crocheting and made some book
marks for gifts. Her crocheted scarf will go to some special person she will not reveal!

No math this week. I did have her measure her windows for new blinds and draw out a diagram.

Nature Study:

Backyard birds. We filled our bird feeder and put a small bath out on the deck. It has attracted sparrows, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, and crows so far. We read Nature Friend articles, read some backyard bird books, and did a sketch. It has been wonderful being aware of all the beautiful bird songs around us every day! It has been satisfying learning what bird songs are sung by which birds. We are loving nature study.

Family Reading:
Miss M's free reading is The Thief Lord. For read-aloud time, Iron Chef finished Seven Daughters and Seven Sons and began The Phantom Tollbooth. His personal reading is Saint by Ted Dekker. I have been rea
ding Clean Eating, (and trying to follow the principles pretty closely) Oxygen, the book of 1 Kings, and Joy Hakims's Reconstructing America.

Other School News
I recently got my first desk. That's right, I have never had my own desk in all my years of homeschooling! It is a large, cherry-colored, U-shaped desk with tons of work space and storage. It was acquired from Craig's List for a song.
I love it -- no more having to clear everything off of the dining room table every day! Also, my teaching materials and office supplies have been reorganized. Since I have most of my curriculum here for fall and it has been nice for all of it to have found a 'home!'

Outside teaching projects
Also got confirmation that I will be teaching four homeschool science classes in the fall, with kids ranging in age from first to eighth grades. I have been busy getting my program and materials organized for those classes. Teaching Sunday School at my home church will be another fun project this summer. Our church's theme will be 'It's a King Thing!' (exploring the Kings of the Bible), and I am looking forward to do some teaching and organizational work with this! It looks like a great summer program. I think the kids will learn a ton and have a blast!

That's about all we are up to right now. How was your week?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Curves Alternative

The idea of circuit training is a good one - maximize your workout time by doing both strength training and cardio. However, not all of us have the time or money for a gym membership. A few years ago another homeschool mom shared her idea for home circuit training using your stairs. I absolutely LOVED it and have used it to this day.

The basic idea is to run (or walk) up and down the stairs 2-3 times, depending on fitness level, and do some exercise reps, like push-ups, at the top of the stairs. Repeat sets of strength exercises with running up and down your stairs. This circuit workout is based on this same idea. You can always switch it up by doing different exercises. I like to put on a Bible-related internet stream while I work out, such as
New Living Translation (Dramatized) (I am studying 1 Kings currently) or "Renewing Your Mind" by RC Sproul at

I haven't worked out in a couple of weeks, and I am feeling pretty feeble. Here is my plan for this week combining ideas for upper body/abs from the Bikini Workout and the at-home circuit idea. I figure that waking or running those stairs is plenty of work for my lower body at this point. : ) Exercises will be on a towel (since I don't own a real workout mat) at the top of the stairs, 10-15 repetitions.

First, stretch out and warm up. I like to also open in prayer and then turn my music or teaching on when the workout starts.
  1. 1 set Ab Crunches
  2. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  3. 1 set Ab Crunches
  4. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  5. 1 set Push Ups
  6. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  7. 1 set Push Ups
  8. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  9. 1 set Oblique Crunches with Twist
  10. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  11. 1 set Oblique Crunches with Twist
  12. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  13. 1 set One-Arm Side Push Up
  14. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  15. 1 set Bicep One-Arm Side Push Up
  16. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  17. 1 set Tricep Dips
  18. Walk stairs (up and down) 4x
  20. 1 set Ab Crunches
  21. 1 set Push Ups
  22. 1 set Oblique Crunches with Twist
  23. 1 set One-Arm Side Push Up
  24. 1 set Tricep Dips
  25. Slowly walk stairs (up and down) 4x - recovering and breathing deeply
Stretch out and cool down a bit more if needed.

End with a prayer of thankfulness for at least 10 things today! Making a decision to get our bodies and appetites into submission is a choice to have greater energy and greater vitality in serving our King!

Fitness Tracker
Day 1: Did #1-18 followed by cool down. It took 20 minutes or so? Will have to work my way up! Listened to 1 Kings Ch 1-8 on audio.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

(Not) Monday Menu Plan

Wednesday: Mega-Layered Chef Salad
Thursday: Honey Mustard Skillet Chicken
Friday: Grilled Ginger Flounder
Saturday: Seared Chicken on Spinach
Sunday: Crock Chops
Monday: Orange-Glazed Beef

For breakfast, snacks and lunches, I am following my own "Healthy Lunch" ideas and "Eat Clean" principles.
Thank you, Katherine at Cornerstone Classical, for the the "Eat Clean" blog review! You can download a free 7 week Clean Eating menu HERE. I have also ordered a free issue of the magazine and can't wait until it arrives. Apparently it has menus and SHOPPING LISTS! This program closely follows what I have been doing on my own for the past couple of years. However, I have begun to slip a bit in the junk food and exercise areas and want to get back on track. It was inspiring and I think it will work well for me! For more info, click HERE and go to 'Clean Eating?'

For rainy days when I can't walk outside and for strength training, I ordered Billy Blank's Boot Camp DVD series. I love his original Tae Bo workouts, and hope the addition of the resistance bands will be good strength training. He is a motivating instructor and keeps me going! For another at-home strength training schedule with video how-to's, try the Bikini Workout.

What are your health and fitness goals this spring? Remember, "If it is to be, it is up to ME!"

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Finishing Math and Beginning Nature Study

Today, Miss M finished her CLE Math for the year!!! Woo hoo! I am taking her out for lunch in a little bit to celebrate. With Language Arts and Math completed, she has a real feeling of accomplishment. Especially since the motivation for finishing up has been coming from her and not from Mom.

Today we did Nature study, basically as I outlined below for week 1. The article on the American Dipper in Nature Friend was really engaging. The article was told as a story with lots of cool facts thrown in. Miss M also liked the bird-related poem in Nature Friend, and noted that it was written by a 13 year old who had sent it in! Inspired, she decided she will write her own poem about Cardinals this week. It really excited her to see all the art work drawn by other kids published in Nature Friend! She decided to sketch her own cardinal and hopes to send in some work to Nature Friend. The magazine is a HUGE hit with both of us. It will make the perfect summer nature study spine for us.

Last night Iron Chef and I picked up some bird books and guides at the library and created a Bird Book Basket. We filled it with titles on common backyard birds: robin, blue jay, and cardinal. We also found an art book about the art and photography of renowned birder Roger Tory Peterson. This will serve nicely as our art appreciation material.

Today we also filled our deck railing with dried corn and sunflower seeds, hoping to attract jays and cardinals. We plan to have several types of feeders out in the near future and keep track of the birds that come to dine. Later today, we will go on a birding walk and try to learn the songs of one or two local birds. Click HERE to hear samples of many different bird songs.

She is enthusiastic about trying the paper mache bird project in
Nature Smart, and we will post when that project is done, hopefully later this week.

I'll close with a poem:

Be Like The Bird
by Victor Hugo

Be like the bird, who
Halting in his flight
On limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet he sings
Knowing he hath wings.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Family Fun Day

It is so easy to stay home and organize, work around the house, and be task-oriented on the weekend! Well, as Flylady suggests, it's vital to take some time each week for a Family Fun Day! Those messy junk drawers can wait. We have been long overdue for a Fun Day!

This week-end was our maiden voyage with our first little boat. Of course, the boat landing was packed with long lines as Iron Chef and I bumbled our way through the launch! (Our boat should have come with boat launch classes - I am thinking you need some type of degree to launch properly.) I won't even go into backing the thing into a two-lane launch. Oy! As all the other expert boat launchers came and went, we continued with our comedy of errors until, at long last ---WHo
oooSH! We were finally successful. It was as if the heavens were opened to us! Hallelujah!

I'm surprised the waiting camouflage-wearing, fancy fishing pole-carrying, imported beer-drinking mob didn't didn't break into applause!
We obviously were the only ones at the boat launch that were completely inept! LOL! Oh well - we definitely made an impression. : )

Have you had a Family Fun Day lately?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Nature Studies

We have decided to try nature study a
t our house featuring a very successful activity: crafts. To this end, I am picking out materials for a few projects in the book Nature Smart and correlating them with Nature Friend magazine for the May 2008 issue. I just received my first copy of the magazine, and it looks fabulous! Nature Smart looks like fun spine for the summer; part nature study and part arts/crafts. I hope it will be a hit for us.

This is my initial correlation of Nature Friend and
Nature Smart for May:

Week 1: Birds
"The Dipper Bird" (
Nature Friend) p. 4-5
Bird Calling: "Kissing and Spishing for Birds" (
Nature Smart) p. 27
"Pictures and Poems: Birds" (
Nature Friend) p. 6
Craft: Paper Mache Bird (
Nature Smart) p. 369-370

Week 2: Birds
"May Nature Trails: Bluebirds" (
Nature Friend) p. 10
"Fuzzy's Rescue" (
Nature Friend) p. 20
Drawing: "You Can Draw....a Pier" (
Nature Friend) p 14-15
Craft: Bird Drinking Fountain (
Nature Smart) p. 22-23

Week 3: Worms & Butterflies
"In the Beginning God Created Earthworms" (Nature Friend) p. 12-13
Activity: Create a Wormery (Nature Smart p. 167-168)
Activity: Make a Butterfly Hatchery (Nature Smart) p. 29-30 - order caterpillars from Earth's Birthday Project

Week 4: Flowers

Identify, photograph, and press several backyard spring flowers and leaves for use in projects.
Craft: Wild Flower Candles (Nature Smart) p 162
Craft: Pressed Flower Note Cards (Nature Smart) p 163-164

I am feeling a little guilty about skipping out on a more traditional Nature Study approach, but I think a crafty approach will be a hit at our house. Hopefully we will round out our studies with lots of nature hikes, books I have on my shelf, field guides, and library books.

I'll try to post when we complete our first project, so check back!