cooking · family · fun · home tour · kids · play · projects

A DIY Play Kitchen

 My girls outgrew the store bought play kitchens long before they outgrew playing house.  Our solution: a DIY play kitchen.  I wish I had detailed instructions, but a quick search on the web will give you all the information/instructions you will need to complete this project in time for Christmas.  If you are looking for a wonderful gift for a special girl…look no further.  My daughters have enjoyed hours upon hours of fun in this playroom.  I love to watch my kids get lost in play. 

Speaking of playrooms…when it came to making a decision of what to do with the one extra room in the house…a school room, a playroom, or an office…we chose playroom.  I have never regretted that decision.  We filled it with baby dolls and accessories , dress up clothes, play kitchen toys, and a grocery store.  My parents made the little spool table and chairs a few years back.  The girls hand painted it.  They also painted a computer screen for their store using a cardboard box.  The refrigerator is full of realistic play food, the cabinets are stocked with pantry items and dishes.  The girls each have an apron. I bought them a small ironing board and gave them an old iron of mine after cutting the cord.  An old vacuum cleaner (my favorite Oreck), telephones, junk mail, and play money make the imagination play endless. I just love the miniature appliances.  I’ve been served a many gourmet meal from this kitchen.  

Our favorite kitchen toys are from Green Toys.  They are high quality and realistic…making play fun.

  This room is a screened in porch with an outside entrance, and this makes it easy for our neighbors’ daughter to pop in just to play.  Sometimes I only know we have company because I hear the sounds from the playroom.  Funny. The time and money we have spent in this room is well worth it… and it continues to be a delight for my little ones.

Here is a great site to visit to get inspiration and/or instructions to make your own play kitchen.  Just click through all three pieces for instructions for an entire kitchen.
or visit this fantastic board on Pinterest

cooking · food · projects · summer

Sweet Treats

Adalay and Caroline entered the two cakes below in our local 4-H project show in the family living division.  Addy’s cake, the Lemon Pound, won Grand Champion.  Caroline’s cake, the Sock It To Me, won Reserve Grand Champion.  Both cakes are delicious…perfect for any occasion. Enjoy the weekend!
Sock It To Me Cake


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbls. brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbls milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Take 2 Tbls. of the cake mix and mix with the cinnamon,brown sugar, and pecans; set aside.
  2.  In large bowl, blend cake mix,sour cream,oil,water,eggs, and sugar. 
  3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Pour 2/3 of batter into greased and floured bundt pan. 
  4. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture in the center of this and spread remaining batter evenly over this.
  5.  Bake at 375° for 45-55 minutes. Cool in pan for 25 minutes. Remove from pan.
  6. To make glaze; Blend powdered sugar and milk together to make a glaze. Drizzle over cake. 

Lemon Pound Cake 
recipe found at add a pinch

  • 3 sticks butter (1½ cups)
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • For the Lemon Buttermilk Glaze
  • 1½ cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare bundt or tube pan by coating with shortening or butter and flouring light. Set aside.
  2. Let butter, cream cheese, and eggs come to room temperature.
  3. Cream together butter, cream cheese and sugar til fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add lemon juice and zest and combine well. Add flour and salt and vanilla.
  4. Mix until just well-combined but do not over mix.
  5. Pour into prepared bundt or tube pan.
  6. Bake until golden brown and skewer inserted into middle of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  7. As the cake is cooling, whisk together ingredients confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and buttermilk to make the glaze. Allow to sit until cake has fully cooled, then drizzle over top of lemon pound cake.

cooking · faith · family · food · · marriage · motherhood · Orthodoxy

Bright Week

We made it!  That’s what I keep thinking as I am cleaning out the fridge..all the leftover fasting dishes going to the scraps.  (We have a septic system which means no garbage disposal.)  I hope the neighborhood dogs like veggies in the scrap pile…hehe!

 I emptied containers of bean salad, coleslaw, a bit of refried beans, orzo pasta with artichokes and capers, and I was doing pretty good until I came upon a container of hummus.  The site of that evoked an emotional response.  I am sick of hummus!  And then a few minutes later I was half tempted to eat the last little bit for lunch.  I guess in a way it’s hard for this to be over.  So much of Lent revolves around the kitchen, and an Orthodox kitchen is truly a spiritual place.  So much of the Christian faith is centered in the home.

And on that thought…

Lisa A shared a series of talks on her blog entitled  The Good Wife: Five Lectures on the Christian Ideal.
The first lecture is free, and the remaining are only $10 for the complete download.  Well worth the donation!

The Christian ideal of womanhood is beautiful.  I have been thinking this week about brightening up my home, and then I saw this over at OCN… 

BRIGHT WEEK- the week after Lent in which we continue to practice the spiritual values we gained over the last 40 days.

I thought, “What spiritual values did I gain over the last forty days?”  What values must I practice to brighten our lives…our home? I can think of several.

Humility that calms anger
Less talking
and most of all…

I hope your Bright Week is exceptional.  How are you recouping, feasting, and practicing?  
Our Bright Week has been good so far.
Monday we had steaks from the grill.  Tuesday we went to vespers at the hermitage and shared a meal with the small community that is forming there. (So excited about that.)  Today we went to the park, and I am grilling hamburgers for dinner.  Thursday I hope I can get in my garden and plant a few things.  Friday Addy is going to a homeschool prom party!  Caroline is spending the night with her best friend.  Slade, the littles, and I are having ice cream sundaes.  The weekend is full with piano recital practice and St. Thomas Sunday.  
What are your plans for Bright Week?  Anything special?

cooking · faith · family · food · Orthodoxy · parenting · play · seasons

Glorify Him!

I am standing in my kitchen cooking up a storm.  The presents are all wrapped.  Kiddos are watching Christmas movies and singing Christmas carols.  The house smells amazing.  We made it!  We made it to Christmas Eve, and every year I am amazed.

After a lack luster first few weeks, I have found my Christmas spirit.  The days of humbug made me appreciate traditions.  When I was less than enthusiastic about the season I still had our family traditions to keep me from missing Christmas. And as we kept the traditions I slowly found my groove.

Mamas have this wonderful gift…we can make Christmas amazing for our families in the little things we do, in the smile we wear, in the tune we hum, in the giggles, and snuggles, and the sugary treats.  A mom has this energy, and it is infectious.  Food and festivities.  I love serving up scrumptious dishes with a side of I love you.

Christmas is a time of hospitality for me.  As I clean, shop, cook, wrap, and prepare I try to invite a spirit of comfort and warmth into our home.  I have found that the warmth comes from my heart and not in orchestrating a perfect Christmas.  I just love my family and friends.  

Christ is coming, along with friends and family.  We are family.  May our homes and hearts make a place for the Savior, and may we welcome everyone with warmth and joy.

Christ is Born…Glorify Him!

I glory in His presence, He has brought tidings of great comfort and joy.  Christ is in our midst  He is and ever shall be.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

On the Menu
Honey Glazed Ham
Mashed Potatoes
Almond Green Beans
Yeast Rolls
Martha Washington Candies
Pecan Pralines
Almond Toffee
Craisin and White Chocolate Cookies
Ranger Cookies
cleaning · cooking ·

Housewife Challenge

My friend Lori and I were driving home together last night from a 4-H food scavenger hunt at Central Market, and we got to talking about being in a house keeping rut.  We had just stuffed ourselves with Sushi and were feeling pretty good, but this house thing was bothering both of us.  She said her house was out of control, and I mentioned that I needed to get my house around for company this weekend.  We left off the conversation with a half- hearted promise to do better and get things whipped into shape.  Well, I got up this morning moving slower than normal and just feeling blah.  So, I came up with this challenge.  It is not intended to be a full house cleaning challenge…just a jump start to get the engine running.  It made me laugh, and I texted my friend to see if she was down.  Because of her schedule, we are going to do this tomorrow.  That got me to thinking.  Maybe the ladies who read my blog would like to get in on the fun!  So, if this is something that you think is doable, send it to a friend, or maybe a few friends, and have fun together getting ready for the weekend. Feel free to customize your own challenge, make it your own.
It’s on tomorrow…you and me Lori!

I challenge you to a Housewife challenge, a silly insane game that has no winner:

General Rules:
Text to begin each challenge.
Text after you finish each challenge.
No cheating…(like getting the kids to help, or stuffing stuff under beds, couches, or in ovens.)

 Level 1: An entire home rescue pick up.
 Here are the rules:

  • You can only spend 10 minutes each of 3 rooms. 
  • Send a picture to your opponent of the “before” of each room before the timer begins. 
  • When the timer goes off send an “after” shot of the same room. 
  • Start the music and turn it up loud. 
  • When the timer goes off clean like mad.

When we are done with this phase of the game we level up.

Next Level: Kitchen in 30 minutes.
  • Dishwasher and sink must be unloaded.
  • Dirty dishes must be dealt with.
  • Counters must be wiped down.
  •  Floor must be swept.
  • Trash must be taken out.
  • Sink must be shined.
  • This challenge must be done with red lipstick on. (or any bright color you can find.)
 Next level: Bathroom in 20 minutes.
  • The toilet, shower, tub, and vanities (including the mirror) must be cleaned. 
  • You must sweep and spot mop the floor.
  • Trash must be emptied. 
  • This challenge must be done in silence. (That includes no moaning and groaning in disgust.) 

Next level: Car in 15 minutes.

  •  Everything from the car must be put away or thrown away. 
  • The front dashboard must be wiped down. 
  • This challenge must be done barefoot. 

Next Level: Dusting in 10 minutes. 

  • Living room must be dusted entirely. 
  • Master bedroom must be dusted entirely. 
  • This challenge must be done with sunglasses on. 

 Next Level: Floors in 20 minutes. 

  • All floors that can be vacuumed must be vacuumed. 
  • This challenge must be done in socks. 

Next Level: Dinner in 15 minutes. 

  • You must start dinner and have all components going. 
  • This challenge must be done in high heels. 

After the Housewife Challenge is complete…meet me at Mickey D’s with a hat on your head for a big Dr. Pepper. Loser pays, I know there is no loser, but it sounded good!  Drinks are on me!

books · cooking · food · homeschooling ·

A Few Weekly Finds

On the Web…

100 Days of Real Food
I enjoyed perusing this website.  Although I may not always buy organic, and I do not stress about that much, I do like cooking real food. This website offers simple ideas and a few free meal plans.  I like simple.  I plan to use some of the recipes from here to plan my menu for next week.

T- Tapp
I recently saw this workout on a website I visit frequently.  The author of the blog struggles with sever Diastasis Recti, and she has found ways to put her body back together after seven pregnancies.  I also have this condition, although not as severe, and I am looking for ways to strengthen my abdomen and put my organs back in place.

I bought the Basic Workout Plus during a Deep Discounted Tuesday at half price.  It is a fifteen minute workout that promises to put my organs in place.  I hope it works.  My week has been crazy, and I have not started it yet.(I guess I could be doing the workout instead of blogging…couldn’t I?) I plan to start this weekend when I have a little more time to myself.

Heritage History
This site is even has many stories you can read for free!  I have used it to supplement Caroline’s history.  Take some time to explore this site.  The prices are reasonable as well!

At the Library  

This little picture book is perfect for a quiet time with a wee little.

Pond Babies by Cathryn Falwell 
As you can see, we have babies on the mind around here.

Baby-Led Breastfeeding 
You would think that by now I would be an expert at nursing…but I am not.  I do ok, but I have been struggling in the evening with frequent feedings and not producing enough during this batch feeding.  I picked this book up, and I have found many helpful reminders and some new things to try.  Yesterday afternoon I relaxed as I laid down with Samuel, tried new nursing positions, and enjoyed some skin to skin snuggle time as well.  Nursing is wonderful when I relax!

  A morning spent at the park and library after an orthodontist visit was just what we needed after an intense first three weeks of school.  My older girls are loving their online classes, but getting back into the school groove after a long summer has not been without its moments of drama. I cannot believe that September is almost come and gone!

cooking · food

Roasted Chicken & Cantaloupe Salsa

I roasted a chicken in my favorite dutch oven, and then I shredded it.  I planned on making chicken salad for later in the week, but that never materialized.  Today during our 4-H Food and Nutrition meeting the girls made this yummy Cantaloupe Salsa, and I decided to top the savory chicken with this refreshing garnish.  It was really yummy paired with a Dos Equis Lager.  Enjoy a last bit of summer harvest!   

Cantaloupe Salsa
 2.5 cups cantaloupe, finely diced (about 1/2 large cantaloupe)
 1 cup red onion, finely diced
 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced 
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
 juice of 1 lime salt to taste

cleaning · cooking · faith · family · friendship · homeschooling · · organizing · parenting · pregnancy

I’m Back…

Well this has been a very difficult recovery for me.  After an allergic reaction to a pain medication, a trip to the ER for what turned out to be post pregnancy hypertension, and a more painful recovery than ever I finally feel like posting something today.  Before today I could not even set at the computer, and I did not feel like doing anything.  Thankfully I have been able to hold my precious new baby boy, and nurse, and snuggle practically non stop.  That part is wonderful.

I hope to return to my homeschooling series this coming week.  I am also looking forward to getting our homeschool plans finalized and a few things organized.  I have high hopes for some cooking and general homemaking.  After being practically immobile for 21/2 months, surgery, and recovery complications my body is slow and a little weak, however I do not mind taking it easy.  It feels so good to be up and moving and really present.  My mom pointed out that instead of surviving my day I could now take things in and let things go out again…I could be at peace after a hard work.

Things can never go back to the way they were before Samuel was born.  My work, my schedule, my time, my priorities…they are all changing and adjusting and coming into a new normal.  I love it!  And I love making a place for Samuel.

As fall approaches and summer fades I can barely write this post without crying.  For all those who prayed for Good Strength…thank you.  A season has come and gone…it was hard, but I love the fall.  My struggle is now my joy…it is joy for my whole family.

cooking · faith · family · homeschooling · learning · parenting

Fasting: What’s for Dinner Mom?

My kids ask what’s for dinner at the breakfast table.  They also wake up hungry and have very strong opinions about what they will and will not eat in the mornings.  Before I addressed this problem when my two oldest were younger, I felt like a short order cook.  I quickly began to realize that this demand, the demand of their little stomachs, was not a healthy thing.  So, I set about to get at the heart of the matter- I had breakfast ready, or almost ready before they woke up.  When they came into the kitchen in the morning there was only one option.  Also, if I did not get breakfast cooked in time I would give the girls two choices and that was it- take it or leave it.

When my husband was a child he was allowed to eat whenever, wherever, however, and as much as he desired.  His family hardly ever sat at the table, and he ate alone in front of his TV in his room.  He was not trained, or should I say his stomach was not trained.  As a result he is now an adult struggling with gluttony, he is a slave to cravings and addictions in this area.  He hates this, and is struggling to mature in this area by overcoming his passions.  In a real way, I think he understands true fasting, not because he is so great at it, but because he fails at it and keeps trying.

In my family, food was treated more organically.  I was raised on a farm, and my mother cooked nutritious meals.  We also sat at the table 99% of the time.  We did not have the money to eat out, so when we did it was a treat.  Most of our food came from a garden, and I developed a taste for fresh vegetables and farm raised meat.  I was not allowed to snack whenever I wanted, and sugar was a rare treat.  My mom loved to bake, and so I did not have all the packaged and processed sweet treats that my husband did.  Food was always about fellowship.  Our southern ways can sometimes backfire in that we think food defines an occasion.  This is definitely the case with me.  I have an expectation with food that desires a certain feeling.  Needless to say, I also struggle with keeping food in its rightful place.

When we became Orthodox I realized that I did indeed have passions and cravings, and so when the struggle began to follow the church’s fasting rule it was difficult. It is still difficult for me.  In my struggle I have tried to bring my children along with me.  I talk to them, we plan meals, and we share our struggles with one another.  Fasting has changed the way we eat, therefore it has changed the way we live.  In that sense, fasting is one of the most important parts of our homeschool life.  And fasting is not just about the days on the calendar when we are restricted from eating certain foods.  It is about the totality of our relationship with food.

I do not know all the aspects or spiritual benefits of fasting.  I have read alot about it, and I know our Lord fasted.  I also know that the Church has maintained the discipline for a reason. These facts are enough for me to trust the Church and make fasting a priority.  My goals for fasting change every year.  Some years we have fasted better than others, mostly due to pregnancy and breast feeding.  Since I am the main cook, it is hard for the rest of the family to fast during these times.

Here are just a few things I have learned about fasting with children.  These are great for adults too (I try to follow these things too, and I struggle):

  • Teach children to pray and thank God for their food.  This is number one in my book.
  • Do not allow a child to dictate what he/she will and will not eat.  This requires diligence and patience.  I see children who will not eat much of  anything, they are so picky.  This is something I feel strongly about, and I believe is the heart of training children to fast.
  • Train children to say please and thank you for food that is prepared for them or given to them.
  • Eat at the table as much as possible… together as a family.
  • Limit appetite triggering foods: sugar and junk food mainly. (This is a hard one.)
  • Set limits on how much or how little a child is allowed to eat.  This rule is very relational in our home.  A teenager eats more than a toddler.  A toddler is not always hungry.  There are different circumstances.
  • Teach children where their food comes from and how to cook themselves.
  • If a child refuses to eat a certain food, keep offering it for at least a year.  If a child refuses to eat all together, set their plate on the counter.  When they return and claim to be starving, offer them their plate.
  • Teach them to limit the amount of food that they put on their plates at coffee hour, buffets, and pot luck dinners.  Also, it does not hurt older children to get at the back of the line and learn to be content with what is left.
  • Let children eat when they are hungry, but watch out for boredom or emotional eating.
  • Keep celebrations and relate pleasure food with feasting times.  If we never fast, how can we feast?

My goals for this year in the area of fasting are:

  • Say a prayer of thanks over every piece of food that enters our mouths (this may be done silently at times).  Even at snack times.
  • Work together in the kitchen to prepare fasting meals that are nutritious.  Let the kids take on some of the fasting meal planning.
  • Stop eating right before we get full.  This will take alot of practice..over and over and over.

    Homeschooling families eat most of their meals together.  This is a real opportunity of grace.  I could write about the nature of fasting from my point of view, or how I believe deep in my heart, but I just do not feel qualified or ready for that.  But, I can say that training the stomach is a highly spiritual and physical struggle, and that is why it is a pillar of our daily homeschool life.  How do you teach your children to fast?  Do you have recipes you can share or ideas to make fasting meaningful?
    Let us encourage one another, and Happy Homeschooling! 


Perfectly Painless Pie Crust

A friend of mine gave me this pie crust recipe a few years back, and I love it.  It is not a butter delicious old fashioned crust, but it is a great go to when I need to make a quick apple pie or quiche.  It is flaky and savory, but most of all it is almost impossible to mess up.  Enjoy!

4 cups unsifted flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1 3/4 cups shortening
1 large egg
1/2 cup cold water

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix well.  Add shortening and mix with spoon or fingers until mixture is crumbly.  In a small bowl combine water, vinegar, and egg and mix with a fork.  Pour liquid into the crumbly mixture and stir with the fork until all ingredients are moistened.

Makes four small heavenly pie crusts or three large.  Make into 3-4 balls and freeze for later.  Or roll out and bake in a pie dish according to recipe you are using for the filling.