Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Favorite Podcasts

I want to start by saying I am not an audio learner.  I zone out on audio books and if you try to explain the direction to a game out loud to me, I'll politely nod and then read the instructions for myself.  

I've discovered this school year that one of my children is also a strong visual learner. We read a large part of our history and science curriculum together, including every child and grade level in a group learning environment.  It's becoming obvious that this method is not working with my visual learner.  He appears to listen, but when asked a question or asked to retell what he's heard, he remembers nothing. Sometimes he can't even tell me the name of the person we spent the past 20 minutes studying.  We are working on developing a new plan of action for him that I'll share on the blog soon.

Having said all that, I am surprised at how much I enjoy listening to podcasts. A couple of times per week I go out for a long, steady run and podcasts keep my mind occupied while I go the distance.  (For shorter speed runs, music is best because it doesn't require as much concentration.)  I also occasionally enjoy podcasts while I'm folding the laundry, when I'm in the car alone, during quiet time, or before I go to sleep at night.  (I generally don't wear earbuds when my kids are in the room.)

Here a few podcasts I enjoy and you may, too:

The Inspired to Action Podcast
If you're not sure which to choose, start with this one: My Story: How God Takes Brokenness and Makes it Beautiful.

The Simple Mom Podcast
It's the next best thing to having someone to talk to while I run.  A great conversational podcast? All the Sheets with Myquillyn Smith (The Nester)

Another Mother Runner Podcast
This is a secular podcast that covers a variety of running topics for women (specifically mothers) at all fitness levels, but it's not boring.  I promise!  My fave episode lately is this one: How to Run a Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon.

Read Aloud Revival Podcast
If you've read my blog for very long, you know this episode is right up my alley: A Lifestyle of Reading Aloud.

Do you listen to podcasts?  Any to recommend?

Monday, October 27, 2014

5 Hot Chocolates to Warm Up Your Week

The mild temperatures are trying to hold on a little while longer, but even 72 degree days (like what we're expecting today) begin with chilly mornings and end with brisk evenings. It's time to break out the hot chocolate.

When I say hot chocolate, I don't mean the powdered stuff mixed with water.  That will do for my kids in a pinch, but I like my hot chocolate rich, chocolatey, and with a milk base. Here's how you can have some of what we're having:

Indulgent Hot Chocolate

There are two ways to get a cup of standard chocolate.  You'll have to sample both to see what you prefer.  ~wink~

For the first, whisk 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder with 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar.  Add a few drops of water and whisk until you get a syrupy consistency (like the photo below), then whisk in 8 oz. very warm milk.

Alternatively, you can skip the dry ingredients, but as you heat your 8 oz. of milk on the stovetop, stir in ¼ cup of dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips until smooth.  The chips will not melt completely and you will have little slivers of chocolate floating in your cup.  It's decadent!


Once you settle on a method to make your base cup of chocolate, you can experiment with some of these varieties. 

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

Add 1 tablespoon of peanut butter to your cup of chocolate. Whisk until it is incorporated. 

Autumn Pumpkin Hot Chocolate
Whisk cup of pumpkin puree into cup of chocolate and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon and nutmeg.

White Hot Chocolate
Substitute ¼ cup of white chocolate chips for the plain chocolate ones.

Mint Hot Chocolate 
Substitute mint chips for the chocolate ones or add a few drops of mint extract before drinking. For an extra treat, drop 1-2 peppermint patties into your cup!

Friday, October 24, 2014

a list on Friday

Fridays are good days for lists, don't you think? 

1) We had our first frost this week, on Monday. I went for a run that morning and it was so cold my fingers hurt.  Time to bring out the running mittens and put away the flip flops.

2) Oh, but not so fast!  It is supposed to be in the 70s several days next week.

3) Have you tried pumpkin spice M&Ms or candy apple M&Ms? If not, you should.

4) Speaking of pumpkin, I've been experimenting with a variety of pumpkin recipes this fall and yet somehow it's almost November and I haven't made pumpkin bread!

5) A random fact I learned this week: Scientist think that the weight of ants in the world equals the weight of people in the world.

6) Last weekend, all five of the kids had a sleepover at their grandmother's house.  This weekend, two of the boys are having a sleepover at their other grandparents' house.  Weekends have been quiet(er) around here lately.

7) The kids are more than half way through their fall gym class.  Where have the weeks gone?!  (I'm going to miss my weekly chat with adult friends.)

8) Brian is home for dinner almost every night now. Grass cutting season is coming to a close.

9) I don't like any of the players on this season of Survivor.  I had two early favorites and both have already been voted off.

10) I want to spend the whole day today reading my book, but I need be a grown-up and teach school, clean my bathroom, make a batch of granola bars, fold the never-ending laundry pile, and help the boys pack for their sleepover.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Proverbs 3:5-6

It's a scripture I've read many times.  Maybe you have, too. I always subconsciously assume that a straight path signifies an easy path.  If I surrender my way to the Lord, He's going to make the way easy, but as I've been praying through an issue recently, I've had new insight. 

As a runner, I don't find any road easy.  Whether it is straight or curved, hilly or flat, it is still effort.

A straight road does not mean an easy road.

A straight road can be long.  When I begin, I don't often know what I'll find at the end.

But when I travel a straight road I have no question  about the direction I'm heading.

When the Lord promises us a straight road, He does not guarantee ease, but He does promise that He will make our direction clear.

Monday, October 20, 2014

a new eBook

A few weeks ago I took a blogging break to work on a special project and today I'm excited to announce that on Monday, November 3 my new eBook will be available for free download on my blog! 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

{More Weekend Links}

4 things (both frivolous and serious!) that I'm loving this weekend:

12 Simple Things That Can Bring Peace Into Your Home
  Love #1, #4, #10...really, I love them all!

Book It! Alumni Program  no reason to turn down free pizza

Simplify. series
  (especially meal planning week, starting on Day 13)

The Literary United States  Have you read the book  representing your state?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

S'more Ideas for Autumn

I don't consider myself an outdoorsy girl, but I do love an autumn bonfire. You can sit a bag of marshmallows in front of me and I would never be tempted, but if you roast one over a fire, I can't resist. 

{As an aside, how do you like your marshmallows-- a light toasty brown, black and crispy, or somewhere in between?  I love a charred marshmallow.  If yours accidentally catches on fire, hand it to me!}

our first backyard bonfire of the season

We are bringing the campfire theme inside this year, too.  Earlier this month, Alaine and Ben used washable paint to make hand-print campfire pictures.  Or as Alaine called them... "fire camps."

As long as the sun is out, summer s'mores are great in the fall, too.  We tried making them with other varieties of chocolate as suggested, but the kids voted hands down that the standard milk chocolate was best.

If you have a few marshmallows leftover from your s'mores, your kids will love this science experiment.  Believe me!

We had friends over yesterday afternoon and served  Gimme S'more Muffins.  They were a hit!  We found the recipe in one of Owen's cookbooks under the breakfast section so we also sent one with Brian for his morning commute to work.

We have a family movie night tentatively planned for Saturday night and I plan to mix up a batch of this s'more snack mix for a treat. It's probably sugar overload, but it will be a fun alternative to popcorn.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dinner Culture

I don't know about your house, but the hour before dinner at our house is usually crazy.  Everyone is hungry. We're tired, too.  Sometimes we're returning home from errands plus trying to fit in showers, walking the dog, putting away groceries, and getting food into the oven.  It's a noisy, cranky, hectic time of day.

That's why we've made it a habit to create a level of peace and enjoyment when we sit down for evening mealtime. As parents, Brian and I have a mutual goal to create traditions and memories for our kids that they will remember into adulthood so we are intentional about this habit.

{We savor this 45 minutes or so of our day because as soon as we get up from the table, the volume goes back up and the craziness continues.  Is it just my kids are do yours develop an amazing amount of energy in the hours leading up to bedtime?!}

My kids' newest favorite thing to do at dinner is to rate the meal.  It's most fun when we are trying a new recipe, but sometimes they like to rate old standards, too.  It starts with one person saying, "Okay. Taste your fill-in-the-blank and see what you think."  Then everyone gives a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs sideways sign.  Often we'll explain why we thought that way.  Was the sauce too spicy?  Was it better than expected?  Did it contain an ingredient we didn't like?  No one is allowed to be rude, but everyone is allowed to be honest.  Everyone still has to eat the night's portion, but this fun game helps me know whether to make a dish again.  Gavin likes to step it up a notch.  He likes us to rate meals on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Often we discuss our day or upcoming events at the dinner table, but sometimes someone suggests a more directed topic. The kids love to ask questions and have us go around the table giving answers.  What is your favorite holiday? What is your favorite dessert? What do you want for your birthday?

When we are done eating, we linger at the table.  One of the kids passes a small chocolate to each person.  (We keep a candy jar in our pantry filled with our special after-dinner chocolates.)  Then Brian reads a story or two  from Egermeier's Bible Story Bookand asks a few questions about the passage.  On nights when he's not home, I'll sometimes read a chapter of Missionary Stories With the Millers.

Our after dinner table activities are not always serious.  The kids often request a Mad Libsor a chapter of Encyclopedia Brown.  

And now that I've shared the ways we reconnect as a family around the dinner table, I'll share a little secret.  One of my kids' favorite dinner time traditions does not take place at the table.  It doesn't even involve much togetherness!  About once every week or two, I'll cook an easy (or un-messy) dinner and they eat at the coffee table in the living room while they watch a movie.  They love it and look forward to this special treat!

Do you eat meals together as a family or do you find other ways to spend time together?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

{Weekend Links}

5 things (both frivolous and serious!) that I'm savoring this weekend:

Classic cult: 5 Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedies    I want to see #5

Fall decorating + the back story...    an honest look at life with 5 kids

31 Days of Date Nights    accessible at-home ideas

What is the Biblical way to think about family size?
  food for thought

Write 31 Days (2014) pinboard  a collection of series that grabbed my interest

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Three Words

concentrating on pre-algebra

coloring a woodpecker

 a good book

"lived in" look

leftovers for lunch

The Great Pumpkin

Girl. Dog. Boy.

whisper of change

ready to eat

soup for dinner
want the recipe?

feel the wind

night is coming

How was your day{in three words}?

Mine was happy.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Almost There: a look at my goals

We're three-quarters of the way through the year.  Or nine-twelfths. Whatever way you choose to look at it, the months are ticking by and we are facing the last three months of the year.  It's crunch time for getting those goals completed! 

Truly, I'm not feeling the pressure, though.  I've worked steadily on my goals through the year, tweaking and adding as I go. What I don't finish by December, I'll roll over into the new year {without disappointment and without guilt}.

It's always fun to take a peek back over the months at what I've accomplished...and, of course, include a few links and photos.  My goals are bulleted while my notes are written in teal.

I accomplished much in the kitchen over the first quarter of the year and I included details and photos in my March goal post.

I finally started my vanilla in August (using the very basic directions given here). I shake it about once a week and I indulge myself with an occasional sniff, but it won't be ready to use until at least November.

  • Eat at Chipotle.  (Am I the only one who hasn't been?!)
I'm a convert! I crossed this goal off in February and I talked about it on the blog here, but then I went again to carb-load on the evening before my half-marathon...and again to grab lunch before heading to the beach...and again on a night out with a friend...

  • Run a 2-mile race with Brian.
I accomplished this goal  in mid-February.  I shared a photo and details from the race here. 

  • Train and run a 1/2 marathon. 
I did it!  I trained hard for over 3 months and then on a cool, clear morning, I ran my heart out.  I shared a few things about the race that surprised me and then I gave a full race report here

  • Run a 5K and a 10K in the fall.
Brian and I signed up to run a 5K last Saturday. It was a warm fall afternoon and we participated with close to 400 other runners and walkers. Brian beat his personal time goal by over a minute and I came in 3rd in my age group (females, aged 30-39).

I'm running a 10K next Saturday and Brian is doing another 5K.

I'm continuing to work on increasing speed and maintain a solid mileage base. Between January 1 and September 30, I ran 767 miles.  
  • Build my upper body and core strength.  Hold a plank for 4 minutes.
 I finished the 30 Day Plank Challenge on June 15 and held a plank for almost 5 minutes!   Since then I've not held a plank longer than 30 seconds and I don't intend to either! 

  • Learn to change the oil in the van and learn to change the wiper blades, too.
This is a leftover goal from 2013 and I may not get to it this year either.  Someday...

  • Take each child out individually for a meal at a restaurant they would enjoy.
Accomplished...and I included a few details in my March check-in.

  • Read 50 books-- not including books I read aloud to my kids or books we read for school.
I set this goal with the idea that I would read approximately 4 books a month, maybe 1 a week.  I underestimated myself and set this goal too conservatively.   I've read over 60 books so far this year, not counting the books I've read aloud with the kids (which number close to 20).

I added 2 secondary challenges to my goal.  I want to read all of the books from the 2014 Sisters Book Challenge  I'm doing with my sister.  I've read 8 of her 10 suggestions so only 2 more to go!

Plus I've chosen 4 classics I challenged myself to read by the end of the year.  I picked one to read each season and I've read 3 so far-- 1 more to go!

  • Develop a new chores system for the kids, including responsibilities for the two youngest.
  • Focus on teaching kids to take initiative for their hygiene, school work, and responsibilities.
  • Plan our 2014/2015 school year and write a loose daily schedule.
    These three goals go hand in hand(s?). I gave a brief explanation of our new chore system in my March check-in and went into greater detail in a separate post here

    The best thing I did to help with initiative this year was to give the three older kids their own schedule for the school day.  I did it as an afterthought (really to help me more than to help them) but it's been wonderful to see them think about how to best manage their time and to work ahead in an effort to make each day easier.  A few weeks ago I added a schedule for Ben (1st grade), too, so he can anticipate what he will be working on each day of the week.

    As far a chores go, some of the kids have found their groove and others have to be reminded to stick with their tasks.  I need to be more intentional on going behind Alaine and checking on her work. I'm considering tweaking the schedule at the beginning of next year-- maybe switching jobs around a bit and also adding more responsibility for some kids.

    • Take (or have someone else take) new non-candid photos of my kids. 
    My sister photographed my kids for me at the end of the spring.  (I chose a favorite photo of each of my kids and have them displayed on my blog's right sidebar.) This summer I printed some of my favorites and framed them for our living room. 


    I'll do one last goal check-in at the end of the year.  Did you make any goals this year? Do you plan to accomplish them before January?

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