Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Holden’s 9th Birthday Party!!!

After being postponed due to a blizzard last weekend, Holden finally got to DSCF4767have his party on Saturday!  He just had the two little neighbor girls over, all of the adults from church, and a couple of adult family friends.  Everyone had a great time, though!

His little neighbor friends stayed over from noon until 7 PM, and they played and played all day.  They had such a good time playing hide and seek in the house.

I ordered a chicken tender platter from Wal-mart and picked up cheese, veggie, and fruit trays.  I set out some snacks like salami, crackers, little turkey cocktail sausages, and different kinds of chips and pretzels and called it done! 

Preparing was pretty stress-free, so I made a very special, fancy cake as his birthday cake.  I made a Cherry Cheesecake Chocolate Bundt Cake!  Wow…it was fabulous!  I didn’t have room to put it in the fridge, so I opted to bake it the morning before the party started.  It ended up needing to bake for an hour and half before the cheesecake in the middle finally set, so there was no way it was going to cool in time to chill it before we had to eat it!  It was still good, but when we refrigerated the remainder and had it the next day, it was amazing!  It totally changed the texture to be like a brownie with cherry cheesecake inside.  Yum!

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It was so nice spending the day with our closest family friends.  And with only a couple of kids, it remained fairly calm and orderly.  Holden really enjoyed himself.  He was so excited because he knew someone had gotten him a couple of Xbox 360 games that he was dying to play, so right after he opened the gifts, he actually disappeared for a bit while he went to play them!  LOL.  He’s so funny.

Many to thanks to all of our friends who came out to celebrate with us!  You all made it a special day for Holden, and we appreciate it.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hubby’s 45th Birthday…and a Blizzard!

Holden’s 9th birthday party was supposed to happen on Saturday, but the weather had other plans.  We got a blizzard instead!  So I had to reschedule the party to next Saturday instead.

It just so happened that Saturday was my husband’s actual birthday, as well.  He said that growing up in Michigan, he often had snow on his birthday that kept him from going to school, even if it wasn’t forecasted.  So I told him it was his fault we got socked with a blizzard, which is a rare occurrence here in sunny Virginia Beach!

It was fun watching the storm come through.  It snowed overnight and all day Saturday until late evening.  It was beautiful!  We had sleet first, and it stayed below freezing for several days afterwards, so the neighborhood roads have remained a sheet of ice.  My senior has been out of public school for 3 days now!  With warmer temps today and rain, it’s all turning to slush and melting away, so he should be able to get back to school tomorrow, without a doubt.  It was fun while it lasted! 

I had no desire to go out in the burning cold, but my kids enjoyed sledding on a hill nearby over the weekend with some of the neighborhood kids.  Haylee’s little face was so wind-burned!  She went outside every chance she got in her new snowsuit that we picked up at the thrift store in anticipation of winter.

So without Holden’s party, I was able to make a really nice cake for Steve.  He likes carrot cake best, so I found a recipe on Pinterest for a lovely Carrot Bundt Cake.  It was so good!  It had a cream cheese filling and also a cream cheese frosting drizzled over the top with crumbled pecans.  Yum!

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Hubby was a good sport in letting us sing to him, and the kids snuck some sparkler candles on the cake that were nearly impossible to blow out because they kept re-lighting!  What fun would it be without some trick candles?!?

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It has been wicked trying to get the kids focused on their school work with Hayden home this week.  They are so distracted just by his presence in the house!  ARGH!  And the snow has been a constant draw for Haylee’s attention.  At least it’s going away now!  LOL

The new Crew year has begun on the Homeschool Review Crew this week, as well, so we’ll be getting assigned to new reviews over the next few days.  Then reviews will get posted in the next month or so, so stay tuned!  I’ll keep the Upcoming Reviews section updated in the right margin of my blog as I get assigned to products, so keep your eye on that for what’s to come!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Birthdays Abound!

Let me start by saying Happy New Year  to all of you!  I hope you have a safe and blessed year ahead of you.

The holidays have been so busy, as they usually are for us.  Holden turned 9 on December 28th.  I can hardly believe this is his last birthday before he hits the double digits!  All of my babies are growing up on me.  Here’s his requested jumbo pineapple upside down cupcake, and here is a video of him as we sung happy birthday.

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Today is my 45th birthday!  I dedicated my efforts in 2016 to getting fit and healthy again.  I lost about 19 pounds, and I’m happy to say that I exercise every day and eat right, and I’m feeling pretty good to be this old!  I’m much happier with myself at the turn of this new year than I was on my birthday last year, that’s for sure. 

My kids usually cook for me and do all of the dishes on my birthday, but this year, I volunteered to do all of the regular cooking if they would just bake me a special cupcake for my birthday and clean up afterwards, so that’s what they did!  I was actually hunting for a special cupcake to make for Holden’s upcoming birthday party when I ran across this recipe on Pinterest for Apple Pie Cupcakes.  I love ALL things apple cinnamon, so I immediately knew that this was what I wanted for my own birthday.  I was so happy when everyone agreed to this idea, so I picked up all of the ingredients, printed out the recipe, offered my tidbits of advice, and went to do my workout while Steve and Haylee set to work making magic happen in the kitchen.  I happened to have a Pillsbury Cinnamon Bun cake mix in the house, so I suggested they use that instead of yellow cake to make it even more cinnamon-y.  Man, were they ever delicious!  I want these every year…

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I started out the day by going out for a lovely breakfast with my husband, Steve, at Denny’s.  This is a traditional thing we do every year on my birthday.  We don’t get out too much together without the kids, so this is something special we really look forward to.  We had a nice leisurely morning together and then headed off with the kids for church.  I had made a special dinner for everyone the night before with leftovers for tonight, so we got to enjoy my made-from-scratch calzones for my birthday dinner.  Yum!  I really should have taken a photo of them after they were baked, but they weren’t around too long once they came out of the oven!  LOL

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Now I have to get busy planning for Holden’s birthday party next Saturday, which also happens to be Steve’s actual 46th birthday!  As I said, this stretch of holidays is a busy time for my family with three birthdays to celebrate thrown into the mix of Christmas and New Year’s.  I had a great weekend, and one of my oldest and dearest friends, Roslyn, came over on Friday night to watch a movie with me and hang out.  We had such a good time.  You can never spend enough time with good friends!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year in 2017!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas 2016

Since Christmas fell on Sunday this year, we had a spur-of-the-moment idea on Saturday morning to celebrate that day instead but drag it out by letting the kids open just one present every hour until all the presents were gone.  That way, the excitement would continue all day long, and we wouldn’t be rushed trying to get everybody done and out the door for church on Sunday morning.

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It went so well that I think we may do Christmas the same way every year from now on!  Spreading it out throughout the day was way more fun and far more relaxing than the frenzy of opening everything at once.  Not only was it easier to control the mess, but the kids had a chance to enjoy each gift for a whole hour before coming back for the next surprise.  There was a buzz in the air every hour as they watched the clock and dutifully appeared miraculously on time!  LOL

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It was really a lot of fun.  At the end of the day, Steve and I looked at each other and wondered aloud why we hadn’t thought of this before.  It was brilliant!  I think we have now established a new tradition in the Burgess household!

So then instead of taking the kids out to look at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve as I’ve always done in the past, we just went out on Christmas night instead.  No one was around, so it was easy to visit even the most popular locations without a big crowd or lots of traffic.  That was nice.

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Overall, we had a wonderful holiday weekend.  We enjoyed it very much.  I even made a whole spread just like at Thanksgiving for our Christmas Eve dinner with rolls baked from scratch and made plenty of extra mashed potatoes so we could have my mom’s famous “fry-up” for breakfast before church on Christmas morning.  That was a great way to start the day!  After church, I made a huge batch of fruit salad, too, and my kids loved getting to have that again (we usually only have it at Thanksgiving).  Steve got to take a bowl of it with his lunch every day early in the week, and he was happy to have that little extra treat, too.

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This was the last Christmas where all of my kids are still kids.  By next Christmas, Hayden will officially be an adult, Haylee will be a teenager, and Holden will be turning double digits.  That’s so hard to believe!  I truly must be getting old.  LOL

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Favorite Recipes This Week

Breakfast Pick:  High Octane Pancakes

This was the thinnest pancake batter I’ve ever used, and I probably made it more High-Octane Pancakes Recipeso by substituting unsweetened applesauce for the small amount of oil that was supposed to be in it, but once I adjusted the temperature just right on my griddle, it became easy to work with.  Let me just say that these were some of the tastiest homemade pancakes I’ve ever made, and they are a real nutritional powerhouse!  They were not bitter at all, and they contained a fair amount of wheat germ and whole grain oats.  I added even more protein by using nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  Delicious!  They were surprisingly sweet and only required a small amount of syrup, which for me, was sugar-free by choice.  My kids really liked these.  I quadrupled this recipe to make 16 pancakes (8 servings) to feed my family of 5 and have some to put up in the freezer for easy weekday breakfasts for my hubby before he leaves for work.  Definitely give these a try!


Lunch Pick:  Turkey Vegetable Soup

On these cold winter days, I love to warm my belly with a good hot soup at lunchtime.  I really enjoyed this hearty soup!  It made so much that it fed us for Vegetable Turkey Soup Recipeseveral days, and I even had a little bit left over to put in the freezer for a quick lunch when it’s just me.  Even my kids liked this soup, because I used shredded carrots instead of slicing them so that they would disappear (my daughter dislikes cooked carrots).  I cut up all of the veggies so small that they were not very noticeable, and that passes her finicky texture test.  It was a delicious and filling soup, and I never got tired of it.  I served it with a whole wheat roll with light butter and a little bit of shredded 2% sharp cheddar cheese on top.  Yum!  I actually made this in my electric pressure cooker to make it super easy.  After I sautéed the meat in the bottom, I added all of the other ingredients at once and set it on “soup” for 10 minutes.  Done! 


Dinner Pick:  Gingered Pepper Steak

This was a downright amazing stir fry dish!  My whole family agrGingered Pepper Steak Recipeeed that the sauce was just right.  It had just the right amount of ginger and rich, Asian flavor…enough flavor to make serving it over rice a nice balance and not bland at all.  My kids really loved this, but so did the adults!  The beef was surprisingly tender, and the marinade really kicked it up a notch.  I actually didn’t marinate it ahead of time.  I really just let the meat set in the bag with the sauce while I was preparing the other parts of the dish, and the meat basically soaked up all of the sauce in a short amount of time so that there wasn’t much of anything to drain off.  I used a London Broil and sliced it into thin strips.  It was fabulous!


Dessert Pick:  Strawberry Custard Tart

This recipe is actually for a Raspberry Custard Tart, but I have one child who doesn’t like raspberries so I adjusted it to use fresh strawberries and Raspberry Custard Tart Recipestrawberry spreadable fruit instead of raspberry.  It was so yummy!  The homemade almond egg custard layer was so delicious.  My teenage son really enjoyed it.  In fact, he said it was one of the best desserts he’s ever had.  It was a light, refreshing treat.  The only thing about it is that it gets soggy from the cut fresh fruit overnight, so it’s definitely best to serve it immediately.  If you don’t think you and your guests can finish it at one meal, then you should probably reduce the recipe by half and make a smaller version of it.  Also, I used a ceramic fluted quiche/pie plate, and the crust really wanted to stick to it.  Next time, I’d probably use a non-stick true pie plate or disposable tin so it would be easy to serve up the slices without breaking the crust.  But it really was a tasty treat!  It would be so easy to change up the fruit flavor to whatever suits you best…it’s a very versatile recipe!


And while I’m on the topic of cooking, you’ve gotta love the electric pressure cooker!  It’s my favorite and most used kitchen appliance, and believe me when I say that I have a lot of small kitchen appliances.  I’m sort of a collector, you might say.  I just treated myself to a new and bigger pressure cooker for Christmas, and I love it!  If you are in the market for one, I highly recommend investing in a Go Wise for the best value.  It comes with a stainless steel inner pot, which is essential for easy cleaning and even heating.  It also comes with a stainless steel handled steam rack and a handled steamer basket.  That’s an awesome accessory I didn’t have before, and I’ve already used it so much!  I got the Go Wise 8 qt., and it was only $80.  That’s an incredible value for all it came with, and it has a ton of preset buttons for anything you’d want to make (including yogurt!), along with manual adjustments for time and pressure.  It’s awesome!  I can cook a whole 5 pound bag of potatoes for mashing in 10 minutes and still have room to spare.  I really needed the bigger size for my large family, because we like to have leftovers sometimes! 


That’s it for now!  I hope you enjoy trying some of this week’s delicious recipes from my Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet plan cookbooks.  We continue to try new things every day and enjoy delicious comfort foods that are healthy and have a reasonable amount of calories. 


I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Looking Ahead to 8th Grade

We will start our new school year in June, and it will be my daughter’s last year as a homeschooler.  She’ll be attending the local high school after that.  This year has gone pretty well so far overall, and now I’m already looking ahead to what curriculum we’ll want to use for her 8th grade year.

She’s using BookShark this year, and she’s pretty happy with the amount of reading as compared with Sonlight, so we’ll continue with that.  They just came out with BookShark 8, but the history topic is the History of Science.  That doesn’t especially interest her, so I think we’ll just use the books from the old Sonlight Core 100, but order the BookShark instructor’s guide for that core and use it for 8th grade (BookShark uses that core for 9th grade).  That covers American History in depth, and I think that will better prepare her for entry into public school the following year.  We like the 4-day schedule from BookShark, and I’ve already purchased Apologia Who Is God? curriculum for our bible study.

For math, she’s using Unlock Math Pre-Algebra this year, and she has improved so much!  It’s working wonderfully for her, and I wish we could continue it, but I just can’t afford the $250 for the Algebra program.  It’s an online curriculum, so I can’t even pass it on to the next kid.  So I’ve decided to use Teaching Textbooks Algebra for her next year.  My son has been using that program this year, and he likes it well enough.

For language arts, I’m still investigating my options.  I’m not focused on that part right now.  That’ll be next on my mind for consideration.

For science, that’s my big thought process right now.  She’s currently using BookShark Science 7, and it’s been a really success for her.  She loves the weekly experiments so much, and she enjoys the variety of books and topics.  She really wanted the same kind of program for next year, but BookShark tells me that they just won’t have Science 8 ready in time for us to use it next year.  So that leaves me with a big dilemma.  She really likes the hands-on stuff, and she also likes the 4-day scheduling.  I have hunted around for a physical science curriculum over the last week or so, and I stumbled upon something I’d never even heard of before.  It’s called Exploration Education’s Physical Science program.  It looks awesome!

There are several levels available of the curriculum.  I think I’ve settled on getting this, but I’m unsure whether to get the standard version (recommended for grades 4-6) or the advanced version (recommended for grades 7-10).  She falls in the advanced level for grade 8, but it’s a 5-day curriculum.  I don’t think I could convince her to do 5 days’ worth in 4, and I know she doesn’t want to have school on Fridays when we have gym class.  So I’m leaning towards the standard version because it is a 3-day curriculum.  The only thing about that is that there are three additional building projects in the advanced, and they look like the coolest projects of all!  It includes a large glider, a mini-house with electrical lighting, and a working steamboat.  That sounds like fun!  I love that this curriculum is computer based.  The student reads through the lesson on the computer with lots of pictures and sometimes videos, enters their answers, and if they get it wrong, it sends them back to the lesson to find the correct answer before continuing.  Once they have the correct answer, they record that information in the printed workbook so they have all the correct information in one place to use as a study guide.  They also fill out lab reports on all of their experiments.  It seems right up her alley, and I love that it’s self-grading!

If you have any experience with this curriculum, please share your thoughts on it.  It’s got a fairly hefty price tag, as everything is consumable except for the CD-ROM, and it’s either $123 or $145, depending upon which level you get.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Healthy Recipes to Share

I’m having so much success and enjoyment using healthy recipes from the Comfort Food Diet cookbooks from Taste of Home that I’ve decided I’d like to periodically share with you some of my favorite recipes from recent weeks.

I love using my electric pressure cooker to prepare meals, because it’s so easy, really requires little to no prep work, and it saves SO much time in slaving over the stove and in actual cooking time.  I often throw frozen ingredients or dry pasta or rice in there, and it cooks beautifully while everything else cooks at thePot  Roast with Vegetables Recipe same time.

Here’s my favorite pot roast recipe so far that I adapted for my pressure cooker:  Pot Roast with Vegetables
I cut the roast into slabs to ensure it cooked all the way through in the pressure cooker and used the meat setting for 40 minutes.  It was total perfection!  I think next time, I’ll substitute beef broth for the water for even more flavor.  I’ll never make pot roast any other way again!  It was so good.

Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake RecipeWe also had an *amazing* dessert:  Hot Berries 'n' Brownie Ice Cream Cake
Now this looks to have some odd ingredients in the sauce, but don’t let it throw you off from trying it.  Be sure to make it exactly as it says.  I never imagined mixing balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper with fruit, but this is “the bomb!”  My husband even agreed that this dessert was really something special, and it’s the berry sauce that really put it over the top.  You’ve gotta try it!  It makes a lot of portions, too, so it’s great for a crowd.  I made just half of the berry sauce the first night so I could make a fresh batch halfway through (since berries are delicate and don’t keep for long).

Here’s a delicious recipe for pancakes…my favorite one so far:  Blueberry Oat Blueberry Oat Pancakes RecipePancakes
I used fat-free sour cream and white whole wheat flour for extra lightness, and the fresh blueberries made these absolutely amazing!  They were so full of flavor, and partially grinding the oats into oat flour gave them a more traditional texture for all the whole grains that was in them.  I will be making these many times in the future!  My daughter isn’t a fan of blueberries, so I may try them with apples and cinnamon next time.

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos RecipeI first made these for lunch, but later made them again for dinner…they were that good:  Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos 
I think the salsa verde is what gave these such a great flavor.  I’d never really cooked with it before.  This is amazing served with Spanish rice and refried beans on the side, along with traditional toppings like lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream.

So now I’ve shared with you a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipe.  If you like this kind of post, please leave me a comment, and I’ll put together some more of my favorites for next time.

Enjoy your healthy and satisfying comfort foods!