Thursday, December 28, 2017

Meal Planning

Wow!!! It's hard to believe that it's the end of the year and I'm sitting here making meal preparations for 2018.  Hopefully, everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday with your friends and family, enjoying great food and great company.  I'll be honest, we had a very quiet and simple Christmas day, especially with Alyssa being off for a short vacation in Texas. 

The first have of our meal planning is going to look a bit familiar because my husband threw a monkey wrench in my meal planning for the first half of this week and decided he wanted pizza last night, so that shifted Tuesday's meal to Today and so on. However, since we are going grocery shopping on Thursday, we decided to also treat ourselves to our favorite Indian restaurant for dinner so everything will shift again.  LOL   At least that means three meals I already have ready to go.   

New Year's Eve we will also be going out to eat as is our tradition and on New Year's day, we will have a traditional Southern meal with black-eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread.  Growing up in Texas, this was eaten every New Year's day to bring luck, health and money for the new year. Beans are to symbolize coins while greens (whether collard, mustard or even cabbage) symbolizes money. Both of these are cooked with ham as pork is supposed to be a sign of prosperity and wealth. And then the cornbread symbolizes gold.. Can you tell southerners are all about the money?? lol  The last few years we've gone out to eat on New Years instead of New Years Eve, so I figured we'll try the traditional way and see if it helps my bank account ;)

Friday - Roasted Chicken hindquarters with garlic, squash, and tomatoes with salad

Saturday- Biscuits and Gravy

Sunday – El Indio

Monday –  Fried chicken, Black Eyed Peas, Collard Greens, and cornbread

Tuesday- Broiled salmon with Thai glaze with turmeric coconut rice

Wednesday - Sesame Chicken with Rice and steamed broccoli

Thursday – Baked Ziti with Three Cheeses, salad, and French Bread

Friday – Green Chili Turkey Burgers with Chili Roasted potatoes

Saturday – Southern Hamburger Steaks with Onion and mushroom gravy, Mashed Taters, green beans and Roadhouse Rolls

Sunday – Carna Asada with Grilled Mexican Corn

Monday – Vegetable Polenta Casserole

Tuesday – Tex Mex Baked Ravioli with salad

Wednesday – Spicy Tuna Burgers with Sriracha Aioli and chips

Thursday - Greek Marinaded Chicken with Lemon Couscous Salad

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas 2017 with Jack the Elf

It's hard to believe this is the fourth Christmas that has seen a visit from our Elf on the Shelf, Jack.  And even though the kids are 4 years older,  they still love the tradition of finding out where Jack is hiding each day.  This year, Jack was a bit late showing up, as he usually shows up the night we put the Christmas tree up.  I guess lazy parents the weather delayed his travel this time around..

We often try to make our Elf on the Shelf reflect activies that our family enjoys.  For example, Jack decided to go Camping on this particular night.  The kids look forward to our annual summer camping trips so knowing Jack also enjoys camping got them pretty excited.

Not afraid of heights, Jack is also very adventurous.  This particular night, he went hang gliding around our living room. 

The next night, Dad decided that Jack had to have an accident, So my hang glider ended up meeting the blade of our ceiling fan and Jack was left in a precarious position. 

After Jack's rescue following his unfortunate accident, Dad also decided that Jack had been injured and would need a few days of R&R.

One night, Jack popped up in the kids bathroom. 

However, as I rarely go into their bathroom, I was completely flabbergasted by what I saw.  Toilet paper cores all over the floor behind the commode, paint and toothpaste spatters in the sin,  Dirty clothes on the floor beside the tub, makeup covering the counters and spots all over the mirror.  It was absolutely disgusting. So, Jack left a not so subtle message for the kids. 

Honestly, I think Jack might have to leave messages throughout the year, because as soon as the kids woke up at 7am and found Jack and the message, they began cleaning their bathroom, including sweeping the floor.  They did erase the 2nd message from the mirror so that mom didn't know that Jack said the bathroom was "Gross" though. LOL

This particular night was the night of the Supermoon.  So, after everyone was in bed, Jack decided to break out the small telescope and take a look for himself. 

The following night, to continue with our science them, Jack decided he wanted to do some microscope work for our science classs. 

Garrett has recently learned how to play Battleship, so we knew he would get a kick out of finding Jack playing it.  Ashleigh would be thrilled to find her stuffed animal playing as well. 

I wasn't feeling very creative this particular night, so Jack just got put in a large canning jar along with a note.. To add a special effect, I ran a qtip with peppermint oil along the inside lid.  That morning, I was forced to smell an Elf fart as the kids declared it smelled like candy. 

Enjoying a spin in the Corvette around our dining room table. 

Hiding out in the freezer, eating all the ice cream.

One day we came home from the DMV only to find that Jack had tied up Blade (a demented doll from the Puppetmaster series) up and then Jack sat on the couch to watch TV..

Jack is NOT impressed with the cookies. He obviously doesn't know where we hid the gingerbread and grabbed a few of Kenny's dog treats instead.

Christmas Day is about the birth of Christ but Christmas Eve is about the magic of belief. I know one day, the magic of Christmas will be gone for these two...  Santa, flying reindeer and Jack the Elf will be just a silly notion of childhood... But for now, they still believe and I am okay with that because the love and innocence that is expressed by something as simple as telling a plastic and felt elf goodbye bring a bit of magic to my own holiday as well.  

Over the years, we've had some pretty cool memories with Jack.. Like this time in 2015 when the kids were instructed to make snowflakes. So they spent part of their school time making beautiful paper snowflakes to decorate the house with.

homeschool, craft, holidays, christmas, snowflake, Elf on the Shelf

homeschool, craft, holidays, christmas, snowflake

Jack isn't always Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice though.. There are nights he might pull a prank, like the time Garrett woke up with the word "turd" on his forehead and Jack with a sign that read "Ashleigh did it" and Mom's liquid eyeliner right beside him.

But overall, he's nice.  The kids really enjoyed the day Jack had a spa day, including marshmallow "bubbles" that they could nibble on throughout the day.

He's also been known to get into a bit of trouble, like when he got stuck in the tree.

 Jack 2014


Making use of some of our flash cards

Even our Pastor (Mark Gungor) was part of the action

He came in like a wrecking ball...

Ashleigh finds him for the first time

Wrapping the Christmas Tree in TP

Hiding in the Tree

Trying to Catch the Big One

Lego Guys say Enough is Enough

Jack the Dragon Slayer

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Magic Stix : A Last Minute Christmas Idea

With exactly 1 shopping weekend left before the fat man in the red suit makes his way down the chimney, many of us are still scrambling to find those last minute gifts either to go under the tree or to fill a stocking.

The Pencil Grip Co., the makers of Kwik Stix paint sticks, has a new product just in time for the holidays that's sure to please any artsy recipient on your Christmas list.  You've seen us rave about Kwik Stix many times here on Counting Pinecones, as they have become a favorite in our house.  But today, we want to help introduce their newest product.

These are Magic Stix Washable Markers.

Magic Stix are non-toxic markers that come in bright, bold colors and are available as either a 12 pack or 24 pack.  Both options come in a sturdy plastic carrying case which I absolutely love as it conveniently keeps all the markers in one place rather than in a flimsy paper box.

We received a 12 pack of the markers which contained a nice array of colors.  The markers themselves are a bit bigger around than other brands, making them a bit easier to hold. They have no odor when being used and provide a nice vivid, bold color.

But the biggest draw of these markers is that they can be left without their cap for 7 days without drying out.  I cannot tell you how many markers I have had to throw out over the years because someone forgot to put the cap back on them when they were finished being used.  So I was curious as to how well this claim would hold up.

The paper and marker were kept on my kitchen counter for the entire 7 days.  And sure enough, on Day 7, the marker wrote just as well as it had the 6 days previous.  (The marker held up better than my paper did - somehow it got wet).  I did notice that each subsequent day, the writing appeared to be darker than the day before. I do not know if this is because the ink faded each night or if being exposed to air concentrates the color but you can see that Day 1 appears much lighter than Day 6 and 7). 

Ashleigh has absolutely loved Magic Stixs and has used them almost exclusively since we received them.  Needless to say, there are now tons of brightly colored coloring pages on my wall as Ash has felt the need to show off all her art. 

Magic Stix are available on in both 24 and 12pks and would make a great stocking stuffer that any art-loving kid be thrilled to find on Christmas morning. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Meal Planning

It's Saturday and I am exhausted after staying up way too late last night watching the original Rocky movie with my husband, only to get up way too early to head to town to not only do the grocery shopping but also last minute Christmas shopping done for the kids.   Not only that, but we ended up going to three different placed to do grocery shopping this time around because a few places didn't have what we need (like how does a store NOT have Worcestershire sauce????).  Which means a very brief break before I had to start cooking dinner. So while the aroma of roasted pork teases my nose, I'll get this published.  I don't know about you, but I'm starving!!!  lol

Alyssa is flying to Texas for Christmas to visit family on Monday, so most of the goal for meal planning for the next two weeks is to make meals that she will not be upset that she missed out on.. LOL   Since her entire diet will mostly be fast food for the next two weeks, she will be upset with me if I made some of her favorites while she's gone.  (And I'm willing to bet she'll be checking this throughout the two weeks to see what we had for dinner each night)..

So, without much more adu,  here's the meal plan for the next 14 meals.  (Well, 13 meals, as one night we're going to In-n-Out because we're going to see Star Wars).  I'll be doing the next round of grocery shopping on the following Saturday, so Alyssa, if your reading this, let me know before then what your requests for meals when you get home will be ;)

Saturday - Pork Chops with Green beans and rice pilaf

Sunday - Samosa Pie with Mango chutney

Monday – Dad's Choice

Tuesday-   Fried Chicken, Red beans and rice, corn, salad and biscuits

Wednesday-  pancakes, bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit

Thursday-  In-N-Out (Going out to the movies)

Friday -  chicken and wild rice soup with crusty bread

Saturday-  Chicken and Dirty Rice

Sunday-  Christmas Eve Dinner - Spiral honey ham,
baked sweet potatoes, Mac and cheese, ugly beans,
rolls and salad.

Monday-   Homemade Pizza Night

Tuesday -  Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Burrito Bowls with Avocado Salsa

Wednesday - Roasted Chicken hindquarters with garlic, squash and tomatoes with salad

Thursday - Biscuits and Gravy

Friday - Broiled salmon with Thai glaze with turmeric coconut rice

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Truth and Training Thursday

It's Thursday which means it's another Awana Thursday.  This was the last Awana meeting before the holiday break so everyone can concentrate on Christmas.  Awana won't start back up until January 4th.

One thing we really enjoy every year is the Christmas decorations in the chapel each Advent/Christmas season.    We're always drawn both to the Advent candle (which are soooo much bigger than ours at home) and the Nativity scene.   The Nativity scene will not have the Baby Jesus in it til Christmas.

Alyssa greeting her students as they arrive to the chapel.

Ashleigh waiting for her instructor to show up.

The Chapel filling up.

Tonight was "Happy Birthday Jesus" day.  Sparks stayed in the chapel today in order to watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that was being projected on the wall, so Ashleigh's group had to head to the classrooms where the Sparks usually meet to do their verses.

While parents were invited to stay, I had Garrett with me today so we opted to wait outside the classroom while Ashleigh recited her verses.    But we could see her through the window from where we were standing :)  Here she is actually reciting her verses.

For tonight, Ashleigh worked on 2 Thessalonians 2:15

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.   -- 2 Thessalonians 2:1

Continuing with the books of the Bible, Ashleigh recited the next 6 books of the Bible (I know she's ready to recite all of them at one time.. lol) 

1 Thessalonians     2 Thessalonians       1 Timothy      2 Timothy     Titus      Philemon

She also had to recite her review verse from last week:

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord,  and as many were appointed to eternal life believed. 

And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.   --  Acts 13:  48-49

We had hoped to work on two sections this week, but she just wasn't feeling up to the larger verse from Revelations that would have been the memory work.   She'll have two weeks to work on it and complete the section.

The Truth and Training groups went to the Awana Store tonight after they recited verses.  Since Ashleigh wanted to pick up a few present for Garrett, Garrett and I went back to the chapel where we watched the video with the Sparks and then caught a bit of their lesson.

The leader of the Sparks is Miss Janet, and let me tell ya, she is absolutely amazing with the kids.  She has a way to really draw the kids into her lesson in ways I wish I could.  Today's lesson was about the birth of Jesus and how Jesus was not the King that people were expecting but instead, he was exactly what everyone needed.

We then headed to the Annex to meet back up with Ashleigh, who was back from the Awana store.  We caught her with a group of friends checking out a video and seeing what everyone picked up with their Awana bucks.

While she indeed spent a bit of her Awana dollars to buy a few gifts for her brother, she purchased a few things for herself as well.  First was this webkins clydesdale, which happens to be a stuffed toy she was really wanting for Christmas.

She was also able to get herself this Nerf gun with her Golden Awana dollar.

Without a doubt, the ending of the evening was the best, as Jerry brought out his guitar and lead the kids through singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "What Child is This".. As this was not a practiced performance, but just something to pass time, I was completely taken aback but just how wonderful they sounded.  I had to record them :)

Finally, I loved the backdrop that the stained glass and the Christmas trees in the chapel provided and couldn't help but take a couple of very quick snapshots of the kids with them.

We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday and remember the reason for the season.  While Awana is on hiatus for the next 2 weeks, we'll still be working on scriptures during our Advent time.


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