Friday, July 29, 2011

An easy, yummy dessert!

Our menu for supper tonight was rice, broccoli and cheese, and individual meat loaves. Everyone enjoyed the meal, but as I was cooking I felt like there needed to be a little something more. I looked around the kitchen to see what I had. I saw some fat free Cool Whip in the fridge, some low fat graham crackers on the counter, and I knew I had some hazelnut spread (aka Nutella--the Kroger brand is cheaper and tastes exactly the same--delicious!) in the pantry.

I thought...hmm...a kind of smore/ice cream sandwich thing sounds good. So I halved the crackers, spread some cool whip on one half and some chocolatey goodness on the other. I put the halves together and popped them in the freezer.
Doesn't that look good?! Well, it was good. If I would've made them earlier I think they would've been even better frozen a little more. But the kids, hubby, and I devoured them. My hubby even sang their praises and said they were even better than he thought they would be.
So...if you're looking for an easy dessert or snack that doesn't have too many calories, this might be good for you! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Prepping for school

We'll be starting year two of homeschool in a few weeks, so I've been brainstorming about what I would like for us to learn this year. Last year we used a curriculum that was free on the internet, and I was happy with it. ( This year, I'm also looking to make our homeschooling inexpensive, yet still keep it as fun and educational as possible. One of my goals is to continue to build on the letters and sounds we learned last year and progress onto reading. The girls were beginning to read small words at the end of last year and I feel confident they will keep up the good work this year!

One of the tools we used last year that we'll continue to use this year is Melissa and Doug's magnetic calendar. This one is more up to date than the one I have, but basically the same thing. I got mine from my Mom, who got it at a yard a great price! We use this calendar every day during out "morning routine". It has special events, holidays, and other magnets that make it fun. The only thing I don't love about mine is the way the "hinge" in the middle works. It looks like this newer version is a little better.

Today I got this set of pattern blocks and patterns from Zulilly sells great kids clothes, toys, and even stuff for Moms at reduced prices. These particular blocks are also Melissa and Doug. On the M&D site ( they are listed at $19.99. On Zulilly they were $13.99. I also had a $10 credit, so I paid a few dollars for them plus shipping. If you pay shipping once on zulilly, you get any other purchases that day with free shipping. I don't know if that's a special thing they're doing right now or if that's the case all the time. A good idea if you see several things you like is to buy them separately and get free shipping on some of them. My code for zulilly is if you're interested in joining. It would help me out by giving me some credit! I look forward to using these with the girls and with Isaac.

Today I also bought Geography Songs by Kathy Troxel. We used this when I was teaching in Thailand and the kids learned so much from it! It teaches all of the countries in the world, the continents, oceans, planets, and every state in the United States. The songs are catchy, fun, and I even enjoyed learning them! A cassette is featured on this pic, but I bought the one with the cd. I'm very excited about having this tool. It's something I know that we can use for years to come. One of the ways I plan to use this is to teach the girls about the different states in the US. The songs teach the states according to the borders (the northern border, the southern border, etc) so that if they look at a map, they can not only name the states, but know where they're located on the US map. So my plan is to study the states by the borders, let the girls learn some interesting facts, and do something fun (cook something, skype with someone, send a letter, etc.). I think it'll be a lot of fun! Have I mentioned that Geography/Social Studies is one of my favorite topics? : )

One thing I'm looking for are cookie cutters of each state. The ones I've seen are about $100 for the set. If any of you know of/have seen a set that's much cheaper (I'm talking really cheap!), please let me know! I would prefer plastic ones.

Other materials I plan to use (that I already have) are some phonics flashcards (I found them for about $1 at Target or the Dollar Tree) and "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons". We used this in Thailand, also, and saw success with it. I bought it years ago at a second hand bookstore for about $2. I also went to an annual homeschool fair and picked up several free Abeka readers (for reading practice in the future), a huge pack of pre-K writing paper for about $3, and some small reproduceable workbooks that we'll probably use (I got 10 of those for a few dollars). Knowing that I wanted to homeschool for several years has helped me to always have an eye open for things here and there that I can use. A friend who homeschooled for several years has told me many times that you can homeschool on a small budget. I believe it! God has provided so many things for us. I am trusting that He will continue to do this as the years go on!

God bless~Stacey

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Revisiting Colorado through "Breathe"

My current book of choice is "Breathe: A Novel of Colorado". I, of course, picked it up free on Amazon. When I got it I probably read the synopsis, but I had forgotten what it was about when I started. I wasn't sure how I would like it. Well...I do! It's got several elements in a book that I enjoy...a little romantic interest, a nice location (I love the west...just can't help myself), and a mystery. I don't always have to have the mystery on heavy, but I like it when a book isn't totally, completely predictable. It helps me keep wanting to read...and usually stay up later than I should : ).

One thing I like about "Breathe" is the location. Much to my surprise, and joy, the story is set in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is exactly where my sister lived up until a few months ago. Last year my mother, kids, grandmother, nephew, and I drove...yes drove...for three days across country for a visit. I must was awesome. We got to see so many beautiful sites along the way. Once we got there, I was amazed by the beauty around me. We could see Pike's Peak from everywhere in town. We visited Garden of the Gods, too. Amazing place to see God's beauty! In this novel, they specifically mention Garden of the Gods and Pike's Peak. That was fun to me. So I thought I'd include a few pictures so you could see what they looked like, too! The middle pic is the peak at the Garden of the Gods visitor center and the other two are of the rock formations at GotG. It was breathtaking.

Something else I like about this novel is the history. I haven't checked up on the facts, but it makes sense. Several of the characters in the book are afflicted with consumption and have traveled to a sanitorium in Colorado to, as they call it, "chase the cure". Because of the altitude and thin air, the location is supposed to help improve the health of any with this disease. I didn't realize this about Colorado Springs, but I felt the effects of the thin air when we were there. It was definitely an adjustment.

I haven't finished the book yet, but so far it's very enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it! Once again, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Don't Stop Believin'

One of our family's favorite movies is "Bedtime Stories" with Adam Sandler. Most of Sandler's movies are inappropriate for family watching, but this one is fun and entertaining. In the movie, Sandler tells his niece and nephew bedtime stories and parts of them begin to come true. Here is one of our favorite parts:

One of the funniest things to me is that Sophie has really taken a liking to the Journey song, "Don't Stop Believing". The song is played a couple of times in the movie and she starts belting it out. Except she says different variations. Today it's, "Goat stuff, believe it" and the other day it was, "Don't stuff, believe it". The other day we were in a restaurant and I had to take Sophie to the bathroom. Guess what song was playing? Yes, our favorite. Next thing I know, Sophie starts belting out her current version along with me (I can't resist singing along to Journey). There was a waitress in one of the stalls at the time and when Sophie and I both started singing, she just busted out laughing. When she came out, she was smiling and said, "That was so cute!" Great moment!

Today I'm trying to entertain my children with their first taste of Newsboys. They spent at least 30 minutes dancing around to some classics. Especially Isaac. Apparently he's a fan. : ) After looking at a few Youtube videos I think I'd better get off this computer and feed these guys!

Hope you all have a great day and...don't stop...believin'...oh oh ohhhhhhh! : ) (Sophie loves the oh...oh...ohhhh part!)

Monday, July 18, 2011

A challenge in educating our children

This morning as I was scanning facebook, email, and blogs, I came across a blog post that I thought was excellent. I instantly wanted to share some...if not all...of it with you. First, my thoughts. As I have started the process of homeschooling, honestly there have been times that I've thought about what my motivation was. I've had to search my heart and make sure that I'm doing this for the right reasons, not to bring glory to myself or my family, but to bring glory to God. I also want my children to get the best education possible. That doesn't mean that I want them to be the smartest kids in the county, it means that I want them to have a love of learning and a good Biblical foundation in what they're learning. After reading the blog post I mentioned before, I also want to add that I want to develop in my children the ability to learn on their own, apart from things that I could teach them. I want to encourage their creativity and help develop outside-the-box thinking. The thought of being able to encourage that in my children is extremely exciting!

When I look back on my own education, I think I believe I have experienced a small piece of that. Overall, I have very fond memories of school and learning. I always enjoyed creative assignments in school and it inspired me to do things like that in my own teaching. On the other hand, I also depended on my teachers to spoon feed me a lot. I expected them to provide me with the information I needed to know and when they didn't, I know I've been critical of them.

The title of Cathlyn's Zwemke's blog is "A Little Kernal" and can be found at http:// She has posted several helpful and interesting blog posts that I think some of you would enjoy. I met Cathlyn at Berry College several years ago and we have crossed paths a few times over the years. Reading her blog has challenged and encouraged me as a wife and mother. So, because I honestly loved the whole post she entitled "Spoonfed Education", I'm going to paste it all in! : ) God bless, Stacey

Ever wonder why our public education system in America has been on a steady decline since the 60's? What is it that seems to undermine every new idea and innovative policy passed down from Congress to stimulate the scores of our students? Well, there are several cracks in the foundation of our public education system, but it is my opinion that nothing will change until we take strides to transform our views about who is responsible to educate our future generations. No, I am NOT going to make a plug for homeschooling...this time. But, until we can pass the responsibility to learn from the teachers to the students, we will not see much in the way of educational reform.
I have watched the past ten years as the government passed down frantic new programs in hopes of stimulating learning through teacher incentives and consequences. Perhaps I missed it, but I haven't seen any successful progress. Instead, I see a bunch of pressured teachers who are so frightened of losing their jobs in this market that they are willing to lose their character and cheat on the scores for their students' standardized testing, like we have seen in our Atlanta city schools.
Until we make it clear that the responsibility to learn lies with the student and not the teacher, we will not see things change in our education system. We do a great disservice to our future generations by allowing them to think they did poorly in a subject because they had a lousy teacher. No doubt, a good teacher goes a long way to making learning fun and exciting, and even easy, but learning is not solely in the hands of those who teach. If a student believes she is in charge of her own education, then she in empowered to rise above the less-than-average teacher. She will seek outside help and information. She will become what our society sorely needs and almost always heralds, in the adult phase of life. She will become an INDEPENDENT LEARNER, a SELF-STARTER.
I'll never forget what a shock it was for me to go to England during my high school years. I was there for about two years, starting in the middle of my Freshmen year. Education is run differently in the U.K. than in the States. I had just come from Texas, where things were moving along just fine. I had straight A's my first semester. There was a rhythm to the six week sessions run in the Texas system. I had learned how to make that system work for me, but true learning and effort had not really been asked of me yet. No, that was not required of me until I left the States.
In England, I had entered in a trimester late in a two year learning situation. In those two years we kept the same teachers, classes, and subjects. At the end of the two years, we were to take written exams, two of them per course, and some exams lasting three to four hours in length. Right before the exams, we were given some time...I can hardly remember now, but I think it was six weeks, without classes to simply study for the teachers, just study time. Whatever we got on our exams, plus a portion of our yearly work would be our grades for the past two years. I was handed a syllabus at the beginning of class and I was expected to remember when things were due, without reminders. (Quite shocking for me, I can tell you.) I had to keep track of when our mock exams were coming, and I had to learn on my own, beyond the material handed to me, if I was going to pass and get credit for two years worth of learning. I had to get books, on my own, that would help me prepare for the exams. I had to organize my time, and hold down a part-time job at the same time. I say all this to show that we do not require enough from our students at an early enough age. It is not the teachers who gave me an education, although they guided me and helped me along the way, but ultimately they communicated that I was the responsible party to educate myself and prepare for my future independence.
Now, in this country, we do not ask that level commitment from our students until college. Perhaps we think they are too immature to take on that responsibility. But, often times, we create unprepared students who cannot handle the university situation. What do we create for our society when we allow students to believe that the teachers are responsible for our learning? What does a parent do for her child when she puts the blame on the teacher for her child's poor grades? (Certainly there are circumstances where a teacher was unfair, or graded with partiality, but even that teacher cannot prevent a child who is self-motivated from learning in spite of her grade.) We produce a generation who believes they are owed something. That their performance is in the hands of someone else. Later on if they don't perform well at work, well it transfers that they have a lousy boss, and the blame can be passed to him.
But we can do something for our next generation, despite the newest congressional push for reform in testing. We as parents and adults can encourage and show the way to our students. We can give our kids the tools to rise above their circumstances and take control of their education. Getting involved early-on can make all the difference. Don't let the school day be the end of learning. Find supplemental materials to play with and experiment with at home. Without a love and interest for learning, you will always be applying outside pressure to get a result, but when the student becomes infected with the love of learning, you won't be able to stop her. Go to museums, watch interesting educational shows...but most importantly, find out what interests your child and run with it.
Recently I sat down with my 7th grader and 5th grader, and I asked them to make a list of things they are interested in learning more about. The 7th grader's list was: "Drawing, Modern History, Animals and Bugs, Computer Programming, Legends of Varying Cultures, and Herbs. The 10 yr old's list was: "Ballet, How to Make a Computer, Computer Programing, The Way Stuff is Made, Books, Animals, and Research." America's kids want to learn more than movies, and video games, and pop music....if we let them.
My 7th grader loves the idea of survival living. She loves to research and find out what plants are edible, and she experiments with it. She has asked for an herbalist class/book/dvd set to help her in her study of Botany (call it what it is, and suddenly it is more than a kid just getting grubby in the mud). My 5th grader is fascinated with computers. I found a free program from M.I.T. that helps kids get the basic ideas down for computer programming. She, and her "botany" sister, have begun to invent and create their own video games, complete with original graphics and story line. Our children's play is their business, and their learning is never ceasing unless we tell them that they can only learn when being spoonfed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A fabulous noodle salad

Nestled away in a side alley in downtown Macon (Georgia) is a fabulous little Asia restaurant called Tokyo Alley. The owner/operator is from Thailand, which is close to my heart, and from what I've been told the cook is from Thailand, also. Sweet people. Anyway, we LOVE to go down the alley when we're craving some good stuff. One of our favorite side dishes is their noodle salad, which they serve with a lot of their meat dishes (one of our favorite main dishes is their lemon chicken...yummy!). Just the other day my sister comes in to my parent's house with the recipe for the noodle salad! Needless to say, we were all pretty excited. So, being the blogger that I am, I couldn't wait to come and post so that all of you could enjoy!

Tokyo Alley Noodle Recipe

1 tbsp salt

1tbsp sugar

1 tbsp (or less) black pepper

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

3 tbsp Hellman's Mayonnaise only

1 pound vermicelli noodles, cooked

Boil noodles and drain well. Mix salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, and mayo together and pour over drained noodles. Mix well. Add chopped celery, onion, and carrots as desired. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Cool Treat

I can't think of many things that are more satisfying than homemade ice cream during the hot Georgia summer. It's basically my request every year for my birthday. Joe and I don't have one of those ice cream makers that you do the ice and the rock salt with, which is really the best kind for this recipe. We've been eating this ice cream since I was a little kid. I can still picture my grandaddy watching the ice cream churn, seeing if the mixture was ready, and then all of the family getting white styrofoam cups filled up to enjoy. Sweet memories. So now I pass it on to all of you. Our family chocolate ice cream recipe.

Sanders family chocolate ice cream recipe

1can condensed milk
1/2 gallon chocolate milk
1 container of cool whip (middle size)

Just combine all of that into a homemade ice cream container (we use the kind that has the container in the middle and you pour ice/rock salt around it) and turn it on (I think it usually takes an hour to freeze). It won't be really hard, but about the consistency of a frosty. Yum!

And it really does taste a lot like a Wendy's frosty. So good!! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Vacation reads...

I would like to take this moment to express my pure joy and satisfaction in owning a Kindle. My parents generously gave me this reader's treasure as an early birthday gift and I take it everywhere. You never know when you might have a moment to read or play a game (yes, you can even play games on it!). And, as I've mentioned before, there are so many free books available on I've saved hundreds of dollars on books. Yes, you can check out books for free at the library. But...can you easily carry said books around conveniently? At my fingertips I have over a hundred books available, along with 5 games, and two translations of the Bible in a nifty little package. Have I sold you? : ) I'll stop with my Kindle ad and move on to some of the books I was able to read on vacation. I'll be honest, people. I know I'm trying to be unbiased about my book reviews, but each review reflects my own personal taste in some way. I'll try to describe the plot and then say what I thought...and you can decide if it's the type of book you would like. All of the books mentioned I got for free off of

The Homecoming: A Novel by Dan Walsh

This is the story of Shawn, a World War II hero who has recently lost his wife in a tragic car accident. He has a young son who needs him, but because of his obligations to the military in the midst of the war, he is unable to be with his son as much as he would like. He is also dealing with the emotions that are still raw after his wife's passing. Katherine Townsend is a social worker who is trying to help Shawn's son and make sure he is doing ok since his mom's passing and living with his grandfather. When Katherine loses her job, Shawn hires her to be a nanny for his son while he is away serving in the military. We see each of these characters endure the hardships of war in various ways of the course of a few years. Will Shawn be able to overcome his grief? Will Katherine remain a nanny or pursue love?

I thought this was an interesting story as it talked about different aspects of WWII. There were times when I wished that Shawn would act on some of his feelings instead of push them down. I liked the relationships between Katherine, Shawn's father, and Shawn's son. History has always been a favorite subject of mine, and reading about a time in history that I'd like to know more about was interesting to me. I personally like a little more of a love story...more expression of feelings...than this book had. But overall, I liked the ending and I finished the story satisfied!

Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot
Sarah Dobbs is traveling out west to meet her fiance. What is unique about this is that they've never met. Sarah answered an ad in the paper and began exchanging letters, what she calles her "paper roses", with her future husband. Through those letters, she fell in love. As she waits with her young sister for him to pick her up, a stranger rides up to fetch her. Instead of Austin, his brother, Clay, is there. At that moment, Sarah learns that her fiance has just been killed. Clay offers her a temporary place to stay, but he is not eager to have a woman in his life. He is consumed with grief at the loss of his own wife and child, his brother, and a father who is helpless due to a stroke. He has to run the family ranch even though his love is for medicine.

I love stories set in the west. When I started reading Paper Roses, I thought the story line was great. Both of the characters have so many issues: physical, emotional, and psychological. It definitely creates a lot of tension in the story and makes you want to read more. I liked it. I liked seeing the two of them work through their issues and begin to experience love and freedom. My only issue with this story is that towards the end, it got a little crazy. You have to read the book to know what I mean, but there was an unexpected twist that made me feel like...ok, I can accept that, but it does seem a little out there! lol I know that's vague, but I don't like to give away an ending! If you like western Christian fiction, you'll probably enjoy this one.

Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall
Surrender the Heart begins with Marianne, a plain girl who needs to marry well to be able to support her mother and sister. Her mother is ill and her father has passed away, squandering the family's riches. To keep up appearances, Marianne's family has tried to conceal their dwindling resources. Much to Marianne's dismay, her mother has made arrangements for her to be engaged to Mr. Noah Brenin. Marianne and Noah grew up teasing and tormenting each other. Now that they are older, Noah is fulfilling the family's wish to be a successful merchant, even as a young America continues to battle with England. He has no desire to take a wife, especially not the uppity Marianne. He appears at their engagement party only to humiliate Marianne by leaving early, in hopes that it will give her an excuse to call off the marriage. He didn't count on Marianne following him to his ship to confront him. When she slips onboard and bumps her head in a room below deck, the adventure begins.

This was one of my FAVORITE books! I absolutely loved it! There was action, adventure, tension, and romance. I had a hard time putting it down. I loved the fact that Marianne's character was so relateable. She wasn't a ravishing beauty...she was plain, "plump", and yet many times seen as beautiful. Noah has a good heart deep down and as the story goes on we're able to see his loyalty and bravery. There were several twists to the story that made it exciting. I would definitely recommend it!

Her Best Catch by Lindi Peterson
Allison Doll is a 29 year old single girl living in Georgia. The story is contemporary, told in first person, so we're able to see what's going on from Allison's perspective. Allison lives with her mother and grandmother. All three women are seeking companionship in different ways. Allison seems satisfied with the single life, hanging out with friends and going on the occassional date. She is good at her job and has seen some success. But when Ashton Boyd, former player for the Atlanta Braves, starts coming to her singles Sunday School class, life takes a turn.

This was my second favorite book!! I loved this one, too! Let me just say, it is hilarious! (At least to me it was...I love that sarcastic and sometimes dry humor) Allison is someone I could totally relate to. I loved that the story was set in Georgia, too. I knew a lot of the places she talked about and felt like she could be a friend of mine. There were several times when I giggled out loud. I couldn't stop myself! If your in the mood for a light-hearted, funny romance (from a Christian perspective), I would definitely recommend it!

Some of the others I read (nap time is coming to a close, so I've got to hurry this post up):

Whisper on the Wind by Maureen Lang
This Fine Life: A Novel by Eva Marie Everson
I started The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser (It was kind of a downer for me, so I didn't finish it)

Hope you enjoy! God bless and happy reading!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Making memories

We love celebrating holidays with each other...especially when you can stand in the back of a truck and watch lots of great fireworks
We love the beach...and the kids love to play in the sand together

We love to pose together as a family and take great pictures

I love to eat my passy

I love to sit in my bouncy with my blankie

Again...we love to pose and take pictures together

We really love to eat together

Dippin dots...a family fav. You must stick your tongue out while eating them and having a picture snapped.

Who doesn't love Barbies?!

A tea's really the best way to spend the afternoon with your cousin

We also love to cozy up to each other...and take a picture

Inflatable bouncy slide...weeeeee! Now stop and let Mommy take a picture.

Cozy up, girls. It's picture time!

Hey, guys. I guess you're not eating because there aren't any tongues sticking out!

I love taking pictures. I love vacation. But most of all...I love making memories with my family!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Week in review...

If anyone out there is still reading my blog...thank you! I've been a slacker lately, but I really have a good excuse. I've been away from home, living it up in the big city of Macon, GA, having fun with my fam. I'm so glad my parents still have their big house that can accomodate my crew and I! We've had a blast. I've had a birthday...which was another wonderful celebration (July 4th is a great birthday to have!)...complete with hot eats and cold treats (fabulous homemade chocolate ice cream!). I am planning to post the ice cream'll love it, people. Today we packed up the minivan and my dear ones and headed back to our town. I will miss the fun and fellowship Macon has offered, but it will be nice to get back to our little routine. Plus I'm starting to play church softball next week, which I'm excited about. I hope it'll help me shed my vacay pounds that I put on the past three weeks. I'm trying not to feel guilty about that because I had so much fun not worrying about calories and tasting SO many good things! So, with all that said, please stick with me! I'm eagerly awaiting the hours I'm going to spend uploading my many pics onto my semi-slow computer and trying to post them on here. And, of course, writing about our adventures. I have been blessed! ~Stacey