Thursday, April 6, 2017

Couch Night

About once a month, Mitch will travel out of town for a business trip or work meeting. The kids like to take advantage of Daddy's time away and have started a "couch night" tradition for when daddy isn't here. His business trips are always on a week night, so it adds in a little extra fun for the kids to stay up past their bedtime on a school night. This week Mitch was away for 2 nights. The first night I set up a blow up mattress in the living room and the couches and mattress were covered in blankets and pillows. Everyone dressed in their pjs early, and we settled into our cozy while we ate pizza, donuts, and watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is not a night to eat healthy, but rather a sibling slumber party.



The next day a huge storm blew in. The kids spent most of their day still in their pjs, while I worked off and on on Maddox's costume for his end of the year Faces of History performance. Maddox has worked weeks on researching and writing a five paragraph paper on Eric the Red. A nasty storm raged on all day, with lightning strikes and thunder rattling the house, causing the kids to scream with excitement with each loud clap of thunder. Rain continued to pour down from just after lunch until past bedtime.



At dinner time we drug out the blow up mattress, blankets and pillows, while I worked on a spaghetti and garlic bread dinner. We ate in front of the tv and the kids and I enjoyed jello and cookies for dessert while we watched the movie Tarzan and Jane. Mason and Josiah fell asleep just after the movie and the big kids continued to watch old episodes of  Full House until 11 pm.

I love that the kids have started this sweet tradition that's at least 4 years old, I hope they continue and one day will look back and think fondly of this sibling bonding time.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homemade Laundry Detergent, Lotion, and All Purpose Cleaner


I try to keep up with laundry by washing 1 to 2 loads a day.  However, every once in awhile I'll get behind, and with a family of 6, getting behind on laundry is easy to do. Below is a completed 6 loads in one day, with only 2 baskets folded. I'll have Skylar and Maddox fold and put away their own clothes.


We usually use Gain as our detergent, we like the way it smells, and Mitch swears its the only detergent that doesn't irritate his skin. If I switch detergents on him he'll start itching and know right away. When Skylar and Maddox were young and I was on a couponing kick and trying to do whatever I could to save the family money, I tried my hand at making my own detergent. It was easy enough, and it was gentle enough on Mitch's skin, but it didn't take long for us to fall back into the habit of buying Gain again. Fast forward a few years later, and I'm motivated to make my own detergent again, but this time saving money isn't my goal (though a pretty cool perk), instead I'm in a stage of wanting and enjoying making things from scratch for my family. I want fresh produce from a garden or a farmer's market, I want homemade bread with few ingredients (and with ingredients that I can pronounce), I want more whole foods, I enjoy eating meat and eggs from the animals that we raise, and in our everyday products I want more of what is natural and less chemicals. Of course I'm not hardcore 100% natural, I certainly appreciate the convince of modern food in boxes, fast food every once in awhile and store bought toothpaste, and many other store bought conveniences. But if I could make a shift in our daily lives with more things that are natural and healthy, then I'll be happy and satisfied.

Homemade Laundry Detergent:


1 beautiful glass jar (optional)
1 Tablespoon sized scoop
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
1 bar Fels Soap (grated)

Mix the ingredients in the jar and just use one tablespoon per load. I think this detergent smells great on its own, but you could easily customize it by adding in essential oils.

All Purpose Cleaner:


Glass Jug or squirt bottle
Vinegar
Lemon peels

I filled an empty windex bottle about a 1/4 of the way with lemon peels. My kids love to eat lemons like most kids like to eat apples or oranges (they like those too) and then I'll cover the lemon peels with vinegar, so the bottle is still only about a 1/4 of the way filled. I'll leave this bottle under my sink for about 2 weeks before removing the lemon peels and filling the bottle the rest of the way with water. Now I have a lemony all purpose cleaner. Honestly, this cleaner does what its suppose to do, its an excellent cleaner, but it does smell like vinegar and lemons. However, when the vinegar drys the smell goes away, and I haven't once had the kids or anyone else complain of a vinegar smell. I've been thinking about adding a few drops of lemon essential oils to add to the lemony smell. I also went ahead and made a bulk jar of this lemon cleaner. I filled a gallon sized jar a little less than half way with lemon peels (this took a few days of 4 kids snacking on lemons) and then I filled the jar completely with vinegar and let sit for a couple of weeks. It doesn't take long for this vinegar mixture to turn yellow and smell like lemons. Now when my windex bottle runs out, I'll refill my bottle 1/4 of the way and add the rest with water. Or I can use this jar mixture as my mopping cleaner. I'll simply fill a mop bucket with hot water and splash in some of my all purpose cleaner.

Homemade Lotion 
(or body butter, its really more of a body butter)



1/3 cup coconut oil (found in most grocery stores)
1/3 cup raw organic shea butter (ordered off amazon)
essential oil of  choice

I softened the oil and shea butter in the microwave like I would soften butter for toast. I put the 2 together, added an essential oil and whipped them up with a hand held mixer. This made a perfect whipped texture! I thought the coconut oil might cause this butter to harder, but days and weeks later it has held its whipped texture. A little bit goes a long way with this butter, and it goes on a little oily, as one might expect, but it soon absorbs in the skin, leaving your skin soft and silky, not greasy. I love this butter for myself and it works as a perfect moisturizer for my 2 younger boys who have naturally dry skin and hair (yes I put it in their hair after a bath and while their hair is still wet). I'm playing around with the essential oils and the fragrances that I like. The first batch I made was with 15+ drops of lavender and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Lotion fragrances that are on my to do list include:
vanilla and cinnamon 
lavender and chamomile
orange and lemon essential oil
peppermint oil
peach extract
....
. I'm sure my options are endless!

Beard Oil

And while I had my oils out, I went ahead and made Mitch a small batch of beard oil

1/2 cup coconut oil
15 drops of cedar wood essential oil
8 oz mason jar

I melted the coconut oil and added the cedar wood oil and stored it in an 8 oz mason jar. He says he loves it and it leave his beard feeling soft, and it smells good too! Next time I think I'll use jojoba oil instead of coconut oil. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Homemade Loaf Bread



A sweet friend of mine, who is always whipping up something wholesome and delicious in the kitchen, would graciously give our family a loaf of her homemade bread whenever we would get together. This bread tasted like honey, but it was filled with whole wheat that she would grind herself from berries, flax seed, and coconut oil. After so many loaves I just had to ask her for her recipe, and I am so glad that she was willing to share. Her recipe came from the company that she buys her wheat berries from and she tweaked and customize it to make it work for her, and after trying my hand at baking this recipe I found that I need to make a few slight changes to make this beautiful sweet loaf bread my own. (One of those changes being I use store bought flour, and she uses fresh wheat berries that she then grinds into flour lol).

After weeks and weeks of baking this bread, that leaves my house smelling amazing, I finally have this recipe memorized.

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

1 1/2 cups of warm water

1 egg

1/3 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup honey (or sugar)

1/2 cup ground flax seed (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups whole wheat flour (or white flour)

Proof your yeast by mixing it with warm water and allowing it to sit and foam for 5 minutes. If it does not bubble throw it out, your yeast is bad.

In your kitchen aid mixer using a dough hook, stir in your egg, oil, and honey into your yeast mixture, followed by half of your flour and your salt. Next add in your ground flax seed, and then the rest of your flour. Stir until your dough forms into a ball and is only slightly sticky. If you feel like your dough is too sticky add in a little more flour.

Next, take your dough and knead it on a floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. You'll be surprised by how long 8 minutes can take, but don't skip this part. Kneading your bread helps develop the gluten needed to make your bread light and airy.



Place your kneaded dough in a bowl and cover with a towel and allow it to rise until it is double its size. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I usually set a timer for 45 minutes.

My kneaded dough before it rises. Look at those yummy healthy looking flax seed specks!
After your dough rises punch it down and try to get all the air bubble out of your dough while you shape it into your loaf. Most of the time I just make a sandwich bread loaf in a loaf pan, but sometimes I shape my dough into a french bread, or I'll split it into 18-20 dinner rolls. What ever your shape, allow your dough to rise again for another 30 to 45 minutes. Then bake your bread in a 325 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. My friend's recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but I have to bake mine for at least 40 minutes. Everyone's oven is different. So if your bread doesn't turn out the way you think it should, try again and play with different temperatures and bake time.


This bread is so light and sweet! And I just love the flax seed in this bread! Spread a slice of this bread with butter and drizzle with honey, and oh my! You're in heaven.


But I have a confession to make, my slightly less healthier white bread version without flax seed and made with white flour, might be my favorite. The dough when making this bread is so soft, and so pretty. Both breads are sweet, light, airy, and chewy. My white bread is more of a guilty pleasure, where as my flax seed bread is my go to, guilt free, weekly sandwich bread.


Friday, March 31, 2017

Meal Plan



Monday afternoon Maddox made a pitcher of fresh squeezed lemonade. He used about 8 lemons, 10 cups of water, and a cup and a half of sugar. It was a sweet treat to add to our dinner for that night. Josiah also had something sweet to add, while I was busy in the kitchen and the kids were outside playing, Josiah brought in a beautiful bouquet of purple weed flowers. He walked in with a sweet smile on his face and the flowers behind his back. He was so proud, and I was so delighted!

We had a pretty good dinner menu this week. My weekly meals usually have more pork and chicken, and less fish...but I am running low on the meats we raise and I had to rely on the grocery store, and I thought it would be nice to make this week's meal plan a little more Skylar friendly (the only meat she'll eat is seafood).

Monday: Catfish

I was hoping to have salmon, but our grocery store didn't have any. I've only ever had fried catfish, but I didn't feel like messing with the batter or hot grease, and I had my mind set on just putting some seasoned salmon in the oven with a slice of lemon, so I cooked this catfish the same way that I would a baked salmon. This fish was horrible! At least it was for me. It turn out that I only like fried catfish, not baked. Mitch and the kids were gracious enough to not complain, and they're never shy to speak up if they don't like a meal. They said it wasn't so bad, Mason and Josiah, who are my pickiest eaters, even ate their meal all gone. I can't say that I did the same. Thank goodness I had that lemonade to wash the taste out of my mouth.

Tuesday: Fish Tacos

These were fun! I wish I had taken a picture for this blog, but I can only photograph our food so often without it looking or feeling silly to me or the family. I used frozen crispy oven baked fish fillets. These are only slightly better than fish sticks. After I baked the fish patties I cut them into chucks and seasoned them with sriracha. The tacos were put together with soft shell tortillas, shredded lettuce, red onions, salsa, mexi ranch, and sour cream, served with a side of Spanish rice and black beans. These were a hit, and Mitch said it was creative.

Wednesday: London Broil and horse radish mashed potatoes

I love red meat and a London broil is an inexpensive way to get my red meat fix and feed a family of six. Mitch has been asking for my horse radish mashed potatoes. I haven't made them in years, and when a bottle of horse radish just so happen caught my eye in the store I knew that it was time to make them again. I just simply add 2 or 3 tablespoons of horse radish to my regular mashed potato recipe, and voila, horse radish mashed potatoes. I also served this meal with a can of green beans.




Thursday: Potato Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

Yum! My favorite! Skylar and Maddox's too! Mason and Jojo don't care too much for soups of any kind, and Mitch tells me it feels like an appetizer. So with this meal I pair my soup with a grilled cheese sandwich (Mason's favorite!) made with my homemade flax seed loaf bread.




Friday: Shrimp Spaghetti and french bread

By this meal Mitch was pointing out that we were eating way too much seafood this week (Skylar wasn't complaining!). I made a homemade white french bread to go with our meal, along with a restaurant style herb and olive oil dip, which is basically Italian seasoning, garlic salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. A salad would have been a nice touch to add to this meal, but I did not. We did however have green jello for dessert!





Thursday, March 30, 2017

Orlando

2016 was a good year for Mitch at Verizon. He killed it in sales and was awarded top 10 percent in his position in his region across 8 states! Verzion rewarded all the top 10 percenters with a trip to Orlando with their plus one. I am so proud of Mitch for working so hard. We had an amazing time on this special get away this past weekend, and I am so grateful that my parents were able to watch the kids for us.

Verizon did a good job recognizing their top employees. For starters, we were given a rental car for the weekend. Mitch was excited about having the option of a mustang, but as the weekend went on he joked that he was too old and fat for this little sports car. But it sure was fun!


We were put up in the Marriott Orlando World Center Resort. The hotel floor had a walk of fame where each top 10 %-er had their own name on a tile.



Rock star Jonathan (Mitch) Brevard!

Verizon held a Winner's Circle reception by the resort's pool, where we had an open bar, snacks, and a chance to check out a few fun gadgets like these virtual googles where I could pretend that I was sky diving. We were also given "swag bags" that was filled with candy, snacks, sunscreen, a few other knick knacks, and a $100 gift card to Nike!


From the reception we were shuttled off on buses to Universal, where Verizon had rented out a part of the theme park just for us. Again there was also an open bar, and several buffets for us to chose from. The dueling piano bar, Bob Marley Bar, Karaoke, and a few other bars were just for us! We were given free glow light necklaces and rings, and the rides Hulk, Spiderman, Dr. Doom Fear Fall, and the tea cup ride were all reserved just for us! We had the park from 7 pm until midnight, and we had a blast! I felt like a movie star walking around Universal with a waiter on every corner offering me a glass of wine off their tray.








Friday was spent at Universal, and Saturday was spent by the pool! We felt so pampered and spoiled! And it was so nice to just relax and enjoy time in the sun with just the two of us.



I have always been so proud of Mitch for being such a hard worker and an amazing provider for our family. I am thankful that Verizon recognized Mitch's hard work and that we were able to be treated for a fun weekend away in honor of my sweet hard working hubby.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chicken Pot Pie

One of Mitch's favorite meals is a chicken pot pie. Two Sundays ago my dad came over to help us with our fence, and Mitch suggested that I make my chicken pot pie as a farmer's lunch. Making this simple meal from scratch really makes me feel like a Susy homemaker. I get to break out my apron, my rolling pin, and there is flour everywhere before I'm done. Since I was planning on serving this pie for lunch after church, I went ahead and made the pie dough and pie filling the night before, along with the dough for our rolls.

Chicken Pot Pie Recipe:

Pie Crust:

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 sticks butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats
  • 6 tablespoons ice cold water

Pour a cup and a half of flour with salt on top of your butter chunks in the bowl of your kitchen aid mixer. With your paddle attachment, mix until no dry flour remains and dough just begins to collect in clumps. Sprinkle remaining flour (1 cup) and mix until dough is just barely broken up.

Sprinkle with water then use a rubber spatula to fold and press the dough until it comes together into a ball. Divide ball in half. flatten each half into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or over night) before rolling and baking.






Pot Pie Filling:

1 pound or less cooked chicken - cubed ( I usually use the leftover chicken from a roasted chicken that we would have had the day or 2 before )
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced carrots
1 can of peas
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken (or veggie) broth
2/3 cup milk
2 unbaked pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F 
In a saucepan boil carrots and celery water for 15 minutes or until the veggies soften. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper. Slowly stir in broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and and add the peas, the cooked carrots and celery, and the chicken (before adding the chicken, I'll dip a small portion out to make a veggie pot pie for my vegetarian daughter).
Grease a pie pan or a cast iron skillet for your pie shell.
Pour the pot pie mixture in bottom pie crust. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough (I use my excess dough for the mini veggie pot pie). Cut small slits into your pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and the filling is bubbly. 

















































I served this meal with deviled eggs (from my yard!), rolls (homemade!), and canned green beans.


Our fence project is taking much longer than expected. Back in December we were sure that we would have it up and completed by the end of January, but we wouldn't even get all the supplies until February, and our conflicting work and weekend schedules have put us far behind our original deadline. But I am so thankful for the help from my dad.







The Fence is for our Skylar's horse Murray. As soon as the fence is up we'll be able to bring him home. In the meantime, he is staying with a friend of ours and is buddy buddy with her horse. We're hoping to bring Murray home soon!




Monday, March 20, 2017

No Stabilizers!


The Challenge group (grades 7th-12th, though our group only has 7th and 10th graders) from Classical Conversations took a field trip to the Fox Theater in Atlanta to see the Phantom of the Opera. The girls looked so beautiful and grown up! Skylar was in awe of her experience. She would go on and on talking for hours about the opera, the story, the music, and the chandelier. I'm so glad that she was able to have this opportunity to experience the opera with her friends.

March 2nd


Skylar, Somer, Maddie, and Presley

7th grade CC girls

While Skylar was away in Atlanta, we were surprised to find new visitors in our yard, 2 male peacocks! We had no idea where they came from. We checked in with a few neighbors and they didn't know either. I was delighted to have them. I had been begging Mitch for peacocks, but he told me they were too expensive of a pet for us just to admire in the yard. They stuck around for about 3 days before a neighbor would come looking for them. I'm glad he found them, because I knew that if I had bought and raised these peacocks as he did, that I would of course want to enjoy them for myself in my own yard. This was a good opportunity for us to get to know another neighbor whose family is around the same age as ours, with a son close to Maddox's age and another son close to Josiah's age. He collected his peacocks and left, but a few days later the peacocks returned and they haven't left yet. I still don't mind my visitors (as long as they don't poop on my porch!). I love watching them strut around the yard with their beautiful feathers. Our neighbor let us know that they're only 9 months old, and it turns out that peacocks don't mature and get their long train feathers until they're 2 or 3 years old. 





Big news this month! Mason has learned how to ride a bike without training wheels (or stabilizers as he likes to call them! lol). Mitch and I were enjoying a Sunday evening on the front porch, watching all 4 kids play and ride their bikes. I casually mentioned to Mitch that one day soon we would have to teach Mason how to ride without his training wheels. Mitch, still motivated to get things done after working in the yard all afternoon, said lets take off the training wheels now! Wait, what?!?! Just because I suggested it, didn't mean I was ready to teach him now. What if Mason wasn't ready? and even though Mitch was gung ho about taking off the stabilizers, I would be the one who had to train him once Mitch was away at work, I would be the one who would have to hold on to and help balance a frustrated 5 year old everyday while he tried to figure out how to ride his bike with only 2 wheels. But Mitch ignored my protest and took the wheels off anyways. Mason was bouncing with excitement, ready to ride his bike like a big boy, like his big brother Maddox with only 2 wheels, no stabilizers. I sat on the porch to watch Mitch give the first lesson. I figured that he could at least tackle the first day...I would have the days to follow. But Mason blew us all away when he took his bike from his dad and hopped on and took off like he already knew what he was doing! I squealed with excitement for him. Easiest lesson ever, I thought! He couldn't figure out how to stop without falling off, but he was too excited to get frustrated. After his first go, he would wobble and struggle to find his balance, so I would hold on to the back of his seat while he tried to figure out his foot placement on the peddle and then he would take off again. Within just a few short days he figured out how to stop himself without crashing and how to get on and off all by himself. It still blows me away to see him riding with just 2 wheels around the yard.

March 5th


March 11th

March 14th
Mason is still enjoying his piano lessons! and the opportunity to bang on some drums :)


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