Thursday, October 31, 2013

Monthly Menu: Novemeber

November Menu

Here are my dinner plans for 30 days of November. A few things you should know:
*I love to use leftovers to create another meal
*My meals are pretty simple (most ingredients are listed in the meal item) My go to cookbook is my 1996 Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (you know, the red checked one) - it was a wedding gift and has been extremely useful.
*I don't usually measure when I cook and add extra spices sometimes, so the same dish tastes different every time I cook it
*I have one child that is a very picky eater (doesn't like different foods touching) - so I fix her plate before I mix everything together. She still eats the same food as the rest of us, it just meets her standards of separation.

 Week 1 Menu:
1. Whole Roasted Chicken with carrots and rolls
2. Chicken Fried Rice (use leftover ckn, bag of frozen mixed veggies, an egg and white rice with soy sauce, honey & dijon mustard)
3. Chicken Quesos (leftover chicken, plus onion, and cheese grilled inside a tortilla)
4.  Make your own pizza - I make/or buy 1 lg. pizza crust and let everyone add their favorite toppings to one section of the crust - add cheese and bake.
5. Tacos - beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, tortillas, salsa, sour cream, black olives
6. Leftovers
7. Eat Out:Sandwich Shop
Snacks: Apples, Grapes, Cubed Cheese, Trail Mix

Week 2 Menu: Soup & Sandwich Week
8. Hot Ham & cheese
9. Ruben Sandwiches (corned beef, sauerkraut, cheese, Thousand Island dressing)
10. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
11. Bacon, Cheddar Potato Soup
12. White Chicken Chili (here's my recipe)
13. Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese
14. Eat Out: Burgers
Snacks: Pretzels, bananas, peanut butter/crackers, apples

Week 3 Menu:
15. Meatloaf, rolls, green beans, and corn
16. Homemade enchiladas
17. Taco Salad - beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, black olives
18. Breakfast for Dinner - eggs, bacon, pancakes
19. BLTs (bacon, lettuce, tomato)
20.  Spaghetti with meat sauce, corn, bread & butter
21. Eat Out: Sandwich Shop
Snacks: Homemade granola, pears, bananas, homemade cookies, chips & salsa

Week 4
22. Beef Stroganoff (beef, egg noodles, cream of mushroom, sour cream)
23. Homemade Chili
24. Baked Potato Bar with favorite toppings
25. Homemade Lasagna (my easy recipe), salad, rolls
26. Leftovers
27.  Eat Out: Pizza
Snacks: Bananas, applesauce, cereal trail mix, cinnamon roll-ups, fruit smoothies

Thanksgiving Weekend:
28. Roasted Turkey, Green Beans, Cranberry Salad (grandma's recipe), homemade rolls, pumpkin pie
29. Leftovers
30. KY Hot Brown (here's my recipe)

Friday, October 25, 2013

23 Books My Daughter WON'T be Reading in 7th Grade English Class

We take our children's schooling experience one year at a time - if works for us this year, we'll keep going, if not we'll try something different next year. After seven years of homeschooling, we decided to let our oldest daughter have the opportunity to try public school, which she strongly desired to do. I knew that would require my diligent involvement in her schoolwork and continued communication with her teachers to maintain the Christian Worldview and strong work ethic we have worked hard to instill in her.

Monday, she came in the door with, "Mom, I've got a paper you need to sign..." It was titled, "Secondary Reading List Permission Form" (I won't go on the tangents of why this shouldn't be necessary, the problems with Common Core standards, or should we just go back to homeschooling - all of which I have strong opinions about, but that's not the point here.) I was somewhat expecting and hoping for this paper, because as a writer, I want know that my daughter is reading quality literature - however I didn't realize the time involvement it would require from me to do the necessary research.

The form gave two signing options 1. Sure, let her read whatever the teacher assigns or 2. Ok, let her read what the teacher assigns, with the EXCEPTION of... (my paraphrase of the formal language) - not a problem, I can weed out a few inappropriate books, right? However the list has 370 books on it!

 I spent the next three days reading reviews of "Young Adult" literature (because I haven't heard of most of them). It was a lot of work, but worth it for the sake of my daughter and hopefully all my research will be helpful to you as well.

A Couple of Disclaimers about this list:
1. My list of books was based on 4 criteria:
(S) Explicit Sexual References/Scenes;
(V) Extreme Violence, not related to historical events;
(L) Excessive Foul Language;
(T) Very Mature Themes
If a book contained one or more of these criteria, it was added to the list of books that I DO NOT give permission for my daughter to read in 7th Grade English class.
I had to limit my exclusions somehow or I'm sure I could have found something wrong with just about every book on the list.

2. I based my opinions on the book reviews I found on and - the first site gives unbiased ratings based on content plus parent reviews, on Amazon I read 1 star ratings, looking for any obvious objections that met my criteria.

3. My NOT APPROVED list is based on our School District's Suggested Reading List and what I feel  MY fairly mature 12 year old daughter should be reading- I don't feel these books are appropriate at this time in her life.

The List (in no particular order):
  1. Kissing Tennessee by Kathi Appelt (S)
  2. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (T)
  3. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (S)
  4. A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich by Alice Childress (T)
  5. The Adventures of Ulysses by Bernard Evslin (S)
  6. The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (V)
  7. Story Time by Edward Bloor (L)
  8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (T)
  9. Agnus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (S)
  10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (L)
  11. Bless the Beast and the Children by Glendon Swarthout (L)
  12. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (SL)
  13. Blood Red Road by Moira Young (VL)
  14. Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (SLV)
  15. Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep (S)
  16. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (TSV)
  17. Forged by Fire by Sharon Draper (SV)
  18. Gentlehands by M.E. Kerr (S)
  19. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (T)
  20. Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (V)
  21. Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (SLV)
  22. Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher (TS)
  23. Deathwatch by Robb White (V)
Some final thoughts on what I've learned from this experience:
  • There is a serious lack of good literature for teens.
  • Amazon reviews aren't necessarily thoughtful or constructive critiques.
  •  Most "Young Adult" literature is about the same 5 topics: paranormal, dystopia, the ravages of war, racial issues in America or sappy teen romance.
  • I think books should come with ratings like TV and Movies - navigating appropriate books for teens would be much easier.
  • The written word is powerful to shape young minds - as a parent I must be extremely cautious about what I allow my children to be exposed to.
  • I praise God for the wisdom and discernment that He has given me on this task and pray that He will be honored by the decisions I make for my family.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Laundry

Super Easy Homemade Laundry Soap

1 bar Fels-Naptha, shredded
1 1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
1 1/2 cup Borax
Mix Well. Use 2 tablespoons of mix per load of laundry. (Cleans approx. 30 loads of laundry for me.)

Prompt: Laundry

Friday is laundry day at the Raulston house - it all gets washed, folded and put away - all in one day! Is it my amazing domestic skills that accomplishes this feat, you ask? No way! I'm not this dedicated about most household chores. But laundry has never been an issue.

You see, when we were first married and in college, the laundromat at our apartment complex was awful, so a sweet older lady in our church, Shirley, let me come over once a week and use her washer and dryer to do our laundry. Our oldest child was about 1 year old, so Grandma Sippy, as she became known, provided Fruit Loops and Dora on the TV for the baby, while she and I talked and sewed (I was into quilting back then, when I only had 1 small child).

This laundry day at Shirley's turned into an amazing friendship between our families. Shirley and her husband, Harold, really became like grandparents to us while we were in college. They would babysit and have us over for dinner. We would play cards or swim in their pool - we always felt welcomed and loved in their home. The summer before we moved away we spent almost every evening at their house - we made so many memories there.

Today, ten years later, folding towels will still remind me of what true hospitality looks like...

Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and hundreds of others. We write for five minutes. All on the same prompt. No extreme editing. No worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Project Organize Revived

The last time I posted on Project Organize 2013 was in March.  Since then, we remodeled our house, sold that house, moved into a rental for the summer and then moved across the country from Ohio to Texas. organizing plan gets a fresh start.

I have three goals to keep my new home organized:
  • Monthly Meal Planning - so dinner time is easy peasy (October's Menu)
  • Cute and easy storage - for all the kids miscellany (okay, mine too - but we'll blame it on the kids)
  • Put Pinterest to real life use - 
    • Use those helpful cleaning tips and schedules to create a simple clean routine
    •  Actually make all those cute crafts to decorate my home, it will make it feel welcoming
    • Make-over for my closet (which will require a personal make-over too!)
I want my role as homemaker to bring glory to God. I want a home where my husband can relax and feel at peace. I want my kids to value a well-kept home.

Ambitious? Maybe! But, that's why I'm sharing it here with you - accountability! I welcome encouragement and suggestions! I hope my honest sharing is encouraging and inspiring too!

Monthly Menu: October


Here are my dinner plans for 31 days of October. A few things you should know:
*I plan for a month, but shop weekly because we like fresh produce that won't last more than a week and to pick up any random items that always seem to be needed.
*My budget for the month is $550 for 2 adults & 4 kids - that includes all home-cooked meals, snacks, school lunches (for 1 student), and dining out. (We usually have cereal for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch)
*I love to use leftovers to create another meal (ie. wk 1 I use left over pot roast for beef & peppers and beef stew)
*My meals are pretty simple (most ingredients are listed in the meal item) My go to cookbook is my 1996 Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook (you know, the red checked one) - it was a wedding gift and has been extremely useful.

 Week 1 Menu:
1. Pot Roast, Potatoes & Carrots (6-8 hrs. in crock pot w/ 1 c. water and onion soup mix)
2. Oriental Beef & Peppers on white rice (sauce: soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and garlic)
3. Beef Stew (beef stock, leftover pot roast chunks, potatoes, and carrots, plus green beans, corn, and onions)
4. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
5. Leftovers
6. Pizza (from favorite local restaurant)
7. Breakfast for Dinner: Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs
Snacks: Apples, Grapes, Cubed Cheese, Homemade Caramel Popcorn

Week 2 Menu:
8. Whole Roasted Chicken with carrots and rolls
9. Chicken and rice broccoli, cream of chicken soup(use leftover ckn)
10. Chicken Quesos (leftover chicken, plus onion, and cheese grilled inside a tortilla)
11. Pork chops, mashed potatoes and green beans
12. Homemade Chili (hamburger, onions, chili beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, basil and garlic)
13. Chili Dogs (hot dogs, buns, leftover chili & cheese)
14. Eat Out: Burgers & Fries
Snacks: Cinnamon Roll-ups (butter & cinnamon-sugar on a tortilla, rolled-up), Homemade Caramel Popcorn, Homemade Applesauce, Graham Crackers & milk

Week 3 Menu:
15. Grilled Chicken (with Italian dressing marinade), Sweet Corn and Crescent Rolls
16. Chicken Stir Fry (ckn, squash, zucchini, onions and broccoli) with rice
17. BBQ Chicken in Crockpot (4 ckn breasts with fav. BBQ sauce) with coleslaw and baked beans
18. BBQ Chicken pizza - leftover ckn, onions, pineapple, bacon & mozz. cheese on pizza crust (or crescent roll dough)
19. Tacos - beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, tortillas, salsa, sour cream, black olives
20. Meatloaf, rolls, green beans, and corn
21. Eat Out: Sandwich Shop
Snacks: Homemade granola, pears, bananas, homemade cookies, chips & salsa

Week 4
22. Garlic-Lime Chicken (saute chicken breasts with minced garlic and lime juice), sweet peas & bread & butter
23. Home-grilled Burgers & Tater Tots
24. Spaghetti with meat sauce, corn, bread & butter
25.  Homemade Lasagna, salad, rolls
26. Leftovers
27. Chicken pot pie
28. Eat Out: Sandwich shop
Snacks: Bananas, applesauce, cereal trail mix, cinnamon roll-ups, fruit smoothies

Week 5
29. Roast, potatoes & carrots
30. Philly cheese-steak (leftover roast sauteed with peppers and onions on hoagie with cheese)
31. Steak Quesos (leftover roast with onions, cheese grilled in tortillas)
Snacks: Oranges, pears, homemade granola, yogurt

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Review: Bake Though the Bible

I love, love, love Bake Through the Bible: 20 Fun Cooking Activities to Explore the Bible Story with Young Children (Beginning with God) by Susie Bently-Taylor and Bekah Moore!!  It's perfect for any family - homeschoolers, preschoolers, hand-on learners, and anyone who desires to teach their children the true gospel.
Here's why I love this book so much:
  • It follows the redemptive narrative of the whole Bible. The authors didn't just pick random, well-known stories that would make cute recipes. They intentionally followed the story that God laid out in His word from creation to the cross to show why and how we need Jesus.
  • The recipes are simple and yummy! These two ladies obviously know what it's like to cook with children. The recipes are easy to follow with simple steps that kids can actually help with. Plus the ingredients are things you would normally find in your kitchen that kids might actually eat. Even my picky-eater is eager to try these recipes.
  • The artwork in this book is beautiful! I love the mixed-media. The drawings make the directions easy to follow and the photographs are big and bright and make the food look delicious! The artwork really attracts the interest of the children - my kids love looking through this book at all the pictures! (Our favorite picture is "The Good Book Company" lego-man looking inside the Empty Bread Tomb on page 51.) 
    In reviewing a cookbook, of course we had to try out the recipes. Here are some pictures of us making Dirty and Clean Hearts on p. 54. It was easy and fun, plus I got to talk to my kids about our hearts being dirty with sin and that only Jesus can make them clean! 



*Special thanks to The Good Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for providing this book, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Five Minute Friday: WRITE

Five Minute Friday with Lisa-Jo Baker and hundreds of others. We write for five minutes. All on the same prompt. No extreme editing. No worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Prompt: WRITE

I have wanted to be a writer for a long time. It started in 2nd grade writing a poem about leaves that was awarded and published in our school's Honor Writers Book - it was the first thing I ever typed on a computer - I felt very important! I wrote poems in high school and started a few novels - plenty of ideas in my head - not a lot of them have made it on paper yet.

 A few years back, I decided to take my passion for writing serious. I knew I needed to find a niche that I was good at and that was unique and useful. I decided I would write devotional books, for several reasons - my main audience wouldn't be people who read 100+ books a year - it would be mainly moms and grandmas, working women and college students - ladies who only have a few moments and who need lots of encouragement.

My first book, Sights and Sounds of Christmas, was written for the ladies at my church, to encourage us to focus on Christ in the midst of a hectic holiday season. (I converted it to an ebook for Amazon,  check it out here.) I'm currently working on a devotion book for moms on the Fruit of the Spirit. My hope and prayer is that what God teaches me in and through His Word, I can share and encourage other women to grow in their faith. That is what inspires me to WRITE.