Archive | October, 2012

Beef Bourguignon w/Slow Cooker Adaption

Hey friends! My goal this year is to adapt one of our favorite family recipes each month to a more simplified slow cooker version! Here is one of our favorites that I am sharing today while republishing the original recipe from the archives. You won’t be disappointed!

After watching the film Julie & Julia on the life of Julia Child awhile back, I was determined to learn to cook a few of Julia Child’s recipes, starting with her Beef Bourguignon, since it was so emphasized during the film (and I have the very same Le Creuset french oven as well!). After several attempts, I have come up with a fabulous adaption of the recipe that is so much simpler than the original and still ever as delicious! This meal is absolutely fabulous – especially for the meat loving husband. It is certainly a special treat for us on a budget, but it makes the man very happy, so I make it once a month or so. It is also a excellent dish for hospitality and has received rave reviews wherever we have served it. We serve over creamy garlic mashed potatoes or noodles for a delicious comforting meal. Unfortunately, I really failed in my photography on this one…but it is truly my favorite meal!


  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 2-3 pounds stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 3 cups red Burgundy wine (pretty much any cheap red wine works as well. I recommend sticking within the french wines for best results.)
  • 2-3 cups beef stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1-2 crumbled bay leaves
  • 2 pounds mushrooms, quartered
  • 1/4 cup butter


  1. In a large 9-10 inch fireproof casserole pan, cook bacon over medium/high heat until tender and browned. Remove bacon from pan, while leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  2. Dry the beef in a paper towel before placing in the casserole and saute it on each side until nicely browned.
  3. Add the carrots, onions, and 1/2 cup beef broth and saute until tender.
  4. After bacon has cooled, chop into small pieces, and then add back to the pan with stew meat and vegetables.
  5. Toss with salt, pepper, and arrowroot powder and mix till well combined.
  6. Add the wine, remaining beef broth, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Add enough liquid so that meat is barely covered. Bring to a boil.
  7. Turn oven to 325 degrees. Cover the casserole and place in the lower third of the oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  8. While the beef is cooking, prepare the mushrooms. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. As soon as you see that the butter foam has begun to diminish, add the mushrooms. You may want to do them in two separate batches to prevent overcrowding, which will prevent them from browning nicely.
  9. Toss and shake the pan for 3-5 minutes until mushrooms are nicely browned. Remove to a large bowl.
  10. After the meat has cooked for 2 hours, add the mushrooms. Return to oven for the remaining 1/2 hour to 1 hour.
  11. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. The taste improves with age! Simply reheat to serve.



Yes! I am all about simplifying and making life easier for myself, so my recent adventure was adapting this recipe to make in the slow cooker. And it works beautifully

Simply throw all the ingredients into your slow cooker. The only changes you will want to make include eliminating the beef stock (as it will make it too wet) and doubling the arrowroot powder/cornstarch. You do not need to precook the meat in anyway. I like to throw the bacon in whole and then after it is cooked, I will remove and chop it up. You can saute the mushrooms as the recipe above describes for extra flavor before adding, or you can simply toss them in as well without any advance preparation. Cook on low for 6-8 hours for best results. You can cook it on high for a shorter period of time, but if you want the stew meat to be soft and tender, it is best to cook low for the longer period. Yum!

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Quiet Time Learning Bins for Little Ones

I have recently been trying to get a bit more organized in two areas:

1. Keeping my toddler engaged while I work homeschooling my Kindergarten daughter and vis versa.

2. Maintaining a peaceful nap period every afternoon.

I wanted some fun educational resources for my little ones to be able to work at independently while I rotated between working with each of them one on one. We also have a daily rest period after lunch when everyone goes to their special place (in their bedroom or elsewhere) for a quiet time or nap time according to their age. This is a time for us all to refresh ourselves with rest or quiet independent play. I find it essential for this mommy to have this period during our day to revitalize myself for the rest of the day. It allows me time to write, read, nap if necessary, and do a few clean up tasks here and there.

How do I keep everyone engaged but quiet during these periods?

I heard about the idea of quiet time bins in years past, so I knew it was about time to get creative and make something of it for our home. This one simple idea is a great solution for both my dilemmas mentioned above.

We compiled 5 individuals boxes for each child with 5 different activities for 5 days of the week.

I found these simple plastic organization shoe box bins at my local Dollar Store.

In each box, I picked out various age appropriate activities. I wanted educational, logic building, hands on, creativity inspiring activities, so we chose the following:

Toddler/Preschooler (2-4 years):
Beginner Puzzles (I found some cheap box puzzles at Dollar Store that I put in small ziploc bags)
Playdough (a few cans of playdough with cookie cutters -again, playdough is from Dollar Store – 4 colors for $1) – this is just an activity we use during school time because of the mess involved
Day & Night Logic Game
Pattern Blocks & Boards

Other ideas: Kumon First Step Workbooks (w/beginner scissors) – we have used and enjoyed these books in the past! Another favorite is My Book of Easy Mazes for this age group.

Kindergarten (5-7 years):
Sewing Cards
Magnetic Dolls Dress Up
Advanced puzzles (Stored in small ziploc bags and cut out small image of completed puzzle from original box)
Never Bored Kids Book or Kumon Cutting Workbook (with scissors, glue and other supplies)

We labeled each box according to the day of the week for its use. This allows the activities to be rotated and continue to be fresh with each week. Each day, I work for a 30 minute period with my toddler and my daughter plays with one of her boxes or works on independent school work. During rest time, if my toddler doesn’t sleep, as happens occasionally, I will also allow him to pull out a box. My daughter listens to books on tape and may occasionally play with her daily activity box during rest period as well. I have found it works the best keeping one busy at the counter while I spend some quality time with the other.

This is just a simple tool to keep everyone busy and engaged and your home running smoothly during these periods of your day.

For other ideas, check out these posts:

Quiet Time Bins – Keeper of the Home

How to Make Quiet Time Activity Bins – Nice Girl Notes

Quiet Time Bins – Holistic Homemaker

This post includes affiliate links to product recommendations that we use and love. Please note we do receive a small percentage of each purchase made through our links that help to support this site. 

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My Favorite Cloth Diapers Giveaway!

I’m excited to bring you today a wonderful giveaway from my favorite cloth diapering store and sponsor, Sweet Bottoms Baby Boutique! This online store is awesome! They offer a huge selection of cloth diapering products, baby carriers, mommy care products, natural safe toys, and everything is offered with free shipping, plus you can accumulate rewards with each purchase providing savings on future orders. Each order comes very quickly to your door packaged with love and a sweet array of samples. (My last order was shipped two hours after I ordered it!)

I have used cloth diapers for all three of our little ones and have absolutely loved the experience not to mention how much the cost savings in comparison to disposable. There are so many wonderful styles and colors to choose from which makes it tons of fun.

My two favorite cloth diapers are the Bum Genius stay-dry one size pocket diapers and the more reasonably priced Kawaii one size pockets. These two diapers compile the entirety of our cloth diapering stash because they are high quality, rarely leak (and if they do it is usually a good sign that they need to stripped which solves the problem), dry quickly, and with their adjustable sizing can last me through the whole period of diapering for each child. I have used my stash of Bum Genius through three children and have only needed to replace elastic one time, which is really easy to do with the new styles. Bum Genius have a fabulous one year warranty on their diapers as well. Kawaii while not as high of quality, lacks warranty, and more difficult to replace elastic, they have really surprised me with their durability. If on a tighter budget, these dipes are the way to go, as they retail between $8-10 per diaper. Kawaii tend to be a bit more bulky than the Bum Genius, but otherwise they have held up remarkably well. For my extensive review, visit here.

I highly recommend snap diapers as they last so much longer than any style of Velcro. Velcro just accumulates tons of hair and string which can be a challenge to clean out, and also the Velcro losses its strength in ability to cling over time, which never happens with snaps. I used Velcro style with my first baby, and then quickly switched to snaps with my second baby, and have been thrilled with the ease and durability. Sweet Bottoms Baby offers a Fix & Fasten Guarantee on their diapers, providing free repair of snaps for the lifetime of the diaper! That’s quality customer service.

So today, we bring you a special gift package of one Kawaii and one Bum Genius pocket style one size diaper (your choice of color and style) for two lovely winners for your sampling pleasure! This is a retail value of $27.50 per gift set.

To Enter:

1. Visit Sweet Bottoms Baby Boutique and check out their selection. Pick out your favorite style and color of the Bum Genius and Kawaii diapers and come back and share with us! 

2. For a second optional entry, tell us your favorite money saving baby care tip in a second comment. 

Follow them on Facebook for specials, giveaways, and more! Check out their Fall Festival Sale now and save 10% by entering “fallfestival’ at checkout on most items!

Giveaway closed.

And the winners are….

Lauren & Melissa! (you will be contacted shortly if you won!)

Winner will be randomly selected and announced on the day following the close of the giveaway.
No purchase necessary to participate.
Giveaway limited to US participants only.
Email subscribers must click through to the original post and leave a comment in order to be entered. Replying to the email in your inbox does not qualify. Sorry!
This is a sponsored giveaway from a company that I love and support!

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Homemaking Help 101

Do you feel lost in your homemaking and don’t know where to begin? Did you not receive the training you desire to be a resourceful homemaker? Do you desire a routine but just feel hopeless? Here is a compilation of all the best articles here at Passionate Homemaking and elsewhere on the basics of homemaking, from cleaning to menu planning to your mission. I hope having them all in one place would make it easier for you to take simple steps, one by one, in finding a routine that works best for you. Remember, these are just tools and they certainly are not all encompassing. Feel free to adapt them to your preferences. This is just a resource to help encourage you in making a beautiful and peaceful home that brings delight to the residents and blessing to those who enter through your doors.


Cleaning Your House in 30 Minutes per day

How to Wash Your Laundry in One Day

Organizing Kitchen Storage with Canning Jars

Fly Lady Routines

Weekly Cleaning Schedule

Fifteen Family Chore Charts

Schedules & Routines

12 Efficiency Tips in the Kitchen

Developing a Simple Schedule & Routine

Get a Maid, a Chef, and a Nanny by Creating Effective Routines

Establishing a Morning Routine

Tips for Maintaining a Simple Peaceful Home: Routines, To Do Lists, and More

Simplifying the Schedule

Establish Routines for a Simple Home

Start Your Day By Getting Dressed

Menu Planning

Simple Menu Planning  

Dry Erase Menu Plan System

Simplifying By Buying Groceries Online

Monthly Grocery Shopping

Monthly Baking Routine

Home Management

Homemaking Binder

Build a Home Planning Notebook

My Favorite iPhone Apps for Home Management 

Simple Steps to Declutter Your Home

Taking a Weekly Planning Retreat

Simplifying by Planning

Yearly Planning with a File Crate System

Free Printable Homemaking Resources

The Color Coded Family

Home Decorating

Simple Home Decorating on A Budget 

Simple & Frugal Children’s Bedroom Decor

Make a House a Home – Decor

Decorating on A Budget – Part 1 & Part 2

Artwork in the Home

Homemaking How-To’s

How to Properly Iron Your Clothes

How to Wash Your Clothes

Keeping it All In Perspective

Making Your Home Lovely

Tips for Maintaining a Simple Peaceful Home

No Mundane Task

Pitfalls of To-Do Lists

A Home for God

Increasing the Passion In Your Homemaking

Understanding the Heart of Order

Let Your Work Be Your Worship

Homemaking Resource Recommendations

Maximize Your Mornings by Kat @ Inspired to Action (a powerful tool for making the most of your day by starting it out right!)
Shopping for Time by Carolyn Mahaney (Read my full review here)
From Clutter to Clarity: Maximizing Life from the Inside Out by Nancy Twigg (It starts with the heart! Love this book!)
One Bite at A Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler by Tsh Oxenreider (small weekly goals for organizing a simple home – practical and doable!)
Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider (a room by room guide to getting organized!)
Managers of the Home: A Practical Guide to Daily Scheduling for Christian Homeschool Families by Steve & Teri Maxwell (my mom swears by this book and she managed to homeschool and organize a family of 8 children!)
I’m an Organizing Junkie   (a useful blog for all things organizing!)

What are your favorite homemaking articles? Add your favorite links in the comments below! We’d love to hear what has helped you!

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Stocking Your Natural Herbal Medicine Cabinet

Screen shot 2009-10-20 at 7.22.56 AMPhoto by niachan

Edited and republished from the archives. Originally published 10/20/2009.

We have already been attacked with our first bout of illness for the year with coughs and colds, so it is time to restock the medicine cabinet with our favorite natural remedies. I love using herbal tinctures and remedies for our healing and was eager to share with you what we concluded were some of the best items to have on hand for all the little ailments that could come upon us. I am not apposed to using antibiotics on occasion if it is totally necessary, but for the everyday headaches, wounds, colds, flus, fevers, here is what I have found to be effective natural solutions.


Emergen-C – I have talked previously about our favorite Vitamin C drink Emergen-C here. I like to stock up on this when I get a good deal. Trader Joe’s has a good price on it as well as Pumped full of 1000 mg of vitamin C, it also has a good portion of energy boosting B vitamins, in addition to various minerals and electrolytes.  This will keep you healthy or kick out those nasty colds quickly! When we get sick, we will drink several packs of this product daily. It tastes delicious and is a good way to cover up any other herbal tinctures that we may add to it. We use the Kids Emergen-C for our little ones. They normally drink one package each day for boasting the immune system during the winter.

Traditional Medicinals Teas – Gypsy Cold, Breathe Easy, Throat Coat – I love these delicious teas for specifically formulated with various herbs for every ailment. They are delicious, relaxing, and refreshing and really help solve the problem. They also help to encourage you to drink more fluids, which is most beneficial for healing. Amazon sells a sampler pack with subscribe & save discounts providing you with great natural support at low prices all winter long. Their Just for Kids line of teas is wonderful for your little ones.

Eucalyptus Oil – Eucalyptus in it’s essential oil form is wonderful to have on hand as it is highly beneficial. Add a few drops to the humidifier for easier breathing and rub it on the chest to help relieve congestion. We use this for our children especially. Dilute a few drops of oil in a dab of coconut or olive oil and rub on their chest to relieve congestion.

Echinacea/Goldenseal – A great combination to boost your immunity. We take in tablet form. Most do not recommend for pregnant mothers.

And as my mom always says, when the kids are sick, give them regular baths and change their sheets often! Keep those germ bugs running away.


Coughs Remedies for Infants & Kids – We have recently discovered the wonderful natural remedies of cough syrups by Hylands and found them to be quite effective for our little ones. It is hard to find something safe for infants, but Hylands offers an infant cough syrup that works very well with all natural ingredients. They also offer a cough syrup for Kids ages 2+ made with honey. These are wonderful to have on hand for those nights when they just cannot go to sleep due to extensive coughing.

Adults – We love the Ricola Cough Drops for soothing coughs and sour throats, in addition to the Traditional Medicinals teas.

For further ideas for natural healing of colds, check out our previous posts:

Natural Cold Remedies for Children

Natural Healing for the Family

Soup Remedy for Colds


Elderberry Syrup – Elderberry is anti-viral, contains high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants, has cell-protecting components, soothes sore throats, and supports the immune system and respiratory system. The elderberry is effective in fighting viruses, such as the flu, and upper respiratory infections. According to Prescription for Herbal Healing, “a clinical study of elderberry found that it cured 90 percent of flu infections within seventy-two hours. In the same trial, patients receiving a placebo needed six days.” This is also effective as a cough syrup. We recommend Quantam Elderberry Syrup as it is naturally sweetened with honey or the sugar free version. This is recommended for children over 1 year. A nursing mother can take 1 Tbsp of Elderberry syrup 5 minutes before nursing to pass the benefits on to a infant less than a year old. For infants, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, recommends putting 1 drop per pound of body weight directly on a baby’s tongue, or administer while nursing. This book states it is completely harmless and can be given repeatedly as needed to help decrease fevers and the like. You can be taking this regularly as an immune booster as well. Make your own elderberry syrup and save money. Follow this recipe.

Echinacea – To ward off the flu at the first hint of symptoms, take echinacea, an herb with powerful antiviral and immunity-boosting effects, says renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar in her book, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. Echinacea is available in most health food stores in supplement form, as a tincture and as a tea. Echinacea works best over a short period of time, and isn’t an effective immune strengthener when taken long term. She suggests using the herb for no more than a week.

For infants, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years, recommends mixing 10 drops of Echinacea in a four ounce bottle of water. Allow baby to suck this as desired to keep a fever in bounds. A mother can also take a dose of 5-15 drops two to three times daily that will pass through the breast milk to protect the infant.

Calming Children, Teething

Catnip Tea – A combination of catnip and chamomile is a great aid in calming children when dealing with various stress, teething, pain, etc. Traditional Medicinals offers a catnip tea as well as Mountain Rose Herbs (the Quiet Child Tea) that we enjoy. You can freeze this tea in ice cube trays and allow a baby to suck on it for teething relief. I also dilute it a bit and offer it to a baby in a bottle if needed. Hylands also sells Teething Tablets that are semi-effective. I’ve also had people recommend a drop of brandy rubbed on the gums does the trick. I have yet to try this method. ;)

When all else fails and baby just can’t sleep, we do use a small dose of Infant Advil dye-free drops for teething and fevers.

Ear Ache

Garlic OilThis is a good recipe to use as a preventative as well! Press 2-3 garlic cloves in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Let warm on stove for 15-20 minutes. Strain garlic from oil. Lay child on side and drop 2-3 drops of garlic oil in ear and massage lower outer ear for a few minutes. Wait for half hour or so before doing the other side so oil won’t drain out. 3-4 times daily. You can also buy a garlic oil already prepared for you. Make sure to use this homemade tincture right away or store in the refrigerator for up to one weeks time to avoid any safety risks. Please DO NOT store at room temperature.

Muscle Pains/Aches

Arnica Spray - Arnica is highly valued for sprains and bruises when the skin is not broken. Can help prevent bruising if applied quickly. Great relief for sour muscles. Also available in several other forms, as a tincture and in ointments, it makes an excellent treatment for rheumatism and some skin irritations as well. We use Hyland’s Arnica Spray.


Hylands Headaches – Hyland’s Headache is a traditional homeopathic formula for the relief of symptoms of head pain due to stress and sick or nervous headache. No side affects but rather natural healing response. Safe for adults and children. Take at the first sign of a headache for best results.

Ginger Tea - Ginger’s wonderful effects as a treatment for nausea have led it to be highly recommended for sea sickness or motion sickness as well. Ginger tea is very settling. A great aid for pregnancy nausea as well.


Rescue RemedyBach’s Rescue Remedy is a natural form of healing for everyday stress and help maintain control in your body. Homeopathic remedy. Composite of five of the flower remedies discovered by Dr. Edward Bach. Rescue Remedy calms the nerves, eases tension, buffers emotional shock, and combats stress. You can use this on your pets as well under the guidance of a holistic veterinarian. Crisis Calm from NaturoKits is also a great stress reliever. Our favorite tea for stress relief is Tension Tamer.

Herbal Healing Salts - My favorite way to relieve stress, muscle pain, or to heal any wounds, is to take a hot bath with a combination of herbal healing salts. Epsom salts is in this combination as well. But with the addition of lavender and other herbs it is very relaxing.I use the herbal bath salts from Mountain Rose Herbs and absolutely love them (they are on sale in October as well)! They help to relax me in order to sleep well.

Cuts, Bruises, Muscle Pain

Epsom Salts – Excellent for soaking a small open wound to prevent infection. Use daily as a soak for warts as well. It really works! These are also effective after childbirth to heal the vaginal area. These are cheap and available at your local supermarket.

Hydrogen Peroxide – A great antiseptic. Pour directly onto a wound to clear out dirt and fight infection. Cover with band aid.

Witch Hazel – Witch Hazel is one of the most widely used first aid remedies, both for its astringent and blood clotting actions. Use distilled Witch Hazel as a compress for minor burns and sprains, or apply directly to the skin for insect bites, nosebleeds and cuts. Witch Hazel also makes a good skin toner.

Super Glue & Butterfly Band-Aids – Butterfly band-aids and super glue are a must for the slighter deeper cuts as well. Saves you from getting stitches and prevent scaring. We used it all the time growing up with deeper cuts on the head or fingers. Use your discernment as to the deepness of the cut. Aaron gashed his finger a few months back which was definitely deeper than a regular band-aid would heal. So we cleaned it out with hydrogen peroxide, and then held the gash shut with our fingers and applied a thin strip of super glue  and covered with a butterfly band-aid. I cannot say how natural super glue but it was designed originally to quickly patch up soldiers on the battlefield during the Vietnam War. They even used it to glue lacerated livers together (lovely, huh?). I did find reference to it being non-toxic though. It does seals the cut and allows it to heal beautifully! We saved ourselves from many hospital trips growing up by using this simple frugal method. For more on this solution, read Super Glue: Safe for Treating Cuts? and How To Use Superglue for Cuts.

Stomach aches

Papaya Enzymes are a chewable digestive aid that is 100% natural. Each serving contains papaya fruit. Pepermint and chlorophyll are added to refresh and sweeten breath, so it is also a great breath refreshener! We love these chewable tablets! They really work! I usually use only two for myself when needed and one tablet for children.


Aloe Vera – The one to turn to for burns and skin irritations of all types. When you can, using a piece of live plant. Break off a leaf and rub it directly onto the skin for relief of burn, sunburn or poison ivy. Not for internal use.

I also love the Wild Weed Salve in the NaturoKits First Aid kits that works wonders for burns of every kind.

Baking Soda – for quick relief of the pain of a burn (as in receiving a burn in the kitchen), dash a little bit of baking soda on the burn. Love it!

Other items and supplements…

Lastly, we all take cod liver oil daily for it’s omega-3 content and naturally occurring vitamin A and D, which are also wonderful immune boosting aids. Cod liver oil is excellent for overall health and wholeness. We use the Nordic Naturals brand as recommended by my naturopath. Aaron takes the EPA version, I take the DHA version (more suitable for pregnancy, nursing, and female hormone balancing) and our baby and kids take Childlife Cod liver oil. I give the children a natural liquid multi-vitamin especially in the winter as a preventative. We use PediVites (also recommended by our naturopath due to it’s completely pure contents). Beyond that, we don’t take any other supplements.

Looking for a good reference guide for natural healing? An excellent resource that every family should have on hand to use as a guide for natural healing is the Prescription for Nutritional Healing: A Practical A to Z Reference to Drug Free Remedies. We use this book all the time and it is the only one I keep on hand for frequent use!

Further Reading:

Natural Insomnia Help

Hay Fever Homemade Allergy Tonic

Boosting Baby & Toddlers Immune System Naturally

5 Natural Medicine Cabinet Essentials

Those are the items in our medicine cabinet! Take stock of what you have for now is the time to prepare for the winter cold/flu season! These items will save you doctor’s bills because many basic sicknesses can be solved naturally at home.

Most of these items recommended above can be found very reasonably at Vitacost. Some links above to Amazon are affiliate links and we do receive a small percentage of the sales made through our links.

Disclaimer: As always, remember that I am not a doctor and offer these recommendations from my own personal experience and research into natural healing. Please double check with your naturopath/holistic practitioner before using any of these suggestions. Find a naturopath for the health and wholeness of your family!

Do you have any recommendations for natural healing that you would like to add to the list?


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Hearty Spaghetti Sauce

I love the Italian heritage that runs in my family and the immense flavors for delicious simple spaghetti sauce. It is perfect for a cozy fall night and a great means of concealing a lot of extra veggies in one place. Plus when you throw it all in the slow cooker or stove top and allow it to slowly simmer all day, the flavors mesh in amazing ways leaving you with a rich satisfying meal. You can add zucchini and carrots discreetly by simply finely chopping them before adding. I usually use a pound of ground beef or half ground beef and half sausage for a tasty addition. This last week I used stew meat and it was good. This is a family recipe that has been passed down through the years. You can’t go wrong.


1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 carrots, finely chopped (for disguise purposes)
1 zucchini, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 Tablespoons oil
1-2 pounds ground beef, pork roast, italian sausage, stew meat, meatballs (your choice!)
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz) or 1 quart of homemade canned tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
1/4 cup dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-2 Tablespoons natural sweetener (honey, xylitol, rapadura), for balancing of flavors
2-3 Tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Parmesan cheese, topping (optional)
16 oz package of spaghetti noodles (we love brown rice and quinoa noodles! Tip: wash in cold water to prevent sticky noodles!)


1. Saute onion, pepper, carrots, celery, and zucchini in oil until soft.
2. Add meat and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add remaining ingredients.
4. Cover and simmer for several hours, or transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally. If you use slow cooker, add more thickener as needed.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

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You Are Beautiful

There we sat snuggled in and playing a roaring game of cards (the game Speed in fact). My husband in his sweet way looks up and says, “You’re so beautiful.” Immediately, my self conscious way pips up and points out the leftover baby flub on my tummy as I emphasize the fat by holding between my finger tips. As if he wasn’t fully aware of the way my body has changed and grown over the years and the effects of birthing three babies? In a laughing insecure way I respond, “but this isn’t very attractive.”

My husbands instant reply struck me to the quick: “The only thing I find unattractive about you is your lack of confidence in yourself.”

Wow. My heart was instantly convicted. The only thing my hubby, and I might just venture most men out there, find unattractive about us as women is when we speak negatively about ourselves. It only makes us unattractive to our men. We need to let go of the silly notions about image and appearance. Your man loves you for who you are not based upon how skinny or fit you are. He loves you with all your quirks and baby flub, just like our Heavenly Father.

I look at my numerous stretch marks and say, “yuck”, but my husband looks at them and sees beauty. These are the marks that brought his children into the world. These are the scars that brought forth precious life. I exchanged temporary physical perfection with eternal precious little souls. I imagine these stretch marks as a permanent kiss offered for my child.

When we speak negatively about ourselves, we ultimately mock our Creator. He who has fashioned and designed you unique and imprints “beautiful” all over you. When we look at ourselves in frustration and despair, we are doubting His goodness and that His ways are perfect.

Sisters, make yourself beautiful for your man and others by cutting out the critical attitude about yourself. Embrace the way God has beautifully created you to be. You are beautiful and precious in His sight. Embrace your appearance, your specific gifts, your style, and seek to use it for His glory in bringing life into your spear of influence.

And remember…the only thing unattractive about you is when you speak negatively about yourself. I’m letting go of the crap (for that is what it really is) and embracing my design.

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Juggling Homeschooling with Littles and Life

We have completed our first month in our new homeschooling routine at our house and my plan has certainly seen some adjustments. I never imagined the challenges of juggling time with each child in addition to feeding, changing diapers, and keeping the little ones happy. I didn’t think morning nap periods for my infant would change so drastically within a month period. There have been moments when I have been ready to throw in the towel when a child is inattentive, experiencing frustration, or not desirous to do anything. Balancing discipline and encouragement is a challenge. I imagined it all would just be so beautiful. I might just finally get everyone quiet and seated next to me on the couch to do the next period of school only to have baby start screaming through the monitor. How do you keep everything running peacefully and still keep the house in order?

At the same time, learning alongside my children has brought the greatest joy to my soul. As I sit and guide my daughter into the world of reading, my heart rejoices that I get to take her on this journey. To watch as they delight in science experiments and drawing projects, my heart rejoices that I am privileged to take responsibility of their education. Each sweet moment as we cuddle on the couch, I rejoice because they are with me. I get to speak hourly into their life. We get to clean our house together, prepare meals side by side, and learn life skills every moment as education becomes a lifestyle rather than a program. To know that I get to speak the love of Christ into their little souls and guide them, Lord willing, to a Christ centered worldview, I feel honored.

I have searched homeschooling forums and asked many a homeschooling mom how she does it all, because although I might be a homeschooling graduate, I have no idea how my own mom did it with three little ones, let alone managing the eight of us that she had.

It takes a godly determination to do this thing. I have to keep my vision and purpose in the forefront of my mind. Why am I doing this homeschooling thing again? (To learn more about why we have chosen to homeschool, visit here.)

1. Pick your priorities and do them first thing.

The most important things in my book are math and phonics. These are also the more difficult subjects and easy for little ones to get distracted. Do these things first thing in the schedule when the students are freshest.

2. Rotate fun and harder subjects.

To keep things fresh and fun, rotate between the subjects your kids love and the ones that are more challenging. In this way, we do math and phonics, then circle time (fun period), and then workbooks (a mix of fun and challenging).

3. You don’t have to do everything EVERY day.

The greatest encouragement I found was in this simple truth: you don’t have to do every subject every day! Since math and phonics are the priority this first year, we do these subjects each day. But history and science I was trying to do every day too which was driving me crazy to get it all done while still keeping them happy in their learning. So, I scratched that. I decided to do two days of science and two days of history, and then leave Friday open for art projects, music, and science experiments. A breath of fresh air.

4. Keep baby busy in the play pen.

I have found setting up a pack n play with lots of little exploratory toys is great for keeping babies busy during school periods. You might adjust to different stations as the baby gets bigger. Playdough station, coloring station, blocks station, etc. I remember keeping my 2 year old busy in this fashion last year. 15 minute time blocks at each station. Now, I often have my 3 year old play in the pack n play with baby while I work with big sister during the first hour if baby is not napping.

5. Keep the toddlers learning alongside big siblings.

As much as possible, I keep my toddler sitting alongside us during our circle time. This is great training ground for teaching him to sit still and learn together. I require him to sit for at least the initial 30 minutes then I release him to cruise around and play.

6. Take regular short breaks.

I have divided our schedule into 2 solid hour blocks. The first hour is math and phonics (for my 5 year old alone). The second hour is circle time, which includes Bible, Character, Memory work, History or Science, and Read Alouds. My 3 year old sits in on this period. Finally, during lunch preparations, I have both of my kids at the counter doing their workbooks while I prepare lunch (Karis is doing her math, criticial thinking, and copywork books, and Titus is doing a preschool workbook series -love the frugal simplicity of Rod & Staff books). But after each 30 minute to one hour period, I give the kids a thirty minute break to get out and play. This is when I do my housecleaning task for the day, clean up the dishes, do dinner prep, and care for baby as needed. So it adjusts daily, but I will often work for 30 minutes on math, then a 15 minute break, followed by 30 minutes of phonics and reading practice, then another short break.

So in this manner, I’ve simplified the schedule drastically. I want to keep the experience fun and the learning environment enjoyable. They are still little and we have many years ahead of us.

I need to learn to enjoy the journey and remember…learning is a lifestyle. They are learning as we do household chores together, as we prepare meals together in the kitchen, as we set the table and practice our manners at meal times. Education is not limited to the class room. There is grace to adjust and flex the routine as needed. And praise God other women have gone before me!

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