Sunday, March 31, 2013

C is for Christ

This week the focus is on Christ and His sacrifice and resurrection for me and for you. There is eternal life because of Jesus' death and resurrection, all you have to do is believe and follow God's Word.

May your Resurrection Sunday be filled with joy and peace!

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ditching the Microwave: Test Run

Last month I read an article on How to Stop Using the Microwave from the Humbled Homemaker. Prior to reading this post my husband and I had a few discussions about our microwave use and how we wanted to curtail our dependance on it's use as part of our continued effort to live and eat healthier. The Humbled Homemaker's post brought those conversations to the forefront of my thoughts and helped spur me to do some of my own research.

I am spending a good deal of time and money sourcing, purchasing, and preparing organic and nutritious foods for my family. The thought of then reheating nutrient dense foods in a microwave, which kills all of the nutritional value of foods simply in the name of convenience just did not sit well with me. Why would I want to remove all of the nutrition from the foods we worked so hard to provide for our family simple to save a couple of minutes here and there? If I am in that big of a hurry, I need to re-evaluate my priorities!

On the flip side though I have to be realistic. There will be times when a "convenience" appliance for getting hot food to my starving children will be a sanity saver. So if I am going to make the leap and give up the radiation box above my stove I want to make sure I have a back-up option if I give our microwave the boot. Like The Humbled Homemaker I have decided on the Hamilton Beach Countertop Oven with Convection and Rotisserie in stainless steel. I love that it is convection and also includes the rotisserie option. My family enjoys rotisserie chicken and this feature would allow me to make our own at home without having to buy yet another kitchen appliance.

So far, I am just over 1 week into my journey of not being dependent on my microwave. Admittedly, the first couple of days I had to catch myself instinctively thinking about reheating leftovers in that box. However, now the thought doesn't cross my mind. I grab a pan to reheat our food on the stovetop and I make sure to defrost meat early enough in the day so I am not relying on the microwave to put dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. If I can make it more than 3 weeks without using the microwave I can justify spending the money to buy the countertop convection toaster over. It is my hope that we can replace the microwave with the toaster oven in order to avoid another appliance on our counters (which I've worked hard to eliminate).

If and when I make the leap to purchase the toaster oven, rest assured you will be the first to know and help me celebrate.

What steps are you in the process of taking to eat and live healthier?

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

B is for Baked Oatmeal

photo courtesy of The Family Kitchen
Late last year in our continued effort to replace processed foods with real wholesome food I made the decision to cut out cold breakfast cereals cold turkey. One morning I just told my older 3 children that once the cereal in the house was gone I would not be buying any more. Putting my decision to voice helped because I knew my children would hold me accountable if I ever brought processed cereal in our house again. I had serious reservations about making this leap towards real foods because my breakfast meal creativity was zilch. I typically mustered enough motivation and creativity to make breakfast from scratch once a week at best. What was I possibly going to do when I had to have something nutritious on the table every morning, day after day?

Thus began my journey with baked oatmeal. I can not say enough about this real food dish. It is nutritious, filling, quick, and convenient. What else could a Mother ask for in a breakfast dish? I've tried numerous variations on the basic baked oatmeal theme and all of them are quick and very tasty. My 8 year old requests this dish more times than not.

I've compiled a list of tried and true baked oatmeal recipes for your taste bud enjoyment.

Creme Brûlée from Tidy Mom

Baked Oatmeal with fruit from Whole Living

Apple Cinnamon from The Family Kitchen

Peanut Butter from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

Pumpkin Spice from My Blessed Life

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Apple from Emily Bites

Do you have another favorite baked oatmeal recipe? I'd love to hear about it, please leave a comment!

Please join me next week as I explore the letter C as part of Ben and Me Blogging Through the Alphabet.

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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Monday, March 18, 2013

A is for Alexis

My blog article inspiration has been non-existent lately which is not typical of my writing at all. Usually I have blog topics pop in my head all day and struggle to remember them when I finally have a chance to sit down and write. As of late however, nothing is coming to me, zilch, nada, and I don't like it one bit. So to help kick start my creative writing juices I will be joining the newest round of Blogging Through the Alphabet hosted on the wonderful site Ben and Me. I am hopeful that this weekly meme will get my fingers moving with regularity again and open my mind to new topics with which I can share on.

This week is the start of a new round of alphabet blogging. I racked my brain for what I could write about that started with A. Everything from alligators, animals, apples, arachnids, and azaleas popped in my head. None of them sounded like something I could turn into a post you my readers would enjoy. We haven't had homeschool lessons on any of these topics lately so I have nothing to relate to this blog on those topics. Then it hit me. . .I am an A. What would be more appropriate for starting this series then to write a little about myself. A lot has changed in my life since I first started this blog so it seems fitting to introduce myself to my new readers and update the rest of you who have stuck with me through my long dry periods of no writing at all. A heartfelt thank you to all of you who kept me in your readers and check in from time to time. Thank you!

So who is the person behind this blog?

I am Alexis, a mid-30s wife and mother of 6. My family and I are originally from San Diego but in an effort to raise our family in a better environment my husband and I decided in early 2010 to move to the midwest. We are now closer to my Mother and extended family. While we miss the warm weather and Pacific Ocean, having lived here for 3 years we can not imagine moving back to the hustle and bustle of San Diego. We are enjoying the cleaner air, lack of traffic, and kindness of those that live here in the corn belt of America.

My husband and I re-met in 2003 and were married in 2004. We will celebrate our 9th anniversary in June. We went to middle school together and after so many years separated we know that God had a hand in bringing our lives back together. Our oldest is my step-son, he is 11. Together we have an 8 year old son, 6 year old daughter, twin 2 year old daughters, and a 1 year old son. The younger 3 we affectionately refer to as the "triplets" because they were born 362 days apart making them Irish triplets. While we believe that all of our children are miracles and blessings our twins defied all of the odds and are a testament to the power of prayer. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that our twins were born far too early at 26 weeks 5 days due to acute twin to twin transfusion syndrome. Weighing 1lb 6oz and 2lbs, our girls are a testament to the power of prayer. Micro preemies like our daughters typically spend well over 100 days in a high level NICU in order to get strong and healthy enough to come home. After only 78 days, 1 day before they would have been delivered at 38 weeks B & J got to come home. They are now healthy toddlers who bring pure joy and laughter to our lives daily. J  had the rougher start and was the smallest at birth having been the donor in the TTTS. She was recently diagnosed with dys-kinetic Cerebral Palsy. Her case is very mild and with therapy she will grow to live an independent life including walking and talking without assistance.

Our journey into homeschooling began in the fall of 2008. My 8 year old was set to start kindergarten that year and after some events during preschool and drastic budget cuts in our local school district we knew that putting him into public kindergarten would not be in his best interest academically. And so began our unintended journey with home educating. At this time I am home schooling a 6th grader, advanced 3rd grader, and a kindergartner. After trying boxed curriculums we have found a better fit with pieced together curriculum choices. As a curriculum reviewer for The Old Schoolhouse review crew this year I am also being introduced to curriculum that I might not have otherwise known about or had the opportunity to use. While our journey into homeschooling was seemingly made purely based on educational reasons my husband and I both know it was God calling us to do what was best for all of our children. Homeschooling has been a blessing beyond words, an experience I could never describe. While far from roses and bon bons, we know this is the best choice for our children and our family.

Personally, I am an only child and San Diego native. My childhood was broken and quality religious education which is why these two things are very near to my heart and why I work so hard to raise up my own family in a way in which I was not. I have a bachelors in Biology and at one time thought I would be a doctor. I have also been a fitness instructor for a national mother and baby fitness company. I enjoy writing, gardening, canning, and most recently have vowed to clean up my family's eating habits.

Lastly, from a blogging perspective I do my best to write as transparent as possible. My life is not all roses and perfection. We struggle, we argue, my house is often a disaster, and I am a sinner. At the end of the day though, we all do our best with what God gives us and give thanks for a new day with new grace.

Blogging Through the Alphabet 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

10 Easy Steps Toward Real Food Eating

For just over a year now I have been committed to cleaning up my family's diet which includes removing processed foods and preservatives. In it's place I have added organic fruits and vegetables, organic whole wheat bread, and every meal is made from scratch. The change has not always been easy, not from a taste or recipe point of view but rather from a personal learning curve perspective. I've done quite a bit of homework and scoured every inch of my resources to come up with the best tasting yet easy ways to makeover our daily diet.

So many of my friends now seek me as a resource when they are ready to change their own diets. Because of this I have compiled a list of 10 easy steps to take when first making the change to real food eating. These are all baby steps that will lead you well on your way to cleaner and healthier eating. You won't ever regret making this change!

1. Avoid the dirty dozen, instead purchase organic versions of these fruits and vegetables

2. Replace the 3 most used vegetables and fruits in your diet with organic

3. Stop buying processed snacks and crackers. Instead make your own healthier versions

4. Say bye-bye to white flour and hello to organic whole wheat flour

5. Stop buying store bread. Instead purchase a bread machine and make your own nutrient rich organic whole wheat bread.

6. No more breakfast cereal! Boxed breakfast cereals are void of nutrition yet packed with preservatives, sugars, and fillers. Replace this convenience food with organic oatmeal. In just a few more minutes you can have a nutrition packed hot breakfast on the table for your family.

7. Replace your spices with organic versions.

8. Make your own mixes and cut out a ton of preservatives. Chili mix, taco seasoning, ranch dressing and so much more can be made at home with clean organic spices for a fraction of the store bought options.

9. Say adios to non-stick cookware. This step doesn't have to be all at once. Gradually replace your non-stick cookware with stainless steel or cast iron.

10. Replace cooking oils with healthier versions. Olive oil and coconut oil are the two I use most in my kitchen.

Azure Standard is the primary way I feed my family real organic foods without breaking our food budget. Check to see if there is a drop location near you!

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Artistic Pursuits Review: TOS Crew


I know I've mentioned this numerous times through life of this blog, but it bears repeating. I am NOT an artistic person in the least. I believe when God formed me He threw away the artistic bone because it is NO where in my body. Additionally, He is sitting in heaven getting a good laugh out of the fact that He has blessed me with children who enjoy drawing and are genuinely interested in learning to be better artists. So what is a homeschool mother like me to do? Hope, pray, and research art curriculum in the hopes that one of them is a solid fit for our family. Like other subjects in our curriculum collection I knew I did not want an art curriculum that merely taught children how to draw. I want something that is steadfast in art theory, artist appreciation and history, and yet easily explains artistic concepts in short yet concise lessons. I firmly believe that art is one subject where children should have the freedom to create as they please without boundaries or limits. I don't want long in depth art lessons that force children to conform to certain artistic boxes.

As a motion of grace, God blessed me with the opportunity to review Artistic Pursuits as a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. There are numerous levels to choose from but I specifically reviewed Elementary 4-5 book one.


When my boys ages 11 and 8 saw that we had been blessed with an art curriculum to review they were very excited and happily pestered me for days to get to the art store so we could pick up the supplies needed to start this program. Which I should mention for the first 7 units all that are needed are 4 ebony pencils, 1 vinyl eraser, 1 metal sharpener, 1 sketch pad, 1 paper sack, and a drawing board is optional. I was able to pick these supplies up at our local craft store for a minimal amount of money even considering I had to double the amounts due to two students.

As expected my boys dove into this program full heartedly. Not only are they learning drawing techniques, but this program also incorporates american art appreciation and history, builds their visual vocabulary, and at the end of each unit students get to apply everything they have learned in that unit into a final art project. 

As a busy homeschool mother of 6, three of which are ages 2 and under I appreciate the brevity of each lesson while still maintaining a high level of education rigor. These lessons are packed with instruction but can be taught in under 15 minutes, the remainder of the lesson time is as it should be, time for the students to be creative and spend quality time practicing the technique introduced in that lesson. I enjoy not only teaching my boys a subject that they love but also watching them explore the artistic side of their personalities. I am not an artist in the least, I struggle with stick figures, so it is simply amazing to me to watch them create amazing sketches from a simple lesson that even a non-artist like myself can teach.

My boys hard at work

I can say with heartfelt honesty that I will be purchasing additional books from Artistic Pursuits when we finish the current book. There is a variety of art curriculum levels to choose from, everything from preschool through high school. 

Artistic Pursuits, Elementary 4-5, book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition
Comb-binding, 92 pages, 68 lessons, 230 illustrations
Written for ages 9 and up, samples of this curriculum can be viewed at the link above

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other was. All opinions are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


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Monday, March 4, 2013

Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream Review


As parents part of our job is to instill in our children faith in the American dream. Our country was founded on this dream and sadly over the years that foundation has been eroded and threatens to give way completely. Unless we teach our children what our forefathers intended, this dream will be lost forever.

Inspiring the American Dream has published a book entitled Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream. This book aims to help restore the faith and entrepreneurial spirit that our country was built upon. In this book a young boy sets out on a journey through time to meet important historical figures in his pursuit of finding a gift for a family member. Through the course of his journey he learns from these historical figures the importance and gains an understanding of the American dream.


I appreciate that the core foundation of this book is to teach the younger generations about a value system that is quickly being lost. If more people valued the American dream perhaps our country would not be in the mess that we are currently facing. Whenever the opportunity presents itself I take the time to teach my children these values and to have pride in their country. I enjoy that there are authors that aim to provide parents and grandparents with books based on this concept.

While I find value and importance in the core foundation of this book my children ages 5-11 and I struggled with the flow and verbiage. The story line felt a bit forced, it did not flow well from one historical figure to the next. Traveling between the different points in time was abrupt. I wish the authors had included more information about each historical personality and why they were a key figure in our country's history.

My family's experience and impression of the book may not be the same as your experience or impression. I would like to encourage you to read other reviews of this book from my fellow TOS Review Crew members, please click the banner below.

Abraham's Journey: A Celebration of the American Dream is available here for $14.99


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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