Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mom School

The boys and I have been loving these Summer Express books from Scholastic this summer! All three of us do much better when we have structure to our days, so I decided that part of our summer structure this year would be "Mom School". Every morning at 9:00, the boys sit down and tackle a new worksheet for the day. The books are geared for "between" grades, so Camden is working on the "between 2nd and 3rd grade" book, while Griff has the "pre-K and Kindergarten" book. Each week has a corresponding sticker chart where they track their completed worksheets, along with their daily reading goals. I can't recommend these workbooks enough ~ they are wonderful.

My mother found some great books in the dollar section at Target ~ Junior Classics for Young Readers ~ she picked some up for Camden and so far he's read White Fang and Pinocchio. He loves these books and I hope I can come across some more titles for him. He has a reading goal of 30 minutes each day, but he usually averages at least 1.5 hours ~ I'm so proud of my little reader! Griffin's reading goal consists of him looking at books on his own, as well as me reading to him.

I'm hoping that our extra work this summer will have both boys in good shape at the start of the school year. It has been a lot of fun for all of us, and I definitely plan to do the same thing next summer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Great Visit

(photo by Camden M. Arnett)

My parents went back to Maine today, so the boys and I have been kind of down-in-the-dumps today. We had such a good visit with them ~ they arrived on June 1st, and having them here was just what we all needed. My parents are so laid back, good to me, good to the boys, and I love being with them. Camden and Griffin had some good sleepovers, mastered my mom's IPad, coaxed both of my parents to get in the pool with them, had some movie dates with them, Happy Meals every Tuesday night, foot rubs, endless amounts of ice cream, and Camden had a standing Tuesday night date with my mother to watch, "America's Got Talent". The boys were pretty much in and out of their house all day, every day, which is just how my parents like it. Riley got in on the action too ~ I think he stayed at their house about 95% of the time that they were here. He'd come home from time to time, but then would head right back next door, where Nana gave him biscuits (and always had a dish of food waiting on the window sill for Roy). My dad did some projects that Steve had been wanting done, and I am really thankful to him for that. Just a great visit. It went by too quickly, though. We miss you already!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Swimming with Papa

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Dip (and some gardening blogs)

My little garden is coming along nicely this summer, but more on that later. This is my third attempt at having a garden ~ the first year, pretty successful, the second year, a big ol' bomb, and this year...I think this is the year that will have me hooked. I am already envisioning more raised beds next year, and expanding on what has been successful so far. For gardening inspiration, I have two blogs that I am just loving right now.

The first is Seed. Sow. Water. Grow. and is written by Angela in Oregon. She includes recipes, and I recently tried her Lemon Ricotta Dip ~ it was fabulous (I called it dip, although it is Lemon Ricotta Spread in the original recipe - - mine came out with a dip consistency but maybe that had something to do with my technique...who knows!). I also made the pita chips, and I can tell you, I will be making this over and over. I just checked to see if I have the ingredients on hand (I do) so I think I'll whip up another batch today. Yum!

The second is Sweat Bread, written by Jordan in North Carolina. She also includes recipes, and I just love seeing what she's growing in her garden and serving at her dinner table.

The only thing I've harvested so far is a ton of basil, mint, and rosemary, and one little cherry tomato! I think in about a week I should have some zucchini, and I already have plans for that!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pizza Bianca

I love making pizza on Friday nights. It is a quick and easy dinner, and all three of my boys look forward to it. I usually try to make one "kid friendly" pizza (always pepperoni, or half pepperoni/half cheese) and then one pizza that's a little out of the ordinary. Since Steve's been deployed, I've kind of gotten into the habit of making a pepperoni pizza for the boys, and then a small pizza for myself on a gluten-free crust. I'm trying to get more adventurous again, in preparation for Steve's return, so I tried a new recipe last Friday, which was featured in the June 2011 issue of Everyday Food (my most-favorite cooking magazine). I really liked it, so I will definitely have to try it out on Steve when he gets back.

Pizza Bianca

1 lb. pizza dough (this is my new favorite recipe ~ it makes 1.5 lbs though, so just remove 1/3 from your ball of dough and make a thin crust pizza)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/3 cup grated parmesan (fresh grated preferable)

2 oz. baby arugula

2 tsp. olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ricotta, oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Par-bake your pizza crust at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees. Spread ricotta mixture over crust. Top with mozzarella and parmesan. Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes, until it begins to brown very lightly. Remove from oven. Toss arugula with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper and apply to top of pizza.

If you don't care for arugula, you could also use baby spinach. I think this pizza would also be great with some prosciutto or some sausage.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Daddy Jars

It has been tough-going in these parts lately ~ especially for an 8-year-old that I know. He struggles so with his Dad not being here. Camden is a sensitive little guy, and the older he gets, he tries to hold it in, which never seems to work out for him.

Going through a deployment with children who are old enough to understand that Daddy is gone for a long period of time can be so heartbreaking at times, but I know it is nothing compared to what the boys feel on the inside.

For whatever reason, we've just come out of a particularly rough patch, where not only was Camden not wanting to talk to Steve, he wasn't wanting Steve's name mentioned. He said it made him too sad, so he was just going to try not to think about it. He worked it out in his own way though, and seems to be feeling a lot better lately.

I was trying to come up with something that would help the boys see that we were on the downswing of this deployment, and that Steve would be coming home soon. So I got some pint-sized canning jars and a big bag of M&M's. I have a general idea of when Steve will be back, so we counted out those days in M&M's. The added bonus was that we soon saw that the pint-sized jars were way too big, so we grabbed some 8-ounce jelly jars instead. I made some little labels for the jars, and now, each day, the boys take their jars off the shelf in the living room and take out an M&M, one day closer to Daddy being home again. I think the visual of it has helped them to understand that, slowly but surely, we are getting there.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Homemade Ginger Ale

I recently stumbled across this recipe for homemade ginger ale at Food For My Family. I'm not a big pop drinker, but I do like ginger ale. I also frequently steep and drink fresh ginger root and lemon juice for chronic stomach issues, so I thought this might be a good alternative. Plus it just sounded refreshing.

First, get a big ol' hunk of ginger root at the grocery store. You'll need enough to equal 3 cups. This piece only cost me about $2.00. Peel it, rinse it, and then chop it up.

Once you have your ginger root all chopped, you'll also want to carefully remove 1 tablespoon of lime peel from a fresh lime. It can be a little tricky, because you don't want to get any of the pith (the white part) or it will taste bitter. Add the lime peel and ginger root to 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and stir until dissolved. Simmer another 10 minutes.

Turn off the burner and let the syrup cool. Then, strain out the ginger chunks and lime peel, and pour the cooled syrup into an airtight container. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

To make a glass of ginger ale, pour 1/4 cup of the syrup over ice. Add 1 cup (or more, according to taste) of club soda. Stir gently and enjoy!

I really love this ginger ale - - it has quite a bite to it, but if you don't like it super-gingery, just add more club soda. I also think it would be great for mixing cocktails. Yum!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Fresh, Sweet Cherries

We are very lucky to live near a plethora of orchards. Unfortunately, the number of these orchards have decreased drastically, just in the 10 years that I've lived here. I'm also embarrassed to admit that I've not taken advantage of them like I should have been, but from now on, I intend to. It is an inexpensive way to fill your freezer full of fresh, local fruits and veggies - - there's nothing better than that. So, the other day, Nana and I took the boys to a local orchard for some cherry picking. The boys had a blast and were great little pickers. All told, we picked 11 pounds between the four of us!

My mother might want to consider a second career as a cherry pitter. Thanks to her, all 11 pounds have been pitted and frozen. Yay for cherries!

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