Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Caprese Tuscan Chicken

I have a huge basil plant that has been flourishing this year.  It's totally new to me to have a plant that has actually produced something for me to eat and use!  Normally I kill any plant left in my care but this basil plant has been growing right out of the pot.

My favorite way to eat basil is with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella!  I have made Caprese pasta salad, Caprese sandwiches, and this recipe of Caprese Tuscan Chicken.

 It was soo good!

It's so easy to make too!

I marinated the chicken breasts in Tuscan Garlic and Herb Marinade.

After the chicken had been marinating for a few hours I laid each breast out in a 13 x 9 glass pan and topped the chicken with sliced grape tomatoes (I would have used regular sized tomatoes but I didn't have any on hand).  Then I laid a few leaves of fresh basil over the chicken and tomato slices.

I topped each piece of chicken with some shredded mozzarella cheese

Then popped the whole pan into the oven at 350 for 20 or so minutes until the chicken was cooked through and the cheese was all melted and lightly browned. 

We served the chicken over pasta.  It was scrumptious! 

Caprese Tuscan Chicken:

4 Thinly sliced chicken breasts
Tuscan Garlic and Herb marinade; about 1/2 cup
3 Sliced tomatoes (I used a pint of grape tomatoes)
Fresh basil leaves (3 or so leaves per chicken)
1 package Shredded Mozzarella cheese

1.  Marinate chicken in marinade for a few hours or overnight.
2.  Lay chicken in pan and discard leftover marinade.  Top with sliced tomatoes and basil leaves.
3.  Sprinkle chicken with Mozzarella and put into a preheated oven.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and cheese is golden brown.

Linking Up With:

Coffee & Conversation - I was featured!

Homemaking LInkup

Art Project #35: Stained Glass Class

Alec has been working on making a stained glass dragonfly for a few weeks now.  We have a neighbor who does such beautiful stained glass work and she offered to teach Alec and allow him to do a project with her.  How convenient that he's learning a new art in the midst of our 100 Days of Art Challenge.

He was beyond excited!

We watched a video on YouTube about soldering and I reminded Alec of our glass fusion class that we took.  We had scored and cut glass for that glass; which was a technique he was going to need for his project.

He has been working with her here and there over the past month and came home with lovely dragonfly plant stake.

He has now moved onto making a Pokeball and we're looking into buying some of our own supplies to continue working on our own.  I have always wanted to learn stained glass and thought this might be the perfect opportunity for me to learn too.

I know this post is vastly different from the rest since I have NO guidance or even many pictures; I only hear second hand about what he is doing and learning but Alec is so proud of everything he is learning and making for me not to share.

Our other art projects:
Project 3: Star Wars Crafts
Project 4: Watercolor compass circles
Project 5: Floral pens
Project 6: Watercolor outlines
Project 7: Scratch art jellyfish
Project 13: Water gun art
Project 14: Watercolor Kits
Project 15: Dragonfly Silhouettes 
Project 16: Painting pet rocks 
Project 17: Spray Paint Resist
Project 18: Water bottle windsock
Project 20: Tin can windsock 
Project 21: Firework glue art
Project 22: Qixel art kit
Project 26: Spray Painted Canvas
Project 28: Tin Foil Art
Project 29: Oil Pastel Bubbles 
Project 32: Drip Painted Pots
Project 33: Sun Art 

Linking Up With:
Titus 2 Tuesday

Hip Homeschool Moms
TUT new

Monday, August 22, 2016

All About Us; Growing Up In New England

Today we are linking up with Simple Homeschool as they wrap up their summer book club; Give Your Child the World.  Each week we've been reading about different countries through our reading and Simple Homeschool has been featuring different homeschooling families from around the world.  Today we're all invited to link up and learn about homeschooling around the world and through various parts of the U.S.

Here's our responses:
– Tell us about your family.  My name is Joanne and I am married to my high school sweetheart, Ben.  We are a family of 5 with three boys ages 12, 10, & 8. 
– Tell us about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.  We live in a small rural town in southern New England. I have lived in this area all my life; moving only a town or so away from where I was born.  All three boys have lived in this house their whole lives. It is a single family home that my husband and I worked to build together (with the help of a building crew) as our dream home beginning on it just after we were married.  
– What do you think is unique and special about living where you do? We love the changing seasons and the quiet peace of the outdoors.  We live on a lake and enjoy all those past times that come along with it; fishing, boating, swimming, ice fishing, ice skating, etc.  We are close enough to three different large cities that we can drive in and enjoy them for a day while still getting to enjoy the open spaces of non- city living.  We are an hour or so away from the beach and also the mountains so with a little driving we can experience just about anything.

– What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases? Everyone we know speaks English but we do have some words and phrases that are unique to this area: 
Bubbler--drinking fountain
Soda-- a carbonated drink that the rest of the U.S typically calls pop
Grinder-- also known as a hero or a sub in other parts of the country
Packie-- also known as a package store is where we buy liquor and alcohol.
Nor'Easter-- a huge snowstorm that stalls overhead and dumps tons of snow on us all at once.  It's not uncommon to wake to three feet or more of snow after going to bed with spots of the lawn still showing.
Coffee Milk-- Milk that is flavored with coffee syrup sort of like chocolate milk.  
Fluffanutter-- a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff
Jimmies-- the sprinkles we put on ice cream
Just to name a few... 
– What are some traditional foods there? I'm not sure what traditional foods would be considered unique to our area but I do know that there are some iconic New England foods that can't be missed!
Lobster roll-- Made with fresh Maine lobster and lots of butter on a hot dog style roll.
Clam Chowder-- There are a few varieties known to this area; red chowder, RI chowder that has a clear broth or thick, creamy, milky New England clam chowder
Many local orchards offer fresh made apple cider donuts that are just amazing!
The Hamburger was said to have been made in our state (though I prefer mine with cheese). 
We have maple sugar shacks so all sorts of wonderful maple treats are around-- maple butter, maple syrup, maple sugar.  We discovered maple flavored cotton candy a few years ago and I would have to put that on my list of iconic foods of our area. 
– Tell us about the climate where you live. With four seasons our climate is always changing.  We have a saying... "If you don't like the weather wait 5 minutes; it will change." Temperatures range from below zero to over 100.  We have dry spells and other times the air is so humid and wet it feels sticky.

– What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live? Most of the kids go to either public or small, private, catholic schools where we live.  They start school just a few days before Labor Day (so this usually means the last few days of August) and school lets out in mid- June. The kids have two months off before starting up again in the fall. There is a standard curriculum across the United States so each school teaches mainly the same things each year.  Children typically start school as young as 4 in preschool and then spend Kindergarten through 4 in elementary school, 5-8 in middle school and then 9-12 in high school.  
– What does school look like for your family? We blend unschooling with some traditional school subjects.  We try to take in as many fiend trips as we can while working through a yearly math book, spelling workbook, and the occasional writing/ cursive assignment.  We spend and hour or two 5 days a week on reading, math, and a few book type assignments then spend the rest of our days filling in subjects, activities and field trips as we please.  
– Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live? Most of our festivals and traditions surround national holidays like Veteran's Day (November), Memorial Day (May), and Independence day (July).  Most towns have parades and fireworks.  Veterans day celebrates all those veterans who have ever served in the military.  Memorial day is to remember those in the military that have given their lives for their country in the line of duty.  Independence day celebrates the birth of our country when the colonies broke away from Great Britain.  Or else they are more global holidays like Christmas and New Years. 
We do have several large agricultural fairs that crop up in the fall with rides, games, lots of food vendors and contests for judging animals like cows, sheep, rabbits and goats. 
– If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most? The beauty of the fall foliage for sure!  Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the colors of the leaves, the fall activities like picking apples, and going through corn mazes.  I love the crisp feel in the air and the comfort of sweaters and jeans (without needing a jacket).  Pretty much our entire family is in New England so we'd miss them too.

– Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?
Make Way for Ducklings
Blueberries for Sal
The Boxcar Children
Paul Revere's Ride 

Linking Up With:
Growing up around the world: A SimpleHomechool.net series

Literacy-Musing-Mondays- Family-Friendly linkup where we celebrate reading!

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

Our Home of Many Blessings


Thinking Outside The Pot
Country Mouse City Spouse Monday Mish Mash Link Party #31

Titus 2 Tuesday

Hip Homeschool Moms
TUT new

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Birthday Party Planning

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE planning birthday parties for my boys.

That said I always find that I am scrambling around last minute for my youngest son's birthday.  His birthday usually falls on the weekend that we arrive home from our family vacation and I find that I get so focused on getting ready for vacation that I can often forget about his party until we're down to the wire.

I'll send out invitations, pick a theme and have a few loose ideas floating around a month ahead of time.... but we shop like mad for two days before the party and I always end up going over budget since I'm pressed for time and willing to do anything to just get through the day.

Not the best way to approach a party!

So I was thrilled to get an invite to review this book for free!  How to Throw an Awesome Birthday Party at Home for Less than $100!!!

It could not have come at a better time!  As soon as I downloaded this e-book I quickly began taking notes.  It was fantastic and filled with all sorts of wonderful tid- bits.  There are even suggestions to add to the party (so if your budget is more than $100 there are ideas for where it is best to spend that extra money).

As a mom of 6 she had thrown many a party through the years and has so many great suggestions for themes, party games, food and even how to handle that whole " you must invite the whole class" thing that many schools try to enforce as a rule.

Lucky for us many of these problems do not exist.  We always know who we're inviting and our guest list never exceeds more than 15 (including the birthday boy and his brothers).  My son usually has no problem coming up with a theme for his party either but I usually fizzle out when it comes to activity ideas and food.  But there are all sorts of wonderful suggestions for games, activities, and crafts that will happily keep kids occupied and engaged inside this book.

If anything, I tend to over plan.  Our Skylanders party had 8 games and activities!  8!  That I threw together in three days.  It was an epic party and my son LOVED it.  However, I had to buy supplies for all 8 activities and we were rushing through them all in order to get them done... mostly because I did not want to waste all the money we had spent on the supplies.

 I did slightly better with our How to Train Your Dragon party and found that simple always works best-- like this scavenger hunt to find dragons and capture them with silly string.  The kids loved it and for only $1 each they were busy for a while running around spraying silly string around the yard.

I was surprised to see that this $100 party budget included a meal!  I typically try to plan a party between meal times so we don't have to spend much money on food-- just a few drinks, some cake and some snacks.  But I can see how sitting all of the kids down for some real food immediately before serving cake can help cut down on the supplies/craft side of the party and allow you to keep the kids more focused on the party and the birthday boy.

I think my absolute favorite suggestion was that to wrap up the party and have everyone outside and ready to go when their parents arrive you should/could hide favor bags in the yard before the party and have the kids go on a scavenger hunt to find their goody bags (make sure they know there is only one bag per child!).  One of our biggest problems in hosting parties at home is that kids inevitably end up all over the house and I have to clean the WHOLE house afterwards.

Now I don't always include favor bags at a party because I dread getting them from parties and usually feel that I am spending my money on the usual favor junk that will most likely get thrown away when the child gets home anyway... but there are some really fun suggestions for favors in this book.   I love the idea of having picture frames to give the kids with fun pictures of them with their friends.  What a wonderful keepsake!

I am a huge crafter and have a room chuck full of paper crafting supplies.  I always make my own invitations to go along with the theme of our party... like these fun Ninja Turtle invites! From our Ninja Turtle party

.... but if you aren't that creative there is even a chapter in the book that walks you through how to create adorable, personalized, party invites on your computer to print out on your color printer.  I love the idea of using a photo of the birthday boy on his invite but balked at the expense of ordering them through sites like Shutterfly.  Now I can make them myself!!

There are ideas and suggestions for making your own cakes; how to decorate them, recipes and more.  This is another area where I tend to excel!  I love making themed cakes and while I have gradually moved away from shaped cakes (like the year I made a pirate ship!) to easy to decorate cakes they are still a huge hit and I can honestly say that they don't usually cost more than $5 to make! Some fun frosting and a few toys (cleaned) and put atop the cake make it loads of fun for the kids.

Like this cute dragon cake from our How to Train Your Dragon party
Or this portal cake from our Skylander's Party 

The books is filled with links to Pinterest boards, web pages and even more party ideas.  There are printable lists to help keep you organized at the back of the book and a few sample ones done up for you so you can see how to keep the party organized and within budget.  

We've already started planning our birthday party!

Want to purchase your own copy of How To Throw an Awesome Birthday Party at Home for Less Than $100?   Just click through the link and learn how.

Are you planning a birthday party? This book shows you how to select a theme, pick a date, determine your guest list, plan your activities, and make your party fun and special for your birthday child- all while sticking to a $100 party budget! Packed with resources, ideas, and checklists- this ebook has everything you need to plan a fantastic birthday party at home!

Linking Up With:

Saturday Shuffle Blog Hop


Smart Mom Smart Ideas

Thinking Outside The Pot

Titus 2 Tuesday

TUT new

Friday, August 19, 2016

Weekly Wrap Up: The Week We Went to the Shore and the Art Museum

We had a fun week this week.  It was pretty quiet and we stuck to home quite a bit.  We're winding down our summer activities and planning our fall.... seriously I think Sept. is already chuck full!  But that's how we like to see our fall start.  Once all the school kids go back to school we typically spend a month or so going on field trips and meeting back up with all of our homeschooling friends.

Math:  Ian and Evan both finished up their summer mini workbooks this week and will get to take a week off from math next week.  Alec will be finishing up his mini workbook on Monday or Tuesday and then he too can take a week or so off.  We won't be starting our new workbooks for the school year until October but I have some fun mini lessons planned for Sept.

Science: We read Big Blue Whale together learning all about blue whales.  Alec read Tree of Life, Watching Giraffes in Africa, and Orangutangka.  We spent a weekday in Jamestown searching for sea life and exploring the shoreline. Evan, Alec and I played a fun card game called Ion learning all about bonds and compounds.  Evan read through his Ranger Rick magazine learning about meerkats, signs of fall and reptiles.

Reading:  Evan read Leap Back home to Me, started reading Flat Stanley Flat Again, and a few chapters in Henry and Mudge Take the Big Test.  Ian read the Canary Caper, read a few chapters in George's Marvelous Medicine and then began reading The Goose's Gold.  Alec read most of  The Five Kingdoms Sky Raiders and read Song of the Poison Dragon in it's entirety.   We are on our last Son of Neptune disk and we've started reading The Emperor's Code.

Spelling/writing:  The older two boys are only 15 pages away from finishing up their Spelling Time workbooks and so they've been working in them every day rather than once  a week.  They both want to finish them up before our new school year starts.  We're looking to switch over our tv/internet/phone provider and the older two boys spent an afternoon working together to copy everything down from our DVR so they won't miss any programming if we switch to another company.  That is the most I've ever seen them write in one sitting!  They copied down the name of the show and what station it's on.

History:  At one point or another all three boys have read The Deep Dish on Pizza learning about the history of pizza and where it came from.

Art:  We spent an afternoon at the art museum wandering around checking out all the sculptures, paintings, and weaponry.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much my boys enjoyed the day.  I'll write more on this later; there were so many wonderful surprises at this museum and we'll definitely be back again!

Socialization:  Alec had a friend sleepover one night this week and Ian had a friend over to play so at one point this week I had 5 boys running through the house shooting each other with Nerf guns.  They also spent a few days playing with their cousins and visiting with their grandmother/ grandparents.

Life Skills:  The boys helped clean the house this week as well as cooking some of their own meals and doing some laundry.  Ian went to mow lawns over the weekend squeezing in a job between rain storms.

Linking Up With:
Weekly Wrap-Up

Awesome Life Friday