We enjoy dart gun battles for some good family fun. Here's three variations we play.

Dart Gun Battles for Large Family Fun

It all started with a simple question. But first, some backstory! 😀 I was brainstorming what to get Jeff for his eighth birthday. The I came across this K’Nex dart gun (aff. link).

I loved that you had to build the dart gun before you could start playing. It gave more of a purpose besides just shooting. And Jeff really likes K’Nex. But, I wasn’t sure if he could build them himself.

So I asked Bryan if he’d help Jeffrey build it. Bryan took one look at the image on my phone and gave me a definite answer, “Only if you buy me one too!”

That sounded fair. So I added a second style of K’Nex Blaster to my Amazon cart. When Jeff’s birthday arrived, he loved them!

He and Bryan quickly built them, and started firing. It wasn’t long until the other kids were eagerly squealing and running to collect the darts.

Sort of Fragile

They all wanted a turn. Except the K’Nex Blasters style dart gun are sort of fragile. They can easily break into pieces if the shooter isn’t careful.

And they were hard for the younger kids to pull back to cock.

So Bryan and I started brainstorming.

We researched the best Nerf guns for youngsters. And we bought some different kinds. With some darts. And some more darts.

Large Family Fun: Dart Gun Style

Now almost everyone in our family has a dart gun. We’ve played several different styles of war, trying to ensure that the games are something the little ones can get in on without getting hurt.

Here are three of our favorites:

1. Capture the Flag

We divide into teams, divvying up the bigs and littles as evenly as we can. Then we turn the coffee table so it divides our big living room and dining room into two halves.

Each team gets a piece of colored paper, and hides it in plain site. The goal is for the other team to cross enemy lines, grab the flag, and get back to their home territory.

What happens if you get hit with a dart while you’re on the enemy’s land?

Well, you either have to give up your ammo or go to their holding area (we’ve played both ways). Then you have to get back to your own side–without the flag.

If you go the holding area, you can only be freed when someone from your own team hits you with a dart.

This has been a fun game to work on strategy and teamwork. You can’t really win it playing solo!

2. Most Darts Win

This one is what we play if we just have few minutes. We each get six darts. Then we set the timer for three minutes and start firing.

The person with the most darts when the timer beeps is the winner.

3. Just for Fun

This one usually starts when Bryan gets home from work and picks up a dart gun. Then everyone just has a blast playing.

The little ones grab darts and bring them to Daddy. Or one of their siblings. It’s really cute to watch everyone asking little Brynna to give them her darts.

Simon has figured out how to shoot this style of Nerf gun. At only 3, I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to really do it. But he surprised me!

Pickup Together

Part of playing together is picking up together. We have to search high and low for all of the darts so Owen can’t eat any.

If any of the tips pop off a dart, we just use the hot glue gun to attach it again. So we collect the pieces and put them in a gallon Ziploc bag until next time.

Do you enjoy dart guns in your family?

We avoided dart guns for years. But now that we have them, we’ve realized it’s a great way to have fun as a family. I’m looking forward to building many memories with our battles!

Do you play with dart guns? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you anymore, but I’ll receive a small commission. Thank you in advance!

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Thanksgiving Family Fun: Would You Rather

Have you ever played the game Would You Rather from Zobmondo? It’s one we really enjoy. In fact, we think it’s such a fun game that we modified it so the younger kids can play. Then we changed it a little more, so we can play in the car. We created some great questions for a Thanksgiving edition today, and I wanted to share those with you.

If you’re looking for an easy activity for some Thanksgiving family fun, give this a try.

First…the Modified Rules

Don’t worry, you don’t need to own the game to play this version. In fact, you don’t need anything in terms of supplies.

That’s what makes if perfect for the car trip, or to play at Grandma’s house while you’re waiting for turkey.

As a family, pick a theme for your questions. This version is obviously about Thanksgiving!

You pick one person to go first. That person thinks of two options, and then asks the other players, “Would you rather (opt. 1) or (opt. 2).

Then everyone answers. And no, you can’t pick an option that wasn’t presented! You have to pick one of the two.

Once everyone has answered, it’s time for my favorite part of the game. You get to explain why you picked what you did.

Then, another player asks a new question. Keep taking turns until you run out of ideas or until the food is ready!

This game provides great insight into how my children think, and I’ve learned a lot about them playing.

Speaking of my kids…here are my three little girls and me!

I'm so thankful for my kids this Thanksgiving! Here are my three little girls!

Sample Thanksgiving Questions

Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving would you rather questions.

1. Would you rather eat 1 pickle or 10 olives?
2. Would you rather eat only desserts or only appetizers?
3. Would you rather play a game you love but everyone else hated, or one that you hated but everyone else loved?
4. Would you rather eat turkey or pie with your fingers?
5. Would you rather not have cranberries or not have mashed potatoes?
6. Would you rather get up early to go shopping on Black Friday, or not shop for a month?
7. Would you rather eat a whole turkey or 5 turkey legs?
8. Would you rather have an apple pie or a pumpkin pie in a pie eating contest?
9. Would you rather have a piece of pumpkin pie with no whipped cream, or a piece of chocolate pie with no whipped cream?
10. Would you rather stay home for Thanksgiving or go somewhere else?
11. Would you rather watch sports or a sappy Christmas movie for Thanksgiving?
12. Would you rather eat everything with your non-dominant hand or with a spoon?

As you can see, the questions can be anything! We had so much fun playing this in the car on our way home from our church’s pie and praise fellowship tonight.

We also played a superhero edition–which was also fun!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

No matter who you spend it with, or what games you play, I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Are you in need of some inspiration this holiday season? Check out my review of Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter. It might be just what you need.

A Review of Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter

Can you believe how quickly 2016 is going? I’ve seen some Christmas countdowns in the last few days, and they’re still taking me by surprise! Fall if speeding by, especially since I’m knee-deep in these crazy college classes! So many of the memories I wanted to create with the kids just haven’t happened, unfortunately.

That’s why I was so excited to receive a copy of the eBook Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine to try with the kids. I applied for theSchoolhouse Review Crew for 2017, and as part of the process I was able to pick a resource to try out with my family to review. Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter was on the list, and I’m so glad it was! You can pick up your own copy of this fun ebook from The Old Schoolhouse Shop.

A review of Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter

What’s in the Homespun Holiday:Fall and Winter ebook?

I selected this particular ebook to review because the title sounded homey. Life has been crazy, and I needed an excuse to purposefully sit back and enjoy life instead of watching an entire season fly by.

This book didn’t disappoint! There were plenty of ideas to implement with the goal of enjoying the fall and winter seasons. Scattered throughout the book were holiday memories from the book’s contributors. I appreciated the variety of experiences shared, and the kids enjoyed listening to me read them.

Along with projects and memories, you’ll find delicious recipes inside this ebook. As the owner of only a black and white printer, I appreciate the fact that they were all shared in printer friendly format at the back of the book.

Scarecrow Making

We’ve been enjoying an unusually warm fall, without any snow yet. The weather provided the perfect setting to tackle an outdoor project from the book.

Since we don’t have our typical homeschool schedule on Fridays, I took advantage of this extra time and engaged the kids in making scarecrows.

Of course, I’m not always great at following directions exactly as stated. So we used the book’s instructions for inspiration, and went searching around the farm and house for items to use. I loved the idea of making a scarecrow to represent everyone in the family, so we decided to make one for each child.

We didn’t have pumpkins on hand to use as heads, so we decided to stuff white garbage bags full of loose hay instead. I sent most of the kids out to the barn to collect the hay.

If I had been thinking properly, we would have completed this next step outside. But lack of sleep has really taken a toll on me. So I told the kids to bring the bags of hay on into the house to complete the next step.

That was a mistake; we had hay everywhere! Thankfully it cleaned up pretty easily once we were done stuffing all of their old clothes, but if you decide to stuff your scarecrows with hay or straw–do it outside!

The Heads

We had a little trouble attaching the heads to the bodies. So we did some brainstorming. We tried using baling twine to tie them on, but I didn’t like how the orange twine looked.

So we brought out the metal clothes hangers. Those were amazing!

They hooked perfectly through the shirts of the scarecrows and we just poked a hole in the head with the hook part. It attached and stayed put.

Here’s Sydney’s scarecrow ready for it’s head.

attaching-heads

We worked on our scarecrows for a couple of hours. It was an amazing memory building time of creativity and fun. Our final product may not be as beautiful as the ones in Homespun Holiday, but we love our fall display.

Ellie had a blast finding items from around the farm to add to the scarecrows, taking inspiration from the fall porch display project in the book.

Here’s one picture showing what our final product looked like. We’re still enjoying these, though we plan to take them down when we get our first snow.

scarecrows

Other Projects

There are several projects for both fall and winter, and we’re looking forward to trying out some of the winter ones soon. I appreciated that there are a wide variety of projects to pick from.

Some, I don’t see us ever doing. Like painting on old windows. That doesn’t sound fun to me! But, we will be making thankfulness bags to share with others, and creating a garbage sack wreath for Christmas.

The projects represent a nice variety of difficulty and expense. There’s something there for every family, which was refreshing.

The Food

Alright, enough about the projects. Let’s dive into the food.

My kids picked some recipes to try. We had everything on hand to try three of them out right away. So we made Pumpkin Chip Cookies, Brown Sugar Bars, and Autumn Soup.

The pumpkin chip cookies were delicious! And the recipe made 10 dozen. That’s a lot of cookies even for my big family. So we were able to bless some of my family with them, and bring some to a widow at church. It was a great way to teach the kids the importance of giving to others and being a surprise blessing.

The brown sugar bars were good, but the kids didn’t like them as much as the pumpkin cookies. They reminded me of a blondie brownie, but without the oil that normally goes into brownies.

Then there was the autumn soup. Monday night is soup night around here, so we made up a big batch. It turned out great! Look at all this meat and the chunks of fall vegetables!

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It’s definitely a keeper recipe, especially since it didn’t call for any crazy ingredients.

Other Recipes

There are plenty of other recipes to try in this ebook. We’re looking forward to making some of the winter favorites as we anticipate our first snowfall and move into December.

My Thoughts on Homespun Holiday

I really enjoyed this ebook. It provided the inspiration and motivation I needed to build memories with the kids. Our projects may not have turned out Pinterest perfect, but we had a blast working together.

And I think that’s the point of this book–it’s to inspire families to focus on each other and serving others throughout a season where that can easily get pushed aside. Comfort food, fun projects, and a glimpse into holidays past come together in a delightful way.

It’s a book I’ll definitely be using throughout the upcoming months. I’m glad that two seasons are incorporated into the material, because we’ll get a lot of use out of it. We don’t have to put it away when Christmas is over.

The kids enjoyed the change of pace from our typical homeschool routine. It’s easy to get into a rut, and this book provided some creative inspiration. It was just what we needed, especially since this season has been so crazy!

And since it’s an ebook, I don’t have to worry about it taking up space. Sometimes it can be hard to hang onto a book that’s seasonal if your bookshelves are overflowing (like ours.) That’s one huge advantage of digital files!

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own family, or want to implement a new tradition or two, I’d highly recommend the ebook Homespun Holidays: Fall and Winter.

What’s Your Favorite Tradition from Fall or Winter?

I’d love for you to share in the comments.

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Think popcorn is a boring snack? Try one of these varities and you might change your mind!

10 Varieties of Popcorn to Snack On

Popcorn.

Yum!

It’s one of my family’s favorite snacks. Everyone eats it without complaining. It cleans up easily off the floor when it gets dropped.Let’s see–popcorn is easy to customize so it doesn’t get boring. And it’s inexpensive.

What’s not to love?

How I Pop Our Popcorn

Whenever we need a batch of popcorn, it’s easy to pop up on the stove. I just add a tablespoon or so of olive oil or coconut oil to a cold pan.

Then I pour in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan. Too many kernels can cause popping problems, so I aim for just one kernel thick all the way around.

I’ve found it best to add the popcorn to the oil before it heats up. Otherwise it’s too easy to burn.

Once I add the kernels, I add a couple shakes of salt. That let’s it easily distribute throughout the whole batch without being too salty.

Then I put the lid on the pan, turn the heat to medium high, and start gently shaking. I shake gently throughout the popping process.

Once the popping slows down, I turn the burner off. But I leave the pan on the burner until the popping stops completely.

Then I dump it into a big bowl and it’s ready for toppings!

Here are ten of our favorite types of popcorn.

1. Caramel Corn

It might sound complicated, but in reality, caramel popcorn only delays snack time by 15 minutes.

I love using this recipe because it’s super simple! And it doesn’t use corn syrup, which I don’t always have on hand.

2. Parmesan Popcorn

To your popped popcorn, pour on some melted butter. It helps the Parmesan stick!

Then sprinkle over grated Parmesan cheese. I never measure this. I just sprinkle while I shake the bowl until it looks nicely coated.

Some of the younger kids don’t like this type of popcorn, but I love making it in the evening after they’re in bed! I can’t really blame them for not liking it. After all, I used to call this kind of cheese “Stinky Foot Cheese.”

Tastes definitely change as you get older!

3. Jell-O Popcorn

I’ve written about Jell-O popcorn before! Here’s the details.

You can make it any color and flavor you’d like. And this one really reminds me of the colorful popcorn my parents used to buy my sisters and I at the mall.

Fun flavors and good memories. Now that’s a combination!

4. Popcorn Trail Mix

What do you get when you add popcorn to chocolate chips, Craisins, and raisins?

Trail Mix!

Feel free to add whatever else you have hanging out in your cupboards. We’ve tried it with nuts, sunflower seeds, oyster crackers, and a ton of other random add-ins.

We’ve never had a bad batch!

This snack is fun for packing in individual bags for a long shopping day.

5. Cheesy Popcorn

Remember those Christmas tins full of three flavors of popcorn? Well, I’ve figured out how to make the cheesy variety!

You need powdered cheese, which you can either find inside boxes of mac and cheese, or buy in bulk like this (aff. link).

Then you add melted butter to your popcorn, and sprinkle the cheese powder over it. It doesn’t take as much as you might think. I start with about 1/4 of a cup of powder, mix it well, and then give it a taste. I sometimes add a little more.

6. Movie Theater Style

This one is Jayme’s favorite! It definitely isn’t skimping on any flavor. Or calories!

Over a batch of popped corn, drizzle a 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil and a 1/4 cup of melted butter. Then salt.

The combination of oil and butter is fabulous!

7. Pepper Popcorn

This is one of my favorites, but the kids don’t really like it. I just add some fresh cracked pepper to the kernels along with the salt at the beginning of the process. It’s easy, and gives it a nice flavor profile. I also add butter at the end!

8. Kettle Corn

A sweet variety that’s a tad easier than caramel corn, kettle corn is the perfect blend of sweet and salty.

But, a warning. I have a scar on my arm from peeking at my kettle corn too soon. It happened way back when I was pregnant with Ellie, and she’s 6.5 now! I’m always more cautious with this type of popcorn now because the sugar gets super hot!

For kettle corn, I start like a regular batch. Except, before I put the lid on, I stir in 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. I use a wooden spoon and makes sure the sugar gets distributed.

Then I put the lid on and proceed as above. Except I shake it more vigorously, because the sugar burns easily.

Be sure not to remove the lid until the popping has completely stopped.

9. Chocolate Marshmallow

This one is sticky, so it definitely doesn’t clean up as easily as the other batches. We save it for special occasions.

To the hot popped corn, add about 1 cup of mini marshmallows and about 1 cup of chocolate chips (I’ve been known to add more of each, but that’s a good starting point!). Shake well to distribute. The heat will begin to melt the chocolate and marshmallows so it’s a gooey, delicious combination!

10. Taco Popcorn

Once you’ve popped your corn, add melted butter. Then sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning. Shake well!

What’s Your Favorite Popcorn Flavor?

Please leave a comment letting me know your favorite variety. We love experimenting with new flavors!

No matter which kind you love, it’s the perfect night to settle down with a big bowl of popped corn and a good movie. What a fun way to spend time together!

Here are 8 tips I've learned for keeping toddlers safe on the farm!

8 Ways to Keep Toddlers Safe on the Farm

If you’ve been a reader for long, you know I absolutely love living here on Grouse Creek Farm! The whole family benefits from fresh air, we get plenty of interaction with nature, and there’s always something fun to do. But, living out here does have some risks for young kids. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about keeping toddlers safe on the farm.

1. Respect the Animals

Farm animals are animals. Even if they’re tame and used to being around people, they are still animals that can act unpredictably at times.

This is especially true when loud noises and quick movements are involved. Anyone else have a quick, loud toddler? Yeah, me too! That’s why we give farm animals a wide berth.

Teach your young kids to respect animals. Model calm behavior and how to stay quiet around them. Let them enjoy the animal’s beauty from a distance unless an adult is there to help.

Keep Animals Secure

Make sure that you keep your animals secure, especially your bulls and other large animals that could easily run over a small child in search of greener grasses.

If your animals get out, be sure your kids are somewhere safe before trying to corral them back in.

Not all of our animals are contained. We have our chickens free-ranging, and have taught our kids how to let the chickens be chickens instead of trying to always pick them up. We’ve also worked on our flock’s makeup to quickly get rid of any roosters that show aggression towards people. But, our cows are either in the pasture or their winter enclosures. That way they are separated from the kids.

2.Enlist Your Child’s Help

Kids who are engaged are less likely to find themselves in unsafe situations. Encourage your children to help around the farm.

My toddlers love feeding the rabbits and carrying eggs into the house. Yes we might get some spilled grain or broken eggs, but they’re learning to work and harness their energy. They feel valued and appreciated.

They can also help with tasks that aren’t animal related. Let them rake leaves in the fall, pull some weeds in the garden, and walk fences to look for downed areas.

You’ll be especially appreciative of their help when they get older and can tackle even more! Teach them and encourage them when they’re young.

3. Mark Your Electric Fences

Do you have electrical fence on your farm? We do too. They can be a danger to kids, so be sure to mark them appropriately. We use tie on flagging that’s bright pink.

It’s easily seen. It indicates danger.

Take time to talk to your kids about how the electric fence works. Use age appropriate terms, but let them know that electric fences aren’t for playing around or touching.

4. Teach Hygiene

Germs are everywhere! Around here we have chicken poop, grease, dirt, and an abundance of other germ harboring things.

Kids are going to get dirty. They’re going to touch something gross.

Teach them from a young age to keep their hands clean. Always wash hands before eating anything, and teach your children to do the same.

Don’t fret about the dirt–it happens and might even help your child stay healthier. But, it’s definitely important to teach proper hygiene.

5. Child Out of Your Sight? Check Danger Zones!

There are danger zones on the farm. These range from the road, water tanks, grain silos, and equipment. Know where your most dangerous zones are.

Toddlers are quick and can get away quietly. If you realize your little one is missing, check your danger zones first.

Also on this note, teach your children from a young age to come when they’re called. If you don’t yell loudly, get a dinner bell or something and teach your child to come at that sound. Practice, practice, practice!

6. Establish Safe Zones!

We’ve already talked about danger zones, so let’s look at safe zones. If you’re a farmer, your kids will be out and about with you. So you need to create some safe zones for them.

These areas will let your child explore and learn about risk management. They can develop gross and fine motor skills, and stretch their imagination. But, they can do it without big dangers around.

Make your safe zones fun so your kids don’t mind playing in them. One of ours is our hay barn. Our hay isn’t stacked high enough to cause major damage when jumped off. We keep a thick layer of fallen hay on the ground to provide padding.

There’s also plenty of boards that the kids can use to create forts, make roads out of, or more. The kids love playing together in the barn!

When I’m cleaning pens or moving hay, I know that the kids can stay there and be safe. It’s such a relief to have that space!

Talk About Road Safety

We might live in the middle of nowhere, but our rural dirt road sure gets a lot of traffic. Roads aren’t a place for playing, no matter how rural you are.

Drivers out here usually speed. They know their chances of getting a ticket out here are slim. High speeds and kids aren’t a good combination, so teach your kids to stay out of the road.

Stop, Look, and Listen

Anytime you need to cross the road with your kids, it’s the perfect time to reinforce stop, look, and listen. Out here, listening is our biggest clue that a vehicle is coming.

Practice frequently, and make sure your children have road safety down before they cross independently.

I Love the Farm!

As I said earlier, I love life on the farm. I know there are dangers, but there are dangers everywhere. We can’t get so caught up in worrying about the dangers that we freeze and force our kids to stay inside. Get out and love life together, wherever you are!

Teach your child about your environment, and how to be safe. They’ll take those lessons with them throughout their life, and be better able to take appropriate risks without acting recklessly.

Do you have any other tips for keeping young children safe on the farm?

Here's what happened when I tried the no-poo method for a while.

I Tried the No-Poo Method. Here’s What Happened.

Have you heard of the no-poo movement? It’s where you don’t use shampoo and instead use some natural methods of washing your hair like:

    • Baking soda and vinegar
      Coconut oil
      Plain water
  • There are plenty of other options out there. When I tried, I alternated between baking soda and vinegar and plain water.

    In order to give it a fair trial, I kept at it for several weeks. I was hoping I’d love the results and come away with hair in better condition and a savings in my toiletries budget.

    What Happened When I Tried No-Poo?

    When I tried the no-poo method, I learned that it isn’t the best fit for me. No matter how much I scrubbed my head, it still felt dirty.

    Which really stinks, because I love going the more natural route whenever possible. I love my homemade lotion bars and chapstick. I like making my own toothpaste.

    But, this one just didn’t work for me. I’m guessing that many people who embrace this method of hair care don’t live on a farm. Because here’s what I know…

    I’m around a lot of dirt.

    I’m around a lot of poop from a variety of animals.

    We live on a dirt road and dust is constantly coming into the house from cars speeding by.

    My hair gets dirty. Really dirty!

    And baking soda and vinegar just didn’t cut it for keeping it clean. My hair ended up pretty gross.

    I Could Have Done it Wrong

    I know that many people love the no-poo method. I’m glad it works for them!

    There’s a definite possibility that I didn’t approach this unconventional style of hair care appropriately. I could have done it wrong.

    Back in the day before modern shampoo, ladies typically wore bonnets and other hair coverings when they were outside. I’m sure if I did something similar it would have helped.

    But for Now, I’m Back to Shampoo!

    So I’m back to my Suave Naturals shampoo. It’s affordable, doesn’t have some of the bad chemicals that other shampoos do, and it actually gets the dirt out of my hair.

    Clean hair feels so much better!

    Have You Ever Tried No-Poo?

    If you’ve tried the no-poo method, I’d love to hear how it worked for you. Are you in it for the long-haul, or did you go back to shampoo like I did? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

    Creamy oatmeal is the best! Here's my secret to getting the perfect texture in each batch.

    My Secret to Super Creamy Oatmeal

    We love oatmeal! It’s been on our annual meal plan for breakfast for the past three years in a row.

    But, I used to have problems with the oatmeal’s texture. It sometimes turned out perfectly and sometimes didn’t.

    So I started researching to see what I could do. Then my experiments started. I’m thankful the kids were such good sports to eat all of these different creations!

    I tried cooking with half milk and half water.

    Flax seed, chia seed, and hemp seed got stirred in.

    We used honey and brown sugar while it was cooking.

    And while those things all made the oatmeal taste different, I couldn’t really distinguish much difference in the texture.

    An Easy Way to Creamy Oatmeal

    Then I tried stirring in eggs to the cooked oatmeal, while it was still simmering on the stove. I just cracked them right into the pot and then stirred.

    The difference in texture was amazing!

    I was worried that we’d end up with scrambled egg chunks inside the oatmeal. But that didn’t happen.

    Instead, the eggs gelled and gave the whole pan a delightfully creamy texture. As a bonus, they also significantly improved the protein in each serving!

    How I Do It

    So now, I make our oatmeal each week. Here’s the basic recipe I use, though it really varies depending on what flavor profile we’re aiming for.

    You’ll Need:
    3 cups rolled oats
    3.5 cups water
    3 cups milk

    Combine in a pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to medium. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the oats are tender.

    Then, reduce the heat to low. Crack three eggs into the warm cereal, and stir gently. Be sure to get the eggs incorporated into the stuff on the bottom of the pan.

    Let the oatmeal continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

    Remove from heat and serve with brown sugar.

    You can also add frozen fruit at the beginning. Our favorites are peaches and strawberries!

    Yummy Breakfast!

    If you try this yummy oatmeal secret, I’d love to hear what you think. Do you also love the improved creaminess in the texture?

    I know it sounds totally strange, but it works!

    The Dutch oven makes Sunday lunches after church easy.

    Easy Sunday Lunches with the Dutch Oven

    Sunday lunches are tricky! When we get home from church, everyone is hungry and ready to eat. So I try to have lunch cooking while we’re at church.

    In the past I’ve used crockpots to have lunch hot and ready when we get home. And crockpots work great for some dishes. But others just taste better when cooked in the oven.

    Dutch oven to the rescue! It’s the perfect pan to fill with food and let cook slowly while we’re at church.

    Quick Cautionary Note: My cooking methods may not be approved by the FDA. They may not be recommended. But, they are working for me, and allowing us to have delicious hot food when we get home!

    How I Prep Sunday Lunch Meat in the Dutch Oven

    On Saturday night, I grab a hunk of meat from the deep freezer. I’ve used whole chickens, pork and beef roasts, and hams.

    I unwrap the meat and put it in the Dutch oven. This gets refrigerated until morning.

    As I’m preparing for church in the morning, I pull out the Dutch oven and add enough water to cover about 1/4 of the meat. Then I add salt/pepper/whatever seasoning to the meat. I throw in some onions, carrots, or celery if I’m feeling like it.

    The lid goes back on, and I pop the cold Dutch oven into the cold oven. I then set the heat to 350 degrees. While we finish getting ready, it cooks at this temperature for about an hour.

    Right before we leave, I turn the heat down to 275. Then the meal continues baking while we’re gone. We come home and the house smells delicious. The meat tastes great, and it’s always up to temp by the time we make it home.

    the Dutch oven makes Sunday lunch easy!

    Sunday Lunch Mashed Potatoes

    Cold sides are easy to have alongside the meat. We’ve had green salads, Jell-o, prebaked rolls, and more.

    But, mashed potatoes go really well with meat. I knew I could make those in the crockpot, but was having trouble making sure they actually got done in the four hours. So I tried preparing them in the oven.

    It works great!

    I wash and peel potatoes and throw them into my second Dutch oven on Saturday night. Then I cover these with water and put the lid on.

    In the morning, I pull the pan out at the same time I do the meat. This allows the cold pan to come back up to room temperature.

    When I drop the temperature on the oven down, I put the potato pan in the oven. The water comes to a boil, and the potatoes cook all morning.

    Once we make it home, they’re simple to drain and mash. I can make a little pan gravy with the meat drippings, while I heat up a frozen vegetable.

    Quick lunch, and one that leaves some leftovers for eating later in the week!

    How do you handle Sunday lunch?

    Streamlining meals, especially on Sundays when life can be a little busy, is important for me. I’d love to hear what works for you. Do you utilize a crockpot or leave food cooking in your oven? Please chime in in the comments.

    simple-pigs-in-a-blanket-casserole

    Super Simple Pigs in a Blanket Casserole

    I’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention. This recipe is proof of that truth. You see, my life is crazy right now. I’m totally overwhelmed, and looking to streamline as much as possible. Especially mealtime. That’s where pigs in a blanket casserole comes in.

    On Wednesdays, we have hot dogs for lunch this year. I do a random assortment of pigs in a blanket, pigs in a tortilla, and regular ol’ hot dogs with homemade rolls. But this week, I didn’t have energy to do any of the above. I didn’t want to sit and roll out dough. I didn’t want to deal with frying the tortillas. And I certainly didn’t want to mix up rolls.

    Owen hasn’t been sleeping again. Normally I can deal with several days in a row without sleep fairly well. But, when I’m pregnant, I can’t. I walk around in a fog and get grumpy. And I just didn’t have energy to cook our typical lunch.

    So I turned to Google to see if I could make a casserole. I found plenty of options, but they all included chili. My kids don’t really like chili. Neither do I. So I knew if I wanted lunch to actually get eaten, I had to create something on my own.

    And I did. It was super simple.

    Pigs in a Blanket Casserole Directions

    I took our pack of 12 hotdogs from Costco and had one kiddo cut them up. I asked another to mix up a batch of biscuit dough. And because life is overwhelming right now, we used Bisquick. Measure, add milk, and stir. Can’t beat that!

    I greased a 9X13 inch dish. I had the hot dog cutter add the hot dogs to the bottom of the pan. Then I sprinkled shredded cheese on top of the dogs.

    We topped the cheese off with big clumps of biscuit dough.

    Then I tossed the pan in the oven and hoped for the best.

    I let it bake for 20 minutes. When I pulled it out of the oven, the biscuits were golden and the cheese was bubbly.

    Hot & Bubbly pigs in a blanket casserole

    I cut it into chunks and dished it up. Some kids squeezed ketchup across the top. One added some sweet relish.

    We added some fruit cocktail and some baby carrots to bring a little balance to our plates.

    Everyone ate.

    The kids enjoyed the variation. I was thankful for the ease.

    So if you’re looking for a chili-free pigs in a blanket casserole, give this a try. I’d love to hear what you think if you cook it!

    Why I Decided to Renew My Teaching Certificate

    Why I Decided to Keep My Teaching Certificate Current

    My teaching certificate expires in June of 2017. While I’m no longer teaching in a classroom, my husband and I made the decision that I should jump through the hoops to keep this certificate current.

    Renewing my certificate meant taking 15 quarter college credits. I’m currently enrolled in three courses through Spokane Falls Community College.

    Yes, adding college coursework to my already crazy schedule is a bit hectic. But, we felt it’d be worth it.

    Why?

    Student Loan Debt

    The biggest reason I want to keep my certificate current is because we owe money on my education still.

    Our journey to become debt free has been long, but we’ve paid off an incredible amount. All that’s left now is my student loan payment. The money we borrowed so I could take courses to get my master’s degree.

    Since we still owe money, it makes sense to keep it active. That way if I have to go back to work, I can. If I let my certificate lapse and then we realize we need me to go to work, the process would be much harder.

    So as long as we carry debt related to my education, I’ll keep it current.

    I’m Homeschooling

    Debt isn’t the only reason I’m working on renewing my teaching certificate. Another reason is that I’m a homeschooling mom.

    While I know you don’t have to be a certified teacher to homeschool (there are plenty of parents doing a great job without!), I never know how the laws are going to change regarding homeschooling.

    There have been other states that tried to implement “have to be certified” to homeschool legislation, and while those rulings might not have held up, it’s still on the back of my mind.

    Since I’m already certified, it seems wise to take a few classes every five years to keep it current.

    My Teaching Certificate Is Helpful in My Writing Career

    When I launched my freelance business in 2015, I didn’t realize how often I’d pull the “certified teacher” card. It’s been extremely useful in landing gigs in the parenting and educational spaces.

    While not all of my clients care, I have a few who do. And, I imagine this could be even more useful as I grow my business next year.

    What Classes Am I Taking?
    Since I needed classes to keep my teaching certificate current, here are the ones I’m taking. I decided to do them all at once because I hate paying fees. This way I only have to pay a pool fee and all those other fees one time.

    So this quarter I’m taking Social Media Marketing, Business Communication, and American Sign Language. It’s an interesting mix of classes, but ones that’ll be helpful. They’re also all online.

    How I’m Fitting Class Work Into My Schedule

    I’m thankful that one of my courses is work at your own pace. I’ve been knocking out about a week’s worth of material every night, and I’ll be done with this class by the time I’m a couple weeks into the quarter.

    That’ll give me more time to tackle the other two courses. Since I picked courses that I either had interest or some experience in, they aren’t as complicated. I just tackle each course one assignment at a time.

    I keep reminding myself it’s only for 10 weeks. So I’m working on coursework in the evenings, and during the kids’ free time.

    I made the decision to not work on growing my business much during this time. I still have some regular clients, but I’m not as actively pursuing new work. That frees me up a bit.

    How My Courses Will Affect My Blogging

    I’m hoping to continue posting here on Maggie’s Milk once a week while I’m in school. But if I miss a week, I’ll be back!

    Do you have any grand plans this fall? I’d love for you to share them in the comments.