I realize that Wednesday may seem like an odd time to plan meals, but I think that any day is a good day to plan.  Today, our fridge is almost empty, but our pantry and freezers are still full.  I feel like I need a plan.  I never did a full pantry inventory, but I can assure you that we are well stocked in pasta, grains, beans and other such necessities.  If oatmeal would go on sale, I’d be in heaven.

I went down to the freezer and pulled out a few items that looked good and here is what I came up with:

Tonight:  Stephen picked up Subway for dinner at the museum.  We are trying not to eat out much this year, but we had some money left on a gift card.  I’ve been under the weather, and we’ve had a tough week with the kids.  My extra time today needed to be spent elsewhere.  I was planning on a nap during nap time, but Sally didn’t cooperate.

Breakfasts are fairly simple for us.  Stephen and I usually have oatmeal.  We always have yogurt, fruit and cereal available for the kids.  I try to keep muffins and pancakes in the freezer, too.  Tonight, I’m making a batch of baked oatmeal for tomorrow’s breakfast since we have to fast for blood work and need something easy and portable in the morning.

Lunches have their ups and downs.  Stephen gets a packed lunch each day.  For the most part, we all eat leftovers for lunch.  Usually, I keep a few servings of soups and casserole items in the freezer to have these easily on hand.

Dinners get a bit more challenging.  This time of year, we don’t have as much fresh produce to use up.  Usually, it’s filling the fridge and what’s for dinner is obvious since we don’t want food to go to waste.  So, after thinking about real food and looking around in our freezer, here’s my plan for the next several meals.

Turkey vegetable soup with whole wheat dumplings

I took a misc. piece of turkey (left from when we bought a fresh local turkey at Thanksgiving) out of the freezer.  I guess it’s mostly the back, but it still has meat on the bones.  I’m going to make stock with it.  I’ll also add the usable meat to the pot.  Our freezer has plenty of vegetables.  Once the stock is done, I will season it and put it in a crockpot with lots of vegetables.   I have a basic dumpling recipe that I think can be made whole wheat easily, so we are going to try it out with the soup.  We usually open a jar of fruit to go with meals like this.

Fajita stuffed bell peppers

When I go to the freezers to figure out what to cook, I try to pick out things that are older and things that take up lots of room.  I also like to use odd ball sized packages.  Doing that helps rotate stock and gives me room for the next great stock-up deal.  I took out 2 packages of whole bell peppers that were cleaned and prepped for stuffed peppers.  I plan to make a fajita based stuffing with local ground beef, homemade tomato sauce, onions, peppers and fajita seasoning.  I’m going to cook some quinoa for a grain and mix them together.  I’ll stuff the peppers and bake them in the oven.

Black bean soup

I have a pork hock and local black beans to use.  Although this won’t do much to empty out my freezer, we have a busy week ahead and this can be made in the crockpot with minimal effort.  I don’t have an exact recipe picked out yet.  I’m secretly hoping that my husband will pick this to make for his meal this weekend.  He has been trying to cook one meal on the weekend to give me a break in the kitchen.  He recently made an Andouille and sweet potato hash and a roast that was done with apples, onions and sweet potatoes.

Black bean burgers

I like Emily’s recipe for burgers that she has on her Daily Garnish site.  I plan to make them along with some homemade wheat buns.  I’ve never made the burger buns before and this is the perfect time to experiment with them.  My dinner rolls turned out well, so I’m hopeful.

Spinach gnocchi

I found this recipe while searching for ways to use frozen spinach.  Apparently, I was on a spinach kick at some point and we have several bags of it frozen along with some kale and other greens. I’ve made gnocchi before, so this looks simple enough.  I picked up some ricotta at the store today.

Spinach pizza

We have whole wheat dough, sauce, cheese, mushrooms, and spinach all available so we’ll throw a pizza together one night.

Spinach quiche

I have a good recipe for whole wheat crust that I like for quiche.  I’ll use spinach and mushrooms for the filling.  It’s also a perfect opportunity to use up some of the egg beaters that are in our freezer.

Spinach casserole

I read several recipes for creamed spinach, baked spinach and spinach casserole.  I’m going to create some time of concoction based on these ideas.  I’m thinking veggie based chicken pot pie without the crust.

WOW!  I’m so excited to spend some time in the kitchen now.  I’ll be back with more meal ideas once we’ve cooked our way through this list.


For a couple of months, I’ve been taking a “high intensity” water aerobics class.  The class meets on Tuesday and Thursday.  Due to my personal workout scheduling, I attend only on Tuesdays.  Our regular instructor is good.  It’s a great class with a nice core group of participants.  Most classes we have about 8 people.  Our regular instructor came from another gym and she had followers come with her.  A few weeks ago, there was a sub.  It was on Thursday, so I wasn’t there, but I heard all about how terrible the class was.

Today, I walked in and it was obvious that Adam was substituting.  Adam is one of our personal trainers in the fitness center and he also teaches two of the evening water classes.

At first, people were complaining because he didn’t want us to use the weights and was having us have our arms out of the water, etc.  It really boiled down to people complaining because he wasn’t the regular instructor.  Different doesn’t equal bad.  Once everyone got a little used to his style, it was an amazing class.  Instead of counting 8, 7, 6, 5, etc., Adam would have us do an exercise for a minute.  At the end of the day, we are working all of the same muscles and moving.  To me, that’s the point of exercise.

I really liked that Adam used a different piece of equipment.  About 1/2 way through the class, he gave us Water Fan Paddles.  I had never used them before.  It was so different and hard compared to using the weights.  I really can feel that I worked out my arms today.

I think that everyone gets in their comfort zone, especially at the gym.  We take the same classes, talk to the same people, like the same instructors, etc.  We forget that it’s good to get out of our comfort zone and try something new.  I’d be lying if I said that I always like it when we have a substitute, but I always give them a chance.   I strive  embrace the differences and try to take something new away from each experience.  It’s how we grow.

One of my principals used to make the morning PA announcements.  He always ended with “make today a good day for learning”.


For Christmas, my sister bought a box of  Bendables for Nick.  It’s cool that we are into the second week of January and we are still opening things for the first time.  Many gifts that we received have had quite the staying power, so we put a few things on the shelf for a rainy day.  It wasn’t raining or snowing today, but we  opted to stay home this morning and Nick wanted to play with them.

He is at a stage where he loves directions, maps and instructions.  He studied the manual which was a small pamphlet with a few step by step projects.


He created a few things.


The Bendables are sort of like waxed pipe cleaners.  I think they are really pieces of string that is stiffened by colored wax.  I didn’t take one apart to verify.  The kid came with 30 each of ten colors.  They are stuck together when you first get them.  Sally loved taking them apart.


The butterfly on the front of the idea booklet was Nick’s choice for today’s project.  After he spent time getting used to the medium of the sticks, he started to make this.


He needed more help than he wanted, but he was happy with the finished project.  The sticks are reusable and stick together, but not quite as good as glue.  I read that they stick better once you work with them.  Later in the day, he played with them again during nap time.  He’s sleeping less and less, but at least this was a quiet activity that he could do in his room.


Last night, Sally decided not to sleep.  Between 8PM and 7AM, she was up for over 4 hours.  Since I was feeling less than stellar, Stephen took care of her for over 3 hours.  I took one shift that was a little less than an hour.  We aren’t sure if she’s sick.  She doesn’t have a fever, she doesn’t seem to be pulling on her ears and I think it’s just a cold.

Nick slept well, but despite a good night’s sleep, both kids were in total meltdown mode by 8AM.  Really, by just after 8AM, I already wanted a do-over for today.

Stephen managed to get them to church so Nick wouldn’t miss pajama day.  We let Sally wear her pajamas, too.  At least we didn’t have to get them dressed.

Stephen had to stay at church, so I picked up the kids around 11AM.  Things were reasonable during lunch.  Nap time was more or less nonexistent for both kids.  Nick didn’t sleep and Sally slept on the living room chair for about 15 minutes.

We had plans to go bowling with friends from 3PM to 5PM.  We didn’t want to cancel, but didn’t know what to expect from the kids at this point either.

For the most part, Nick took his turn bowling with the other kids and Sally took a turn every once in a while.  She was clingy and mostly wanted to go for walks.  Except for some excessive neediness, we had a good time bowling.  But then, we tried to leave.

Both kids went into total meltdown mode.  Nick had to be carried out to the car kicking and screaming.  Sally also had to be carried out screaming.  Nick knows how to unbuckle his seatbelt, so it was quite challenging to get him in his seat.

Both of the kids screamed most of the way home.  Nick sits behind me and kept kicking the seat.  It was a terrible ride home.

To top it off, I have a weak voice today and I’m not up to par.  It’s hard to separate exhaustion from being sick.  I know that I am quite hopeful for a good night’s sleep.

 Posted by at 7:13 PM

Today was a crazy day for our household.  I went to bed last night with a planned hike this morning.  I woke up feeling yucky and spent much of the day sleeping.  Sally hasn’t been herself for a couple of days.  She seems fine for a few hours and then has a total meltdown.  Hopefully, she’ll feel better soon.

Stephen felt the brunt of things today.  I chilled on the sofa and napped off and on.  He took the kids for haircuts, shoes, bananas, and a craft before lunch.  After lunch he held Sally for a long time since she did not want to go to her bed for a nap, but clearly needed one.

Nick played for a really long time before finally napping.  By then, Sally had tried her bed and didn’t last.  While I got a nap, Stephen didn’t really even get a break.

Fast forward to dinner time….

Stephen asked me if I wanted to order a pizza for dinner.  Pizza is one of my favorite foods.  I could eat it every day.  I especially like pizza with tons of meat topping and thick crust.  The richer and saucier the tomato sauce the better.  Ordering a pizza is easy.  The kids love it when the pizza man comes to the door.  The problem is that pizza delivered is about $15.  We can choose to spend $15 on pizza, but it’s not really good for us and we’d rather go out to a nicer restaurant once in a while than spend $15 a week on pizza.

But, it was one of those days.  We were all tired and grumpy.  Pizza would taste great.

We talk about dinner plans several times and then I just decided to gather some energy and make dinner.  Then, I decided I had enough energy to clean the kitchen or make dinner.  I didn’t have enough energy for both.  When it was all said and done, we ate chili from our freezer along with freshly made corn muffins.  It was delicious and it was better than spending $15 on a pizza.

After dinner, Stephen took the kids on a run to Target.  He was gone just long enough for me to get the kitchen clean.

An hour later, the kitchen is clean, the toys are picked up and both kids are sleeping.  It’s ending up a pretty good day.

I’m proud of myself for not going the pizza route.  I’m also reminded that we need to keep a couple of easy meals in the freezer for nights like this.  It’s better for our waistline and our budget.

 Posted by at 9:07 PM

Hi, everyone! This is Stephen, Lyn’s husband. I’m doing a guest post today.

Parsley… what to do with it? Several times a summer, our CSAs present us with big bunches of parsley. It is far more than one might want for garnish or flavoring. We could dry it, but dried parsley doesn’t keep its flavor as well as other herbs do. As a lover of world foods, though, one thing comes to my mind when I see a big bunch of parsley: Tabouli!

Tabouli is a middle eastern salad of parsley, mint leaves, and bulgur. The versions I made in our kitchen this summer were always from items at hand, so mine may not be particularly authentic. In any event, it is a light and refreshing dish, perfect for a summer evening meal.

Here is how I make Tabouli. It is a forgiving dish. I recommend measurement-free cooking for it.

1 large bunch of parsley. Flat parsley is best. A mix of flat and curly will work. Curly alone makes an odd texture and inferior flavor.

1 handful of fresh peppermint leaves. I usually aim for anything from 2-to-1 to 4-to-1 of parsley to mint, by volume. It depends on how much parsley we have and how much mint there is to harvest in our garden. I tried spearmint and can’t recommend it. Garden mint would probably be good.

2-3 small tomatoes or 1-2 larger ones, chopped. It is possible to put in too much tomato. A green-to-red ratio like Christmas holly is about right.

1/2 to 2 cups of a grain, cooked. Traditionally, this should be bulgur wheat. I’ve used couscous (not a success), quinoa (pretty tasty), and wheat berries (good flavor, but a bit chewy).

1 clove garlic, finely minced, and/or some onion, chopped

olive oil — extra virgin is nice, but any variety will work.

Combine the parsley and mint leaves, then chop them up finely. I like the texture best with pieces about 1/16″ in size. A food processor is the best way to do this. I’ve tried doing it by hand and don’t have the patience to get the pieces small enough.

Add the tomatoes and grain, as well as the onions or garlic.

Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Add olive oil if needed in order to get the leaves lightly coated, but not drenched.

Refrigerate until serving, and enjoy.

Lyn, Nick and Sally do not care for tabouli, which means I get to keep it to myself. It keeps fairly well for a few days  in the fridge, so I can enjoy a batch in a few days of packed lunches.

It’s easy to make this a local-foods dish. Olive oil isn’t produced locally, but all of the other ingredients are available from growers near us. In fact, the herbs and tomatoes may be in your garden already!

As you can see, you need not fear a big bunch of parsley in your CSA box. Instead, whip up a batch of tabouli and enjoy a delicious summer treat.



Today, there was no rain for our Fresh Fork CSA pick up.  There was also no line at the time we arrived.  This week’s package was also easier to pack than some and I think that helped.  We’d rather have snow on the ground that rain coming down for our pick ups.

Here’s what we were expecting this week:

  • 1 whole pasture raised chicken
  • 1 lb. carrots
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts (removed from stalk)
  • 2 lb.s beets
  • 1/2 lb. mixed organic greens
  • 1 dozen pasture raised eggs
  • 2 lbs. organic black turtle beans
  • 1 smoked pork hock
  • 1 lb. roasted butternut squash and cracked black pepper linguini

We were also expecting 1 pound of ground beef that was missed for everyone at Beachwood last time.

Here’s a group shot:


We didn’t have many eggs left and use quite a bit in everyday cooking.  So, I was glad to have these in the bag this week.  I also have some frozen egg beaters that I need to work into some recipes soon.  Surprise, surprise, we’ll be making Harvard Beets with the beets this week.


I was originally going to make this pasta for dinner, but we had other pasta in the fridge and opted for a quicker dinner tonight.  The Ohio City pasta cooks fast, but I usually make a white sauce to go with it and the leftovers were easy tonight.  We’ll save that for another day this week.  Everyone in our house loves cooked carrots.  Now that Stephen can eat raw ones again (since getting his braces removed), we may have to discuss how to prepare them.


We’ll have the Brussels sprouts tomorrow.  Last time, we let them go too long and I think they lost some of their flavor.  The greens will hopefully go into salad.  I’m not the biggest fan of this variety, but I need to get better of just eating them.


With pork hock and black beans in the same week, black bean soup is in order.  I’ve been looking at recipes for a couple of days and haven’t quite decided on a version for us yet.


Our chicken is 7.8 pounds!  That is definitely the biggest Fresh Fork chicken we have have gotten thus far.  For now it’s parked in the freezer along with our ground beef.


Lastly, the warehouse did a “blow out” sale on the ham loaf.  We remembered it fondly so I stocked up.  It was $2 a pound.  I like to describe it to people as ham based meatloaf mix.  I will be making meatballs and muffin size meatloaves with some yet to be invented rhubarb honey BBQ sauce and then freezing them for meals.  I’ll serve them with potatoes, different grains, pasta, etc.  I like to bake them and freeze in big batches so we can get several meals out of them.


Lastly, this is the first time that I got to take photos of my CSA pick up with my new lights.  I think that I have tons to learn, but it’s a huge improvement over the dark photos of recent weeks.  I’m mostly intrigued by how different the wood table looks in the photos when I think I had the same lighting and camera settings for all of my photos.  I think that the angle of the camera has a big impact.  I think I’ll be learning how to use a tripod next.  Hopefully, I’ll have a some time to experiment over the next couple of weeks.


A few weeks ago, I talked about snowflakes.  I think Nick’s grandparents liked that idea because this pattern block set showed up for a Christmas present.

Yesterday, Nick woke up from his nap before Sally and wanted to do a craft.  To him that means he wants to play with something at the kitchen table.  I didn’t have a good plan and I didn’t really want to do a project that involved glue, scissors and a mess.  Enter the pattern block gift.

This is a classic Melissa and Doug toy.  It’s exactly what you would expect.  It was a high quality box with nice wood pieces in kid friendly colors.  The big downfall (as with most of their toys) is there isn’t a lid.  Once you know this and find a suitable shoe box or something to use, it’s all good.







Working on dexterity to pick up the small pieces:


Happy with his work:


I liked these pattern blocks because we could talk about colors and shapes. He got to practice sorting in the trays that I picked up from the after Christmas sale. There were also enough blocks that he could do several patterns before he had to reuse some of the blocks.  These aren’t puzzles where the pieces fit into a recessed board.  If he wasn’t careful, the whole design would move.  It was good practice for him.  He even decided to do a couple of them “double decker” where he stacked the pattern on the same board two high.  I loved this activity and look forward to using it more with Nick.  Sally will be able to try it soon as well.

I recently cleaned out a bookcase in our den to house our craft projects.  It’s not quite organized yet, but I’m looking forward to having many things available at my disposal to keep the kids busy and learning during the cold, dark, winter that is upon us.


Today’s workout was a water aerobics class.  I was exhausted after I got home.

3/4 cup peaches
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup granola
1 T peanut butter
Morning Snack
chili with whole wheat spaghetti and 2 oz mozzarella cheese
Afternoon Snack
2 slices toasted Stollen with 1 T creamed honey
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/2 cup roast with apples, onions and sweet potatoes
 Posted by at 8:29 PM

Back in September, when I was in Oahu, I had decided that I really wanted to try snorkeling.  I was determined, but scared.  I had never done anything like that before.  The Hanauma Bay is stunningly beautiful and known for snorkeling.  After reading up on the preserve, I planned my trip for Wednesday.  The easy way to go to the preserve is by bus.  The parking lot fills up many days and they turn you away if you don’t arrive early enough to park.  I made my way to the bus stop near our hotel and waited for the #22 bus.  After a few minutes, I noticed that the #22 bus didn’t stop at the stop I was waiting at.  Oops!

The bus only runs once an hour and I had little time to figure out where to find the bus and get there before the bus came.  I made it with 3 minutes to spare!

It was so obvious that I was on the right bus.  Everyone that got on the bus was obviously going to the preserve.  They either had bathing suits, snorkeling equipment or other beach items with them.

The scenery was awesome.


Once I paid admission, there was a 25 minute wait for the mandatory movie about the preserve and how to treat it.  During the wait, I looked at the exhibits and met Alison and Kelly.  They were in Hawaii for a conference and I asked them if I could snorkel with them.  I didn’t think it was safe to snorkel alone.  After the movie, we had the option of paying for a tram or walking the hill.  We opted to walk the hill and stopped for photos, too.



Once at the bottom, we rented our equipment and locker and got ready.  The locker turned out to be a spot in the rental area.  They didn’t have public access, but our bags weren’t exactly locked up either. I had a small waterproof bag with me for my money and identification and felt ok with leaving my other belongings in the “locker”.

I had bought a disposable water camera for this part of the trip.  Most of the photos weren’t great, but here are a few worth sharing.

Here’s a photo of me ready to go out in the water.  I put a shirt on over my suit since everything I read talked about how easy it was to get a sunburned back while out in the water.


I saw lots of fish.  Sadly, many photos didn’t turn out.


Here’s Alison and Kelly.  I really enjoyed meeting them.  They were fun and made me comfortable with my snorkeling adventure.


Snorkeling isn’t something I would want to do every day, but I’m sure glad I tried it while I was in Hawaii.