Archive | July 2014

Our Visit to the Home of President James Monroe

A few days ago we went to see the house of James Monroe in Charlottesville, Virginia and then to see the campus of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.  On our way home we were pretty close to some family members who live about an hour and a half away from us, so my husband called them up “spur of the moment” and asked if we could stop by for a visit and maybe get something to eat with their family.  We went to my sister (who lives in NC)’s favorite place, “Cookout.”  Yum!  It was a fun day.

We learned some interesting things about our 5th US President.  For one thing, he lived “next door” to Thomas Jefferson.  Monticello is just down the road, but there was still quite a bit of distance between the two houses because the properties were so large.  We did not visit Monticello on this trip since we have been there a couple of times before.

I failed to take a picture of the house itself, but if you click the link above, you can see what it looks like.  It was pretty small (just 2 rooms upstairs and 2 basement rooms) when he lived there.  They said he didn’t need a large home because he was gone so much, and that it was not his retirement home like Monicello was for Thomas Jefferson.  But since his time there, others have added on to it so it is much larger now.

We also enjoyed walking around the grounds.  We saw their vegetable and flower gardens, as well as some chickens and a peacock.  We also were able to see the cows running (seriously — running) for their lunch.  We couldn’t figure out why they were running at first, but then we saw the man holding the gate open with a bucket in his hand, and we figured it out.  There were quite a few cows and even some little ones.

Below is a picture of the peacock they keep on the grounds.



One thing I loved was how neatly they keep their vegetable garden.  They were growing corn and tomatoes and some kind of squash plants.  I didn’t take any pictures except of this grape tomato plant, but now I wish I had.  I took these pictures because I like how they used three stakes to keep their tomato plants up and would like to copy the idea.


And, finally here is a picture of the scenery as we were driving.  Pretty, huh?  We were somewhere between Harrisonburg and Charlottesville when I took this picture.


I think it is fun to see pictures that people share across the country and around the world, so I thought others might enjoy seeing what it looks like here in Virginia!

What trips have you (or will you) take this summer?


Boot Camp Journal – Day 14 {Final Thoughts}

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  

Saturday, July 12

This is the final day of my boot camp!  Before I get into my “final thoughts,” I will say that I am finding it increasingly difficult to find time to write on the blog with my family being home for the summer, so it may be a while before I will be able to post anything again.  But here I am at the last day, and so it seems fitting to share my feelings about the experience.

First of all, I think the best benefit was increased communication about food between myself and my older kids.  I’ve always been interested in the subject of nutrition, so they are no strangers to hearing me talk about healthful eating.  But this exercise generated some feelings in them, and I’m happy to say that I kept my 2014 goal of listening, and I think that was good for them (and for me).  While it is true that they have expressed some discontentment, not all of what they said was negative.  I’ve noticed that they increasingly been talking more about what’s healthy and not healthy themselves.

The second thing that was good was that we ate together during the day a lot more.  Now, I will say that at breakfast this has sometimes been frustrating because my energy is best in the morning and I can think of lots of other ways to use that good energy rather than being in the kitchen.  However, prior to this my kids ate cereal (and nothing else) for breakfast almost every day.  The advantage, of course was that they could get it themselves.  But since I started taking the time to prepare breakfast, we’ve all been eating a lot better in the morning.

The same is true for lunch.  Previously, when everyone is at home, I would sometimes fix a “kid lunch” and an “adult lunch.”  This wasn’t too bad on some levels because they like simple food that is easy to prepare.  But when it came to trying to make the meal balanced with fruits & veggies, it became pretty complicated.  And on days when I let everyone prepare their own lunch, it would feel like chaos in the kitchen.  Often I would realize that I had no idea of what my kids were eating.  With preparing the same lunch for everyone, I’m more aware of what is being consumed and how much, and that is good.  Plus, it is less chaotic during the preparation stage.

A third thing that has been good has been more focus on my youngest one.  She is quite a bit younger than the other two (6 years).  I’ve noticed that I tend to assume that her tastes are the same as theirs.  But these past two weeks I realized this is not true!  She is practically the opposite.  Where they like hot dogs and pizza, she does not.  They like most bread, and she does not.  But on the flip side, she loves most fruits and vegetables, while they just have their favorites.  So, I’ve been paying closer attention to how much food she is consuming at meal times, and which ones.  And while I really don’t care if she eats hot dogs or pizza, there are other foods that she is refusing that she does need to eat.  So, I’ve been paying attention to and working with her a little more and this is a good thing, in my opinion.

So those are three things that are definitely good, and I’d say that we are eating healthier as a result (not that it’s all perfect, just better than before).

And here I am at the end of the adventure.   Actually I could write a lot more.  I’m sure I’ll visit this subject on the blog again sometime.  But for now I’m going to enjoy the rest of my family’s summer vacation!

What are your thoughts or observations from this “boot camp journal?”  

Or if you prefer,  what are your thoughts and observations from your own experience with feeding a family?




Boot Camp Journal – Day 12 {What Did I Do with All the Leftovers?}

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  

Thursday, July 10

Remember all of the leftover food from last week that I needed to use up?  Well, I’m still working on it, but I’ve been able to use up a lot so far!  I actually never made a meal plan for this week (even though I kept saying I was going to), because I’ve had so many things to choose from right in my own fridge/pantry.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been grocery shopping.  I’ve needed milk, eggs, and bread, and have picked up other things to go along with what I have at home.  But I still feel pretty good about my efforts to not throw food away.  So, I thought that today I would share what I’ve done so far to use up what I have.  (You may notice that some of these ideas are very similar to my commenter’s suggestions…yup, I took the liberty to use some of their great ideas!).

Sweet potatoes:  I made sweet potato cakes for lunch one day.  This time I coated them in panko bread crumbs before pan-frying and they were really good!

One serving of baked beans:  For lunch on a different day, I pulled a bunch of leftover stuff out of the fridge and gave everyone what I thought they would like.  I split the baked beans between the kids.

Cantaloupe/Watermelon:  We just cut it and ate, of course!  It took about 4 -5 days to finish off both, but we did it!  My girls helped a lot.  I let them have as much as they wanted and they happily ate several slices each time it was served!

Over-ripe bananas:  I added these to some whole wheat pancakes.

Limes:  I squeezed the juice and added it to a fruit smoothie

Potatoes:  I added them to the crockpot when I made roast beef on Sunday.  I also made oven-roasted potatoes using the recipe on the back of Lipton Onion Soup mix.  These were especially a big hit with my son!

Lettuce:  I just kept using it for salad until it was all gone.  My kids did get a little tired of salad, though.

Spinach:  Initially this was added to the salad, but after awhile it started looking too old, so I threw the rest of it out (in the compost pile).

Shredded cabbage:  I sauteed some of it with slices of deli-ham and served it with lunch one day.  This did not go over well with the kids, and I still have some left.  I’ll either cook it for myself or throw it out if it gets too old.

Onions/bell peppers:  I chopped up the oldest of these and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer for soup or something later.  I still have 3 onions and 1 orange bell pepper, but I cook with these all the time, so they won’t be a problem to use up.  They could be good in omelets or stir-fry.

Green onions:  I added some of these as a garnish to the “egg drop soup” that I made to go with “chinese fried rice” for dinner.  I still have some left.

Radishes:  Who knew that you can saute radishes?  I didn’t until my sister suggested adding them to “chinese fried rice!”  I got curious and “googled” it just to make sure, and found out that you can!  I did make the fried rice, and added them to it.  I have some left and will probably saute them to eat them on their own.

Carrots:  I also added some of these to the “fried rice” (as well as a few bell peppers and onions).  Some were really old, so I threw those out.  And I still have some left!  I’m thinking of making the “oven-roasted potatoes” again, and roasting some carrots right along with them!

Tomatoes:  I peeled them, chopped them up in a mini-food processor, and added them to some Ragu sauce.  This made the sauce a little watery, so I added some flour and it thickened back up.  Unfortunately, my kids noticed the change in flavor, so they didn’t want to eat their spaghetti, but I still think it’s a good idea.  I would do it again, because it really stretches the sauce and can be a good use for future tomatoes coming out of the garden.

Zucchini:  I used it this morning to make zucchini bread/muffins.  We ate some for breakfast and have some more for later.  This was a giant zucchini, so I was able to make a lot of bread/muffins from it!

Banana peppers:  Some were used in salads and on sandwiches, but I’ve realized that I don’t really like them very well, unless they are the pickled kind you buy at the store.  No one else seems to want them either.  Maybe I would like them better roasted?  Next year I don’t think we should grow them.

Flour & corn tortillas:  I never used any of these either!  Maybe I can freeze some, and I guess it’s time to make some burritos.

This is a lot of food when you list it out like this!  Seriously, this has been the “week of leftovers.”  I make one dish with the purpose of using leftover produce, and then that dish produces more leftovers.  So just about every meal (that has been eaten at home) has been prepared with the idea of using up something.

But I am starting to run out so I really ought to sit down and make another menu and shopping list….

What is your favorite way to handle left-overs?  Do you serve them again for lunch or dinner, freeze/save them for later, or something else?




Boot Camp Journal – Day 11 {Your Opinion Wanted}

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  

Wednesday, July 9

One thing that Dr. Kennedy mentioned in her book is that she does not encourage parents to focus on getting their children to eat foods they truly detest.  She described it as the “liking of food” being on a scale of 0 – 5.  A 5 is when you just love, love, love a food and a 0 is when it is the worst thing ever.  She points out that most food is at neither extreme but rather falls somewhere in the middle.  If we only give our children foods that are 5’s then their diets will be too limited.  So, there is a definite need to encourage them to eat foods they may not love or even like very much so that they have a healthy variety of foods in their diet.  But when a food is at a 0 then her recommendation is to not require them to eat it at all.  They should still be able to have a healthy and varied diet even without eating these foods.

For me, a food that falls at 0 on the scale is olives.  I remember that when I was in High School I wanted to like both olives and mushrooms because whenever I ordered a pizza with my friends or other group, most people wanted those items to be on the pizza.  I was kind of a shy person, so I found it unpleasant to constantly request that these items be left off part of the pizza.  But I disliked both of them enough that I did it anyway.  I remember telling myself if I could just learn to like them that I wouldn’t have to speak up like that anymore, so I tried eating them several times in the hopes that I would get used to the taste.  This actually worked with the mushrooms, and I eat them sometimes now of my own choosing.  But not with olives.  I just cannot make myself like them even the tiniest bit!  So, when my kids really dislike food, believe me, I understand how they feel.

Since I’ve been encouraging my kids to eat many different foods these past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to observe that some foods that my kids have disliked in the past are actually farther up the scale than I had realized.  But other foods remain very close to that 0.

One of these foods is pesto.  They were discussing pesto the other day, and were saying how much they dislike it (although truthfully, I think I’ve only had them try it once in their lifetime).  I told them that I had no plans to require them to eat it.  My personal reason was partly the level of dislike that they felt for it combined with the fact that it is not a common food to serve in our culture.

The cabbage I served for lunch yesterday also seems to fall into this category.  I actually thought that it might, which is why I felt so brave serving it, but I wanted to give them a chance to try it, rather than decide for them that they don’t like it.  One child stated that he would be willing to forego dessert rather than eat it in the future, and another child asked very politely if I could “please promise to never serve cooked cabbage again.”

Another type of food is anything with cheese (especially melted) or a creamy sauce.  The problem here is that not requiring them to eat it wipes out a whole category of food, not just one thing.  We hardly ever have casseroles or grilled cheese anymore, and when I make gravy I serve tend to serve it on the side.  On the one hand, our diet is probably a bit healthier as a result because these foods tend to be high in fat.  On the other hand, these are foods that are commonly served in our culture, and the possibility is very high that my kids will be served them by other people when they are missionaries or otherwise invited over for dinner.  Plus, sometimes I want to make them!

So this is where your opinion comes in.  What do you think?  Based on this admittedly limited information, do you think it is better to encourage my kids to eat the foods I described above, or give them a break and focus my efforts on the many other food options that exist?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!  (Note:  you do not have to be a regular reader to participate.  Any thoughts are welcome!)  Thanks!




Boot Camp Journal – Day 10 {Cooked Cabbage & Increasing the Requirements}

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  

Tuesday, July 8

I was pretty brave today.  Not quite as brave as my sister when she towed a truck, but still…pretty brave.  I served cooked cabbage as the vegetable at lunch.  Yeah, I know…I’m brave…courageous, really.  My New World Dictionary defines “courage” like this:

“the attitude of facing and dealing with anything recognized a dangerous, difficult, or painful, instead of withdrawing from it; quality of being fearless or brave; valor”

For me, feeding my kids something that I know they will not like is both difficult and painful.  But, I felt like it was what I needed to do today — not to prove a point or anything like that — just simply because it fit the situation.  You see, we were going to have sandwiches for lunch.  I had planned to put the fixings on the table and let everyone prepare their own sandwich just the way they like it.  But we were supposed to go to the Library for an event and I got the time mixed up in my head.  I realized when I looked at the calendar that we needed to be there an hour earlier than I was planning on, and that meant we had to leave right away.  So, instead of preparing lunch, I grabbed a snack for the kids and headed out the door.

When we got home a little before 2:00, the sandwich idea no longer seemed practical (we had them for dinner instead, and I’m thrilled to say that I had a very happy family at dinner!).  But for now, I needed something fast, so I quickly thought through all the food groups ans what I could provide from each one.  For the vegetable group I didn’t have much to choose from, but I saw the cabbage that needed to be used up.  It would be quick and easy to fix (and I actually like it), and we needed to use it up or it would go to waste.  Prior to this boot camp experience I would have never even considered this as an option for lunch even with these factors.  But I reminded myself that this is exactly why I’m doing this — to empower myself to make decisions based on all of the factors rather than automatically vetoing an idea just because I know my kids won’t like it.  And no, my kids did not like it, but they each ate their allotted amounts (with some effort, of course!).


On a different note, my husband expressed to me once again on Sunday night that he does not think the “3 bites” rule is providing them with enough food to eat.  He said that maybe if they liked everything, and just ate 3 bites of one food that it would be OK, but we have both observed them eating three bites of just about everything that is on their plate.  He is right — at these meals they are not eating enough food.  Now, for the record, they have had plenty of meals where they like a lot of what is served too, and there has always been at least one item that they like at each meal, so they are definitely not starving.

Still, I feel that my husband’s concern is valid, so we are increasing the requirements for the oldest two kids.  The youngest is still struggling at times to even take one bite, let alone three, so her requirements are staying where they are for now.  But I decided to have the older kids eat at least 1/8 cup (a.k.a. 2 Tbsp) of everything.  {So, guess how much cabbage they ate at lunch today?  Yep, 1/8 cup…I’m so brave.)  Also, I’ve told them that after a week or two, we are going to increase the general amounts to 1/4 cup and that we are going to continue to raise the amount over time until we feel like they are eating close to what they need.  However, for something they find very difficult to eat (like the cabbage) I may decide to keep the required amount small until they either get more used to the taste or until I have compassion on them and eliminate the requirement to eat it all together.

So here we are:  the 3 bite rule has officially become the 1/8 cup rule.  It doesn’t sound quite as nice, but my kids ate more variety for dinner last night and again for lunch today, even with the addition of cooked cabbage!




Boot Camp Journal – Day 7 {Imposed vs. Natural Consequences}

I’ve already posted once today!!  But I just have so much to say about this…

Saturday, July 5 (Part II)

I woke up this morning feeling a lot of anxiety about our second week of this Boot Camp.  Watching my kids (one in particular) be so hungry last week was really hard for me, and I can see by the stuff that I need to use up in our fridge, that this week may have some menu items that will be equally distressing.  (I say “may” because I actually haven’t even made the menus yet!!  I’m hoping to accomplish that today.)

Also, last night when I served the pasta salad I served everything separately for the kids, and then watched as they all filled up on plain noodles and white bread while only eating the tiniest 3 bites of everything else.  I had two thoughts about this:  one is that I don’t think I should have to separate a dish that is meant to be served mixed up, and second that if I had served it mixed up they would have left the table hungry for sure.

So, I talked to my husband about it this morning.  I said that if they are served a meal where they like very little of it, and choose to eat 3 bites then that is not enough food for them.  He agreed with me and said, “they need to eat more than 3 bites.”  But I really want to keep the rule (at least for the coming week), and let them choose whether or not they have more than that, and I explained this to him.  So we agreed then that they can choose, but they need to know if they don’t eat enough that they will be hungry.

At breakfast this morning (a meal everyone liked {I mean…mostly} — whole wheat banana pancakes, scrambled eggs, watermelon, and milk) I talked to them about the difference between imposed consequences and natural consequences.  They are smart kids, so they were able to give me the correct definitions of each of these when I asked them.  Basically, imposed consequences are ones that parents (or other adults) assign to an action.  They can be good or bad.  So for us the imposed consequence of eating at least 3 bites of every food all day long is dessert after dinner.  That’s the good side.  The bad side is that if they do not, they will not have the dessert.

However, our bodies need more than 3 bites and so even though they may meet the requirements to receive the dessert, they may not be eating enough to satisfy what their bodies need.  So we talked about what the natural consequences of not eating enough food are:  mainly hunger.  But then I said to them, “what if you eat enough food so that you do not feel hungry, but not enough of some foods your body really needs?  What is the natural consequence of that?”  Well, people who know more about this than I might be able to give more insights into this answer, but in our family we determined the consequences would be that the body can’t fight infection as well, and that you don’t feel as well as you could.  These are less noticeable to most people than the consequence of being hungry, but they still matter.

But for now, I am still planning to go along as we have been.  I’ll prepare some meals they like, but inevitably there will be some that they won’t want.  In that case we will have to let the imposed consequence of “no dessert” unless the requirements are met, and the natural consequence of “hunger” influence their decisions at the table.  But I feel better now that we’ve talked about it.

Oh yeah, as a side note…one child asked the question, “what if I do feel full after eating, but later I am hungry?”  I thought this was a good question and my husband’s and my answer was that they could have more of the same meal again.  (We usually have at least some leftovers).


Boot Camp Journal – Day 7 {My Turn to Be the Picky Eater}

This is the journal I am keeping about our “health(ier) eating boot camp.”  Feel free to read along!  

Saturday, July 5

Last night we had my husband’s birthday dinner (his birthday was a few days ago, but he was not home then, so we celebrated last night).  I asked him early in the day what he would like me to fix for dinner that night and he requested macaroni salad just like his mom used to make.  Now, before you think we are all very strange for having macaroni salad for a birthday dinner, let me explain that he has been asking me for this for a long time.  I do sometimes make macaroni salad, but it never tastes quite right (even to me).  He finally asked me some time ago to call his mom and ask for her recipe.  Of course as things go, she does not have an actual recipe that she follows, and she hadn’t made it in a long time, but did tell me from her memory what she has put in it.  Well, I tried it the way she told me, and my husband said that it was better, but there was still something missing.

So, last night his birthday dinner request was for me to try again.  But guess what?  I had lost the recipe I had written down from before, and so rather than calling his mom again, we did an internet search for one that was similar.  We didn’t have any luck finding one close enough to hers, but we did succeed in jogging his memory as to what to put in it.

OK, with that explanation out of the way, here is the “picky eater” part.  My husband likes his macaroni salad (and sandwiches, for that matter) to be prepared with Miracle Whip.  I, on the other hand do not like Miracle Whip — I only like mayonnaise.  Since he likes mayonnaise fine too, that’s what we usually use for everything.  But last night he especially requested that this salad be made using Miracle Whip.  So, as I stood in my kitchen, preparing to mix everything up, I had to pause a moment and make a decision.  Should I mix his and mine up in separate bowls (I actually did this the last time I attempted to make the salad), or should I be a good example to my kids and eat it the same way I’m preparing it for him?

“Yikes,” I thought to myself, “I really don’t like Miracle Whip!”  Well, then I thought to myself that I’ve really only tried it a couple of times.  Maybe if I try it again it won’t be as bad as I remember.  And maybe if I look at the ingredient list to give me an idea of what’s in it, that will help.   I determined that the stuff is simply a sweeter version of mayonnaise with some garlic powder, paprika, and an unknown spice.  {Here is a copycat recipe that I just found, if you are interested!}  Realizing that all of these additions worked perfectly with the pasta salad that I was making, I decided to be brave and make mine and my husband’s exactly alike.  And you know what?  It tasted fine!

By the way – if you are wondering how the kids handled this, I will say that they really don’t like mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  So what I decided to do was to require them to eat 3 bites each of the pasta salad with dressing, and then at least 3 bites of each of the ingredients within the salad (no dressing added).  After that they could have plain noodles and bread and whatever else at the table that they wanted more of.  I don’t know if this was right or wrong as far as helping them eat better, but it is what I chose to do.

Oh – and just so you know, I succeeded in getting closer to his mom’s way of making it this time!  Hooray!  Here is what I put in it.  Sorry, I did not measure anything, I just put how much I thought looked good.

Macaroni Salad

The Salad:

cooked macaroni noodles
hard boiled eggs
tuna fish
chopped celery
chopped tomatoes (I used grape tomatoes)
chopped green onions

The dressing:

Miracle Whip
yellow mustard

Mix up the salad ingredients.  Mix up the dressing and pour over the salad.  Sprinkle Paprika on top.

What is your favorite way to prepare “macaroni salad?”