Tuesday, April 17, 2012


This is our family's version of a popular gut Amish dish.  Its kinder-friendly comfort food and it travels and freezes well.  Great for sharing with a recovering friend or bringing to a pot-luck dinner, AND you probably have everything you need for it in your pantry and freezer.

I never bring home leftovers.  In fact, I'm surprised I haven't shared it here before.  If you Google the name, you'll come up with a half a dozen varieties on both the ingredients and the spelling of the recipe name.  A friend shared this with me over ten years ago and its in regular rotation at our house!


1 lb. ground beef
(*optional: 1 small onion, diced)
1 can tomato soup
2-3 tbs. brown sugar OR molasses
American cheese slices (1/2 a package or so, I guess) (yeah, I know, but I said its comfort food, right?)
1 lb bag egg noodles (however wide you like)
1 can peas, drained (or equivalent amount frozen, steamed lightly) (*optional)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 to 1/2 cup or so of milk (or evaporated milk)

Brown ground beef, break apart into chunks.  Drain.  If you use an onion, chop it in small pieces and saute it in a little olive oil.  Add beef to pan with onion.  Add brown sugar or molasses to meat and stir, stir in tomato soup.  If its looking a little dry, add about 1/4 cup (not much!) of water to the can and swish to get the rest of the soup out.

Meanwhile, boil your noodles following package directions.  Drain them and stir in the cream of chicken soup.  Add milk to the can and swish good to get the rest out.

In a 9x13" dish (or any casserole pan - I usually divide this recipe into two pans and freeze one for later), layer about 1/2 of the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Spoon out about 1/2 of the noodle mixture over top.  Cover this with the peas, sprinkling them over all, including the edges and corners.  Layer the cheese slices (1 slice thick) to cover all of the peas/noodle mixture.

Layer the rest of the meat over the cheese, being sure again to cover it completely.  Layer the rest of the noodles over that, spreading to cover.  Finally, put a final layer of cheese over the whole thing.

Bake it in the oven at 350* for about 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and possibly the edges are starting to brown.  Really, don't be ferhoodled...you're just blending the flavors and heating through; everything is already cooked.

This is best when its been made several hours ahead of time and the flavors have time to meld.  But honestly, es gut right out of the oven; the whole thing takes about 1 hour from start to finish including cooking and cleanup.

Let me know if you made it, and if so (most importantly), what did your family think?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Homeschool Co-Op

The first thing I did before we were even wholly moved in down here was to research homeschool support groups in the area.  We're so fortunate that there are several in the area, so we were able to choose one that was a good fit for our family.  I can't tell you enough how important it is to me to have a group of kids and moms who are fellow travelers on the journey ~ every time we get a chance to talk I'm amazed that they have or have had the same challenges as we do as far as parenting, schooling or family relationships.
Younger homeschoolers getting ready for a nature walk
In Alleghany, my girls were some of the youngest in the support group and I benefited from the experience of the moms with older children.  Unfortunately, there weren't many cooperative learning (co-op) classes in which they could participate.  I don't think they were necessarily missing out, but I know as the time grew closer to when we actually moved to Franklin County, Han had started to ask for more opportunities to interact with kids her age.
(Isn't she just beautiful?!)

After a field trip to see "The Velveteen Rabbit" ~ a game of D, D, G in the food court of Center on the Square

Here in Hardy, we belong to CHEF ~ Christian Home Educators of Franklin (County), and what a blessing it is to us!  We literally thank God daily for the relationships we are developing among this remarkable group of families.  These are "real people," (my favorite kind) who pray for one another and share their struggles...
hmmmm, reminds me of:

Galatians 6:2:  Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the Law of Christ.

Probably easiest, most natural, and most enjoyable precept I've ever followed!

A whole 'nother post could be written about the elephant who sidles up to the (very predictable and not uncommon) conversation when someone finds out we school at home:

THEY:  And where do your girls go to school?
US:  We homeschool.
THEY:  (awkward pause)
US:  (in my mind:  "Here it comes....")
THEY:  But aren't you concerned about socialization?
US:  Well, they're in AWANAs, Sunday School, Children's Church, co-op, and they take other classes in the community....
WHAT I'M REALLY THINKING: (Yeah, like I really want them to go to a government school, learning all sorts of disrespectful, non-Christlike behaviors from their same-age peers, artificially separated into groups by age, developing a type of "us vs. them" mentality, being exposed to ____________ all kinds of garbage -   not to mention teachers/admin who can't/don't share our desire to put Christ FIRST, etc. etc.)

So, uh, co-op helps to mitigate some of that.

We meet one day a week for 15 weeks a semester for two classes, and then it is (often) off to the park where the moms chat and the kids zoom.  We have monthly field trips and other impromptu get-togethers ~ most importantly, a monthly "Mom's Night," where we do a lot of that "supporting, bearing and encouraging."

Speaking of Biblical mandates, I saw this verse applied to a co-op group a bloggy friend attends, and I can't imagine a more perfect verse for this topic:

Hebrews 10:25:  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, 
but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It gives me a shiver of a thrill to read that!  Me, who would much prefer to live a hermit-ly life, staying home all day every day and poking around the house and yard ~ I don't need to be encouraged to meet together ~ for the good of my girls or for my own (very needful!) good!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday ~ Easter Egg Edition

Easter Egg Hunt at Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount

Monday, April 2, 2012

Didn't I just mention how one of my students is easily distracted?  And here I am ratcheting up the beguilement!

Well, we all found it difficult to concentrate on this morning after we decided to take our school to the yard and give the chickens a field trip....but I think it was well worth it.  We just s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d out our morning lesson time.

At first we just kind of enjoyed them ~ its only the second time they've been out of their coop for any length of time, and of course, they loved it.  The chickens did, too, ha!  Its funny how they stayed so close to us - must have been a lot of bugs for them to snack on.  They love cherry blossoms ~ isn't that funny?  They watch them fall and dive for them.  

But all too soon, it was time to turn off Chicken TV and get to work:

"Is that history?  'Cuz I just LOVE history!"
"Yes, Jeremiah, my favorite prophet!  Go on, go on, read!"
This nice Aracauna is right; we were reading from The Mystery of History about the prophet Jeremiah, also called the "Weeping Prophet."  

Hannah read some from the book of Jeremiah and from Lamentations:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; 
great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3:21-23

And THAT reminded me of the hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness," of which we sung the first verse and chorus together...I couldn't remember the rest!  The Broadman Hymnal I picked up at a yard sale a couple years ago didn't have it ~ doesn't that seem strange to you?  Its such a perfect hymn.  Anyways, we did what we could with what I remembered and sang it through a couple times.

I think the chickens liked our singing, even though they didn't act very reverent (ahem).  

"More blossoms?  I see blossoms.  Are these cherry blossoms?  No?  What about bugs, any bugs on these flowers?"

"Did somebody say, "QUIZ"?!"  I'm outta' here!
Chicken roundup!
Alas, all good things must end, and after our Bible and History lessons, we moved indoors for the rest of our (less distracting) studies.

But what a beautiful morning to enjoy our freedom to school at home!

Rockin' the Homeschool

In a recent "aha!" moment, I made one simple change that has helped Han surge ahead in her learning ~

If you guessed, "Let the cat supervise her writing assignments," that would be pretty funny, but - wrong.

I was having so much trouble with her leaning her school chair up on two legs, rocking it backward on the back legs, leaning sideways to 'thunk' it on the floor and generally being wholly KINETIC while I was trying to get her to read/write/work out her math, that I was becoming distracted.

My parents bought us one of those great Cracker Barrel rockers for Christmas, and I used it to sit and read or teach.  But one day I just switched it for Hannah's flat chair and ~VOILA!~ the kinetic energy was still there, but it is directed to back and forth movement and not balance or 'thunking.'

Yes, its a little too big and she can't sit back in it, but she does very little desk work right now; mostly math.  I'll keep my eye out for a (cheap/free) rocker more in her size.  In the meantime, this is working out GREAT and I can tell a HUGE difference in her attention span and concentration.  Who'd'a thunk?

Now if only I could get that cat to come up with a few lesson plans.....