Super Yummy Pumpkin Granola

Two words: Pumpkin Granola!

pumpkin granolaOkay, a few more words.  I used this pumpkin recipe as a base.  My standard granola recipe is this Ina Garten one, so I sortof combined the two. And we ate it for dessert.

Pumpkin Granola

4 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (I get this at Trader Joe’s every fall, but if you don’t have it on hand, use cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cups canned pumpkin
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup craisins
1/3 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Combine oats, coconut, pumpkin pie spice, and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Mix pumpkin, oil, and maple syrup, and mix into dry ingredients with a spatula or hands until mixed thoroughly.  Spread onto a cookie sheet (if you only have metal ones, I recommend lining with parchment paper to help keep it from burning and sticking) and bake 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until desired crispness (we like ours really crispy, so I turn off the oven and leave it in even longer).

When mixture has cooled, add chocolate chips, craisins, pecans, or whatever assortment of dried fruit and nuts you desire.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week (though our granola has never lasted that long!).


And with that, Anna and I would like to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.  We’re taking the rest of the week off to focus on our families!  We’ll see you back in December, when we’ll be sharing our family’s favorite Christmas books.

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Hidden Art Friday

Happy Friday!

After being in a friend’s home this week and seeing how her home oozed books, I was inspired to redecorate our school-room (also known as the dining room) a little bit. I cleared off the tops of two of our buffets, and bought baskets to fill with books. Each basket of books has a theme. One is art, with books about art (like Hillyer’s A Child’s HIstory of Art) and books on the lives of artists, as well as large picture books for the kids to comb through. Another is history and architecture, with some of the wonderful David Macaulay books, as well as the Usborne History of the Ancient World. The third bin is fairy tales and poetry, and so far it has been our biggest hit.Library

In the middle there, I’ve got the collection of Pooh by AA Milne, next to a few of the books of Flower Fairies (my 5-year-old loves the Flower Fairies). Alongside those are our collections of fairy tales: some from Hans Christian Anderson, some from the Brother Grimm, and and old copy of the Red Fairy Book. In the bin, though, are the picture book versions of some of these. My favorites are definitely the ones by Paul Zelinsky, like Hansel and Gretel and Rumplestiltskin. Another one of our favorites that is not in the bin is a pop-up book of fairies. We also have a few poetry books in the bin, including one of our favorites: Joyful Noise: Poetry for Two Voices. My big kids absolutely love this little book. I know that same author has another for two voices, and one for four that we’d love to try sometime.

My redecorating kick included creating an additional cozy spot for reading in our piano room (maybe I’ll tell that story sometime–it involves answered prayer for something as silly as a couch!). I caught a moment of my 9-year-old reading to her sister:


As we get ready for Thanksgiving next week, my kids are also looking forward to one of our family’s Thanksgiving traditions: reading as much of the The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as we can on a single day. Whatever we don’t get through on Thanksgiving Day itself, we finish up over the weekend. We have never gotten through the entire book, but each year as the kids get older, we get a little further. Maybe this is the year! This is one of our family favorites, and we own no less than four copies–enough for everybody to have a copy to look at while we read.

Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!


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Posted in Hidden Art Fridays, Reading | 1 Comment

Unfair to President Obama?

The most common negative comment that I received about my post two weeks ago looking at President Obama’s Halloween speech in Rhode Island is that I was unfair to what the President actually said. The claim is that President Obama was not saying that staying at home with your children was a choice we didn’t want women to make, but rather that we didn’t want women to have to decide between staying at home with their children and having their wages suffer as a result.

If you’d like to read a full transcript of the speech, you can click here. However, I disagree that I was unfair to the President. On the contrary, I think the President was being unfair to moms. The majority of his speech is directed at working moms, and what kind of policies we should be implementing to tell businesses how to treat them. Examples that he offered included paid maternity leave (including an example of up to five months!), more flexible work-from-home hours, regulating wages, and of course, full-time government preschool.

While I disagree strongly with the President’s economic policies and the rhetoric of his speech, what I want to focus on is this: President Obama never once mentioned how he will help out moms who choose to stay home with their children. In fact, nowhere in his speech did he even talk about non-working moms. I thought this was interesting, given that at least 50% of moms in the United States work only part time or not at all. So the President is addressing his speech at less than the majority of American women. So is he, as he claims, really looking to help out American women in times of economic hardship?

With the exception of the wealthiest class of society, women who choose to stay home with their children know that they will be making an economic sacrifice. Typically, the women who have made this choice realize that they will be sacrificing newer cars and bigger houses, exotic vacations and eating out. They make these sacrifices willingly, knowing that staying home with their children is worth the sacrifice. I don’t see the President addressing these women. The women that he is looking to help have already made a decision about how they will raise their children, and it is a decision that President Obama supports, as evidenced by his attempts to provide them with government preschool at an even earlier age than currently available through the public schools. Where is a similar offer to women who don’t want to put their children in school that young? To women who are not willing to send their kids out of the house that early? There is no parallel offer. If you want financial help from the government in raising your children, you have to go back to work to get it.* As the saying goes, “Follow the money.” The President is offering his money to the working mother with full-time childcare needs. That says a lot about what we value as a nation.

If President Obama really wants to be fair to the mothers of the nation, as a whole, give us a tax credit that is available to us whether or not we are working. Instead of giving speeches about ‘choices we don’t want Americans to make,’ give us choices: allow us to choose to work or choose to stay home. Don’t allow the difference in a subsidy to cause any mother to make a choice she doesn’t want to.


*There is already a tax credit for paid childcare for working parents, which is only available if your child is in some sort of institutionalized care.

Posted in Daycare, Having It All, Using Our Minds | Leave a comment

Menu Planning Around Grocery Store Sales

Okay, this is going to be a long, detailed post, so if you know from the title that you have this down, check back in on Wednesday.  But this fall I’ve had several seasoned homemakers ask me about menu planning based on sales, and after describing my method in length several times, I thought it might be relevant for some of our readers, too.  Does the prospect of studying sales fliers and planning ahead fill you with fear?  Then this post is for you.  This is how I do it, but obviously details will vary depending on where you live and what your family eats!

Anna and I shared sample menu plans last fall, and I mentioned in that post and last week’s post that I do most of my shopping at just a couple of stores.  Sadly, there are no Aldi stores within an hour, and the SuperWalmart with groceries is far enough away that I don’t shop there more than every few months.  While I do have rock-bottom prices that I prefer to pay for groceries, I don’t have the luxury of shopping at stores that always sell for those prices.  So I shop sales, but I don’t run to every store that has a sale.  Our stores run sales Wed-Tues, so when I get the sales fliers on Tuesday evening, I sit down and plan out my menu and shopping list for the week.  Last week, here are what my sales flyers looked like:

sales2Sprouts is my go-to store for all my produce and bulk goods (their sales prices and quality can’t be beat), but this week, I needed to look elsewhere for meat sales.  So I glanced through the other fliers, and Vons had the best meat options.sales1Once I saw what meats were within my price range, I started brainstorming.  With the holidays coming up, turkey and ham are a really good deal right now.  I could get my Thanksgiving turkey for 57 cents a pound with an additional $25 purchase.  I decided to get a ham and a few other sale items ($5 roasted chickens are my kids’ favorite “fast food” item when Daddy is out of town and I don’t want to cook) to make up that total, but since the roasted chicken was only on sale on Friday, I knew I had to shop Vons on Friday.

So I needed to come up with meals from Sprouts or my freezer before I bought my meat for the week.  As you can see below, I decided to pull some sale beef out and make a shepherd’s pie and then do an easy breakfast-for-dinner the next night.  Then I plugged in meals using the roasted chicken and ham.  I’m bringing cranberry sauce to our community group potluck this Wednesday, so I won’t have to make a meal that night.  Since the meat meals were going to be a bit pricey, I put in some of our favorite inexpensive meatless meals, too.:

menu planningWhenever I have a big hunk of meat, I know I’ll have several planned leftovers meals.  When I buy a roasted chicken, I make homemade broth with the carcass in the crockpot and plan on a couple soups on the menu.  When I bake a ham, we’ll use the leftovers in soup, frittatas, homemade eggrolls, scalloped potatoes with ham, and split pea soup with the hambone.  Some of those meals will be on next week’s menu

I make up my shopping list at the same time I’m making up my menu.  I’ve mentioned before that we don’t do a lot of prepared snacks–my kids mostly eat fruit and cut-up veggies, and when it’s under a dollar a pound (as it is year-round out here), we eat a lot of it.  So I’ll generally pick up quite a bit of produce that doesn’t fit into my menu plan but will be consumed for breakfast, lunch, and snacks over the course of the week.:

menu planning 2I should add that when I got to Sprouts on Wednesday, I realized I’d need potatoes and more carrots for my shepherd’s pie that night.  I do try to stick to a shopping list when I’m at the grocery store, but realizing you forgot to include an ingredient is not the same thing as impulse buying chocolate and junk food!

You can also see the principle of stockpiling going on here.  I won’t need 3 onions this week, but at 33 cents a pound, the extra two will keep into next week.  Fresh cranberries were on sale this week and probably won’t get lower, so I picked up some for our potluck this week as well as for Thanksgiving.  I have my turkey and half a bag of potatoes that I can use up then, too.  Our big Thanksgiving meal is already mostly purchased!  Also, I don’t have any brown rice on the menu for this week, but it was on sale for 69 cents a pound.  We eat a lot of brown rice here (and are getting pretty low), so I bought a couple dollars’ worth to fill up my rice cannister.  That will last us for several weeks until the next sale.  I didn’t have to buy beef, flour, eggs, or pasta this week because I’d stocked up previously.

For those of you who are interested in numbers, I’ll do my best to share that info, too.  Our food budget is $100 a week.  I spent $40 on all that meat, but I won’t be buying meat again for a few weeks.  I spent $30 on all the produce, which is a pretty standard weekly expense for me.  I also had some other expenses this week–my mom was in town and got me $30 worth of dairy products with her Costco membership.  We’re set for cheese until Christmas!  And I’d just done my monthly big Target trip the previous week and stocked up on pasta and flour and sale ground beef, which doesn’t figure in to this week’s budget, but put my food budget over last week and shows what I didn’t have to buy this week.  I’m halfway through the month but have spent more than half of my month’s grocery budget.  As you can see from my menu, though, I put more expensive meals (shepherd’s pie costs about $8, roasted chicken and sweet potato fries was $7.50) alongside moderate meals (with eggplant 88 cents apiece, I can make eggplant parmesan for about $5) and cheap meals (butternut squash soup with homemade broth?  $3 for enough to fill us all, plus plenty of leftovers).

How do you know how much a meal will cost to make?  I try to pay under $2/lb for chicken and pork and ham, under $4/lb for beef and cheese, and under $1/lb for produce (fresh, frozen, or canned).  Those prices have stuck pretty much everywhere in the country we’ve lived.  If I stick to those parameters, my usual repertoire of meals will be within budget.  By the end of the month, I will have spent around $400 for our family of 6.  When we entertain (we had all of my husband’s students over in groups all fall), we do spend more because feeding 18 people is so different from feeding 4 or 6!

One last thing to touch on is time.  Most of the girlfriends who have asked me about menu planning around sales fear that they just don’t have the time to plan and shop this way.  But it literally took me five times longer to type this out than it did to sit down and plan it all out last Tuesday night.  I usually only need 5-10 minutes to read the sales fliers, jot down my menu, and come up with a shopping list.  When I have an exhaustive shopping list in hand, my shopping is so much quicker!  It may seem daunting at first, but it truly does get easier with practice.  If you need more help, the ever-sensible Auntie Leila has great advice on coming up with meal options that your family actually likes, and I used menu planning ideas from here in my early years of marriage.  And once you have a weekly menu jotted down, you don’t have to panic at 4 pm and try to decide what to make for dinner.  It’s already decided!  A short investment of planning the night you get your grocery ads will bear fruit the rest of the week.

There are many related topics I could get into, but I’ve gone on quite enough, and I think I’ve answered all the questions my friends have had about the whole thing.  If any of you dear readers are still reading at this point, do you have any other questions?  Or would you care to share your own menu planning tips?

Posted in Good Food, Practical Housekeeping | 1 Comment
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