Quick and Easy Chili

The weather is finally cooling down and I am getting into making some yummy fall comfort food. Now, I have many recipes for chili, slow-cooked chili, chicken chili, sweet chili. However, this is one of my go-to recipes for a busy night, and it requires very few ingredients!

Ingredients:
1. 1 lb. hamburger
2. 2 cans chili beans
3. 2 cans diced tomatoes (I use zesty chili style)
4. 1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
5. 1-2 tablespoons chili powder

Directions:
1. In a skillet, cook the hamburger until browned, drain.
2. Place hamburger in a large pot and add the chili beans, tomatoes, cayenne, and chili powder (add the spices to your personal taste).
3. Bring the chili to a boil, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with warm cornbread 🙂 Enjoy and check out the other recipes for this week here:

Field Trip Fun!

One of the things we love about homeschooling is the field trips. We belong to two homeschool groups, and we have been pretty active with field trips so far this year. Living on the coast of Florida, we have a lot of trips we can take that relate to the unique ecosystems we have here. One of our trips was to the Barrier Island Sanctuary near Sebastian Inlet. On this trip, we got to tour the sanctuary on both the ocean and river sides. We actually walked through five different zones on our trip.

A land crab in its hole.

The sanctuary is home to tons of wildlife, crabs, manatees, dolphins, spiders, and dozens of butterflies. During the tour the kids were given a sheet that included all the species of butterflies they might see, and were asked to keep track of how many there were. We saw about seven different kinds, and they were beautiful. We also got to take home a “souvenir”. One of the programs sponsored by the sanctuary is a mangrove growing project. Mangroves are very important to the river ecosystem where we live. Each child was given a mangrove to take home in a jar. The idea is to grow the mangrove until it begins to sprout roots. We then return it to the sanctuary and they will put in the river. Ours are sitting in the kitchen window, and the boys named them Steve and Dave!

Steve and Dave 🙂

We also took a trip to my hubby’s fire station. Unlike most fire station field trips, this one was focused more on students in 7th grade and up. Of course, we looked at the trucks. But we also talked about careers in firefighting and the kinds of training and education it takes to become a firefighter.

Many of the kids were interested in the medical side of things and learning about what paramedics do.

Our most recent field trip was to the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts, located on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology, which is centered in Melbourne. The museum features rotating exhibits of international collections of textiles. Now, I was not sure how interested my boys were going to find this particular trip but, the museum docent had a cool scavenger hunt planned for the kids that they really enjoyed, and we saw some very cool stuff!

Working on the scavenger hunt paper.

Each item had information about the country it came from, (many of which I had never heard of) and we went home and looked them all up. I am thinking we are going to return to the museum when they update their exhibits and use them as a starting point for a geography lesson. FIT also has a botanical garden on the premises, and we took a walk through there after visiting the museum.

We have some other cool trips coming up in the next few months, a farm (where my youngest is begging me to let him get a fertilized chicken egg), ice skating, and maybe a theme park. What cool field trips have you done so far this year? Let me know in the comments!

Easy Chicken Quesadillas

Finished product

I love quesadillas! They are so delicious, I will almost always order them if they are on the menu when we go out to eat. So, I was really excited to find this simple recipe a few years ago, now I make them at home whenever I get a craving.

Ingredients:
1. 2 lbs. chicken tenderloins cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2. 1 bottle Italian dressing
3. 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
4. 10 burrito sized tortillas
5. 2 bags shredded Mexican cheese

Directions:
1. About an hour before cooking, put the chicken tenderloin chunks in a large plastic bag and add the Italian dressing. Let chicken marinate in the fridge until ready to cook.
2. Pour 1 tablespoon olive oil into a skillet and cook chicken until done.
3. Spray a second skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
4. Heat the skillet over medium heat.
5. Place one tortilla in the skillet and spread some of the chicken and beans on one side of the tortilla. Top with the shredded cheese.
6. Fold the top of the tortilla over and cook for about 3 minutes on each side until the tortilla is browned and the cheese is melted.

Cut the quesadillas into halves or quarters and serve with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa! Enjoy!

To see other recipes from this week, click here:

Fun Fall!

Fall! Crisp cool mornings….beautiful colors on the trees, pumpkins, apple cider, fall festivals. All of these come to mind when I think of these seasons. Except…we live in Florida, where fall is pretty much just a cooler version of the summer. To us, fall means temperatures in the 80’s rather than the 90’s, the end of hurricane season, and the hope of window weather in the winter!! When I was little, my family would travel to the mountains of North Carolina every year to see the changing of the colors on the trees. We don’t get a lot of that here, but we still have some pretty awesome things to look at this time of year.

Each year in October my kids go to Jacksonville to spend a week with my husband’s parents. My oldest son is a budding photographer, and these are some pictures he took while on his latest trip.

Ah yes, bees and wasps. Florida is full of them. And if you don’t watch out, you can get stung. Still, they are God’s creatures, and they serve a purpose. Who doesn’t love honey? While up in Jacksonville, my boys stopped at a roadside stand and bought some honey with real honeycomb in it. They were so excited!

Yep! That is the outline of a frog on a big palmetto leaf! I welcome the frogs, because they kill bugs. Fall brings a welcome relief from the mosquitoes and other bugs that plague us in the summer. My fall/winter garden always does so much better than my summer garden because I don’t have so many issues with bugs eating my plants.

The frog up close

Now, while I won’t swim in the pool at this time of year because the water is too cold, that doesn’t stop my kids. And the beach is still good for walking and tanning for another month or so. While our “fall” may not bring the traditional reds, golds, and other colors that people think of when that season comes to mind, it is still one of my favorite times of year. It means the start of the holiday season, and nights spent by the fire pit roasting marshmallows with the ones I love. While I love to see the pictures of the beautiful trees in the northern parts of the country, I love what fall brings to my Florida home!

Fall sunset

To see how other members of the crew enjoy the outdoors in the fall where they live, click here:

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TOS Review: God’s World News

I am always looking for ways to encourage reading at my house. My younger son (in 7th grade) is not a huge reader, not because he can’t, but because he doesn’t want to. I have found in the past that magazine subscriptions are one way to get him to sneak in little snippets of reading here and there. So, when we got a chance to check out a magazine from God’s World News I decided to give it a try. The company offers several different magazines for children of all ages. We got to check out a few issues from Top Story, their middle school level magazine.

Each 32 page issue features a number of different articles, editorials, and other content aimed at kids interest levels while also teaching a Biblical worldview. As part of the subscription, we even received a world map that we could use to track where the stories in each issue took place. I thought this was a nice feature, great for teaching geography, but also, reading the articles and visually connecting them to a place on the map seemed to make those faraway places seem more real to my son. There is even an online version of the map for each issue that coordinates with the wall map they send you!

Now, when we signed up for this review, I wasn’t sure how interested my son was going to be in the content of Top Story. He is easily bored and is most focused on legos, comics, and superheroes. However, when I handed him our first issue and asked him to take a look, I was pleasantly surprised. The August issue had articles about immigration, airplanes, and one on the Arizona wildfire tragedy that was of particular interest to my son since my husband is a firefighter. Each issue also has several News Shorts that contain short articles on hot topics in the news. I appreciated the biblical tie-ins in the articles, such as the one about flying and how God meant for man to take risks and try new things while exploring His creation.

The September issue had a feature on Robots which my son really enjoyed. There were also articles on mining and a biography of Alexis de Tocqueville. In October the focus was on movement and there were articles on the various patterns of movement for people through the ages. I felt each issue was a really good mix of current events, biographies, and feature articles. The magazines are colorful, and the included quizzes and activities make this a nice addition for our homeschool. I sometimes used the quizzes for a reading grade for my son, and we did some additional research on some of the topics.

A subscription to a God’s World News magazine also gives you access to exclusive online content. With your customer number you can log in on the website and receive answer keys to the quizzes in each edition, download a digital copy of the edition, and lessons related to articles in the magazine. The October issue had a lesson explaining the Ames Room illusion (which was related to geometry), with a Biblical connection and a quiz. It also had a lesson giving more detailed information about cutting-edge cancer treatments with a written assignment to go along with it.

The issues also include biographies of various people, and on the website there is additional information and quizzes. Subscribers receive emails from God’s World News each week with details about what additional content is available on the site.

I also got a sample of World magazine, the God’s World News magazine for adults. It was chock-full of thoughtful articles on a wide range of topics that were good for discussion between me and my husband. Some of the articles were appropriate for my high school son as well. I would recommend previewing each issue as some of the topics are somewhat “heavy”. One issue I received talked about the biblical view of the death penalty. It was a great article that really got me thinking, but it’s not something I would necessarily feel is appropriate for my kids at this time.

God’s World News offers magazines for kids from Pre-K to high school. A yearly (10 issue) subscription is only $28.00, which I think is a good price for the magazines and the online content that you get. Top Story contained a lot of interesting articles with a biblical focus that encouraged my son to read and think about how to apply God’s principles to the topics he was reading about. I would definitely recommend a subscription to anyone. The factual content of the magazine can be worked into your schooling in many ways, or you could read it just for fun.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about their subscription to God’s World News, click here:
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Beef and Broccoli Pasta (Crock Pot Recipe)

With fall in the air it’s a great time for some comfort food. This is a great little crock pot recipe my family loves.

Ingredients:
10 oz. frozen broccoli
1 onion
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. thyme
1 can Italian style diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup beef broth
1 lb. ground beef
2 cups cooked rotini
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:
1. Slice the onion into thin slices and place in crock pot with the thawed broccoli, tomatoes with juice, thyme, oregano, basil, and beef broth. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
2. Mince the garlic and cook with the ground beef until beef is browned. Drain the fat and transfer the mixture to the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for an additional 2 hours.
3. Cook the rotini according to package directions. Drain and stir into crock pot with the cheese and the tomato paste. Cover and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes. Serve garnished with additional cheese.

And there you go. A simple recipe that makes a great dinner (with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day). I sometimes serve this with a side salad and some bread. Enjoy!

To see other recipes from this week, click here:

Getting it Together (Finally!)

Box day!! It’s a big day in the life of any homeschooler. You’ve ordered your materials, and now you have to (not so) patiently wait for them to arrive!! As you may know, we’ve had a series of struggles this year that have prevented us from getting all of our materials until now. We started the year with some borrowed curriculum and finishing up last year’s material. Well, we finally managed to save enough for me to get the rest of our stuff, and I am SO excited!!

I managed to find some really good deals too! I picked up my son’s high school core (MFW) on eBay for a good price. I had to replace about 5 books, but I still saved money overall. After that, I ordered from some of my favorite places, Amazon, Rainbow Resource, and Christian Book Distributors. With the free shipping deals I received, I was able to stretch my budget and even order a planner for each of my kids. In the past, I have printed out planner pages, but ink is expensive. I ordered planners for less than $10 each and I plan to just write their daily assignments in them. In a way, I think this will be easier for me, and the cost is much less than what I would spend on ink every year printing stuff out.

It’s funny, but with the arrival of our new books, I find my enthusiasm returning. I have to admit, I started the year off somewhat discouraged because we have just had such a hard time so far. But, God came through as He always does, and once again I find myself in awe of His awesome ability to provide. So, this week we officially get to move into our new stuff, and I think we are all excited. I caught my kids peeking at their new books when they got here!! I am still waiting for a box or two to arrive, so of course, whenever we see a UPS truck we all look out the window to see if the driver is coming to our house. 🙂

I hope all of you have had a great start to your school year.