Kids Love this Kind of Meatloaf!


meatloaf rings 2

Here’s a fun variation of the traditional meatloaf that kids love.

I remember this recipe from the kids cookbook we had when I was growing up.  I don’t have that particular recipe, but the idea is the same; it works with any meatloaf recipe.  Instead of forming it into a loaf, you just put several dollops of meatloaf on a baking sheet or 9×13 baking dish.  Then you make rings out of them – flattening the dollops slightly, smoothing the edges, and stretching the middles into holes.

The meatloaf recipe I use has a sauce to go on top, so I just drizzle that on the rings before I pop them in the oven.  They bake for 35-40 minutes at 350*.


While they are baking, I cook potatoes and mash them, adding salt and milk to make them smooth and creamy.  Then when the rings are done, I top them with mashed potatoes and shredded cheese, then stick them back in the oven just until the potatoes are good and hot, and the cheese is melted.

Here is a very basic meatloaf recipe.

  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 cups of milk
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • dash of pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

And here is the sauce to go on top.

  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3/4 Tbsp. prepared mustard


(Recipe adapted from Mennonite Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley.)



Categories: Housekeeping, No-Fuss Home Cooking | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

We’re Still Here…..and We’re Still Happily Occupied!

That’s right.  Even if this blog has been quiet lately, we’ve been keeping ourselves busily occupied as always.  I somehow have just not found the time to let you all know about it!  So I’ll do a little catch up post.  Here goes:

We came home from our summer vacation to find half of our garden taken over by volunteer gourd vines.  The girls got their heads together and decided to set up a little stand at the edge of our front yard, right along the gravel road that goes past our farm, to see if they could sell any – 50 cents apiece.  Sure enough…..friends, neighbors, family, and passersby dropped enough money in the can ($25.00+) to pay for an official aquarium for our pet newts.

You see, the kids had found these two pretty little critters while at a lake late this summer, and they had been keeping them in a plastic jug aquarium, feeding them earthworms.  For two months they had thrived in captivity, and so it was time to give them a real deal home.  So we made a trip in to Petco and picked out an aquarium, a floating dock, and a pretty, scenic background.  We already had a collection of fake plants and pretty pebbles from our (late) Betta fish’s bowl.

These are red-spotted newts.  And from our research we’ve found that they are supposed to be quite easy and fun to keep as pets.  So far so good!

gourd and newt collage


Autumn in the Shenandoah valley is a beautiful time of year indeed!  We’ve so much enjoyed watching the leaves turn, as we do every year, wishing we could hold on to the fleeting beauty of the colors just a little longer.  A few weeks ago we took a hike on Skyline Drive (in Shenandoah National Park) with some friends from church (and fellow homeschoolers) on a sunny Friday afternoon.  The kids had a great time running around, exploring all the fun rocks to climb on, picking up pretty fall leaves, and finding just the right stick to use as a walking stick.  The moms couldn’t get enough of the peaceful beauty and brilliant colors.

skyline drive collage


Our most recent excitement has come in the form of a cute little 4-month-old lab puppy.  We got Maggie this past Saturday, after weeks (no, months) of begging from the kids to get a dog.  Maggie is just the right kind of dog for our family.  She fits right in as a sweet and playful friend.  She had a great time tagging along with us on our nature walk the other day.  She loved rolling around in the lush, green barley.



And, of course, we have been busy with school.  Over these first several weeks of this school year, I’ve jiggled and jaggled  our curriculum and schedule (as I always do at the beginning of a year), trying to find what works best for the kids at the stages they are in.  I’ve updated my post about our 2013-14 curriculum choices, so you might want to go over and take a look at that (scroll down to the bottom of the post for the update).  Our main diet is still the regular reading of quality, well written books of all kinds, followed by narration.

Some other highlights of this year include:  a study of hymns, using the book Then Sings My Soul ; memorizing the entire book of James (!) -  so far we’ve memorized the first chapter;  coloring and journaling with note-booking pages for our history reading.

Homeschool HIghlights Collage


I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to nature study so far this year.  Instead of learning about a particular topic during school time, then walking to find and observe that topic, I’ve more or less let the kids draw whatever strikes their fancy.  I have given them some guidelines on a couple of our walks, though.  Pictured here are the results of our Fall Color Nature Walk, and our Fall Seed Pod Nature Walk.  I think Fall is the best time of the year for nature study, personally!

PicMonkey Collage

fall seed pod collage

So there’s a tour of the last several weeks in the lives of these homebodies.  I hope to post more regularly in the coming days.  Look for posts on easy, delicious meals; what Carmen has been up to in pre-school this year; what a homeschool schedule with 5 kids, pre-school to 8th grade looks like; house-keeping tips; and other such “homey” kinds of topics.   Thanks for reading!


Categories: Charlotte Mason, Family & Fun, Homeschooling, Nature, Nature Journals, Nature study, Nature Walks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The View From My Kitchen Window

cows and fall tree 2

Categories: Cows, Family farm, Farm Life, Nature, Our Farm, Picture of the Week | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Create Your Own Miniature Garden

Miniature landscapes

My girls have recently discovered the joy of creating miniature landscapes.  A new store opened up in our Farmer’s Market called “Landscapes in Miniature,” and when we first stopped by a couple of weeks ago, the girls couldn’t stop exclaiming and squealing with delight over all the charming garden scenes spread before us.  Pretty glazed flowerpots, mugs, bowls, outdoor planters, even a wheelbarrow all held lush, peaceful, and enchanting miniature gardens.

They used some of their birthday money to buy just a few miniatures to start a garden.


A cute little table and chairs, a fountain, and a gazing ball.


gazing ball









A bird house, a teeny-tiny puppy and some miniature house plants make up this one.  They added moss they found around the yard, some pebbles from our driveway to make a path, and some bark to make a little hut.

allisons mini landscape

What I love about these is the opportunity for the girls to let their imagination reign.  They can tend their gardens, re-arranging this and that until everything suits their fancy.  More items can be added a little at a time (great gift ideas).

If you know of some young lady, or anyone else (including yourself) who would love to play around in the dirt and create lovely little miniature landscapes, then you might want to give these a try.

You can find myriads of miniatures for your garden on Amazon here.

Categories: Crafts, Gardening, Gardening and Canning, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Back to School! 2013/2014 Curriculum and Schedule

Okay!  We’re back from our huge, amazing, highly educational road trip across the country (you can read all about it here), and after two weeks of readjusting to normal life in a house in the same place day after day, I think we’re ready to start school.  Yipee!

History, Bible, and Science

If you’ve read the homeschooling posts on my blog at all, you know that I follow the Charlotte Mason method for education in our mfwexplorationto1850home.  For the past couple of years I’ve pieced together my curriculum from three CM sites, Ambleside Online, Charlotte Mason Help, and Simply Charlotte Mason.  This year I’ve decided to go with a pre-set, pre-packaged curriculum (still CM) from My Father’s World.  We’ll be studying “Exploration to 1850″ this year, a unit which integrates history, Bible, and science. (My 8th grader will do her own science using Rainbow Science , 2nd year.  (Click on the picture on the right to view the rest of MFW’s curriculum.)

Maybe it’s because I felt overwhelmed with life after getting home from our trip, but somehow the ease and convenience of having each day planned in advance (the teacher’s guide is fantastic!), and having all the resources already put together really appealed to me.  We actually spent our first year homeschooling with this curriculum, and I still remember stuff we learned, (amazing, I know) doing the unit “Exploring Countries and Cultures.”

Some may say the curriculum choices are not as rich as those of the book lists on other CM sites.  Maybe not; however, the teacher’s guide comes with a fabulous library list for each week’s study.   Reading those books alone and narrating from them would give my kids a great education this year, I’m sure.  But I’m planning to go with the chosen history and science “spines” and keep a basket of library books to use as supplemental reading on the various topics we’ll cover this year.   The suggested schedule in the Teacher’s Guide includes a 1/2 hour slot for reading, during which I plan to have the kids read historical fiction, literature, etc. and narrate from their reading.

So I’m confident that this year will be a great year, and I’m satisfied with how I can use this curriculum as my base, with the majority of the planning work done for me, and fill in with other CM subjects such as:


2013-05-07 055








Music Appreciation








nature Study 2









Habit Training2












I’m moving forward with Life of Fred Math.











I’ll still use dictation and copywork to teach spelling,

Spelling 2








And narration, both oral and written, to teach composition.

Narration 2








My 8th grader will be continuing a 2-3 year serious study of Grammar (Analytical Grammar) and my 3rd, 5th, and 6th graders will be using Queen Homeschool’s Language Lessons, a CM style Language Arts curriculum that introduces English/Grammar concepts gently and naturally with short lessons in parts of speech, punctuation, word usage, as well as copywork and dictation.

By clicking on the above pictures, you can read more about each subject and how we do them in our homeschool.  And for those of you that are interested in what our schedule looks like this year…..

7:30 – 8:30


Bible, Scripture Memory incorporated into our family devotions right after breakfast.

Clean up kitchen, tidy bathrooms

8:30 – 9:00

M - Art Appreciation; T - Nature Study; W - Music Appreciation; TH - Habit Training

(You may wonder why we’re starting our day with the “extras” which many consider to be optional.  Shouldn’t we start with a core subject like Math or English or something, you know, while the kids brains are still fresh? Well, for one thing, having something enjoyable to begin the day with is just more inviting, and for another thing, that half hour slot after breakfast sometimes gets shortened if our breakfast and chores get started late, or lengthened for some reason.  These “extras” can be very flexible; I can shorten them to fit into whatever time we have.)

9:00 – 9:30

Math (my 8th grader will most likely need more time, but I’ll have her move on with the rest of us and come back to her math later.)

9:30 – 10:30

History, including note-booking, narrating, reading from the book basket.  (MFW includes supplemental history books for 2nd and 3rd graders to make history come alive through books geared for younger kids.  I’ll let Jeff–3rd gr.–listen as I read to the older kids or browse through the library basket if he’d rather.  Then while the older kids are reading from the library basket, I’ll read his history books.)

10:30 – 10:45


10:45-11:15 (at this point Allison–8th gr.–will go on her own until lunch for science, grammar, and piano practice.


11:15 – 11:30

Language Arts

11:30 – 12:00

Independent Reading/Narration

12:00 -1:00



8th gr. –  Latin, Spanish; reading/narration

5th, 6th gr. — piano practice, typing, Latin

Now, I realize that most of you have your curriculum planned for this year already.  I’m a bit last-minute here, but if what you have isn’t working, check back here again in a few weeks to see updates for how this year’s curriculum is working out for us.  You might want to try it.  Even if you bought just the teacher’s guide (you could even check Ebay for a used copy, or borrow one from a friend) and used the books from the library list in the back, you could get a good feel for what a literature-based, CM style curriculum is.

UPDATE (10-28-13):  I said I’d update you on how our curriculum plan worked out. 

Well, I found myself looking at the supplemental book list as well as other CM booklists more and more, trying  to make up for the lack of rich literature in our school day.  It became more and more time-consuming to figure out how to include these books so that they would fit in with the chronology of history we’re studying.

I finally decided that perhaps it would be much less effort to go back to the $10 curriculum guide I had purchased as an e-book from Simply Charlotte Mason at the end of last school year in preparation for this year, one which scheduled those books right into our school day.

Instead of trying to change MFW curriculum to include more living books, I decided to use SCM’s curriculum guide.

There are a few things that I’m saving from the MFW curriculum, though.

  • Bible in this year of MFW is a study of the book of James, including a challenge to memorize the entire book!  We decided to take the challenge and have the entire first chapter memorized so far.
  • The book Then Sings My Soul is scheduled for music.  It is a collection of hymns that includes the music as well as a short story of how the hymn came to be written.  We learn a new hymn every two weeks, reading the story and singing the song as part of our family worship at breakfast.
  • Notebook pages to accompany the history lessons were included in the student sheets I purchased for each of the kids. These pages have a picture to go along with the topic of the lesson as well as space for writing a short summary of the reading (or a long one, if I use it as a written narration assignment for one of the older kids).  I’ve found that the kids really enjoy having something to color while I’m reading (even my 8th grader).  We’ll keep on with note-booking, which is something I had hoped to include in our school day anyway after reading I Have No Greater Joy’s post about how they do note-booking in their homeschool.
  • Answers in Genesis science is scheduled for 3rd-6th grade.  We’re really enjoying The World of Animals, so we’ll keep using that.

We’re still using the same curriculum as we started the year with in everything else: math, grammar, language arts, dictation, as well as all the “extras.”  So I guess really the only thing we’ve changed is history.

The benefits I hope to reap from our switch to a more CM style for this year’s history studies are:

  • More engaging, well-written books instead of text-books, particularly for history.
  • Reading that is more easily narrated (and thereby remembered) because of it’s literary style.
  • A teacher’s guide that does the work of finding living books to go along with our history reading for me by scheduling those books right into our day.

After switching to reading our history chronology from Stories of America and Stories of the Nations, my almost-eight-year-old wanted to write the story of William Penn himself, even after I offered to write down what he narrated to me.  That showed me that the story was indeed engaging.  He had no trouble writing down 5-6 sentences.

At the start of this year I thought a ready-made, across the board, boxed curriculum looked like the easy option, but I found out that I just can’t do school without using the CM method, particularly having the kids read well-written books in narrative style for each subject and having them narrate back to me either orally or in written form what they learned.

Categories: Charlotte Mason, Homeschooling, Schedule | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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