These are a few on my favorite things!

1- Game nights with friends!

We’re always looking for fun & simple games we can 1) play with the kids or 2) doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking so we can freely talk and joke and hang with our company. There’s most definitely a time and a place for strategy/thinking games. But oftentimes a light/fun/quick game is just the thing.

Here are a couple of our favorites: Zombie Dice and Pass the Pig.

 

 

 

2. The local ice cream shop opening near us. A sure sign of Spring!

This, my friends, is a Puppy Chow Hurricane. It’s frozen awesomeness in a cup!

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3. My latest Goodwill find. Love those 50% off Saturdays!

I have a slight obsession with pretty dishes, specifically ones with gold on them. We’ve slowly been adding mismatched China plates from Goodwill to our cupboard. It’s just so fun to eat off pretty plates, isn’t it? (As opposed to the “boring” nondescript off-white Corelle we have.) My hubby insists on using the boring plates. I insist on using fun plates. We compromise and have both in our cupboards. LOL 🙂

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4. Also found this at Goodwill today.

I’ve been slacking on my French studies. (Eeeeek.) Seeing this in the book section today rekindled that passion I have for language learning. Bought it. And hello again DuoLingo.

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5. Daily dose of TRUTH.

“Be better today than you were yesterday” has become my mantra. It’s not about comparing yourself to other people. It’s about comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, and striving to be better. It’s not about perfection. It’s about process. There is no end goal or date in mind. It’s a lifestyle.

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Today’s musings

1. I SO want these made for my birthday!

Flamingos are my absolute FAVORITE bird. In fact, during the warmer months, YES, I have a few plastic pink flamingos decorating my front yard. They are just adorable. They make me smile. 🙂 Wonder if my little 11 year old baker daughter could make these… hmm…

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2. This article: http://life.ca/blog/mindful-learning/

Though I don’t adhere completely to the Unschooling movement, I do agree with many of the ideas they promote. Mindful learning. Life learning. Relax. Enjoy kids where they are developmentally right now. Lots of learning is in fact occurring during play. As a parent, model being a “lover of learning”– kids will follow suit. Learning happens as a by-product of living. Don’t over-commit to activities (either for ourselves or the kids). Look after/make time for ourselves in order to avoid burnout.

Just a really good article.

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3. Silly pranks.

We had friends over for the evening yesterday and our oldest daughter made brownies for dessert. Get it? Brown-E’s? LOL. They seemed to appreciate our humor.

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4. Drawings from a child in the Sunday morning class I teach at church.

The church we attend recently opened. It has been an incredible blessing to our entire family!!! A couple times a month I help teach the elementary grades class. One of the first weeks we were open, this adorable little Kindergarten girl came into my classroom. She was super quiet and reserved. Hardly said a word. She was wearing a pink t-shirt with the Eiffel Tower on it. Being a Francophile, I began telling her how much I loved her shirt. She still didn’t say much. But as the Sunday’s keep rolling by and I keep spending time with her in class, she has truly come out of her shell and has been kinda like my little buddy. This past Sunday, she gave these pictures for me to “take home and hang in your kitchen”. Melt.my.heart. She is just the sweetest thing. And you can bet these two pics are hanging in my kitchen right now! It’s just such an encouragement. I love being able to make an impact for Christ with these precious little kids!

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5. I love chocolate. Yes, yes I do!

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6. On the topic of chocolate…

We didn’t have real brownies for dessert (LOL), but we did have chocolate cake with homemade chocolate frosting. Be still my heart. My 11 year old daughter who loves to bake make these for us and our company. It was wonderful.

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7. My homemade chili… aka “Mezzo Farte”.

For anyone with music training, you’ll appreciate the name of my chili. 🙂 Back when I was in High School, our choir had a chili cook-off competition. I won 3rd place for my chili, Mezzo Farte, with many a snicker to boot. It’s a family favorite and super easy to make. We always love our chili poured over rice, basmati is best. Try it and let me know what you think!

Mezza Farte Chili
-saute one onion in a drizzle of olive oil, until golden brown
-add 1/2 lb of ground beef, cook well, drain any excess oil
-add the following: 1 large can (46 oz) of tomato juice, 2 (16 oz) cans of kidney beans (drained), 1 T + 2 t chili powder, 1 t salt, & 1/2 t ground black pepper
-stir well, bring to a boil, drop to a simmer for 1-2 hrs or until thick, stir occasionally
-doubles perfectly!

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Savoring the ordinary, enjoying the here and now…

~Momma Duck

Simple Pleasures

Getting up early in the morning, before the sun comes up even. Stillness. Quiet. Peace. I am all alone. No one needs me. Nothing is required of me. No noise. Time and space to think, dream, read, write, plan, be.

Then, watching the sunrise, all pinks and oranges and blues:

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Finding my all-time favorite seasonal flavor of coffee at the grocer:

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Then sipping it in my happy Christmas mug:

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Pineapples… they’re just such happy little things. I cannot explain it, but I love this fruit. Not just to eat– but visually, they’re energizing. I have even started to decorate my master bathroom with pineapple decor. It brings a smile to my face:

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Paris… anything having to do with this City of Romance… or the French language… or France, in general. I’m seriously obsessed with all things French. My master bedroom is currently being decorated in French decor. And I’m totally allowing it to spill out into my kitchen decorum and well:

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Visiting my folks in Michigan. Lots of happy memories of my childhood. And new happy memories being made with my own family there. Michigan and my hometown will always carry a special place in my heart. We went to Michigan for Christmas this year and it snowed SO much. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I was like a kid again, watching all the lovely snow fall:

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Fancy imported butters. I dunno why. Very random indeed. It’s just pure, simple (two ingredients), and SO yummy:

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Being Spoiled

We were recently gifted from a family member a free trial of meals from Blue Apron. Up until this past month, I’d never heard of this company. How that happened, I do not know. Because now that I have been made aware of it, I see BA everywhere (as scroll through my Facebook feed, as I navigate through the internet, etc).

Basically, you pick out the meals that interest you (we chose our meals from the vegetarian menu), and they ship them right to your door. Since our trial included 2 meals this week, they packed everything we’d need for those two meals into one (very insulated) box: herbs/spices, cheeses, canned and/or fresh vegetables, noodles, etc. And the recipe cards (which were extremely detailed, but super simple to follow). You still have to wash and cut the vegetables, shred the cheese, and cook everything yourself. But all of the ingredients are pre-measured and pre-packaged for ease and simplicity. One meal is exactly enough for two people.

From start to finish, our meal took 30 minutes to prepare.

Here’s our Bucatini with Tomato Sauce from dinner last night:

 

 

What was truly fun (besides savoring this dish!) was working alongside my hubby in the kitchen and cooking together. We’d both had a looooong day and just needed to do something to refresh our spirits. I love how food can do that.

Our BA shipment had come in just that morning, so we were eager to have a go at that first meal. The kids had already eaten their supper earlier and were quietly enjoying their evening. Perfect time to spend some quality time in the kitchen. In fact, we had a couple of little helpers (and tasters) join us in the kitchen: our 11 and 1 year old daughters.

Here’s what the recipe card (& nutrition facts) looks like:

 

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It was just a meal, but it was also fun and light and happy and simple. Just what was needed to cap off the day.

And, by the way, dinner was delightful.

I truly feel pampered by having these BA meals delivered to us. So very thankful for this yummy gift. Looking forward to preparing our next dish (potato tacos)!

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French Inspired Eating & Lifestyle Plan

So for the last several months, I’ve been researching and mediating upon the topic of “how do the French eat” and other topic lines such as “how to French women stay so thin”. It’s been a rather fascinating subject, especially reading it through my American eyes. I own the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat”… although I can’t find it. It may still be in that box of books still at my in-law’s house. oops. Anyway, the author Mireille Guiliano has a website where basically you can find the same information. Check it out here: http://frenchwomendontgetfat.com/. Truly an interesting read. But I’ve also been looking at many other sources as well. There’s lots of stuff out there on the internet.

I’ve not only been reading up on this topic… I’ve also been trying to implement it. And slowly but surely I am seeing it work. I haven’t stepped on the scale in a little while, but my pants are definitely getting loose and I’m going to have to get some smaller sizes when I go Spring clothes shopping. Yea. This is a good problem to have!

Now obviously I can’t get my hands on all the fancy-schmancy stuff those French folk can easily get at their corner markets. But there are some definite lifestyle actions they do that I can attempt to replicate in my own life.

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So here’s what I’ve been doing (and tweeking along the way):

1) smaller portion sizes. Now, it’s a difficult thing indeed to find what a typical French meal portion looks like. From TV and whatnot I see those tiny portions the fancy restaurants serve. But I have no idea if that’s how they eat typically at home. So I’m guessing here on my end. If anyone can find Google images or Pinterest pics or stuff on Instagram or whatever that shows day to day, meal by meal pics of the estimated actual *amounts* the French eat, please let me know, cuz I’m having a hard time finding it myself. BUT… just in general, even though I don’t know specific amounts, I have cut back considerably on my daily food consumption. I eat every meal off of smaller plates and bowls, which helps make my portions seem bigger than they really are. They’re not getting lost on a huge dinner platter. I seriously eat what I want, just smaller portions. No *diet* at all like low-carb or low-fat or whatever. I seriously eat whatever I want. Just *small* amounts. This has been the best part of eating French-like. I can’t STAND restrictive diets because all I can think about is what I *can’t* have. Eating what I want but just watching portion sizing, doesn’t seem restrictive to me at all.

2) three meals a day, maybe one snack in the afternoon with the kids after school. Definitely no snacking after dinner.

3) drink lots of water. This one’s hard for me. Not sure why, but I’ve always struggled to get my daily H2O quota. This one is definitely one I’m having to *work* on on a daily basis.

4) I start my mornings with hot lemon water (I add a bit of honey for sweetness). Boil hot water, pour over a wedge of fresh lemon, let steep for a few minutes. Drink before any coffee or food intake. It’s supposed to cleanse and wake up your digestive system for the day. And I find it quite tasty.

5) incorporate more natural movement into the day. Apparently the French are not big into fitness. There are definitely some people that are into it, but finding gyms all over town is unheard of. Physical activity is something they just add to their day… in street clothes. Lots of walking, riding bikes, gardening, etc. They sure know how to sit and relax but they are also quite busy on their feet throughout the day. So I’ve been doing similar. I’ve not been doing my 1hr long fitness videos like I used to. Instead, I’ll rough house with the kids and wrestle them, or play ball with them outside, or go for long walks with them. I’ll run up and down the stairs several times. I’ll garden and work outside. I’ll do what I call “Potty Push-ups” where every time I visit the restroom I’ll do 10 push-up. Oftentimes I’ll just do some squats or leg lifts or arm toning exercises with 5lb weights off and on all throughout the day when I get a few minutes break. All in my normal every day clothes.

6) back to food… s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. when eating. This has been tough for me as well. I normally scarf my food because with kids, it seems to be the only way to get a hot meal. But I’ve been making EVERYONE slow down. Yes, meals take a while over here at our home. But it’s actually proving to be a really nice time as a family. We really talk and discuss and enjoy one another. We all wait for each other. We actually *taste* the food. And when you take time to eat, it gives your belly time to communicate with your head that, yes, it’s full.

7) actually, we don’t use the word “full” anymore. We say “are you not hungry?” There a big difference. The French don’t eat until they are FULL. That means too much was eaten. They eat until they are “not hungry”. This actually hasn’t been too hard of a thing to adjust to. It just really requires you to slow down and ponder… do I really need more??? Oftentimes, no, more is not needed.

8) food is meant for sustenance and pleasure. The French don’t just fill their bellies with whatever is cheap and filling. They try very hard to produce YUMMY, satisfying meals… not just to the palate, but also to the eyes. I’ve been trying to do this as well. A lot of time is spent in the kitchen because of this, but thankfully our dining room is connected to the kitchen so I can still be with family and friends while working. AND my kids help too. They really enjoy being a part of the cooking process and making something beautiful and yummy to share with the family. So… we work together.

9) stress less. French don’t seem to fill every moment of every day with activity and “to do’s”. They really know how to relax, go slow, enjoy life and relationships, travel… you know, stop and smell the roses. They not only slow down at the table, but they also seem to know how to slow down in life (in general). It’s hard to take pleasure in life and find beauty when you are running so fast you pass it by. With this “less stressed” mentality, it aids in digestion and SLEEP. It sounds like (for the most part) they get the sleep that the body requires. Good for the mind, body, and soul.

Well… that’s all I can think of right now. If I think about anything else I will be sure and include it in this list later.

The biggest take away from all of this is to slow down and really enjoy food and life. America tends to be a super-size me/get ‘er done fast kind of nation but that sort of mentality is incorrect and unhealthy. I’m having to un-learn a lot of things as it pertains to food and lifestyle. But it’s been a fun process and I’m liking the results I’ve already been seeing. Still got a lot of tweeking to do, but changing one’s lifestyle just takes time.

Life is a process… enjoy the process…

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**By the way… totally unrelated… I’m on Instagram! Come find me at momma_duck_mel!

Spring is Coming & Learning French

It is 2F where I am right now… but as I sit here typing, I hear Spring birds just a chirping away outside… and a mourning dove. PUH-LEASE tell me Spring is coming around the bend!!! I’m not one to complain about the weather… I do like Winter to a point (especially the snow!). But I am desperately ready for Spring to come. I want to go outside and soak up some sun! We live in the city so a lot of things are withing walking distance… and I want to walk!!! Sure you can do that in Winter… if you like the “freezing your toosh off” feeling that goes along with that. But I don’t! Especially when having to bundle up 6 little ones along with myself just to do that. Seems like it takes more time to bundle up than the time any of us want to stay outside. Ahhh… and I dream of gardening and working with the soil… flowers, veggies, berries… The kids and I have been drooling and fantasizing over those Burpee magazines we keep getting in the mail. They love being outdoors, too. They love working with their hands and gardening alongside me. My middle son (who’s 6) got a bird feeder for Christmas and we hung it out back so we can easily see the birds that eat from it. He wants this Spring and Summer to watch them and research which type of bird they are and what their calls sound like. Strangely, the Winter birds have hardly touched it. Not sure what they’re eating to not be interested in a bird feeder. We figure more will attend as the weather warms up. We live three doors down from a seasonal ice cream shop and they open on Sunday. And the root beer and hot dog stand down the road opens March 6. These are signs of Spring for us! 😉 Got a little of the planting bug out of our systems yesterday. My middle daughter (who’s 8) is signed up to bring in a green pepper for her 4H project this June. We went ahead and potted several seeds now for a practice run:

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The packet says they will be ready in 75 days so we know we planted prematurely. But we’re also going to plant more seeds in March and April just so we *know* we’ll have a ripe green pepper to turn in for sure. It was a lot of fun watching her plant and get everything ready. We hope to get something a tad more classy than a diaper box to put next to the window, but for now it’ll do. The plant in the middle is a lemon tree the kids grew from a seed in a lemon we had a while back ago. They wrapped it in paper towel and “watered it” regularly till it sprouted and then they planted it. They named her (yes, apparently it’s female) “Sour Lemon”. Since we had the potting soil out, I went ahead and transplanted her into a bigger pot. I hope to get a nice rack or shelf of some sort to permanently keep next to the window so that I can have potted herbs there year round. Seeing something green and thriving during the dark Winter months makes me happy.

On a totally different thought… I am learning French. My desire to do so really stemmed from my oldest daughter (who’s nearly 12) when she decided for her Fashion Revue project for 4H she wanted to dress in “French Style”… something like this with a beret and cute handbag:

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As we were searching through the web and pinning things to Pinterest, I had a stirring in my soul that has always been there, but I hadn’t paid any attention to it for years… I ♥ France and French things, esp their language and architecture and culture. I ♥ traveling and seeing the world just in general. So far I’ve been to Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Scotland, and Ireland– awesome experiences!. But it’s been YEARS since I’ve traveled. With six children and a husband who owns his own business and not a lot of disposable income, we call it “good” when we can away on an extended weekend and visit friends or family out of town (or out of state). 😉 But to travel internationally??? Sounds a bit far fetched. Too good to be true. But I LOVE to travel. If there is *one thing* that literally gives me goosebumps to think about, it’s traveling and learning different languages and seeing/experiencing the world. We have a gorgeous canvas painting over our couch of the canals of Venice and I just LOVE it. Every time I look at it I say to myself, “someday, I’m going there and seeing it in person”. I chose French because I took two years of it in high school so I know some basics. I have always loved the language (it’s just so beautiful and romantic), but was too caught up with choir and school and friends and goofing off back then to really take heed of learning it well. So I’m back at it, using Live Mocha, Duolingo, and YouTube to learn it. It’s surprisingly coming along pretty well. I’ve also started following French stuff and people on Pinterest and Instagram. What would be awesome is to meet a French speaking person face to face and to test my language skills with them (when I get better, that is). The thing I keep seeing over and over is “immersion”. Since I can’t just go to France now and get immersed, I have to do whatever I can here to immerse myself in other ways: read French subtitles, watch French movies, listen to French music, read articles and newspapers in French, switch my cell phone and laptop to French, etc. And it can’t be sporadic learning. It has to be a constant, daily thing. I’ve talked many a time to my husband about world travel and he’s game. He’d love to travel as well and is open to the opportunity should it present itself. We dream. And someday, I hope these dreams become a reality…