Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Yummy 3 Ingredient, No Fuss Catalina Pork Chops

I am all about saving time and money when it comes to dinners. This is one of our family's 'go-to' recipes that we simply love. Besides being very tender and tasty, it's also a no-fuss slow-cooker recipe made from only three ingredients!

Laufer Family No- Fuss Catalina Chops
1 (16oz) bottle of Catalina dressing (we especially like Kraft's Zesty Catalina)
1 packet of onion soup mix
1 1/2 lbs pork chops (we like the bone-in pork loin center cut chops)

Mix the Catalina dressing and packet of onion soup mix in the slow-cooker. Add chops, turning each one to coat. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. I like the bone-in chops because I know once the meat falls off the bone, its cooked to perfection! This is really great with mashed potatoes as you can add the extra dressing like a gravy.

Not a fan of pork? This is good with chicken too!

How easy is that?! I would have added a photo but we unfortunately gobbled it all up before I thought of taking a photo, LOL!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our First Week of Home Preschool

It amazes me how quickly Kaylyn is catching onto her whole "ABC School", as she calls it. She really loves it! Every morning, its one of the first things she talks about after dropping off her older sister at the bus stop. Each morning we begin with singing a song about the seven days of the week, of which she has caught on. She now sings it and puts the days in the right order!

We follow that with her learning path lesson. I try to limit one lesson per day but she loves it so much that I have let her work ahead a little bit. After her computer lesson, we read whatever the Book of the Week is, as outlined by the curriculum. I am pretty much following that, with a few alterations and with a few things from the curriculum to supplement it. None of the curriculums seemed solid enough on their own, but together, it just made more sense to me.

My full curriculum lesson plans can be found on the calendar HERE.  For more information on each lesson, just click the link. I will try to put as much info including resources as I can. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask!

Some of the things we will be covering in this homeschooling type program are:
  • recognition of all of the letters of the week, both uppercase and lowercase
  • traditional nursery rhymes and fingerplays
  • reading of popular, age appropriate and classic stories
  • review of colors (she already knows them) and shapes (she knows the majority of them)
  • early mathematical skills such as spatial concepts, sorting, and patterns, and understanding simple comparisons
  • recognition of numbers 0 to 15, maybe even to 20
  • pre-writing skills such as how to properly hold a pencil and how to write her first name, and tracing a variety of lines which will help develop control for writing
  • fine motor and gross motor skills through play such as cutting with scissors, gluing, simple tumbling, etc.
  • early science which primarily consist of sensory play and learning about different environments through, recognizing a variety of domestic and wild animals and their sounds
  • self care such as good health principles, learning to dress oneself, and basic safety, manners and helping around the house with basic, age appropriate chores
  • social studies consist of familiarizing her of her immediate surroundings such as names of different family members, common foods, things around the house

Here are a few photos from our very first week:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Learning to Write Using the Laufer Method

I think I might have come up with the best way to teach children how to write on notebook paper neatly and correctly. I call it the Laufer Method. I have seen kids writing on notebook paper and most of their letters are all over the place, not neat and tidy, even if they do form the letters themselves perfectly.

Step 1: The top line is purple, the middle dotted line is orange and the bottom is light blue. By the time children are able to be taught how to write, they already know their colors. Having three distinctive colors helps teachers and parents be able to show them a clear difference in the top, middle, and bottom of where letters start and stop.

Step 2: The middle dotted line fades to yellow. This is to help those who still need it to guide them to form their letters correctly while having it less obvious for those who are progressing to writing without the middle dotted line so prominent.

Step 3: The middle dotted line disappears completely and children should now be able to have an idea where it would be, to properly form their letters. The top line turns from purple to dark blue, transitioning children to what typical lined notebook paper looks like while still helping them distinguish the top line from the bottom.

Step 4: The top line turns from dark blue to light blue, identical to the bottom line. This is to give children a feel of what regular lined notebook paper looks like.

Step 5: Children can now begin working on regular lined notebook paper. They learn that the bottom blue line works as the top line for the following line while writing.

This method should result in much neater penmanship using notebook paper, the type of paper preferred in schools and is the universal type of writing paper.
My colors didn't really come through as clearly as I wanted in this picture, but you get the hint.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

DIY Morning Haircare Caddy

Yay! School is back in session! That means getting back to a morning routine (no more lazy days where we hang out in our jammies all day!) but it also means there is potential for early morning chaos if things are not kept organized! I can not even begin to count the number of mornings we have had where we spent too much time looking for a lost hairbrush or a color coordinating ponytail holder while trying to get my oldest daughter off to school on time!

This year, I got smart, and made a morning haircare caddy. It contains all the things I need each morning to get my daughters' hair brushed, neat and tidy, and looking cute. I used one of those shower caddys you see all over the place in (purchased at Walmart) with the back to school/ college dorm supplies.

In it I put my daughters' detangling spray, Lice Shield spray (don't even get me started on the Battle of the Lice we had last year!), dry shampoo, brushes, Knot Genie, and styling things such as ponytail holders and their favorite hair bows.

To keep from losing any ponytail holders, I looped them through a shower curtain ring and then used another shower curtain ring to attach it to the handle of the caddy. This way I can keep them all together and not spend any more mornings digging through drawers trying to find one, while trying to hold the fistful of hair I just spent minutes sweeping into a perfectly coiffed ponytail or braid. It's been such a huge time saver!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to School 2013-2014!

Having just moved here in February, my husband and I are still learning about things to do in this small town. We moved from a town population of 63,512 to 8,825, and discovered it is more difficult to find things to do with the kids than ever before, especially during the summer, and especially on one income. Summer vacation meant having them cooped up in the house, too hot to go outside and too broke to really go or do anything. This lead to bored, restless children who would get cabin fever and drive each other...and me...nuts. But I am learning and am determined that years following, that I will plan ahead and be sure to keep the kids busy and entertained next summer!

Anyhow, school is back in session! Sweet relief! Its quite an exciting time- not only because now my oldest daughter's day will be busy in school but also because I am making a point to keep my youngest, who is going to be three in November, busy throughout the day with our own little version of homeschooling. She calls it "ABC School" since part of our "curriculum" is using's Preschool curriculum online. I also incorporated basic curriculum into our day. I will post more about it as our days progress.

Back to School also means new stuff! My oldest, who has always been quite a girly-girl, was very specific in the look she was going for. Its a mash up of Teddy from Good Luck Charlie and the girls from Shake It Up. Its hard to believe that she is only in 2nd grade! Boots topped her list in must-haves this year.

Since my youngest is quickly outgrowing her size 2T clothes, back to school clothing shopping meant that she too got some new threads! One of our most exciting purchases has been "big girl" underwear for her as we are making awesome progress in potty training.

Look at that grin! Someone is excited to "start school"!
While I didn't score any new clothes for myself this year (I don't usually buy clothes for myself except during the back to school sales, especially during tax-free weekend) but I have to admit, I am such a geek- office/school supplies make me happy, maybe just as happy if not happier than new clothes since I don't have that whole dreaded process of trying on clothes only to be discouraged and realizing that I don't have a teenager body anymore. I love having new pens, notebooks, etc. That meant school supply shopping went something like this: " Pack of paper for you, pack of paper for me...Spiral Notebook for you, two spiral notebooks for me....", LOL!

It's an exciting time for sure!