Easy Homeschool Lunch – Kitchen Sink Soup

Some of you are going to laugh.  Some of you are going to wonder if I’ve lost my mind.  Kitchen Sink Soup?  That does not sound delicious…

Kitchen Sink Soup - because it includes everything BUT the kitchen sink! This is a grab and go lunch - video included!  (and yes, I should have named it something else, but this is what we call it - weird as it is!) | RaisingArrows.net

I seriously thought I ought to call this soup something else.  Something more…um…appealing?  But, for some reason this is what we started calling this pull-everything-out-of-the-refrigerator-and-stick-it-in-a-pot concoction, and well, if I were to name it anything else, I wouldn’t be true to the weirdness that is our family.  (Please tell me you have weird names for stuff too!)

The whole idea for Kitchen Sink Soup came about as a result of my needing to revamp homeschool lunches into something SUPER EASY.  Next week, I plan to share the full plan with you, but suffice it to say it has been a lifesaver!

So, what is Kitchen Sink Soup?  It’s everything but the kitchen sink!

Come on in to my kitchen and see what I mean…
(not seeing the video?  Click HERE!)

Kitchen Sink Soup is basically a soup made from your leftovers with a few add-ins to make it extra yummy!  Have a little leftover hamburger?  Throw it in there!  Have a few leftover veggies?  Throw them in there!  Have a can of beans or black olives?  Throw those in there too!  Add some broth or milk, some spices and cheese and you have a nutritious homeschool lunch that can simmer on the stove while you teach your little ones.

We have Kitchen Sink Soup a couple times a week to finish off any leftovers we’ve become tired of eating on.  I get quite a sense of satisfaction knowing I’m not throwing out leftovers, but reinventing them into something different and yummy!

In the video above, you’ll see how I make the soup, plus a short list of some add-in ideas.  You’ll also see me without makeup and my hair pulled up in my usual “mom-has-work-to-do hairdo.”  Try throwing together your own Kitchen Sink Soup – actually, why don’t you call it something else so no one will look at you funny the way they do when I tell them what we had for lunch – then, come back here and tell me what you put in it, as I’d love to have some new ideas for my soup!

***Read more about my easy lunch plan!***

Using Google Calendar for My Menu Planning

Menu planning has always been a pretty big deal at our house – even when I had less kiddos to cook for. I enjoy the process of menu planning to an extent (finding new recipes, dreaming about how much my family is going to love the meals, etc.), but it is a big chore that typically takes several hours to complete.

(affiliate links included)

I’ve also found that no matter how great my plan, it ALWAYS changes.  I have to cross things off the list, move them to another day, or sometimes just skip the meal altogether.  After reading Mystie Winckler’s Paperless Home Organization, I decided it was time to ditch the pen and paper when it comes to menu planning and find a better way.

(See my full review of Paperless Home Organization HERE.  Use Coupon Code: raisingarrows for 25% off through Sunday 3/22/15)

How I Use Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

Mystie introduced me to using Google Calendar to handle my menu planning, and I LOVE IT!  It has fixed a lot of the issues I was having with menu planning, and has simplified the process altogether.

So, let me share how I do it…

I use Gmail, so the calendar is built in to my email program, and I have it set up to sync to all my devices (my phone and my iPad – this is important for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.)

If you click the squares in the right hand side of your Gmail screen, you will get a drop down menu in which you will find your Calendar.

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

A large calendar pops up and you can add all sorts of things to it.  I have a household calendar, a blogging calendar, an appointment calendar, and my menu planning calendar.  I usually have all of them together where I can see everything at a glance; however, you can turn on and off whatever calendars you would like.  You can also share the calendars with anyone who has a Gmail account.  When I am menu planning, I usually keep all the calendars on, so I can see what might be coming up that week and plan my meals accordingly.

I only put in lunch and supper on my calendar.  Breakfast is almost always the same – whatever you can find!  Actually, I keep cereal, bread, yogurt and fruit on hand as our staple breakfasts every day but Saturday, when we make a bigger hot breakfast.

As I work through my Pinterest boards and cookbooks, I am able to add the meal to the calendar and add a link if need be into the description section of each calendar item. (Read more HERE about how I do this – you will notice I was not using Google Calendar when I wrote that post.)

Using Google Calendar to Menu Plan | RaisingArrows.net

I can also make notes and set timers for anything I need to do to get the meal ready…thaw meat, start sourdough, etc.  I can set the calendar to sound an alarm, put a pop up on my screen, or send me an email.  This is a great feature for me because I am forever sidetracked it seems!

The great thing about syncing the calendar with my phone and iPad is that I can use those devices in the kitchen to cook.  I can simply click on the link in the calendar and it opens up to my recipe!  If the recipe isn’t online, I can make a note of what page and what cookbook it is in.

And the best part?  If I don’t use a meal that day, I just drag and drop it to another day!  It really has taken a lot of the headache out of meal planning for me

If you need a little more information on using Google Calendar itself, Mystie has a great tutorial to help you:

And if you are interested in learning more about managing your home in a paperless way, take a gander at Mystie’s ebook Paperless Home Organization!  Don’t forget to use Coupon Code: raisingarrows for 25% off through Sunday 3/22/15!

The Relaxing Room – How to find your space in a busy household

A few weeks ago, I was able to connect with an old friend who is a fellow homeschool mom as well as a pastor’s wife.  She was telling me how she has a parlor room in her home that she keeps free from toys and clutter that allows her a place to sit with a cup of tea and relax.

The concept of having a place you can go to relax may sound like a luxury you cannot afford.  Perhaps you feel your home is too small or your time too limited to allow for space to relax.  But, please, lend me your ear for just a moment…

The Relaxing Room - how to find your space in a busy household | RaisingArrows.net

In other cultures and in days gone by in our own, people took time throughout their day to breathe.  Some countries take long lunches.  Some countries take tea.  Some countries even take naps!  However, in America, busyness seems to be a badge of honor.  Now, don’t get me wrong…we are to be busy at home (Titus 2:5), but taking a moment to drink a little tea or coffee, read a chapter in a book, sit and hold a small child, open a window and breathe fresh air are not marks of laziness.  They are marks of thankfulness.

The Bible tells us to be still.  When we are still, we are able to know God more because we take the time to see His handiwork in the trees and clouds, the shadows and light, fresh air, and our children’s faces.  We are more in tune with the blessings we have been given, and therefore, live a life of thankfulness.

But, what if you can’t dedicate an entire room to relaxing?  No problem!  You can find this kind of space other ways.

The Relaxing Room - how to find your space in a busy household | RaisingArrows.net

The chair above is a hideous orange chair my mother-in-law picked up at a thrift store for me years ago.  It is the THE MOST COMFORTABLE CHAIR IN THE WORLD!  But, it’s orange!  So orange I don’t allow it out in public!  It sits in my bedroom with an end table beside it.  It is a place I can go to nurse when baby needs quiet (or mama needs quiet).  It is a place I can sit while I talk to my husband as he gets ready for work.  It is a place I can go to have a heart-to-heart discussion with one of the children.  It is my relaxing room.

I have a set of red-cushioned patio furniture I purchased a few years ago.  Sometimes my relaxing room is there.  I can sit in the sunlight and watch the children play.  I can read a book or work on my computer in the fresh air.  Sometimes I just go there and sit and do nothing but breathe.

Sometimes my relaxing room is a 15 passenger van with the windows rolled down and music on the radio.  It is the place I find margin in my day.  It is the place I praise the Lord for giving me all the little people in my rear view mirror.

Your relaxing room might be a tiny corner of the living room where you keep a rocking chair and your Bible.  It might be a garden with stepping stones made by your children or a front porch full of plants and flowers.  Wherever it is, it is a place you can go to be thankful.  It is a place you can go to find just a tiny moment of retreat…enough to renew and refocus.

Not sure how to find a relaxing room of your own?  Here are some ideas to get you started…

1.  Choose a place you can keep fairly clear of clutter.  I know in a busy household this can be next to impossible, but if you purpose to have one little space that doesn’t get overrun throughout the day, it really isn’t that hard to keep it clear.  Yes, you will have to be diligent about removing items from the area that don’t belong, but trust me, it’s doable.

2.  Put something there that makes you smile – your favorite quilt, a plaque with a Bible verse, a pretty notepad and pen, even just a nice coaster to set your coffee on!  It doesn’t have to be elaborate.

3.  Teach your children to respect the space.  They should know they are welcome there, but they should also respect the fact that the space is for relaxing and not for horsing around or cluttering up.  Granted, children are children and a stray army man or doll isn’t the end of the world.  I’d also encourage you to allow the children to use the relaxing room for their own breathers if need be…or even help them set up a space of their own!

4.  Find a few moments every day to go there and just breathe.  Even if your relaxing room is just a couple of steps outside your back door on a rectangle of concrete, go there every so often and breathe deep.  Thank the Lord for this day.  Thank the Lord for this moment.  Take a sip of tea and head back to your regularly scheduled life a little more relaxed!

The Perfect Housewife

Are you the perfect housewife? | RaisingArrows.netMost women have an ideal of what their home should look like. It tends to resemble something out of the pages of a magazine or off my Home Decorating Ideas & Inspiration Pinterest board.

Does your idea of a perfect home resemble a Pinterest board?  Think again! | RaisingArrows.netSome are able to achieve this, but a vast majority of women are quite dissatisfied with the state of their homes.  This is particularly true of women who have purposefully chosen the title of “homemaker”.  They rarely seem to keep a home that meets the standard they envision in their minds as “the way it should be”.  This is even more evident when children are thrown into the mix…and doubly so when those children are homeschooled.

Titus 2 presents a picture of what young married women are to be doing (much more so than Proverbs 31 which presents an ideal), and when you look at the ESV version, you see,

“working at home”

as one of the things older women are to be teaching the younger women.  Nowhere in those verses does it say you are to be keeping a perfect home.  It doesn’t speak to perfectly organized shelves or immaculate kitchens.  It says “working.”

Working (or “keeping”) is a process and does not imply perfection, or that if you do it right, it will be perfect.  You are simply to be doing it rather than avoiding it.

The passage also speaks of loving your husband and children.  If God chooses to bless you with children, your home will forever be changed.  As a Christian mother, it’s your job to adjust to the changes with grace – toward yourself AND your children (and yes, even your husband).  Your house will be a different sort of clean, and your “working at home” will take on a new flair.  And again, it isn’t going to be perfect.

I recently watched a BBC documentary entitled Time Warp Wives.  At first, I was intrigued as the women on the show gave tours of their homes and lifestyles, some 1930s, but most 1950s.  I found myself wondering where the children were, and musing about how insane it would be to try keep up that kind of lifestyle with kids in tow.  Toward the end of the documentary, I learned where the children were.

There weren’t any.

Most of the couples had chosen to forgo having any children in order to keep up their lifestyle.  Their immaculate homes, crisply ironed clothing, perfect hair and nails, and ultimately fake sense of reality, were more important than the real (and often raw) beauty of bringing children into the world and raising them.

It was a sad commentary on the price of “perfection.”

As followers of the Lord, Jesus Christ, we seek Him with all our being, but perfect we are not.  We are made perfect in Him.  The translation of that for the housewife is a woman who is constantly striving to do her best within her realm of responsibility out of love for those God has placed in her life and out of reverence for the God she serves.  It has nothing to do with looking just so or meeting some arbitrary standard.  It has everything to do with surrender, grace, and a desire to be a living sacrifice.

Look around your home…does it speak to the love you have for your family?  Does it glorify the Lord?  Remember, “perfect” isn’t the goal!

Homemaking Podcasts

Need encouragement?  Need motivation?  Need a fresh perspective?  Here are some great FREE podcasts and mp3 downloads just for the homemaker! | RaisingArrows.net

A lot of women consider homekeeping drudgery.  It is something that must be done over and over.  It’s not like a project that has a beginning and ending point.  It isn’t something that earns you accolades or gets you published.  You aren’t going to become famous keeping a home, and most of the time no one is even going to notice what you’ve done throughout the day.

I’ve written before about the monotony of homemaking as well as homemaker burnout, but this post isn’t about breaking up the day or even how to be a good homemaker.  It’s about being encouraged a little bit at a time.

One of the best ways I’ve found to be encouraged in my homemaking endeavors is to listen to audios that are specific to homemakers.  I may not have time to sit down with a book, but I can put on a podcast and keep going with my day.  Even now, as I’m recovering from having baby #9, I’m finding great encouragement in listening as I nurse my little one.  In fact, last night I sat on the floor outside my toddler’s door and listened to a podcast as I kept watch over his nighttime escape attempts.  (He is almost 2 and naps and bedtime have become a struggle because he’s too busy to sleep!)

I thought you might be interested in what is currently in my podcast queue as well as some free downloads I’ve found online that are specifically geared toward the homemaker.

Virtuous Woman

I was only able to find 16 of Melissa Ringstaff’s podcasts on iTunes, but after searching a bit, I found 65 Days worth of her From Calm to Chaos podcast series on her blog, AVirtuousWoman.org.

Heavenly Homemakers Podcasts

Laura’s podcasts cover everything from homeschooling to freezer cooking to teaching Scripture to your children!  She currently has 11 podcasts available for download on her website.

Biblical Womanhood free mp3 downloads

The link above goes to all the free downloads from Sovereign Grace Ministries on the topic of Biblical Womanhood.  I love Carolyn Mahaney’s down to earth practical speaking style!

Homemakers By Choice

Donna Otto currently has 301 podcasts available with topics on everything from Scripture to communication in marriage.  The link above (and all following) are iTunes links.  You can listen via the Podcasts app on your Apple device or download the iTunes app to your computer or other device.  Many of these podcasts are also available on Stitcher.

A Happy Home

I heard so many good things about Keri Mae’s podcasts, I couldn’t wait to add her to my queue.  I am currently listening to the Downsizing Our Home series.

FLYlady Tools

Years and years ago, I took the information on FLYlady and ran with it, transforming my home in the process.  As our family grew, many of FLYlady’s tactics didn’t work as well as they once had, but still today, I use things I learned from her to keep my home running smoothly.

Organize 365

Lisa has some great information on organizing.  I enjoy reading her blog, but it’s especially nice to be able to listen to her organizing tips when I don’t have the time to read.

 Making Our Home a Haven

Topics on organizing your closet to finding the time to cook!  The audio quality isn’t the best, and there are only 10 very short episodes, but they were very good.

Domestic CEO

Over a hundred episodes, all nice and short, so you don’t have to carve out a lot of time to listen.  Topics range from how to clean a washing machine to how to make your home smell good.

A Slob Comes Clean

I know Dana (aka Nony the Slob) personally, and just love her!  She has been blogging through her personal deslobification (as she calls it), and encourages other women to learn to keep a decluttered and “clean enough” home with practical real-life tips.

By the way, Nony’s 2 ebook set (affiliate link) is on sale all of January for $5 total (usually $5 a piece!) – no coupon code needed.


Cleaning & Declutter ebook sale

Who knows, maybe someday I’ll make a podcast!  Until then, I hope you enjoy the ones I’ve listed!

Did I miss one of your favorite homemaking podcasts?  Know of any free mp3 downloads that would encourage the homemaker?  Let me know!

Minimalist Kitchen Tour Part 2

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? Part 2 | RaisingArrows.netIn some ways, this seems a bit silly to post Part 2 of our minimalist kitchen with us moving.  Every time I move, I have to reconfigure my new kitchen.  So, the new house will look very different from this house in how we set things up and what our minimalism looks like.  However, I said I was going to post Part 2, so I am going to post Part 2!

In Part 1, I gave you a tour of the main section of my kitchen.  Before, we move on to the island and bar area of my kitchen, I wanted to address one reader question, and that is concerning my glasses.  I said we had 2 glasses per person, plus extras for guests.  One reader wanted to see inside the cupboard, so here it is…

Glasses in cupboard

The tie dye cup in the back of the bottom shelf is my Tervis.  It has a lid and it is the cup I take with me on the go.  Ty prefers the plastic cups you see in the box on the top shelf.  That box also holds his on-the-go coffee cups.  I got tired of these awkward glasses falling down on me every time I opened the cupboard door!  The glasses to the right of the box are the guest glasses.  We will often outfit them with a DrinkBand during the duration of their stay with us.  (pssst….DrinkBands giveaway coming soon!)

OK, so back to the tour!

On the opposite wall of the kitchen is a bar area.  This is my work station, and I still haven’t found a great system for organizing it.  So, I guess I’ll start over in the new house!  (By the way, the new house has a built-in office area in the kitchen already!  Yippee!)  The only appliance on the bar is the coffee maker, with the coffee mugs and coffee in a cupboard above it.  In the cupboards below I have stored the Vitamix (we have the wet and dry containers), a toaster, a large percolator (for my Festive Hot Punch), storage for jellies and sauces I canned this summer, vases, office supplies (our printer and computers are also on this bar), and a couple of baskets with utensils and small appliances we don’t use often (i.e. electric knife, apple peeler, corer, slicer, etc), and finally, a cupboard for tools.

And then, there is the island.  As you see in the graphic, only the Berkey and the knife block sit on the island.  (Ty brought me some flowers home that were there that day too!)

Can a Large Family Have a Minimalist Kitchen? Part 2 | RaisingArrows.net

Another reader question concerned the knife block and keeping my toddler out of it.  Frankly, this hasn’t been much of an issue.  I wish I could give you some great training lesson, but the younger crowd seem to understand that knives are not something they are allowed to touch.

The cupboards under the bar contain the following items:

  • 2 large & 2 small mixing bowls (we prefer Pyrex)
  • canning jars and lids
  • a few glass and plastic containers and lids for leftovers
  • 3 large bowls for serving things like popcorn or chips to a crowd
  • 2 serving trays
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 large and 1 small cast iron skillet
  • 1 large, 2 medium, and 1 small saucepan with lids
  • a double boiler and a steamer for one of the medium pots
  • a roasting pan I never use…and for some reason, keep

I do need to mention that we have a large pantry that holds not only our dry goods and bulk foods, but also a couple of crock pots, an electric skillet, a dehydrator, a water bath canner, and an air popper.  We also have a large electric roaster that typically gets stored in the basement.

We could probably pare down even more, but I am comfortable with where we are right now.  I use most everything in the kitchen on a fairly regular basis (except for the roaster and the dehydrator), so that’s been my gauge of whether or not I “need” something.  There are certainly some items I’d like to own at some point (like a larger stock pot), but I manage just fine with the items I have.

And that is the key to minimalism in a large family…do you really need it?  Will you really use it?  If you find you don’t, let it go.

Need a little help paring down the “stuff” in your kitchen?  Nourishing Minimalism (the blog I mentioned inspired me to get rid of a lot!) has a set of ebooks that helps you declutter and live a more minimalist life. – including the one shown below:  30 Days to a Clean & Organized Kitchen.

30 days


So, what about your kitchen?  Are you a minimalist or do you tend to hold on to things you don’t use (and maybe don’t even like?)  I’d encourage you to start decluttering today and head into the New Year “lighter”!