The BEST No-Mess Way to Cook Bacon

bacon

I always used to be that person who would buy pre-cooked bacon (so sad, I know), because I hated cooking bacon so very much. Now, I love the smell of bacon as much as the next girl, but that lingering three day old bacon smell just outstays it’s welcome. That, and the splattering, and the “where-on-earth-can-I-find-a-jar-to-put-all-this-grease-in-once-it-cools” dilemma made bacon cooking a chore instead of a privilege.

Until I learned a bacon cooking tip that was so profoundly easy that I have no idea why the skillet thing ever caught on.

Cook your bacon. In the oven. Over foil. Holy cow, YES you can!

053First, put your bacon on a foil lined baking sheet. Then throw it into a 400 degree oven for 10-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of your bacon. I use the thick cut Applewood Smoked variety from Trader Joes, and it takes about 17 minutes…although I keep checking it, because the slices on the side of the sheet cook faster than the middle, so I rearrange the slices once or twice to keep them cooking evenly and make sure nothing burns.

Once the bacon is cooked to your liking, remove it to paper-towel lined plates to absorb the grease, and let the grease on the cookie sheet cool. Once cooled, wrap up the foil and throw in the trash. All done. No mess. No lingering smell. No ruined bacon-grease-splattered clothes. Just bacon, glorious bacon.

Book Review: God Made You Special

I’ve always loved The Berenstain Bears, and am very happy that Mike Berenstain is carrying on his parent’s legacy with the “Living Lights” series which still features Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister Bear, along with baby Honey. The newest “Living Lights” book is entitled God Made You Special. This book begins talking about the reasons why Brother and Sister Bear know that God loves them, such as because their parents tell them, because the Bible tells them, and because there are good things in the world. Then, it asks the rhetorical question of if God loves all the other cubs in the world as well.

The Bear family’s friends, the Bruins, come over for a backyard cookout. The Bruins bring their cousin Tommy along for the cookout. We learn that Tommy has special needs, but the cubs are not aware of this right away. Tommy doesn’t understand how to participate in the cub’s baseball game, and instead chases after a butterfly with baby Honey Bear. Sister asks Mama Bear about Tommy, about why he’s different.

Mama Bear and Mrs. Bruin explain that God made everyone special with their own unique talents. They explain that Tommy’s gift to others is his happiness and joy, and that everyone can learn from Tommy, even if he is a little different. His difference is his strength.

As the mom of a child with a disability, I was happy to see The Berenstain Bears tackle the subject of special needs. I think the book did a good job of exposing kids to differing abilities, but didn’t get into so much detail that singled out any one disability. I have read books where the person with special needs comes across as someone to be pitied, but God Made You Special did a fine job in showing kids that everyone grows and learns at their own pace, and even people who don’t grow and learn at a typical pace still have gifts and talents to share. I recommend this book for any 4-8 year old.

*I received a free copy of this book from Zonderkidz Publishing and BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Homeschooling When You Really, Really Don’t Feel Like Doing School

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Every homeschooling family has those days when you wake up and realize that school just isn’t going to happen the way you want it to. But, don’t fret! Even when school doesn’t look like “school” once in a while, you can make sure the kids are still learning. Here are my favorite activities for Tater to do on those days when I accept that worksheets and new lessons just aren’t going to happen:

1. Build with Legos or Blocks
Blocks are my favorite “kid powered” toy. Kids can learn the basics of engineering, architecture, physics, and even history by using different building styles.
BONUS: Build a Pyramid or Castle

2. Watch an Educational Show
There are some fantastic documentaries and educational shows out there. (My kids learned their alphabet thanks to Leapfrog Letter Factory.)  Wild Kratts, Liberty’s Kids, and Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego are some of Tater’s favorites right now. You can find a lot of great educational shows free streaming on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
BONUS: Have them take notes!

3. Go For a Walk
Sometimes kids (and adults) just need to get out of the house. Going for a walk can calm and reset everyone.
BONUS: Collect and identify plants and flowers.

4. Get out the art supplies
The creativity in doing art can help everyone unwind. Paint, pencils, crayons, collage…you name it. They’re all beneficial activities.
BONUS: Have them imitate a work from a famous artist.

5. Get Cooking
Kids can learn a lot in the kitchen–chemistry, math, and following directions.
BONUS: Make an ethnic dish, and discuss the country of origin.

6. Take a Field Trip
Sometimes hands-on learning is the best learning there is. (Read about our recent road trip to Zion National Park.) Even when big field trips aren’t an option, you can still get plenty of learning in at museums, zoos, aquariums, and local amusement parks. (The Physics of a rollercoaster, anyone?)
BONUS: Keep a Field Trip Journal

7. Play a Board Game
Board Games are so great for kids to exercise their brains. From strategy to teamwork to following directions, playing games are more educational than you probably thought.
BONUS: Make one of the kids the “banker”

8. Read a Book Aloud
Even when we have zero motivation to do “regular” schoolwork, Tater loves being read to, and it’s a nice break for me as well. Some of our recent read-alouds include My Side of the Mountain, Boxcar Children, and the Narnia series.
BONUS: Have them give a summary after each chapter

9. Set up an Obstacle Course
Sometimes kids just need to run. Obstacle courses are a great way to get some energy out, plus depending on how they’re set up, can teach about physiology (why do your knees bend but your legs don’t?) and even engineering.
BONUS: Drill math facts or Bible verses in order to move on to each obstacle

Read some of my other Homeschooling posts

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Book Review: Where Trust Lies

Janette Oke is a legend amongst Christian authors. Her books have sold a combined 30 million copies. Janette’s newest book, Where Trust Lies, is co-authored with her daughter, Laurel Oke Logan. Where Trust Lies is the second book in the Return to the Canadian West series, which takes place in the 1920s. Beth Thatcher is a young school teacher in rural western Canada who returns home to eastern Canada for the summer, leaving behind new beau, Canadian Mountie Jarrick Thornton.

Upon returning home, Beth’s wealthy family informs her that they have booked a 6-week cruise from their home in Canada all the way down to Florida. Beth hesitates, but eventually agrees to go on the trip with her mother, two sisters, nephew, some family friends and staff, and a Frenchman named Mr. Laurent who acts as their chaperone. Beth’s businessman father plans to meet the group on the last leg of the trip, following a business trip of his own.

Beth’s younger sister Julie is headstrong and longs for independence, and shows these tendencies shortly after departing on the cruise when she meets several young, hip travelers. Penny, and Jannis are sassy, edgy flappers, and Nick is a suave college dropout. Despite being in different social classes, they become fast friends with Julie. Julie hangs out so often with these characters, that her personality begins to change and she starts acting impulsively. But, things are not always as they seem. Will Beth make the decision to return to her school and Jarrick in the Fall, or will a family tragedy keep her home forever?

The book is well-written and easy to read. I didn’t read the first book in the series, but after reading Where Trust Lies, I think I would enjoy going back to read it. Beth was likeable, although there was nothing particularly memorable about her character. Perhaps reading the first book would have given a little more background into her character and personality. I liked Beth’s older sister Margaret and the chaperone Mr. Laurent the most. They seemed to be the strongest characters, and I enjoyed getting to know them. The story itself is pretty slow for the first 250 pages, just about the group’s journey siteseeing and Beth’s attempts to keep contact with Jarrick, then things start to get interesting and a major struggle is revealed. The family must draw together, and Beth must decide where she belongs.

This book was good, though not great. But, if you’re looking for an easy beach or weekend read, I would recommend it.

*I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own, and have not been influenced in any way.

The Destructive Habit Christians Buy Into…and how it’s ruining us

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God designed the church to be a great source of encouragement, edification and building each other up for His glory. But lately I have noticed a nasty trend of denying grace and promoting works and self, sadly, even within Christian circles. It’s breaking people apart…physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

For me, I think it all started in a Christian Mom’s Group, where a debate on some hot parenting topic got out of hand. Where opinions became dogma and “because God convicted me to do something, YOU must do the same regardless of what God has told you to do.”

The discussion elevated into condemning judgment from both sides, and at the end of the day, a divided group went back to their homes, more determined than ever to prove their side of the argument, even if they had to break relationships to do so. Grace was dead that day, as each person sought to make their own personal experiences the sole bringer of truth for everyone else.

In the book of John, after Jesus describes the death Peter would eventually face, Peter asks Jesus “What of him?” pointing to the apostle John. I can see Jesus looking at Peter, his God-light eyes full of love for this headstrong fisherman. He replied with a truth that transcends the ages: “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

Such a simple truth that could transform our lives and bring us more joy and peace! What is it to you if people make different decisions on topics the Bible has no specific commands about? What is it to you if someone breastfeeds or doesn’t? Vaccinates or doesn’t? Cloth diapers or doesn’t? What is it to you if a mom down the street doesn’t want to homeschool, feeds her kids Goldfish and non-organic apples, gets an epidural, and is done after 2 kids when you want 12?

What is that to you? Are you following what God has put on your heart? That’s great. Maybe she is too. And maybe…just maybe…what God has convicted her to do is completely different from His plan for you. As for you, follow me.

The Bible commands us not to be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world. The world criticizes, judges, breaks down, and condemns.

The same thing I saw in that mom’s group, and the same thing I see whenever someone brings up one of those touchy topics I mentioned earlier, even (especially) among Christians.

The same thing I felt when, after diagnosed with an endocrine issue that made breastfeeding an absolute nightmare, I chose to bottle feed. The decision came after my husband and I prayed about it and I felt God’s peace to give up nursing so I could better care for my baby. But, even after sharing the peace I was given, I was reprimanded more than once for “poisoning” my child. It broke me and sent me reeling. I felt abandoned by the very people who were supposed to be lifting me up and encouraging me.

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to have opinions. No, very much the opposite. Strong opinions keep us firm in our convictions and allow us to stand up for our faith. Ialso believe that debate can be healthy when voiced in a respectful and responsible way. But we get ourselves into trouble when our opinions become the only truth.

God put us all on different paths, on different roads. He gave us all different experiences that mold and shape us into the people we eventually become. Among subjects where there are no specific Biblical commands, it’s up to each person and each family to figure out what God wants of them. And only them. A map of California, while having the same universal legend and cardinal directions as any other map, isn’t going to do much good in New York. No. You’ll get hopelessly lost trying to use someone else’s road map for your own God-ordained path.

What is that to you? As for you, follow me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some spilled Goldfish to clean up before we leave for church.