Roasted Sweet Potato

I grew up in the south. Ya’ll know that. What I am about to tell you may shock you. I’m not proud of it, but it is the truth. Ya’ll ready? I HATED SWEET POTATO…. until now. All of my southern friends are like, “WHAT?! Not even sweet potato casserole?” Puts head down in shame. Not even sweet potato casserole. I grew up watching everyone eating it one way: with cinnamon and butter. Don’t get me wrong ya’ll. I love some butter and cinnamon, but on BREAD! I mean, that’s like asking me to put sugar in grits. Mind blowing to me. So I tried them roasted and everyone said, Amen. Angels came out to sing and my children ate of the orange food group once again. They haven’t seen that stuff since they were six months old. You laugh. I tell you the truth. So, how does one roast some sweet potato. Glad you asked.

Roasted Sweet Potato
Author: Tara Norman


  • 2 Sweet Potoates
  • 1/2 small onion
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Peel sweet potato and dice
  3. Dice onion finely
  4. Place both in an oven safe dish
  5. Pour olive oil over the potato and onion mixture. Using a spoon toss to make sure all of it is coated well
  6. Add salt and pepper as desired
  7. Bake for 1 hour
  8. Enjoy!



Easter Meal Recipes and Easter Eggs

Good Morning! I am writing this in a dash as I have to run and pick up Thing 1 from testing. I wanted to get this out to you as I know many of you are planning to do Easter Eggs today or tomorrow and Easter Menu Planning is under way!

Let’s start with the menu!

Baked Brie for appetizer
(I am going to use a GF pie crust and wrap it around the brie!)

Crock Pot ham
I did this last year and it was awesome!

Asparagus Au Gratin
We love this!

Macaroni and Cheese

GF Ciabatta Bread

Apple Crisp for Dessert


The Eggs!



How we made them:

Bake eggs in muffin tin at 300 degrees for 30 minutes (thank you Pinterest!)

Take a wet paper towel and wrap around cooled hard boiled egg. Have your things drop food coloring over the egg wrapped in the paper towel. Let them squirt the egg in the paper towel once or twice with a water bottle. While holding the egg, give your egg and paper towel a slight squeeze to get rid of an excess water. Leave the egg in the paper towel to dry over night (I placed ours in the empty egg carton but be sure to place a plate underneath as it did bleed through our cardboard carton over night). In the morning, remove paper towel and marvel at the cool designs your Things made!

Aren’t these rad?! I can’t take credit for this awesome idea! I got it from Pinterest of course. What a different world we live in!

Have fun with your Things this week crafting!

A Mid-Year Change in Homeschool Curriculium

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Sometime after Christmas I was looking at curriculum and evaluating where Thing 1 and Thing 2 were in the year, I had a moment where I thought about bumping Thing 1 up to Essentials next year (Classical Conversations). I thought maybe she could handle it. That is until I actually looked into what they were doing. Then I had the oh no moment you never want to have as a homeschooling parent.

This past summer, a good friend from Texas and I were chatting curriculum and she said, “Tara, look at Shurley English.” I did and promptly reported back to her I was going to stick with the Abekka route this year. I wanted a simple, no fuss, curriculum this year since we were starting Classical Conversations and I was having Thing 4 in the fall. After looking through the material I knew that Thing 1 would be ok to wait on Shurley’s because she was going to learn all of that stuff between 3rd and 4th grade with Abekka. That stuff being parts of speech. After all, why change her, she was writing full paragraphs before the end of first grade. Never mind that she didn’t understand what an adjective was or what I was looking for when I said, “Be more descriptive!” At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about the impact my English curriculum would have on our Classical Conversations curriculum.

We know that we want to continue with Classical Conversations in our future curriculum. We love the results it produces and the smiles on our Thing’s faces every time we review. It is their favorite part of school. Mine too. Knowing that Classical Conversations is where we are going to root ourselves, I want to make sure that I am setting them up for success. Staying put with Abekka was not going to work. As soon as I realized where she needed to be in order to take full advantage of Essentials in 4th grade, I made the switch. Shurley’s is a 28 week curriculum. I started her in Level 2 now rather than wait until fall and Start Level 3 (which she would have struggled with greatly). My plan is to continue Shurley’s through the summer. We should be through all of our other curriculum by early May.

What is Shurly teaching?

I did not know this until I actually got my book, but in addition to teaching them vocabulary words, parts of speech, and jingles to learn the parts of speech, they are also learning states and capitals. I was very pleased about this! I know we will be learning them in CC, in Cycle 2 or 3, but I was/am happy to see the curriculum coincide so well. We made it through one full week plus part of a second before stopping to work on Memory Master. Thing 1 now knows the difference between synonyms and antonyms. She can look her vocabulary words up in a dictionary on her own, write the meaning, and she can then tell me if the vocab words are synonyms or antonyms. She has learned the capital and postal abbreviation for Alabama.

She is picking up on the jingles with out any issues. In fact, I believe Thing 2 has the verb jingle completely memorized because he and Thing 1 think the jingle is hilarious and they sing it over and over. As early as the next lesson, the students are labeling subject nouns and verbs in a sentence.

By the end of the curriculum they will be labeling parts of speech and doing Question and Answer flows. This is something that if you are going to go through Essentials, you will want to be prepared for. An example:

“The church bell rang loudly in my ears.

1. What rang loudly in my ears? bell- SN

2. What is being said about the bell? bell rang- V

3. Rang how? loudly- ADV

4. In- P

5. In what? ears- OP

6. Whose ears? my- PP

7. What kind of bell? church- ADJ

8. The- A

9. SN V P1 check

10. (in my ears)- Prepositional Phrase

11. Period, statement, declartive sentence

12. Go back to the verb- divide the complete subject from the complete predicate.”

(Shurley Instructional Materials, Inc. p 396, Lesson 27)

They will also be able to give you the capital and postal abbreviation for all of the states.

Does she like it?

Recently, her tutor from CC asked if she did and she said no. I have no idea what prompted her to say that because she really does. She LOVES the jingles. At first, I had her doing the journaling that is supposed to go along with each lesson. I quickly nixed that. Maybe next year, but for this year she can choose to write in her own journal or write a letter to someone. I think the journaling was not up her alley. She does like to journal, but on her own terms, in her own secret journal. I respect that.

I am actually super excited about Shurly’s. Over the summer when I first looked at it, I thought it was too soon for a second grader to learn and understand all of the parts of speech. That just isn’t so if it is presented the right way. I wish I had learned it this way. If your child is in CC they already know all of their prepositions and helping verbs which is helpful. Again, the curriculums pair nicely. That is about all that I can give you for now as far as knowledge about the curriculum. Feel free to ask me more as I dive deeper into it over the summer.

Which leads me to our plans for next fall. Since Thing 4 has arrived, I find myself missing the simplicity of being a SAHM and not a homeschooling SAHM. Please don’t misunderstand where I am coming from. I do enjoy watching my children learn and all that jazz… but I miss the crafting, the coloring, and the goofing off. Since Thing 4, I just can’t find the time for that. Next year is going to be different. I am thinking of schooling for a few weeks, then taking one or two off just to craft, enjoy the pool, and be a family. School a few weeks then take 2 off again. We start so early every year that I don’t see this as being an issue. Also, I believe the breathers will be welcomed in the midst of our ever- changing busy schedules. Maybe four weeks on one week off, or six weeks on and two off? I haven’t decided yet, but I need to build those breaks in. My Things are growing up before my eyes and even though I homeschool, and I am a SAHM, I am missing out on all of the things I love to do and want to do with them. That just doesn’t sit right with me so that is definitely going to have to change. Does anyone have this type of schedule for homeschool? How does it work for you? I would really love input here. I am on this adventure/journey, call it what you will, right along with ya’ll. If we can’t bounce ideas off of each other, then what?

I have a few very exciting things coming soon that I can’t share yet. Soon! Because of these exciting things, I will be making some changes on the blog. Once they are all done I will let you know. Stay tuned!

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How We Became A GF Family


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I have had a few of you ask how we became gluten free so this post is for you.

We made the decision to become a gluten free family in January. A few years ago, I had a hunch Thing 2 had gluten issues based on his behavior after meals. He would bend over holding his stomach in pain after a sandwich. He had some other signs as well that made me wonder. We decided to have him tested for Celiacs during an operation to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. He had already been on a GF diet for a few weeks by that time. I did not realize going GF before the test would mess with the results until a year later. When the test came back negative for Celiacs, I was really confused. I decided from that point forward to limit his bread intake. At that point in our menu planning you can see that I changed up our lunches from sandwiches. I limited bread to maybe 2 times a week. I saw an improvement in him, but not enough to make me not try to do more so I added more fruit and vegetables.

Right after I came off all of my pain medications from my last c-section, I started noticing the intense pain my body was in. I thought something was really wrong with me. My shoulders have hurt for a large portion of my adult life but I had always assumed it was stress. When I would get massages, the only place they ever focused on was my shoulders and they tried to teach me exercises to help relieve the tension, but it never worked. The summer before my c-section I had been using a shampoo to help stimulate re-growth in my hair. Everyone assumed my hair was falling out because of my last pregnancy and that my hormones had not caught back up with my body. After using the shampoo one day, my scalp felt like it was on fire. I immediately quit using that shampoo, but still had no idea what really triggered it. I sent out a question on FB one day asking if anyone ever felt like they had the flu from stress. I received a few emails, but one caught my eye. Someone suggested an intolerance to gluten. I looked it up and thought, really? Me? No way! This whole time I was sure Thing 2 had a sensitivity, but not me. I looked into it and sure enough each of us deals with a gluten intolerance differently and it doesn’t always show up in the form of stomach issues.

Did I get tested? No. Why? Well, I decided to try to go GF for a few weeks with Thing 2 and truly see if I felt different. I didn’t see any reason to get poked and prodded if in the end I did or did not feel better. I figured the proof would be in the bread so to say. A few weeks went by and without me even realizing how quickly my body changed, it did. The pain I carried around in my shoulders disappeared, my mind felt clearer and not foggy, I had engergy  and did not experience the 3pm downward spiral everyday (it still happens because I am human, but the lack of energy is not immobilizing). Interestingly enough, veins showed back up on my eyeballs. I am not a doctor, and I didn’t see one for a diagnosis, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, I am sensitive to gluten. Beyond that, what it means for me, is that every shampoo, piece of makeup, lotion, toothpaste, food I handle, gum I chew has to be GF or I feel it. I feel it like I have never felt it before. I only tested myself a few times to make sure, and I am positive after accidentally having gluten or handling gluten foods, or using shampoo with wheat, that I am sensitive. I don’t need a label or a doctor to tell me that. We tested Thing 2 after he went GF for a few weeks and after giving him a small handful of gold fish he threw up. We put him back on a GF diet for a few weeks and tried one more time with a few cubes of french bread and he threw that up. That solved that. So, that’s interesting and all but you are wondering how I made the switch.

I remember the moment I started looking at everything in our pantry and freezers and realized almost all of our food contained wheat. I was overwhelmed and freaked out. Wheat, processed in on machines that contain wheat.. it was on everything. The first thing I did was make a mental note of how I felt at that exact moment. I felt horrible. I had just finished testing myself for the last time and my body hurt. Even my fingers. I knew it was going to be a hard transformation for me unless I mentally got on board with this new life and so I did. I took note of every pain in every joint on my body that day and I remembered it.

Next, I grabbed boxes and started filling them up with all the food that contained wheat.  Don’t worry, I did not throw it away. I gave it to some good friends. It was so discouraging to see a bare pantry and know I had no flour. Next. I went to Vitacost and ordered flours and snacks. My first order was $68, but it contained all that we would need to start fresh with a healthy life. I knew enough about GF foods to know better than to buy what I needed to restock my pantry from a grocery store. That’s not to say I don’t buy Udi’s pizzas or bread from the grocery store, because I do. When it comes to buying flours and snacks, those come from Vitacost. I use GF noodles when making pastas or lasagna (I do spend the extra money to pick those up from the grocery store or Whole Foods), I make my bread when I have time, and now I have to plan a little more to have really cool breakfasts like pop tarts or cinnamon rolls that are GF. Do I miss bread filled with gluten? Am I alive? YES! What I miss most is a buttered biscuit with ham from Bojangles. I am so country. I own it.

If you are doing this for a lifestyle change (because let’s face it, it is healthier to be GF), or because you feel like you may have sensitivity to it, try be budget conscience about menu planning. Go with meals that do not need extra purchases for flour or noodles.

Here are some suggestions:

1. GF Chicken or Italian Dish

2. GF Crock Pot Roast

3. Stuffed Peppers

4. Chili

5. Butternut Squash Soup

For breakfast, go with a smoothie or yogurt. For lunch, I always eat salad and fruit. Being GF doesn’t mean you need to spend hundreds of dollars a week in groceries, but you do need to get use to the idea of eating healthier. Salads, nuts, fruits (fresh and dried), and brown rice are your friends. Once a mom always a mom. If you have an Aldi in your area, try shopping there to keep your grocery bill low. Our BJ’s (A Costco or Sam’s) carries a large variety of GF snacks and breakfast bars. I do grab a few things from there as well.

I hope I have been able to encourage those who asked for this post and shed light on easy ways to become GF without borrowing from the bank. Please feel free GF veterans to leave comments sharing recipes or ideas to help those of us who are new in this journey.

This is another resource for those of you who would like more information: Gluten Free on a Budget- ThriftySue

GF Italian Chicken or Fish Dish and letting Things help

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

We have had a long week over here. It has been filled with SAT preps, Memory Master prep for Classical Conversations, some colds, and an ear infection. I will be glad to finally get to our weekend! Some weeks are just like that, right? Thank goodness I know Who to go to, or cry out to when I am weary.

I have a few goodies coming up soon. I have had a few requests lately for posts. The following are coming your way: The Change of Plan in Homeschool This Year; How We Transitioned to a GF Diet; A Guest Post TBD.

Today we are going to chat food. This recipe was inspired from a recipe my sister gave me for Salmon. You can use this recipe on fish or chicken. I know you are thinking, “FISH?!” Would I steer you wrong? We are not fish eaters, especially Salmon, and this was just wonderful on it! No fishy taste or smell in the house!

So, don’t hate me, but I don’t have exacts for this one. It’s an add until it looks good type of recipe. This recipe is great for the little sues chefs in your home. I have a few of those, so when appropriate, I allow them to help me. Allowing your Things to help you in the kitchen builds memories, teaches them patience (especially needed at 2-3 years old), a beginning and ending, and process forming thoughts. Not a psychologist, but I do know these things to be true because I watch the wheels turning in Thing 3’s mind when he is helping me. Also, when they help, they are proud of what they have helped create and are more likely to eat what you serve.


GF Italian Chicken Dish
Author: Tara Norman

4 chicken breasts
2 large tomatoes
Olive Oil
Onion Salt
Minced Garlic
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350
In a small bowl mix olive oil, basil, and minced garlic. I had my assistant Thing 3 do the mixing. Feel free to sing a song while mixing. His original song was, “I mix, and a mix, and a mix, and a mix, and miiiiiiix!” Lay your chicken breasts in an oven safe dish. Have your sues chef help spoon the mixture onto the chicken breasts. Mamma or daddy, go ahead and cut your tomatoes. Let your sues chef place the tomatoes whereever they can find space in the dish. Let them hold the olive oil bottle with you while you drizzle some over your tomatoes. Hold onto the shakers, but let them sprinkle just a little Oregano, onion salt, and salt over the whole dish (I say hold on to… maybe I should say be ready to tilt up the shakers, ha!). Bake for 1 hour. Baking time may change based on how thick your chicken breasts are.

If you are Thing 3, you will wait by the oven the entire 60 minutes so you can watch your creation cook. It’s amusing to me how Things never have patience until they are waiting for their creations to finish cooking! This is not something I asked him to do. He just grabbed his little stool, pulled over all his toys, and sat. At one point, he pulled every pot and baking pan he could get his hands on and had all of his Toy’s Story guys taking a swim in the pots. I think there was a car chase involved, but I digress. This is real patience for this Thing. Waiting for me to open a breakfast bar proves to be too long for him at times.  I enjoy the moments I see him truly exercising patience on his own.


Oh yeah, the food. Once your chicken is cooked through, remove from oven and serve. You could eat this by itself (with another side) or serve over a GF pasta with extra sauce and mozzarella. This is how we ate our last night.

For Fish

Roast tomatoes first in oven preheated to 400 for 15 minutes. Lay the fish over the tomatoes and season your fish the same way you seasoned the chicken above. Cook for 15 minutes or until the fish is flaky and cooked through. Enjoy!

Find order in cooking, make memories at the table, and feel good about what you are feeding your family as it was made by your loving hands.

I love to hear from my readers. Sometimes there are crickets out there. If you haven’t yet, please sign up to have my posts sent directly to your email account. The field to do so is directly under the Mommy Blogger Button!

Peanut butter Oatmeal Muffins

Can you believe Easter is almost here? This year is going by incredibly fast! Just as I was mentally wrapping up our school year, I had a “oh no!” moment when I realized I needed to change up Thing 1’s curriculum. More to come on that in another post. I did a curriculum change mid- year as well as moved Thing 2 up to kinder. I have no idea what this all means for summer break. I really think I am going to switch up what a school year looks like for us. More to come on those ideas as well. Haha. I’m thinking as I type (from my phone). That’s how I roll sometimes. I’m a mom of 4 who just sat down for the evening at its 10:30pm; and that’s the simple truth.

These were inspired from a cookie recipe I saw on Instagram yesterday. They truly do not need the icing, but I had some left over from making poptarts so I drizzled some over the muffins. Best served with milk (or coffee). Before I forget how I made these yummy things…

Peanut butter Oatmeal Muffins
Author: Tara Norman

2 C GF Old Fashion Oats
2 mashed bananas
2 Tbsp (heaping tbsp) peanut butter
2 Tbsp Vanilla Almond Milk
3 Tbsp raisins
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp Agave

Bake in muffin cups at 375 for 25 minutes.

For icing:
Mix 2 Tbsp powdered sugar with 1Tbsp milk. Drizzle over muffins as desired.

These could be made into bars as well. I think next time I’m making a bar version just to keep it interesting.