Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cream of Mushroom & Bow Ties

Sara has spent the last few years learning how to cook. This past year Sara watched cooking shows and tried A LOT of new recipes. Hurray! She will not starve when she leaves home and anyone who hangs out with her will be thrilled to have her as a roommate/missionary companion/date/friend/wife!

On Sara's assigned dinner night many months ago, Sara decided to be creative and create her own recipe. I gave her a couple tips for seasonings that would work and this is what she came up with. I know there's an official name for it similar to other recipes, but I can't remember what it is, so we call it Cream of Mushroom & Bow Ties. Sara made it several times last year and it became a family favorite, so I decided to write down the ingredients as best I could considering everything Sara did was estimate. Here it is:

Cream of Mushroom & Bow Ties:

Prepare a pot of water to boil for the noodles. To feed six of us, I use 8 handfuls of bow tie noodles.

In a large skillet:

2 lbs. meat (sausage or meatballs work great)
1/2 onion, chopped

Brown the meat and the onions together, then drain the grease. If you're using premade meatballs, don't add them until the sauce is made. Then add:

1 tsp minced garlic
1 container sliced mushrooms

Let the mushrooms cook for a minute or two then add:

2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
1/4 tsp. pepper

Simmer the sauce until the noodles are done. Drain the noodles and combine them with the sauce and mix together gently. Enjoy!

This was such a hit tonight that I didn't even have to put away left overs! Which for me, is cause for celebration!

If you know the real name of this dish, please tell me!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Allowance System for the Kids

Every once in awhile we have to change things up a bit to get the kids motivated to do their chores. In the past, the kids have received $1 per year of age each payday as their allowance. As they get older, their chores get harder and more involved. This has been how I'd done it for years.

Recently I have felt the kids only do a few of their chores and expect a full allowance. I started docking their allowance if it was particularly bad, but it didn't seem to re-motivate for very long before chores were being skipped again. So I started to brain storm. Matt and I are all about solutions rather than focusing on the problem, so the solution needed to be something that would be positive for the children.

After mulling it over in my head for a good month, I decided I liked the idea of paying the kids immediately per chore. The money would go as coins into their individual jars and they wouldn't be able to spend it until payday when I cashed out the coins for bills. This would help the kids see how much they were making and allow them to make more than usual if they're doing all their chores and less than usual if they're not completing their chores. In discussing these thoughts with Matt, he liked the basic idea, but wanted to find something else to use rather than coins so they don't get lost, which would in the end cost us extra. We decided to go with chips...poker chips was the only kind of game chips I could find, but any type of game chips would do in abundance. Raffle tickets could work but they'd wear out and I'd have to replace them regularly. Poker chips it is.

We got paid a couple days early because payday landed on a Sunday, but I figured that was fine, we'd close out the kids usual allowance and start a couple days early with the new plan! At first the kids were not enthusiastic until they figured out that if they do their chores, they'll be making more than before. Then the lights started turning on. Not only are they ready to do their usual chores, but they're asking what else they can do and how much can they earn. They're seeing big $$$ in their future; in fact, Joshua said he is going to be rich! Elijah is actually talking about saving his money instead of spending it as soon as he gets it! Zack has expensive hobbies he would like to support and Sara is thrilled that if the boys don't do their chores, she can do them and actually get paid for it!

This new method does require that I have chips in my pocket ready to be handed out to the diligent workers. It also means I have to check their work and make sure they are being thorough and not doing just half the job. While these take a little more effort on my part, I think it will work out fine!

The chore chart is the same as it has been for awhile. We have a large dry erase sticker on the wall with the days of the week across the top and children by age down the side. The kids look at what day it is to know what chores they need to do. As changes are needed I am able to erase one or two things and make a change without it being a big deal or a start over. We have a second large dry erase sticker below that one for extra chores that can be done or notes to each other.

Today is Sunday and I normally only ask the kids for help with the basics on Sunday: dinner, table, dishes, kitchen garbage. But the kids are amazed at how fast they can earn money and they're cleaning like crazy. Maybe I'm a bad mom for letting them work on Sunday, but it's a nice change for them to be asking, "What else can I do, mom?" Mentally I'm jumping for joy! I know the newness will wear off and there will be paydays in the future when the kids will ask why they didn't make very much money. The answer will be simple, "You didn't do your chores."