March 26, 2014

And We Add to Our Family Once Again

The first afternoon we came to see the house in the country we would end up buying Paul and I both got excited because we knew if the house really became ours we would be able to have chickens. I could never handle a farm because there is just too much dirty work involved and I do not like getting dirty but cats, dogs and chickens are right up my alley. We have a cat, we lost our beloved Bailey girl last June but will hopefully be welcoming one or two boxers to our family this summer so the only thing we were missing were chickens. I love the idea of sending my kids out with pails to collect eggs in the morning and I get excited thinking about chickens walking around our yard after the kids. And we love just a little bit of craziness so adding 12 additional family members at a time just seemed right for us.

On our way to pick up the chicks

This week my dad is staying with us while my brother and sister are on spring break and he was given two tasks to start (I say start because one of the projects will be on going all summer). The first was helping us begin landscaping our front yard. My dad and mom owned a landscaping/nursery for 25 years so he comes with a pretty extensive resume. Paul and my dad spent two days tearing out trees, digging trenches, and planting before the rain came. Then it down poured and our yard resembled mud soup so it was time to take a break from the yard and start the second project...a chicken coop.

They are just so dang cute!

She was happy to look at them but there was no way she was going to reach up and touch that noisy thing. Love my Izzie Boo.
We have a two stall barn on our property and we will never have horses so we are turning one of the stalls into a haven for chickens in hopes that they love us a lot and will reward us with many eggs to feed this family of ours. Knowing the chicken coop would actually be completed this week it was time to go get us some chicks. I think I may have been the most excited on our way to the feed store but it didn't take long before we had 3 big kids who caught the excitement bug.

Uncle Connor
Auntie Ella
Before long we had all the supplies to start our newest adventure along with 6 chicks; 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Orthingtons, & 2 Leghorns. Tomorrow we will be adding another 6; 2 Rhode Islands, 2 Americanas, & 2 Australorps. If these 12 chickens survive their first week with us we will call it a success because the big kids love holding their chicks. From the time the chicks were placed in their safety zone in our house Drew sat with them and picked up each one for over an hour. He kept talking to them and telling them how much he loved them. You can tell he is use to having babies around the house because he kept saying sweet nothings to them. My heart melted just watching him.

For the next month they will live in the house before they get moved to the garage for a month and then they will find their new home in the coop.
This little man could care less about the chicks. He just wanted to go outside and play even in the cold and rain. He lives for outside play and will bring me his shoes many times a day letting me know what he wants to do.
My 3 chicks looking like the six we just brought home; all crammed on top of each other.

No names have been given yet but the ones the kids have brought up make me glad the kids are only naming chicks and not human beings.

The smile never left his face. I can not tell you the last time I saw so much joy from one little boy.
I am so excited about our new adventure. It will be months before we get eggs but it will be so much fun watching these chicks become chickens. I also have a feeling that the first egg that is laid will end up smashed on the ground as the kids come running into the house from the coop carrying the coveted egg. Can't you just see one of the 3 older kids finding an egg, running with their siblings as fast as they can to show mom and dad the first egg, to only trip sending the egg sailing through the air? I will let you know if this is the scenario in about 5 months and in between then and now I am hoping we don't end up with any squashed chicks from someone not being gentle! The newest adventure in the Lesnau house as begun and guess what it involves babies but no sleepless nights!! 

March 19, 2014

{Suzy Homemaker} Meal Planning & Bread Making

Starting March 1st Paul and I decided we were going to make a budget and try really hard to stick with it. Now if you have been on this journey with me for any length of time then you know how much I dislike a budget. I don't like having to think about what I am spending but at the same time by only having a set amount of cash each month I do make much better choices in what I  purchase.

The first thing I did when Paul mentioned that I would be sticking to a set amount this month was figure out what to do with our large grocery bill. I wanted a $1200 budget for groceries which includes going out to eat, groceries and household items such as cleaning products, paper towels and toilet paper along with diapers. In the end I got $1000 and we decided we would see how we needed to adjust the amount for next month. The night before we did our big grocery trip for the month I sat down and went through my file of recipes. I picked out meals I wanted to make and made my grocery list. I do not set a certain meal for each night of the week because it just doesn't work for me. Some days I feel like Mexican and other nights it is the last thing that sounds good. Also depending on how the day unfolds I may only have 30 minutes to prepare dinner and I can't always plan ahead of time how much prep time I will have. As I found each recipe I wrote it down on a list so I would remember what I had bought ingredients for and then added the items I would need to pick up at the store on another list. Our first grocery trip ran about $650 between Costco/Sams & Walmart. This did include 2 boxes of diapers and a box of wipes which totals over $100. One of my least favorite things to spend money on!
A project I had planned to work on during bed rest and it still is in need of a major redesign. My recipe collection is over filling. The binder is broken because I use it all the time. I have so many recipes that are just piled on top because I have no more room. I do not want to upload them all to the computer because I like actually having the recipe in hand. I need to divide my binder into two binders but that will have to wait for a rainy day. 
Out of these groceries I had about 15 different items on my 'to make' list. Some were full meals and others were things like muffins, bread, and hash browns. I also made 4 chicken meals for the freezer which has been great for Paul to make on the evenings that I am working.  The first meals I choose to make were based off of which vegetables would go bad first. There was one night gumbo was made after I had gotten our van stuck in the mud. I knew Paul wasn't going to be thrilled with his wife so I thought I would make him his favorite meal. The girls were quick to let grandma and daddy know that I was making gumbo so he wouldn't be mad at mommy!
My meal list and my grocery shopping list. I divide the grocery list into two sides: Costco/Sams & Walmart. Makes it so much easier when I am shopping. 
We have now made it to the middle of March and if it wasn't for having company coming next week we would have been able to make it to the end of the month with only a stop to pick up eggs, milk and some more fruit (I would have had enough milk to last the month if it wouldn't have taken me four tries to make homemade yogurt which used up 2 gallons of milk). We still have a handful of meals to make of off our original list and then I still have the staples in our house to fix up meals for the remaining evenings. It has actually been really nice to already have a list of meals to pull from and to know we have the ingredients for those recipes.
{Suzy Homemaker}
With a family of 9 when we make things with bread such as grilled cheese or french toast we go through an entire loaf. Now bread isn't super expensive but over time it will add up at over $3 a loaf. As I was perusing a new cookbook I came across a bread recipe that only had 6 ingredients and sugar was not one of them. It also stated that each loaf cost less than $1. I was willing to give it a try and was super impressed when we all sampled it for the first time. It has a crispy crust but a soft middle. It taste great toasted but also pairs well with the fixings for a sandwich. The other great thing is it freezes well and taste just the same as if it had just come out of the oven. And again it only has SIX ingredients, requires NO kneading and takes only 2 hours to rise.

 A 3 year old and six ingredients is all it takes to make some yummy bread. 

Mix together 1 tsp instant yeast, 3 1/2 cups warm water, 5 1/2 cups white flour, 1 3/4 whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup flax-seed, and 4 tsp kosher salt.

One must then get approval from the chef before continuing. My kids get the love of raw dough from their mom. Weird I know but we all like it!

The dough is a loose dough once mixed. It will turn out, trust me.

Grease two 9 by 5 loaf pans and divide the dough between the two pans. 
Then cover with a white dish towel and allow to rise. 

After 2 hours of rising, the dough should be at the top of the pans and it is time to bake. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Yes 450 degrees. I was very nervous to cook bread at this temperature for that long but it really turns out and will not be charred when done. 

After 30 minutes remove the bread from the pans and place directly on the oven rack for 15 minutes while still at 450 degrees. This is where it gets its crispy outside. 

Once it cools it is time to slice it open (if you can wait til it cools!!) or wrap and freeze it. To slice the bread perfectly I opened one of our wedding gifts, an electric bread knife. Who knew almost 12 years after our wedding I would still be opening gifts! 

I have half a loaf of Everyday Bread on my counter that we ate with eggs this morning, a loaf in my freezer and 2 loafs rising on the stove at this very moment. I got creative today though and added rosemary to one loaf and kalamata olives to the other. I will let you know how my creativity turns out. Thinking there may be some bread dipping in balsamic tonight for dinner. 

Everyday Bread
Neutral vegetable oil, for greasing
1 tsp instant yeast
3 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup flax-seeds (optional)
4 tsp kosher salt
1. Oil the inside of two 9 by 5-inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, mix the yeast, water, flours, seeds (if using), and salt. Scrape thee dough into the pans.         Drape with a clean, dish towel and let rise for about 2 hours until level with the tops of the pans.
3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
4. Bake loaves for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the bread from the pans, return to the oven and let bake directly on the rack for 15 minutes             more. The bread is done when it is richly colored and sounds hollow when tapped.
6. Cool bread before slicing and store in a paper bag for up to a week. For longer storage, wrap tightly and       freeze.


March 15, 2014

Why They Can't Be Quads

As the babies have gotten older there has become a wider gap in the weights between them. At birth there was a 1.5 pound weight difference between the Tate who was the largest baby and Kenzie who was the smallest. Now at 18 months that difference is 10lbs. That is a huge amount of weight when you are talking about something that's total weight is less than 30 pounds. Lately one of the comments we get when we are out is, 'There is no way they are the same age. She is so much smaller than he is.' As I am reassuring them that YES they really are quadruplets, what I really want to ask them is if they were the exact same size as their siblings at the same ages. Just because they were born at the same time does not mean they are any different than two siblings born years apart when it comes to their growth.

I thought it would be fun to compare the weights and heights of all the kiddos at different ages up until 18  months. This also means that I will have all this info in one spot which allows me to toss all the papers from the doctors offices I have accumulated over the years telling me what their measurements were!


 Natalie:   6lbs 9oz     19"
Aubrey:   5lbs 11oz    18.5"
Drew:      9lbs 6oz      22.5"
Kenzie:    2lbs 6oz      14"
Isabella:  3lbs 9oz      16.5"
Tate:        3lbs 15oz    16.75"
Rylan:      3lbs 10oz    14.5"

Natalie:   10lbs 12oz    23"
Aubrey:    9lbs 2oz       22"
Drew:       13lbs 15oz   25.5"
Kenzie:     5lbs 10.5oz  18.5"
Isabella:   6lbs 9oz       19.25"
Tate:         8lbs 0oz       20.75"
Rylan:       6lbs 9.5oz    20"

Natalie:   13lbs 14oz    25"
Aubrey:    12lbs 6oz     24.75"
Drew:       16lbs 8oz     27.25"
Kenzie:     8lbs 9oz       20.75"
Isabella:   10lbs 8.5oz  22"
Tate:        13lbs 9.5oz   23.5"
Rylan:      10lbs 11oz    22.5"

Natalie:   16lbs 1oz       26.75"
Aubrey:    14lbs 6.5oz   26.25"
Drew:       18lbs 6oz      29"
Kenzie:     10lbs 9oz      22.5"
Isabella:   13lbs 15oz    24.25"
Tate:        16lbs 12.5oz  26"
Rylan:      13lbs 12oz     24.75"

Tate, Isabella, Kenzie, Rylan

Natalie:   18lbs 8.5oz   28.5"
Aubrey:   16lbs 5.5oz    28.5"
Drew:      19lbs 15oz     30"
Kenzie:    12lbs 10.5oz  24"
Isabella:  16lbs 3oz       26.5"
Tate:        18lbs9.5oz     27.25"
Rylan:      16lbs 10.5oz  26.25"

 Natalie:   20lbs 5.5oz    30"
Aubrey:   18lbs 11.5oz   29.5"
Drew:      22lbs 5.5oz     31.5"
Kenzie:    15lbs 8oz       27.5"
Isabella:  19lbs 15oz
Tate:       22lbs 14oz    29.5"
Rylan:     19lbs 13oz    29.5"
(By 12 months my preemie who was born 9 weeks early weighting 3lbs 15oz caught up to his brother who was born at 41 weeks who weighed 9lbs 6oz at birth. Even I was shocked when I saw this as I was going through the papers!!)

Natalie:  21lbs 3.5oz  32.5"
Aubrey:   20lbs 12oz    32"
Drew:      23lbs 1.5oz   32.3"
Kenzie:    15lbs 12oz   29"
Isabella:  20lbs 15oz   30"
Tate:        23lbs 10.5oz 32.25"
Rylan:      20lbs 0oz     30.25"

Aubrey:   (For some reason I do not have 18 month stats on the older kids. Will need to call on Mon)
Kenzie:    17lbs 3oz       29.75"
Isabella:  22lbs 3oz       30.75"
Tate:        26lbs 33.5oz  33.5"
Rylan:      21lbs 7oz       32"

This post took me way longer than it should have because it was so fun to look back at pictures of the girls and Drew and see how they have changed as they have gotten older. I also love seeing mannerisms that are only theirs that I did not see when they were young but can truly say that it is something that defines them now. There are also a couple pictures that if they were not categorized by year I would not be able to tell if it was Tate or Drew. To me, of all my kids those two look the most alike but I also see lots of similarities between Aubrey and Kenzie. Among your children do you have any that look a lot alike or are they each their own?
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