Monday, August 18, 2014

Berry-Coconut Mini Cheesecakes

These yummy little numbers are now on my "short list" of go to desserts for the kids.

Rich, yummy, and healthy (not LOW calorie though for those who are wanting this option)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place paper liners in muffin tin

In a large bowl, mix baking mix with 1 TBSP. Sugar or equivalent. Add in coconut oil or butter and mix well.

Spoon it into the muffin papers and press down with fingers or spoon to form crust.

Then, in separate bowl, beat the cream cheese and remaining 1/2 c. sugar till smooth.

Add in sour cream or Greek yogurt, mix well.

Add in 1 egg at a time and beat till well blended.

Stir in the coconut and mix thoroughly.

Divide into 12 muffin tins.

Bake for 20 minutes or until knife comes out clean. 

Allow to cool 5 minutes.
Expect them to fall a bit as they cool.

Prep berries for topping.

Top with fresh berries and serve.

It was met with 6 very happy boys!

Berry-Coconut Mini Cheesecakes
1 1/4 C. All Purpose Baking Mix
Sweetener equal to 1 TBSP + 1/2 c. sugar
3 TBSP Coconut oil or butter, melted
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 c. sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 eggs
1/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 c. fresh mixed berries

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer Reading and Dating our children!

Back in early May, as school for the year was winding down, I asked each of our boys to sit with me to read. With the hectic pace of this past Spring, I had not been as diligent in getting the boys to work on their reading each day. 

Well, to say that I was disappointed in their progress would have been understating things a bit. Despite the fact that each had "done well" that year in school, there was very little progress in their reading.

So was born, 
"Mama's Summer Reading Boot Camp!"

Anyone who's adopted Internationally a child whose native language was anything other than English knows that reading mastery is no small task. There are challenges that linger and even years after coming home, reading can still be a major hurdle. 
I knew that it was going to take intense daily effort to see any lasting progress.

I also knew all too well that I would have 4 completely unwilling participants.

So, Tom and I consulted and decided that every morning before I went to work, I would sit the boys down and do a reading lesson. We went backward quite a ways from where we thought they had come, but it was worth it. 

So, back to the beginning of the 2nd grade curriculum we went.

So, it began. Every morning, I'd get out the white board, choose a few phonics rules or sound blends to cover and we would review them together and each boy would then spend at least 30 minutes each day working their way through the workbook.

Our Hooked on Phonics curriculum is broken up into two main units for 2nd grade.

Blue level and Green Level

Occasionally, someone would have a "reading buddy" to lounge around with!

Upon successful completion of each level, the boys earned a "date night" with either Mom or Dad. Not only did that serve as a small motivator, but it also allowed us the chance to spend some one on one time with each of our boys doing something that they liked. 

We read at the dining room table, we read in the office, we read in the cars, we read everywhere we could. 

Slowly but surely, progress was made. Before too long, each boy successfully completed a reading unit and had their first "date night". 

Cooper and Colin earned one at the same time, so Tom took Cooper to the movies and I went with Colin. But, beforehand, we treated each of the boys to a little frozen yogurt.

Another fun night was my date with Cooper and Tommy to the movies. 
We met Dad for an early dinner that evening before he went off to teach at the college and treated the kids to burgers at Steak & Shake.

After a yummy dinner, the two youngest boys and I went to see Earth to Echo.

as you can see, we had the place all to ourselves! I guess most folks don't go to 5PM movies on weeknights. 

We had a really fun night together without all those pesky "big boys". 

My most recent "date" was with my eldest son, Colin. My most reluctant "student". 
I will be forever baffled by how willing this child is to work his fingers to the bone, literally, to help someone in need, but how aggressively he fights when it comes to learning English.
He is a smart kid, but English is just hard, especially for someone who only started learning it at age 14.

This date night was dinner out, at his request.

We dined at Brixx Oven Baked Pizza.

Followed by a shake at Sonic.
Needless to say, neither of these food groups are common at our house lately, so these are rare treats for our boys!

As we embark on a new school year this week, I am pleased with the new-found progress that each of our boys has made this summer with their reading and hope that it will help them as they begin their 11th, 9th, 6th and 5th grade school years! 

Now that all 4 have finished the 2nd grade level, they have moved on to the Master Reader curriculum and will continue to work on this step by step in addition to their assigned school work. 

Hopefully, their ESL exams this year will show a substantial improvement.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Brezert! It's what's for breakfast!

Or as it is more commonly known...

Strawberry Peanut Butter Parfaits

These amazing treats that pass as a wholesome, and delicious breakfast, are a crowd favorite at the Rylands' home!

Our youngest son, Tommy, coined the phrase "brezert" after his first time eating this breakfast parfait because he said it tasted way too good to be "breakfast" and no one gets dessert in the morning, so it needed its own term.
(For those who are not familiar with our son, this is "Classic Tommy".) 

We start with whole milk Greek yogurt. 
I typically use Stonyfield since my local grocery carries it. 

Mix in the natural peanut butter.
(it would be fine in my opinion to use any nut butter so long as it doesn't have anything added)

Add in the cream, sweetener, vanilla, and flaxseeds. 
Mix well.

Now, take your parfait glasses and spoon in a portion of your yogurt mixture.

Layer some strawberries.


Needless to say, they LOVE, LOVE this breakfast item and I am thrilled to serve it to them!

In fact, I rarely if ever have anything for breakfast other than my all time favorite Isa Lean Shake from Isagenix, because it is that good, but occasionally, I do make an exception.

THIS is one of those meals!

See if your kids don't just rave about it too!

Strawberry-Peanut Butter Parfait
serves 4
2 c. whole milk yogurt
1/4 c. natural no-sugar added peanut butter
1/4 c. cream
Natural Sweetener equivalent to 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 TBSP. ground golden flaxseeds
1 c. sliced strawberries
1/4 c. lightly salted roasted peanuts, chopped (garnish)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My frames are finally full!

Quite awhile back, when we first moved into our new home, I posted our transformed entryway. You can see that original post here.

But, I knew it wasn't really finished. 
I had always wanted to have a picture gallery up our stairway of the 5 boys.

This first picture was one that we had done of Tommy when he was 4 years old. 
It came out remarkably well as drawn from a series of pictures.

This was a real treat for me as a Mom and it was something that we "won" in a silent auction almost 5 years ago. 
(Back when Tommy was our only child)

Last year, while on a missions trip to New York with Colin, we had the opportunity for a street artist to sketch him. 

He did such a great job, that I decided to eventually get sketches of the other three boys to add to our collection. 

As I mentioned, this was a YEAR ago, and I finally got around to getting sketches of the other three boys done. 

First, I had to find an artist.
Then, I had to find the time. 
Let's just say it was easier to find the artist. 

This past weekend, the day (or rather, the night) finally came and I took the three boys down to the Charleston market to get sketched.

Our first victim... young Cooper.

Our artist is the one and only, Omari, who can be found at the Charleston Night market on Friday and Saturday nights. 

He did a great job, and Cooper was good too! :-)

Next up was Cameron...

Here is his final version...

It's weird to me how much older a pencil sketch makes you look, but it seems to be a consistent truth as I look at each one.

Last, but not least, was Connor.
And tonight was his lucky night!
Because my phone went dead and I wasn't able to get many photos of his time with the artist.
Connor is a typical teen boy that does NOT like is photo being taken, so it made him smile to know that I was incapable of torturing him with photographs while he was being sketched.

This was him hanging out with Cameron while Cooper was being sketched, but sadly, no photos of his process.

But, in my opinion, his sketch was the very best of the bunch!

So here is the gallery...

It feels great to finally have this project finished!