Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Pioneer Woman’s Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart - The Cozy Nook

Okay, I admit. This is nothing short of delicious!

Flaky pie crust.
Sweet, caramelized onions.
Gooey cheese.
Fresh, roasted tomatoes.

Yep, delicious!

That’s what my crew said as well. (Well, my husband and my two oldest children. The younger ones don’t like tomatoes and caramelized onions very much… yet. ~wink~)

Tomato Tart with Basil - The Cozy Nook

Tomato Tart
Original Version by The Pioneer Woman
Printable Version

2-4 Tablespoons of Butter (depending on how many onions you use)
1 or 2 Large Sweet Onions, halved and sliced thinly
Double Pie Crust Dough (I used the one I use for my chicken pot pie).
~ 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
Parmesan Cheese
2-3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half or whole
Basil for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 450.

Carmelize onions by sauteeing them in butter for about 20 minutes, until onions are soft and golden brown. I only used one onion because I prefer not to cover the entire base with loads of onions.

Lightly spray rectangular baking pan with oil. I used a 10 x 15 inch pan.

Roll out pie dough and place in pan.

Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheeses over the dough.

Place carmelized onions on top of cheeses.

Layer tomatoes on top of everything.

Cook for about 15 minutes but start watching the tart after about 10 minutes to make sure your crust isn’t burning.

Cook until the cheese is browned, and the tomatoes are wrinkled.

Let sit for about 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with fresh basil on top, if desired.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Daily Homeschool Routine–The Family Flow

Our Homeschool Routine - The Cozy Nook

So far, I’ve shown you my proposed morning and evening routines. I hope that you found them helpful and inspiring and that you are creating your own morning and evening routines.

Another routine I have been working on is our school routine. Since we homeschool, this is the routine for the basic flow of our days. We use it to guide us throughout the day.

Although each year of homeschooling is different, I have noticed that the big picture tends to look fairly similar each year.

Here is what we are starting with and will tweak as needed throughout the year.

6:00 Wake time for me. I implement my morning routine.
7:00 Wake time for my oldest, starting 9th grade this year
8:00 Wake time for my other three children
8:00 Breakfast. I do the dishes. Kids do morning routines and start school work.
9:00 Worship and Bible
9:30 – 12:00 School for everyone. My kids will work independently, and I will teach and tutor as needed.
9:30 Preschool with my youngest
10:00 Snack
11:00 I teach Science and History to my middle two children
12:00 Lunch. Recess. Kids practice an Instrument. I check papers.
~1:00-3:00 Kids finish schoolwork, with me helping as necessary.
1:00/1:30 Rest/quiet time for my preschooler
2:00 Regroup time for me: Read, rest.
2:30 Snack. Kids can practice instruments. Chore time for me, if necessary.
3:00 I check papers.
4:00 Dinner prep.
5:00/6:00 Dinner, depending on evening schedule

Need help planning your own school routine?

  • Think about wake times.
  • Pencil in meal times.
  • What time do you want to start school?
  • Do you want to establish a family worship time?
  • Are there group subjects you are teaching?
  • Do you need a rest time during the day?
  • What time do you need to start dinner?
  • If your children play instruments, what is a good time for them to do that?

Don’t get overwhelmed with planning a routine. Start simple. You don’t even have to plan everything in your day.

Having a basic outline of the day helps us stay on target and makes for a better, more productive day.

Best wishes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Plan Your Morning and Evening Routines

Morning and Evening Routines - The Cozy Nook

Routines are special. They provide stability and focus – a spine for the day. An evening routine helps us prepare for the next day. Remember, tomorrow really starts the night before. A morning routine helps us get our days started on the right foot.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working on getting my routines fleshed out so I can provide a bit more structure as life gets busier with the start of school and other activities.

Here are what my routines look like so far:

Morning Routine (with a target start time of 6 a.m.)
Make Bed
Bible Reading, Prayer – 20 to 30 minutes
Exercise  - 20 to 30 minutes
Shower, Dress – 20 minutes
Pack Hubby’s lunch, if not done the night before
Blog – 30 minutes
Make breakfast
Chore - 15 minutes or less
Check/Switch laundry
Check “To Do” List

Evening Routine
Make sure kitchen sink is clean and empty
Clean kitchen table
Chore - 15 to 30 minutes
Put laundry away
Pack Hubby’s lunch
Make realistic “To Do” list for tomorrow
Upstairs at 10 p.m.  Read, blog, connect with Hubby.
Lights out by/at 11 p.m.

When I planned my morning routine, I tried to think about what I want to get done in the morning and sketch out some rough time estimates. I am trying to make it realistic. Right now, it seems a bit idealistic, but I know that some of the activities can be optional if necessary.

Also, I may alternate some of the activities, i.e. Exercise one day, Blog the next.

Remember, routines are guides, not rulers!

They are meant to provide direction with flexibility.

My evening routine consists of things that are important to me in finishing the day well, promoting peace for bed time, and also in preparing for the next morning.

If my kitchen sink and table are clean in the morning, I feel like I have a clean slate. If they are dirty, I feel behind already!

Are you ready to plan morning
and evening routines?

Begin by making a list of the things that are important to you. You can use my lists as examples.

Over the next few days, keep a piece of paper out on the counter so you can jot down ideas for your routines as you think of them.

Once you create routines for yourself, consider posting them somewhere where you can see them so it is easier to follow them.

I pray your routines are a blessing to you!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Establish Routines: Prepare for the Year Ahead

Establish Routines - The Cozy Nook

September is going to be crazy. I already feel it.

I should not be surprised. It’s like this every September.

School will be fully in session.
My boys will be playing soccer.
My daughter’s ballet lessons will start again.
Music lessons will be in full swing.
Homeschool co-op starts its fall semester.
Wednesday night church provides weekly teaching opportunities for me.
Multiple family birthdays exist, including my father-in-law’s 80th.

Yep, it’s going to be busy!

For the next two weeks I am trying to get my routines established.

  • Morning Routine – to help my day start smoothly
  • Evening Routine – to prepare for the next day
  • School Routine – to establish a general order for our school
  • Chore Routine – to give structure to housework, meal planning, etc.
  • Planning Routine – to assign certain days for planning school and other responsibilities I have, i.e. teaching at church and co-op

As I flesh them out, I am going to write about it here, on my blog, with hopes that it will help you create some routines for yourself.

First, let me leave you with this challenge.

Write out all of the routines you would
like to establish in your life.

What does your list look like?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Workouts that Will Help You Establish an Exercise Routine

Quick Workout Routines - The Cozy Nook

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, medical specialist, or fitness expert of any kind. The information provided here is to encourage people to find exercise routines that fit their lifestyles, according to the knowledge and medical conditions they have. It is always wise to verify your exercise habits with a medical practitioner, especially if you have concerning medical issues.

Is it difficult for you to establish an exercise routine?

It has been difficult for me.

When I mentioned to a nurse at my doctor’s office that I had been exercising regularly the past month, she asked, “How do you find time to exercise with four kids?”

Yes, exactly! That’s what I have always thought… How in the world can I find time to exercise?

Well, just like anything else important, oftentimes we don’t FIND time, we MAKE time.

Exercise is important for all of us. It keeps our bodies healthy and strong, keeps our minds sharp, helps us cope with stress, helps us have a more positive outlook on life, helps us feel better about ourselves, and more!

Carving out a half hour at a time multiple times a week to exercise seemed a bit daunting to me, especially since I don’t tend to be very patient when I exercise. I want the process done so I can move on with my day.

However, carving out seven to fifteen minutes seemed much more doable, and that’s what I did… so far.

Here are some short workouts I have tried and actually like. They help me get moving, get my metabolism going, and get me used to exercising so I can continue to improve my exercise habits.

  1. The Seven Minute Workout
    This workout takes just that, seven minutes. It is fairly intense, involving 12 different exercises of 30 second intervals with 10 second rests in between the exercises. All you need to accomplish the exercises is your own body weight, a chair or a step, and a wall. You can get an App for your phone or you can find the exercises online, i.e. here.
  2. Fit Deck Exercise Cards
    I actually bought these cards for my husband for Christmas last year, and now I am using them. I have been using the BodyWeight category cards, but there are many others: Pilates, Yoga, Stretch, Exercise Ball, Senior, etc.! When I go to exercise, I simply shuffle the cards and then start with the top card, continuing through the cards until I have exercised for 15 minutes. You can purchase the cards through Amazon or check them out at the FitDeck site directly.
  3. Other short workout routines
    A long time ago I found these routines when I was searching for quick workouts. I really like the “Wake Up Routine”. It’s short and sweet and gets you going in the morning. There are other routines, like the “Quick Ten”, that are fairly simple to do. Check out the site for other routines.

For another good article about short workouts, check out this one on Becoming Minimalist.

Are you currently exercising?

What do you do and how do you
make time for it?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How My Husband and I, Both, Lost 10 Pounds in Less Than a Month

Tips for Weight Loss - The Cozy Nook

Well, my husband and I took the plunge. After returning from vacation, both of us a little heavier than when we left for vacation, we decided to get serious about losing weight. I knew my husband really wanted to lose weight, and I felt I should join him.

Little did I know that I would see and feel the results so quickly. It has been a huge blessing for both of us.

What was the secret to our success?

Good ol’ diet and exercise!

First of all, I have to say that our Fitbit scale, pictured above, was a great motivator. Through our accounts, we could watch our weight’s progress. It was so encouraging to see the graph decreasing.

On the diet front, think protein and produce (fruits and veggies).

A friend of mine (who has a lot of knowledge in the medical and nutrition fields and is a doctor of pharmacy) was a great guide when we started our weight loss. She told us to focus mainly on eating protein and vegetables the first week. This empties the sugar and carb storage and helps detox the body.

After the first week, my friend recommended that we start incorporating whole grains back into our diet, staying away from wheat as much as possible – brown rice, quinoa, oat-focused breads…

We have had days when we have eaten out or had dessert. We try to keep our portions more minimal and also compensate for the “treats” the rest of the day, eating lighter – feasting on fruit smoothies and protein or produce snacks.

Also, I set a rule for myself – not to eat anything after 9 p.m. and drink only water.

Weight Loss Meals - The Cozy Nook

Above are some of the foods we have eaten.

From top left, clockwise:

  • Fried eggs with pepperoni, garnished with tomatoes.
  • A hearty salad with roasted chicken
  • Healthy taco salad with quinoa, no chips
  • Black Bean/Quinoa Burgers

In addition to diet, we have tried to make exercise a regular part of our lives.

My husband has been doing Tae Kwon Do, mainly, but has also done some jump-roping and trampoline jumping.

I have added short workouts, 15 minutes or less, at least a few times a week. I will do another post with more details about that.

Losing weight has definitely taken some discipline.

As my husband says, “Get used to feeling hungry”. That is true sometimes.

However, the reward is great. We look better, feel better, and trust we are gaining better health too!

Best wishes on your
own weight loss goals!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Non-Toxic, DIY All-Purpose Cleaner

Non-Toxic, DIY All-Purpose Cleaner - The Cozy Nook

I have been using this cleaner for ages. I originally used vinegar. Then I switched it to rubbing alcohol when I, surprisingly, ran into the same mixture at my homeschooling co-op’s mom meeting one evening, substituting the rubbing alcohol for the vinegar.

The rubbing alcohol is great because it’s a great cleaner, being antiseptic and quick-to-dry, but it also has a more pleasant smell than vinegar. My daughter enjoys this mix much better!

What can I say about this cleaner?

*Works Well
*Non-Toxic – safe for your home, not worried about breathing chemicals!
*Antiseptic/Antibacterial/Antiviral, depending on the essential oils.
*Inexpensive
*Easy to Make

How to Make All-Purpose Cleaner

Combine all of the following in a spray bottle:

  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 small squirt of dish soap, probably about 1/2-1 teaspoon. Not too much, or else your cleaner will be too soapy.
  • ~10 drops of essential oil. You choose!
  • Fill the rest with hot water.

Shake to mix. Use happily!

There are many essential oils you could use. Most of them have various anti-germ qualities, which you could read about online. Here are some ideas:

*Tea Tree Oil
*Lemon and Orange
*Peppermint
*Lavender
*Eucalyptus
*Germ Fighter Mix – you purchase this through an essential oil company

Happy Cleaning!