Menu Plan Monday


Hello friendly readers and welcome to another Menu Plan Monday! This week has been quite a jumble, with me returning from sunny Florida.

Going from thisIMG_0515

to this

Disney Epcot China

and back again. But, it was wonderful to see green and growing sights, and to not cook for a week was truly a treat.

Disney Animal Kingdom Tusker House food

More to come on the food (and other aspects of the trip) on the blog in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

So, we start the week rolling with some of the kids spending all day Monday at Indianapolis paging for our local representative. A fun day, but very busy again. Here’s how the week’s menu plan shapes up:

Monday: frozen pizza (see paragraph above)



16 oz. refried beans

14.5 oz. chicken broth

5 oz. chunk chicken (I usually just cook 1 chicken breast)

15.5 oz. black beans, rinsed

3/4 cup salsa

Combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 min.

Crumble a few tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl.

Ladle soup over chips and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.

You can also cut tortillas into strips and bake them for a few minutes to serve with this.

Wednesday: White Chicken Lasagna — very popular here lately.

Thursday: Healthy Mexican Casserole – new recipe.

Healthy Mexican Casserole

Friday: Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti — made it and it’s good.

What are you cooking this week? More menu plan Monday ideas at OrgJunkie‘s.

I tirelessly researched a recent trip to Disney World. While many people visit the Mouse often, this trip was intended to be our family’s one-time trek to the land of the Magic Mouse. As such, I wanted it to be as memorable as possible.

A major decision is where to stay. I decided we would stay on-property, for several reasons. A major reason for me was that Disney resort guests can use the Disney bus system free to travel to any of the Disney parks or other resorts. If you fly into Orlando’s main airport, you can also use free Disney transportation to get from the airport to your resort – no small savings there!

So, we wanted to stay on-site. But, Disney has various categories of hotels. Value is the least expensive, then moderate and deluxe. I knew that we would go for a value resort as I did not want to spend a lot of money on our hotel room, where we planned to spend little time. The value resorts at Disney are the 3 All Star Resorts (Music, Movies and Sports) and Pop Century. I chose Pop Century because it is newer (built in 2003) and seemed to get better reviews in the research I did.

Disney World Pop Century 50s 80s

We arrived at Pop Century around 9 p.m. and the first thing I noted was the huge size of the lobby. There were probably 20 spots for employees to check guests in. Unfortunately, on this night only about 4 were working and there was a long line. But within 10 minutes we were able to speak with someone. We had reserved two rooms since our party included 6, and there is a maximum of 4 people per room. We were not happy to find that our two rooms had been reserved in different buildings of the resort, and those buildings did not even adjoin each other! So, we trekked to our separate buildings after a tearful discussion of who wanted to room with Grandpa for the night. I should add that we expressed our displeasure at the desk, and the employees promised to find us two adjoining rooms for the remainder of our stay after that first night.

Pop Century is HUGE! It has 2,880 rooms in various buildings decorated with themes from the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. The buildings have huge motifs of items and sayings popular in the various decades: Rubik’s Cubes, yo yos, giant cans of Play Doh, etc. It is a delight to walk around the buildings just to discover all the visual treats. The rooms themselves are just your typical budget hotel-type room – two double beds and a small bath. At 260 square feet, there is not room for anything more than the basics. The bathroom was so small in fact, that when I closed the door it almost hit the toilet. Our rooms were clean and most days the housekeeping service left washcloths made into animal shapes. This was a huge hit with our kids!

The “Hippy Dippy Pool” was a short walk from our building and the kids enjoyed playing in it after long days at the parks. There were giant colorful flowers surrounded it, as well as a kiddie pool nearby (this was actually more of a water area to just run through than a pool). The resort is so large that we did not even see the other two pools (the Computer Pool and the Bowling Pin Pool) while we were there.

The huge lobby that we checked in at adjoined a food court with all kinds of foods available (although at sky-high prices); both hot foods and grocery store fare. There is a gift shop also (this IS Disney, you know!). The bus stop is right in front of the lobby building and we found buses to come and go frequently.

I am happy we decided to stay at Pop Century. It was clean and the decor made our stay fun. It did not have a lot of extras and luxuries, but to me the price savings was worth the sacrifice of those things.

You may also enjoy:

Disney World’s Top 10 Scary Rides

Childhood Memories  Friday: Disney World, July 1973


The loveable 100-Acre Woods characters, a bright and beautiful setting, yummy food, delicious service – does this sound great to you? If so, you need to schedule a meal at the Crystal Palace during your next trip to Disney World. We ate there, and here are some reasons we loved the experience.

  1. CHARACTERS. Who doesn’t love Pooh and his friends? They’re gentle and not too chatty (in fact, they don’t talk at all). As we waited outside, my children were ecstatic upon sighting Piglet inside walking around the dining room. During our meal, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore each made their way to our table separately, hugging the children, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. At one point during the meal they led a parade of children through the restaurant, encouraging the kids to wave their green cloth napkins as they marched to create the 100 Acre Woods. Some of the characters stopped by our table more than once, and they never seemed rushed.
  2. FOOD. This is usually why I visit a restaurant, but since the Pooh characters were my kids’ (okay, and my own too!) favorites, that was my main reason in choosing to eat here. I must admit upfront that I am not a “buffet snob” – I love quantity and down-home good quality, so buffets are favorites of mine. This one is a buffet, and it did not disappoint. My three kids, my husband and my dad were all very pleased with the selections and we all left absolutely stuffed. There is a wide variety of salads – the typical lettuce and the more unique (edamame salad, vegetable curry). The main selections are also plentiful and had enough variety to please both my ‘meat n potatoes’ dad and my more adventurous husband. All dishes are labeled which I found very helpful. The girls thoroughly enjoyed the large pot labeled “Ratatouille” because of the Disney film by that name. There was a very small children’s bar “Pooh Corner” (just chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, and green beans) for the picky eater to resort to if all the more exotic foods are too scary. Perhaps best of all was the dessert bar, with banana bread pudding, double chocolate brownies, lemon bars, strawberries, and yes – even a soft-serve machine for the kids. As we waited on the porch to be seated, a cast member told us that the food was excellent and that many guests eat here each visit because of the exceptional food. I can understand that!
  3. SETTING. The Crystal Palace is a wrought iron and glass building modeled on the Crystal Palace built in London for the Great Exhibition of 1851. I think that its ambiance is absolutely wonderful – very light inside with so many windows and a glass atrium. At night when lit, it is breathtaking as well. The front porch is a relaxing place to wait for your seats, and I have heard it’s an excellent venue for viewing the nightly fireworks over the castle as well. Crystal Palace is just off of Disney World’s Main Street, so it is easy to access.
  4. SERVICE. Disney Magic was in evidence throughout our visit. Our waiter was professional and thorough, introducing himself to us with a charming British accent. Cast members were seen throughout our meal, ensuring that the characters made it to each table and left no one out. Our drinks were refilled promptly, plates cleared quickly also, and our check left in a timely manner. We were treated very well!

Disney World Crystal Palace PigletMy tip for ensuring that you enjoy your Crystal Palace character meal is to make reservations. Go to Disney’s website  and call the number, up to 180 days prior to your visit. We visited during a slower time of year, but frequently the park is much busier and you may not be able to get in without reservations. We were seated within 10 minutes of our reserved time.

Crystal Palace serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner – all with the Pooh characters. All meals are buffet-style, with prices increasing throughout the day. Enjoy your magical experience!

You may also enjoy:

Disney World’s Top 10 Scary Rides

Ronald Regan:  staunch defender of America, defeater of Communism … great romantic? Definitely!

Ronald Reagan would turn 104 on February 6, 2015. Americans remember Reagan fondly, and it’s easy to see why. His presidency, from 1980-1988, marked a period of low taxes and healthy economic growth for America. He was my favorite president of my lifetime.

Ronald Reagan had other accomplishments in addition to his presidency: he was a great romantic. He and his second wife, Nancy, enjoyed a loving relationship that was obvious to all who knew them and even to casual observers. How about some romantic Ronald Reagan quotes?

Public Domain photo

Public Domain photo

Quotes, Ronald Reagan about Nancy Reagan:

I can sum up our marriage in a line I spoke when I played the great pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, a line spoken by him in life to his wife, Aimee: “God must think a lot of me to have given me you.” I thank Him every day for giving me Nancy.


The nicest thing a girl ever did for me was when a girl named Nancy married me and brought a warmth and joy to my life that has grown with each passing year.


Coming home to Nancy was like coming out of the cold into a warm room with a fireplace.

We haven’t been careless with the treasure that is ours – namely what we are to each other.


I think it’s all too common in marriage that, no matter how much partners love each other, they don’t thank each other enough. And I suppose I don’t thank Nancy enough for all that she does for me. So, Nancy, in front of all your friends here today, let me say, thank you for all you do. Thank you for your love. And thank you for just being you.


(Nancy can) make me lonely just by leaving the room.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan with their dog

Ronald and Nancy Reagan with their dog — photo, public domain


Quotes, Ronald Reagan on Love:

Love can grow slowly out of warmth and companionship and none of us should be afraid to seek it.


It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick, and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music.


You’ll never get in trouble if you say ‘I love you’ at least once a day.


What do you say about someone who gives your life meaning? What do you say about someone who’s always there with support and understanding, someone who makes sacrifices so that your life will be easier and more successful? Well, what you say is that you love that person and treasure her.


When Reagan died June 5, 2004, from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 93, the world lost a great leader and a great romantic as well. But thanks to his quotes, Ronald Reagan can live on in our memories.


Trapp Family music

Interesting find on the free music table at ISSMA contest last week — a piece of music arranged for the Trapp Family Singers, by their companion and composer, Father Wasner.

The Sound of Music has always been my favorite movie, as you might have guessed from the blog’s title. It was the first movie I got to go see in a movie theater as a toddler. I remember my excitement when I would hear its annual network airing advertised on TV. In our family, only The Wizard of Oz created as much excitement. I think its combination of music, breathtaking scenery, suspense (could they escape the Nazis?), and romance made it the perfect movie for me.

So, when I had the opportunity to visit Salzburg, Austria, where it was filmed, I jumped at the chance to take The Sound of Music tour and see several locations where it was filmed.

Sound of Music Tour

We saw the outside of the house where it was filmed, but learned that actually two houses were used in the filming (Frohnburg and Leopoldskron Castle) – one for the inside, and another for the outside.

We saw the gazebo where Liesl and Rolf sing “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” – and at the time you could actually go inside and leap around like they did on the benches (I have learned that because of vandalism you can no longer go inside the gazebo)! The gazebo was on the grounds of Leopoldskron Castle at the time of the filming, but now it has been moved to Hellbrun Castle.

We visited the church where the wedding takes place in the movie (Pfarrkirche at Mondsee) – although we were told that the real wedding took place in the Salzburg convent (not nearly as grand).

We drove past the Rock Riding School (the building where the family sings “Edelweiss” just before fleeing) and stopped at Mirabell Gardens, where Maria and the children were playing during “Do Re Mi”.

Some interesting facts we learned during the tour:

  • When they married in 1927, Maria was 21 and Georg was 46. They went on to have three children of their own in addition to the seven Georg already had.
  • The graveyard where the family hides while being pursued by the Nazis was not actually in the convent, although it appeared to be in the movie.
  • The family didn’t flee over the mountains to Switzerland, as the movie showed, because that border was closed.

Throughout the tour, the movie’s soundtrack was playing on the bus. Hearing the music as we drove through Austria’s spectacular scenery was a memory I’ll keep forever!

The tour was fascinating for a real aficionado of the movie, like me. I highly recommend it if you ever visit Salzburg!

You may also enjoy:

World of the Trapp Family book review


Mad King Ludwig's Castles course

Thanks to Sophie for another amazing graphic!

Post contains affiliate links.

If you’re planning a trip to Germany, no doubt one of the highlights for you will be the castles. And the most iconic German castle of all is Neuschwanstein. Did you know that the man who built this castle is perhaps even more fascinating than the castle itself? That’s right, he’s none other than “mad” King Ludwig.

Ludwig also built a few other castles, each as interesting as Neuschwanstein it its own right.

Over the years, I have taught many about eccentric King Ludwig and his castles. I wrote a book about them.

And now, I’ve just completed a course about them over at Udemy, a wonderful site where you can take courses on thousands of topics.

The course is called The Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

I designed it for several target customers.

  • Foremost in my mind were those who planned to visit one or more of the castles in Germany and want to know more about them before leaving home. Many people prefer listening to information rather than reading it, and that’s what you’ll get here. The course also shows you more photos of the inside  of the castles, and you’ll learn about Ludwig’s background as well.
  • Another target customer would be the person who just returned from a trip to Germany. Trust me, once you’ve set foot into “Ludwig land,” you’re going to want to know more about him unless you’re totally brain-dead :) This course offers you about an hour’s worth of information on him (as well as 2 quizzes for you overachievers!).
  • Finally, the course would be an excellent basis for a study for homeschoolers or for anyone who’d like to know more about one of history’s most fascinating characters and about some of Europe’s most interesting landmarks.

All of this can be yours for just $25. And for loyal readers, I’m giving a $5 discount.

Enjoy the course! Once you enroll, you’ll have lifetime access to all the lectures and course materials, so there is no hurry. You can listen and watch again each time you return to Germany.

You may also enjoy:

Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II Facts

Planning a Visit to Neuschwanstein


Menu Plan Monday


Hi everyone! Welcome to another menu plan Monday, this one coming in the aftermath of what was billed as the season’s biggest snow. We were supposed to get around a foot of snow, although last I heard it ended up around 10 inches. It’s still a lot, though, and there is no school today so the girls are happy. I will change my grocery shopping day from the normal Monday to Tuesday, and hope all my piano kids can make it in.

snowy bush

I love the look of snow on the shrub!

This is also one of the busiest weeks of the year. Piano student count is up to 18 as one student returns from a break for basketball. Also, I think all 9 of the kids I’m accompanying Saturday for ISSMA contest are coming sometime or other during the week to practice. Lots of pretty music.

Here is the menu plan:

Monday: Southwest Turkey Meatloaf – youngest daughter’s favorite. I got ground turkey on sale last week. And maybe mashed potatoes too. Normally it would be hard to pull this off on a Monday, but since I’m not shopping today, I’m hoping …

Tuesday: Southwest Chicken Lasagna — I know, it’s kind of a coincidence that they both have “southwestern” in the title, but the recipes really aren’t that similar. And with all this snow, anything “south” is sounding pretty good.

Wednesday: Curried Lentil and Chickpea Stew — sounds good on a cold day.

Thursday: Corn and Cheese Enchiladas — tried-and-true good recipe.

Friday: Pesto Chicken Pizza — planned for last week, but didn’t happen.

Stay warm this week. More menu plan Monday ideas at OrgJunkie‘s.

Fisher Price Little People Tales

Today’s Little Tales focuses on one of my very favorite Little People toys ever: the houseboat.Fisher Price Little People Houseboat

I was maybe 7 or 8 when I got it, and I spent hours and hours playing with it. It spent lots of time docked on dry land, but I also brought it out into our plastic swimming pool, the bathroom sink, and even to Florida on our Disney vacation (Toto the dog drowned in the hotel pool, but Fisher Price kindly sent a replacement when Mom wrote them a letter).


As always, it’s the cool details that made this Fisher Price toy so special. All the people were plastic, so they would float. But, they also got little life preservers. And notice the raised plastic bump next to the girl? Those are spots where the Little People will fit (the boy is on one) to get a better view of the ocean.


The deck chairs looked a little bare, so Mom made covers for them. They have survived the years and still look great (“Those chairs look so sad without the covers,” one of my girls said recently).


The roof of the cabin lifts up to reveal a detailed table and chairs. Looks like it’s lobster for dinner …


More awesome details — a diving board that can be pulled out or pushed back into its slot. And a little boat that can ride on the back, or float on its own.


And, most magical of all — the stairs leading up to the deck, and the neat hallway to the kitchen! Fisher Price really had an eye for the details that were magical to kids and inspired the imagination. So many Little People walked up those steps and down the hallway over the years. Wonderful memories!

What was your favorite Little People toy? Did you have the houseboat too?

You may also enjoy:

Childhood Memories Friday: Kids

Childhood Memories Friday: Fisher Price Little People

The Duggar family, made famous in the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” is conservative and Christian. But many of their beliefs are far more modest than those practiced by most Christians. For instance, we all remember oldest son Josh and his wife Anna, as well as daughter Jill and now-husband Derick Dillard,  saving their first kiss for their wedding day. When daughter Jessa was courting, we read about 30-second “side hugs” only, Jessa and now-husband Ben Seewald’s texts needing to pass through their parents first, and the couple “recommending sermons to one another.” Which denomination promotes practices like these?


What Religion are the Duggars?

Although the Duggars’ lifestyle is quite conservative, their reality show rarely mentions their specific religious beliefs. They’ve been described as “Independent Baptists,” although they hold church services in their own home rather than attending an outside church.


IBLP and Bill Gothard

They don’t mention it directly on their show, but the Duggars are deeply involved with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), founded by Bill Gothard. The family attends the Institute’s Advanced Training Institute annually in Big Sandy, Texas, and excerpts from this conference have been shown on “19 Kids and Counting.” Various of the children have also attended ATI’s “Journey to the Heart” seminars. The purpose of these 10-day seminars is to “study 18 heart conditions described in the Bible, both good and bad. The purpose of this is to help each person identify blind spots or secret sins that are keeping them from completely surrendering to God and experiencing His love, grace, and victory. ”

IBLP is not a religion or a denomination itself, but it puts forth several teachings written by Gothard. The Institute has published home schooling materials that the Duggars use. IBLP was founded to introduce people to Jesus, and to help them find success by following God’s principles found in Scripture and expounded upon by Gothard. According to Gothard, these principles are universal, and there are consequences for violating them. One example is the suffering principle, which suggests that people should allow the hurts from offenders to reveal “blind spots” in their own lives. Genuine joy supposedly results when we forgive our offenders.

Bill Gothard resigned in 2014 amid allegations of sexual harassment. David Waller, who is married to Anna Duggar’s sister, Priscilla (and who has been featured on “19 Kids” as well), works in leadership of the organization.

Courtship Rules

A major principle in IBLP is authority, and this comes heavily into play when a couple is “courting” (courting is the IBLP version of dating). Courtship involves a single man and woman, and both sets of their parents (“All of our family is involved in this relationship,” says mom Michelle Duggar). The girl in a courtship is under the authority of her father, who needs to approve of her courtship partner. This squares with what dad Jim Bob Duggar has said of Jessa’s husband, Ben: “He’s the first one she has shown interest in that has a spiritual focus and legitimate calling about ministry work. When a guy is pursing your daughter, you want to check him out and see if there are any red flags.” Jessa and Ben’s wedding will be a major focus of the new season of “19 Kids and Counting,” which begins February 17.

This authority principle may also be a factor in the Duggar’s reluctance to allow their children to attend schools, including college, away from home — although reports state that 20-year-old Joseph Duggar recently enrolled at Crown Bible College in Tennessee. He would be the first Duggar to go to school away from home.

You may also enjoy:

Becoming Michelle Duggar
Jill Duggar’s Fiance Derick Dillard: Facts

Purex PowerShot: Review

Thanks to Purex for detergent to review, and for the coupons for the giveaway. All opinions my own.


Purex PowerShot

Housekeeping is not one of my hobbies, but honestly, laundry isn’t a task I mind. Dump the dirty clothes into the washer, pour in detergent, punch a button, and soon the clothes is clean! It’s kind of like a miracle.

However, there can be frustrations. One of them can involve measuring laundry detergent. Frequently, it seems that the lines on the cap are hard to see. Even if you can see them, there are so many. How much detergent should I use?

I know, I know — this is definitely a first-world problem. Still, is there a way to make measuring detergent easier?

Actually, there is, and Purex has come up with it: Purex PowerShot Detergent.

Purex PowerShot

Or, maybe I should put it this way:

Purex PowerShot

Because that’s how you use the detergent — turn the bottle upside down, and the proper amount comes out automatically. If you have a large load, just repeat the process once more for two “shots.” Couldn’t be easier! Don’t worry about turning the bottle upside down (I know I was a little skeptical at first). It’s a no-spill detergent bottle that will prevent the entire contents from escaping.

I’m happy to report that Purex PowerShot got my laundry nice and clean as well, but you’d expect no different from Purex.

Purex has a new contest, where you can win a brand new washer and dryer. I’d love to win, since mine are over 20 years old. You can also win free Purex for a year. You can enter once a day.

Would you like to try this fun new detergent? You’ll find it on store shelves, and thanks to Purex, two of you can win a coupon for a free bottle (I’ll also throw in a couple of $1.50-off coupons to each winner).

Enter by using the rafflecopter form below by February 5, and I’ll choose two random winners February 6.
a Rafflecopter giveaway