Chocolate Banana Bread Muffins: Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Vitacost was having a great deal on Enjoy Life chocolate chips, so I had to buy some.  Of course, this is Arizona in the summer, so temps often top out above 100 degrees.  Yep, you guessed it, my mini chocolate chips came partly melted and clumped together.  So, I was determined to find a way to use the clump of chocolate chips and the many bananas in my freezer.

What I ended up with was a delicious recipe that my kids loved.

Chocolate Banana Bread Muffins: Gluten Free, Dairy Free


3 medium size ripe bananas
1/4 cup olive oil (or coconut oil)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup almond meal
1-1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup mini Enjoy Life chocolate chips


-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray muffin tins with non-stick spray.

-Peel and mash the bananas in a large bowl.

-Then, add olive oil and eggs to the bowl with the bananas and stir well.

-In a separate, smaller bowl, mix the cinnamon, almond meal, gluten free flour, baking powder, and baking soda together.

-Meanwhile, put at least half of the chocolate chips in a small bowl and melt in the microwave on 50% power.  Stir often and stop when just melted.

-Let the chocolate chips cool for just a few minutes, and then mix some of the banana mixture into the bowl with the chocolate chips.  Stir quickly as the chocolate will want to harden.  Then, pour that bowl of chocolate into the big bowl of banana mixture and stir until smooth and chocolatey.

-Add the dry ingredients to the large bowl, and then add 1/2 cup of almond milk.  When well mixed, add in the remaining chocolate chips.

-Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 18 muffins.

This recipe was loosely inspired by this one.

Where I Find Good Reading Lists for My Elementary Students

I love to read, and when I was little, I always wanted my mom to read to me.  My mom was busy taking care of me and my brother who had cerebral palsy plus running a daycare out of her home.  When night came, she just wanted to relax, so once I learned to read, she stopped reading aloud to me.

Why I Read Aloud to My Kids

I don’t fault my mom at all, but because I’m such a bookworm myself (when I can find the time!) and because I want my kids to be exposed to a wide variety of literature, I’ve read aloud to them since a very early age.  Bookworm (14) no longer wants to be read to, but the girls, especially Cuddle Bug, still love to hear read alouds.

It’s not unusual for us to have four different books that we’re reading at one time.  We usually start our homeschool morning by reading 4 pages of each book, so 16 pages.  Then, in the afternoon, I read them another 16 pages while they clean up the living room or their bedroom, and finally, I read them 16 more pages at night before they go to bed.  Following this schedule, we read about 48 pages a day (sometimes more if a book is really suspenseful and we can’t put it down).

PB & J Girl prefers books that are not educational and more, what I would call, fluff.  I’ll be honest, they’re not my favorite to read, but since my objective is to keep her interested in reading, I read them to her.

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Cuddle Bug, however, loves books that are more educational such as historical fiction and even Shakespeare.  We’ve been reading Tales from Shakespeare, and she loves it.  I thought most of it would go over her head since she’s only 8 years old, but she follows along no problem.  So far we’ve read A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and now we’re in the middle of Romeo and Juliet.

Where I Find Good Books to Read to My Kids

There are many places I look to find quality books to read to the girls.  Here are some of my favorites:


I love Sonlight, and I have used it as our main curriculum for the girls and Bookworm at certain points in our homeschool journey.  I plan to go back to it with Cuddle Bug next year.  Sonlight has quality fiction and non-fiction in each level, so I look there for book ideas.


Bookshark is a more secular off shoot of Sonlight, so many of the books included in their curriculum are the same, but they did take out some of the overtly religious books and replace them with more secular books.

Heart of Dakota

I ordered a Heart of Dakota package for Bookworm last year, and while he didn’t end up using it much, I’m now reading those books to the girls.  Three of the books we’ve loved so far are Mystery of the Silver Coin, Caught in the Act, and Sparrows in the Scullery.  The books from Heart of Dakota are almost all Christian based.

Charlotte Mason Book List

A Charlotte Mason education relies heavily on literature, rather than textbooks, so you can find plenty of age appropriate classics to read on Simply Charlotte Mason’s site.

NPR’s Book List

NPR published a book list for kids 9 – 14.  What I like about this list is that it includes classics and more modern books dealing with contemporary issues.

Remember, once you find a great book that you and your kids enjoyed, be sure to check if it’s part of a series.  If so, read the rest of the books in the series!

If you read aloud to your kids regularly, where do you go to find good books?


Goals for 2018: Week 32 of 52

You may have noticed I’ve skipped my goals post for the last five weeks or so.  I’m not going to lie, the last few weeks have been ROUGH.

I’ve stopped doing anything on my goal list.




But then, last night when my husband and I were watching Criminal Minds on Netflix, I heard this quote:

Tomorrow you promise yourself, things will be different, yet tomorrow is too often a repetition of today, and you disappoint yourself again and again.” – James T. McCay

Ouch.  It was like Dr. Reid was speaking directly to me.

You know, I’m not going to sugar coat it.  This year has been hard.  We found out not one but two of our kids have autism, and while some kids with autism don’t have meltdowns, ours do.  I don’t want to go into too much detail because while this is part of my story, it’s not MY story alone; it’s also my kids’ story, and I want to respect their privacy.

However, it’s a well known fact that when you start ABA therapy, behaviors get worse before they get better, and we’re smack in the middle of the “get worse” phase.  Since only one child has started ABA therapy, we’ll have to repeat this process again when the other child starts ABA.

But we’re doing it because we hope to reach our children and help them with their struggles in ways that we can’t help them now.

So, LIFE has brought me down to my knees, but that doesn’t mean I have to collapse.  I’m stronger than that.

I’m going to work on reestablishing my goals, even in the midst of this epic struggle.

My only goal for this week is to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  That’s it.

I’m not going to count calories or try to limit my sweets or feel guilty about what I eat.  I’m simply going to do what God intended we humans do–eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.

How do you take care of yourself when LIFE brings you to your knees?  I’d love suggestions.  (And yes, while most of my goals have gone out the window, I’m still praying, alot!)


Menu Planning for August 12, 2018

Last week, I couldn’t make two of my meals because I didn’t have carrots in the house.  Those meals are on the menu plan again this week.

One of the nights when I didn’t have a meal planned because of my lack of carrots, I searched and found a recipe for turkey chili using ingredients I already had on hand.  It was delicious!  I’m making it again this weekend and putting it into single size servings for my lunches.

Here’s the plan for this week:


Lunch: Spaghetti, broccoli

Dinner: Hearty Meatball Soup, salad


Lunch: Easiest Burrito Bowl

Dinner: Incredible Boneless Pork Roast with Vegetables


Tuna Noodle Casserole, carrot sticks



Danish Pork Burgers, Baked Potatoes, veggie


Paleo/Whole 30 Beef Stew, salad




Chalupa Salad (from My FreezEasy)

What’s on your menu for the week?

For more meal planning ideas, visit Menu Planning Monday and Gluten Free Menu Swap.

What I Read with the Kids: July, 2018

Last month I started a new little feature–what I read aloud to the girls each month.  Cuddle Bug loves, loves, loves to be read to, and right now, that is how she is getting a lot of her schooling.  We’re also in the car for at least an hour a day, so we try to listen to audio books during that time.

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Books We Read

Here are the kids’ books we read in July:

Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story by Andrea Warren

Last month we read a fiction book about a boy who rode the Orphan Train, so this month, we read the non-fiction book Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story.  We both enjoyed this book.  The book tells the story of Lee Nailling, who rode the Orphan Train with his brothers when his father gave up Lee and all of his siblings after their mother dies.  Lee was nine years old when he rode the train, and he didn’t have a smooth transition.  He was placed in three different homes before he finally was place with a loving couple he could live with (and could live with him).

The book alternated chapters; one chapter would be about Lee, and the next would be factual information about the Orphan Train.  I liked this format.

The Diary of Minnie Bonner: A City Tossed and Broken by Judy Blundell

In The Diary of Minnie Bonner: A City Tossed and Broken, Minnie is a 14 year old girl whose life is turned upside down when her father gambles away their tavern and leaves the family.  Desperate, her mother agrees to let Minnie move with the family, the Sumps, who now own the tavern, to work as their maid.  Minnie and the Sumps arrive in San Francisco just days before the 1906 earthquake.

This story is suspenseful as Minnie not only tries to survive the earthquake but also fight to get her family’s tavern back.

Everyday Angel: New Beginnings by Victoria Schwab

In Everyday Angel: New Beginnings, Aria is a guardian angel who comes to help Gabby, a 12 year old girl whose older brother is fighting cancer.  Gabby’s mom is a single mom, and understandably, most of her attention goes to her child in the hospital, which leaves Gabby feeling lost and abandoned.  Aria comes to help the family and is successful in the end.

A Family Apart by Joan Lowery Nixon

Last month we read Caught in the Act, which was the second book in Nixon’s Orphan Train Adventures, so this time, we read the first book, A Family Apart, which documents the Kelly children being given up by their mother in order to save the oldest son, Michael, from going to prison because he steals to help support the family.  The oldest daughter, Frances, cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy because she wants to stay with the baby of the family who is only six.  She’s heard that boys are more likely to be adopted than girls because they can help with farm work.

While the orphan train started out with good intentions, our reading, including the books in this series, show how badly things could go if children weren’t adopted by the right families.

Audio Stories

We only finished three audio stories this month because a large part of the month was spent listening to The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, which is just shy of 14 hours long!  We finished it a few days into August, so I’ll be writing about that one next month.

Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

We continued to listen to our Little House in the Prairie audio stories.  (We listened to several in May.)  The girls enjoyed Farmer Boy, especially PB & J Girl because there was less singing than in the audio stories about Laura’s life.  Sometimes the girls got a little exasperated with all the descriptions of how to do things back then, but overall, they liked the story.

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder

When I was young and read all the books in this series, By the Shores of Silver Lake was my least favorite because it seemed so rough.  Ma and Pa move out to Dakota territory, and they’re among the first there.  They’re surrounded by a rough bunch, and the story just feels a bit dark to me.  Listening to the audio story, I realized I still feel the same way about this book.  The girls, however, enjoyed it.

A Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

I only half listened to A Door in the Wall, but I loved the sentiment of various things in our life that can be doors in the wall, or openings to new things in our lives.  Knowing how to read is a door in the wall, for instance.  Though I thought Cuddle Bug might get confused by the language and setting in this story, she did just fine.

Books read aloud in June and July: 10

Audio stories listened to in June and July: 6