Christmas Baking 2016 – RAISIN OATMEAL COOKIES


Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, and Grandmelina to 2!

Yup.  We like our Christmas desserts.  No doubt about it.  Each of the kids (at home) makes a dessert to share at Christmas.  The kids who aren’t home get a tin of our favourite desserts to enjoy too!  And of course, we make a double batch – eat half now, freeze half for Christmas.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. hot water
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup raisins

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until frothy.  Beat in both sugars.  Add the cooking oil and the vanilla.

Dissolve the baking soda in the water, then stir into the mixture.

Add the oats, the flour and the salt.  Stir well.  Add in the raisins and stir well again.  Drop by spoonfuls onto greased or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350°F  oven for 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Variations:  leave out the raisins;  spice them up with 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and 1/4 tsp. allspice;  add 1/2 nuts.


Check out my other Christmas dessert recipes:











TOURTIERE (savoury meat pie for main course)





Christmas Baking 2016 – COCONUT MACAROONS (Gluten Free)


Coconut Macaroons

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, and Grandmelina to 2!

We LOVE coconut.  Some of us are also grain free.  And I love easy and delicious.  So I made some coconut macaroons for my DH and kids today – half to eat now, and half to freeze for Christmas (only 10 days to go!).  The first of my Christmas baking this year.  Well, second if you count the fudge stored away in the freezer.


  • 6 cups (200 g x 3) sweetened coconut
  • 1 can (300 ml) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine all of the ingredients and mix well.  I made balls of the coconut mixture and placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet.  If you’d rather not get your hands so messy, you can place rounded spoonfuls of the coconut mixture on the parchment lined baking sheets instead.  Bake each batch at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.  Cool completely and remove (I used a metal flipper to facilitate removal).

Want to dress up your macaroons?  Dip the bottoms in melted chocolate.












TOURTIERE – savoury meat pie for main course

Christmas Baking 2016 – EASY MICROWAVE FUDGE


Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, Grandmelina to 2!


For years I’ve been making and selling fudge.  This Christmas I retire.  Already I feel the freedom!

I have really, really enjoyed my customers and the other vendors.  I will miss everyone tremendously, but now is the time for family.  We can only stretch ourselves in so many directions when we realize it’s time to sit back and decide what is most important.  And you never know, I may be back before you know it.

Most of my fudge is based on this recipe and variations of this recipe.  You can add things to it – like caramel pieces and pecans – and make something totally new.  Or add some colour and flavouring – like orange – and you again have made something to tickle your taste buds.

You can check out this post for some flavour ideas.

But first you start with the basics.

I like to use Merckens chocolate flavoured wafers.  It sets nicely as fudge.  I’ve recently used another brand that just won’t set as fudge – but still tastes great.  You can also try your favourite chocolate chips.  Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk also tastes better than some of the other brands.

Oh yes, it is also GLUTEN FREE (check your individual ingredients to make sure they are gluten free).

This is a great addition to every Christmas dessert platter and will bring many little moans of enjoyment.



Makes a 9×9 inch pan.  Double for a 9×13 inch pan.

  • 1 pound of chocolate or vanilla flavoured wafers
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • butter or oil spray
  • aluminum foil
  • 9×9 inch pan


First, prepare your pan.  Line your pan with aluminum foil.  Next, grease the aluminum foil in your pan with butter or spray with oil spray.  Make sure it is well covered in grease so that your fudge will remove easily

Using a glass bowl, melt your chocolate or vanilla flavoured wafers in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each 20 seconds until it is all melted.  If some lumps remain, don’t worry – just proceed with the recipe.  After it is well stirred, add in your sweetened condensed milk and stir well.  You will notice that the fudge thickens as you stir.  After the sweetened condensed milk is completely stirred in, you are ready to pour your fudge into your prepared pan.  Allow to set overnight or for several hours.

Remove your fudge from the pan and remove the aluminum foil.  Cut into 1 inch pieces and enjoy!

note:  You may also want to freeze your fudge to enjoy later.   After your fudge has set,  your can wrap the fudge in large pieces or wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, put in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.





Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!



Today our family will light our first Advent candle – a purple one.  This candle signifies hope.

As it says in Romans 15:12-13

12 And again, Isaiah says,

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
    one who will arise to rule over the nations;
    in him the Gentiles will hope.”[a]

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Every year we light our Advent candles.  Each night at supper we will light the candle while we sing our Advent song.  Then we blow them out so the candles last the whole season.  You can listen to the first verse here.

Advent Song

First verse:  

Light the Advent candle one
Now the waiting has begun
We have started on our way
Time to think of Christmas Day
Candle, candle burning bright
Shining in the cold winter’s night
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light 
You can look up some of our other Advent traditions in these posts:
Does your family celebrate Advent in a similar way, or do you have other traditions?

Kris Kindles – an Advent Tradition


Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

We start Kris Kindles (KK’s) today, the first day of Advent. This literally means “Christ Child”.  We choose names from a bowl and treat that person as the Christ Child for the Christmas season.  This is our gift to Christ on his birthday – Christmas.

This is very similar to Secret Santa, except that we do it for the whole Advent season.  We leave little presents (often candy or drawings) under our  KK’s pillow, do chores for them, do special things with them – all while trying to remain anonymous.

On Christmas Eve, we give our KK a small gift and reveal ourselves to them.  It’s a lot of fun, even if we do often guess who has us before the end.  We’ve already chosen our names and the kids are super pumped.  Let the fun begin!

When I was young and in school, I remember our school had a manger for baby Jesus.  Every time we did a good deed, we got to add a piece of straw to the bed where Jesus was placed on the last day of school before Christmas Holidays.

Check out my other Advent posts:

First Sunday of Advent

Jesse Tree – an Advent Tradition

Advent at our House

Have you ever done this, or Kris Kindle, or maybe Secret Santa, with your family or friends?

Jesse Tree – an Advent Tradition


Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

The first Sunday of Advent is the day to start the Jesse Tree.

What is the Jesse Tree?  Jesse was the father of King David in the bible.  Jesus was born of the line of David.  So the Jesse Tree is a compilation of readings on the genealogy of Jesus starting with Adam and Eve and ending on Christmas with the birth of Jesus.  Each day has a symbol to go with the reading.

Some people hang their symbols on a tree, adding a new one each day.  We use the calendar that my daughter and I designed in 2002.  We just open a new window each day.  We’ve been using the same calendar for the last 14 years and it has lasted well!

We’ve now made the calendar available to you.  Just follow this link to purchase a pdf version which you can print off at home.  I recommend using cardstock to make it durable.

They make great gifts too.

Check out my other Advent posts:

Advent at our House

Kris Kindles – an Advent Tradition

First Sunday of Advent

Do you already have a Jesse Tree in your home?

Taco Tuesday – Gluten Free and Grain Free Versions

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!








Tuesday rolled around this week and the kids were disappointed there were no tacos.  They’ve been talking about Taco Tuesday for a while, and still I have not delivered.  Imagine having a specific recipe one day a week?  That would make life that much simpler.

I don’t eat the tacos myself, but I really enjoy Taco Salad.  I just find them messy, but my husband absolutely adores them and the mess doesn’t bother him.  We just put a lot of napkins out on the table, and keep a sweet drink on the table to put out any mouth fires from the hot sauce.

It’s a really fun food and great for an informal gathering too!  No need for a casserole or roast every time you have guests over.

We usually use hard taco shells and have a taco salad (recipe included) to go with it.  I make my own seasoning (recipe included) which is delicious!  We also sometimes make taco shells out of grated cheese (recipe included).

After putting meat in the taco shell (we buy flat bottomed shells when possible – they stand up on their own), we have a variety of toppings for people to choose from:  Frank’s Hot Sauce, salsa, sour cream, lettuce and grated cheese.  You could also include finely diced tomatoes.

Just pan fry your ground beef in a pan until cooked and crumbled.  Next add seasoning (with a touch of water, if needed, to help it to mix in), and serve!

The left-over meat can easily be make into a chili, so don’t be afraid to make too much.

TACO SEASONING (for 1 pound of meat)

(make sure that each individual spice is gluten free, if needed)

  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper



Cut up a bowlful of lettuce.  Add some French or Catalina salad dressing to the lettuce and toss until well coated.  Next add in salsa, and mix again.  Toss in some meat and you’re done!  Optional add-ins:  tomatoes, grated cheese and crushed corn chips.


On a dinner plate, place a square of parchment paper.  Place a handful of grated cheese on the paper, spreading it out into a circle.  Microwave for approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds (microwaves will vary).  After removing from the microwave, fold the cheese and paper into a taco shell shape as it cools (shouldn’t take long).  It will hold its shape and add your taco meat and toppings as desired.



Homeschooling: Raising Independent Learners

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!sacred-heart-gardens-homeschool-book-2

Homeschooling is not difficult, but sometimes life can get busy or complicated – like for us, right now.  This is a very busy season in our family.  To avoid falling behind in our schooling and feeling the burden as primary educators, we need to teach our children to be independent in their learning – with guidance from us.  My girls are keeping up with their schooling even when I am not present to teach.  I need to monitor and correct, as needed.

Teaching our kids to be independent in their learning will not only help us and keep our homeschooling going even when we don’t have enough time to grow it, but it will give our kids invaluable learning skills.

My oldest daughter graduated from university, and shared with one of her professors that the learning style we have at home helped her in university immeasurably – as much as, or more than, the content she learned in high school.

The sheer size of our family – all those child bearing years and little ones running around – formed our learning style.  It works for us and can work for you too.

Do your kids a favour:  stand back and watch them learn!

The Early Primary Years – kindergarten, grades 1 and 2

No way around it.  The early stages of teaching are very hands on.  Our kids know nothing yet and need to be taught.  But we can still keep the teaching to the necessary.

Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and religion – the 4 R’s of learning – should be the core of our schooling.  Teaching them to read will open up learning in all areas, and promote independence.

Teaching little ones to read doesn’t take much time each day, and shouldn’t.  They can’t focus for very long and shouldn’t be expected to.  No matter which curriculum you choose, the daily lessons are broken down into small bite sized pieces.  A couple of tricks I’ve learned:  first, take 2 years to do the grade 1 phonics curriculum, starting in kindergarten.  Taking it slowly eases the burden on both parent and child.  Second, ask an older child (if you have one) to do the daily lessons with their younger sibling.  This has a few benefits:  the older child learns skills in teaching – a whole lesson in itself, the younger child is learning to read and write, and the parent is freed up to focus on another child – for schooling or care.  And read lots to your kids.  This will instill a love of reading.


For arithmetic, I just focus on counting, then adding and subtracting, next I introduce some multiplication by grade 3, we do money management (letting them earn coins and count them out and learn to buy little things at the store) and time recognition.

Religion is done with family prayer, bible stories, rosary praying, movies, church, and highlighting the liturgical seasons.  For us it also includes teaching for First Communion, Reconciliation and Confirmation.

The Middle Primary Years – grades 3, 4 and 5

Some kids learn to read more quickly than others, but by the end of grade 3 the goal is for the kids to be pretty much independent in their learning.

Most school books are broken down into daily lessons.  Teach the kids to read their lesson, do their lesson, and, if a teacher’s correcting book is available, to correct their own lesson.  Encourage them to come to you when they can’t figure something out on their own or they are overwhelmed, or again, give that responsibility to an older child, if there is one around.

For English, I like to have weekly spelling tests as well as follow a language arts program with extra grammar exercises.  Ours works for us, but is now out of print.  I’m sure there are better programs out there.  Get them to read books too.  You can suggest books based on what you want them to learn at the time too – history based novels based on different time periods,  Black History novels during February, Canadian History novels, biographical novels, saint novels and general interest novels.  Let them choose books they like too.  Not everything has to be a lesson.  Continue reading novels out loud to your kids and sharing in the adventure.


For math, I start the kids in Saxon 5/4 before the end of grade 3.  They are more than capable by then.    Do as many of the lessons as possible orally at the beginning, jumping through them quickly.  This can easily bring you to lesson 20, saving you a whole month of schooling.  One lesson a day and doing every other number has been successful for us.  Most of my kids have really excelled in math in high school.  When you finish your book, start the next one right away.  You don’t have to wait until September.  If you didn’t finish a book before summer, pick up right where you left off when school starts up again.

Choose a bible study that the kids can do on their own, while still continuing with family prayer, bible stories, rosary praying, movies and church.  You can add in some art and some story retelling to make things interesting.

I start adding in more subjects as we go along:  French language studies (but make sure the kids can read well in English before adding a foreign language), and other subjects as the kids have an interest with the odd unit study (in history, geography and science).  I take a pretty unschooling approach to the rest of our learning.  Some things the kids have done and do on their own have included:  art, crafts, karate, sports, fashion design, sewing, knitting, crochet, cooking, story writing, skateboarding, movie making, horseback riding, gaming, piano, guitar, singing, among others.

Sports have always been important to us, with karate being the constant for personal fitness.  You can start teaching the kids more lifeskills now too:  cooking, cleaning, child care and money management.  We make learning fun with outings and co-op.

The Upper Primary Years – grades 6, 7 and 8

By this stage, the kids should be totally independent unless you are doing a unit study with them.  If they can’t do a subject on their own, change your curriculum until you find something that works.  We always finish school by noon.  If a child really procrastinates, they’ll need to work in the afternoon to get the work done, but this doesn’t happen often.

Focus on getting all of their core subjects done (reading, writing, arithmetic and religion) on a daily/weekly basis.  Have the kids know what is expected of them on a weekly basis, that way they can work ahead and get it all done early if they want time off.

Once the core subjects are covered and done well, you can look at adding more subjects in as time permits.  I try to keep the kids busy until noon, but not past noon.  If they are quick at doing their work they do more subjects, if they are slow we cut subjects out (but never the core subjects) – using noon as our guide.  Family prayer and rosary are done before school and our formal lessons start at 9am.  When adding in another subject, I always make sure it is something the kids can do independently.


In English, now is the time to add in a writing program if you haven’t already done so.  At times we’ve added in the study of Greek and Latin root words, and Latin and Logics for a more classical approach.  Now I only add in those subjects if I want to fill in time or if there is a real interest on the child’s part.  Make reading mandatory.  Consider Great Books studies.  Even one a month will add up over time. You might consider reading out loud to your kids still.  This will encourage discussion.

For math, we keep going with our Saxon Math, with one exception.  We add in a geometry unit which seems to be lacking in Saxon.  We also skip Saxon 8/7, and go right into Algebra 1/2 (the grade 9 curriculum).  By starting a new book each time the old one is finished, skipping ahead orally at the beginning of each book, and leaving out Saxon 8/7, my kids always finish at least Algebra 1 and sometimes are partway through Algebra 2 before they start at the local high school, making them much more advanced than their peers.

As well as continuing with church, family prayer, Bible study, and personal faith growth, the kids also are leaders in Vacation Bible School, summer camps, children’s liturgy and youth group.

Continue adding in subjects as time permits.  It is exciting watching our kids become excited about learning.

Keep sports and personal fitness a priority.

High School

Even though we haven’t homeschooled during these years, we continue with faith growth at home and moral development.  Youth conferences and youth groups are important to us.

Sports in and out of school continue to be important to us.

Continue to encourage reading and model it by spending time reading yourself.  Share your favourite books or the ones that have had the biggest impact on your life with your kids.  Your enthusiasm will be contagious.


Learning the ins and outs of our homebased fudge business has been a learning experience for the kids.  We live in a small town and there are not many jobs, but the kids have worked for local farmers, at the pizzeria, cutting grass, babysitting, at camps, delivering newspapers and for the midway at the local fair as well as selling fudge with me.  We encourage them to save money as possible for when they move out.

Money management includes saving, tithing, paying for their own cell phone plan (if they have one) and helping to pay for sports, mission trips, and other extra curricular activities.

It goes without saying that they help out at home with chores and child care.







Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11, Grandmelina to 2!



I’ve been making and selling fudge for years now, and chocolate peanut butter fudge is always a favourite.  I’ve decided today to share that recipe with you.  Just remember, if you see me set up somewhere with my fudge, come say thank you by buying a piece!  Let me know if you made the recipe and how it turned out.  Check out Melina’s Goodies and Gifts for all of our fudge varieties.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  IF you have leftovers, wrap with plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer.  Defrost as the urge to snack hits, or, if you’re in a generous mood, bring out when you are entertaining guests, and share.  Better yet, make when you are bringing somewhere to share, and eat in moderation.

Oh, yes – and it’s gluten free, as long as you make sure your individual ingredients are not contaminated with or contain gluten (check the peanut butter and the chocolate closely).


Makes a generous 9×13 pan.  You can half the recipe and use a 9×9 pan.

  • 1 lb. white chocolate wafers
  • 1 lb. milk chocolate wafers
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • oil spray or butter, for greasing tinfoil lined pan
  • tinfoil

1.   Line the inside of a 9×13 pan with tinfoil, allowing the tinfoil to overlap the edges of the pan.  Spray or butter the tinfoil to prevent the fudge from sticking.

2.  Melt 1 lb. white chocolate wafers in a medium sized glass mixing bowl (or large measuring cup) in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, making sure to scrape the bottom well, until completely melted.  Be careful not to scorch.  When the chocolate is melted, add 1/4 cup of peanut butter and stir until completely mixed.   Add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir well (I like to use a spatula).  The fudge will thicken as you stir.  When completely mixed in, pour the peanut butter mixture into the greased 9×13 pan.  Spread evenly and allow to set in a cool (not cold) spot (about 2 hours).

3.  Melt 1 lb. milk chocolate wafers in a clean medium sized glass mixing bowl (or large measuring cup) in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, making sure to scrape the bottom well, until completely melted.  Be careful not to scorch.  When the chocolate is melted, add 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and stir well (I like to use a clean spatula). The fudge will thicken as you stir.  When completely mixed in, pour the chocolate mixture on top of the peanut butter layer in the 9×13 pan.  Spread evenly and allow to set in a cool (not cold) spot (about 2 hours).

4.  Remove the fudge from the pan and cut into small bite sized pieces to serve.  Alternately, cut into 12 bars (6 across, the cut in half).  Each bar should be wrapped in plastic wrap before being placed in a freezer bag and frozen.

5.  Enjoy!

p.s.  Don’t forget to lick the bowl and spoons.



Challah Bread and the Lord’s Day




Hi!  I’m Melina, homeschooling mother of 11 and Grandmelina to 2!

Challah bread is one of my fondest memories of growing up.  We would make it on Saturdays and serve it up at our supper meal which we called the Lord’s Day Supper.  We had prayers to open the Lord’s Day at supper on Saturday, and another set of prayer to close the Lord’s Day on Sunday.  Challah is the traditional bread served in Jewish homes for the Sabbath.  Similarly, in our own home,  no Lord’s Day Supper was complete without Challah bread.

There’s nothing quite as homey as the smell of homemade bread baking in the oven.  The aroma fills the house and brings with it memories of yesteryear.  Before long my mother was also teaching me the art of bread making.  Learning how to bloom the yeast, knead the bread and, in the case of Challah, to braid the bread.  It was something I took for granted at the time, but now it is relegated to fond memories.  It is an art I’d like to pass on to my girls.

Those meals were often shared with others – family or friends.  We belonged to a Community of believers who all shared the same Lord’s Day Prayers.  Sometimes we met communally as a big gathering, or we met in our individual homes and shared this treasure with others. Besides the meal which was delicious, there was always much laughter and sharing. Sometimes we played games or watched skits.

More recently, my siblings and I would gather at our mom’s house with spouses and kids and friends to continue this tradition.  One of my kids recently shared that this was one of their best memories – Lord’s Day Supper at Nanny’s with the cousins.  Even though we live close to each other, our lives are busy and we don’t get together unless we schedule it.  In nicer weather, Mom would always have a bonfire too.

We continue this tradition of prayers in our own home and more often than not we open and close the Lord’s Day with those same prayers, but I don’t often go out of my way to make the meal extra special.  I would like to change that.  I’d like to put extra thought and care into those weekend meals.  Sundays this time of year are made special with football season.  My husband enjoys watching the games with the kids.  We always serve up some fun food with the game – pizza, nachos, wings….  But our Saturday meal could use a little creativity.

This week, I am making the effort to include Challah bread in the menu for our Lord’s Day Supper.  I will also include my girls in the bread making experience and make some new memories for tomorrow.  I recently found a cool and mess-less way to make bread using a freezer bag!  Try it yourself.

Of course, I have to make more than 1 loaf at a time.

If you have any special Lord’s Day memories or traditions, I would love to hear them!


Makes 1 loaf.

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. quick rising yeast
  • 3+1/4 (plus a little extra) cups of flour
  • 1 large freezer bag

Add all the ingredients (but only the 3 cups of flour) to a LARGE FREEZER BAG.  Seal the bag and squish the mixture with your hands (and against a hard surface) until it is completely mixed. Place the sealed freezer bag with the dough into a bowl of warm water and let rise for 30 minutes.

Remove the bag from the water, open the bag and add another 1/4 cup of flour.  Re-seal the bag and again knead that flour into the dough by squishing the bag with your hands until all the flour is mixed in.  Place the bag in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.  The bag will get quite filled with air during that hour.

At the end of the hour, turn your oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Open the bag and remove the dough.  Squish the dough in your hands to remove any air bubbles.

Separate the dough into 3 balls.  Take each ball and roll it on a flour dusted table (use that extra flour!) into a long snake length.


Take all three lengths of dough, attach them together at one end by squishing them together with your hand and braid them as shown above.  Seal the other end again by squishing with your hand.

Place the braided loaf onto a well oiled (or parchment paper covered) cookie sheet.  Place the loaf on the cookie sheet in the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes.

Let cool and enjoy!