Monthly Archives: July 2010

Best laid plans

Well, it was grilled cheese, um, rather quesadillas for dinner tonight (out of bread, will bake more tomorrow) instead of lasagna. By a unanimous vote, instead of skipping lasagna night, we’re going to slip this week’s menu plan by a day. So lasagna tomorrow, fried chicken the next day, and I forget off the top of my head what follows, but Saturday will not be leftover day, but rather what would have been Friday’s menu.


Great Book!

We are currently reading aloud from The Horsemasters by Don Stanford. The book is out of print, and I bought it a few years ago, a battered paperback copy for about $12 which seemed exorbitant at the time, but now they’re going for much more.

If you can find this book at your library, or through Inter-Library Loan, I’d advise you to check it out! It’s a story about a group of young people (high school graduates on their way to college, and older) who are in a summer-long study program to gain credentials in horsemanship and stable management. You learn a lot about horses and teamwork in the reading. It’s a good story, published in the 50s, and reflects the moral standards of the times.

The book was the basis for a Disney movie of the same title, starring Annette Funicello, but as is so often, the movie bears only a passing resemblance to the book. The book is much, much better than the movie.

Edited to add: We were recently able to acquire a hardcover copy for about what we paid for our battered paperback some years ago. Sometimes the timing is just right. Right now hardcover copies are going for $50 at Alibris and even more at Amazon, but we paid about $15 for ours a few weeks ago. Yes, I know that means we might be able to make a profit if we turned around and sold our newly acquired copy, but it might stir up a hornets nest hereabouts.

TOS Crew: Travel Kits e-book

When I was a child, we always took a long car trip in the summer. One year we drove all the way around Lake Superior, camping along the way. One year we visited Revolutionary War sites: Liberty Hall, battlegrounds, Mount Vernon, Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg. Another year we visited Civil War battlefields. Then there were the long drives to visit aunts, uncles, cousins.

In those days there weren’t seatbelt laws, so we’d have sleeping bags laid out sardine-style in the back of the station wagon (for the night portion of the journey), and our parents would take turns driving through the night. During the day, we’d sit in our seats, reading or playing or singing. Dad would break up the journey by stopping at every historical marker and museum along the way.

To keep her sanity, Mom would pack up some special things before a trip. It might be as fancy as a travel diary for each of us, or as simple as a blank notebook with a map taped to one of the pages, and a pencil to trace our route, plus a deck of cards or a travel checkers/chess game, a new book or two and some snacks. These things minimized boredom and kept us fairly quiet, a minor miracle with four wiggly kids crammed together in a car with two parents on a seemingly unending drive.

Not just for long journeys

That’s what I thought the book Travel Kits was all about. However, it’s more! Travel kits aren’t just for long cross-country journeys, or airplane rides (I’ve put together kits of my own for those occasions). They can also be a way to keep restless siblings occupied while waiting during music lessons, or doctor visits. In addition, there’s a giving aspect to the way this e-book is written, encouraging the reader to use imagination and creativity to bless others, not just in your own family. If you know a family (with or even without children), about to embark on a journey, why not bless them with a travel kit?

Thinking ahead

With the easy, practical tips laid out in Travel Kits you can be pulling together supplies from yard sales and dollar stores to stock future travel kits. Containers for the kits could be as fancy as a Handy Box or a basket from the thrift store, or as simple as a lunch bag decorated with a few colored markers. The kits themselves are filled with little thoughtfully chosen items. (My sister in law excels at this concept, come to think of it. She’s always wrapping up little, seemingly inconsequential things and packaging them for the girls. And they’re always perfect!)

Not just for travel

These kits also make great blessing baskets/bags/boxes. Zan Tyler of Apologia talked at our recent homeschool convention about how her family ministered with “Widow Baskets,” and I, concrete visual person that I am, wondered what these might look like. Wondering no longer — Travel Kits has lots of practical suggestions for putting together care packages appropriate for a lot of different applications.

Easier than you might think

I was overwhelmed, to be truthful, when I first considered the idea, until I started reading the e-book, and realized this was something I’d already done on a smaller scale. Reading the descriptions and looking at the photos of examples, I was encouraged, and more, I realized that this would make an excellent project for our teens.

Read more about (or order) The Old Schoolhouse’s Travel Kits e-book here. This 93-page e-book, in PDF format, is $12.45 at the Old Schoolhouse Store.

You can read more TOS Crew reviews at the official review blog.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Homeschool Crew were given a free download of this e-book for review purposes. No further compensation was provided.

Adventures in Sourdough

On our recent trip to the Coast, we visited the Otis Cafe, as we almost always do. (I think we missed once, because the Cafe was closed by the time we got there.)

They have the most wonderful homemade baked goods, especially their signature breads, the whole-wheat sourdough, and the black molasses bread.

I asked if I could buy some starter. The waitress didn’t even blink — perhaps it’s a more common request than I thought.

I brought my sourdough starter home and started its care. (Glass jar, don’t touch it with metal, feed it daily with water and flour. I didn’t discard any of it for a few days, because I was building up enough starter to make pancakes.)

So far, so good. It bubbles vigorously every time I add more flour, but by the next day it’s only a little bubbly, and a layer of “hooch” is rising to the top. Still, adding flour and water and stirring seems to be just what the starter wants. If we go on vacation, I’ll need to feed it and put it in the refrigerator. The friend who gave me my last starter (which I managed to kill before I got a chance to bake with it) told me recently that it can go up to a week without feeding, in the fridge.

I found a sourdough pancake recipe here that uses just starter and no additional flour. It takes two cups of starter, which is why I needed to build up my starter for a few days.

The pancake recipe turned out more like crepes than pancakes, thin and tender. There’s an odd flavor that I attribute to the olive oil in the recipe. I only use olive oil in savory recipes, not sweet, and so my family wasn’t expecting it in pancakes. One of them said the pancakes reminded her of the taste of crispy chicken skin!

I think next time I make these pancakes I’ll try melted butter or coconut oil instead of olive oil.

Our pet starter is freshly fed and bubbling away on the counter. Perhaps in a day or two we’ll try our hand at sourdough bread!

By the way, an excellent non-sourdough bread recipe is here. I was looking for an easy bread recipe for Middlest to use for her first solo at bread baking. (Our usual One Hour Dinner Bread recipe from the La Leche League cookbook uses several tablespoons of yeast, and I could see that yeast could get spendy if the baking bug were to bite one or more of the girls, so I went looking for a large-yield recipe that uses less yeast.) She helped me with the recipe once, we were very pleased with the flavor, and she made it by herself, start to finish, yesterday. This is a very forgiving recipe. It’s not supposed to rise seven or so times — but she kept punching it down and then wandering off and forgetting it. When she finally shaped it, let it rise a last time, and baked it, it turned out fine.

If you try this 4-loaf bread recipe, don’t worry about the seemingly large amount of salt. It needs every speck to taste right.

So far, with this recipe, we’ve made loaves, cinnamon rolls, and dinner rolls. With four loaves worth of dough, we can make a variety and freeze some for later. As a matter of fact, we ate some of the cinnamon rolls for our camping breakfast last weekend. Yum!

Menu Plan Monday

I’m not sure how to do the “Menu Plan Monday” button, or where to go to sign up, but when I do figure it out I’ll incorporate it here.

This is the menu plan for this week.

Monday – Crockpot Chicken ‘n stuffing (Youngest)

Tuesday – Mac ‘n’ Cheese (Mom)

Wednesday – Stir Fry (Eldest)

Thursday – Cheese Pizza (Middlest)

Friday – Roast something or other (depends on what we have in the freezer) (Youngest)

Saturday – leftovers (Mom to organize)

As you see, there’s a cooking rotation. Each person picked what meals they’d be making, during our meal planning at the beginning of the month. On the day you cook, you’re also responsible for washing up. The menu plans revolve around this schedule:

Sunday – tea (the main meal is a shared meal at church)
Monday – crockpot
Tuesday – pasta
Wednesday – chicken
Thursday – meatless
Friday – meat (pork, lamb, beef, sausage, bacon, etc)
Saturday – leftovers

What’s your plan for the week?

TOS Crew: Travel the World!

The first official TOS Homeschool Crew review for 2001-2011 is for Travel the World!, the June 2010 module to the 2009 Schoolhouse Planner. (June is the last month in the 2009 Planner, by the way. If you’re interested in the 2010 Schoolhouse Planner, read more here.)

If you’re not familiar with The Old Schoolhouse’s Planner modules, these are themed mini-units, with informative text, links to websites with more information, activities, and recipes. The modules are offered as additions to the Planner, one per month, but you don’t have to have the Planner to enjoy using the modules. Each is a stand alone product.

June 2010’s theme is geography. After a definition of the word “geography” you’ll find a discussion how a globe is used to represent the earth, followed by information about maps. A general view of oceans and continents is followed by more detailed information on each continent. Within the text are links to interactive websites for learning and playing educational games.

Take a peek inside:

Activities in the June module include a word search, word scramble, crossword and rebus puzzles, coloring and copywork pages, and worksheets (fill in the blanks, label the maps, make a poem). There are also minibook templates and links to lapbooking directions and fun geography-related websites. (Our girls love online learning games, so these were welcome, especially with the very hot afternoons we’ve had this month, too hot to do anything out of doors.)

Several pages are devoted to high school students, with information and activities suited to the older set. (Start your own business, anyone? How about some meaty summer reading?)

This 56-page e-book costs $7.95 and is available in PDF format for download from the Schoolhouse Store.

To read more TOS Crew reviews, please see the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew were given a free download of the June 2010 module for review.

Consider the source

I had to take a book back to the library the other day, barely read.

I didn’t want it in the house. I didn’t want any of our voracious young readers to pick it up.

It was recommended by a friend when we were comparing good reads, and so I got on the library’s wait list for it. It was an intriguing premise: a love story of a man who travels through time, randomly and not of his own choosing, and the woman he keeps coming back to.

*sigh* I should have realized that a “love” story on today’s list of “good reads” is most likely a s** story, full of titillating details. But I read so little of modern fiction these days, I had forgotten. (s** is a euphemism, obviously, not because I’m afraid to say the word, but because I don’t want web-crawling robots to pick up on this post for the wrong reasons)

(I picked up a book by a popular Christian author recently, and it was too explicit for me… refining fire has been at work over the past few years, I think, even though I wasn’t noticing…)

There’s something about the act of s**– it’s difficult to discuss on this G-rated blog, but when you look at origins, there’s the Biblical principle that the two shall become as one. That is in the context of a proper helpmeet (who became mother of all the living), made for the Man because in all the world, in all of Creation, no suitable helpmeet could be found for him (no surprise, actually — it was all part of the Plan) until God took a rib from the man’s side and fashioned  Woman. Their union was part of the beauty of creation. Man was incomplete without her, but when they came together it was as if his missing part had been restored, and together they made a perfect Whole. They were truly made for each other.

The physical act was meant to be a part of a whole, part of a relationship of two becoming one, in spirit, in vision, in common purpose. In an ideal world, people would not be self-destructive, and so if your mate is as a part of yourself, you would look out for the other person’s best interests, and the other person would be looking out for yours. (I’ve heard it said by strident modern voices that marriage should be a 50-50 proposition, and they’re darn well determined to make sure their partner gives every bit of 50 percent; but the marriages that I see working are the ones where each half of the whole strives to give 100 percent.)

Since the Fall and the corruption of Creation, the physical act has also been corrupted into many things: an expected culmination to a casual encounter, a way to hurt someone else, often a way of using or being used to fill some deep craving that, only temporarily satisfied (if you can even call it that), keeps coming back and demanding more.

Pick up almost any romance novel and you’ll likely find yourself immersed in p*rn, not so many page-turns away. Even in Christian books, if you’re not already desensitized to it, you’ll read thoughts and actions that stir your own feelings, a sort of virtual adultery (yes, for the Lord said if a man even looks on a woman with lust, he’s guilty; that’s how serious this is).

In the classic books that we’ve been reading the past decade or so, certainly there are romances, and love stories, and even implied immorality. Notice the key word: implied. Not in your face, blow by blow, thought-by-thought, sensation by intimate sensation as you find in today’s books. It’s as if people just cannot get enough; like addicts, they need more and more to approach that all-elusive feeling of satisfaction.

This modern book, so highly recommended by a friend, was so much more explicit than I’d want to read, or want our teens to read. I forgot to consider the source, you see. The friend and I have a touchpoint, a small slice of common ground, a place where our taste coincides, but I did not realize how different our tastes in literature could be, until I picked up this book, opened it at random, and began to read.

It makes me sad, because good books are hard to find, and she had thoughtfully given me a list of her favorites to consider for summer reading leisure. Now I must consider carefully before bringing any of those books home, for even if I have the discipline to put down a book I find unwholesome or damaging to my inner thought life, I don’t need the girls to be filling their heads with such thoughts. (Ah, I sound such a prude, but on second thought is that such a bad thing to be? Its derivation is from the French for “virtuous woman” or so The Free Dictionary says. “Prude” could also be short for “prudent” which, rather than the “overly” and “excessive” modifiers attached to “prude” has instead a connotation of wisdom and sound judgment. Why is it so common in our fallen world to taunt people for trying to walk the narrow path instead of the broad way that leads to destruction? Rhetorical question, the Bible has a number of passages that address this.)

So, do you have any book recommendations, whose authors hold to higher moral standards, or at least show consideration for their reader?

Just off the top of my head (and I’m in haste, so this will be a short list), these are some we’ve enjoyed:

– anything by Jane Austen (except Northanger Abbey, didn’t like that one)
– just about anything by Miss Read (yes, there is some impropriety expressed by some characters, but “crime doesn’t pay” in her world, just as is true in the real world)
– Jan Karon’s Mitford series
– hobbity fanfiction posted on the web by an author with the pen name Dreamflower
– C.S. Lewis’ works
– J.R.R. Tolkien’s works
– Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter series
– Ellis Peters and her Cadfael series
– Cornelia Funke’s Ink- trilogy

Menu Plan Monday

Well, we did it.

I’ve been thinking about menu planning for a long time now. (How long? you ask? Well, I’m calendar challenged, and add to that I have very little sense of time, so let’s just leave it at “long time now”. Years?)

Oh, I’ve done menu planning before. Before the food allergies hit so hard (oh, my, that would be 14 years ago!) I would look at the inserts to the Tuesday Food Day and plan menus around the sale items.

While we were on our rotation diet I planned two weeks of menus at a time.

Tried once a month cooking. Threw my back out. Tried a variation–doubling recipes and freezing half. Worked for awhile but then the girls started their growth spurts and quite often that “extra half” got devoured, or seriously depleted, leaving enough leftovers for lunch but not enough for everyone to have for another dinner.

When life got busy and the allergies had abated somewhat, I started cooking catch-as-catch-can. I’d found I pretty much bought the same staples every week (milk, eggs, fresh fruit and veggies, bread either bought or baked) and once a month or even less often I could stock up on pantry items (pasta, rice, dried beans, half a side of beef for the freezer, that sort of thing) and I just fell into a rhythm of cooking.

But sometimes when life is busy the rhythm sort of stumbles. You find yourself fixing spaghetti twice in one week. Maybe even thrice. (I guess it’s the equivalent for working-outside-the-home moms when they’re going through a drive-through several times a week.) There’s the occasional night when the children just graze and there’s no formal dinner on the table. You know things have to change.

So… I brainstormed lists of foods. Beef/pork/lamb (“meat” in other words), chicken, pasta, meatless, pasta, crockpot. Sunday is a shared meal at church, so “Tea” is the order of the day.

I assigned an order to the days. For the summer, starting with Sunday, it’s Tea – Crockpot – Pasta – Chicken – Meatless – Meat – Leftovers. When fall hits, we might have more than one crockpot day, depending on our schedule, and it might not be Monday but some other day. Still, the summer is a great time to have a regular slow cooker day, when we can try out new recipes and also avoid heating up the kitchen. The other days can be slow-cooker days, too, depending on the recipe chosen.

I put all the names of the recipes I’d brainstormed onto quarter-index cards. (Cut an index card in half. Cut the halves in half. That’s what I mean.) I happened to have four colors of cards, so I assigned a different color to each category (except crockpot, tea, and leftover day).

I wrote down a cook rotation schedule on the July calendar. Mom-Eldest-Middlest-Youngest-Mom-etc. We then took turns selecting recipes. (I went last, after the girls had taken turns selecting all their recipes. We avoided conflict, in that Eldest got to be first to pick from the Meat category, Middlest got to be first to pick from the Pasta category, and Youngest got to be first to pick from the Chicken category. Since they all had favorites in every category, they seemed satisfied.

The choosing went on sort of like captains picking players for teams, until we’d assigned a meal to every day of the month.

It’s worked pretty well so far, five out of the last seven days. We were thrown off a little by park days where we went to a local river to cool off and so dinner didn’t get cooked. But other than that it’s working.

Sono’s memorial service

The service was a beautiful celebration of life and hope, even in the midst of temporal loss.

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

There was music, there were stories, tears, even laughter. Of course there were praise and worship, prayer and Scripture.

Three members of Highstrung String Quartet accompanied the music with haunting beauty. Joel Harris sang Goodbye, Mama after a heartfelt message from his older brother, Josh, who spoke of how deep and rich and all-encompassing (“ferocious”) Sono’s love was, for her children. There were remembrances that bring me to tears, thinking on them, even as I smile in recollection. I can’t put titles to all the music; nor can I name everyone who spoke, together building a picture of a woman who lived fully and… yes, “abundantly,” that is what the Bible calls it. She embraced the roles of helpmeet and mother, she invested herself in the lives of her children, and others. She was passionate about life and protecting innocent life, and used her gifts wisely and with a generous heart.

She poured out her life for the Lord. She lived… here is something I have been stabbing at for years, but never really managing. She lived deliberately. The picture emerged as the service went on, memory after memory, of a woman who once was dead in her trespasses and sins, but at age 17 was adopted into the family of God, trusting in Jesus Christ as her Savior, covered by His blood and righteousness.

For years I have been pondering what it means to live life deliberately, on purpose, but without the courage or commitment to buckle down and do it. Sono showed that it can be done, but it takes dedication. It takes energy, even when you don’t have the physical strength, and focus, the kind of focus where you keep your eyes on the Lord, living by faith.

Focus. It sounds so simple. It seems so impossible. I am so distractible. *sigh* At least now I’ve come to realize how much it impedes me  (those who know me well probably know better than I do how easily I’m distracted) I can make it a matter of prayer. Of focus. One step forward, even though so often two steps back follow? Get back up, and keep walking, and lean on the Lord, for it’s His strength and not mine that can fight this battle and succeed.

Rather than asking, “Why?” we should instead bless God for giving us the time we had with (Sono), was one of the messages spoken today. And a curious thought sprung to my mind. Sono might have lived to an old age, beside her husband. Alternatively, she might have perished instantly in a car accident, taken away without a chance to say goodbye. Instead, the Lord chose to take her in the way He did; He gave her time to spend deliberately, knowing that soon she would be going Home, and so perhaps even more intensely focused than she had been in everyday life. She spent her last days surrounded by friends and family, affirming love and shared hope, saying the important things, not a moment wasted.

Proverbs 31 sums up her life so well.

Strength and honor are her clothing;
She shall rejoice in time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom,
And on her tongue is the law of kindness.
She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her.
“Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her  own works praise her in the gates.

In a way, the memorial was not just a celebration, but a challenge to those of us she has mentored over the years.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Gal. 6:9)

I have let myself lose heart, more than once; slid back into “just going with the flow” or sometimes even just going through the motions. Up to the mountaintop, down into the valley, too often in the doldrums. But really, there is no time to waste. We never know when we will be called to give an accounting for the life given us.

Let us do our best to make it a good one.

Housekeeping, blog style

Have spent an hour or so this morning cleaning up the links in the sidebar of the home page of this blog. Several of the pages I had linked to were gone, disappeared in that mysterious way of web pages.

Happily I was able to find the pages at the Wayback Machine. I don’t know how long they’ll be stored there, but in each case I linked to the Wayback Machine’s list of pages for that site. You can click on the links there to see what was saved. In some cases, even downloadable forms in PDF are still available, just a click away.

It’s the time of year when home educators are working on plans for next year, so I hope the planning pages in the links will come in handy for somebody!

I just heard the washer spin to a stop, so it’s time to hang out those clothes and let them dry by solar power. That’s one of the pluses of 99 degree weather…