Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Need One (or more) Of These!

My friend Jenny in Texas just started a little business making these wonderful "word hangings." Some of them hang from a line like mine, and some are on wreaths. They are so beautiful and creative - each letter is mounted on a page from an old book! I believe mine is mounted on pages from the book Texas by James A. Michener. (Perfect!) You MUST go check out the rest of her designs at Helm House Creations.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back To School 2008-2009

We just completed our third week of the school year, so I though I'd post the things what each child is studying/participating in this year.

I can't believe Kory is in the 8th grade this year - which also means it is our 9th year of homeschooling! Kory is a great student - such an eager learner and sponge! Here's what he is up to:

Bible Study - Design For Discipleship- books 5-8
Math - Saxon Algebra I
Language Arts - Learning Language Arts Through Literature - Grey Book
Writing - The Write Stuff Adventure
Geography - Around the World in 180 Days (with our homeschool co-op)
Science - Choosing Good Health (A Beka) + The Body Book (basic anatomy) (fall sem.)
Exploring Creation Through General Science (Apologia -2nd half of book)
Logic - Traditional Logic (2nd half of book)
Latin - Henle (looking for a new textbook here!)
Greek - Elementary Greek Year 2 (Open Texture)
Typing - Typing For Business Plus (CD-Rom)
Piano - weekly lesson
Football - practice 2x a week, 2 games per weekend through Oct.
And Cooper is in the 6th grade this year. He started a couple of new activities this year that really seem to be niches for him - tennis and guitar. He is a natural at both! These are his current subjects:
Bible Study - Early History of Israel: Exodus Through Joshua (Bible Discovery Workbook)
Math - Saxon 7/6
Language Arts - Learning Language Arts Through Literature - Purple Book
Writing - The Write Stuff Adventure
Geography - Around the World in 180 Days (with our homeschool co-op)
Science - Choosing Good Health (A Beka) + The Body Book (basic anatomy) (fall sem.)
Investigating God's World (A Beka - 2nd half of book in 2nd semester)
Typing - Typing For Business Plus (On CD-R0m)
Tennis - weekly lesson
Guitar - bi-weekly lesson (and he's begging for more!)
Kayla is a 3rd grader this year, so.... cursive, multiplication, and the whole bit! She could not wait for school to start, and is an all-around good student! Kayla's subjects are:
Bible Study - Old Testament Overview (Bible Discovery Workbook)
Science - Choosing Good Health (A Beka) + The Body Book (basic anatomy) (fall sem.)
Kayla also participates in a weekly science co-op/class with kids her age every Tues.
Math - Saxon 3
Language Arts - Learning Language Arts Through Literature - Yellow Book
Latin - Prima Latina (Memoria Press)
Handwriting - A Reason For Handwriting - Cursive
Geography - Around the World in 180 Days (with homeschool co-op)
Typing - Mavis Beacon Typing
Piano - weekly lesson
Ice Skating - weekly lesson

I made a few changes from our regular curricula this year. Instead of doing separate spelling and grammar curricula, I switched to Learning Language Arts Through Literature which incorporates both, but in the context of passages from good literature, or from the reading/studying of whole books. For example, Kory has been taking dictation from A Man Called Peter and The Gift of the Magi, and studying things like verb tense, capitalization rules, and personal and possessive pronouns. Cooper started the year by reading Farmer Boy, answering comprehension and thought questions after every 3-5 chapters, working on sequencing events from the book, and looking up vocabulary words. I am really enjoying the structure this book provides! We are still doing a separate writing curriculum (The Write Stuff Adventure), as I feel we are weak in this area. I love to write, but I have a hard time teaching it to the kids, and motivating them to love it as much as me! This book gives a short writing exercise for each day. Also, I'm continuing Latin and Greek with Kory, even though I said I wouldn't at the end of last year. It is very hard for me to keep up with these languages enough to check Kory's work and help him through each chapter. Drew encouraged me to press on, as Kory has been studying Latin since the third grade. Being able to read the classics in their original languages is a reward after so much study, so on we go - though we are looking into tutors and a more appealing textbook! (Apologies to Mr. Henle.)

We're going through a health book and an anatomy book as a family this semester as we've never formally studied these things, but everyone will return to individual science courses in the spring.

It definitely has its difficult days, but I still love homeschooling! The opportunity to teach, disciple, and learn alongside each of my kids is a true blessing.

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.

You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.

You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9


Gluten Free Friday - Apple Crisp

I've been watching the local apples turn red for a month or so now. Fall in New England is pretty spectacular, and we love to pick apples, but my heels start digging in as I feel winter approaching! Making apple crisp is one of my favorite ways to celebrate fall. I made the first one of the season today to deliver to the below mentioned friends, as it was my turn to provide them with a post-baby-arrival meal! This recipe comes from Heart of the Home by Susan Branch.
(I love her cookbooks which double as water color art books - also her calendars, cards, stickers, and tea set! Robert gave me the teapot as a birthday gift this year, and we use it every morning!)

Apple Crisp

4-6 medium peeled, sliced, tart apples
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup GF flour
1/2 cup oats (Use Bob's Red Mill GF Oats or use a crushed GF cereal in their place.)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg (I use less.)
1/3 cup softened butter

Butter a square baking dish. (8 in.) Place apple slices in dish. Mix remaining ingredients, and sprinkle over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.

This recipe doubles and triples easily. Sometimes I make double the topping for a more crusty dessert. To make it "gluten-full" just use regular oats and regular white flour or whole wheat flour. I simply substituted GF ingredients where needed.

Friday, September 19, 2008

News From the Pumpkin Patch

I didn't even remember planting pumpkins in the spring, but a few weeks back I noticed an unfamiliar plant growing up into the tomatoes. It was near the squash, so I thought it was some sort of mutant zucchini - round and light green. Later it became dark green and took on a more familiar shape, and then I realized......it's a PUMPKIN!

We actually have two of them growing in the garden currently - sort of greenish still, with speckles of orange emerging. I think we are going to cut them off of their vines tonight as the temperature here last night was 36 degrees! Wow - our own home grown pumpkins - cutting down on the fall decorating budget! :)
And on Monday, Robert and I went to the hospital to visit another cute little pumpkin named Maris Margaret - the first baby of good friends Michelle and Jonah. She is beautiful, and mom is recovering well from delivering the nearly 9 pound girl! Congrats, guys!

Gluten Free Friday - Black Bean Soup

This recipe can be super easy if you use canned beans, or a bit more involved if you don't. We have it for lunch quite a bit with tortilla chips and cheese on top, or with a side of quesadillas.

Black Bean Soup

1 large can black beans, undrained
1 small can black beans, undrained
(or 3 small cans would work!)

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
4 cups of water (divided: 3 cups for soup + 1 can for cooking the rice)
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp butter or olive oil
1 package Good Seasons Italian Salad Dressing and Recipe Mix
(a dry packet used for making salad dressing - or use your own dry spices -garlic/onion/sugar)

Cook rice in 1 cup of water until done - 30 min or so. While rice cooks, blend large can of beans (or two small ones - with liquid) in a blender or food processor. Pour this into a pot adding the 3 cups of water and can of whole beans as well. Simmer and stir. Saute onions and carrots in butter or oil 5 minutes or until carrots are crisp tender - add to beans and stir. Add Italian Salad Dressing packet and rice. Stir over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Serve with above mentioned items, or grilled cheese, or top with sour cream. Adding a poblano pepper (or any other favorite pepper) to the sour cream and blending creates a delicious topping as well!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Highlights from the Summer (i.e Why I am tired)

We started school this week, but it was not an easy transition as I am still recuperating from the most crazy, full, over-the-top summer I think we have ever had. It was all good stuff - just absolutely non-stop. Our last big event was our annual trip to Ogunquit, Maine where we stay for free in a cabin owned by a wonderful couple who sees it as their ministry to provide this place to pastors and missionaries. It is located in the most amazing location - overlooking a cove and out into the Atlantic - and just a short walk to the very quaint and lively town.
We spent our days on the beach, and evenings walking in town, shopping and eating ice cream.
And we usually make a yearly trek to the Nubble Lighthouse located in York, Maine. There are huge rocks here jutting out in to the ocean, which we love to climb all over!
The trip to Texas was great and overflowing with back-to-back activity. This is my dad with his three girls. There's a boy/brother, too, but he couldn't get off from work to make the journey from California, and he was missed. We enjoyed great tex-mex this evening!
Melinda (youngest sister) and I enjoyed meeting in New York City (only a 3 hour drive for me) for a couple of days and shopping at only the best places, of course! ;) ) I've already told you that Mary Poppins was the highlight of this trip - just wonderful!
A birthday for Miss Kayla - #8! And the requested Red River Mud Cake.
Raising chickens - and spending a lot of time chasing them out of my neighbor's yard and flower gardens! Guess one acre isn't quite enough for their rebellious teenage ways. (We should finally have eggs next month!)
Trip of a lifetime to Switzerland.....9 days.....no children.......chocolate........espresso........trains across the country........and the wonderfully beautiful wedding of sweet friends! Wow!
Oldest child becomes a teenager - complete with a rock climbing party.
And baseball season is what kicked it all off!
(Cooper even got some time on the pitching mound!)

Whew - and then there were two baby showers hosted, a few rounds of house guests, Vacation Bible School, one other wedding, taming the garden, Lego sorting/room cleaning, a week of youth camp, and then a complete crash last week that wasn't too pretty , and once again I'm in the process of trying to figure out how to not get to the "crash" part.

Does anybody have the Sabbath thing down? We've been reading Farmer Boy again, and I find myself longing to live in that time of simplicity. (Little House on the Prairie has always been my ideal for family and home life :) !) Almonzo and even the Wilder girls did not look forward to Sundays, because they had to sit still and not play or work. But I want to go there, and sit in the quiet, and rock, and knit by the fire. I know it requires trust and obedience, and I think I'm failing at both. A lot of the time, I don't even feel the choice to NOT do. Many times this summer I thought, "I don't even have time to think, I can only act and do the next thing, I will think at a later date" - there wasn't a spare moment for reflection or even planning - just doing. So pray for us to make the changes required, and also for peace and rest.

Gluten Free Friday

This was the featured recipe at our farm this week. I was able to get most of the ingredients in my share, so I came straight home and made it for dinner instead of what I had planned, because it sounded so good to me! My boys and I loved it, but Kayla wasn't thrilled. It comes from a cookbook entitled From Asparagus to Zucchini.

Peruvian Potatoes with Chiles and Cheese

2 lbs red potatoes
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped red onions
2 minced jalepenos
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 cup milk
6 oz. crumbled feta or goat cheese
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 Tbsp cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water until nearly tender. Heat oil in large skillet ever medium-low flame. Add onions, jalepenos, and garlic and saute 5 minutes. Drain potatoes and cut into cubes. Add potatoes and milk to skillet. Simmer until potatoes absorb some liquid. Stir in eggs, feta/goat cheese, salt and pepper. Serves 6

Monday, September 8, 2008

From the Land of Tolerance and Diversity

(or from the land of Ivory Tower Living as my friend Izzy might say)

At a community organization's dinner 2 years ago:

Organization Member: So, what kind of pastor are you? You're not an evangelical are you? (incredulous) Like George Bush?????
Robert: Well, that depends on your definition of evangelical.
Organization Member: Oh, you know.....like George Bush.....someone who says they talk to God......and He talks to them. (laughing)
Robert: I think an evangelical is someone who prays, yes, and holds the Bible as truth.
Organization Member: (more incredulous) The Bible????? It's just a book of stories......myths, really.


At a community organization meeting 1 year ago:

Me: Hi! How was it being back home in Germany?
Former member visiting from Europe: Wonderful, but the people there want to know why America voted for George Bush..... and then re-elected him. (very sincere, genuine question)
Another Member: (Rolling eyes, sighing) Oh, he's just terrible!
Me (to German friend): I believe it was the moral issues they were voting for.
Former Member from Europe: I see.
Other member: (silence)

At a Chamber of Commerce Event planning meeting 1 year ago:

Robert: Why don't we ask Whole Foods to participate this year? They are great at food tastings, demos, etc.
Board Member: Well, I don't know, they are a chain store, and they are not local - they're out of Texas. (hear the undertones of disdain)
Board President: Well....Robert's out of Texas - and we invite other grocery store chains.
Board Member: Oh, well, ummmm, errrr.........
(Whole Foods was not invited.)

At a board meeting (as a potential new member) of the local library supporters this week:

Pre -meeting Discussion: Oh, that Sarah Palin....she's twice as bad as McCain.....can you believe those Republicans?......What are they thinking?.......She's more "right" than he is etc, etc.
Agenda Item Discussion: We have to get the word out so that voters will not approve the referendum to abolish the state income tax. But, we're not allowed to be political in nature, so how will we accomplish this? There will be a big voter turnout in November - we've got to let people know that many library services will be cut if this goes through.
They've got to be informed that the states with no income tax also have no roads, no schools, and no libraries! (no exaggeration here)
I know.... We'll draft a letter letting people know about the ballot referendum and its ramifications, and then we'll hope that no Republicans show up to vote.


Board Member: (trying to get a point across clearly) Well, after suffering through last week's Republican National Convention......

Board Member: Yeah, made for an all-around bad week, huh?



Being a minority and a complete idiot can get really old sometimes.

(And just for the record, I will be "writing in" my candidate this year - and I have lived in a state with no income tax, and lo and behold, there were roads, libraries, and schools!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Touchdown!

Kory had his first game of the 2008 season yesterday, and right before halftime he scored a touchdown! His team was close to the goal, and Kory caught a pass in the end zone! So exciting - lots of cheering - we were so proud!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gluten Free Friday - Salsa

Kayla and I took our friend Kristen to our beloved Brookfield Farm yesterday. It is a CSA and our 6th or 7th season to have purchased a share there. We get to pick up fresh, organic veggies, fruits, flowers, and herbs from June through November, and we love it! Kristen and I even decided to go in together on a winter share this year. This allows us to continue to come to the farm and get veggies from the root cellar from December through March - things like potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, squash, kale, and beets - around 30lbs of veggies per month is the goal.
Yesterday I was able to get about 20 tomatoes - 6 regular, 6 heirloom, and 8 plum. The plum tomatoes are dense and good for sauce and paste, so I skinned, seeded and froze them for future sauce or soup making. Out of the 12 others I made salsa!

The easiest way to skin tomatoes is to plunge them into boiling, or just really hot water for a few seconds (really, just a few - don't cook them!), pierce the skin and peel. The skin will usually come off in one piece. You don't have to peel the tomatoes for sauce or salsa, but the final result is nice. Seeding them is a good idea for salsa, though, since it can tend to be very watery anyway.
Here's the finished product - the 12 tomatoes made two quarts of salsa. I don't "can" them as they either get gobbled up very quickly or given away. I did freeze a small jar last week, so we'll see how that works. And now the entire recipe......

Homemade Salsa
(Makes 1 quart)

6 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
(I also try and squeeze out as much of their excess liquid as possible)
2 small/medium white onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cilantro
2 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 jalepeno pepper (can use more, or less!)
4 Tbsp lemon juice, or lime juice, or cider vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar, or maple syrup
Salt
Pepper

In food processor, pulse onion, cilantro, jalepeno, and garlic. Add tomatoes, lemon/lime juice, olive oil, brown sugar, salt and pepper and blend until all veggies are finely chopped and a good consistency.

Serve with tortilla chips and watch it disappear!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Good Words: Ineffable

in*ef*fa*ble
incapable of being expressed or described; unspeakable; unutterable

I like words. I came across this word again listening to a Beth Moore audio series on the names of God. Jews refer to the tetragrammaton, (the four letter name of God - YHVH) as "the ineffable name." The Old Testament Jews would not speak or write this name. They did not even know its pronunciation, and it was only supernaturally spoken on the Day of Atonement in the temple by the priest. Coming across it in Scripture they might say "The Name" or insert another of the names of God there in its place. There was no scriptural command that they engage in this practice, it was self-imposed out of reverence and not wanting to chance that in saying The Name or writing The Name it may be defaced in some way, which was prohibited in the Ten Commandments.
In our day of extremely casual and often irreverent lifestyles, this handling of the name of God is refreshing. No, He is not asking this of us, it is not required for salvation or forgiveness or approval, but I wonder if putting a few things like this into practice wouldn't do something in our own hearts and minds. A reminder that our God is so much more than our small minds can even imagine, and He is worthy of our complete awe.

O measureless Might,
Ineffable Love,
While angels delight
To hymn thee above,
Thy humbler creation,
Though feeble their lays,
With true adoration
Shall sing to thy praise.

from the hymn O Worship the King by Robert Grant

(and I wish Mr. Smith had worked it into Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise.....it's so three quarter time perfect AND it starts with an "I" !)

(P.S. I also learned that whenever you come across the word LORD in all capitals in your Bible - it's YHVH)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dr. Kenny's Office - Never a Dull Moment

This year's well-checks were anticipated with much anxiety. Last year, Kory fainted while simply listening to the conversation I was having with the nurse over his need for a chicken pox vaccine booster. (Not his first fainting spell.) We, of course, did not go through with the shot because it took a while to calm him down after he came to - white as a sheet, cold sweat, the whole bit. (And don't even get me started about the amount of vaccines required these days - I live in the land of chicken pox parties and now have a lot of mixed feelings about vaccines in general.) So for the last few weeks, he has been checking the calendar regularly counting down the days to the inevitable.

His blood pressure was over normal range for a 13 year old, and I explained to the nurse that he was quite worked up over the shot. She decided to do that first and get it over with before the actual exams. (Cooper was having his 11 year old well-check.) As a precaution, he was lying down on the table for the shot. Cooper took his sitting on the bench. Each shot took about a half a second, and there was a wave of relief that washed over my 108lb, football playing, 13 year old boy - even incredulity that he had been so worried about nothing. And then came the comic relief......

Each exam room at our Pediatrician's office is stocked with several children's books, an Etch a Sketch, and a Magic 8 Ball - which is a fortune telling toy (gateway to the occult and all that, I know, I know) to which you ask a question, shake, and turn over to see the answer as revealed through a small window, on an icosahedral die (thank you Wikipedia) that floats in some sort of blue solution. Isocahedral means 20-sided, therefore there are 20 possible responses to your question. Cooper picked up the ball and began to interact with it.....

Cooper (to the Magic 8 Ball): Am I a weirdo?
Magic 8 Ball( with Cooper reading aloud):As I see it, yes.
Cooper: shakes the ball hoping for a different response
Magic 8 Ball: It is decidedly so.
Cooper: highly offended, shakes the ball again
Magic 8 Ball: Without a doubt.
Cooper: shakes a last time
Magic 8 Ball: You can count on it.

Cooper: OK, well is Kayla a weirdo? (She was in the room also.)
Magic 8 Ball: My sources say no.
Cooper: Incredulously shakes the ball again
Magic 8 Ball: Very doubtful
Cooper puts the ball down - it obviously knows nothing.

Leave it to Cooper to lighten the mood with his comedy routines. We love our little weirdo!