Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekly Happenings: Powering Through, Pastels, and Poetry

We were all sick this week. Himself even worked from home, so he was here with us. The malaise was oddly up and down: we'd be poorly one day, and the next only stuffy and cough-y. Then back to poorly the next day. We drank gallons of tea and ate a lot of soup, both storebought and homemade. I doctored up a minestrone mix and the results were super delish. I also made some basic chicken noodle soup with chicken Better than Bouillon lower sodium paste, water, spaghetti noodles, and carrots (I doctored my servings with Italian seasoning). I threw it together because I didn't have any ready-made noodle soup. Turns out my homemade version was millions better. Good to know!

Most of our activities were waylaid, but we managed to get in a good week's worth of lessons.

Here's a rundown:

  • Bible study: Psalm 84 with Young Hearts Longing for God
  • Grammar: Pronouns, Daily Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Poetry: continue reading Frost
  • Math: yet more fractions
  • Composition with Writing with Skill
  • Story of the World: the Cold War, the Space Race, Civil Rights Movement, and Vietnam (whew!)
  • It Couldn't Just Happen: continental drift
  • Exploring the Holy Land: Israel
  • Queen Victoria: her adventures continue
  • School of the Woods: continue with the great blue heron. This is a long chapter, and I broke it into chunks over three weeks.
  • Piano practice
  • Assigned readings: Snow Treasure (an AO selection) for Miss Priss, and Cheaper by the Dozen for Tiny Girl

Mind Benders and hot tea -- a winning combo.

The beginnings of a Christmas tree.

On Friday, we enjoyed another pastels tutorial from Hodgepodge. This Sunday being the first in Advent, we opted for a Christmas theme. Miss Priss and I drew the Christmas Tree in Snow, and Tiny Girl felt drawn to Fireplace. Another wonderful Advent pastels tutorial is Christmas Star.

We had a wonderful time last week at my folks' house in the country for Thanksgiving. We arrived Wednesday and didn't leave for home until Sunday. The food was sublime and so was visiting with family. Bliss!

Miss Priss reading The Upstairs Room on the way to her grandparents' house for Thanksgiving.

In homekeeping, I made a few things other than soup this week. I replenished my freezer stash of homemade baking mix, and I also tried my hand at homemade dishwasher detergent. The first load is washing now, so I'll let you know how that goes.

Baking mix.

Several Frost poems engaged our rapt attentions this week. The girls especially connected with "A Tuft of Flowers" and "Mending Wall." Those are of course absolutely wonderful, but the one that spoke the most to me was "Revelation," today's selection. I think perhaps the girls are still too young to be as moved as I. They've not yet mastered the art of dissembling, hiding behind words that have lost their meaning, hiding their hearts, yet longing for true connection.

Revelation, by Robert Frost

We make ourselves a place apart
     Behind light words that tease and flout,
But oh, the agitated heart
     Till someone find us really out.

'Tis pity if the case require
     (Or so we say) that in the end
We speak the literal to inspire
     The understanding of a friend.

But so with all, from babes that play
     at hide-and-seek to God afar,
So all who hide too well away
     Must speak and tell us where they are.

Have a lovely weekend!

I'm linking up with:
Hammock Tracks
Friday Photo Collage @ Homegrown Learners
The Homeschool Mother's Journal
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
No Ordinary Blog Hop

Curl up with your computer and a cup of tea and hop a while!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Raison d'Etre

Or at least one of them. Don't you just love C.S. Lewis's turn of the phrase?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Homeschooling Book of Lists Review at Curriculum Choice

Here's a fabulous resource for your homeschool: The Homeschooling Book of Lists! I love ahving this handy resource at my beck and call.

Pop over to Curriculum Choice and read my review to see why.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade Baking Mix

I live in America, the Land of the Baking Mix. Thinking of making some brownies? Grab a box (or bag) of brownie mix at the grocery. Maybe a cake is needed. Box of cake mix, check. Cookies? Ditto. Pancakes? Biscuits? Corn bread?

You get the idea.

The problem, of course, (other than questionable ingredients) is cost. Baking mixes are usually more expensive than homemade. Plus, homemade just tastes better.

But there is the convenience factor to consider. It's easier to measure out some baking mix, throw in an egg and some milk, et voila! Pancake batter. And you really don't even have to measure anything.

With homemade baking mix (think Bisquick), you get the best of both worlds.

I whipped up some baking mix today in my Red Steel Beauty. This is my favorite recipe. It stores for several months in the freezer.

Some recipes add sugar or use vegetable oil; this one requires no sugar and uses vegetable shortening. If you're making pancakes or shortcakes, by all means add sugar to taste.

I love keeping this mix on hand for quick drop biscuits, pancakes, dumplings, garlic-cheese biscuits, shortcakes, and Bisquick's famous impossible pies, both sweet and savory. And since I also love eating good food AND saving money, this is a real winner!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two New Galileo Notebooking Pages

I've been messing about with creating a few notebooking pages for scientists we are studying in Paul Fleisher's series, Secrets of the Universe, which is a part of Ambleside Online's Year 6 curriculum. I've uploaded my latest two on Scribd.

This first is a generic page featuring a rendering of the man himself and two quotations.

Galileo Notebooking Page

The second page is more specific to Fleisher's Objects in Motion: Principles of Classical Mechanics. It highlights the Law of Pendulum Motion and the Law of Uniform Acceleration. I used the same rendering but a different quotation.

Galileo Notebooking Page: Two Laws

Why I chose the quotations I chose: I found it intriguing that Galileo, a devout Christian, often criticizes the Church in Rome in his writings for its stance against heliocentrism. For Galileo, one's firm and unyielding faith in God did not negate one's own God-given power of observation and reason.

I hope you find these useful!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Favorite Day -- and a Dessert Recipe

Photo credit
Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.

I've shared before that my mother is the ninth of ten children, so my extended family is large -- beautifully large. A great many of us gather together on Thanksgiving, and there's almost always a baby to pass around. On that day, more than 70 family members bow our heads and profess our great gratitude to God for the blessings He so freely gives.

We also laugh a lot. We are a fun-loving group. Miss Priss says, "I love hanging out with my cousins that I usually only see once a year at Thanksgiving."

Then there's the food. Traditional Thanksgiving favorites are there, of course, but so are Grammie's mac and cheese; beef bouillon rice; corn casserole; and tasty new dishes on the buffet line. It's a potluck affair. It's taken Himself a few years to get used to, actually. Our first Thanksgiving together, he skeptically watched me prepare a broccoli salad.

"You don't have broccoli salad at Thanksgiving," he commented, his voice dour.

I replied, "You do at my family Thanksgiving."

Once we arrived at my cousin's house, he saw what I meant. "I've never seen so many casseroles at one time."

For Miss Priss, this is just the way Thanksgiving is. "I like all the different foods because our Thanksgiving is potluck." My heritage is now hers.

This Thanksgiving, I'm bringing something for the dessert buffet. We had it for dessert at book club last week, and it is scrumptious. Since I love you, I am sharing the recipe.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake
1 box spice cake mix (I used Duncan Hines)
1 15-oz (or thereabouts) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour (or use baking spray, like I did) a Bundt pan. Mix ingredients together and then blend for two minutes. Spread batter in prepared pan and bake in center of oven for 35-40 minutes, or until cake springs back when pressed gently. Let cool in pan for several minutes, and then carefully turn pan over and release cake. Cool completely. Cake tastes better when made a day or so before serving.

Rum-Cream Cheese Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 T butter, softened
1 T rum or 1 t rum extract
1 T orange juice
2 cups confectioners sugar

Blend first four ingredients until creamy and smooth. Gradually blend in confectioners sugar. Heat in microwave 15 seconds. Spoon over cooled cake.

My God richly bless you and your family!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Books That Add Richness to World War II Studies

The girls and I recently read about World War II. Our history spine, Story of the World, volume four, gave us a solid and broad understanding of events leading up to the war's outbreak, the war itself, and the aftermath. I always look for good books to add depth to our learning, a richness if you will, to provide more meaning for the girls -- and me.

Here's a list of books one or both my girls have recently read:

For my part, I read The Devil's Arithmetic and Briar Rose, both by Jane Yolen, and Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. The latter is an adult book, but would be perfectly suitable for high school-aged students. Both of Yolen's books are very well written, powerful, and gritty. However, I decided to wait until my girls are older to assign these titles.

Of course, when one thinks of holocaust stories, The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, and The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom, tend to top the list. Again, I decided to wait on these until my children are more mature. We do own a CD audio theatre production of The Hiding Place, which we will listen to very soon.

I recently found a great blog called The Children's War. Written by Alex, this blog is an annotated bibliography of children's and teen's books about World War II. Nip over for some fabulous reviews and book ideas. But be warned: you could end up spending some serious time!

Have you found any great World War II titles you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about them!

Caveat: Some of the books my daughters have read contain objectionable language. To my mind, the language used fit the situation and character. Use your own discretion for your family.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thirteen Years Ago in November

October's glory of colors is a memory now. Some trees still sport bright leaves, but the skies are grey more than blue, the air is damp, and there are many days of drizzly drear. Ah, November.

I recall a November day thirteen years ago. I was heavily pregnant with our first child, waiting, waiting, waiting for her to arrive. In the waiting nursery with its freshly-painted yellow walls and wallpaper border of bunnies having tea -- "Afternoon tea for you and me" -- and new furniture, I rocked in the new glider-rocker, watching the trees bend in the wind under a gloomy sky.

I talked to my unborn daughter, addressing her by name. "We're all waiting for you," I said. "You can come anytime. Everything is ready."

Two days later, she was born, a burst of color in the midst of grey November. Life in the waning of the year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weekly Happenings: Promises to Keep

This week was a bit different from normal (I'm wondering if there's such a thing as a normal week, anyway), what with dreary, chilly weather for a few days; The Elections and a friend of the girls hanging out with us most of the day; a day meeting at church, some theatre excitement; and horse show preparations.

I made a few amendments to our schedule, bypassing spelling, grammar, and memory work for the week. I also stretched out our composition assignments and Miss Priss's Critical Thinking workbook lesson.

Hot chai and composition on a wet day

A breakdown of some things we learned:

  • Ordinary Genius, a biography of Albert Einstein and AO Year 6 selection. They've been notebooking each chapter, and I was pleased overall with their initial attempts.
  • In history, we read about events following World War II, such as the Marshall Plan and the building of the Berlin Wall; South Africa and apartheid; and the Communist victory in China.
  • Dion and Dionysius battle it out in Syracusa in "Dion," one of Plutarch's Lives.
  • Newton's law of universal gravitation was the focus of our Secrets of the Universe: Objects chapter. I'm telling you, the way natural phenomena can be reduced (if you will) to mathematical equations simply blows my mind!
  • In It Couldn't Just Happen, we read about the ozone layer of the atmosphere and the greenhouse effect and how termites (!!) greatly contribute to it.
  • Ulysses (Odysseus) and his men are taking their own sweet time getting back to Ithaca in The Odyssey for Boys and Girls. This week, they lounged and feasted with Circe (after she changed half of the men into pigs and back again) for a year or so until one of them said, "Hey, shouldn't we be thinking about heading home?" (I'm paraphrasing.)
  • We regularly catch sight of a blue heron at our lake cabin and sometimes one flies overhead here in the South, so School of the Woods delighted us.
  • On Friday, we enjoyed another Hodgepodge pastels tutorial: Harvest Moon Nocturne. The girls were less panicky this week than they were last week and loosened up a bit.

Tiny Girl's on left; Miss Priss's on right.

One of our Frost poem's this week was "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," one of the best-known poems of the twentieth century. And no wonder. The calm, quiet pastoral scene beckons us in and then surprises us with an unexpected depth. Here is an unmissable link: a video of Robert Frost reciting this simple yet magnificent poem.

On Monday evening, Tiny Girl's theatre troupe's production was announced: Peter Pan! And Tiny herself was cast as Captain Hook. Already she's in the throes of practicing at home with her lines and songs (she has a short solo). Miss Priss's troupe has been rehearsing their production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Miss Priss was cast in several ensemble parts, and she also has a brief solo for one of them.

Petal the pot-bellied pig came to visit us at the barn.

Tiny Girl has a horse show tomorrow, so we have schooling later today at the show venue. We'll also be cleaning tack, polishing boots, ironing jods, etc., tonight. She and Max are going to the show, but here she is with Tuli, who's coming along well with her training.

Not so familiar with the Great Blue Heron? Here's a fun video to watch:

I'll leave you with Frost:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening (1923)
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

I'm linking up with:

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
The Homeschool Mother's Journal
Hammock Tracks
Homegrown Learners
No Ordinary Blog Hop

Monday, November 5, 2012

And the Wall Comes Tumbling Down

That would be the Berlin Wall, in 1989.

A bit of background: The girls and I read about the Marshall Plan in Story of the World, volume 4, today. The chapter details how the Allied Powers divided Germany into two counties: West Germany as a democracy, to please England, France, and the United States; and East Germany as a communist state, to suit the Soviet Union.

Travel between the two countries was quite easy until the communists noticed a large dip in their population, particularly among the more educated set: doctors, university professors, lawyers, and the like. In 1961, in the middle of the night, a barbed wire fence was erected through the middle of Berlin. Overnight, families, friends, and neighbors were divided, prohibited from visiting one another. Over the years, a more permanent structure went up, a concrete wall 14 feet high.

But in 1989, that wall came down.

I remember this event. I recall watching on TV the jubilant Germans dancing in the streets, chiseling away at the wall, hugging one another and crying. So I immediately thought: YouTube.

There are quite a few short videos of such celebrations, some TV news reports, and some longer documentaries available on YouTube. Tiny Girl and I watched several. She herself watched a 40-odd-minute documentary and enjoyed it very much. Here's the link.

As always, do not turn your children loose on YouTube. Comments are not mediated, and foul language abounds. But what a wonderful resource for recent historical events!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Weekly Happenings: A Week of Delights for the Senses

Happy fall Friday! The weather today is perfect here: deep blue skies, breezes, and sunshine. Which is great for us. But so many people's lives have been thrown into disorder after the hurricane -- from discomfort to complete chaos -- that my rejoicing in our glorious days is dimmed.

While I type, a dear friend of ours, a widower gentleman in his 80s, bides his time in a power-less house in New Jersey; other friends in Pennsylvania are just now back to school after being without power all week; NYC friends are just getting back to some semblance of normal life, but just a semblance; and other folks we know in the northeast are taking stock and cleaning up.

But everyone we know is safe. So we are thankful.

The girls and I had a good week, a week of delights for the five senses. On Friday night, we visited our town's planetarium and observatory with my two sisters, one of which lives here and the other who was in town for a conference. Yay! The planetarium show was fun; I hadn't been to one of those since I was a child. Afterward, we looked through telescopes to view a few celestial bodies: the Moon, Uranus, and Alberio, a double star in the constellation Cygnus. We all had a wonderful time stargazing and seeing new-to-our-eyes sights.

Other nifty things we studied this week:

  • We read about Israel's Negev Desert in Explore the Holy Land.
  • Story of the World highlighted India's partitioning in to Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan; the re-creation of the ancient country of Israel; and the Suez Canal crisis in Egypt.
  • We learned in It Couldn't Just Happen that Earth's oceans have rivers in them: the Black Current in the Pacific and the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, which are both part of gyras.
  • Dion marches triumphantly into Syracusa against Dionysius in Plutarch's Lives.
  • We began a new book, Church's The Odyssey for Boys and Girls.
  • We read about Mooween the bear in School of the Woods.
  • The girls continued work on Queen Victoria and Ordinary Genius.
  • Tiny Girl and I enjoyed Hodgepodge's Acrylic Fall Trees Tutorial. (Thanks, Nana!)

Himself took a business trip to Savannah, a city we all love. We requested some candy from Savannah's Candy Kitchen, and he lovingly obliged: saltwater taffy, peanut butter fudge, peanut butter and chocolate fudge, and pralines! I'm going to try my hand at making these delectable goodies this Christmas season. . . .

I made homemade pizza for supper on Halloween. Himself and I indulged in pepperoni, fresh mushroom, and fresh basil with a generous grinding of fresh Parmesan; the girls had their favorite: cheese. That is just gorgeous, even if I do say so myself.

Speaking of Halloween, if you have gobs of leftover candy, I wrote a blog post of ideas for getting rid of it (or stretching it out). We're donating ours to the troops.

More culinary sensations: I made a wonderfully delicious beef stew for supper earlier this week. Click here for the recipe and then make it this weekend. You'll be so glad you did! I also made another batch of homemade yogurt. I can't imagine being without it nowadays. And I made a double batch of homemade laundry detergent. I know it's not culinary, but I did make it in the kitchen.

Tiny Girl and I are spending lots of time at the barn. In case you didn't know, we now have two ponies: Max, whom we lease; and Tuli, whom we bought. Tiny works with both of them, and this takes a lot of time. I persuaded Himself to take her to the barn this afternoon so I could have time to write this wrap-up. Here she is on Max. It was an especially gorgeous day.

We bookworms have been reading a lot, too. Miss Priss finished Jack and Jill, by Louisa May Alcott (read my post on that here) and continues Cheaper by the Dozen and Summer of My German Soldier; Tiny Girl continues The Fellowship of the Ring and finished The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss; I finished Mary Stewart's The Moon-Spinners and have almost finished The Upstairs Room.

One of our Frost poem's this week was "After Apple-picking." Here are a few lines:

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I enjoyed the few Frost poems I recognized for many years, but now that I've read him more widely, I wonder at his insight, his turn of a phrase, his ear for perfect words, his immense gift for poetry.

I'll leave you with a tip:

Everything goes better with chocolate -- especially fractions.

Not only am I linking up with some fantastic blog hops (see below), I'm also having a fabulous time listening to bossa nova music on Pandora internet radio. You can, too! Visit Pandora, and then type in "Astrud Gilberto" as an artist. You'll hear her and others like her. "Tall and tan and young and lovely, the girl from Ipanema goes walking, and when she passes, each one she passes goes aahhhh. . . ."

Link ups:
Mary at Collage Friday
Kris at Weekly Wrap-Up
The Homeschool Mother's Journal
Savannah at It's a Wrap
No Ordinary Blog Hop

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Flood of Halloween Candy? Here's What to Do

We have quite a bit of leftover Halloween candy at our house, and I'd rather it didn't end up as extra baggage somewhere on my body -- say, my hips. Also, I'd rather the girls not eat every single piece they received. (I am a mean mama.) So I did a bit of research on things to do with pounds of candy -- besides eat it all right away.

Donate It
I was glad to learn about two nonprofits that accept candy donations to send to our troops. Mailed donations need to be sent by December 1, 2012:

Operation Gratitude/California Army National Guard
Halloween Candy
17330 Victory Blvd.
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Attn: Rich Hernandez

Operation Shoebox
8360 E. Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

(Scroll down the page for Operation Shoebox's Halloween candy donation info.)

For other possibilities closer to home, check with your church, your local food pantry, or area American Legion posts.

Craft with It
Advent will soon be here. Use some of your kids' leftover Halloween candy in an Advent calendar or construction paper chain that counts down days til Christmas. Just glue or tape a candy piece to each paper link (for the chain) or behind each "door" of the Advent calendar. For more crafty ideas, here are some links:

How to Make a Candy Garland
Homemade Advent Calendars
Advent Crafts for Kids
Advent Calendar Activities

Cook with It
Lots of your kids' candy is great for cooking! Chop up those chocolate bars, even the ones with nuts or filling, and add to cookie dough. You could even get a jump on some baking by whipping up a few batches and freezing the dough.

Here's the results page for a Google search I ran, "cooking with leftover Halloween candy." Lots of great ideas are here!

If you have any other ideas, I'd love to hear about them!