Thursday, January 31, 2013

Confessions of a Mediocre Cook: Busy Day Waffles

I love waffles, but they are a production. Separating the eggs, whipping the whites, folding in everything just so. . . .  Just not feasible for weekdays. At my house, at least.

These busy day waffles are a reasonable and delicious approximation of the real thing. Since my girls only eat two waffles each at a maximum, I save the remaining batter in the fridge for another day. I've never tried, but I bet you could freeze it.

I can hear you now. Why don't you make all the waffles at one time and then freeze the uneaten ones?

I'll tell you why. 1.) My waffle iron only cooks two waffles at a time, so cooking all the batter in one go takes some time. Morning time on a school day, no less. 2.) Miss Priss strongly prefers fresh waffles (as well as fresh pancakes, but we're not talking about pancakes here) and is very vocal about it.

So now you know.

Busy Day Waffles
cooking spray for misting the waffle iron
scant 1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 T lemon juice
2 cups baking mix (or use homemade, like I do)
1 large egg
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 t sugar (optional but delish)

Mix together milk and lemon juice and let sit to clabber for five minutes. Mist waffle iron with cooking spray and preheat. Place all ingredients into a bowl and stir until egg is mixed in well. Bake on waffle iron as our normally would.

Enjoy with butter and syrup or whatever topping you prefer. Nutella would be nice. Okay, nicer than nice.

Photo credit: zebble / / CC BY-NC

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Community Caring in a Tossed Salad

I just finished making a tossed salad and will be taking it to our neighborhood clubhouse inn a few minutes. A family whom I do not know lost their teenage daughter just before Christmas. More than a year ago, she was hit by a car while crossing a busy intersection. She was at fault, but somehow that simply didn;t matter as she lay in a coma for weeks after ward and then woke up to a frightening a shocking new world of nonverbal paralysis.

Oh merciful Father in heaven. . . .

Several neighbors made arrangements to take meals to the family when caring for their daughter became a full-time job. When I took a chicken pot pie, I was humbled by the father's quiet gratitude and graciousness. "Homemade chicken pot pie," he said, smiling. "That will be a treat!"

This evening they will say goodbye to their child, they and other family and her many friends. Again, several of us in the neighborhood will provide food for this, their celebration of their daughter's life. As I chopped mushrooms and sliced tomatoes, my heart said all the things that I know I will not be able to say, words that seem meaningless in the chasm left by their beloved.

I'm sorry.

I don't know you, but I grieve for your loss.

Perhaps they will hear those words and the words of other neighbors in the pasta casserole, the chocolate cake, the veggie tray.

Here is our love.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Strengthening Your Marriage

Every time I hear of a married couple divorcing or separating, my heart hurts. It seems marriages are dropping like flies, even in my church.

I stumbled upon this excellent article on how a Christian woman can strengthen her marriage and wanted to share it with you. Even if your marriage is stable (I consider mine to be), there may still be bits of wisdom here for you. In fact, I recognized myself in a few items. For example, I need to guard against complacency.

We live busy lives in an busy world. There are many demands on our time, attention, energy, and resources. Even so, may we never forget to actively nurture our marriages.

Photo credit: Caucas' / / CC BY-NC-SA

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Favorite Bird

Our backyard birdfeeders get lots of visitors in the winter. Tufted titmice, Carolina chickadees, Carolina wrens (which we've called Jenny wrens ever since we read the Burgess Bird Book), and northern cardinals are our most frequent guests. Song sparrows, house finches, mourning doves, and yellow-rumped warblers show up quite a bit, while dark-eyed juncos hop along the ground just under the feeders, gleaning. Downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers enjoy the suet. And in later winter, goldfinches will flock around our niger seed feeder.

Early last week, on one of the many drizzly, dreary days we've had, a flash of bright blue caught my eye. I called the girls to the window and we watched four eastern bluebirds take turns with the suet. Three males and one female. Since then we've seen them every day, as many as five at a time several times per day.

I can see the feeders from the window above my kitchen sink and my study picture window, so I have plenty of opportunities to observe my favorite bird species. The leafless trees in our backyard are the perfect backdrop to their purple-blue plumage. Often two males will perch on swaying branches just near the feeders whiletwo or three others nibble at the suet. Sometimes one or two will glean on the ground beneath the feeders, or snatch up suet pieces that fall on top of the baffle.

This morning, I watched for a few precious seconds as a male bluebird and a male cardinal perched on the edges of our tray feeder. I quickly alterted Miss Priss, who was eating her breakfast at the table. She managed to catch a glimpse before they flew away. What a glorious sight!

Sightings of bluebirds are particular precious to me because I know the birds won't stay around for long. A woman at a bird feeder store told me that if I'd put up a bluebird house, they would stay and raise a brood. But our wooded backyard is not conducive to bluebird houses; they have strong opinions about house placement!

So I'll enjoy them while I can. I'll stop whatever I'm doing to note their dark periwinkle feathers that perfectly complement their burnt range breasts. I'll admire the lovely blue-gray coloring of the females, their buff breasts, and their bright black eyes.

I love all the birds that we see. I adore goldfinches and am always glad to play host for them on their travels.The cedar waxwings that descend upon us, strip our holly tree of berries in a day or so, and then disappear -- their very transience mark them as extra special. In fact, we've actually missed their visits in prior winters! And I'm always excited to see something new.

Still, the Eastern bluebird holds my heart.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Considering Dissection

I don't know about you, but I don't look back at my wet lab days with fondness. And, although I believe that dissection is part of a well-rounded education, I don't relish the thought of frog guts and formaldehyde all over my kitchen table. I'm strange that way.

Since I live in a larger metro area, I'm blessed to have at my disposal many homeschooling class and co-op opportunities, some of which offer science classes, including biology and dissection. This has been my plan until my friend, Eliza, introduced me to a great idea: digital dissection.

Before you raise your lip in derision, as I almost did, let me hasten to add that Eliza is a science person (degree and all that jazz), so she knows of what she speaks. She turned me on to The Digital Frog.

From the website:

  • The Digital Frog 2.5 engages students with an interactive, virtual dissection, allowing the student to learn each of the cuts necessary by "cutting" with a digital scalpel before watching the full screen video. 
  • Animations and interactions allow students to see how the frog's body works—from blood pumping through the heart, to joints that can be built up and moved by the user.
  • The Digital Frog 2.5 is so much more effective than a wet lab because the interactive dissection is seamlessly linked to a comprehensive anatomy and physiology section, with human anatomy comparisons.
  • A fascinating ecology section reminds students that biology is the study of living organisms.
  • With context-sensitive definitions on every word and spoken pronunciations on significant words, students have all the information they need with just a mouse.
  • The Digital Frog focuses the student on the study of structure and function, rather than on the process of dissection.
  • The Digital Frog also encourages squeamish students who may otherwise avoid biology and science.

Well, that's enough to make me give The Digital Frog serious consideration. I have a squeamish student to think about, not to mention my reluctant self. And the cost is reasonable. The home version is $85 -- less than the in-person class in my area, especially since I'll save myself a one-hour round-trip drive every week!

Give The Digital Frog website a bit of your time. You may be convinced yourself!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Weekly Happenings: Back in Action

 The last two weeks have been quite busy, and I've neglected my blog. That weighs heavy on my mind, let me tell you. Blogging is my one real creative outlet, and if I'm away from it too long I feel. . .  weird. Dissatisfied. It's hard to explain.

But one of the things taking me away from the blogosphere is paying work, and that makes my heart happy.

Anyway. The girls and I swung back into action last week. For the most part, they enjoy Year 6, term two readings. Animal Farm is not a favorite of my eldest, despite our background discussion earlier this week. "I can understand what it's about, Mama, but I still don't have to like it." Too true; but that doesn't change the fact that you have to read it.

But Augustus Caesar's World and Story of the Greeks continue to delight. I think it helps that a lot of the material is familiar to us. We learned about Julius Caesar's death and the following wars in Plutarch's Life of Brutus. And we've covered many of the Greek stories in our myth readings in previous AO years.

In math, Tiny Girl and I turned back to Master Math sixth grade video lessons and worksheets. This week, we covered decimal/fraction conversions. Miss Priss is swinging right along at Mathnasium and is due for her first assessment since joining. We are very interested to see what the results will be!

On Wednesday, we visited the Genghis Khan exhibit at a nearby museum. WOW is all I can say. The exhibit was really well done, and we learned a lot. We all brought along our sketch pads and sketched a few items that interested us.

On Friday, I got my brand new computer all set up and running. Yippee! Our old desktop was doing the best it could, but new technology made it glacially slow. The new desktop was my Christmas gift, and I picked out everything just like I wanted it.

All our activities have kicked in. This week, the girls attended drama class, piano lessons, and Mother-Daughter Bingo night with Girl Scouts. Only Miss Priss and I enjoyed the latter; Tiny Girl spent the afternoon and evening at the barn on the first sunny day we'd had for a week!

I also managed to make a loaf of no-knead white bread on Thursday evening. If you haven't tried this recipe, I highly recommend it!

So that's our week in a nutshell!

I'm linking up with:
Hammock Tracks
No Ordinary Blog Hop
Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Go to it, O jazzmen!

I mentioned on Tuesday that Miss Priss was not impressed with Carl Sandburg's poetry thus far. I thought it might help for her to hear a recording of someone reading Jazz Fantasia. Below is a great reading from Alan Davis Drake:

Jazz Fantasia • Carl Sandburg from Alan Davis Drake on Vimeo.

It makes a difference, doesn't it, to hear this lively interpretation versus reading it aloud yourself. At least it does for me!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

She Is Too Fond of Books: Review of Wildflowers from Winter

Okay, I’m just going to admit it right off the bat: I’m not wild about the genre of Christian women’s fiction. Far too often the characters are flat; the plot simplistic, saccharine, or both; and the message (must there be one?) preachy and overt. So I was thrilled to read Wildflowers from Winter, the debut from novelist Katie Ganshert.

A thoroughly satisfying read, this book combines complex personalities with difficult, real situations that test their strength and their faith – wherever they are in their faith journeys. There are several storylines woven together into one strong plot, each with its own intricacies. Refreshingly, Ganshert gives no pat answers or easy fixes to her characters. Instead, readers sense real growth and development, even in the face of unchanged circumstances.

Ganshert uses a multiple viewpoint narrative structure, which I appreciate. I enjoy delving into the minds and motivations of different primary characters, and Ganshert creates a believable voice for each one. There’s Bethany, the main character, who is forced to return to her roots and face her past as the town freak from the trailer park, a past she abhors so much that she completely cut ties years before and recreated herself as a successful architect in the city. Evan, a young man who helps Bethany’s grandfather on his farm, yearns for his own land, but Bethany’s return might wreck his dreams. And Bethany’s former best friend, Robin, caught in the throes of a nightmare come to life, struggles to come to grips with her new normal.

Honest, vivid, heartbreaking, and joyous, Wildflowers from Winter is well worth your time. For a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Term, New Books!

Yesterday found us easing back into our lessons after a lovely holiday season. A new term often means a a couple of new books, but this time it means quite a lot of new titles, since the Ambleside Online history cycle winds us back to the ancients in term 2 (of Year 6). Yay! For history, our new books are Augustus Caesar's World and Story of the Greeks. Our science biography swings back to ancient times as well with Archimedes and the Door of Science.

Other new titles this term are:

  • Animal Farm
  • Plutarch's Pericles
  • The Sea Around Us
  • The Story of David Livingstone (Technically, this book begins in Term 1, but I scheduled things differently. I'm totally a tweaker.)

Other new joys await in the form of Bach and Renoir, the artist and composer we're studying this term, and poet Carl Sandburg. His work is quite a jolt after Robert Frost, whom we all loved. Miss Priss was unimpressed by yesterday's poem, Jazz Fantasia. I can see she's going to take some convincing that Sandburg is worth reading.

Good stuff!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"Owls" Project Pack: A Fantastic Study!

I've enjoyed a few lovely days off to celebrate Christmas and New Year's with my family and friends. I hope you had some rest and relaxation time as well. There's nothing like a cold, rainy Christmas Day that invites you to stay jammie-clad in front of a nice fire with a really good book, is there? Perfection!

I wasn't completely lax, however; I found time to write a review on a most wonderful resource: the Owls Project Pack from In the Hands of a Child. If you and yours love owls -- like we do! -- you'll thoroughly enjoy this. To read my complete review, pop over to Curriculum Choice.

And a happy and blessed 2013 to you!

Photo credit: Doug Greenberg / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND