We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Shunning

A few years ago I read some of the books by Beverly Lewis (like: The Shunning (Heritage of Lancaster County)) set among the Amish people of the middle 20th century. I was familiar with the Amish and had a vague understanding of their customs and beliefs, but I learned quite a bit more reading a few of these. Not great literature, but interesting stories.

One thing I learned about that I knew nothing was the pracitice of "Shunning". From what I remember, if a baptized (baptism happens as adults) member of the Amish community makes a decision that is counter to Amish customs or belief, they can be "shunned". The shunning means the rest of the community (including all family) are not to have ANY communication with the shun-ee. I'm sure the fear of shunning helps keep most of the Amish on the straight and quite narrow way they've chosen (as does a desire to please God).

Do you think this sounds a bit harsh? A bit manipulative? Lacking in Christian Grace and freedom in Christ?

What if I told you there were other groups of Christians who did pretty much the same thing not based on their religious beliefs or practices, but on their educational choices? Would you believe me?

What if I told you that homeschoolers sometimes do this to others who have been committed homeschoolers but have chosen to send their children to public or private school?

Well, can I say that I was suprised, and yet not surprised, when I heard that this had happened to a friend of mine? She was a VERY committed homeschooler, but her family (led by her husband) decided to send their children to public school a year ago. I don't know all the reasons why, but they are their children and it is their choice to make. Apparently, she noticed pretty quickly that she was "dropped" as a friend by a few of her close homeschool friends (or is that "friends"?).

At the end of the year, this friend and her husband decided that homeschooling was best for their family after all (or at least for now) and they are planning on homeschooling again this year. Oddly, and much unlike the Amish, these "friends" have continued to shun her!

I don't know which makes me angrier - that they shunned her in the first place or that they continue to shun her. It all sounds quite graceless, loveless and legalistic to me.

Seems to me that as homeschoolers we should be all about supporting FREEDOM of CHOICE in schooling - unless we aren't actually interested in freedom, but more interested in being homeschooling purists/perfectionists. Good Gravy - save us from ourselves!

Have you seen or experienced this within your local or online homeschool community?

Last fall, I ran across an excellent series of articles that certainly speaks to this issue called "The Curse of the Standard-Bearer". I've seen this curse running through the homeschool community and was swayed a bit by it - more than a bit, sadly. It can affect they way we parent, the way we educate, the way we behave, and the way we love others - all negatively. I encourage you to read at least the first article (I doubt you'll be able to stop there).

After recognizing this in myself (through reading this and a few other situations that contributed to this awareness), I feel like I am much freer to be myself IN CHRIST. And freer to love others as they are IN CHRIST.

While I don't agree, necessarily, with all the reasons the Amish might choose to shun a member, I do know that as Christians there is a time to seperate ourselves from those who have chosen not to repent from a habitual and grave sin. However, I do not think you can make an honestly biblical case that sending your child to school is a sin and certainly not one over which to seperate ourselves.

Not wanting to leave you with the impression that I have a beef with the Amish, here is a simple explanation of the practice. Notice the reason they give for shunning is to encourage a quick repentance in the straying member:

Do the Amish practice shunning fellow church members?

The term "church members" means those who are baptized as adults and voluntarily commit themselves to a life of obedience to God and the church. Yes, those who break their baptismal vows are shunned by the Old Order Amish. Belonging is important and shunning is meant to be redemptive. It is not an attempt to harm or ruin the individual and in most cases it does bring that member back into the fellowship again. Actually, the number of members excommunicated and shunned by the Amish is small.

The Biblical basis for shunning is found in these two verses:
But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -- not even to eat with such a one (I Corinthians 5:11)

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and of fences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

The families of a shunned member are expected to also shun them. Families shun the person by not eating at the same table with them. The practice of shunning makes family gatherings especially awkward.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook - Aug 25

You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here. I'm a day late, I don't know how I forgot this yesterday.

For today, August 26th, 2008

Outside My Window... it is warm, drizzly and green

I am thinking ... how surprisingly perfect the weather is for my birthday - makes me want to curl up with a good read.

I am thankful for... thoughtful friends and family who've called or emailed me today.

From the kitchen ... I'm keeping it simple today by defrosting a quiche for dinner.

I am wearing ... a new vibrant blue scarf jauntily tied around my hips like a swashbuckler. Heh, I just wanted to say "swashbuckler" and "jauntily" - is that a word?

I am creating ... a crocheted baby blanket for our to-be-adopted daughter. I started it a couple of months ago and, as usual, put aside briefly...which turned into not so briefly. Time to pick it back up.

I am going ... to finish "Gilead" today, finally!

I am reading ... getting ready to pick back up the book "In Defense of Food".

I am hoping ... my mom gets to come for a visit on Thursday. She's in a very tough season right now and I enjoy having her come here to get away from the stress of her everyday life.

I am hearing ... Hubby on the Wii Fit, children and friends enjoying some cookies.

Around the house... oh, the laundry is piling up as usual, but it's my birthday, so it'll just have to wait!

One of my favorite things... is my new prayer beads given to me by (and hand made by) my dear, dear friend and neighbor (known here as DN - or DDN - hehehe).

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:

  • Putting the "final touches" on our school plans for the year. I'm almost done!!

  • Laying some stepping stones to my new compost bin area.

  • Getting out for a "date night" with hubby sometime this week or weekend.

  • After the school plans are done, I plan to start on our landscaping plans (we have a date set for mid-September to spend a week getting some major yard projects done).

Here is picture thought I am sharing:

My kids all crammed in the back of the van as we drive to the airport to drop off big brother (in the middle) and my Mother-in-Law for their trip to Sweden.

DD said, "I almost cried when we watched him walk into the airport, but I had to hold it in!" We miss him, but have heard from him by email and he's having a WONDERFUL time.

We miss you Doodlebug!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Mexican Chicken Salad

This is great to have when you've got leftover chicken from the grill or from a roast.

Here is the recipe from Southern Living:

4 c chopped cooked chicken
2 c shredded sharp Cheddar

Use what you like of these:
2 T chopped green pepper
2 T chopped sweet red pepper
1 16 oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 4.5 oz can of chopped green chilis
1 med. onion, chopped

1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c mayo
1 pkg (1.25 oz) taco seasoning mix

Or use your favorite oil and vinegar dressing.

Corn chips
Shredded iceburg or romaine lettuce
2 med tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 med avocadoes, coarsely chopped (skin and remove pit, of course)
1 can (2 1/4 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained

Combine the first 7 ingredients (or of those, what you want to use). Set aside.

Use the dressing of your choice (mix ingredients for Dressing 1 together). Pour over chicken mixture; toss gently, cover and chill.

Place corn chip on a plate; top with lettuce. Spoon chicken mixture onto lettuce. Top with tomato, avocado and olives. Serves 8.

When I made this I made only 2 servings. I used the oil and vinegar dressing and just poured it all over the salad rather than mixing and chilling. :) I'm never one to follow a recipe, but I figured I'd give you the "official" recipe then let you adapt it.

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Figs with Goat Cheese and Balsamic

I heard about this somewhere recently - darn, wish I could remember so I could give a link. (If you recognize this recipe and posted it recently, let me know and I'll link to you!) Anyway - we tried it and it is SPLENDID!

Here's what I did:

Take a large handful of the freshest figs you can find. Slice in half. Top each with a small amount of goat cheese. (I scooped a small amount and gently formed a clump for each fig half.) Drizzle balsamic vinegar (splurge on a good quality Modena for this if you can) over the top - you want just a splach on each fig. (We drizzled it on the plate first and then set our figs on top.)

The tartness, sweetness, creaminess is to die for! I should have taken a photo - but we gobbled them up to quickly!

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Friday, August 22, 2008

What we are using this year...

The Heart of the Matter Meme for today is "What are you using this year?" Boy, is this a common question among homeschoolers! We love to share ideas, gather impressions, and swap information.

So, here is what we are using this year. My kids are in 1st, 3rd/4th and 7th:



(1) Singapore 1A,B - slowly

(3/4) Singapore 2A, B - a bit more quickly in the hopes of moving on to 3A,B

(7) Saxon 8/7

Language Arts:

(1) Explode the Code 1 and 2 (with the supplemental "1/2" books as needed); Bob Books; Copy Work; Narration

(3/4) Explode the Code 3 (with supplemental "1/2" book) - possibly ETC 4 if needed; Scholastic and DK Readers; Handwriting Without Tears Cursive; Copy Work; Narration

(7) IEW's Bible-Based Writing; Editor in Chief; Papers on Newberry Literature

Bible, Saints, and Seasons:

(All) Childrens Story Bible; Rings, Kings and Butterflies

(7) The Case for Christ for Kids

Grammar Level


1st Grader: The Jungle Books(and selections from an Ambleside-based "Free Reading" list)

3rd/4th Grader: Tanglewood Tales, A Wonder Book (and readings from my "Free Reading list);

Both: Daily poetry from The Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America, The Story Of Dr. Doolittle, The Wind in the Willows and some other selections from my "Free Reading" list


(for both 1st and 3rd/4th graders) Classical Conversations - Cycle 3; selected poems and scripture from The Harp and Laurel Wreath

Modern Studies:

CC Cycle 3 (US History and Geography); God's World News (Taking Off and Early Times); National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Fifty States'>


CC - Cycle 3: 1st Semester (Anatomy) - Blood and Guts; The Usborne Internet-Linked Complete Book of the Human Body / 2nd Semester (Chemistry) - Adventures With Atoms and Molecules , The Periodic Table: Elements with Style

Classical Studies:

D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, Famous Men of Greece

Foreign Language:

Tutor taught (so no curriculum, yet)



Newberry Literature (Magician's Nephew, Bronze Bow, Number the Stars, Amos Fortune, Door in the Wall, Secret Garden, Carry On Mr Bowditch )


Classical Conversations - Challenge A (World Geography); Compact Atlas of the World


Challenge A (Natural Science): Nature Sketchbook, Biology Lab Sheets

Clear Reasoning:

It Couldn't Just Happen: Fascinating Facts About God's World, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door: A Book of Christian Evidences


Black Ships Before Troy, The Wanderings of Odysseus


Latin's Not So Tough 3 & 4


Plants Grown Up; Drama classes (in community)

Fine Arts (All)

Art Appreciation:

CC Cycle 3 (American Artists) - Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning); National Gallery of Art Educational packages/videos: American Painting pkg, "American Art 1785-1946" video, "American Art" video, Early Modernism 1900-1940 pkg, Art Since 1950 pkg, "20th C Am. Art" video

Studio Art:

The Young Artist's Handbook, Drawing Textbook


CC Cycle 3 (Great Composers); Minute Sketches of the Great Composersor History's 100 Greatest Composers, Story of the Orchestra; Charlotte Symphony "Children's Concert Series"

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School is Back in Session!

This week was our first week of school!

There are so many reaons that this wasn't the ideal week to start school:

  • Eldest son left on Thursday for a 10-day trip to Sweden (more on that later)

  • MIL was in town (she is traveling with him)

  • I'm not totally finished with year's plan - I know *what* I'm doing, but not necessarily *when* or *how*.

  • One kid is sick...and I might be right behind her.

One thing I've learned the past 5 years we've been doing this is that my perfectionism can really get in the way. In the past, I'd have wanted to wait until I had everything perfectly planned out (even if that plan didn't last 2 months) and everyone was totally ready to start on a full schedule. But, usually it is just best to START, even if it is at "half-power". So, that is what we did - and it went pretty well!

We just did the basics: math and language arts, but we DID it! And eldest son had his first day of Challenge A (with Classical Conversations), so he only had a little prep work to do for that. By the time we get up to "full speed", we'll be ready to start back to Classical with the younger two. (Their CC classes don't start until Sept. 3.)

When is your first day?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School

Summer is over and school is officially back in session. Monday was our first day and had a few "bumps". But, Tuesday we got into our "groove" and had a much better day.

Today is the first day of Classical Conversations for S. (Classical Conversations - also called CC or just "Classical" - is a once a week all day class. We then build the rest of our curriculum on those lessons for the other four days of the week.) S is now in the "Challenge" program which is for middle school and high school. The other kids' CC classes don't start until the beginning of September.

Tomorrow S and his grandmother leave for a 10-day trip to Sweden. I hate that he'll miss a week of CC and be a bit behind when he gets home. We tried to schedule this earlier in the summer, but just couldn't for a number of reasons. But that is one reason we homeschool: for flexibility to take advantage of great opportunities like this!

The photo is Erik starting the school day off with us reading a story from the Bible.

Updated to add these photos from S's departure!

They all had to sit together in the back of the van.

And then saying good-bye to big brother at the airport. (I think he's giving them a few words of advice.)

Ok, I'm all ready to go!

And they are OFF!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Turkey meatballs and Spaghetti

These are such a hit at my house! These are a great easy meal for any time of year.

1 lb lean ground turkey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 T Worchester sauce
1/8 c. Parmesan cheese (grated)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c dry breadcrumbs
1/4 c. tomato sauce (I use Barilla Marinara), plus the more for the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with veggie oil. Pour a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom then begin forming the meatballs and placing them in the pan. Spoon a little more sauce over the top of each meat ball (I just gently drizzle it around the pan - hitting most of the meatballs). If you have more sauce in your jar, you can save it to top the spaghetti. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Pull off the foil after 30 minutes and turn off the oven. Let the meatballs sit in the warm oven while you finish the pasta.
I use Barilla thick spaghetti noodles, boiled until al dente.

Serve a plate (or bowl) of pasta topped with a dollop of sauce and a few meatballs. Parmesan cheese is always delicious on top, too!

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Simple Woman's Daybook - August 18th

You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here.

For today, August 18th, 2008

Outside My Window... my grass is getting a wee bit long.

I am thinking ... that I'm glad to be getting school started even if I'm not entirely "ready".

I am thankful for... finally getting to enjoy dinner with friends we haven't seen much this summer.

From the kitchen ... making another batch of delicious Cinnamon Raisin bread today.

I am wearing ... blue yoga pants, white tank top and white hoodie - my standard "dressed, but not really dressed" outfit.

I am creating ... my yearly school plan this week. I have the basics, but there are some details I need to work on.

I am going ... to pick up groceries today. My local grocery story has an online shopping service - i take advantage of it very frequently during the school year. It costs my $5 in service fees, but that is worth the time it saves me! And I find that I actually save more than that in avoiding "impulse purchases".

I am reading ... still Gilead and Iliad, but also, my Cindy Rushton's yearly planning book.

I am hoping ... today's first day of school will go really well. We were up late and are getting a VERY late start to the day, but we're really not doing much "school" on the first day, so that is fine with me. Mostly we are just going to walk through the day's schedule and look over books.

I am hearing ... my local NPR station's morning talk show "Charlotte Talks" - they are talking about alternative fuel vehicles.

Around the house... I have a stack of games that I cleaned out of the bottom of my school cabinet that need to find a new home. And a pile of laundry - just no laundry detergent.

One of my favorite things... since I mentioned NPR above, it makes sense to tell you that NPR is one of my favorite things. I know they can certainly be left-leaning, but it's pretty obvious to me when they are, so it's easy to discern "spin". What I enjoy about NPR is the wonderful storytelling and the fascinating subject matter. I don't often find that they get bogged down in the silly nonsense that many news shows on TV do (which end up being mostly gossip and entertainment rather than NEWS).

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:

  • First Day of School
  • Mother-in-Law arriving on Tuesday
  • Wednesday is eldest son's first day of Classical Conversatsions - Challenge A
  • Thursday MIL and eldest son leave for a 10-day trip to Sweden
Here is picture thought I am sharing:

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our i800 is IN THE MAIL!

I'd hoped to get the i800 submitted while my family was away at the beach, but I forgot one important detail....hubby's signature!! I let him go off without signing the form. DUH!

Oh, well!

Friday, August 15th, St. Mary's Day in Anglicanism/Dormition of Mary in Eastern Orthodoxy/The Assumption of Mary in Roman Catholocism we finally got it all signed and in the mail. See, here are my middle son (Stinkbug) and daughter (Ladybug) outside the post office:

Pray it is processed and approved quickly! The expected turn-around time is 4 months at my USCIS office...so that should be mid-December.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Notes from The Mark of the Christian

In this age of tatooes, brands, and slogans, Francis Shaeffer's essay entitled, The Mark of the Christian has a lot to say about how we show the world we are Christians. It also has a lot to say in this age of major mainline denomination shake-ups and ever-splitting Protestantism about Christian unity. A lot to say in only 59 very small paperback book pages.

I've had this little book for a few months now sitting on my reading shelf picking it up occassionally and reading a paragraph or two, which no way to read this book. Today is the last day of my short "sabbatical", so I decided to sit down and read it in it's entirety.

Here are some quotes:

"Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in the lapels of their coats, ...chains about their necks, even had special haircuts. Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this.... But there is a much better sign - a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back....'that ye love one another; as I have loved you'...."

"The church is to be a loving church in a dying culture. How, then, is the dying culture going to consider us? Jesus says, 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus is giving a right to the world. Upon his authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians."

"But Jesus is not here saying that our failure to love all Christians proves that we are not Christians. (...) What Jesus is saying, however, is that, if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgement that I am not a Christian. (...) Of course, the world may be making a wrong judgement because, if the man is truly a Christian...they made a mistake. (...) Here Jesus is talking about our responsibility as individuals and as groups to so love all other true Christians that the world will have no valid reason for saying that we are not Christians."

"But Jesus did give the mark that will arrest the attention of the world, even the attention of the modern man... Because every man is made in the image of God and has, therefore, aspirations for love, there is something that can be in every geographical climate - in every point of time - which cannot fail to arrest his attention. ... The love that true Christians show for each other and not just for their own party."

"The Christian really has a double task. He has to practice both God's holiness and God's love. ... Not his holiness without his love: that is only harshness. Not his love without his holines: that is only compromise."

"What divides and severs true Christian groups and Christians - what leaves bitterness that can last for twenty, thirty or forty years ... - is not the issue of doctrine or belief which caused the differences in the first place. Invariably it is the lack of love and the bitter things that are said by true Christians in the midst of differences. (...) It is these things - these unloving attitudes and words - that cause the stench that the world can smell in the church of Jesus Christ among those who are really true Christians."

"First, we should never come to such difference with true Christians without regret and without tears."

"The church is not to let pass what is wrong; but the Christian should suffer practical, monetary loss to show the oneness true Christians should have rather than to go to court against other true Christians, for this would destroy such an observable oneness before the watching world."

"I want to say with all my heart that as we struggle with the proper preaching of the gospel in the midst of the twentieth century, the importance of observable love must come into our message. We must not forget the final apologetic. The world has a right to look upon us as we, as true Christians, come to practical differences, and it should be able to observe that we do love each other. Our love must have a form that the world may observe, it must be seeable."

"Love - and the unity it attests to - is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father."

I know I have at times NOT worn the mark of love. I can think of a few events or moments when I have very clearly not been loving to Christians with whom I've disagreed. I've also been on the receiving end of not being loved and it really hurts - especially when it comes from other Christians. What hurts even more is realizing how damaging this is to the Gospel.

What I've learned today is that while choosing to wear marks to announce our faith is fine, it is good to make sure we are not missing THE mark that Christ gave us to wear.

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Online maps for use in History lessons

Maps of War is an online collection of animated maps and links to other realated maps around the internet. These aren't limited to solely war-time maps (although the focus is on what you might call "Conflict" maps).

Here are some of my favorites:
History of the Middle East
History of Religion
March of Democracy
American Leadership and War

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Simple Woman Daybook - Aug 11

You can find out more about the Simple Woman's Daybook here and see today's post for more Daybook entries.

For today, August 11th, 2008

Outside My Window...another sunny summer day, but the air has cooled just slightly.

I am thinking...about how to celebrate the start of a new school year. I want to make it really special for my kids. In the past, we've always had an "Ice Cream for Dinner" party, and we'll do that again, but I'm also trying to think of fun ways to "gear up" for the year - not just on the first day.

I am thankful for... sweet solitude. My dear husband took my children to the beach with friends for a few days leaving me with a quiet house to myself.

From the kitchen ...I'm contemplating making a batch of my favorite eggplant dip (similar to baba ganoush).

I am wearing ... tan capris, violet t-shirt. Nothing fancy - just comfortable to work in.

I am creating quite a mess as I clean out my school cabinet in order to refill it with this year's school supplies and books.

I am going ...to the post office today to send our i800a - the next step in our adoption!

I am reading ...out of my RSS reader today. There are a number of items I've saved for later and these next few days will be the time for "later". I'm still reading Gilead, the Iliad, and my landscaping books.

I am hoping ...to use my days of solitude well. Mostly, I want to maintain a good balance between getting some needed projects done and having some relaxation time.

I am hearing ...the hum of my refrigerator. It's not very often that my house is quiet enough to notice that.

Around the house... things have stayed VERY neat with no extra people to leave little messes. Well, until I started cleaning out the school cabinet. So, let's say every room but the kitchen has stayed VERY neat.

One of my favorite things... during these few days of solitude has been having my thoughts uninterrupted. As any mom, especially when you have little ones or home educate, knows this is an extremely rare thing.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: My goals for this 4-day holiday are: Relax, get my new Fly Lady schedule tweaked for the start of the new school year, clean out the school cabinet, get the kids' new school supplies and books into the cabinet, look over school plans for areas that need some work or fleshing out, have coffee with the same friend I was trying to have dinner with last week, and Relax.

Here is picture thought I am sharing:
I think if you click on that picture it will take you to a larger image. That is me on the left (in white) in Tiananmen Square in front of the Official Beijing Olympics Countdown Clock. If you look closely, you might be able to figure out when we were there!

I have other pictures from China that are much prettier than this one, but it seemed the most appropriate for this week. My traveling companion (and neighbor) and I are really enjoying these Olympic Games and celebrating the Chinese culture and people that we came to love while we visited.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

7 Steps to a Productive Farmer's Market Trip

...from my new blog, To Every Meal A Season , a post to help you make the most of your farmer's market trip: 7 Steps to a Productive Farmer's Market Trip. I've got 7 tips for you, perhaps you'll have some for me!

And tomorrow, check back for a "Farmer's Market Report" Mr. Linky - join in with your Farmer's Market finds for the week - YUM!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Adoption Update - Aug. 6th - Transfiguration

Today is the day of The Transfiguration of Our Lord. Funny, our adoption process seems to have just transfigured, too. Instead of being in the "early" stage of the "MAY we adopt?", with the submission of the i800 we'll move on to the stage of "CAN we adopt?".

If the adoption journey can be compared to a biological pregnancy, the "MAY we adopt?" phase (which includes our personal decision to adopt and then the state's determining us to be adequate parents, ie. the Homestudy) is kind of like the "deciding to get pregnant" phase of a biological pregnancy, while the "CAN we adopt?" phase is a bit like the "trying to get pregnant" phase. I always liked the "trying" phase! :)

It's good to be actively doing something, although there is another wait, this wait has an expected end of about 4 months. (That is the turn-around time for our local USCIS office to process the i800s.) It could be shorter and it could be longer, but not by much. This is one advantage over the biological process, at least at this point, we know approximately how long we'll be waiting. And during that wait we have quite a bit of work to do: education requirements to fulfull, documents to collect and have apostilled, etc.

When that wait is over (when our i800 is processed and we get the "OK" from the US government to bring an orphan into the USA), we'll submit our dossier to the Armenian government and we'll be officially "PAPER PREGNANT". That is when the biological process has a leg up, so to speak. We won't really know how long the wait will be from that point until it is over, unlike biological pregnancy which has a pretty closely determined wait time (all things being fairly normal).

So, the update for this week is that we are done filling out the i800 and it is being carefully reviewed by our agency. We hope to have it in the mail to the local USCIS office by the end of the week...then it is 120 days of waiting. Pray for patience! And have a Blessed Day of Transfiguration.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Art History Links for Homeschoolers - August 2008

What are Art History Links for Homeschoolers?
Well, as homeschoolers, we love to learn...and it needs to be cheap and easily accessible (ie. local or ONLINE). I look for online exhibits, resources, reading lists, videos, and activity ideas for major art historical themes. Many of these resources are offered in conjunction with local exhibits, so if you are lucky enough to be in that vacinity, take advantage of it.

How can you help?
Know of a great resource online or a great exhibit in your area? Email me or leave a comment. I'll incorporate your finds into a future month's listing. And if you take advantage of any of the resources...or attend an exhibit mentioned here, let me know what you think! Your feedback helps me provide better listings.

In conjunction with the Beijing Olympics, I've found two Chinese art resources:

Ancient Chinese Sculpture
From the Art Knowledge Newsletter:
The script is familiar but irresistible. A cache of art is stored, unexamined, in the bowels of an esteemed institution. Scholars become intrigued. Cataloging begins. The quality is unexpectedly high, and soon an exhibition materializes, accompanied by a catalog that illuminates the tale of neglect, renewed interest and diligent scholarship as well as the splendors of the art. That is the plot for “Treasures Rediscovered: Chinese Stone Sculpture From the Sackler Collections at Columbia University,” an eye-opening show at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery at Columbia University.

Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings
Another excellent online exhibit, this time of Chinese paintings and calligraphy. If you'd like to share some images of masterpieces of Chinese painting and calligraphy with your kids, this is a great resource. The works span 1,000 years of Chinese art history.

Create a custom art history timeline
As you put the finishing touches on your lessons for the year, you might want to consider using this excellent resource from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It will make adding art to your lessons easy as pie!

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An Art History Carnival

Look-y what I found - an ART HISTORY CARNIVAL. I know I'm a geek to get so excited about that, but what can I say. Margaret is hosting this carnival at her blog The Earthly Paradise. She is a grad student and a former homeschooler.

If you enjoy reading about art...or looking at art, you'll find something worthwhile in this carnival. I've got a wee little submission in there, too.

The posts include:
  • Art History essays (Mondrian, Whistler's Mother, a mystery/history lesson),
  • Art News and Exhibits (online exhibits, free or reduced fee museum days),
  • Philosopy of Art (creativity origins, Neolithic art), and
  • Reviews (Indian architecture).

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Eating Seasonally and Sustainably in Suburbia

In the past year, my family has been making a concerted effort to eat according to the seasons. We are also trying to purchase as much as we can from local farmers. But we are still learning - and living in suburbia can make it quite a challenge.

Are you interested in eating seasonally and sustainably? Come join the conversation as we continue learning! We'll share some recipes and ideas, and hope you will, too. Where? Here:

To Every Meal a Season

If you like what you see, be sure to help spread the word!

Classic Tomato Sauce

Marcella Hazan is one of my favorite Italian cookbook authors. Her book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, is a fantastic resource if you love Italian food. She has many great recipes for pasta sauces - this one is a true classic and couldn't be much simpler.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
2 lbs fresh, ripe tomatoes (blanched, skinned and coarsely chopped) OR 2 c. canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juices
5 T butter
1 med. onion, peeled and cut in half

Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato. Stir from time to time, mashing any large pieces of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt. Remove onion before tossing the sauce with pasta (save it for the stock pot).

This sauce may be frozen - just remove the onion before freezing. Marcella says this is the "unsurpassed sauce for Potato Gnocchi" - little potato and flour dumplings cooked like pasta in water. Instead of making these from scratch - which I've done before, I found some all prepared to be boiled at Trader Joe's, so that is what I'm using. Cheating, I know!

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Summer Garden Ratatouille

This is one of those easily adaptable recipes. Throw in whatever amounts or types of the vegetables you have.

This recipe is from Simply In Season, a wonderful little cookbook to help you start cooking with the seasons.

Summer Garden Ratatouille
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
Saute in 3 T olive oil about 5 minutes.

1 med. eggplant, chopped
1 1/2 T fresh basil, chopped or 2 tsp dry
1 T fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 tsp dry
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh marjoram, chopped or 1/2 tsp dry
Add, cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is soft, about 15-20 minutes.

2 summer squash, chopped
2 peppers (green or sweet - red or orange), cut in strips
2 c tomatoes, chopped
Add and simmer until peppers and squash are tender, about 10 minutes. Serve over pasta or polenta sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley, black olives or freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Whole Wheat Peach Kuchen

The original called for peaches, and I intend to try it with peaches soon, but I had blackberries that needed to be used up, so I decided to try it with those first. The results were quite delicious!

From Simply In Season:

Whole Wheat Peach Kuchen
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. flour
2 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
Combine in a large bowl.

1/4 c. butter
Cut in until crumbly. Pat mixture over bottom and sides of baking pan or oven-safe frying pan.

4 c peaches, halved and peeled (I substituted 4 c. blackberries that had been sprinkled with sugar)
Arrange in pastry, cut side down.

3 T sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Mix together and sprinkle over top. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes.

1 c plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
2 T sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Combine and pour over peaches and bake 30 more minutes or until set.

I'd suggest putting the baking pan on a cookie sheet. I over cooked the crust just a bit trying to get the custard set. Serve with a little ice cream or a bit of cream on top!

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Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint

This is a great salad to keep on hand in the summer for a quick lunch. It is very refreshing. Again, I don't really have a recipe for this.

Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint

3 cucumbers peeled, halved and sliced
1/3 c. of plain yogurt
2 Tbsp of fresh, chopped mint (don't even try to use dried mint - it really won't be as good)

Salt the sliced cucumbers and place in a colander to drain. Leave them for at least half an hour - more is better. An hour is plenty. This pulls out the excess water. They'll get a little limp, but still have a nice crunch. Place in a bowl and stir in 1/3 c of plain yogurt. (Use more or less depending on your taste.) If you have a mortar and pestle give the mint leaves a little crush in that before adding them to the yogurt and cucumbers. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, just give the leaves a good scrunch with your hand. This will soften the leaves and help release the oils and flavor. Mix the crushed mint into the yogurt and cucmbers. Stir well and refrigerate.

Sometimes I find that I like to add a dash or two more salt to the mixture before I refrigerate. It should have a slightly salty taste. I know that sounds weird - salt, yogurt and mint, but it really is yummy and refreshing!

In many Eastern Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cultures there is a drink with yogurt, salt and mint (and water to thin out the yogurt). It is surprisingly delicious - tart yogurt, zippy mint and that slight saltiness. If anyone has a good recipe for that, I'd love to have it. Otherwise I guess I just need to experiment with it.

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Rosemary and Lemon Baked Chicken

This smells absolutely divine while it cooks! It is perfect to throw in the oven when you've got a busy day and no time to stand at the stove. All you need to have is a couple of sides (veggies or salad and bread) and you are done! Now, I don't really have a recipe, so bear with me.

Rosemary and Lemon Baked Chicken

1 whole roasting chicken
2 lemons
a few springs of fresh rosemary (fresh is important, the resin in the fresh leaves is very aromatic!)
garlic powder or cloves
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Rub your pan with a little olive oil. Place two springs of rosemary on bottom of pan and place chicken, breast side up, on top of those springs. Put a spring or two of rosemary in the cavity of the chicken. Cut lemons in half and squeeze the juice all over the surface of chicken. Place two lemon halves into the cavity and lay the other two in the pan around the chicken. Drizzle more olive oil over surface of the bird. Sprinkle a touch of garlic powder OR put a clove or two into the cavity. Salt and pepper the bird to taste.

Roast bird until it reaches an interior temp of 180 degrees F. The time this takes will vary depending on the size of the bird and your oven, but generally, 1 hour and 1/2 or so. (Start checking at 1 hr.)

When bird comes out of the oven remove it from the pan and let it sit (on a tray or cutting board) for a few minutes to let the juices be absorbed into the meat.

Slice and enjoy!

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The Simple Woman Daybook - Aug 4, 2008

Recently, I came across this "Daybook", which is a meme of sorts, but different. It appealed to me as a way to record a bit of my life on a more regular basis on my blog.

Each Monday, bloggers share their Daybook entries. Add your own or just enjoy reading what other ladies are up to this week. Visit Peggy's blog: The Simple Woman and enjoy the other Daybook entries.

FOR TODAY August 4th, 2008

Outside My Window... It is hot and hazy. I've done my errands for the day and now I'm staying IN!

I am thinking... about a new landscape plan for our boring suburban lot. We want to reduce our lawn, set up a nice play area in the backyard, and incorporate a vegetable garden (and fruit plants).

I am thankful for... a friend's call this morning to invite my middle son over. Our kids' best friends are getting ready to move, so I'm trying to help ease that transition by encouraging some other friendships to blossom as well. (Remember the rhyme, "Make new friends, But keep the old; One is silver, and the other gold.")

From the kitchen... yummy Chicken and Rice soup simmering away and Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint.

I am wearing... my favorite stretchy jeans and my most unfavorite top (basic cotton T-shirt in a grass green color - not my most flattering color)

I am creating... some baked delights for the week ahead (cookies, raisin bread, and a fruit kuchen)

I am going... to bed early tonight.

I am reading... Gilead, a stack of landscaping and garden books, In Defense of Food, and the Iliad

I am hoping... to find a good podcast to listen to while I bake this afternoon. I'm also hoping the kids will find something to occupy them while I enjoy my time in the kitchen. This is one of my favorite things to do - something good to listen to and a pleasant afternoon making tasty treats.

I am hearing... two of my kids planning and talking while they play with new Model Magic that I picked up this morning. It is a little pricey, but they are so creative with it. I'll post some of their creations later.

Around the house... there is a lot of laundry that needs to be finished and put away. This is one of those chores that I just HATE. For some reason, by the time I'm done with my mountain of laundry I putter out and the clothes languish in laundry baskets for the rest of the week. I'm trying to get all caught up today and then get back into the long-forgotten habit of doing a load at least every other day.

One of my favorite things... the quiet of the house in the early morning. I sit with my bible, planner, laptop, and a nice cup of coffee or tea as I read and plan my day. There is something so lovely and relaxing. I will admit that it is tempting to not get the rest of the day started, though.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: I have a couple of blog posts to work on and a new blog to launch - I'm trying to squeeze that in this week. Some time during the week, I'd like to have some friends over who have been gone most of the summer. We've missed them and want to catch up a bit. Tomorrow, I'm taking middle son to a friends house. Thursday, I have my "Wives In Prayer" Group. On Friday, we are going to ejoy a Chinese celebration as we watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony. My husband is taking the kids away for a long weekend to the beach, so I need to spend some time thinking about what I want to use that time to accomplish (school preparations, a household project, blog work or just some relaxation...or a little of each).

Here is picture thought I am sharing...
Yummy fresh figs from our fig tree. We planted it about 3 years ago and it looks like we'll be getting our first real harvest in this year! Hubby and I LOVE fresh figs. We've been looking forward to these ALL summer.
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Saturday, August 2, 2008

VBS - some comments and thoughts

After a week of early rushed mornings, days filled with paint/glitter/clay/ giggling/running/singing, and tired, hobbled-together dinners, VBS (or VBC - Vacation Bible Camp as it was re-christened this week) is OVER.

**Satisfied, tired SIGH**

I've not always been a huge proponent of VBS (I'm not necessarily, still). There are issues of expense, laying more work on already busy moms/volunteers, stewardship follow-up with attendees, and some concern with the "amped-up", crazy-fun mentality. But, growing up I had two particularly meaningful experiences at VBS (really the only two I attended), so I still think some great stuff can occur during these wild weeks!

All that said, this was the best VBS we've had at our church. Yes, it was hectic and draining...and a bit "amped-up", but it was really wonderful - all-in-all.

The question is, "Why was this week so successful?" And secondly, "How can we 'top' it?"

The first reason this week was so successful is, of course, that the Lord blessed it. And we could certainly stop there - what more needs to be said? But there were some definite aspects the Lord used to bless our VBS week.

  • Dads: Our VBS leader didn't just wait for the Dads to volunteer, she specifically asked a few dads to come serve in a very specific way. Realizing that most dads work during the day (we still do mid-day VBS), she found dads that were able to take off a few hours just one morning during the week. Each morning the "dad of the day" served as our Science Lab leader. Of course doing a simple science experiment is right up a dad's alley - and having the added authority of a "DAD" kept the science room under better control than it might have been otherwise. The dads seemed to really enjoy serving in this way and it was so valuable for the kids to see the example set by them!

  • Having an energetic and gifted drama leader: 'nuf said.

  • Volunteers from the "older" set: We had a number of volunteers whose children are all grown (many with grandchildren) join us to serve as group leaders, time-keepers, kitchen crew, and set-up/take-down. This has been something we've done in the past as well, but this year the number of volunteers from the "older" set was quite a bit higher. I'd say half our volunteers had no children of VBS age - or even close!

  • Keeping it SIMPLE: We do not have our own building any longer, so we were at the mercy of our kind church hosts (and very kind and gracious they were). This necessitated that we keep the decorations pretty simple, which many of us discovered was a GREAT blessing. We also kept the craft room simpler than ususal, too. The kids had so much fun, I doubt they noticed any difference!

  • Sharing resources: Wisely, our VBS leaders struck a deal with our host church to share some of the VBS expenses by sharing a curriculum package (which allowed us to also share the expense and work of making decorations, too). This left money to have a family pool party after the close on Friday for all the attendees' and volunteers' families. It was a great way to meet some of the parents of kids who were visiting our church via VBS and it gave them a chance to get to know our church family. And it was just plain, FUN!

I was asked at the end of the pool party, "So, how do we top this next year?" To which I replied, "We don't have to top it, we just have to do it again!"

See, this is how much fun we had:

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