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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks: July 26

Get your email inbox undercontrol.

An article in the New Yorker - Big Foot The author discusses carbon footprints, the green movement, the food industries: "Possessing an excessive carbon footprint is rapidly becoming the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter."

Want to try making your own laundry detergent ?This mom will show you how!

A Summer Picnic resource page: checklist, inspiration and recipes!

The HeadMistress at the CommonRoom has to something to say about keeping a lawn.

Oooo - this looks fun: a video tour of a LEGO factory!

On the serious side - a great post from Jennifer of Conversion Diary: Is belief in God the only thing that keeps Christians from doing evil? Are non-believers more moral because they are "good" without needing a god to tell them to be?

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Helping the older child learn to read

This was originally posted last year, but I've updated and added links.

My eldest child went to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade. Which means that someone else really taught him to read. Conversely, my second child, now 8, has always been homeschooled (he was 4 when we started homeschooling his big brother). So, I've gotten to teach him to read. This has been both a blessing and a challenge. He is what you'd call a "late blooming reader".

For a long time I thought I'd failed him in some way, but then his younger sister (who has never been in an institutional school - not even preschool) is learning to read with no problems. So, I hope that indicates that I'm not a bad teacher! :)

A friend of mine is in a similar situation and her son is having a tough time with reading (our boys are just a few months apart). Just like my middle boy, he is a bit older than most starting readers and he probably isn't the "perfect" student. (By that I mean the type who wants to sit down and spend lots of time practicing their phonics sounds.) Their older age and temperment/learning styles combine to make for some frustration for both mom and child. We begin to feel like "something is wrong", which can lead to feelings of guilt for Mom and feelings of inadequacy for child.

Here are some of the ideas we tossed around together. If you have an active, school-allergic, late-bloomer student like ours, you might find some of these ideas really helpful.

A curriculum we've enjoyed
Let me start by telling you about Starfall, a free, internet-based reading program. The program is comprised of phonics-controlled online games and interactive "books". These are high-quality learning activities which kids really enjoy. There are various levels from kids just learning their letters to kids ready to write creatively. We choose a few activities each day to try.

One of my favorite aspects of Starfall are the online interactive read-along books. Your child reads the book and if he comes to a word he cannot read, he can click on it to hear it sounded out. Each phonogram-based book is coordinated with learning activities.

Starfall also provides printables that go along with each online book. In fact, you can download the whole set of printables for your own workbook. Again, these are high-quality materials covering phonics and some simple grammar and punctuation.

There are also some fun "play" activities based on seasonal themes, including calendars to print.

Fun and games
My son balks at anything remotely "schoolish". He melts down and seems to regress to preschool (he's 8) when presented with a workbook. While he is learning that being educated by me means he has to do some stuff that is "boring", I am learning to provide as many learning games as possible.

A very simple, but favorite game for us has been Sight Word Bingo. This is a little boxed board game by Carson-Dellosa Publishing. I started by calling out the word and showing him the card, then he would find it's match on his Bingo board. Now I call out the word, but don't show it to him unless he's stumped. He's gotten so fast, I often can't call out cards fast enough. One tip with games: play with your child (don't just call out the bingo cards)! Kids love getting a chance to beat Mom!

There are other games you could try, but I have had great success with this simple bingo game.

Here are some other ideas:

Readers for older kids
One real issue for us has been finding readers for older kids. Most readers today are written with very young kids in mind. These bored my son and me right out of our minds! But finding something more interesting (and more appropriate for his comprehension level) has been difficult. I recommend finding non-fiction books to use as readers. Science books are particularly interesting to kids and come in many reading levels. Biographies are another good idea.

Scholastic has a nice series of biographies at great prices (about $5.00 US). We've been reading The Story Of Thomas Alva Edison . He reads about a paragraph ot two each day. I help him when he gets stuck on a word, but for the most part, he reads on his own. There are some "big" words in the text, so I just jump in and tell him those. No sense getting him frustrated. He gets a mark on his reading chart and when the chart is complete a reward! (I'm giving him $10 to go buy more books.)

Another source for readers is DK Readers. These come in 4 levels, so you can easily choose the best level for your child. The readers in this series cover all sorts of fascinating subjects: history, science, LEGOs, sports, literature and more. They have DK's excellent pictures, too! We will start a Level 3 book called Spies! next.

Here are some suggestions:
I Want To Be a Jedi (Level 3)
Journey Through Space (Level 2)
Ready, Set, Podrace! (Level 1)

You'll need to guage your child's level and give them the help they need so as not to frustrate them. I'd suggest starting out with reading the text and having them read a few words in each line. Or alternate reading: you read a sentence (or paragraph), then she reads a sentence (or paragraph). Because my son can be a slacker, I've taken a different approach. We read as much or as little as he wants, but I will NOT read to him other than a bit of assistance when he gets stumped. (Just this book - we have lots of other read alouds) However, he only gets a mark on his chart if he reads atleast a 1/2 a page. His curiosity to see what happens next is my "hook"!

Another book that has been a hit at our house is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series (there are 3, I believe). These are funny little books with pencil-like drawings on most every page, but they are laid out like chapter books. So, there is less print on most pages than an average chapter book, which gives developing eyes a break and discouraged kids a confidence boost (when they zip through the pages).

Read Along
When I was little I fairly taught myself how to read by using "read along" books and my record player. Now, you can find lots of great books on audio tape or CD. My son has particularly enjoyed the Magic Tree House Collection read along books. (The CDs come in 4 book sets.) These are great stories in simple prose. And your kids will learn at the same time! Most of their titles are history-based.

Out and About or Reading on the Fly
Another fun thing to do is encourage your child to read words they see while you are out and about. Billboards, advertisements on trucks, store signs, merchandise in the store, signs in the store or building, etc. You get the idea! Just make it fun. I bet you could even make this into a game. If you have an idea for a game like this, I'd love to hear about it! Post a comment or link to your blog.

I'm pleased to say that my son has really gained a lot of confidence in his reading in the past 3 or 4 months. I don't think it is solely due to the programs and ideas I shared above, but they have been a big part! He has a long way to go, but he's well on his way.

Give them a delight in GREAT stories
My husband is our read aloud guy. He has spent countless hours reading aloud to each of our kids before bedtime. This has especially helped our late-bloomer develop a love of great stories (hubby reads good, good books with them, not "twaddle"), which encourages him to want to learn to read even more. This has also given him a fantastic vocabulary - he tests at a 6th grade level in vocab (he's entering 3rd)...just don't ask him to spell those words!

Another thing my husband does during these read alouds is spend a little bit of time letting our late-bloomer practice his reading. They choose a simple book or a few simple sentences from the book they are reading aloud. This gives him almost daily practice in addition to the other instruction/practice he's had with me during "school".

Other ideas for the older kid learning to read? Love to hear them! Got a game you love, or a website - please share!

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Peter Piper's Picks - July 19th

How to motivate yourself to do those things you hate.

If you are a classical educator, don't miss this. She's gathered some great resources for you.

If you are married, here's an article to read all the way to the end.
And with the Olympics coming soon to Beijing, here's an interesting article: Is Beijing like New York City a century ago?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Latin for mommies

**Long breath out**

I've just finished my homework for my first class of Latin (and emailed it off to my instructor for grading - yikes). This is sort of a "crash course" for homeschool moms (most of whom are getting ready to teach latin). Some of the ladies in our class have studied Latin before (lucky devils) the rest of us are first-timers.

While I knew it would be hard work, I am pleasantly surprised to find it is actually...dare I say it... FUN! Here are some of my favorite sentences from this week:

Agri belli agricolam satiant.
Agricola magnus pecuniam multam habet.
Viri Romani sapientiam habent.

Anyone want to take a shot at those? :)

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Slip and Die

Here's my favorite - I think because it is obviously a "family affair". "Dad" is a hoot! This one is family friendly. :)

Ron's Slip and Slide Extravaganza (FULL VERSION)

This is why I will NEVER leave my boys home alone. I know they could and would do this in a heart beat. And I'm a bad mom - I laugh every time I watch this. This is why I love boys.

There is one bad word in the middle (at about 3 minutes when one guys has a slight accident), so turn down your speakers if that will bug you (or your kids are watching). But, you'll miss the music and the funny banter.

Encouragement from many places

From my sweet husband (as you may have seen in the comments to the last post).

Then these articles:
Work the Wait from Today's Christian Woman
Don't waste a setback by Marvin Olansky from this week's World Magazine

and this blog post:
Big Hearts, Small Families from Extraordinary Moms Network

Peter Piper's Picks: July 12th

What Every American Should Know About the Middle East.

How southern are you? I'm a full-blooded Dixie girl, but I still only scored 83%. But this survey was created by a bunch of Yankees. :) If you scored higher, let me hear it - I personally think it's not possible. Heh.

A FREE booklet from the Core Knowledge Series ("What Your __ Grader Needs To Know"): Teaching Your Child to Read.
Are biofuels a significant factor in rising food costs? This report makes it seem that there is only one major factor and I doubt that, but I am concerned about how using food for fuel may be impacting food economics.

How to be more patient - 15 tips. Certainly someone besides me needs this list, right?

Looking for a tutorial? 15 Awesome Tutorial Websites.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Heart of the Matter Meme: What HASN'T Worked for Me

Homeschooling is a wonderful thing, but it has its own pitfalls. One of these, the one I find most frequently in my own family, is making comparisons with other homeschoolers.

Most of us are homeschooling to avoid peer dependency in our kids (among other things), yet we go right on with it ourselves! Why do we feel the need to homeschool just like Sally Homeschooler? Fear of inadequacy? Fear of failure? Fear of being, yet again, outside the "norm"? Well, this definitely hasn't worked for me: Overconcern with fitting some homeschool mold. Here are some examples:

Rearranging my house to have a "school room" - While this works for some families it was a disaster for us. We were totally on top of each other and the noise level in our school room was distracting to all of us. We are whole house people. I love to be able to get housework or personal work done while my kids get their school done. We are now back at the kitchen table - quite happily!

Adopting certain child-rearing philosophies that went against my nature and my children's - This was such a sad mistake, but hard to resist when many corners of the homeschool world tell us that if your kids don't do X or do Y, then you aren't discplining them well. Why did I listen to something that totally went against my nature? Perhaps it is the vulnerable state of a new homeschooler - everything is so new. We are leaving all of what seems "normal" behind and it makes one question many aspects of our lives. Then we hear these speakers and teachers with their amazing certainty and it is easy to think we've gotten our parenting wrong, too. Luckily, my husband and I have recently become acutely aware of the stress we've been introducing to our family and we are re-learning our discipline. It is quite amazing how hard it is to unlearn, though.

Thinking that if *I* wasn't teaching every subject, then I was somehow an inadequate homeschooler - Oh, this vigilancy about being just the "right" type of homeschooler. In fact, sometimes it is even implied that you aren't *really* a homeschooler if you are involved in any kind of outside classes, at least other than the most extra-extracurricular activities. This kept me for sometime from realzing that both my kids and I would greatly benefit from a co-op type of group. This particular group (Classical Conversations) has been such a help to me and a delight to my kids, I'm only sorry I let others dissuade me from being involved out of fear of not being a "real" homeschooler.

I encourage you to look beyond what your homeschooling circles are doing and teaching (friends, speakers, teachers, authors, etc) to what the Lord is calling YOU to do in your homeschool. Don't be afraid to step out and do something different if it is right for you or your family. That is why we are homeschooling!

This post is part of Heart of the Matter's Friday Meme: What Hasn't Worked For Me.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pray for China - Free Wristband

Voice of the Martyrs is giving away FREE wristband to help us remember to pray for China during the Olympics. China's people are very close to my heart and I will definitely be praying for them! I've ordered my FREE wristband, have you?

Spread the word!

Art History Links for Homeschoolers - July 2008

I'm consolidating the art resource links to a once a month posting. Here are July's art resource finds:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a wonderful exhibit of Turner. Lots of online images and background information on this British landscape painter.

Starting July 15th and running until November 16th, the Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachussetts is hosting: The New Reality: The Frontier of Realism in the 21st Century. The exhibit compares realism from the history of art (Vermeer, with realism in the 21st century

The Art Institute of Chicago has a fantastic exhibition of the art of Benin (an historic kingdom located in present-day Nigeria) running from July 10 - September 21. The quality of the artwork is truly wonderful. If you are in the Chicago area, I'd say this is a do not miss. (If you are in the area, be sure to check out the "Passport to Africa" a series of free evening events sponsored by Target.) But, if not, their online resources are excellent: excellent essays on major exhibition themes, nearly 40 online images from the exhibit, and a thorough reading list.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Hurrying past beauty, again

Last year, I posted a link to a story about a world-famous violinist who performed icognito in one of Washington DC's subway stations. It was amazing to watch as people ignored the musician, atleast for the most part. Well, the journalist to set up this experiment was honored with a Pulitzer Prize for his originality, but there's a kicker....unbeknownst to him his idea wasn't at all original. Turns out the same experiment was done in the 30's!

Notes & Quotes: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Part One "Industrial - Corn")

Today - more notes and quotes from the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.

Part One "Industrial - Corn"

p. 17 "...a working definition of industrial food: Any food whose provenance is so complex or obscure that it requires expert help to ascertain."

p. 20 "...the food industry has done a good job of persuading us that the forty-five throusand different items of the supermarket...represent genuine variety rather than so many clever rearrangements of molecules extracted from the same plant." (that being corn, of course - so we've traded in true variety of diet for the appearance of variety)

p. 23 " 'When you look at the isotope ratios...we North Americans look like corn chips with legs.' Compared to us, Mexicans (who have traditionally been associated with a diet high in corn) today consume a far more varied carbon diet.... So, that's us: processed corn, walking."

p. 38 "A case can be made that the corn plant's population explosion in places like Iowa is responsible for pushing out not only other plants but the animals and finaly the people, too."

"This diversity (before the industrialization of the farm) allowed the farm not only to substantially feed itself - and by that I don't mean feed only the farmers, but also the soil and livestock - but to withstand a collapse in the market for any one of the crops."

But corn is relatively healthy, right? I mean, sure, it isn't a great idea to have a diet based so solidly on one crop, but if it has to be something corn isn't so bad, right?

Well, for one thing:
p. 41 "Hybrid corn is the greediest of plants, consuming more fertilizer than any other crop." (fertilizers that are largely made of petroleum products - so this crop is one that is particularly loaded with chemicals)

p. 45 " find that every bushel of industrial corn requires the equivalent of between a quarter and a third of a gallon of oil to grow it - or around fifty gallons of oil per acre of corn."
So, why this dependence on corn? Well, it all starts with farm policy.

p. 49 "America's farm policy was forged during the Depression not, as many people seem to think, to encourage farmers to produce more food for a hungry nation, but to rescue farmers from the disastrous effects of growing too much food - far more than Americans could afford to buy. ... When it comes to food, nature can make a mockery of the classical economics of supply and demand.... So, going back to the Old Testament, communities have devised various strategies to even out the destructive swings of agriculutral production. The Bible's recommended farm policy was to establish a grain reserve. ... This is more or less what the New Deal farm programs attempted to do. ...(these policies) did a fairly good job of keeping corn prices from collapsing in the face of the twentieth century's rapid gains in yield."

p. 52 However, that all changed with the 1973 farm bill which "...began replacing the New Deal system of supporting prices through loans, government grain purchases, and land idling with a new system of direct payment to farmers. ... Instead of keeping corn out of a falling market, as the old loan programs and federal granary had done, the new subsidies encouraged farmers to sell their corn at any proice, since the government would make up the difference. Or as it turned out, make up some of the difference.... Instead of supporting farmers, the government was now subsidizing every bushel of corn a farmer could grow...."
(therefore, the purchasers of this cheap corn are the true beneficiaries and those purchasers would be the big industrial agricultural companies: ADM, Cargill, etc.)

p. 62 "This system is designed to keep production high and prices low." The result is a "mountain of cheap corn" that needs to be made into a higher-priced and desirable product. "Moving that mountain of cheap corn - finding the people and animals to consume it, the cars to burn it, the new products to absorb it, and the nations to import it - has become the principal task of the industrial food system, since the supply of corn vastly exceeds the demand."

p. 64 " The place where most of those kernels wind on the American factory farm, a place that could not exist without them. Here, hundreds of millions of food animals that once lived on famly farms and ranches are gathered together in great commisaries.... Enlisting the cow in this undertaking has required particularly heroic efforts, since the cow is by nature not a corn eater. ... Enter the corn-fed American steer."

Ok, am I the only person in America that did not realize cows aren't designed to eat corn? I know I'm a city girl, but how did this escape me?

Does this make any sense to feed an animal that which it cannot easily digest? Whether you believe in simple evolution or God's design it seems pretty foolhardy to go against an animal's nature and expect it to stay healthy! But cows aren't the only animals being fed corn - on p. 67: "like the farmed salmon now being bred to tolerate grain."

But what about the praries being ruined by overgrazing? I am sure I remember hearing that this was a problem. Somewhat like we now hear about the seas being overfished. Isn't there something to this? And aren't industrial farms alteast helping to alleviate these problems?

p. 70 "While it is true that overgrazing can do ecological harm to a grassland, in recent years ranchers have adopted rotational grazing patterns that more closely mimic the patterns of bison.... In fact, a growing number of ecologists now believe the rangelands are healthier with cattle on them, provided they are moved requently. ... growing meat on grass makes superb ecological sense: It is a sustainable, solar-powered food chain...."

But... "Cows raised on grass simply take longer to reach slaughter weight than cows raised on a richer diet...tremendous quantities of corn, protein and fat supplements, and an arsenal of new drugs."

p. 75 "Yet this corn-fed meat is demonstrably less healthy for us, since it contains more saturated fat and less omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of animals fed grass."

It is also extraordinarily less healthy for the animals and has led to the heavy use of antibiotics in the feedlots. Pollan explains the biology behind all this, but suffice it to say that corn ruins the health of the cow. Unfortunately, the more antibiotics used the more resistant the germs in these feedlots including E. coli, which is lethal to humans and had never been seen before 1980).

Set aside the biology and consider the environmental impact: an average feedlot cow "will have consumed in his lifetime the equivalent of thirty-five gallons of oil - nearly a barrel." Remeber that in times past, this was an entirely solar-powered enterprise. That is pretty shocking. What is even more shocking is that we are paying for this with our nation's health.

So, that is what happens to the majority of the corn grown in our country...what about the rest of that mountain of corn?

From page 86, it is made into a whole selection of ingredients you may have seen on a food label: "citric and lactic acid; glucose, fructose, and maltodextrin; ethanol (for alcoholic beverages as well as cars), sorbitol, mannitol, and xanthum gum; modified and unmodified starches; as well as dextrins and cyclodextrins and MSG, to name only a few."

p. 90 "...this is where we come in. It takes a certain kind of eater - an industrial eater - to consume (these products), and we are, or have evolved into, that supremely adapted creature: the eater of processed food."

p. 91 "In many ways, breakfast food: four cents' worth of commodity corn (or some other equally cheap grain) transformed into four dollars worth of processed food. What an alchemy!"

At this point in the book, I threw up my hands and said, "NO MORE COLD CEREAL!" Ok, so in my house that isn't entirely realistic. I fix a "real" breakfast many mornings, but sometimes I do resort to cold cereal. And my kids (and I!) do like it. So, maybe the point is to find a good one with *real* grains - I wonder if that is possible.

Processors of food still had to figure out a way to get us to eat all that processed food...the solution was relatively simple once it was figured out: Supersizing!

p. 106 "Researchers have found that people (and animals) presented with large portions will eat up to 30 percent more than they would otherwise. ... Our bodies are storing reserves of fat against a famine that never comes."

And who is the king of "Supersizing"? McDonald's of course.

p. 116 "Some time later I found another way to calculate just how much corn we had eaten that day. I asked Todd Dawson, a biologist at Berkely, to run a McDonald's meal through his mass spectrometer and calculate how much of the carbon in it came originally from a corn plant...the atomic signature of those carbon isotopes is indestructible, and still legible to the mass spectrometer.... soda (100 percent), milk shake (78 percent), salad dressing (65 percent), chicken nuggets (56 percent), cheeseburger (52 percent), and french fries (23 percent)."

And it gets worse - this isn't just about health, or is also a justice issue.

p. 118 "I mentioned earlier that all life on earth can be viewed as a competition for the energy captured by plants and stored in carboydrates, energy we measure for calories. There is a limit to how many of those calories the world's arable land cdan produce each year, and an industrial meal of meat and processed food consumes - and wastes - an unconscionable amount of that energy. To eat corn directly (as Mexicans and many Africans do) is to consume all the energy in that corn, but when you feed that corn to a steer or a chicken, 90 percent of its energy is lost - to bones or feathers or fur, to living and metabolizing as a steer or chicken.... But processing food also burns energy....the amount of food lost in the making of something like a Chicken McNugget could feed a great many more children than just mine, and behind the 4,510 calories the three of us had for lunch stands tens of thousands of corn calories that could have fed a great many hungry people."

And a taste issue -

p. 119 "The more you concentrate on how it tastes, the less like anything it tastes. ... And so it goes, bite after bite, until you feel not satisfied exactly, but simply, regrettably, full."

Oh, my have I known that feeling. I've often wondered if this contributes to obesity as well. We don't truly feel satisfied by fast or processed food - perhaps because the taste is lacking. So we eat more trying to reach that point of satisfaction, only to get full in the process.

So, how much corn do you eat on regular basis - corn that doesn't look like corn. I'm pretty shocked to realize just how much we ingest - and we are pretty healthy eaters. For sometime now, I've been avoiding high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup itself, but I had no idea that there were so many other invisible corn products in my food everyday.

For us this means we are going to make a more concerted effort to eat whole, real foods rather than those that have been processed in any way. At first, I thought that wouldn't leave much, but in reality it opens up wonderful doors of diverse menus!

Notes & Quotes: The Omnivore's Dilemma (Intro)

Yesterday, I briefly reviewed The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan with the promise to follow up with my "notes & quotes" from this book. When I read I do a LOT of underlining and "talking back" to an author, so I thought it might be fun to get the conversation started by sharing my thoughts about this book. Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts whether or not you've read this book. (If you have read it, all the better!)


p. 2 - discussing the sudden changes in dietary habits that have occurred since the late 70's and recent years mighty swings of fad diets: "So violent a change in a culture's eating habits is surely the sign of a national eating disorder...never happen in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food...such a culture would not feel the need for its most august legislative body to ever deliberate the nation's 'dietary goals'...other countries, such as Italy and France, ...decide their dinner questions on the basis of such quaint and unscientific criteria as pleasure and tradition...and lo and behold wind up actually healthier and happier in their eating than we are."

p. 5 "The lack of a steadying culture of food leaves us especially vulnerable to the blandishments of the food scientist and the is very much in the interest of the food industry to exacerbate our anxieties about what to eat, the better to assuage them with new products."

p. 7 "Industrial agriculture has supplanted a complete reliance on the sun for our calories with something new under the sun: a food chain that draws much of its energy from fossil fuels instead."

p. 9 "Many of the problems of health and nutrition we face today trace back to things that happen on the farm, and behind those things stand specific government policies few of us know anything about."

There aren't many notes in my book at this point as the author is mostly focused on setting up his objectives. Perhaps these quotes will whet your appetite to read more of my notes and quotes...and/or purchase the book for yourself!

But what do you think so far? Do you agree with his basic premises?

What do you think about his idea that our lack of a common "cuisine" has made us vulnerable to food anxieties unlike other cultures? I think he's on to something very important. We need these common ties and if they are absent, we fill them with something (created ties - dieting, vegetarianism, fad diets or fad foods). Besides, when one looks at cultural cuisines all over the world you'll find healthy, varied diets that provide naturally beneficial food combinations.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

How appropriate that I would have finished The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan just minutes before I started to make dinner for my family! Literally, I closed the book and turned to my lasagna ingredients.

The book's introduction opens with the question many mothers find both mundane and challenging: "What should we have for dinner?" Mr. Pollan never presumes to answer the question definitively for us. Instead, he invites us to make that determination ourselves by asking hard questions about where our food comes from. Along the way he does do a lot of the legwork for us by exploring three different "paths" a meal might take to the table: industrial, pastoral, and personal. There are visits to factories, farms and forests to explore each of the various food "paths" as well as a good deal of philosophical and political discussion along the way.

Four hundred and eleven pages later, Mr. Pollan has done an excellent and entertaining job of helping us do some serious thinking about our food choices. And he does it all without even a touch of preachiness!

From vegans to hunters (and the majority of us in between), I highly recommend this book to anyone who eats... and anyone who thinks.

In the coming days, I'll be posting my "Notes & Quotes" from the book. You can subscribe to this blog's feed by email or RSS to get those blog updates.

Next on my reading list is Pollan's book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

Enjoy other book reviews: Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Iliad: Wordled

I included a link to this fun new toy, Wordle, yesterday in my "Peter Piper's Picks". Just wanted to show you one I'd done from my Iliad reading! Click on the Wordle cloud and you can see it larger.

Very cool, no? Why is this so much fun?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

New Homeschool Talk Radio Show

Big news in the homeschool blog world - a new HOMESCHOOL TALK "RADIO" SHOW!
Dana Hanley, of Principled Discovery blog, is launching her show Monday, July 7th at 1pm CST. Her line-up of interviews for upcoming weeks looks really good. I'm making a date with my computer to catch this show each week!

Peter Piper's Picks: July 5th

Anne Atkins of The Guardian takes on GAFCON.

And Hills of the North takes on the PB's response to GAFCON.

A sobering discussion of the effects of anti-bacterial use. (This is an audio file from a PBS radio show in my area.)

Trying to clean green? Here is a whole assortment of "recipes" for green, frugal cleaners.

This is the hideous underbelly of State Healthcare plans. HT: First Things

Here's fun past-time while you are trying to avoid the post-Fourth clean up: Wordle - it makes personalized word clouds from your input text!

Anyone who can pull together The Screwtape Letters, environmentalism, Canada, and crass culture - well, that's worth reading!

And my print out and dig-in for the week, if I can pay attention long enough to read it: Attention Class (HT: evangelical outpost)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day!
Did you know that Independence Day is one of the few civil holidays the Book of Common Prayer offers a prayer for?
"Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this coutnry won liberty for themselves and for us, and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn: Grant, we beseech thee, that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain these liberties in righteousness and peace..."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Recipe Swap Box: BBQ Edition

Today is Randi's Recipe Swap Box day! She's asked everyone to submit BBQ related recipes, so go check them all out. You'll get some great ideas for the Fourth of July!

My recipe comes from my lovely and hostessly-talented friend Julie. I do not have the recipe, but it wasn't too hard to figure out. Amounts are "ish", so adjust to your preferences. This sounds like and odd combination, but is SO GOOD! And the beans and corn chips are a great protein combination.

Frito, Bean and Green Salad
One head of romaine lettuce (or iceberg)
One can of red kidney beans, drained
One bag of Fritos
Enough Catalina dressing to coat said lettuce, beans and fritos.

Rip or chop the lettuce into bite-sized pieces (or however you prefer your salad greens). Pour on Catalina dressing and mix well. Go easy here - you can always add more! Finally, mix in drained beans and Fritos coating them with the dressing, too. Enjoy!

The Fritos will get soggy if you mix this up too far ahead of time. If you want to make it ahead of time, just leave off the dressing until you are ready to serve.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A quiet day for us

My mom headed home today after visiting for about a week. She brought her new puppy, Callie, with her to visit which was so much fun for all of us. Over the weekend, hubby went on his Men's Retreat with our church up to the NC hills. The weather was lovely for him and all the guys had a great time up there. So, mom and I enjoyed just hanging out with the kids while he was gone.

We did go see Wall-E which I highly recommend! It is a sweet movie with a lovely message about friendship and a sober message about consumerism and our culture. If you go see it, let me know what you think.

Monday, I had my first meeting of "Libri Antiqui" a group of ladies and gentlemen gathering to read the Great Books together. We are starting with The Iliad. I cracked the book yesterday afternoon - I'm on page 7 of the Introduction - only 607 more pages to go! I'm not going to skip the Intro, but I sure do want to just dig in.

Today will be a quiet day. They always are after a visit as we get the house back to normal - or normalish. We'll spend it cleaning up the playroom that got trashed by "Not Me", finishing up the laundry Mom helped me get on top of, straightening up the multitude of piles that somehow seem to grow when I'm not looking and maybe a bit of relaxing, too.

Guess we have to decide what we are doing for the 4th. We've been invited to a big shin-dig pool party, but some of us are tempted to just enjoy a family backyard celebration. It sure is nice to eat watermelon, cookout, make smores and watch Daddy's backyard fireworks show! We'll see...

So, what are you doing for the 4th?