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Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Swine Flu Got Started

Swine Flu
There ya go!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

7 Books for Prospective Homeschoolers

Decided to homeschool, but don't know where to start?

Or been homeschooling and need some re-inspiration or redirection?

Read on for some not-to-be-missed books!

My blogger friend, Jessica at Homemaking Through the Church Year, has just made the decision to homeschool, at least for next year. (Her posts on making the homeschool decision are admirable in their prayerful, reasonable decision-making.) She asked for reading suggestions as she prepares for her homeschool year.

When we decided to begin homeschooling our then 7 year old almost 6 years ago, I spent the spring and summer before we began devouring all the books I could find on the subject. I continute to read on the subject here and there, too. Here are some that I've found particularly helpful over the past 6 years:

1. Should I Home School?: How to Decide What's Right for You & Your Childby Elizabeth and Dan Hamilton - I took copious notes from this book. I found it to be a really well-balanced guide to making the decision about homeschool.

2. The Moore's The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook - a really great place to start. Actually, anything by them (Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child's Education is another good one)! The Moores are pioneers in the homeschool movement. To miss this book is to miss what many consider to be the "soul" of home education!

3. Cathy Duffy's 100 Top Picks For Homeschool Curriculum
- This book is more than just product reviews (which are excellent, by the way). It begins with an excellent section on the various methods of education, personality and learning types, and a fantastic chart detailing what curricula matches which method of education and personality type. That portion is invaluable...and then come the thorough product reviews!

4. How to Homeschool: A Practical Approach- by Gayle Graham is a fantastic resource as you begin to figure out how you'll get it all done. She covers everything from tacking the laundry to tackling spelling! This book may be hard to find, but if you need help juggling home and education, this is a gem worth digging for.

5. Ruth Beechick has a series of books: Home Start in Reading, Strong Start in Language, and Easy Start in Arithmetic. These are for teaching early elementary. She also has another book: You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8. These are classics from another homeschool pioneer. If you need to educate on a shoe string or keep homeschool simply and effective, these are not to be missed!

6. For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and Schoolis particularly good for those interested in following the Charlotte Mason method. But I'd recommend it for anyone contemplating home education! Susan Schaeffer MacCauley (yes, that is Schaeffer as in Francis and Edith Schaeffer) presents a winsome vision for home education.

7. Climbing Parnassus by Tracy Lee Simmons is an highly recommended book for those interested in Classical Education: "...defense and vindication of the formative power of Greek and Latin. His persuasive witness to the unique, now all-but-forgotten advantages of study in and of the classical languages constitutes a bracing reminder of the genuine aims of a truly liberal education."

Learn more about each of these titles, and see other recommended books, at the Ten O'Clock Scholar aStore.

This post is part of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Kale and White Bean Soup with Chicken

This recipe was my first real adventure with kale. I always thought I didn't like kale, but I was wrong! I was inspired by a traditional Portuguese soup with kale and beans (and sausage) which sounds wonderful, but this one uses up my leftover chicken!

This dish is great for many seasons: late fall, winter or early spring whenever kale is available in your area.

Kale and White Bean Soup with Chicken
1 T olive oil
1 large spring onion (or a small yellow onion), halved and sliced
1 to 1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
2 cans cannellini beans, with the liquid
1 large bunch of kale, well rinsed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups (more or less) chopped or shredded, cooked chicken
a rind of parmesan or some parmesan to top at the table

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add onion and saute until transluscent. Add stock and bring to boiling. Add kale by handfuls (allow to wilt a bit and then add the next handful), stirring well. Let kale boil for a few minutes to soften well, then reduce heat and add beans and liquid from can. Cover and simmer until kale is tender. Add cooked chicken and keep soup simmering to warm chicken through. You can toss in a rind of parmesan into the pot for extra flavor or top with freshly grated parmesan at the table.

Serve with a nice crusty bread!

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How to Create a Daily Oasis in Your Home

Do you need a bit of quiet in the midst of a busy day? Do your kids need some downtime each day to collect themselves? Does everyone need just a little bit of "alone" time? I have a simple idea for you that will give you a daily oasis for your family: Read or Rest time.

The idea:
Provide your kids and yourself with a bit of calm and quiet each day by instituting a time of quiet reading and resting.This sets a wonderful rhythm to your family's day (and it establishes a good habit of daily reading). You spend the morning working or learning together and then have a little time to relax, regroup, and process what you've learned.

The Basics:
1. Select a timeslot that works for your family schedule.
2. Provide your kids with a good selection of books (personal collection, the library, etc.).
3. Determine the rules that work for your family situation (together, seperately, reading only, books on tape, quiet playing, etc).
4. Discuss the rules and enforce them.
5. Make it a regular part of everyday.

Here's how it works in my home:
Each day after lunch, my kids head up to their rooms for an hour of quiet reading or resting. Simple enough, right? The "catch" is in the rules...the rules are that everyone MUST be on their beds reading a book, listening to a book on tape, or just looking at a book...or they must be resting. Even mom abides by this rule, although my read or rest time is spent downstairs on the couch or in "my chair".

Some other ideas:
You might choose to allow pre-readers to play LEGOs or draw while listening to music or a story on tape instead of reading. Or you might decide that instead of doing a seperate read time, you all lay down together and listen to a book. (This might be especially nice if you aren't together in the morning and you need time to reconnect as a family.) There are many ways to make the basic idea work for your family! It may take a few days to reinforce the rules of Read or Rest time (whatever they are for your family), but I bet you'll find as I have that your kids really need and enjoy the time.

Do you do something similar to Read or Rest? Let me hear about it! Did you try Read or Rest - how did you like?

This post is part of the Carnival of Homeschooling hosted today by Susan at Corn and Oil. It is teeming with great ideas this week. Don't miss it!

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Roasted Potatoes and Turnips

Roasting turnips brings out a little bit of their sweetness and combine them with the savoriness of potatoes and they are just delicious! This makes a wonderful side to Roasted Chicken (try my favorite recipe for Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Rosemary) since you've already got the oven on and everything can cook at the same time.

This is my recipe.

Roasted Potatoes and Turnips
4-5 medium potatoes
5-6 small white turnips
1 small onion (in spring use green onions, in fall use a nice yellow onion)
1/4 c olive oil (or whatever seems to be enough to coat your vegetables)
a few dashes of salt, pepper and dry or fresh dill

Wash (peel the onion), trim and roughly chop the potatoes, turnips, and onion. Place in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables and season with salt, pepper and dill. Toss to coat well. Lay the vegetables on a rimmed cookie sheet - one layer as best you can. Use two cookie sheets if you must to keep it to one layer.

Place in an oven preheated to 375 degrees and roast for approximately 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and golden. Keep an eye on this as it cooks - stir if you see your vegetables getting too browned on the edges.

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Scandinavian Radish Salad

Oh, my this is refreshing: slightly peppery and slightly sweet! Slice those radishes as thinly as you can for a really delectable salad. I made this with an assortment of white, hot pink and deep fuscia radishes and it was beautiful as well as delicious.

Scandinavian Radish Salad

2 tsp white wine or rice wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dry or 1 1/2 tsp fresh dill
a dash of garlic powder
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of salt
a grinding of fresh black pepper
15-20 medium radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced (or shaved)

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, oil, dill, garlic powder, sugar, salt, and pepper. In a large bowl, toss radishes with vinegar, oil, spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate about an hour (more is fine, of course) before serving.

For a different, and still Scandinavian, flavor you could replace the dill with caraway seed (1 tsp).

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Green Tomato Casserole

You've heard of Fried Green Tomatoes, but there are other ways to enjoy those early (and late)green tomatoes. They have a nice tang that goes really well with cheese, so why not combine them into a casserole?

Green Tomato Casserole
4 medium green tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups soft breadcrumbs
1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter, softened

Butter your casserole dish, or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange one layer of tomatoes in the bottom of 1 ½ quart casserole. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper 1/3 of bread crumbs and 1/3 cheese. Repeat layers twice omitting the cheese from the top. Dot butter over the bread crumbs on top. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for one hour (if you reduce the recipe, be sure to check for doneness earlier, say at 30 minutes). Add remaining cheese, bake uncovered until cheese melts.

This was delicious and surprisingly filling. You could even "jazz" it up by adding a layer of onions, if you wish. Although the tartness and slight sweetness of the tomatoes with the cheddar was so delicious, I'm not sure I'd mess with it!

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Peter Piper's Picks: April 25th

Haunting and beautiful photos from Rwanda - 15 years after the Rwandan Hutu-Tutsi genocide. Want to remember or learn more? I highly recommend the movie, Sometimes In April.

A satisfying, but short, essay on Earth Day from a Christian perspective.

Need some ideas for getting your laundry room in better shape? Check out Mary's ideas at Owlhaven- and read the comments for more ideas!

And for a laugh (and a little lesson), enjoy this essay on cliches. See if you can spot the ones used in the essay. I double-dog dare you!

Chocolate cake in a mug.... in 5 minutes? Won't your kids love that?! Won't you love that?!

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Friday, April 24, 2009

7 Quick Takes: April 24th

Just started a funny little book called The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald about a "city" girl who gets married and moves to the country to start a chicken ranch. It was written in the 1940s, I believe. Quite funny and sweet. I love a book that causes me to laugh out loud. The last book I read that did that was In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson.

My son got an "A" on his Latin final exam! Not only an "A", but the highest grade in the class! I wish I could take any credit for helping him achieve that, but with the adoption craziness, my Latin lessons with him went out the window. He's done that on his own this semester. I'm so proud of him!! It is the one area I required him to keep up with at all costs...guess it paid off.

Our landscaping project is coming along. The beds in the front and to the right of the house have been laid and mulched. Yesterday, we went to buy a load of rock for the other side of the house and the back yard project. We are coming to the place where I can start planning flowers and bushes and trees. I've got my mind set on a few for varoius spots: dogwoods, azaleas and hydrangeas, but I need to branch out a bit, too. Any ideas? Keep in mind: southern, middle-class, suburb, small lot.

Ok, I'm home from Ghana, baby is settling in, couple weeks of homeschool under our belts, hubby goes "back to work" (he works from home) is getting back to normal. All except my housekeeping! I think I need to start FlyLady again. Any flybabies out there? How oh how do you jump back on the wagon after being off it for so long!?!

A couple years ago I inherited quite a bit of silver (placesettings, serving pieces, trays, even a champagne bucket. Some of it was in pristine condition and some of it needed serious polishing. I polished my little heart out for a few weeks (I enjoyed it so much that I even started taking in friends' silver to polish!). Then I found these little 3M silver strips that you put in with your silver to keep it tarnish free. The strips treat the air (much like silver cloth does) to reduce the tarnish - ingenious! They have kept my silver beautiful for two years and have only been replaced once. However, I think I let them go too long inbetween replacing the old strips with fresh ones. My silver is getting black again. Time to polish...luckily I kind of enjoy it. How, you ask? I get a really good book on tape and polish away.

So, we are approaching the teen years with our eldest. He turns 13 in May. Wow. A couple years ago hubby took him away for a weekend to have the "talk" with him and that included discussing dating and our family's approach. Recently, we've seen lots of "boy and girl" stuff going on in various groups church, co-op, etc. All innocent, but we feel it might be time to readdress this with him and as a family. There are some other families we are close to who are in the same place. I'm wondering what resources out there might be available to help us in that conversation (with our kids and among each other). Anyone have suggestions for DVDs, books, etc that discussing a Christian approach to dating, courthship, etc.?

I have another new blog (I know it is a bit of a sickness, no?). I love the idea of a commonplace book, but I find I won't keep one unless it is online. So, I've started an online commonplace book. I'm really enjoying it and having it online makes it so much easier to sort and organize. Come check it out: Forest of Things.

Have a lovely Friday! Go enjoy some more Quick Takes.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Saint George: April 23rd - 7 Ways to Celebrate

Saint George and the Dragon by Paulo Uccello - c. 1470
Tomorrow, April 23rd, is Saint George's day! Need some ideas to celebrate Saint George's day?

Here are SEVEN ways to celebrate:

1.Wear a red rose in your lapel (or display red roses in your home).

2. Read the classic Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges.

3. Fly the Saint George's Cross flag.

4. Follow the Catalan tradition: give gifts of books (or maybe buy one for yourself) - perhaps Shakespeare's Henry V: "...The game's afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!' "(It is also Shakespeare's birth day and the anniversary of his death.)

5. Or download a FREE children's book (fully, and beautifully, illustrated) based on a book Richard Johnson's book The Seven Champions from 1596.

6. Talk about the three C's: Charity, Chivalry, and Courage with your kids.

7. Learn more...

Here is a brief history, from James Kiefer and the Society of Archbishop Justus:
George is a soldier and martyr who suffered around 303 at Lydda in Palestine. The earliest surviving record of him is a church inscription in Syria, dated about 346. Commemorations of him are numerous, early, and widespread. However, no details of his life are known. In 495 his name appears on a list of "good men, justly remembered, whose good deeds are known only to God." The best-known story about him is that he rescued a beautiful princess in Libya by killing a dragon. It should be noted that this story is unknown before the appearance in 1265 of a romance called the Golden Legend (Legendum Aureum), translated into English in 1483.

When the soldiers of the First Crusade were besieging Antioch in 1098, they had a vision of George and Demetrius (a deacon of Sirmium in Serbia, martyred under Maximian, and referred to as a "soldier of Christ," from which he was often understood to be a literal soldier) encouraging them to maintain the siege, which ultimately proved successful. Richard I ("the Lion-Heart") of England, who fought in the Holy Land in 1191-1192, placed himself and his army under George's protection, and with the return home of the Crusaders, the popularity of George in England increased greatly. Edward III founded the Order of the Garter in 1348 under his patronage, his banner (a red cross on a white field) began to be used as the English national flag in 1284, and in 1415 Henry V spoke of him to rally the troops before the battle of Agincourt ("Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more, or close the wall up with our English dead. ... cry God for Harry, England, and St George!").

Saint George is the patron saint of: archers, the Boy Scouts, butchers, cavalry, chivalry, crusaders, equestrians, farmers, horsemen, horses, saddle makers, skin diseases/rashes, soldiers and places such as: Lebanon, Canada, Constantinople, England, Palestine, Portugal and Venice. See a more complete list at Catholic Culture's Liturgical Calendar pages.

Some more links:

A St. George's Day website with really thorough information about Saint George in literature, art and various traditions.
Here is a website with lots of fun printables and crafts as well as other links for Saint George's Day.
Learn more about the association between England and St. George.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Classical Conversations Lessons for Cycle 1

A lot of people have downloaded the History and Science lesson plans I've shared here for Classical Conversations. I'm so thrilled! Many of those people have stopped back by to ask if I plan on doing something similar for Cycle 1 and the answer is, "YES!"

I plan to have the history lesson plans ready in May and the science ones to follow shortly after. I'm still catching up on school with my kids (what we missed during our six weeks of adoption travel), but as soon as that is done, I'll set an expected date for the completion of the lesson plans.

Please check back (or sign up for my RSS feed or email updates) so you won't miss out!

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Farmer's Market Report - Opening Day 2009!

Today is the first Farmer's Market Report of 2009! Come on by to check it out and participate!

Sausage and Greens Soup

1/2 lb bulk sausage
Brown sausage in soup pot and drain all but a spoonful of fat. Remove meat.

1 C onion, green onion, or chives, chopped
Saute in reserved fat until soft. Return sausage to soup pot.

4 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 C potatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Add to pot, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer unitl potatoes are soft, 10-15 minutes.

1 1/2 C evaporated milk
1-3 C fresh greens (spinach, kale, purslane, watercress, or any tender young greens)
Add and cook until tender (just a minute for spinach, a few extra minutes for greens like kale). Garnish each bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

From Simply In Season , a favorite cookbook of mine.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks: April 18th

Nancy Wilson at Femina takes on the issue of mothers who smother with their love in "Smother Love". Good reading and a sort of cautionary tale.

Need some ideas for spring ideas? Or want to start collecting ideas for summer? Here are some great ones from Adventures of an Orthodox Mom and The Artful Parent.

This article is a bit old, but was recently linked to by Front Porch Republic (a new read of mine). I thought it was quite funny and had a lot to say about being overly dogmatic about being GREEN.

Kris from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers has taken the time to explain her method of planning for homeschool (weekly plans). If you are new to homeschooling or need a refresher on how to plan effectively, this is a good tutorial.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

7 Quick Takes: April 17th

Read more Quick Takes at Jen's Converstion Diary.

I love to check out my google search hits. Recently, I got one for "if I'm stuck in Africa". That just makes me laugh. Oddly enough it was for a 7 quick takes post! Have you ever checked your google search hits - what odd ones have you gotten?

We are working on improving our landscaping. It is pretty bland right now (and has been for the past 6 years), just your basic new house foundation plants. We've pulled out those (which I hate) and moved them to our backyard where they will provide nice screening. Now we are expanding our beds to take up much of our front yard (less grass is our goal) and slowly we'll add plants, bushes and some small trees (those will wait until the fall).

April is the time of year I always want to assess our homeschool and start planning for next year. The conference season is coming up (our state conference is in late May) and that means book sales! But I still have school to catch up on, so I'm trying to stay focused. I'm not doing a very good job. When do you start your annual assessment and planning?

I've finally gotten back into my routine of early morning prayer and bible reading. I use the Daily Office of the Anglican church to guide my bible reading. I also enjoy reading a spiritual classic for devotional reading in the morning. Right now it is "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis. I'm almost finished - can anyone recommend another?

While I was gone to Africa, I racked up over 800 emails in my inbox (and that doesn't include the 100s I actually read while I was there!). Last week I sat down and spent an hour or so (not all at one time - I do have children and a baby!) weeding through all those. Some needed replies (although most of the ones needing replies got replies while I was in Africa) and some needed to be labeled and archived, and some (most) just needed to be deleted. I'm back down to under 50 - much better!

Watched Slumdog Millionaire this past weekend and loved it. Have you seen it? What did you think? It is rated "R", but I'm surprised it got that rating. It had very little of the things that usually deserve an R rating (language, violence, s*#)...I thought PG-13.

I'm trying to collect ideas for celebrating the entire Easter season. I'd love to hear some of your ideas! Leave me a comment!

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Teach History Classically

Who says Classical Education is complicated? Certainly not Andrew Kern!

"In the grammar years, students should learn the stories of 'Famous Men of History.'

In the Logic years, they should relate those heroes to each other by studying the ages in which they lived.

In the rhetoric years, they should engage the argument directly. “Why is the world like it is today, because of heroes and their actions, because of sociological forces, or for some other reason?”

From Circe Institute's blog, Quiddity

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Aid Killing Africa?

Is foreign aid killing Africa?

This may seem way off topic for this blog, but now that I have a daughter from Africa, it is definitely on topic for me personally. And since Americans are the producers of so much of that aid, it is a topic for our country to consider.

Guernica Magazine (which I just discovered through Arts & Literature) published an interview with Dambisa Moyo, an African economist about her thoughts on the aid situation on the African continent. She is pretty adamant that foreign aid is making the situation worse for Africans (and has for the last sixty years). She offes some pretty sobering statistics and some well-researched evidence to support her conclusion that direct aid (caveat: she is discussing systemic aid, not emergency aid) to Africa needs to stop in the next five years or the situation will only continue to worsen.

Here's the introductory paragraph:

Dambisa Moyo’s prescription for economic sustainability in Africa—which includes cutting off all aid within five years—might seem insane if the statistics weren’t so grim: despite one trillion dollars in western aid over the past sixty years, the economic lot of the average African has only gotten worse. Most Africans now live on one dollar per day, and sub-Saharan Africa remains the poorest region in the world. Despite a deluge of aid between the years of 1970 and 1998, poverty on the continent skyrocketed from 11 percent of the population to 66 percent, which means over six hundred million Africans are now impoverished. The average African can only expect to live to be about fifty, and half the continent’s citizens are under the age of fifteen. In addition to poverty, AIDS, corruption (half the continent is still under un-democratic rule), civil war, and genocide ravage the continent. Indeed, Africa seems constantly embroiled in a steady stream of horrors, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else on the planet. Why? Are Africans innately different from the rest of us? Nonsense, says Moyo. She blames aid.

I highly recommend you take the time to read the full interview.

Then come back here and share your thoughts on her conclusions. Do you believe foreign aid has made things worse? Do you think stopping foreign aid will improve the situation? If so, how do we stop aid without causing many people to suffer. If we don't stop the aid, how do we address the concerns she raises? While solving international issues might be a bit beyond us, we can take her ideas and apply them to our church programs. Within our churches how can we incorporate her ideas into our mission outreach programs?

This is a huge issue that I'm sure homeschool moms feel is way outside their control, but I think it is important enough to at least have a well-formed opinion about. Let's let iron-sharpen iron a bit, what do you say?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Art Links for Homeschoolers: April 2009

After a long hiatus, Art Links for Homeschoolers is back! I preview resources from around the world and present you the ones I think you'll find the most useful for Art History, Art Appreciation or Picture Study in your homeschool. Each month check in to see what great resources I've found for you! Looking for something in particular? Do a blog search (that little Blogger search box in the top navigation bar - above my banner)! Want to see what resources I've reviewed so far? Click on the label "Enjoying the Arts".

Here are the resources I've collected for April:

--Baroque Period--

The Baroque period (17th and 18th centuries) encompassed architecture, painting, sculpture, and music. It was also a style that crossed cultural barriers from the British Isles to the Philippine Islands. This spring the Victoria and Albert Museum is presenting an exhibition of 200 items "to examine the flourishing of the Baroque style during the era that saw the establishment of great European and colonial empires ruled by absolute monarchs and the continuing power of the Roman Catholic Church." In conjunction with this exhibit, the museum is featuring and online Interactive Global Baroque "exhibit" (it even has a Baroque music player in the lower right column). Below the image-linked map you'll find the full selection of Baroque images from around the world. And finally, you can add your own images of Baroque-style using flickr!

--Depression Era Photography, Walker Evans--

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is exhibiting a collection of postcards with images by Walker Evans (famous Depression-Era photographer). From the exhibition homepage: a collection of 9,000 picture postcards amassed and classified by the American photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975), now part of the Metropolitan’s Walker Evans Archive. The picture postcard represented a powerful strain of indigenous American realism that directly influenced Evans’s artistic development. The Met has this entire exhibit in an online exhibition collection!

--American Abstract Art (Pollock, de Kooning)

The Albright-Knox Museum offers an exhibit assembled by The Jewish Museum in modern American Art: Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art: 1940-1976. The Jewish Museum has put together an excellent series of teaching resources all internet-based including: an Image Gallery, a cultural timeline, and more.

This post was submitted to the Carnival of Education. And the Carnival of Homeschooling at The Common Room.

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Lamb with Shallots & Mushrooms - Leftover Lamb Recipe

My Lamb Roasted with Rosemary (in the dutch oven) was wonderful last night! Now, for ways to use up the leftover lamb!

Here is the dish I'm making today...

Lamb with Shallots & Mushrooms (this recipe only fixes enough for 3, so I've increased it and changed just a bit).

cold lamb chopped into bite-sized pieces
12 oz. sliced mushrooms
4-5 chopped shallots
4 tbsp. butter
3 3/4 tbsp. flour
3 c. stock
3 tbsp. tomato paste
3 tsp. Herbes de Provence
1 c. white wine

Saute shallots in butter until just transluscent. Add mushrooms and cook until just soft. Sprinkle with flour and cook a few more minutes. Add stock, wine, salt, pepper and tomato paste. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until the sause thickens up a bit. Lower heat and add meat to sauce and let warm. Serve over rice or noodles. Serves 8-10.

I'm serving this with a side-salad, bread, and leftover strawberry-rhubarb crumble a la mode.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Week 3 after Baby L's Homecoming

If you got an odd one-liner post earlier, I apologize! My finger slipped and hit the "enter" key and it got posted.)

L is doing great - as I keep saying, but it is really true. The siblings are all truly having fun together. Just this evening, H came and took L out of my arms saying, "Hand me that baby so I can go entertain her a while."
  • This week her eating has continued to improve. She's taking solids much more regularly and is having fun feeding herself Cheerios. Bottles are regularly 4-6, sometimes she'll even take a bit more.

  • She actually slept through the night! Back in Ghana, she had gotten to the point of sleeping through the night (11pm/12am to 5am/6am and then back down until 7am or 8am) pretty regularly. Then when we came home, we reverted to waking back up many times during the night. BUT - earlier this week, we got a full night! We haven't had a repeat, but I expect we'll start to get more and more of those long night sleeps!

  • In Ghana and then back home, she seemed to have a moment every few days where something relatively normal really startled and scared her. We haven't seen her startle like that is quite some time!

  • Church on Sunday was probably a bit too much and we entirely missed her morning nap (other than a short nap in the sling while I chatted with friends). But she did pretty well. She got quite upset (but settled quickly) when we went up for prayer (at the request of a friend). I think the closeness of the crowd was a bit much for her.

  • Her babbling seems to have returned. In Ghana, we got lots of "da-da" and "ga-ga", but since we got home she's been very quiet, until the last couple of days.

  • And finally, she is starting to crawl and pull-up!

Here are some photos:

See how talented she is?

The Cheerios are so good here!

What do you mean I missed my mouth?

Sitting Shiva for Jesus - repost

This post is from last year's Good Friday. I pray you have a blessed Good Friday.

Today, I sat shiva for Jesus.

We opened our home to friends and strangers for a Stations of the Cross for children. At each station was lovely art, a short devotional, and an object lesson. (I'll share details and photos after Easter.)

Truthfully, I wasn't sure how it would be received. But, after my children and I went through the Stations just prior to our first guests, I realized the impression it all made. Truly, it was the Lord's doing.

The house was hushed with just the whispering of parents and children, and in the background thoughtful, gentle, choral music played. What a blessing to see families gathered so closely around the stations- many of them kneeling or sitting in conversation and thought. The kids were engrossed, as were the parents.

I didn't know that it would feel so much like a funeral vigil, but it did. Among Jews, it is a custom to "sit shiva" when a close family member dies. The mourners quietly recieve visitors, who come to just sit - not necessarily to socialize. After the first session ended and our family returned to our normal noise level, I realized how purposeful the earlier silence felt. It was then that it occurred to me that we were sitting shiva for Jesus.

And it felt right.

How are you observing Good Friday?

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Sunday Meals

Over on my seasonal food blog, To Every Meal There Is A Season, I've posted our Easter Sunday menu (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with links to recipes. Looking for some menu ideas? Click on over and see what I've got cooking!

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Easter Sunday Menus

Easter Sunday is fast approaching and I'm late making my plans. Perhaps you are, too? Are you looking for some last minute ideas for your Easter Sunday meals? Here's what I have planned (with linked recipes!).

Breakfast Casserole with Sausage (the "old stand-by", but it is good and I have the sausage already cooked and ready to go in my freezer)

Armenian Easter Bread - "Choereg" (if I can get to the middle eastern grocery for the mahleb spice needed)

Fresh Fruit and yogurt

Deviled eggs and veggie platter (we'll get home late after church where we will have had snacks)

Leg of Lamb with Rosemary (cooked in the Dutch Oven - I like the ease of letting the pot and the oven do the work!)

Ginger Ale Salad (a fruit salad in jello - southerners can't have a special meal without some congealed salad!)

Gratin Dauphinois

Asparagus with Bernaise (I know the usual is Hollandaise, but I just love the flavor of Bernaise with asparagus) (here is a "quick" version)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble a la Mode

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Gratin Dauphinois

Gratin Dauphinois - Oh, so yummy and delicious! This goes great as a side dish to so many main dishes (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb) and even could be part of a "vegetable" platter-type dinner. This recipe is the Julia Child version from my favorite: Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Volume One. If you want, you can even make it ahead a little and reheat/finish cooking just before serving (see directions for this at the end with "**")

2 lbs boiling potatoes
1/2 clove unpeeled garlic
4 T butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
4 oz (1 cup) grated Swiss cheese
1 c boiling milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. peel the potatoes and slice them 1/8 inch thick. Place in a large bowl (or sink) of cold water. Drain when ready to use.

Rub the baking dish with the cut garlic. Smear the inside of the dish with 1 T of the butter. Drain the potatoes and dry them on a towel. Spread half of them in the bottom of the dish. Divide over them half the salt, pepper, cheese and butter. Arrange the remaining potatoes of ther first layer, and season them. Spread on the rest of the cheese and dicide the butter over it. Pour on the boiling milk. Set baking dish over heat and when simmering, set in upper third of preheated oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, milk has been absorbed, and the top is nicely browned. (As the oven is hot, and the dish shallow, the potatoes cook quickly.)

**You may hold the dish for half an hour, loosely covered, over simmering water. For a longer wait, stop intial cooking just before all milk has evaporated. Set aside uncovered. Shortly before serving, dot with 2 T of butter, reheat on the top of stove, and set in a 425-degree oven for 5-10 minutes to finish cooking.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Palm Sunday resources

Real quick link... Barbara at Praying for Grace has collected some resources for Palm Sunday (for kids). If you stop by, leave her a comment and say thanks for her work!

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Peter Piper's Picks: April 4th

Welcome back to Peter Piper's Picks! Here's what I've been reading recently:

Cindy at Dominion Family took a blogging break last year, but a few months ago she began blogging again...and I'm so glad! She always has great insights. Last week, she shared her thoughts about online friendships - how real are they?

Now that it is spring, do you know what season it is for homeschoolers? CONVENTION season! Our statewide support group (NCHE) convention in NC is in late May. When is yours? Need some advice on getting ready to tackle it? Check out Deanne at Lifestyle of Discipleship's timely article.

A quick "shout out" to a somewhat new (at least to me) Anglican family-type blogger. I've visited her blog before, but have now added her to my GoogleReader...and my blog list. Amy at Splendor in the Ordinary...go say "HELLO!"

I'm really not trying to grind an axe here or make this my new soapbox, but this did catch my attention. First Things takes on the "Contraception Compromise".

Have you ever thought about setting up a "prayer closet", but found it difficult (or impossible) to sacrifice a closet? I have! Jen at Conversion Diary has asked for advice for this situation and has some great responses in her comments section.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Baby L's 2nd week home

Today is two weeks since we made it home with Baby L. I actually seems like a lot longer. Here are some progress notes and highlights:

  • Got a clean bill of health from our pediatrician.
  • Since we had records of her vaccinations with lot numbers, our pediatrician accepted all her vaccinations from Ghana. No repeat shots!
  • She has moved from a bassinett beside our bed into her crib in the girls' room! In fact, last night Ella and she slept in there (in the room, not the crib) together and they both did great!
  • Speaking of sleeping, she has begun to let us put her down for naps before she has fallen asleep (but still when she is really tired and has been all snuggled up).
  • Her bottle-feeding has really improved! She is now regularly taking 4-5 oz, sometimes 6oz and at least once she took 7oz at one time! We've moved up a nipple flow speed which has helped and she's taken to it without being stressed about feeling choked. This is really big news!
  • She's begun trying lots of new baby foods. When she is interested in eating solids she does great, but when she isn't forget it!
  • The dogs' barks don't make her cry anymore and she tolerates them coming to say "hello" more and more. She is also quite interested in the kitties.
  • She still insists on being in Mama's arms at certain times and there is no putting her down or passing her off. We are glad that she is showing a tight bond, but it does make it hard to get things done.
  • Nighttimes are improving, but still we wake up with her (or she wakes before we go to bed) around midnight to 1am and then around 4am. Better than waking every hour or so!

So, that is a quick run-down of her adjustment status. We hope to have her at church this Sunday for Palm Sunday. It will be a lot for her and we'll have to watch for signs that she is getting overwhelmed, but I think she'll do pretty well.

7 Quick Takes: April 3rd - What is Normal?

Today marks two weeks since I returned home from Ghana. It took about 10 of those 14 days to start to really feel "back to normal". Not sure whether that is more due to time change, culture reacclimation, or just being away from my own "normal" for a month and a half. How different "normal" can be from one culture to another! How different normal can be from one person to another!

So, what makes my life seem normal? My time away certainly has clarified what makes me feel comfortable and at home...

Pajamas. I adore fact my husband might say I have a slight obsession with pjs. After a long, busy day nothing feels better than peeling off the day's clothes and snuggling into a comfortable pair. Of course, you might guess I have quite a collection and it is a sad day when an old, favorite pair has to be retired.

NPR. My daily routine includes quite a lot of NPR. Liberal bias or not, the stories on NPR are good and more often constitute REAL news (or at least REAL human interest) than what I see on local or national news shows, which I stopped watching a couple of years ago. I really watch very little news on TV.

Morning Routine. Quiet house, dim morning light, warm cup of tea or coffee, reading bible and/or devotional, checking email, reading some blogs, looking over my day's schedule and waiting for the first child to descend the stairs, the sign day has truly begun.

My spot on the couch. We have acquired by "hand-me down" a couch and a loveseat to replace our couch with chaise that had its springs sprung by rambunctious children. It didn't take long for me to find "my spot" on the loveseat. Settling in to this spot at the end of a day ready to enjoy a favorite TV show, a little conversation, and a glass of wine - very normal.

My bed with down pillows and down comforter. I love, love, love my bed. Two christmases ago, my mom gave us a gift certificate to Bed, Bath and Beyond which we used to purchase really nice down pillows. Combined with our down comforter (which we've had forever) they make a most cozy, fluffy, snuggly bed!

The menagerie of pets. Ok, we don't really have a menagerie right now, but we do have two dogs and two cats. We used to have two lizards and their feeder crickets (which we also had to feed, so aren't they pets, too?). Normal is watching my cats and dogs do their funny, well-choreographed dance around each other. The cats sneak upstairs to avoid being excessively "loved" by the dogs. The cats sneak downstairs to make their mad dash for the kitty door. The dogs wait for the slightest cat noise or scent and then bolt after the cats. Sometimes one particular cat actually tries to seek out one or the other of the dog, but carefully to avoid attracting the attention of both. (When there is only one they are fairly gentle, but together they get all "pack"-like and a bit rough.)

Our books. We have a lot of books. Certainly not as many as some but more than most, I suppose. Often I find myself reading a different books in each room of the house - a book on homeschooling in the family room, a food book in the kitchen, a spiritual book in the library room, and a novel in our bedroom.

So, what is "normal" for you? Leave a comment here and then visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more "Quick Takes".

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Quiverfull Questions

Quiverfull on NPR? Yup! (HT: StandFirm)

But I must say there is a quote that really disturbed me: "'We'll be able to take over both halls of Congress, we'll be able to reclaim sinful cities like San Francisco for the faithful, and we'll be able to wage very effective massive boycotts against companies that are going against God's will.'"

I don't know - since when did this become the ultimate goal for Christian families? What about sharing the gospel? What about caring for widows and orphans? What about the poor, the sick, the oppressed?

Wait, let's back up. Is "quiverfull" a term you are familiar with? It is sort of "jargon" in many Christian circles...but not even all Christians would know what it refers to, I guess. The term "Quiverfull" refers to a verse in Psalm 127 that describes children like the arrows in a mighty warrior's quiver. The idea being that a mighty warrior would have LOTS not just one or two. (Of course, a really good archer might only need one or two to get the job done...but that is a different debate.) So, the Quiverfull Movement is one that encourages Christian families to see children as a blessing and to accept as many "as the Lord sends" - using no birth control of any sort.

Apparently, it has lately been the zinger topic in some liberal know, easy to "zing" with negative labels and attitudes, and generally writing it off as "nutty", without taking the time to really get to know some of the families who make up the Quiverfull Movement. (Do a google search and see how many negative articles come up on the first two pages.)

I did a lot of reading about the quiverfull movement (also called QF for short) around the time my husband and I decided we were not "done" (even though one of us had surgery to be "done"...which we then had "undone"). I read lots of the books, websites and such and was mostly convinced that this movement was on to something. Of course, this wasn't a huge leap for me. Since I was little, I've thought it odd that people who believe in a good, omnicient, omnipotent God would not trust him more with the size of their families. But there were some aspects to the basic ideas that I couldn't settle in my mind and some influences within the movement that I thought were going so far as to have missed the gospel in the search for "godliness".

Really, I found it hard to come to terms with the movement's emphasis that EVERYONE should be quiverfull (at least every Christian) and if they weren't they were sinning against God. All I'm going to say about that right now is that it strikes me as quite a legalistic approach to Scripture. (And having read the blogs and forums of some of these groups, it wasn't only a legalistic seeming...there was some pretty extreme legalism going on inside the group on all manner of issues.) There almost seemed to be an unspoken contest going on to determine who trusts God more, me or thee. However, legalism can be found in any group (Christian or not, religious or not...shoot, have you ever noticed the legalism in the Green movement...there it is "who is greener, me or thee".)

The quote from the NPR piece displays the attitude prevalent in the QF movement that I think is the most troublesome. There is quite an emphasis on gaining power through political positions in order to "Christianize" the country. (The QF is not the only Christian group today that holds to the belief that Chrisitans should be out to Christianize by is also not the first Christian group to desire political influence and power...seems like I remember a Roman church that held political power for quite a few years - but that is a much larger topic!) And this is where I think it veers beyond, or rather, doesn't reach, the Gospel.

Christ eschewed political power as a means of evangelism, instead he chose and instructed us to evangelize by one-on-one interaction. Not only that, He also told us that "true religion" is the care of widows and orphans. This should be what we are filling our quivers with- children who love God and love their fellow human beings. Children who see the frailty and grief around them and want to present Christ to a dying world. And also, children who delight in God's gift of creation!

And while I have criticism for the QF movement, I also think that Christians in America can learn a LOT from the ideas of the quiverfull movement about getting our perspectives toward children and famlies in line with God's perspective. Why do we stop at one or two...because it is culturally acceptable? Because of finances? Our lack of patience? Or because we've invested time in prayer and thought and believe that is the Lord's will for our family? Which definitely sounds more like a people who believe in a God who loves them and their children.

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