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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks - Aug 29, Culture Edition

A peek at life in the Middle East during Ramadan.

Would you like to challenge yourself to learn more about China? How about taking a "China Challenge. "! BiblioFile has put together a China Challenge book reading and learning activity list (with different requirements, so you can choose your commitment level). A few years ago, I traveled to China with Dear Neighbor to bring her adopted daughter home, so I've done a number of these already. I think I'll try the "Silk Road" level! HT: TongguMama

Perhaps "travel as a force for peace" is stretching it, but I certainly believe that when we learn about another culture first-hand it will change us. Particularly, we learn to cherish a culture and a people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The year of the "Last Hurrah"!

Today, I kicked off the start of my last year before I hit "last hurrah!" LOL!

Erik and I got up early for a "coffee date". Here's a photo of me in our '69 Datsun convertible (a project car for hubby and the boys). Riding in this always makes an outing more fun!

We had a really relaxing breakfast together and it was such a nice start to my 39th birthday. When we got home the kids were anxious to give me my gift. They had all pitched in and bought me my first iPod. An 8GB Nano...I've been filling it up today with music and podcasts. Somehow my kids (who do not have iPods) all knew how to work it better than I did! It does make you feel old to hit the point when your kids have to help you with new technology. **Sigh.**

September is a busy month of celebrations:

Baby L's baptism,
Baby L's first birthday,
our 17th wedding anniversary,
and DS#2's 10th birthday.

Actually, those are all within the first 2 weeks of September!

There is one other event I'd like to tell you about: the second "Carnival of the Church Year" (for the Church Year season: Ordinary Time) which will be hosted here on Monday, September 21st, the Feast of St. Matthew the Evangelist. Mark your calendars and start getting your posts ready to share! Look for more information (and maybe some post ideas) coming in the next week.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

St. Bartholomew's Feast Day

St. Bartholomew's Feast Day

First, a little history. From James Kiefer's Christian Biographies:

The name "Bartholomew" appears in the New Testament only on lists of the names of the twelve apostles. This list normally is given as six pairs, and the third pair in each of the Synoptics is "Philip and Bartholomew" (M 10:3; P 3:18; L 6:14; but A 1:15).

We have no certain information about Bartholomew's later life. Some writers, including the historian Eusebius of Caesarea (now Har Qesari, 32:30 N 34:54 E, near Sedot Yam), say that he preached in India. The majority tradition, with varying details, is that Bartholomew preached in Armenia, and was finally skinned alive and beheaded to Albanus or Albanopolis (now Derbent, 42:03 N 48:18 E) on the Caspian Sea. His emblem in art is a flaying knife. The flayed Bartholomew can be seen in Michelangelo's Sistine painting of the Last Judgement. He is holding his skin. The face on the skin is generally considered to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo.

And now for some fun:
In medieval England, a famous fair was held in Englad, St. Bartholonew's Day Fair on the grounds of St. Bartholmew's monastery and hospital. It had its beginnings in the 12th centurey under Henry I. Johanna Bogle, on her show "Feasts & Seasons", suggests making fun "fair food" like carmel apples. You could go all-out and make real carmel apples (YUM!) or make (or buy) a simple caramel dip for sliced apples. A little bit more about the history of the fair and how caramel (or toffee) apples came to be associated with St. Bartholomew's Day.

Also, since Saint Bartholomew is believed to have gone to Armenia, and is known as "Apostle to Armenia" it might be fun to enjoy an Armenian dish or two: here are some recipes. And here (see the sidebar for a list of recipes).

Do you have any other ideas for St Bartholomew's? Leave a comment and share!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks - Aug 22, Place Edition

Heard this on our NPR station Friday morning, and thought it was particularly funny. Mark Washburn, a columnist with our local newspaper, comments on how we name places here in Charlotte, but I think his observations extend much further than the Queen City. So many of our modern names for places are utterly generic, or worse taken from consumerism, for example Bank of America Stadium...really, that could be anywhere in America. Well, except for the fact that it is headquartered here. But you get my point.

Memory's connection with our sense of place - an architect gives some insight to her peers about this important aspect of their craft.

An article by William R. Ferris in 1999, when he was the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, about the importance of retaining our sense of place , or as Faulkner said (and he quotes) our "little postage stamp of native soil".

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life and Land

I've just finished two books: The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck and Life is a Miracle by Wendell Berry. The former has been sitting on my bookshelves waiting to be read for a couple of years. The latter I purchased on recommendation and instantly started into it. Both were finished, providentially, within days of each other. Both speak to what happens to the soul when one "degrades...the ordinary life" in the desire for "various kinds of stardom", to quote Berry. These two books seem to be almost like two versions of the same message: one prose and the other poem.

You may know The Good Earth is set in pre-revolutionary China. A man, Wang Lung, starts out with nothing and slowly builds his life. He ends with everything, but then realizes he had more that was real when he had nothing. He pleads with his progeny to heed his error. They promise, but they wink behind his back. The revolution can be heard building in the background. That, in a nutshell, is The Good Earth.

From The Good Earth:
"Thus spring wore on again and again and vaguely and more vaguely as these years passed he felt it coming. But still one thing remained to him and it was his love for his land. He had gone away from it and he had set up his house in a town and he was rich. But his roots were in his land. . . . (...) Spring passed and summer passed into harvest and in the hot autumn sun before winter comes Wang Lung sat where his father had sat against one wall. And he thought no more about anything now except his food and his drink and his land. But of his land he thought no more what harvest it would bring or what seed would be planted or of anything except of the land itself, and he stooped sometimes and gathered some of the earth up in his hand and he sat thus and held it in his hand, and it seemed full of life between his fingers. And he was content, holding it thus, and he thought of it fitfully and of his good coffin that was there; and the kind earth waited without haste until he came to it."

Wendell Berry has a lot to say in his book, Life is a Miracle, about Science and Art and Religion and Life. What struck me, especially as I read it in conjunction with The Good Earth, is that there are things in life that are unexplainable and are damaged in the attempt to explain. Rather they must be experienced. To be experienced they must be loved and if loved, protected. And those things that are loved are worthy to be passed on to, and protected for, the next generation. This is the Nature of Life. Our modern life is an example of too many explanations and not enough experiences, and of disordered and inadequate love.

From Life is a Miracle:
"Unlike the culture of the European Middle Ages, which honored the vocations of the learned teacher, the country parson, and the plowman as well as that of the knight, or the culture of Japan in the Edo period which ranked the farmer and the craftsman above the merchant, our own culture places an absolute premium upon various kids of stardom. This degrades and impoverishes ordinary life, ordinary work, ordinary experience...depricates...the work of the primary producers of goods, and the performers of all kinds of essential but unglamorous jobs and duties...results are that most work is now poorly done; great cultural and natural resources are neglected, wasted, or abused; the land and its creatures are destroyed; and the citizenry is poorly taught, poorly governed, and poorly served."

"But if we are to know any part of the planet intimately, particularly, precisely, and with affection, then we must live somewhere in particular for a long time. (...) One of the most significant costs of the economic destruction of farm populations is the loss of local money, local history, and local names."

"This living procession through time in a place is the record by which such knowledge survives and is conveyed. When the procession ends, so does the knowledge"

Or as Wang Lung says, "It is the end of a family - when they begin to sell the land."

Both of these books made me think about a lot, but particularly Place. How a place can shape us as much as we can shape it. How the sense of Place is lost in modern life with fabricated neighborhood and street names.

My family lives in such a fabricated neighborhood. We often go on the search for a home with a sense of Place. But, do we choose a worthy Place to live or can we make the place we live worthy? Can we overcome this cleaned up modern version? Can we find Place in suburbia and nurture it? And if we can, how do we do that?

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks: Aug 15th

St. Mary the Virgin
Dormition of the Theotokos
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

So, did you hear that John Hughes died this week? Well, of course, you did. It is old news by now. Which of his movies was your favorite? Ferris Bueller? Pretty in Pink? Sixteen Candles? I enjoyed this article from Christianity Today looking at his movies and their meaning and effect on those of us who found his movies to be almost a rite of passage.

My friend, Cindy of Dominion Family has been at a CiRCE Institute Teacher Apprenticeship Retreat all week. She's had some tantalizing posts at her blog and on Twitter. I can't wait to read more about her week as she has time to blog about it in the coming weeks. If you are interested in True Education (she has thrown out the term classical) don't miss her thoughts!

The Internet Monk has just started an interesting series (he says "brief", but has over 20 post topics planned!) on Evangelical Liturgy. As an Anglican, and a lover of high church liturgy, but appreciative of low church mentality, this should be an interesting series to me! iMonk is Quite Protestant and I don't agree with all of his thoughts (to start with he objects to calling the table the Altar and instead suggests the Table for the Lord's Supper), but his purpose is to get Evangelicals thinking about what parts of the ancient church tradition they might return to their worship. If you've got time, I highly recommend his podcasts - always thoughtful and amusing!

My "back to school" memories are probably a bit different than most. They consist of helping my mom, a 4th grade teacher, get her room all ready for her new class. (Hi, Mom - she reads my blog sometimes.) I loved going to help Mom hang bulletin boards and arrange chairs. One thing I miss in homeschooling is getting to make bulletin boards! But, besides these being fun, they can also be a great way to get kids familiar with bits of information. The Heart of the Matter has a suggestion that might be a nice compromise for homeschoolers: mini-offices made with manilla file folders. The mini-folders can be like "bulletin boards" for your kids with all sorts of tidbits: math facts, state capitals, vocabulary or spelling, etc. They'd be great for all sorts of memory work! These look like so much fun, I really think I'm going to give them a go.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up: Aug 14

Highlights from the school week:

Right now Mathematics for my elder daughter (7) consists of playing the game "Countdown" and practicing telling time. We'll get back to the textbook when she gets her addition and subtraction facts a bit more cemented. (Countdown is helping her with that.)

Our verse for the week: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Trying to muddle out iambic meters with eldest son and having the discussion, "Why do we need to know about poetry anyway?" "Because it is beautiful and expresses in language what prose cannot. And, if you can't appreciate it on a basic level, at least, you aren't quite a truly educated person!"

"In the embracing light and warmth, warm and dry at last, with weary legs propped up in front of them, and a suggestive clink of plates being arranged on the table behind, it seemed to the storm-driven animals, now in safe anchorage, that the cold and trackless Wild Wood just left outside was miles and miles away, and all that they had suffered in it a half-forgotten dream." p. 57, Chapter 4, The Wind in the Willows

About my post-it note schedule: it has worked so well for us, that I've made it a bit more permanent. I cut 3x5 index cards in half and use each one for a half-hour slot. On these I've written a basic activity (Meet with S, Read with H&E, Morning Time, Break, etc) and have them in a display that I purchased last year from a teacher supply store. It has transparent plastic slots in which I place the cards in whatever order I need them for that day. When needed I can even re-arrange the schedule in a jiffy without missing something important. It works beautifully for us! Sometimes we do Morning Time first. Other days I meet with my eldest son while the three younger kids play together.

Check out more Weekly Wrap-Ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream

That Fig Ice Cream was so good, we decided to pull some strawberries out of the freezer and make a batch of strawberry ice cream. I had already pureed them and bagged them up in freezer bags.

Strawberry Ice Cream

3 cups strawberries

2 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 cups half-and-half

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

Wash, stem and puree 3 cups of berries. In a large bowl, beat 2 eggs until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in 1 1/4 cups sugar, 2 cups half-and-half, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1 cup heavy cream. Stir in strawberries, then proceed according to your machine's directions. All recipes will benefit from a chill in the refrigerator. Overnight is best, but even just an hour will make for smoother ice cream.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon Well-Spent

A few good books. My day planner. And a glass of iced tea in my Tervis tumbler.

Oh, and a nap.

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Peter Piper's Picks: August 8th

Feast of St. Dominic

The World's 10 Oldest Cities. Really fascinating and beautiful photographs!

A friend on a HS loop passed this along: Songs for Teaching. They've got songs all across the disciplines.

An 18-Minute Plan for managing your day. Ok, this is silly but this has revolutionized my day. Really. I tend to put way Too Many Things on my "to do list". Having to actually put them on my schedule (rather just on the list "to do") has made me aware of what I can and can't accomplish on a given day. It is much more satisfying to accomplish 3 planned tasks (besides baby care and homeschooling and keeping 4 kids from goofing off or grouching at each other) than have a list of 10 things with only a few of them crossed off. This guy has a few other ideas that might resonate with you day-managing weaknesses.

The Cates have managed the Carnival of Homeschooling for a Long time. They also are great about linking to other homeschool carnivals. Here's their most recent list of other homeschool carnivals. It is always fun to peruse for useful ideas and tips.

And now, possibly the most well-known Anglican couple in the blog world have gone PUBLIC as . . . Home Schoolers.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Weekly Wrap-Up - Aug 7th

In lieu of another long-drawn out dissertation on "what we did this week", I thought perhaps you might enjoy a few snapshots.

First day of school for 2009-2010 was Wednesday!

Transfiguration Day Feast.

Picking figs, considering selling them, and then deciding that a batch of fig ice cream would be nicer. We just love those figs too much to part with them for mere cash!

From House on Pooh corner: Pooh looking for breakfast at Kanga's home and "beginning to feel a little eleven o'clockish." And Pooh discussing writing poetry: "It is the best way to write poetry, letting things come."

A Post-It note schedule that works with our family's need for flexibility.

Deciding that our week can start on Wednesdays if that works better for my planning purposes. So, instead of my planning sheets beginning on Monday, they go: Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday. (Our Classical Conversations group meets on Wednesday, so I was always finding myself planning by half-weeks: CC Week 1 on Mon and Tues, then CC Week 2 on Thurs and Fri. For some reason it annoyed me!)

Overcoming my perfectionistic tendencies that would have me wait to start school until everything was in perfect order. We are winging it a bit, but it is good to be started.

An impromtu magic show by our two sons. They are getting quite Magical, those two!

Visit Kris' blog for more Weekly Wrap-Ups!

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

First Day of Homeschool

Wednesday was our first day of homeschool for 2009-2010!

I wasn't all together ready for the first day, but if I didn't start on the 5th I might have found reasons to wait until September. My goal is to get our school work in before the end of April 2010, so that we can enjoy the outdoors before the heat of summer hits us.

I managed to get our school cabinet all cleaned out and re-organized. Didn't take a "before" photo (why don't I think of it until after?).

So, our first day . . .

We started by going outside to pick figs from our fig tree. Seemed like an appropriate way to start this year for some reason! I don't have our daily schedule all hammered out, yet. Instead I've posted a routine using post-it notes that I can shift around as needed while we see what works for us this year. I've already made some changes in just the past two days!

The kids enjoyed looking over their new books, some of the books that still needed to be finished from last year, and decorating some old pencils. I know, decorating pencils? I don't get it either, but they had fun.

While it was a little bit of a low-key start, we didn't miss our traditional ice cream dinner (followed by dinner for dessert).

Yes, some of us opted for milkshakes.

Have you started school yet? Or when is your first day? Anything special planned?

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Fresh Fig Ice Cream

We have a very large fig bush, actually, a tree, I guess! It is in its 4th year and looks to be our best harvest, yet. So, here's the first recipe I'm trying with this year's harvest. I found this recipe at Burp! Where Food Happens, but changed it just a little bit (added vanilla).

Fresh Fig Ice Cream

2 lbs fresh figs (must be fresh, do not substitute dried; however, the fresh ones can be ones that have gone a little bit over)
1/2 c water
zest of one lemon
3/4 c sugar
1 c heavy cream
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/tsp vanilla

Cut figs into quarters or eighths. Cook figs in water and zest for 8-10 minutes or until figs are tender. Add sugar and cook until jam-like (took about 20 minutes or so, stirring frequently). Let cool. Blend in cream, lemon juice and vanilla (use a handmixer if you have one, if not a quick whirl in the blender). Chill well (overnight, if possible - otherwise for a few hours). Pour into you ice cream maker and follow manufacturer's directions.

Oh, my goodness it is absolutely heavenly!

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Feast of the Transfiguration

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration!

We'll manage a little bit of a celebration, I think. Made an icon for our family altar last night (using the image to the right). Found a nice devotion with bible readings, discussion questions and activities. We'll read that during our morning devotion time and make the triptych project this afternoon.

I read this: ". . .the Pope presses a bunch of ripe grapes into the chalice at Mass or uses new wine. Also in Rome raisins are blessed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, and the Greek and Russian Churches too conduct a special ceremony for blessing grapes and other fruits," from an EWTN link (scroll down to Aug. 6 for more information and some recipes). Why fruit? Here's an explanation from an Orthodox friend, Deb.

So, I zipped out to the grocery store this morning and grabbed a nice Beaujolais ("new" wine) for this evening. We are also planning to make fig ice cream - not exactly grapes, but we have a fig tree overladden with fruit and, well, figs are at least IN the Bible.

Want to read more? A reading from a homily by St. Leo the Great. Biblical background and history of the Feast Day along with readings.

How are you celebrating the feast today?

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