This blog has permanently moved to a new blogging address. Come on over to
The Potter's Shed!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks: Feb 27th - Lent Week 2

How is your Lenten fast going?  I've discovered all kinds of different things to eat.  I even discovered that my favorite Hazelnut Latte is even BETTER made with soymilk!  I think it is the nutty flavor of the soy that really sets off the hazelnut flavor so well.

:-: Jimmie has a really timely post for "newbie" homeschoolers (or those thinking about it for next year...or those "oldbies" who might need a refresher).  Really, even if you aren't new to homeschooling there is some worthwhile reading here: 25 Must Read Articles for Newbies

:-: On Crockpots and Microwaves: Relationships in the Church - this is a quick read, don't miss it!

:-: A quick, easy chuckle.

:-: RJ Snell on The Intellectual Life and Moral Imagination.  Here's a taste:  "But the liberally educated oughtn’t become specialists, or masters of a method, or researchers, or pedants of the arcane—the liberal arts, as Monan puts it, “educate for the enriching and constructive exercise of liberty.” That is, to shape humans capable of wisdom, and wisdom is about good acting and living."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peter Piper's Picks: Feb 20th - Lent Week 1

How was your first week of Lent?

I attended our Ash Wednesday service and had the opportunity to meet three people I've been on the lookout for for sometime.  One is a friend of a friend and also the wife of a local Anglican priest (Hi, AMY!).  She reads my little ol' blog, too!  (It was kind of embarrassing to meet someone who knows me first through my blog.)  The other two are a couple adopting from Ghana!  We shared stories and hope to have regular get-togethers when their children come home.

Today, I only have one link to share...but it is a fantastic one:

  • The grandmother of all Anglican link collections: Lent & Beyond.  The blogger, Karen, has an astounding collection of links related to the church year and Anglicanism, but especially LENT.  Grab a cuppa, find a quiet place, and go enjoy some blog reading!

Have a lovely Saturday!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fast-Friendly Peanut Butter Balls

I was trying to find an easy recipe for peanut butter balls, but most of them had dry milk as an ingredient.  I really needed a recipe without that milk.  But didn't have much luck, so I came up with this one.    I'm sitting here staring at a plate of them right now....  Can't wait until dessert time!

These also make great afternoon snacks for really hungry kids.

Fast-Friendly Peanut Butter Balls
makes about 20 1-in balls

1 cup peanut butter
1/3 c oatmeal
1/4 c wheat germ (if you don't have it, just use more of the other dry ingredients)
1/4 (or so) of powdered sugar
1 T honey (optional)

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and combine to form a dough.  This is a tough dough to mix, but just keep at it and it will get all incorporated.  If your is still too wet (dough is not coming together into a dough ball - pulling away from the sides of the bowl), add more of the sugar, oatmeal, and/or wheat germ (to your preference or taste - all three are helpful for "drying out" the peanut butter.  I added the honey because I like the flavor it adds to the peanut butter.  You may need more or less sugar depending on the sweetness of your peanut butter.  I used natural peanut butter and needed closer to 1/3 cup.

Once you get a nice dough ball, use a spoon to scoop and form approximately 1 inch balls, rolling them in your palms to get a nice even shape.

Roll the balls in powdered sugar or anything you like.  Maybe mini-chocolate chips? Yum!  I used some Heath Bar bits I had in the pantry - delicious!  

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe via email or RSS.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More on fasting

Interested in learning more about fasting, particularly with a focus on the ancient church?  From Ancient Faith Radio:

From At the Intersection of East and West

From Speaking the Truth in Love (Fr Thomas Hopko)
All of those are a bit on the long side (20-40 minutes, I think).  Need something quicker?  How about 2 minutes from Fredericka Matthewes-Green on .    (HT Jessica at Homemaking Through the Chuch Year)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our Alleluia Banner

Our Alleluia Banner

Now, we'll say "Goodbye" to Alleluia until Easter.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up!  Check it out!

Pumpkin Bread

A nice breakfast or snack (or dessert).

2 c sugar
1/2 c oil
1 lg can pumpkin
1 can (2 c) applesauce
5 c flour
4 tsp soda
1/2 tsp cloves
1 T cinnamon
1 T salt
1 c dates or raisins
1 c nuts
Blend sugar and oil together. Add pumpkin and applesauce, then dry ingredients. Mix in nuts and raisins. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Makes 3 loaves.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe via email or RSS.

Peanut Butter & Banana Smoothie

For a delicious, nutritious start to the day.  This recipe comes from  You can scale it to fit your family at their website.  I'll make enough for all 6 of us...

6 bananas
3/4 c peanut butter
3 c milk or soy milk

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Add honey for sweetness if needed (depends on the sweetness of your peanut butter).

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe via email or RSS.

Chick Pea Soup

This recipe is from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, one of my favorite cook books.

4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, ground fine almost to a fine powder OR a small sprig of fresh rosemary
2/3 c Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juices
2 1/4 cups canned chick peas, drained
1 c broth (veggie, meat, or chicken)
freshly ground black pepper

:: Saute garlic in pan large enough to accommodate all the ingredients in the olive oil and over a medium heat. Cook until a light nut brown, then remove from pan.
:: Add the crushed rosemary or fresh spring, stir, then put in cut up tomatoes and their juice. Cook for 20-25 minutes (or until oil floats free from the tomatoes).
:: Add the drained chick peas and cook for 5 minutes, stirring them thoroughly with the juices in the pan.
:: Add the broth, cover, and adjust heat to that the soup bubbles at a stead but moderate boil for 15 minutes.
:: Taste and correct for salt. Add a few grindings of pepper. Let the soup bubble uncovered for another minute, then serve promptly.

To this I may add some cooked rice or just serve it with a good loaf of bread.

Did you enjoy this post? Subscribe via email or RSS.

Lenten Meal Plan for 2/17-2/21

Happy Shrove Tuesday!  

Are you going to enjoy some pancakes today?  We are!  We were traveling home from a long weekend trip yesterday, so my plans for Shrove Tuesday are just coming together.

We will make our Alleluia banners (then tie them up and put them away until Easter) and have pancakes for supper.

The Alleluia banners are very easy and help kids really understand that the "Alleluia" is buried until Easter.  (And they love unfurling them for Easter!)   You can use poster board, construction paper, or any type of paper you have on hand.  Write a large "Alleluia" on it and let the kids decorate any way they wish.  I lay out markers, stickers, glitter and such and let the kids have at it.

Then tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent.

Here is our menu (with some recipes) for this first week of Lent.   I'm keeping the idea of "setting the table for the weakest member" in mind.  (* items= recipes to follow, check back as they are added)

Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter and honey
Lunch: PB & Jelly
Dinner: Chick Pea soup with rice

Lunch: Veggie "kabobs" with dip and cheese chunks
Dinner: Pasta with tomato sauce & bread

Breakfast: Pumpkin Bread
Lunch: PB and banana sandwiches
Dinner: Onion & rosemary foccacia with pesto and tomato dipping sauce

Breakfast: Apple-Granola bake*
Lunch: Hummus with pita and veggies
Dinner: Trader Joe's Indian "Punjab Egglplant" and rice

Breakfast: Eggs and grits
Lunch: Turkey or Veggie burgers
Dinner: Veggie and Chicken fajitas

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Family Fasting for Lent

Lately, I've been listening to some Orthodox speakers.  You may or may not know this, but the Orthodox do some serious fasting all year long.  Some things I've learned recently from these speakers:

  • Fasting in community helps us keep our commitments.
  • The apostles (and Jesus) fasted from food (rather than scroll-reading or sheep-tipping), so we are following their lead - always a wise thing.
  • Learning to control our appetite (for food) is a good training ground for learning to control our other passions
  • Plan the meal for the weakest member and those who wish to fast more strictly can do so.
Is discussing ones fasting a bit like "tooting one's own horn"?  I don't know.  But I do know I'm very thankful for the many bloggers and websites that have discussed fasting and shared ideas and recipes.  So, I'm going to risk it share with you all our fasting plan in the case it might help your family. 

This Lent our family has decided to fast together.  We will forgo all meat and some of us will go a bit further and forgo all animal products.  

I've gathered some good websites with meal ideas and gone through my own recipes to come up with a list of  fasting meals for our family.  



If you have other ideas or resources, I'd love to hear from you!  Leave a comment!

Friday, February 12, 2010

St Valentine - Feb 14

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

I've gathered some links to resources around the web.  Hope you find something you enjoy!

Specifically homeschool-oriented

Who was St. Valentine?

Some other fun and interesting sites

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to be a radical home educator

When you started home educating, I bet you thought you were doing something really radical didn’t you?

What if I told you that most home school and Christian educators are not educating in a way discernibly different from their secular counterparts?  That doesn't sound very radical does it?

I’d like to share with you something I’ve recently learned (and therefore can take NO credit) that will make your home education efforts truly radical. It is a simple and yet, complex subject: Nature.

What is Nature? No, I don’t mean trees and grass and bugs and clouds (that is "little-n" nature)…I mean Nature. For example, what is the nature of Man, of children, or of education? This is a pivotal concept for the Christian. You must understand the Nature of the thing (children, men, education) before you can know God’s purposes, and thus, determine what is appropriate for each.

Have you considered the Nature of your children? Not just their “bent”, although that is important, but the God-given, universal Nature of a child?

This past summer, in Andrew Kern’s first talk at the CiRCE Institute Conference, A Contemplation of Nature, he challenged educators (home and private) to judge if we have truly considered the Nature of children, of the subjects they are learning, and of education in general, or if we have unknowingly bought into the world’s faith in Utility. In fact, he exhorts us that we, as Christians, are even guiltier than secular educators!  (One expects the secular world to act like the secular world, but why have Christians lowered their standards to the world's?)

We say we “homeschool” and that somehow inoculates us against the affects of a secular, God-ignoring world. We feel unfoundedly superior because we use “God” freely in our lessons. And, yet, we neglect considering the Nature of our children. How can we as educators nurture eternal souls if we neglect the nature of those souls?

We may be Christians striving to bring our children up to know and love God, but we cannot be blind to the affect our culture has had and continues to have on us. We must be humble enough to recognize that we may not be so different from our counterparts in other schools.

But, you ask, why Nature?

Why? “Because the understanding of Nature is the lever by which the world has been moved,” explains Andrew. How we understand Nature affects, literally, everything. Education can only be done well if we understand its nature, the nature of the thing we are talking about, and the nature of the student in front of us.

So, what is the Nature of children? By that I mean, the pre-Fall Nature? What God had intended for them from the beginning of creation?

They are curious. They have great absorbent minds. They are imitators. They ask good questions (when not made to feel that questions indicate some lack on their part). They want to know about their world. God intends them to learn about their world by exploration, experimentation, examination, and excogitation. A desire to learning is their Nature.

I don’t think many secular educators would disagree with that, do you? So, where is the disconnect? It is in our emphasis on utility.

How often do you hear (or say), “But when will they use this?” The implication being if they aren’t going to use the lesson, then there is little value and time would be better spent on something they can use. Thus music class gets replaced with something more “useful”. (Unless the child shows aptitude in music – something useful, they might make a career out of music, after all – then music lessons will be continued.) Poetry is neglected in favor of more “useful” subjects, except for a brief unit in English class each year and even then the lessons are directed only toward dissecting, understanding and producing rather than appreciation and delight.

But what is wrong with utility? It is good to learn something useful, right?

Prior to the modern age, Andrew tells us, education was for the formation of Virtue. All philosophies agreed upon this. But this is not so today. Now education’s main (and only goal, often) is preparation for the economy. This modern emphasis on Production has infiltrated every aspect of life and thought. If an object or action has no measurable value (it cannot produce), it is useless. That is UTILITY and, when applied to education or a child, it is destructive. Utility will ignore Nature. It does not matter to the Utilitarian mind what a child IS (curious, etc), it matters only that the objectives (of the parent, teacher, school, state) are fulfilled.

Makes me wince a little, and you? How often have I pushed my kids in order to achieve my objectives? Of course I meant only good for them, but I’ve allowed Utility to ignore Nature.

Objectives have results that can be measured. It is a radical thought to realize measuring or assessing has negative implications for the educational process. But consider “teaching to the test”. Consider how often you learned the information for a test, made an “A” and promptly forgot that information. Measurement has implications on education that have to be weighed.

As home and Christian educators, we should strive for nurtured souls (how do you measure that?) and transformed minds (how do you measure that?). And yet, in our schools, Contemplation has been replaced by Production.

The question for me as a home educator is: How do I free myself and my kids from production and to contemplation?

That is all for today. Next time, I'd like to talk about the key thoughts Andrew presents: Nature, Purpose and Propriety.

Want to see who this Andrew person is? Curious what the heck the CiRCE Institute is? Or how about hearing this talk for yourself (where the these ideas are much more elegantly presented). Then run, do not walk (or at least click the links really fast), to the CiRCE website. Donate any amount and receive a free download of this talk plus 7 more!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why do they do that: An Anglican Eucharist

Ever wonder why the priest does or says what he does and says during Eucharist?    One of my favorite blogs, Internet Monk, has  posted a video from St. Peter's Anglican in Tallahassee, FL of an Instructed Anglican Eucharist.

Go check it out!

A year gone by

A whole year has gone by since we first had our Baby L placed into our arms.  This is a picture our traveling companions, Aimee and Ben, took moments after we met her on February 4th, 2009.

This is us after long flights (one of which was delayed for quite some time while the wings were de-iced), pressing through the throng of the airport, a steamy drive through Accra's exhaust-rich traffic, no shower, no lunch, and no sleep.  But entirely happy!

And, of course, it was worth it.  Even with the trip's delays and frustrations still to come.

I told a friend recently that it seems only a moment ago, and yet, forever.  There is a word for that, what is it?

Baby L has changed so much since we first met her.  She has gone from an itty-bitty, barely a scrap of hair, taking only an ounce of formula at a time infant to a robust (if wirey), thick-haired, delighted to eat toddler.

Some of her favorite things:

  • her "push-cart" (a ride-on toy)
  • her siblings pushing her on the push cart (the faster the better)
  • her bunny (given to her by Dear Neighbor)
  • her "Tickle Me Elmo" Tickle Hands 
  • her bed
  • music of all sorts, but especially "African Playground" (Putumayo Kids), "Rhinoceros Tap" (Sandra Boynton), and "World Sings Goodnight"
  • her siblings
  • being carried on mama's back
  • her bottles
  • cheese, goldfish, PB&J, pasta
  • books: "Goodnight Gorilla", "Goodnight Moon", and all our nature guidebooks (especially "Birds of North America")

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Book Review: Lost to the West

Many years ago, my husband and I had a wonderful opportunity to travel to Istanbul.  We stayed at a small hotel just off the Hippodrome and with the "Little Hagia Sophia" (Kucuk Aya Sofya) in view.  How I wish I'd had a fuller understanding of the Byzantine Empire before that trip.  

What does the word Byzantine mean to you?  Does it bring to mind the idea of slothful beaurocracy?  Or perhaps tediously upheld tradition?  Perhaps it just means "old-fashioned", hopelessly so.  Reading Lost to the West  I gained a proper perspective on that word and a clearer understanding of the importance of Byzantium on western civilization: why and how the Renaissance came about, the difficult relationship between Eastern and Western churches, and how the Eastern mindset is decidedly different from the Western.

Lars Brownworth's book,  subtitled "The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization",  left me with better understanding, but also a deeper curiosity about the Byzantines.  I read the entire thing with a pencil in hand, busily scratching down slips of ideas, underlining curiousities, noting items I'd like to research further, and otherwise engaged in active reading.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

p. 14  "Gallons of scholarly ink have been spilled debating whether (Constantine's) conversion was genuine, but such speculation is beside the point.  The genius of Constantine was that he saw Christianity not as the treat that Diocletian did, but rather as a means to unify, and the result of his vision that fateful day . . .  was a great sea change for the empire and the church."

p. 37  "The future was with Christianity, but no on who considered himself Roman could completely reject the classical world.  Unlike their western counterparts, early Byzantine church fathers recognized the benefits of pagan philosophy, arguing that it contained valuable insights and that careful reading would separate the wheat of moral lessons from the chaff of pagan religion."

p. 96  " Given a proper army and a little trust, there was no telling what Belisarius would have been able to do...perhaps the Western Empire itself could be revived....Europe would have been spared the ravages of the Dark Ages, or at least the intensity of their destruction."

p. 115 " In Byzantium, primary education was available for both genders...virtually every level of society was literate. (...) The old western provinces under barbarian rule, by contrast, were quickly sinking into the brutish chaos of the Dark Ages...the struggle to scratch out an existence made it an unaffordable luxury, and it would have disappeared completely without the church."

p. 122 " the West...the distinction between sacred and secular power had become hopelessly blurred.  Forced to wear both the crown and the papal tiara, the pope entered the political arena, bringing the church into direct competition with the state. (...) The struggle between the two would become the defining tension of western history, and make the East - where the original roles hadn't broken down - appear impossibly alien."

On the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor:
p. 153  "The church , Pope Leo was firmly declaring, was a higher authority than the state.  Such statements struck at the very heart of Byzantine authority. (...) At a stroke Leo had created a rival empire that not only dared to claim equality with the ancient line of Caesars, but also declared Constantinople's throne to be full of impostors, mere pretenders to the throne of Augustus. (...) to bolster his position he trotted out what was surely the most shameful forgery of the Middle Ages - the "Donation of Constantine."

p. 220 "Copies of the literature of ancient Greece and Rome became highly valued, and clergy and laymen alike began to dutifully reproduce the dazzling masterpieces.  This was among the finest gifts that the empire bequeathed to posterity.   ...most of the Greek classics that are extant today come down to us through Byzantine copies of the period."

p.278 -9 "After the events of the Fourth Crusade, the already deep divide between East and West stretched into a yawning chasm that was truly irreconcilable.  The crusading spirit, which has started out as a desire to help Christian brothers in the East, was revealed as a horrendous mockery.  In the name of God, they had come with hardened hearts and cruel swords to kill and main, to plunder and destroy - and in the work of a moment they had broken the altars and smashed the icons that generations of the faithful had venerated.  ...  Watching the crusaders walk their charred and blackened streets, the Byzantines knew that these men with the cross sewn brightly over their armor could no longer be considered Christians at all.  Let the powers of Islam come, they thought.  Better to be ruled by an infidel than these heretics who made a mockery of Christ."

p. 271  "As the empire edged toward extinction, a cultural flowering occurred, a brilliant explosion of art, architecture, and science as if the Byzantine world was rushing to express itself before its voice was forever silenced."

p. 302  "The fall of Constantinople may have extinguished the last vestige of the Roman Empire, but the immense light of its learning wasn't snuffed out.  Refugees streamed into western Europe, bringing with them the lost jewels of Greek and Roman civilization.   ...western Europe was reintroduced to its own roots."

p. 303  "The greatest heir of Byzantium, however, is undoubtedly the Orthodox Church."

p. 304 "...without Byzantium the history of the Middle East and Europe is at best incomplete at worst incomprehensible."

Have you read it?  What did you think?