Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Best Night


Tonight was my kind of night. Just simple fun. An impromptu phone call to a friend yesterday morning to carve pumpkins tonight. Were they available? Yes!


An extra pumpkin allowed a neighbor to get in on the fun too. Grabbing the DVD of "Kiki's Delivery Service" at the library fixed us up nicely for the night.


Popped some popcorn and we moms had a glass of red wine. Don't you know that Cabernet and popcorn are divine together?

After the movie, the kids pitched in with the clean-up, then went outside to play freeze tag in the dark, while my friend, Susan, and I cleaned the seeds for roasting tomorrow.

A fire in the fireplace, wood-smoke on the cool, night air. Friends around and smiles on the faces of those I love. Just the best night.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lunch Ideas - Sandwiches


Has your or your children's lunch box grown a bit stale of late? Do you find yourself packing the same lunches for park trips or car trips or picnics? On the most recent podcast of "Food for Thought," Colleen Patrick-Goudreau listed many wonderful vegan lunch ideas. Even before she started listing the various sandwiches and salads, I whipped out a piece of paper and took copious notes. She always has terrific, quick ideas, but I certainly don't always remember them. This time she provided a quick list (from link, scroll down to Vegetarian Lunch/Dinner Ideas - both PDF and HTML versions available) at her website that anyone can print and post in their kitchen for easy access. What I found there, though, was that while she listed sandwich ideas, she didn't necessarily tell you what was in the sandwiches. Some, like pb&j are obvious, but others may require a bit more detail. So, today, I'm sharing my list with you: her ideas, plus some of mine, with ingredients included. Whether vegan or not, you must admit this list is extensive and surely there will be some new sandwiches you can add into your own or your family's rotation. Bon appetit!

* any nut butter w/jelly
* nut butter w/jelly + apple slices and/or banana slices and/or shaved carrot
* same sandwich as above w/o jelly
* any nut butter (consider almond, cashew, or hazelnut) rolled w/sliced banana in a tortilla
* add raisins to the wrap above
* peanut butter w/imitation bacon bits (this and the next are Eve's favorites!)
* same as above + apple slices and lettuce
* nut butter w/apple or pumpkin butter
* nut butter w/agave nectar
* same sandwich as above with any of the other fruits listed above
* nut butter w/pear slices or halved grapes
* tofu cottage cheese w/chopped dates & diced red pepper
* same as above, but w/vegan cream cheese instead
* vegan cream cheese and cucumbers
* vegan cream cheese w/shredded carrots and raisins

If you're thinking ahead, you can make vegan BLT's w/tofu or tempeh "bacon." Goudreau mentions how to make this, but only mentions adding the flavoring to the pan as the tofu or tempeh is sauteing. We've tried this, but prefer to marinate the tofu/tempeh ahead of time to really give it some flavor.

Tempeh/Tofu "Bacon"

Marinate sliced and steamed (about 10 min) tempeh or extra-firm fresh or frozen/thawed tofu for at least an hour in the following:

tamari or soy sauce
a few drops of liquid smoke
maple syrup (optional - my family didn't like the sweet w/the salty/smoky flavor, but I know folks who love that)

saute in canola oil until nice and browned on both sides

* hummus in a wrap or on bread with lettuce, tomato, olives, etc. (today I used leftover homemade chunky tomato sauce w/garlic/broccoli/and spinach I'd used on pasta the other night with the other fillings in a wrap and all I can say is YUM!!)
* sub sandwiches w/homemade soy mayo or Vegenaisse or hummus or vegan pesto w/any of the following:
* sliced artichoke hearts
* avocado
* roasted red peppers
* alfalfa sprouts
* other bean sprouts
* arugula/lettuce/spinach
* fresh/marinated mushrooms
* shredded carrots
* shredded beets
* add some of the marinated tempeh or tofu bacon

* bean burritos w/all the fixin's are still yummy at room temperature

* sloppy joe's made w/crumbled tofu OR TVP OR crumbled tempeh in tomato sauce w/onions, green peppers and spices on a whole wheat bun

* a marinated ( in tamari - with or without balsamic vinegar - and herbs such as tarragon, sage and or basil) portobella mushroom sauteed in olive oil and on a bun w/vegan mayo or avocado or hummus spread - again, still tasty at room temp.

* eggless egg salad (made w/cubed tofu or tempeh instead of egg)
* chick pea "tuna" salad made w/mashed chick peas instead of tuna
(remember, vegan mayo, whether homemade or store-bought, is made without eggs, so there is no need to fear rancidity if your sandwich is not on ice)

This should give you plenty of healthy, fresh ideas for those lunch boxes or days when you're on the go! Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Tis the Season


Today I was thinking about the rhythm of our days amidst differing seasons. I don't necessarily mean the seasons of the year, but that has something to do with it as well. I'm thinking about the seasons of our lives: those times that ebb and flow, the waves that you ride, and the storms you weather.

We weathered a storm earlier this year when Paul lost his job and we had, thankfully only a few, months of unemployment. But we rode that wave and have managed to make it to this new part of the river, as it were, where things are calm, but the scenery is different; not bad, mind you, just different.

I keep later hours these days. At first I thought it was because Paul didn't get home until midnight, but that's not the only reason I find myself staying up. First of all, my children are in a new season. They no longer need me constantly and enjoy their downtime from their schoolwork as much as I enjoy my downtime too. Given that Paul is not here for supper, our dinners are light and often are self-made by each daughter. Sometimes we sit down together, but we often just grab what we want when we are hungry. This is really working for us and I don't feel badly about it, because we all eat our big meal together at lunchtime.

I think this eating schedule has its benefits too. The larger meal in the middle of the day has been recommended by dietitians for years. I think this, combined with my regular workouts is giving me more energy, which is why I can manage to stay up as late as I do.

I get up between 6:45 a.m. and 7:30 most days, depending on what workout I'm going to do. I have a great deal of variety, because I'm interested in keeping with this lifestyle and don't want to get bored. Days that I get up at 6:45 are the days that I'm doing weight resistance with the PBS show, Body Electric that comes on at 7:00 locally. I LOVE this show and I hope when I'm 60 I can look as amazing as Margaret Richard does. More than looking great, though, is the idea that I will maintain strong bones and be able to continue to move throughout my lifetime.

Usually on weight resistance days, I'll also do about a half hour of yoga. The next day will be a cardio day and I'll walk/run, do Pilates, or swim. I realize that classic Pilates is not necessarily cardio, but the dvd I have, called Progressive Pilates for Weight Loss combines dance with Pilates to get that heart rate up there! Some days I'll do a whole hour of yoga and two days I take off - usually Friday and Sunday.

I've lost a little weight, but not a lot. I don't need to lose much anyway - maybe 8 lb or so, but more importantly, I'm building muscle (love that!) and have lost 1 1/4 in around my waist.

Beyond having weight loss goals, I enjoy overall fitness goals as well. I think you naturally begin to formulate goals once you get a feel for where your baseline is. So, for example, I now have a goal to be able to run my whole shorter route without walking in between, I have the goal of 6 laps in the pool without stopping and resting, and I have the goal of a complete standing and seated forward bend in yoga. I don't have a deadline for myself to reach these goals, but I see them happening slowly with each workout.

So, in this season, my workouts happen usually first thing in the morning. Then it is school with the girls until noon. Then I put together lunch and we have lunchtime until about 1:30 or 2:00. From 2:00 to 3:00 or 3:30 or sometimes even 4:00 is the rest of our school day. Our evenings are full of walking our dog, Lucy, reading, playing around online (I'm new to Facebook and am having too much fun playing around over there!), watching a show sometimes and lots and lots of knitting for Christmas!! These activities take me into the wee hours, it seems. We have dinner every Wed. with my mom and go and hang out every Sunday evening with Paul's. A couple of once-a-month school activities with friends, and church at the house church next door every Sunday rounds out the rhythms of this season.

There are a few things I would change: more family close by, hours that Paul enjoyed more, a little more money in the bank to take a long-overdue vacation, but for the most part I am content in this season. And it is a season; I know that. It could all change tomorrow, but this is where we are today.

Seasons: Four in Line by John Newcomb

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As I Mentioned...

... in an earlier post, October is Vegetarian Awareness Month. I thought I'd share throughout the month with you a few great reads and finds in celebration of this peace-loving, non-violent, compassionate month.

Today I thought I'd share a bit of philosophy from my own, Christian perspective. I must admit, though, that I ordinarily feel just as much an island among my Christian sisters and brothers regarding this choice, as I do among anyone else. So, you must appreciate my surprise and understand the warmth and joy my heart felt when a dear, old friend of mine who was visiting us last spring told me that he was considering becoming vegetarian. Eric told me that his pastor, Greg Boyd, was vegetarian and had shared some pretty convincing arguments with him both in some of his church services and on his blog. On his blog, Boyd describes himself as a,

former atheist who surrendered his life to Christ in 1974. graduate of Yale Divinity School and Princeton Theological Seminary. professor of theology for 16 years at Bethel University. founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church, an evangelical megachurch in St. Paul, MN.

I was weeding out some bookmarks on my computer today and came across the one of Boyd's blog that Eric had saved for me while he and his wife were here. Boyd shares, in an excellent series of posts, why he decided to become vegetarian over 4 years ago and I find that his thoughts mirror my own convictions. He boils it down to 4 specific reasons which he elaborates quite eloquently and Scripturally on his blog. In his first post, Why I'm Vegetarian, Boyd elaborates on the first three reasons:

1. "God Told Me To"

Here, Boyd shares,

The most fundamental reason I became a vegetarian is simply that I felt God told me to. It’s that simple. God has the right to forbid for one what he allows for others, and he just told me, very clearly, I wasn’t supposed to eat meat. It's not that the Bible forbids it. It doesn't. It's just that God forbids it for me. In fact, I felt very strongly the Lord wanted me to enter into a covenant of complete non-violence with him.

I am never to harm anything if I don’t have to -- not even a bug. And I'm never to harm humans even if it seems (by normal standards) that I "have to".

2. "Increasing the Capacity to Love"

and

3. "Seeing the Sacred Beauty in All Living Things"

Boyd writes,

My pledge not to harm creatures raised their value in my mind and this in turn allowed me to see their intrinsic value.

Animals are not just food, and insects are not just inconveniences. They are works of art by the eternal Creator and they have their own intrinsic, sacred worth. But I couldn’t see this worth very clearly when I thought of them primarily as food and inconveniences. Becoming a vegetarian and committing to complete non-violence has significantly deepened my capacity to experience the sacred beauty of God’s creation. This experience brings with it a new dimension of delight and joy over creation.

In the second post in the series, The First Fruit of the Coming Non-Violent Creation, Boyd gives greater attention to his fourth reason for abstaining from eating animals. His fourth reason shares the same title as his blog post and it is wonderfully written. A portion of it argues,

There was no violence in the beginning and there will be no violence in the end. There is violence now only because humans, the landlords of the earth, rebelled against God and allowed the Powers of evil to corrupt the creation.

Now, the most fundamental job of followers of Jesus is to manifest the reign of God. I take this to mean that we're called to put on display now what the world will look like when God fully reigns over it in the future. In theological terms we're to be "the eschatological community."

One way the New Testament expresses this truth is by referring to Kingdom people as the “first fruits” of a coming harvest (2 Thess 2:13; Ja 1:18; Rev. 14:4). The “first fruits” referred to fruit that ripened and was picked before others. In the Old Testament, first fruits were consecrated (set apart) to God and were a sign that God will faithfully bring the remainder of the harvest to fruition (e.g. Ex. 23:19). In the same way, Kingdom people are consecrated to God as a sign that God will faithfully bring his Kingdom to complete fruition.

As the “first fruits” of the Kingdom, our call is to be in the present what the entire world will be in the future, when the Kingdom is fully manifested. In a world that is yet under bondage to the rebel Powers, we're to display what it looks like to live in the reign of God. Our lives are to reflect God's will being done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10). We're to be, as much as possible, heaven on earth and thus a window through which people can see the future into which God is leading the world.

The last of Pastor Boyd's posts is entitled "Compassionate Dominion and Factory Farms". Again, he lays out his arguments as clearly as I have heard them stated elsewhere when referring to this heavy subject. It is one worth considering.

At the very end of this post, Boyd urges that if one cannot give up meat, one should seriously attempt to choose free-range, small farmed meat. While this is a better choice, it should be noted that while the animals may enjoy better lives ( and yes, this fact is important and much better), they still share the same demise and brutal treatment in the slaughterhouses. By brutal treatment, I do not mean that they are simply killed, but that they are routinely tortured before their deaths. Torture is not too strong a word. Being boiled alive is torture. Having limbs ripped from living animals is torture. Being kicked across rooms and dragged, broken-legged to slaughter is torture. Boyd discusses this a great deal and there are plenty of videos and other evidence that attest to this truth.

While the reasons laid out in Boyd's post were not crafted by me, they are shared by me. For whatever reason, God laid it upon my soul to be a sensitive one: sensitive to other people, but also other creatures. Making the decision over 20 years ago not to eat animals any longer was not a hard one for me to make. People sometimes ask if I miss meat. I can answer with a completely honest, "no." And the same goes for dairy and eggs. For me it is simple. Once I knew... really knew just how what was on my plate got to be there in the first place, it was not even attractive to me anymore. To me it is similar to choosing not to wear clothes that are made by child or slave labor. Suddenly the thing no longer has appeal. Did the object involve pain to someone or something else? It instantly loses its value in my eyes.

Do my meals involve physical or emotional pain (to the animals or humans perpetrating the deed) or death? I can happily answer, "no," and give thanks to God who provides so abundantly an astounding array of food that gloriously displays His creativity inherent in the tastes, textures and aroma of His provision. All of this and harm to none. Shalom.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Lunaversary, Treats, and Tortillas!

This past Tuesday was Paul's and my lucky-in-love, 13th Lunaversary. For those of you who don't know, my husband and I had a Renaissance wedding 13 years ago on the first full moon in October. We chose the date according to the moon and this way we have a lovely, romantic, full moon for every anni - ahem - lunaversary.

That morning I woke to this:

The little bird had a scroll tied up in the lace with a special message from my honey to me! Lace, I guess, is the gift for year 13. I stood and cried. Why? Yes, it was so sweet and thoughtful, and special, and the bird he'd made was SO cool, but I cried because I had done nothing. That's right. Nothing. :( Boo, me.

I'd had a lousy night the night before (a.k.a. hormonal) when dealing with yet another dog "gift" left for me on the kitchen floor. Do I have a puppy, you ask? Why no, I do not. I have a 10-year-old, stubborn terrier that goes through phases where she uses the spot in front of the kitchen lanai door as her toilet. It usually starts with an accident. An accident every once in a while I can handle. But then she gets it into her mind to keep up the fun and it usually lasts a couple of weeks. >:( And then she gets it out of her system, so to speak, and goes back to being a good dog. So, yep, that's what I'm dealing with right now.

ANYway, that distraction, plus thinking we really weren't going to do anything had me missing the boat in a big way. Will not let that happen again! Dh wasn't upset in the slightest, though. My Paul; he's the best.

I took some photos when he was at work that evening, and thought of him all the while. He said he saw the moon that evening too, so we were able to share that in our own way.


That evening, too, I checked the mail and was in for some surprises!

Sweet Jessica sent me a thank you card for my blog of all things! She says she reads, but hasn't been able to comment for a while, since she usually reads on her phone while nursing her darling, new Ella. So thoughtful, Jessica. Thank you for the note; it was really special and I'm going to be sticking it right into my journal!


(Jessica's got some great new baby things going up in her Etsy shop, so be sure to check it out if you've got some bitty babes in your life.)

The same day, the wonderful blanket arrived - fun!

Listeners of the Stitch-It Podcast have a group on Ravelry and we are knitting charity blankets for wee, preemie babies spending time in the NICU. I am part of the East Coast Group. This blanket started in Vermont (the green), then traveled to Virginia (the blue) and is now traveling through Florida (white, blue,and mine - a blend of pale yellow and white), before heading back north on it's journey along the east coast. We each knit 4 inches on the blanket in any design of soft, washable yarn that we choose, and then pass it on, often with a little treat for the next recipient. I started knitting on it last night and am doing a seed stitch/stockinette pattern for my section. I have to get my thinking cap on for a little treat. Here's the one that was gifted me from Stephanie:

She sent me this delicious-smelling "pumpkin patch" soap from Indian River Soap. The whole package - and even the blanket- have its delightful, pumpkin scent. Mmmmm.... thank you, Stephanie!


Finally, yesterday for lunch, the girls and I made homemade tortillas for our burritos. We have been studying Mexico and Central America in our geography and this was a fun way to explore the culture.


We love, love, love Mexican food at our house (but look, ma, no cheese!) and enjoy it at least once a week in one form or another. The girls were thrilled with our project and declared the burritos, "Delicious!" So, success! Another item to add to kitchen factory days: homemade tortillas. I plan to make a stack soon to freeze and eat. Yum!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

DIY Life


Yesterday and today have been "kitchen factory" days. I didn't do too much, but some basics were needed. The chickpeas were soaked yesterday and cooked today. Yesterday I made a new batch of tofu mayo ( I used the terrific recipe from Vegan Planet, subbing regular vinegar for white wine vinegar) and today I made a Parmesan substitute. I also make our own peanut butter (it's just 5 c or roasted peanuts with a tsp of salt and a tsp of sugar in the food processor ~ SO easy!), soup seasoning mix and taco spice mix. This deletes unnecessary ingredients such as eggs or MSG while also keeping packaging to a bare minimum or none at all (I bring the peanuts home in a used bread bag, but I'd carry them in my hands if I could!). You know... it occurs to me that I could even sew up some draw-string bags for other bulk purchases... hmmm... more DIY.

Of course, doing it yourself takes time, but I have much more time than money, so it's really a no-brainer to me.

About a week ago I was having a discussion with my mil. She was going to have us over for dinner and was trying to go over options that we could have. My mil is the sweetest thing, but she does not enjoy cooking (after raising 6 children, I don't blame her wanting a break!). So, she was going through a list of frozen dinners that she might make, but most everything she mentioned contained cheese or milk. Finally, she said what many others end up asking me, "What do you eat?!" For a moment I was actually flustered as how to answer, because I had just been having to say, "No, not that," so much. Of course we eat and we eat a lot and a big variety of delicious food! Then it dawned on me why it might seem impossible to many folks to be able to enjoy themselves on a vegan diet: I don't eat convenience foods.

Now, this is not to say that there aren't some great vegan convenience options out there, and we do have veggie burgers and veggie dogs (though I know how to make those too!) but with a family, are you kidding me? I'm sure I've mentioned here before that most people who know me think I love to cook. Well, I don't love to cook, but I do love good food. In order for us to eat delicious food - to eat well and eat well every day - somebody's got to do some cooking, and so it's the DIY lifestyle in the kitchen for me.

These are the choices we make when we decided long ago to be a one-income family. With the economy as it is, I don't know what the future holds, but I am glad to have had practice at doing so many things ourselves. Of course, this extends beyond the kitchen. Paul dives bravely into new projects and has saved us oodles of money by taking time to research home repairs online. He loathes the plumbing projects, but tackles those, in addition to auto maintenance, other home maintenance and yard and landscaping as well. He built our girls swing set - that still gets daily use - himself as well as the garden fencing and gate.

That's a nice segue into my garden news. I'm giving it a go again this year, but no tomatoes. I need a vacation from my tomato battles. :(

This will be the "Year of the Greens," with kale, collards, and two types of swiss chard planted. We're also having carrots again and trying our hands at snap peas and radishes. These all are supposedly notoriously easy crops to grow, so we'll see how this novice (STILL) Florida, organic gardener fares. I was a prolific MN gardener, but I only seem to do well in FL with growing flowers. Considering that Florida means "land of flowers," that hardly seems a notable accomplishment, but alas, it is all I have! :)


Finally, I share with you a few shots of my new "decor." The library books weren't getting as much attention once they'd been plucked from the library shelves and placed in the library basket at home. So, I am strewing the material more openly now. And I have to say, I really do like the look. :) I love books, so I don't mind if they are on display in my home. I have never really wanted the look of "school" all over my house, but this looks warm and inviting to me: a great selection of pictures and words to enjoy and, possibly, an ever-changing decorating scheme!



Hey, would someone please push that chair back into the corner where it belongs?

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Avenues of Learning


Wow, what a difference a few tweaks and a couple of days makes! On Monday I didn't really even want to look at the school week ahead. I just had that feeling in the pit of my stomach that things just weren't right. Not right how they could be right and how I'd dreamed of them being right. But after making changes and feeling good about those changes and seeing how much fun the girls are having with their even newer school year, the place we've arrived at the end of this week is not where I thought I'd be at the beginning.

As I'd said in the previous post, we are now doing many of the same subjects, but doing them differently. We've also made room for chosen subjects; Maia is thrilled to know that her comic creations are part of her school day and Eve is happy to get to play Junkbot over at Lego.com as well as head on outdoors to climb the tree and work in her nature journal. Things like the nature journaling and reading Ranger Rick were things we had incorporated in the past, but I had run out of room in this year's schedule. Well, more room has been made again. When I come across something in our curriculum that is looking more like "chore" than "fun," I don't necessarily eliminate it, but am seeking more alternative ways to teach the same thing that leaves everyone with smiles on their faces.

I honestly don't know why I got so uptight this year and have had to return to this more relaxed method of homeschooling - which is what attracted me to it in the first place. I think it might have something to do, though, with the idea of high school approaching in two years and me beginning to feel like a whole stream of expectations was looming around the corner and, by golly, we just better buckle down and get used to it.

The next time I start thinking like that, someone snap me out of it, okay?

Part of our day today was poetry. Daddy sat with Eve and assisted in getting hers typed onto the computer for printing...


...so that later they could be illustrated. Illustration may as well be Maia's middle name. My girl loves to draw.


She used her Manga style characters from her comic book story to illustrate her poems.


I confess, that I am excited, now, to see the new directions we will take this year as my children's education takes on a more collaborative effort. I see their eyes light up when I ask them what they are interested in and they are ready and willing with lots of new ideas. One new activity next on the agenda is a pen pal for Maia from Japan! Stay tuned to hear more about that.

***********

A note about that water bottle in the photos! >:/ I am not a fan of disposable water bottles at all for various reasons! That is one that was given to Maia at some event or another and one that she refills regularly. I still don't like it, preferring her to use a non-plastic container.

See the badge in my sidebar if you are interested in the wonderful new campaign started by Center for a New American Dream to end the use of bottled water. Incidentally, one of my favorite reasons for steering clear of the bottle is that not only does the bottle use petroleum in its manufacturing, but also uses so much gas in carting the stuff all around the U.S. Water is heavy, folks, and instead of drinking our perfectly good water that we should be thankful to have essentially for free in our own back yards, we want water from somewhere else - flown or driven from thousands of miles away - and then we pay for it - twice, since we've already paid for our own water service at home. Absurd.

Well, I'm off to watch some news. I steer clear of commercial news networks, preferring to watch on PBS. Ordinarily, I would just listen to the news on NPR as I was making dinner, but since our suppers have become easier and lighter affairs, with Paul with us for lunch rather than supper, and with the economy as it is, I have been spending some more time in front of the TV screen and just wondering... wondering where it all will lead.

Hope you all have a lovely weekend. Take time to say some prayers for our country in these hard times.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Newsy Bits


"Grey Squirrel" by David Tipling
courtesy of Allposters.com

Well, I feel like time has swept away with me again. Here's what I've been up to:

This past weekend I did a planning session for a whole month of school. I usually do two weeks at a time, but I am trying to find more restful opportunities in my days and thought this might help. It did, to a degree. It had me feeling more wound up and tired all at the same time and feeling like I wasn't having much fun.

I've tended to get this burnout/no fun feeling regarding school around January of every year for the past few years. I knew something was amiss when that feeling set in around mid-September.

On Monday we took a trip to the library with Daddy and I hated feeling rushed when we got back, because I hadn't scheduled in that time and we had more work to do at home. ugh. I hated the fact that being at the library... the library for pete's sake... was a problem... even though Maia, in particular, learned, as she was searching for a particular dvd, the difference between the non-fiction and fiction dvd's and how to bravely approach the reference librarian for some assistance when her search proved fruitless.

In the children's section, I noticed the copy of Home Education magazine. For some reason this particular library does not keep their back-copies, which drives me crazy, because I end up either not having enough time to peruse as I would like to or taking copious notes of web addresses when I get home. See, for those of you who may not read HE, many of its contributors are unschoolers. Part of me is often wistful for this kind of education for my children and the other part of me still clings to those little boxes to check off. I went home and stayed up until half-past midnight looking at various unschoolers blogs.

I still don't know if that style is completely for me, but I can say that the better part of yesterday morning was spent bleary-eyed, re-vamping our schedule. This time, I got more input from the girls as to what they find enjoyable and what they want to learn. It turns out that they do want to continue with many of our current studies, but to do them a bit differently, more relaxed with more flexibility and also to add a few other things that they are interested in exploring for themselves.

So today, we are at a kind of hybrid with some structure and some autonomous, delight-directed learning. We may become more loose yet. I still have some more research to do. But today was nice. Low-key and nice.

*************************

Yesterday Eve went out to get in the van, as we were going to run some errands. She came running back inside, sobbing. Our delightful, little friend, Tenny, had been hit by a car and lay dead at the end of our driveway. Tenny was one of many little squirrels that visited our bird feeders nearly every day for the past 6 months or so. We had seen her around the neighborhood and were thrilled when she finally discovered our feeders.

You see, Tenny was special in that she had only a little stump of a tail that was still squirrel fluffy and so she looked like she was part rabbit! It was really surprising to us how much squirrels actually look like and move like little, short-eared rabbits once we saw Tenny. We named her Tenny, because she was so tenacious! I don't know if it was because she looked different from the other squirrels, but for some time, a small group of about 5 or 6 squirrels would regularly chase her off when she tried to come snack with them at any of our 3 feeders. But she never, never gave up (like most squirrels looking for a free bird-seed meal, really!) even when they would chase and nip at her little tail and scold her loudly.

Lately, it had seemed that Tenny had found a comfortable schedule to arrive at the feeders - often by herself. But even more recently, she had been coming regularly with a friend. So, it was to our great sadness that we lost our little friend yesterday.

I honestly don't understand why so many people curse squirrels so greatly and make so many jokes about killing them. They are charming, curious, little creatures and are so wonderful to watch from our window... especially when they find a nut and dig a little hole and pat the soil down with their little "hands." A neighbor of mine down the street has a little squirrel that follows her on her evening walks because she always carries a few peanuts for her in her pocket!

I had a friend's son make me a homemade bumper sticker that said, "I Brake for Squirrels," because I do! Unfortunately, I've misplaced it and will need him to make me another one. I hope you brake for squirrels too - and other creatures on the road. You never know if they have a little family at home somewhere in the treetops, or perhaps a little girl, about 9 years old, who considers them a friend.

*************************

Finally, I spent some time last night cruising around in cyberspace and found a few great spots.

Sarah at Handmade Homeschool is having a handmade Christmas this year and has a fantastic idea list. With the economy as it is and the future looking questionable, I am going to be posing this idea to some of my family. It may not be for everyone, but homemade and/or second hand is more than fine with me!

Soulemama knit up a darling hat for her son - a smaller version of one she made for herself. It's beautiful and simple. Be sure to check it out.

Sharon is also thinking ahead to prepare for the holidays. Well, she's nearly always thinking ahead. Have a visit over there for some thoughtful ideas.

Crunchy Chicken is asking people here about if and how they've been affected by the present economy and if they are planning on making more simplifying changes in their lives in light of it.

Are you going to be making things this year for Christmas? Have you been seeking out ways to make cutbacks in your lifestyle/budget? Are you making any preparations in case something does happen? These are some of the things I've been thinking about lately and am sure many, many Americans are too.

Well, time to walk the dog! Have a great evening!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Poetry in Your Daily Round

This year in our homeschool we are not merely studying poetry, but becoming the poets ourselves! Do you incorporate poetry into your homeschool days? If you don't homeschool, do you share poetry with your children anyway?

I have chosen to incorporate poetry into our school days and lives ever since... well, ever since the girls were born. I've dabbled in writing poetry on and off over the years. Before I had children I even took a poetry course in St. Paul, MN at The Loft Literary Center. At least it was in St. Paul when I lived there. I see now, in searching out the link, that it's moved to downtown Minneapolis. Wow! It looks wonderful! Anyway, I took a poetry class there and it was such a treat. Art of any kind causes one to look at the world in different ways; the mundane becomes something extraordinary and can bridge the gap between strangers and cultures. We often are reminded that we aren't so different from one another after all.

With my children we have moved from the nursery rhymes of their babyhood, to the fun and rollicking poems of A.A. Milne and Shel Silverstein, to the more mature poetry of Emily Dickinson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In fact, two years ago, when we studied Longfellow more in depth, my girls took a special liking to his poem, "Excelsior!" (which means, "higher!") and portions of the poem and shouts of, "excelsior!" were likely to be heard from the swing set or trampoline most any time of the day.

This year I have sought out a few places online that provide prompts and guidelines for a variety of poems and we are having a great deal of fun with them. We have poetry every Friday and so far, the girls have turned out things that are silly, serious, and lovely - sometimes all at the same time. Eve, being younger, I find needs some more help in getting her ideas to gel. I sit with her and give examples and also try to pull out of her just what she is wanting to say.

Maia, on the other hand, has fallen in love with language and I will often hear her repeat a word during the week that is new to her ear. She will say it a few times with an absolute look of delight on her face and say something like, "Oh, I like that word!" I am quite tickled when I hear things like that, because I had the same experience myself in high school, when I discovered that I not only liked writing, but that I was good at it and actually enjoyed the process of constructing papers and stories for school. The thesaurus, one of my dear, old friends, has become a new and dear friend to my daughter.

Here are some samples of Maia's work so far:

Copper

Shining new pennies
Like small, round gifts
Waiting to be spent



Ambition

Purpose, wish, desire
Gazing upon the star-lit sky
Myself


Snowfall

The first snowfall arrives like a timid deer
It covers the once bright green grass with a light, white powder
Then frosts the windows of the houses
It moves gently, quietly, softly, and silently
But as the cloud parts, and the snow ceases to fall
Over the small town
It leaves the beginning of winter to come.

And here are some of Eve's:

Salt

salinize season pickle brine
It makes my noodles taste fine


Fog

Fog comes in like a creeping fox
early in the morning.
It covers the pond
quietly
in the forest
then hides from the sun.

We write on Fridays and then I am having the girls type them for typing practice. We will be printing them throughout the year to compile into a book at the end of the year. Once a month or so, we will take our Friday time to illustrate or decorate the pages.

Here are some of the links I've visited and have found helpful:

30 Days of Poetry - These prompts are what we have started with and we love them so far! We can use these once a week and we are only 6 weeks shy of a full school year. Certainly, we can re-use some of the prompts as well. Included here are diamantes, cinquains, haikus, and much more.

A page with a bunch of links and ideas.

Here is a whole high school poetry unit, but I found the instructions for the assignments to be most helpful and there are some great ideas for elementary ages too. We'll be using some of these as fillers where we may need them with the 30 Days unit.

Here is one that is more for upper middle and high school grades, but I'm sure it will come in very handy in the future.


Finally, a lovely way to gently incorporate poetry into your school year and every day life is to find seasonal poems. The seasons are something we all know something about and I believe poetry is one of the most beautiful ways to mark the turning of the year. The words may help your children respond to the world around them in new and thoughtful ways. Give poetry a try if you haven't yet. I think you'll find yourself delighted.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Wee Bit of Fall Decorating


Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit and welcome to October! This Sunday I began pulling out some of the autumn trimmings now that it's starting to feel the least little bit fallish around here. Maia wanted me to get out the Halloween things today too, but alas, I have a few too many things on my plate. Perhaps tomorrow... I find I am needing to strike more of a balance in my days. This will take some looking into, but frankly, I don't have the time right now!

With the economy as it is and our own home budget freeze, there is nothing new this year in way of decor that has been purchased. Not even a trip to the thrift store is to be had. Oh, well, that's what creativity is for!

So, this year, I've just moved a few things. Instead of hanging the leaf garland over the fireplace, I've arranged it on the sideboard. I pulled out a little tea set that my late step-father brought back from one of his business trips to China. It's terracotta and fits in beautifully with the autumnal color palette. I've never used it before and am happy to find a use for it now!

The picture on the sideboard is one I'd propped on the mantle last year too: a simple, free picture in last year's Home Companion magazine. I just cut it to fit a frame I had and "matted" it with some gold scrapbooking paper (a little edge of it is behind the white).

Just one of two fall tablecloths I have thanks to Mom. I have a small collection of milk glass and I like to put tea lights in them at this time of year. They cast such a pretty glow at night.

The mantle is a bit plain this year, but that's okay with me. It's still got a fallish color scheme and more milk glass filled with candles. I always have to contend with the mirror (not having had the budget to tear it down), so I usually prop different pictures up there. I bought the big picture frame last year at an antique store for about $6. I spray painted it red and used it in last year's decorating too. I like to frame different thing in it; it can really make something plain look rather interesting.


Here you can see some more of the tea set and a little sheep that my Mom brought back for me from her summer road trip. I love sheep! Also on the mantle are a few agates that I love to keep there year round in various spots. They are collected from some of the gravel from my former home in Minnesota, as well as a beach on Lake Superior (up at Lamb's Cabin Resort - has anyone been there? I love it there!). I am not much of a collector, but I do love little tokens from places - especially if they are from nature.

Plenty of folks are decorating for fall around Blogland. Be sure to have a look around ~ there's lots of inspiration to be had - especially if you're on a shoestring.

Finally, today is International Vegan/Vegetarian Day and October is Vegetarian Month. I would be wildly remiss if I didn't mention it!! There is a beautiful, beautiful video put out by A Life Connected and Nonviolence United worth taking a few minutes to watch if you are interested. Especially if you wonder why someone would make the effort to live a vegan lifestyle. This video, by the way, is not graphic or violent in any way as some can be. In my opinion, there is a place for those, because the truth should be told. But at the same time, I know it can automatically close some people's ears to hearing some very important aspects that a vegan diet addresses such as your own health, the environment, and world hunger. If you have a few moments, take time to watch this today.
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