Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What I Read in 2015

Edited for corrections. I realized I forgot to add the one I read this summer with Bible Class at church, which brings my total to 52! I made it Lamb! Also, it was brought to my attention that the original post didn't include when I had finished Sarum, one of my books on my Friends challenge. These corrections have been made.

I finished the last book I'm reading in 2015 today, so I thought it time to finally return to my neglected blog with a list of all I read this year.

The total number was 52 books, which is low to some of my friends, and seems awfully high to me as I didn't think I had been reading all that much. There were so many lulls this year and I just couldn't get into a reading state of mind for much of this fall.

Here are the categories of books based on the reading challenges I chose to do.

Year of the Re-Read: 23 books
Overall I am happy with all I re-read this year, my self-proclaimed Year of the Re-Read. Like old friends, I enjoyed curling up with these books and re-living the magic and deepening my understanding of the stories. Since I loved re-reading all these books I have decided to make a list each year of books I want to re-read.

J.R.R. Tolkien:
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings

C.S. Lewis:
The Chronicles of Narnia

Jane Austin:
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

J.K. Rowling:
The Harry Potter Series

Lemony Snickett:
Only 2 from The Series of Unfortunate Events

2015 Help From My Friends (Jane's challenge): A total of 11 books
I listed 10 books and 5 alternates. I was afraid at the start of the year that I wouldn't find time to finish this one, but I surprised myself and succeeded. This year's list had some really good books and some real duds. Following is the list, when I finished, and if I thought they were good or a dud.

1. The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on March 31st. Good

2. The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter, #2) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on April 9th. Good

3. The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter, #3) by Sigrid Undset
Finished on May 17th. Good

4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin
Finished July 24th. Good, but not enough to make me want to read the rest of the series.

5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Finished on January 11th. Good

6. Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherford
Finished on December 3rd. Although I thought it was good, it was hard to keep reading.Because this was the whole history of England, every section was like starting over with new characters in a new novel. Yes, it wove together past families and events, but frankly I became bored half-way through and I had to force myself to finish.

7. The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth, #1) by Ken Follett
Finished June 18th. Really Good

8. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Finished June 10th. Started out with lots of potential, but in the end, a dud

9. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Finished May 29th. Good

10. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.
Finished June 26th. Really Good. Loved this interesting story
1. The Tenant of Wldfell Hall by Anne Brontë

2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and William Weaver

3. In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Turnham and Dean Merill
Finished July 8th. Very interesting and made me wonder about the people I know who are missionaries.

4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Started on September 26th but never finished. It seemed way to contrived and projecting today's feelings and attitudes on a former time.

5.Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel

Book Club: 8 books
This is a group of my homeschool moms who started reading through Susan Wise Bauer's list in "A Well-Educated Mind." I finally joined them and haven't regretted it for a single moment. Three of these I have read before, but I didn't count them in my Year of the Re-Read Challenge. Following is what we read.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: finished March 24th
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy: finished May 17th
The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: finished July 11th
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: finished August 11th
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane: finished August 31st
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: finished September 8th
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton: finished October 17th
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: finished November 16th

The remaining books I read included 1 I read with Nathan and Abby for schoolwork,
Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory: finished March 17th

1 I read as a Board member for Wittenberg Academy,
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni

1 I read for Bible Class at church this summer
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

and 7 I picked up just on my own:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
LadyLike: Living Biblically by Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adel
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
The Question: Teaching Your Child the Essentials of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, Sugar--Your Brains' Silent Killers by David Perlmutter
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

Overall, not to bad for a year I felt like I was never in the mood for reading. As I think ahead to challenges for 2016, I hope there will be more that make me love to read and not want to do anything else and fewer that I am just trying to get through. And maybe I should aim for a total of 52 books (could I do more?), on average, one per week, which I just made this year.

Friday, September 04, 2015

In Only Two Steps

1. Always be willing to admit you do not know the answer.
2. Always be willing to learn.

That's it. Two steps to being an educated adult. Whether you homeschool your children or not, whether you work outside the home or not, follow those two steps and you'll see your knowledge ever growing.

Go ahead, try it. It is only two simple steps.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

It is Never to Late

A dedicated Memory Work Time. This is the new-to-us item for this year's schoolwork. I have thought about it over the summer and discussed it with my good friend Amy, looked at blog posts on the Charlotte Mason Memory Work system and Classical Conversations memory work as well as read and watched a video on a "loop" system. Two difficulties I've encountered is that I haven't done this from the beginning and my kids are older plus I don't do Classical Conversations, which many, many, many of the posts I read do follow.

Regardless of those difficulties I have determined that it necessary for us to actively be working and reviewing memory work daily. Following is how I am going to arrange our "Memory Work" time together.

I will have a binder with 8 tabs labeled Daily, Odd, Even, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Behind each tab will be what we are to say aloud and review that day. Each day I will use three tabs, the Daily, either Odd or Even depending on the number of the day, and the day of the week.

This will be what we are currently working on learning to memorize. The new things in History, Latin, Geography, and Science we are working on for the year.

Odd Days:
We will review our Latin prayers and the verb conjugations and noun declensions we already know.
Lord's Prayer
Gloria Patri
Table Prayer
Conjugations 1, 2, 3
Declensions 1, 2, 3

Even Days:
We will review our Latin sayings and vocabulary, currently the first 8 chapters of Wheelock

Tuesdays: History Review
Old timeline songs from years 1, 2, and 3
Kings and Queens of England poem (to where we are currently learning)
Timeline Tips and Tricks
Presidents (to where we are currently learning)

Wednesdays: Grammar Review
Sentence Jingle
Types of Sentences
Noun Jingle
Verb Jingle
Helping Verb List
Linking Verb List
Adjective Jingle
Adverb Jingle
Article Adjective Jingle
Pronoun Chant (Subject, Object, Possessive)
Parts of Speech Chant
Preposition Poem
Sentence Patterns

Thursdays: Geography Review (Geography Songs Around the World)
States and Capitals
Southeast Asia
South Asia
Western Europe

Fridays: Science Review* and Music Review
Note names
*This is still a work in progress as I think about what I would like them to learn by heart. We will be studying Astronomy and Chemistry this year, so in our daily work things like the order of the planets and the periodic table will be memorized and then moved to this slot for review.

Saturdays: Spelling Review (Writing Road to Reading)*
Page 1
Page 3
Page 5
Page 6
Rule 4
Rule 12
Rule 20
Rule 24
*I chose certain pages and rules that I know my kids need help remembering. If I discover that they have forgotten the ones I thought they knew, I will add those to this list.

I think I will schedule 30 minutes to do this each day. We will begin with the Daily work, move to either the Odd or Even tab and then the Day of the Week tab. Only in the daily work will I strive to do everything every day. With all the others I will utilize the "loop." That is, we will get as far down my list as we can that day and then when it is time to do it the next week, we'll start where we left off.

I did not add any Bible memory work nor catechism or hymn review. That is done with Dad at the table after meals, following the Congregation at Prayer he puts together for his flock based on what he learned from Pastor Bender at Peace (click on the Congregation at Prayer tab under Weekly Downloads) The only new thing to this time will be taking one day each week and reviewing one of the chief parts of the catechism, six chief parts, six days review. Susan had recommended this a long time ago and I'm finally getting around to putting it into practice.

Since this is new to me, I'm sure this will change and grow as we figure out how best to do this in our daily life. I'm okay with that. One of the big things I tell all sorts of homeschool moms is that it is never to late to learn. Just start where the kids are and go from there. I really believe that and therefore I'm now applying it to myself and my own kids. We are starting where we are and we'll go from there. Here's to a good year, really learning and growing in our knowledge!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Thinking About Food

 From the third book in the Kristin Lavransdatter series, The Cross, by Sigrid Undset:
"Hm. Your mother has else the name of one that looks narrowly to her goods, and is a most notable and thrifty housewife --"

"Not with food," said Naakkve eagerly. "To that every soul can bear witness, very carl and every woman that has served on our manor -- with food is mother the most free-handed woman. In that way she is no otherwise not than when we were rich folk -- never gladder than when she can set on her board some dainty dish -- and she purveys such full measure that each serving-man and woman, down to the swineherd and the bedesfold, get their share of the good things."

 I can relate to Kristin, Naakkve's mother, in this aspect. I, too, very much want to make sure all who are at my table have enough to eat and more. To set a dainty dish to delight the diners brings me great pleasure. The planning and the preparing, as well as the dining and dish work which follows is a joy to me.

Honestly, the cooking and cleaning are two great joys of mine. While others may be overwhelmed with such chores, and I admit, I am too at times, I really do get delight from it. I first learned this joy from my mom.

When I was growing up she babysat lots of kids. Every day for lunch she would fix these toddlers a hot meal.  Not peanut butter and jelly, or a sandwich, although sometimes those were fixed. But hot lunches, like frying them fish and hush puppies, macaroni and cheese (not from a box), spaghetti and garlic bread, corn and green beans. Often these weren't leftovers from our supper the night before, but meals she prepared for their lunch. My mom is now 80 and she still babysits, two toddlers and an infant. Yep, she still fixes these little toddlers a hot lunch. When asked why, she says because they need to eat good food.

It isn't only in the daily cooking of food for my family that brings me joy, but also the cooking for friends and family who visit. To try and prepare as much as possible from scratch, to set dainty dishes on the table, to think about what might bring my guests gastronomical delight is a fun puzzle I like to solve.

Come visit me sometime. Give me the joy of not only your company, but the joy of cooking and cleaning for you.

Time for lunch for the family. Today, much to the joy of my kids it isn't leftovers but steak fajitas with rice.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sandwich or a Spoon?

Food Again.

I just can't get enough.

Although one could argue I have had enough.

The excellent brownies Ellie has been baking.

The scones Abby baked for breakfast.

The yummy turtle pie Rachel baked last week for dessert after dinner.

The Kopp's custard.

The Sobelman's hamburger and fries washed down with a good beer we ate for lunch last week.

But this post isn't about any of that good food. It is about walnuts and cream cheese, green peppers and onions, salt and pepper. It is about all those things mixed together to form a yummy deliciousness.

I first made this for Hannah's 18th birthday tea party. We (and by we I mean Hannah) searched for various recipes to make for the special occasion. This Walnut Tea Sandwich Recipe was one we found and made and loved.

I have been craving this creamy yummy concoction for awhile. I kept thinking it would be great as a dip for vegetables, especially when I'm wanting to cut down on the carbs and sugar I've been stuffing my pie-hole with lately.

Today I finally got around to making it. And now you should to.

Walnut Tea Sandwich Recipe
8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup ground toasted walnuts
2 TBSP finely-minced parsley
1 TBSP finely-minced green bell pepper
1 TBSP finely-minced onion
1 teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg (or more to taste)
Salt and white pepper to taste

Mix this all together.
For a sandwich the recipe says to choose the best-quality white or wheat bread. Spread a piece with butter, top with the mixture, add another slice of buttered bread on top. Cut off the crusts and then cut in half diagonally and then cut in half again.

Or simply grab a celery stick and dig in.
Or a green pepper slice.
Or a carrot stick.
Or a spoon.

Fifty percent of those are easier to get the delicious spread to your mouth than the other fifty percent. But you can experiment for yourself.

Quickly now, gather the ingredients, make a sandwich or grab a spoon or celery stick. This is food you'll make again and again.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bacon and Eggs

We just picked up a butchered pig from the meat market. Now my freezer is full of yummy things like, pork roasts and chops, hams and ribs, sausage and bacon!

A member in the congregation who has chickens is being overrun with eggs. Usually her kids and their families have no problem keeping up with the laying hens. However some of the families were away on vacation, and the chickens know it is spring and our busy laying eggs galore. Therefore, she gave us several dozen. We were quite happy to accept.

So for breakfast I made a favorite: bacon and eggs.

I don't remember now where I saw this recipe the first time, a blog? on Face Book? on Pinterest? I don't know. But I do know it is easy and yummy.

Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Wrap a piece of bacon around the edge.
Crack an egg in each cup.
Add salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are as done you prefer.

The original recipe I saw from the place I no longer remember said to crack the eggs into a bowl and whip, then add some to each cup. I did it that way the first couple of times, but pouring the egg mixture into each cup got real messy real quick. As my girls will tell you, I did what I normally do and adjusted the recipe. It is so much easier to simply crack one egg into each muffin cup.

Coming out of the oven, ready to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee. . .

and some fresh strawberries I bought from Aldi.

When you find yourself hungry for bacon and eggs, try this recipe and tell me what you think.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boring Life Update

Tonight is the last Lenten service before Holy Week. I have helped serve four of the last five Lenten suppers. That kept me busy in the kitchen on Wednesdays.

My good friend, Karin, and some of her sons planned to visit us last week for a few days. What they didn't know when they planned that was Karin's uncle would get quite ill, enter hospice, and then die. Since he lived only about thirty minutes away from me, I was her home away from home while she dealt with the responsibilities she had with her uncle. Between February and last week, she was here four different times. We laugh because each time there were different kids with her. I'm glad I am here for her and I enjoyed her, what came to be, every two-week visit.

We had quite the warm first part of March. Several days of 50, maybe even, 60 degree weather. It prompted us to clean up the front porch and put out our rockers. That was the ides of March. It didn't last long. We got a spring snow fall this past Monday. Over Sunday night into Monday morning about eight inches of heavy, wet snow fell. It was so pretty.

I can hear birds singing in the mornings when I awake. And when I'm walking outside during the day. It is lovely.

Monday was Nathan's 15th birthday. He requested cinnamon rolls for breakfast. We took him to Five Guys for supper. He also requested enchiladas, so I made those for Tuesday's dinner. We are having birthday pie (apple, currently baking) and opening gifts this evening after evening service.

For the past several years our congregation has had every Sunday communion during the Easter season. Last week the elders suggested that this year that practice continue after Easter and it become our normal practice. Soli Deo Gloria! I am thrilled that now every Sunday I have an opportunity to receive Christ's Body and Blood.

An update to my reading update post. Since I wrote that, I have read all 7 of the Chronicles of Narnia books. I've also finished Le Morte D'Arthur with Nathan and Abby, as well as Anna Karenina for my book club. This coming Monday my book club will discuss the final chapters of Anna.

I decided to start reading the Kristin Lavransdatter series by Sigrid Undset that so many friends have recommended. For book club we will start reading The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. I'll have to get that book next week sometime. Our first discussion will be the second week of Easter. Finally with Nathan and Abby I decided to take my daughter, Hannah's, advice and read Dante's Inferno next. For Lent David has been preaching on the seven deadly sins - one life-giving Savior. Reading Dante will give us some perspective and wrestle with the ideas.

There you go. A list of what has been happening in my little neck of the woods. Boring to some, busy to others, but our life at this time.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Reading Update

It is now the third month of 2015. Time for an update on my reading challenges.

I self-declared this to be the Year of the Re-Read.
So far I have re-read the following:

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit (finished January 3)
The Fellowship of the Ring (finished February 6)
The Two Towers (finished February 23)
The Return of the King (finished March 5)

I first read these Tolkien books in 2002 and then again in 2006. It was definitely time to re-read them. Wow, are they good books and I need to not let so many years pass in between re-reads. My daughter Hannah, lover of all things Tolkien, is lobbying hard for me to read The Silmarillion. I told her I'll add it to my list. Maybe, just maybe I can get to it this year. For now, I will continue my re-read list with C.S. Lewis's Narnia books.

For Jane's challenge I listed 10 books and 5 alternates. I have completed one:
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (finished January 11)

Oh, and as part of the Year of the Re-Read, I decided to re-read aloud to my younger three The Series of Unfortunate Events. We have finished book one.
The Bad Beginning (finished February 9)

Isn't that sad that I've only finished one of those? It is difficult to find time for read alouds anymore. We struggle to find time when we are all home and ready to listen and mom is ready to read. Something to work on in the coming days and weeks and months.

I did join the book club which some of my friends, also home-school moms, started. They began in January with Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Wow, do I enjoy this book. It has been interesting, intriguing, fun, and full of characters I want to hug or hit. We only read a certain number of pages each week and then discuss those together via chat. We will finish the book at the end of March. I'm not sure what will be next for book club.

I've also been reading with Nathan and Abby Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur. That is quite interesting as well. But reading it and Tolkien and Tolstoy all at the same time was quite hard. None of the books are hard by themselves, but together it made for a challenging time. That is why I'm picking Narnia for my next re-read. It won't require near the thinking cells I've used the last month. I'm debating on if I should tackle Dante's Inferno with Nathan and Abby next or simply move into Shakespeare and delve into his plays.

March is here and I've read so far six books plus two that I'm still reading. I really don't know if that is good or bad. But it is what I've accomplished. At this point I admit I'm a teeny bit concerned about meeting my reading challenges. Only a teeny bit for now though. It is only the third month of the year. I have time. Now back to my scheduled reading.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Very Fun Valentine's Festivities

February 14th, 2015 found the whole family awaking at home and walking to church for the spoken daily Matins service. While David stayed at church to prepare for Sunday, the kids and I walked back home and over breakfast we chatted. As I finished putting away laundry, the kids held a conference.

They told me I needed to leave the main floor of the house. Sous la Maison was opening and only staff were allowed on the main floor.

Instead of watching Pride and Prejudice as they suggested and I really would have liked, I took my book-club book up to my room and continued reading in preparation for the up-coming discussion.  Snuggled up under the covers on a mound of pillows with a favorite classical playlist on Spotify filling the air, I settled in to find out what was going to happen to Anna and Vronsky, Levin and Kitty, and Dolly and Oblonsky. Anna Karenina has been a delightful read and I am quite enjoying Tolstoy's novel. It was only appropriate I thought that I finally read of Levin's proposal to Kitty on Valentine's Day. This was the first joy in a very fun-filled Valentine's Day.

I read for about an hour or so before David came home. He and I and Matt and Michele had planned to attend Schell's Bock Fest together. It was going to be cold, although not as bad as last year. We layered silk long johns under shirts and fleece and topped it all with snow pants, scarves, gloves and hats.

We arrived at Schell's Brewery and got our beer and brats and joined all the other crazy people who came out to enjoy the fun on a cold (sub-zero wind chill) Valentine's Day.
What's up with no snow?
Michele and Matt

Enjoying ice-cold beer on an ice-cold day!

We walked around and marveled at the many different hats people were wearing, the size of containers people were using to drink Schell's Bock Beer (always an excellent choice), and frankly to keep warm when we couldn't be around one of the many fire-pits.

We stayed enjoying the fun for about three hours before walking back to the van and heading home.
Wearing the right clothes and drinking beer helped keep us all warm and we are making plans for next year's Bock Fest.

After we got home, David and I were once again banished to the upstairs. Since we were going to be dining out at our annual Valentine's restaurant, we showered and dressed for dinner.

At six pm we were escorted to our table and came that much closer to finding out what the wonderful aromas our nostrils had been inhaling. We eagerly read the menu.

Not long to wait for our first course, Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup.

WOW, was this ever yummy.
I really wanted to have seconds of the soup, but I knew from previous experience that more was yet to come from the staff of Sous la Maison.

Next our salad:
With hear-shaped bacon!
My belly was bursting before the plat principal arrived:
A made up, yet extremely delicious, steak recipe by the staff
 I only ate half my steak because I wanted to eat all of my dessert.
This cheesecake is superb!
Once more the staff at Sous la Maison delighted us with their culinary skills. Our kids are truly a delight and helped to make this very fun Valentine's Day full of festivities another one we will remember.
Ellie, Nathan, Sam, Hannah, and Abby

Monday, January 26, 2015

Let's Talk History

Four years have gone by since I wrote this post. Which makes sense because I teach history on a four year cycle and this year we are once again covering the Middle Ages, the Reformation, and the Renaissance.

We got out our Kings and Queens of England Lapbook and I have begun again to read Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall. If you haven't read this book, find a copy and do so. It is a great read aloud to your children. Engaging and delightful to read, but also quite informative and interesting.

I also discovered, although now I forget from whom, probably Amy, she tells me everything I need to know. It helps to have smart, knowledgable friends, they keep me on track.

Back to discovering. . . H.E. Marshall also wrote this book, The Story of Europe. It covers the history of Europe from the fall of Rome until the Reformation. Having written, Our Island Story, which covers the history of England, its history is not included in The Story of Europe unless it plays an important role in the politics and events of Europe.

It is another very delightful read aloud. One thing I am enjoying more about this book is that she has included the dates of events in the margin. This makes it easier for reading, but also easy to look something up quickly.

In the back there is a nice chronological chart. The first column gives the century, the second column has the events in British history, the third column gives the history of the continent, and the final column gives the chapter in the book where it is covered.

Between these two books, our timeline, learning our Kings and Queens of England poem, as well as memorizing the fifteen pack of tricks in world history, we should learn something by the end of the year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


My husband is so good to me.
And so is my daughter who took these photos.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


I had intended to write all about our Christmas. And our trip to Camp Luther but now too much time has gone past so I will just sum up.

Christmas at camp.

This, I think, was one of the best, if not the best, weeks at camp. Everything was so much fun. The snow, the cold, the food, the friends, the fun, the fireplace, all of it and more made it very difficult for us to adjust to reality at home.

The first night we arrived we celebrated Christmas with our friends. Lots of eating interspersed with gift opening, conversations, giggles, and hugs. Ralph and Amy gave our family a set of egg cups, spoons, and an egg top cutter.

We love them. It makes having soft boiled eggs such a treat.

We first ate eggs this way in Germany. We've tried to replicate them at home with varying levels of success. But now, these new cups hold the egg perfectly. The cutter makes getting the top off simple, and the spoon slides easily to scoop out the scrumptious egg.

What is left after the meal is an empty shell, and a contented belly.