Friday, February 24, 2017


2016 wasn't a stellar year for reading. According to my Goodreads list, I finished 44 books which is 85% of the personal goal I set to read 52 books in 2016. Not too shabby I guess considering that last year was quite the busy year.

I did not set a goal for number of books to read on Goodreads this year, nor did I join any reading challenges. I am simply going to read the next book whether that is one for book club, one I have been wanting to read, one I find on my shelf or on a library shelf, one a friend or family member recommends, or one I am requiring my kids to read for history or literature.

If you're interested in knowing what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads, but I will occasionally make note of ones here. In that vein, following are some I have read that I think are worthy to note.

The Mysterious Benedict Society - a trilogy by Trenton Lee Stewart
For many years my children have told me to read these books. That I would love them just like they have. Finally at the end of 2016, I read them. My kids were right. These are great books. Four children answer a newspaper add, are tested in strange and unusual tests, and then continue on mysterious assignments to help defeat evil. Delightful characters, interesting plot, good moral point are all included. I think this series would be perfect to add to your read aloud pile.

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
The second novel in the series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is very good. Set in Three Pines, a murder by electrocution takes place outside in the winter in sub-zero temperatures on a frozen lake during a curling tournament. CI Gamache must unravel the mystery while author Penny is slowly unraveling the  character of the beloved inspector. My friend recommended this series to me and I am grateful she did. If you like murder mysteries with a feel of Agatha Christie and Murder She Wrote, set in a Canadian town that seems quite quaint and lovely, then begin with the first book, Still Life, and see what you think. My kids, at my request, gave me the first two books in the series as a gift for Christmas. I plan to add the rest of the books. Until then, I just picked up the third in the series, The Cruelest Month, from the library and will begin reading soon.

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower
Another friend recommended this book to me. I borrowed it from the library and was planning to read it while at camp on vacation in January. Wanting to get a jump start, I took it out to start reading in the van which caused my hubby to see and he requested I read it aloud to him. So I did. We both enjoyed this book and the stories of the White House staff who take care of the president and his family. The love the staff has for each family shines through these pages while their dedication to serving them and helping them to feel at home while living in a very public residence is admirable.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
This is also a mystery and part of a series, but it isn't quite as quaint as the Penny novels. Third in the series about detective Cormoran Strike, Galbraith (pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) continues following the hard, gritty, crass and foul-mouthed private detective and his secretary-assistant Robin Ellacott. This book reveals even more about Strike and Robin while we read about the mystery of who sent a leg to their office addressed to Robin and why. Not afraid to dig the depths of human misery and those sins "polite society" doesn't talk about, Galbraith once again shows her writing skill in creating characters who are so real with a plot so fascinating, that the book is hard to put down.

The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne
This is the book I am currently reading for book club. Although we are not reading all of it, we are reading all of what Susan Wise Bauer suggests in her book, The Well Educated Mind which are the lists we are following for our book club. I have found it interesting although I freely admit that at times I am not sure what he is trying to say. Montaigne does like to go on and on about a topic but so often there are gems of quotes that I stop to copy. Some of the ladies in my book club have begun reading it aloud to their spouse as a way to help understand what he is saying and to stay awake. The beginning essays were much shorter than the end ones and I can only read when the house is quiet and my brain is without distraction. However, I have enjoyed reading his thoughts, even though they ramble and my mind wonders. If you do decide you'd like to tackle Montaigne (and at least one in our book club would encourage you not to), I have found the penguin classic version edited by M. A. Screech to be quite helpful. Also, only read those essays as suggested by Bauer, it will definitely give you a feel for what type of man he is.

The Innocent by David Baldacci
I am not sure if my sister-in-law or a friend told me about this series, but either way I am enjoying this book. I have always liked this genre of spy/thriller novels. This book reminds me of one of my favorite series in this genre, the novels by Vince Flynn about Mitch Rapp. Over half-way done with the book, I am intrigued by the plot and am interested in how it will end. I will also check out the rest of Baldacci's books in this series about Will Robbie.

And now it is time to keep reading!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stir Up

Marlene was a wonderful woman in our congregation who was called home to her heavenly Father in January of 2016. She was a great example of Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Marlene too loved to sit at Jesus' feet, listening to His word of forgiveness, life, and salvation. If there was a Bible study, church service, or prayer office, she was there sitting and receiving God's gifts.

Marlene was also a Martha, who was forever serving her Lord by feeding the people He surrounded her with, family, friends, fellow believers. Serving the pastors a delicious meal for their circuit meeting, bringing treats for Bible Class, helping with Lenten suppers or Ladies' Aid dinners, inviting guests to her table at home are all examples of Marlene's love to serve her neighbors delicious food.

Marlene loved recipes, trying them, collecting them, sharing them. She inherited that love from her mother and in February of 2014, a dream of publishing these recipes finally came true.

Marlene took the recipes she had inherited and collected from her mother, her grandmother, her husband's family, her aunts and cousins, daughters and grandchildren and fought battles with organizing them and typing them, while learning the benefits as well as the trials of a computer before sending it off to a cookbook publisher. This two volume set stirs up good recipes and fond memories of a much loved and missed friend.

Here is a favorite recipe from Volume 2 we have made almost weekly.

Southwest Cream Cheese Chicken
1. 5 lbs chicken breasts
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 15 oz can corn (I've used frozen)
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 oz jar salsa
tortillas or hot cooked rice*

Place the chicken into a crock pot. Combine the cream cheese, corn, beans and the salsa; add to the chicken; cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Pull the chicken apart/shred and serve on the tortillas or over the rice.

*I've always simply served it in a bowl, soup style. Those that desire eat it with chips and maybe adding a dollop of sour cream and a little shredded cheese.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Night Watchman

St. Nicholas' Day 2016 was the fourth year of giving the family an incense smoker. Having already given St. Nicholas, St. Peter, and a Pastor, we chose this year the Night Watchman.

When we visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber with the family in May of 2012, one of the things we did was take the Night Watchman's Tour. It was a favorite of all. The man who played the night watchman did an excellent job of describing what his job entailed as he led us around the city pointing out various spots of importance. Besides all that, just look at him:

Remembering this fun tour and spotting a night watchman smoker in the catalog from Katie Wohlfahrt, it was an easy decision which smoker to give for St. Nicholas Day!

We all were excited and amazed at how big he was! David and I didn't realize just how big he was going to be. We had wrongly assumed he would be about the same size as our other smokers, but, well, you know what assuming does!

Standing guard

I love his hair, mustache, and pipe, not to mention the feather in his cap!

His lantern is as big as little Martin Luther!

Don't you love the bird?

Here you can see how much bigger he is than our other smokers

Even though he is bigger than our others, we have enjoyed him this winter season. I think we will lovingly call him Hagrid because it is only fitting that a big, lovable giant be a Night Watchman.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Memory Work

I describe our memory work time in this post. Overall, I have been quite pleased with how this went last school year. A little every day, or most days, helped us learn quite a bit. I think it so valuable that I would challenge all homeschool parents to incorporate a similar tool in their day. Even though it changes as the years and knowledge progresses, the overall form doesn't and that makes it easy once you figure out the form for your school.

This year our memory work time looks a little different as I tweaked and added, deleted and moved things around. Last year I simply had loose-leaf papers which were stored in my binder, I handed to the three kids each day. This year I bought them each their own binder, added the 8 tabs (Daily, Odd, Even, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) and placed those loose-leaf sheets behind the appropriate tab. Each day at Memory Work time, they bring their binders to the table for us to begin.

Daily Work (this is what we recite every day)

Old things we are still working on:

  • Apostles' Creed in Latin
  • Kings and Queens of England Poem
  • History Sentences

New things I've added:

  • The Book of Concord : a sheet with 10 rows and 4 columns. The 10 rows are the 10 things in the Book of Concord (Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Small Catechism, Large Catechism, Augsburg Confession, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Smalcald Articles, Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Formula of Concord). The 4 columns include Name (list of those ten things), Date (when it was written), Author, and Summary of that document.

  • Excerpts from the Declaration of Independence: two of my children are working through a government class which required this so I made it a part of memory work time.
  • Capitals of the Eastern and Western Europe: I am using a geography program from Memoria Press and the children are required to learn these and asked me to find a song to help.  I did and it has really helped all of us. The tune is "Turkey in the Straw." The linked blogpost has some errors in the text. I simply copied and pasted them into a new document, corrected the errors, and printed out the sheets for our binders. We then listened to the bookmarked page of the video of Mr. Stark singing linked in the blogpost. Now we often just sing it ourselves since we know how it proceeds.
  • Along with the capitals we are working on the countries of Western Europe and Eastern Europe  with our Geography Songs cd by Larry and Kathy Troxel
  • The Bonding Song - unfortunately I do not see this available anymore as a download on this website. You can still buy the curriculum which includes the song. I had bought it years ago when my oldest two were junior high. At that time it was on a cassette tape. I then upgraded a couple years ago with a mp3 download to my computer. But since two kids are currently working through Wile's Apologia Chemistry course, I thought it valuable to pull this song back out to help instill the differences in covalent, ionic, and metallic bonds.
  • Art Cards: I own Child Size Masterpieces by Aline Wolf. I took some of the most famous ones and hung them on our basement stairwell. Each of my three kids pick one and we try to learn the name and the artist. Once we get those, they pick three more and we repeat.
  • I added the following math sheets which I took from Andrew Campbell's Living Memory text I bought this past summer. I highly recommend it to anyone who is working on creating a Memory Work time for their family. It helped me think through what I wanted to do with my children. The math sheets are: Fraction-Decimal-Percent Equivalents, Properties of Addition and Multiplication, Order of Operations, Common Measurement Equivalents, A 15x15 Multiplication Table, Common Squares and Common Cubes through 15, Prime Numbers
Odd (We only recite these on odd numbered days)

Everything is the same: We review Latin prayers and the conjugations and declensions.

Even (We only recite these on even numbered days)

This is only review of the Small Catechism. Each even day we recite one chief part.  Here is what I added:

First we recite together the following:

"What is Catechesis?" is from Pastor Bender's Lutheran Catechesis  materials.  "What is Faith?" and What is Love?" are two my husband wrote and which he goes over with parents and catechumens. I took all three and formatted them in a document for our use in Memory Work time.

Second we recite together the particular section for the chief part we are doing that day:

This is also taken directly from Pastor Bender's Lutheran Catechesis which I simply formatted for our purposes. The post-it note is my moving bookmark so I remember which Chief Part we are to recite. It resides below the one for that day. Each of the children have this in their binder as well.
Third, we recite together that Chief Part. We each have our hymnals open to the catechism. I ask the question and then we recite together. We try hard to say it from memory, but have the words in front of us to aid when our memory fails, which is more often then we like to admit. But I trust God's Word and know that our reading, hearing, and speaking it will benefit us.

Each day of the week has its own subject review and it hasn't changed much from last year. Anything we learned well last year and only need to review was moved behind the appropriate tab. The only new thing behind one of the tabs is another Math review sheet which has formulas and definitions, which I also took from the book, Living Memory.

Our Memory Work time has been a great benefit to us and I try really hard to meet with them each day. I fail and don't though. However, I am realizing that it is okay and we will get to it tomorrow. The plus of having a binder all ready to go is that we simply pick it up on the next day and begin there. We are not behind, we simply do what needs to be done that day, keeping the time to no more that 30 minutes, and realizing we will get to the rest on another day.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

A Year Goes By

A year is a long time to go without posting and a lot can happen in that length of time. Many things can change; height, weight, age, knowledge, creaking joints, number of children, while a lot of things can happen; graduations, new jobs, engagements, weddings, amongst many others. Life here in our little neck of the woods was no different.

April 2016
Hannah had oodles of recitals, including her own senior composition recital as well as a senior piano recital. However, all of that took a backseat when she got engaged! We were thrilled! Our sweet baby was going to be a bride!

Ellie turned 19.

May 2016
Hannah graduated summa cum laude from Bethany.
Hannah and Ellie went on band tour to Florida with the Bethany band

The rest of us went on vacation. First we stopped for the weekend at the first congregation my husband served. They celebrated their 150th anniversary and invited him to preach. What a joy to catch up with friends from that congregation. It was like a wonderful, hug-filled, food-filled, reminiscing-filled family reunion. After that a few days at my mom's before David headed to meetings in St. Louis, and the other kids and I headed to Chicago to celebrate dear Lydia's high school graduation.

Then began the summer of work.

The campground in town put in a brand new waterpark - two slides, a climbing wall, a ball area, and a walk where you hang on the ropes above your head as you try to move from floating pad to floating pad all the way across, plus a little zero depth entrance for the youngest campers. It was a huge project, and if that weren't enough, they added a Snack Shack right beside to aid the hungry swimmers. The new waterpark is why Nathan got his lifeguard certificate and over the course of the summer he spent many, many hours watching the multitude of swimmers enjoy the new waterpark.

The new Snack Shack brought me back into the working world. Once it was up and running in July, I began spending many hours helping make pizzas, learning how to make the perfect blurry, swirl the right amount into a cone for a soft serve treat, and how to clean everything up at the end of the day. Not only Snack Shack working but I also helped clean the cabins after campers departed.

Hannah and Ellie continued working at Pizza Ranch but also worked a couple times in the Snack Shack when needed. One week the only one in our family who didn't get a paycheck from the campground was David.

To keep straight where everyone was and who would be home to eat meals, we bought a dry erase board for the refrigerator and updated it as the weekly schedules emerged. It was chaotic. It was tiring. It was fun. And although Nathan, Abby, and Sam, spent many of their working hours watching the pool soaking up the rays of the sun, my work was always inside. So much so that I realized at the end of the summer I had not tried the new waterslides nor even put on my swimsuit once. That was a sad realization.

In August Abby turned 15.

September 2016
After the summer of work, the chaos didn't stop as now the wedding preparations were dwindling down to the end. Ellie went back to college to begin her senior year. A week at Camp Luther gave us time to relax before the final push to the big day!

October 2016
Hannah turned 21, three days later Nick, her fiancé, turned 22, and on the 15th they were united in Holy Marriage. It was a wonderful, beautiful day. Full of friends and family, faith and fun. We are so happy to have a new son as well as looking forward to watching their new life together!

Our happy family

My husband's family

Here are some other photos and here is a link to the wonderful sermon Nick's father preached, while this is a link to the wedding service.

November 2016
School work resumed at home for Nathan, Abby, and Sam while Ellie continued her final year at college. Sam, my baby, turned 14. Thanksgiving found us trekking to Chicago for a long weekend visiting our good friends and finally attending the Christkindle Markt. It was well worth the trip.

December 2016
School, Christmas baking and preparations, snow shoeing a few times, reading everyone's Christmas letters and enjoying Christ's gifts. On the 31st, our niece Cora got engaged to Anthony. Another wedding to look forward to!

January 2017
We started the year at Camp Luther for a week of snow shoeing, cross country skiing and tubing fun with our good friends. We ate our weight and more in Christmas goodies and other good food. The rest of the month was spent doing normal things, cooking, cleaning, learning, living.

Yes, a lot can happen in a year, and I'm going to do my best to not let another year go by before I post again.