Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cinnamon cake for a fall birthday

Ponytails had a birthday this month.  She found this recipe for Cinnamon Cake on For Bakes Sake, but we changed it a bit to make it one layer (it was just for our family); frosted it with plain butter icing with a bit of cinnamon added (instead of the cream cheese frosting); and did the spices a bit differently.  This is our version:

Spice Birthday Cake (makes two layers, or one layer plus a dozen cupcakes):

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (see below)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (we used 2% milk)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (but it doesn't matter, you're going to melt it anyway)
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (I grated some from a fresh orange)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Before you start mixing everything together, this is what I did: I mixed the flour, baking powder and salt, but left out the cinnamon. I followed the directions otherwise until it was ready to go into the pans. I used about half the (unspiced) batter to make a dozen small cupcakes. Then I added 1 tsp. cinnamon and about 1/3 tsp. nutmeg to the batter that was left in the bowl, and baked that as the birthday cake. I didn't want to take all the air out of the cake after I had just spent all that electricity beating it in, so I just swirled the spices in gently, and that gave the cake an interesting swirly-spice effect. I baked both the cupcakes and the cake together for about 24 minutes as the directions say.

So if you really want two spice layers, bake the full amount of batter in two 9-inch pans; but increase the spices for the two layers.

From here on the directions are as in the original:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Sift first 4 ingredients into small bowl. Stir milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat just until butter melts [I used the microwave]; set aside.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick enough for batter to fall in heavy ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes.
Beat in orange peel and vanilla. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Add warm milk mixture; beat just until blended. Divide batter between prepared pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into centre comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 24 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Cut around pan sides and turn cakes out onto racks. Turn cakes right side up.

Frost with cream cheese frosting (amounts given in the original recipe) or with cinnamon-tinged butter icing.

CM quote for the day: The dangers of literary cheese-cake

If we are raised on a junkfood book diet...

"...the succession of 'pretty books' never fails us we have not time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes.  Scott is dry as dust, even Kingsley is 'stiff.'  We remain...'poor readers' all our days...Guard the nursery; let nothing in that has not the true literary flavour; let the children grow up on a few  books read over and over, and let them have none, the reading of which does not cost an appreciable mental effort." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Drawn from the P.U.S.: how Charlotte Mason might have taught a chapter on Ecosystems and Biogeography

Subject: Ecosystems and Biogeography.

Group: Science. Class III. Time: 30 minutes. By Mama Squirrel.
Book used: The World Around You, by Gary Parker.

I. To increase the student's knowledge of biotic and abiotic factors.
II. To show how all living things are connected to each other.
III. To give some account of the different biogeographic realms, using Australian marsupials as an example.

By way of introduction, I would ask the student to tell me the meaning of an ecosystem, and, for any ecosystem, name some of the things included; for instance, in an aquarium, we would have particular plants, animals, but also factors such as light and temperature. (Don't forget the tiny organisms that we can't see unaided.)  We can label any of these factors as either biotic or abiotic.  How do the different "factors" interact with each other? (Example: plants releasing oxygen for the animals to use.)
I would have her read orally from The World Around You, page 11, the paragraph about the interaction in an aquarium ecosystem.
Then, after narration, I would show a map of the six (original) major biogeographic realms: Palearctic, Nearctic, Neotropical, Ethiopian, Oriental, Australian.  Recently this map has been updated.  I would give the student a printout of the updated map, and read from the accompanying article.  "Our study is a long overdue update of one of the most fundamental maps in natural sciences," lead author of the new research in Science, Ben Holt, said in a press release. "For the first time since Wallace's attempt we are finally able to provide a broad description of the natural world based on incredibly detailed information for thousands of vertebrate species."  
After narration, we could talk about why scientists believe it to be important to divide the biogeographic realms more accurately, and what has allowed them to do that. Something hard to think about: would creationists and evolutionists think about biogeography somewhat differently?  As an example of a creationist approach, we would read the rest of the chapter, about Australian marsupials.

Adapted from Class Notes, as printed in various Parents' Reviews.

CM quote for the day: When knowledge is pleasure

"They must be educated up to it....delight in a fine thought, well set, does not come by nature...But the press and hurry of our times and the clamour for useful knowledge are driving classical culture out of the field; and parents will have to make up their minds, not only that they must supplement the moral training of the school, but must supply the intellectual culture, without which knowledge may be power, but is not pleasure, nor the means of pleasure." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Edward Ardizzone illustration from The Little Bookroom, by Eleanor Farjeon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pear Oatmeal Muffins (recipe)

Pear Oatmeal Muffins, made with a cupful of cooked pears.

Wet ingredients:

Leftover cooked pears, run through the food processor so they resemble applesauce
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
About 1/2 cup milk, or enough to sufficiently moisten the batter

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour and 1 cup oatmeal, or thereabouts
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Spices as needed: our pears already had ginger and orange in them, so I didn't add any

Combine wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix and correct the amount of liquid.  Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees F.

What's for supper? Veggie vegetarian chili

Tonight's dinner menu, on a night when one Squirreling has a before-dinner music lesson and the other has an after-dinner choir practice:

Really Easy Mixed Bean Chili in the slow cooker, from Leanne Ely's book Saving Dinner: two cans of beans, corn, sweet potato, salsa, taco spices.  Never tried this one before, we'll see how it goes.  I didn't know how big her "jar of salsa" might be, so I settled for a cup and half of Walmart's Medium Chunky.  I started it at 12:30 on High, checked it after an hour and it seemed kind of dry (see photo), so I added a cupful of tomato sauce.

Leftover meat loaf for the meat eaters (that was from last night--Saving Dinner's Upside Down Meatloaf)
Leftover potatoes
Leftover Broccoli Slaw

Mango-Yogurt Freeze (run frozen mango cubes and yogurt through the food processor till they're smooth and fluffed up)

That's better (4:30 p.m.).

From the archives: Highlights Magazine

First posted July 2007.
"This book of wholesome fun is dedicated to helping children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideas, and worthy ways of living--for children are the world's most important people."--Highlights Magazine
Highlights has been around since 1946. I remember it as being a staple of doctor and dentist offices during the '70's, along with Bible storybook samples and Reader's Digests. But it can also be a helpful tool for homeschoolers.

I had a few issues that I used with our oldest when she was about five, and I picked up another pile this weekend at the thrift shop (mostly from 1999 and 2000). A sample issue I have here has the table of contents marked with symbols showing the reading level (pre-reading, easy, and advanced) and which stories/activities encourage creative thinking and moral values. I think the older copies used to have the same thing but in chart form.

We always liked the "Thinking" or "Headwork" pages and puzzles. I remember each of the old issues used to have a whole page of open-ended questions that got gradually harder, and it looks like they're still around, although some of the issues I found don't have as many questions. Samples: (a page showing kitchen utensils): "Which of these have straight sides and which ones are rounded--and why?" From another issue: "Wiggle your nose. Wiggle your toes." "Who wakes up first in your family? Who goes to bed first?" "Jim picked up the wrapped gift and said, 'I know what's in here.' How might he have known?" You can use these to start school some days.

Since marking up a magazine never seemed as heinous a crime as marking up a book, we often used to use Highlights for language scavenger hunts too. Children who can't read yet but know their letters can be asked to find all the P's or K's on a particular page; or those who know a few sight words can circle the words they know. (For a short time, The Apprentice's reading vocabulary consisted of her name, Mom, Dad, bed and no; so I used to let her mark every "no" on a page.)

Those with a bit more experience can be asked questions like these (I made these up while looking at a one-page story, "Molly Mim's Shop," in the November 2000 issue):

How many times do you see the word "cat?"
Find all the words with an "s" on the end, and circle each "s."
Find all the words that mean the same as "walked." (They are all in the same paragraph.)
Find all the words with double letters. Which one is spelled in a funny way just for this story?
Molly sold "cat hats." Can you think of something else for cats that would also rhyme?

The same issue, November 2000, has several things that could be used for copywork: a very short fable called "The Rooster and the Jewel"; a lovely short poem called "November Day" by Eleanor Averitt; a slightly shortened version of "The Whistle" by Benjamin Franklin (and my goodness, that one has some tough vocabulary in it); a Thanksgiving grace; and this one, for those who enjoy being grossed out:

"From the big red apple
I took a bite
But something wriggled
And didn't feel right
On my tongue.
I looked in the apple
But I didn't laugh
There it clung--
Only a half!"--Garry Cleveland Myers

And this fun-for-spelling joke (excuse the lack of quotation marks, I'm getting lazy):

Said a boy to his teacher one day,
"Wright has not written write right, I say."
And the teacher replied,
As the blunder she eyed,
"Right! Wright, write write right, right away!"

And of course there are easy and harder stories to practice reading with, and non-fiction articles, and hidden pictures and crafts and riddles and all the rest.

Highlights has never had the flashy appeal of some of the other childrens' magazines. I have to admit that my kids don't dance up and down much when I bring old issues home; they tend to treat Highlights with that slightly wary "stuck in a waiting room" attitude we used to bring to it. (Is this going to be good for me?) However...its lack of glitz is what makes it such a gold mine for homeschoolers, for parents of gifted children, and for those who are just tired of the new-and-trendy. I just about fell off my chair when I read an editor's response to a reader's question, saying that her parents' decision about whatever it was should be final. Maybe at Highlights it's still 1946...but that's okay with me. (And the Squirrelings do like Highlights, really. I caught one of them reading a copy before breakfast this morning.)

Links and Carnivals

This and that, things you might want to click on:

One of the best "oh yes, this is the real stuff" Charlotte Mason posts I've read recently (it was linked through the Ambleside  Online Facebook page, which you don't have to be a Facebooker to read):  a Slice of Life at Bent Leather.

A very cool site for those with boys:  J.M. Cremps, The Boy's Adventure Store.  Boy-friendly craft stuff and more. There's a blog on the website too.  For those of us without boys and who don't get into military and fishing stuff, note that they also sell games, blocks, flying toys, and science supplies.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at WhyHomeschool.  Check it out and you can learn a bit about computer programming at the same time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffee, Tea, me. (photo post)

Some favourite things around the Treehouse...

I don't keep coffee in this--I just like it.  I bought it last year for a couple of dollars at an antique barn.
A teapot gift from some homeschooling buddies.
Books in the bedroom.
Front hall.
Wedding present.
I cut this out of a calendar; it's stuck up over the recycling bins, and I'm not going to take a picture of those.
More bedroom books.
One of Mr. Fixit's favourite clocks.
A pincushion doll that belonged to a great-aunt.

Homeschooling and the walls of Jerusalem

In this millennial world, about twenty years after we first lost ourselves in homeschooling in that pre-Internet era back there with the dodo bird, public education bounces around (more than ever) between union power struggles (as my should-be-starting-second-grade nephew in B.C. has found out), billionaire buyouts (as The Common Room reports), and never-ending struggles with philosophy and course content.  And this is mostly in the "first world," where it comes down to those who do want to paradigm-shift their way out of what some call the industrial-revolution or Prussian models of education...and those who don't.  In other parts of the world, more chaotic, often less affluent, but also less bound by teachers' unions, less tied to the big-red-schoolhouse tradition, there seems more room for innovation.

Sounds a bit like North American churches, but that's another post.

I'm thinking about our family's almost two decades of living, to a large extent, on the fringes of the educational system, at least regarding the elementary schools.  (For those who don't know us, one of our older girls went through the Ontario public high school system, the other is still there.)  Our goal, all along, has been to let the power of ideas change us (and I had never seen a Ted Talk video until a year ago).  It has not been to line up with the government schools.  Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book says that a reader must come to terms with an author, that is, to make sure that they are (so to speak) on the same page in vocabulary and terminology, that he's not getting left behind in the discussion by a failure to understand how that author uses language.  I feel like that happens a whole lot of the time, still after twenty years, millennial or not, when we talk about school.  All you have to do is read the comments after any major online article or video about homeschooling, and watch the insults and misconceptions flying free.  If I haven't paid a lot of attention to public education over the past two decades, the commenters equally haven't paid enough attention to where homeschooling has come from and where it might be going.

And of course, why should they care, and, equally, why should I care at all what some dingbat in a faraway American state thinks about homeschoolers' right to exist?

It reminds me of a passage from Nehemiah that was read in our church yesterday.  Nehemiah got a government grant (along with royal permission) to go spearhead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, that, as our pastor put it, Nebuchadnezzar had previously done such a fine thorough job of knockiing down.  Each family living near each part of the wall worked on "their" section, and somehow they managed to get the whole thing rebuilt in fifty-two days.  That included all the time they had to waste fighting off their opponents and enemies.  But they did it, each one taking responsibility and then joining their work together. A ground-up job.  Like a lot of homeschoolers and small-schoolers, they just did what needed to be done, and then had a great party at the end.

Imagine if all that wall-building was planned out by one of our current urban construction planning departments? They'd probably still be at it.  And if the educational walls were planned out by...oh, you see where I'm going with this?

In Nehemiah's day, enemies tried to stop the building of city walls.  In our day, years after all the educational fuss should have stopped, some people still challenge our builders' permits. I wish they could stop hollering long enough to pay attention and watch how it's done. Lay on a few bricks instead of throwing them. Watch what kinds of wall-building are popping up around the world, and maybe learn some new construction ideas. What's been broken down and left to crumble can be put back together, even by those of us who didn't go to masonry school. The world is changing and that doesn't mean we need less DIY, it means we need more. More Nehemiahs to kick off the projects.  More local team leaders to connect the workers. More brave souls to just pick up the bricks or the rocks and do what needs doing.

More to plan the party and blow the horns.
(It doesn't have to be just about our own families; there are projects and schools and learning needs everywhere.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday dinner

Quick casserole: layers of cut-up tortillas, spaghetti sauce, cheese, spinach, strips of tortilla on top allowed to get a little crispy.  Sort of lasagna. (The white dust on top is Parmesan cheese.)
Broccoli Slaw
Putting things on the table.  Also on the menu:  boxed chicken wings, perogies (in the glass bowl with the blue lid), raw carrots and tomato and cucumbers.  Pie courtesy of Grandpa Squirrel.  Peanut butter cookies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ten interesting things to do this week in school (Lydia's Grade Eight)

These ideas are drawn from Lydia's schedule; although she's setting the pace for much of this fall's work herself, it doesn't mean that all she should be doing for school is read, narrate, read, narrate. That really is one of the big challenges when our kids are old enough so that we're not standing over them, directing every lesson--to discourage just flying through a chapter, to encourage them to slow down enough to make it their own.
Quote for the week:  Ourselves Book II, page 115-120, Chapter XVIII, Temptation. "The battle of life for each of us lies in the continual repetition of what seems a most trifling act—the rejection of certain the very moment when they come." 
1. Math: In Chapter One, Lesson Five of Human Endeavor, Harold Jacobs explains inductive reasoning and describes the Soma Cube.  We don't have one of those here, but you can build one out of Lego. (scroll down for directions)

2. The Roar on the Other Side (reading and writing poetry):  Writing exercise on page 18, Nature Sleuth. Choose something that you've found or that you see outdoors.  Examine it, think about it, write about it, using words that are "resonant...carrying meanings that go beyond the literal." How is a poet's lens "more like a kaleidoscope than a microscope?"

3  Read the chapter about Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) and his Utopia, in History of English Literature.  Dramatize the Utopian attitude towards gold and jewels...or...write an updated version, in which one group of people show off their status symbols, but don't get the reaction they expect.

4.  Apologia Physical Science:  Learn to measure with cubits!

5. Whatever Happened to Justice?, chapter 4.  "Every child knows that the specific definitions of such phrases as 'on time' and 'too late' can be very important.  Loopholes are sought like gold nuggets.  The parents are under continual pressure to hone their rulings [not just about time!>] so that no misunderstandings are possible." Write and/or perform a (short) fractured fairy tale or operatic dialogue demonstrating this.

6.  Music appreciation:  there's a free lunchtime concert on Tuesday, featuring two violas.  Do you want to go?

7.  A Man for All Seasons (about Thomas More):  start reading the play together this week.

8.  Current events: put together a "news broadcast" on Thursday of anything that has seemed important over the week.  You might particularly pay attention to the Ontario municipal election campaigns that have just begun.  How many people are running for mayor here? When is the election?

 9.  Choose a poem or Scripture passage to memorize.  Make copies of the whole thing, or particular stanzas or verses, and put them in strategic places.  Practice whenever you get a chance. Set it to music if that makes it easier.

 10.  Fabric Flowers:  Choose one kind of flower to make from the book.  Do we have all the supplies?  Spend some time one afternoon working on this craft.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dead-easy bean soup (slow cooker)

Navy Bean Soup

I got the basic idea for this from Leanne Ely's book Saving Dinner.  But this is how I did it:

Soak one pound navy beans (half a 900 gram bag) overnight.

When you get up in the morning, discard the soaking water.  Throw some frozen chopped onion, the beans, a couple of bay leaves, and 1 litre (quart) chicken broth into the slow cooker, and turn it on high.

Later, when you're feeling more awake, add in sliced carrots and/or celery.  I didn't have celery so I put in some celery seed.  Keep the soup cooking all day, on high for part of the time if your day is getting short.  When the beans seem like they're pretty soft, add in salt and pepper; I also added a bit of cumin. Add a little water if it seems to need it, but don't add TOO much.

You can turn it off and let it sit for awhile before you eat, to let it thicken and cool a bit.

Serve with homemade bread or rolls, and slices of cheese.

Fall Flowers

Maybe it's a funny time of year to cut flowers, but these ones are still holding together. I brought in two nice big spiders along with them, but those were quickly uninvited.

Treehouse, Friday morning (photo post)

Bean soup in the slow cooker
Mr. Fixit at work
Collections and treasures.

All photos by Mama Squirrel.  Copyright 2014 Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's for supper? The weather turns cooler

Shepherd's pie, made with ground turkey, frozen Oriental-style vegetables and peas, mashed potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes
Yesterday's tossed salad, sliced garden tomatoes

Blueberry enchiladas, with yogurt or ice cream (I used the recipe at that link, but substituted frozen blueberries for the apple pie filling, left out the cinnamon, and added a little vanilla to the sugar syrup).

Quote for the day: Charlotte Mason on teenagers

"What they want, is, to have their eyes opened that they may see the rights of others as clearly as their own; and their reason cultivated, that they may have power to weigh the one against the other....Care must be taken not to offend their exaggerated sense of justice as to all that affects themselves.  They must get the immunities they can fairly claim; and their parents must be at the trouble to convince them, with good humour, when they are clearly in the wrong."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

(Original source of illustration unknown)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Harvest Spice Bars

These are bars made from the recipe for Raisin or Date Squares, from The More With Less Cookbook. Except that this time I made them with homemade butternut squash butter as the filling. Since "Squash Squares" doesn't sound that appetizing, Ponytails suggested "Harvest Spice Bars" instead. So be it.

From the archives: on chasing down those bright ideas

Excerpted from a post of September 2011, swiped from a scanned-in magazine of 1884.
Chasing Butterflies by Berthe Morisot
"That article from the pen of Beatrix is excellent.... When she says "I have memorized poems while paring potatoes," etc., I am interested at once, for I so often do likewise, and a pencil and paper are always at hand. It is well to catch these bright thoughts, for they oft take to themselves swift wings. Not boastingly, but in support of her theory, I may add that a sudden "inspiration," when in the midst of the Monday washing not many weeks ago, was thus written down, with but little delay to the work, which received a prize over all other competitors; and, that being the case, it evidently did not carry an aroma of "suds" to the editorial sanctum; but, waiting until arrayed in "good clothes" and with well sharpened pencil, I might have wooed the muse in vain." Michigan farmer and state journal of agriculture: Household--Supplement , 1884

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Apprentice Posts: Jello Cookies

If the row of bright, colourful macarons at the store always draws you in (only to be frightened back by the price), Jello cookies may be for you. I tried this recipe this afternoon with some leftover strawberry Jello powder and was pleasantly surprised with the colour and the taste. The powder gives more of a pastel colour, and the cookies are flavourful without being too sweet.

You can find the recipe here at Bakerette, which I followed without making any changes aside from making a quarter batch which would fit in my toaster oven because I didn't want to turn the oven on, and pressing the balls down with a fork instead of a glass--I think it's much prettier. I baked mine for the full eight minutes which was a little long as I did end up with very brown cookie bottoms, but they weren't dry and the browning didn't detract from the flavour. You may want to go for the full time in a large oven though. They also give you the option of rolling the cookies in sugar or in more Jello powder. I used the Jello and loved the tart crunchy outside layer that resulted, however it does sort of dissolve into the dough and you won't get the grainy texture you'd get from rolling in sugar. You could probably roll in both, although then you'd miss out on the slightly sour flavour on the outside.

What's for supper? (leftover pork)

Tonight's dinner menu:

Ratouille.  One big pan made with diced leftover pork chops, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, a little tomato sauce, and canned white beans.  One small pan made with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, a little tomato sauce, and canned white beans.  And Italian seasonings.  Cheese, optional.

Gemelli pasta, one of my current favourites.

Fruit, yogurt, and last night's Brannies.

Quote for the Day: Discriminating Delight

" listen with discriminating delight is as educative and as 'happy-making' as to produce; and...this power might, probably, be developed in everybody, if only as much pains were spent in the cultivation of the musical sense as upon that of musical facility...let them study occasionally the works of a single great master until they have received some of his teaching, and know his style."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Monday, September 08, 2014

Nabisco Chocolate Brannies Recipe

Because any links I've given previously don't seem to go past the list of ingredients, here's the recipe for Chocolate Brannies, made with Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal.  (It came from a magazine ad for the cereal, a lot of years ago.)

Whole Grain Brannies

1 cup Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal, or another brand (like All-Bran)
2/3 cup milk
4 squares Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate, OR 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (and less sugar)
1/2 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar, or less, especially if you are using semisweet chocolate chips
3 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour (or unbleached or all-purpose work fine too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch square pan.

Mix cereal and milk, let stand five minutes to soften.

Heat chocolate and margarine together, in microwave or on low heat. When melted and smooth, stir in sugar.

Beat eggs.

Combine chocolate/margarine, cereal/milk, and eggs. Stir in flour.

Spread in greased 9-inch pan.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until done. Cool and cut in squares.

Dinner, Part Two

 Pork chops, sauce, sliced tomatoes
 Broccoli, cooking
Dinner plates!

Dinner, in progress

Perogies, Broccoli
Garden tomatoes (the Romas seem to have gotten over their blossom end rot)
Sticky Chops, from A Year of Slow Cooking
Brannies, in the toaster oven (I used chocolate chips and cut back on the sugar)
Oranges. sliced up

Oh, leave us alone and let us eat

The Deputy Headmistress posted a response to this article, "The Joy of Cooking?", which is an academic-style paper with this as its abstract:
"Sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton offer a critique of the increasingly prevalent message that reforming the food system necessarily entails a return to the kitchen. They argue that time pressures, tradeoffs to save money, and the burden of pleasing others make it difficult for mothers to enact the idealized vision of home-cooked meals advocated by foodies and public health officials."
The DHM made several comments ("Aliens in the Kitchen") based on the body of the article, but I could stop right there with the abstract. I don't cook for either the foodies or the public health officials, any more than I homeschool for the magazine publishers or the school board. My inspiration these days is mostly my own inclination and imagination, combined with what we are able to buy in an increasingly expensive food market, and my motivation is my family.

And yes, besides living on a limited income (for anyone who doesn't know, my husband has been self-employed for two years and we were living on one rather low salary for years before that), I have cooked and continue to cook for picky eating, food intolerances, adolescent meal-skipping, and medically-required diet adjustments.  Not to mention a budding vegetarian and some vegan extended family members. Let me put it this way: as one of the main family cooks and grocery shoppers,  I have my own set of challenges; you probably have yours.  I meet mine as best I can, and I limit myself to occasional gripes when prices go too high or something I sweated over turns up the family noses.

Big deal. That's how you cook for a family.  We have food in the fridge and the freezer and the cupboard.  All the food groups are there.  It's more than enough to keep us going.
"Fourteen-year-old Yusuf Yahiat carries a food package distributed by MCC partner Zakho Small Villages Project at the Garmawa Camp for displaced people in northern Iraq."  Photo from MCC website.

And it's only when I start listening to the "foodies" as the authors call them, or to the so-called public health experts, that I get out of whack.  Those public health experts, would those be the ones who want to ban not only peanuts (I'm okay with that) but dairy and other so-called problematic foods from the school system? Leave us alone and let us enjoy our occasional quart of chocolate milk.

As far as preparation goes, North Americans have never had it easier. Low budget or not. See the little casserole dish above? Can you identify the contents?  I bet you can't.  That's butternut squash "butter," like pumpkin butter or apple butter.  I made it last night with a containerful of leftover squash, mixed with some honey and spices. You put it in a pot on the stove or in your slow cooker, and cook it on low for awhile, then mash or puree it to your liking.  What did I really have to do?  I pulled the cooked squash out of the fridge and put it in a pot. (I didn't even have to grow the squash, although I know people who do.)  I squished the honey out of a plastic container.  I stuck a teaspoon into the cinnamon jar and the ginger.  How hard is that?  Not exactly a burden.

And if I didn't want to make squash butter myself, I could have made the choice to go to the store and buy something else to put on my bagel.

But it's only when researchers make what we eat too complicated that we suddenly think we have a problem.  It's not about enacting anybody's idealized vision, it's just about eating.

Related posts:
Keep Your Nose Out of My Lunch Bag
This Doesn't Tug My Heartstrings
I'm Not an Anomaly, I Just Make Dinner
On Not Throwing Out Food, or, Let's Rustle Up Some Grub

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Lydia's Grade Eight: Looking at the week to come (how we do things)

The second week of school.   In some ways it usually goes better than the first week, because you know the whole thing's not going to come crashing down.

Someone asked me this morning if I have to do a lot of planning for our homeschool.  I said I got a lot of pre-planning done during the summer, but that I still have to keep on top of what we're doing. So what does that mean for this week?  What's the thought process?

Working together:

Calendar of current events

Science with Dad:  experiment from last week.

Read Whatever Happened to Justice, chapter 2, A Higher Authority

Reading Together: Daughter of Time, chapter 4

Listen to Wagner's Sigfried Idyll

Go over math and grammar as necessary.  Discuss literature or other books; narrate whatever needs to be narrated.

Read Charlotte Mason's Ourselves Book II, abut the function of conscience

French Smart 7--review work from last year, especially on verbs

Read Marshall's History of English Literature,  chapter 36: The Renaissance, which is mostly a history lesson about Constantinople, and that would be quite uninteresting except that it explains why so many Greek scholars ended up in Italy at the end of the Middle Ages, thereby helping to set off the Italian Renaissance.

Math and grammar.

Read Exploring the World Around You, chapter 1: Building on the Right Foundation. Discuss the belief that "struggle and death are normal...have been going on for millions of years..are what made life evolve into all the forms we see today."

Go over math and grammar as necessary. Discuss literature or other books; narrate whatever needs to be narrated.

Calendar of current events

Read Whatever Happened to Justice, chapter 3, A Higher Law  "If Higher Authority has given us a Higher Law, how do we know what this Law is?"

French Smart 7--review work from last year, especially on verbs

Reading Together: Daughter of Time, chapter 5

Math and grammar. Discuss literature or other books; narrate whatever needs to be narrated.

Read Plutarch's Life of Marcus Crassus, lesson 2

French Smart 7--review work from last year, looking ahead to the next unit

If time:  Daughter of Time, chapter 6.

Math and grammar.  Discuss literature or other books; narrate whatever needs to be narrated.

Independent work:

Bible readings, throughout the week

The Bible Through the Ages:  10 pages/wk: Abraham; Storytelling (the oral tradition)

The Twelve Teas of Friendship:  pages 12-13, The Art of Finding Friends.  "Your next best friend might be someone you don't expect."

History of England by H.O. Arnold-Forster.  Finish chapter 35: Henry VII.

The Golden Book of the Renaissance,  pages 21-35

Read Mythology by Edith Hamilton, ten pages/week

Read Kingsley's Westward Ho!: chapters 3, 4, and 5, to the bottom of page 107.

Poetry: read The Roar on the Other Side, Chapter One, and do the writing exercise on page 18, Orange You Glad.

Grammar and Composition:  Easy Grammar Plus (workbook), pages 148-154.  Interjections; Conjunctions; begin Adjectives.  What are limiting adjectives?

Read Exploring Creation Through Physical Science,  Module 1: The Basics
o Read to page 10 up to Manipulating Units.
o In your lab book, draw a picture like the one in Fig.1.2.and write the notation on your drawing.
o Read pages 10-15

Keeping a Nature Journal, read page 35 "Draw and Write." Spend time outdoors and make entries in your nature journal

Read Kon Tiki: Edition for Young People, Chapter 3: To South America.  Answer study questions.

Mathematics:  Balance Benders Level 3: do two per week

Mathematics: A Human Endeavor.  Chapter One, Mathematical ways of thinking
Lesson Two
o More billiard ball mathematics, Set I
o More billiard ball mathematics, Set II, Questions 1-10
Lesson Three
o Inductive reasoning: introduction.
o Inductive reasoning: finding and extending patterns.  Set I, Questions 1-15

Be a Girl Guide Challenge
o  Know two different hitches for tying ropes to objects: clove hitch, round turn and two half hitches.  Which one is better for tying up a horse?
o Make notes in your Enquire Within notebook.
Horse cartoon found here.

Commonplace Books, Copywork, and Recitations (Memory Work)
o Copy passages from poetry, plays, and other books read
o Practice Scripture passage(s):
o Practice poem(s):
o Other memory work:

o Oral narrations of readings
o Reader's Journal: one page, twice a week, on any of your readings
o Keep Book of Centuries and/or other notebooks handy as you read or listen; make entries at the end
o Other kinds of narrations: dramatic, musical, artistic...

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Saturday Rummage Sale

Every September, the weekend after school starts, one nearby church has a rummage sale.  We've gone nearly every year that I can remember, including six years ago when Mr. Fixit had just gotten out of the hospital.  It's almost always worthwhile, and this year's was even better: they had a whole room just for books.  Somebody, I'm guessing either a retired teacher or just a history nut, had donated boxes of mid-century textbooks, teachers' guides, and other books of about the same vintage..  I would have liked to spend more time there, but we had to get groceries too.

So this is what came home:

Two big books of mostly pictures, one about the Renaissance and one with a variety of history pictures (the sort that Alan Grant might have liked?). A vintage school copy of The Merchant of Venice, a bit marked up with student notes.  And  a Sunday School prize book which is kind of neat because not only does it have a 1932 inscription on the flyleaf, it still has a sticker inside from a bookstore that was here in town at that time.

Two books for the Scholastic shelf; an older hardcover of Treasures of the Snow; and Roland Bainton's biography, fairly beat-up, of Martin Luther.

Ponytails picked these out for herself: Shakespeare's comedies, and a vintage copy of The 39 Steps.

We also found a pie plate, a little casserole dish, and a made-in-Japan bowl that I liked for its floral design (it's the colours of our kitchen), even though it has a chip in it.  Lydia found a coin sorter.
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