Monday, August 31, 2009

Hey, Granpa! What's for supper?!

My parents were not fond of HeeHaw!!, but that line is one you just don't forget :)
I made soup late this afternoon. I had leftover chicken broth, leftover beef, some asparagus, celery, corn, rice, carrots, a little gravy, a few beans, a few old green onions. And it smells great :)

Adam offered to make the soup, but I asked him to make a bread to go with it. With limited time, he decided to make his famous (and delectable) matzo bread.

The cool weather, in addition to producing soup today, also put me in a serious cookie mood after lunch. So while the high schoolers watched an excellent documentary on the Mayflower Pilgrims (thank you, Netflix!) and Julia worked on her history summaries and outlines across the counter, I whipped up some peanut butter cookies. Julia took a little break from Stonehenge to stamp a fun image on each one.

This is my favorite cookie. My mom gave us these little clay cookie stamps a few years ago, and the girls love them. Aren't they cute?

One woman's trash, one woman's treasure

I've been waiting for today. It's 68 degrees -- we turned off the AC, opened the doors and windows and put on long pants and sweaters.

In other words, it feels like autumn. The long, hot summer is OVER, praise the Lord, and my favorite season is beginning - hooray!!

(Photo credit again to David Sheehan. David was a student of mine 4 years ago, and is clearly gifted in photography.)

Not everyone feels about summer and fall as I do. I read Jo-Lynne's blog post today, and found a different perspective!

We all have preferences. I'm sorry to say that often humans fight over their preferences. They aren't able to see that having different likes and dislikes is all part of being human. I like winter; you like summer. I like blue; you like red. I like organ music; you like praise songs. I like blogging; you like snail mail cards. I like classical classroom; you like homeschooling. I like a day at home; you like a day in the mall. I like Jane Austen; you like the Terminator.

Thus is goes. Why do we feel we can dictate to someone else what they are allowed to enjoy? Unfortunately, people like to attribute RIGHT and WRONG to things that are neither. They are just preferences.

A few things ARE either right or wrong. We should save our fighting for those, don't you think?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Summer changes to fall.
Sally sees bright leaves against blue skies.
She hears the call of wild geese.
She smells cornstalks and pumpkins and frost.
She touches smooth new acorns.
She tastes red apples.
Fall becomes winter.

-Tasha Tudor, "First Delights"

Photo credit: David Sheehan

Raiding the larder for Sunday potroast

A local grocery store was selling good roasts for $1.99/pound - not bad! I decided it was time for a Sunday roast, an old tradition in my family growing up.

But when I looked in the pantry yesterday, I realized I didn't have any decent can of soup to help me make the gravy in the pot. Usually I would use a Golden Mushroom, or even a powdered Onion Soup packet. What to do?
I have everything in my kitchen to make a delicious roast: bay leaves, fresh rosemary, a carrot, bouillon cubes, garlic cloves, wine, salt and pepper. I cut two gashes in the top of the roast and pressed a garlic and a sprig of rosemary in each one, to help the flavors seep in. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In Which Grandmother Finds a Long-lost Friend

When my mother smelled my Ecusson, she was convinced: she HAD to have some too! So, today, she and Daddy drove to our house, and Julia and I went with them to Birkdale to the Fragrance Shop. Here's Mother, with Jenny (left) and with Julia.
See how beautiful the shop is? Each bottle is full of a different, lovely fragrance. And they have a nice, long, comfortable bench for husbands to sit upon.

And afterward, of course, Daddy treated us all to dessert at Coldstone Creamery - delicious!

Good News, Bad News

Look what I found?

Fresh Eggs!! I've been wanting to GET AWAY from Walmart eggs for so long. I've been pining for fresh eggs, golden yolks, colorful shells, and yummy flavor. This morning I went to our local farmers' market for the first time. I also bought 2 large heads of garlic from a sweet German couple. Huge, ruby tomatoes, slender beans, warm breads, monster cookies, jellies and jams, squash and yams. I'll be going back!

Oh, and the bad news? I returned home to find that we had been acquired by a cat.
This little gal wandered into our yard. She is friendly and playful. But I don't really like cats much, especially skinny, black ones. And I cannot have an indoor cat, under any circumstances (allergies). But...they'd already fed her, and were playing with her. She and Sandy seem to get along nicely.

A name for her? I recommended Hecuba :) Anna wants Midnight. Julia prefers Sasha. I kind of wish she'd wander back where she came from -- especially before the many litters of kittens come along. Sigh.

Politics again. Sorry

When will the heated politics cool down? I don't know. The country seems to be all astir. I post many more links on facebook than I do here, but I really wanted to post this video from Youtube:

Now, fellow Americans, this is exactly the kind of intimidation that people harangued Bush about. Listening in on people's phones? Invading privacy? Limiting speech? But now Obama and his supports are doing the same thing.

Note how this police officer bases his orders on his own preferences. Note how he sets a double-standard, which works against this protester, but allows others to continue with their signs. Who invented a law against pictures on picket-signs? And what in the world does the PICTURE on the sign have to do with whether he's trespassing?

This officer should be disciplined for this unconscionable behavior. His comment is so telling. "It ain't America no more, okay?"


Friday, August 28, 2009

Donut Rewards!

It's Friday of our first week of homeschooling, and I felt that a little celebration was in order. Thanks to my friend Mary Jo for this idea!! A donut run!

We were going to go to Dunkies, but then we remembered that we have a Daylight Donuts, and decided to go there. Boy, are we glad we did! They gave us a fabulous assortment, including twists and a huge apple fritter, and the most melting chocolates. All for the price of a dozen.

And although they're all working hard at math and memorization right now, we went at 8:00 this morning. Because when you homeschool, you have that kind of flexibility -- when you want it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Grandmotherly Meal

Tonight I decided to cook my mother's meal -- three dishes whose recipes I received from her. My mom made lots of comfort for lots of years. Tonight? Meatloaf, corn pudding, and broccoli with cheese sauce.

The sauce for the meatlof is delicious, basically a homemade barbecue. But I don't like barbecue much, and this doesn't taste like bbq, so I don't know. Anyway, here's how you make it. And for some unknown reason, I seem to no longer measure ingredients. Why is that? (Duh. I know. It's because globbing stuff into a saucepan is SO much more fun, and besides, washing all those little measuring cups is a pain.)

Put in lots of ketchup, and when you thinks it's enough, put in more. I guess about 1 1/2 cups. Then maybe 1-2 tablespoons of mustard. Stir these in your saucepan. Add at least a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, another of apple cider vinegar, and at least 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Everything's better with brown sugar. We call it the "secret ingredient." When no one's looking, add a little more sugar. You also need about 1/2 cup of water in this. Heat and stir, and turn it down.

The meat mixture is simple: about 2 lbs of ground chuck or beef, 2 eggs, and 3 handfuls of oatmeal, and a teaspoon or two or salt. Mix this together, and add about 1/2 of the sauce, and mix well. It should be very moist, and if it is downright gloopy, that's okay.

Form the meat into individual servings in a casserole. Can you make into a loaf? Sure, but then you only get the sauce (yeah, the REST of the sauce) on the top of each slice. And we all know that the sauce is the best part, so let's get MORE of it by serving it in little balls, right?

Anywho, about halfway through I remembered that I LOVE green pepper in my meatloaf, so I put some in the second half of the servings.

Next is the corn pudding, and this is SUCH an easy recipe. Make it in the dish you're going to cook it in. As a matter of fact, this is my mother's own corn-pudding-dish, from all those years ago. I love it. Okay, put 2 eggs in the dish and whisk them. Add 1 can of creamed corn and whisk again. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk again. Take your 1 cup measure, rinse it and dry it, put 2 tablespoons each of flour and sugar in it and mix it lightly with a fork. Add this to the dish and whisk. Place a few dollops of butter on top. How many? Well, it depends on how fat you're feeling that day.

Pop those two dishes in a 350 oven to bake for about an hour. While they're cooking, whip up a homemade cheese sauce on the stovetop: 2 T. of butter, with 2 T. of flour, to make a roux, add a cup or two of milk and thicken with stirring, and cut in cheese until it melts. Cheese sauce. How easy is that? Well, if you make it about 147 times over 10 years, it's mighty easy indeed :) Make sure this sauce does not boil, or it will separate and turn grainy. Steam some broccoli.

And be sure, about halfway through baking the 2 casseroles, that you stir the corn pudding well, and put the rest of the sauce on the meatloaf.
And this is what you get:

The Telescope Project

Before we were married (over 20 years ago) Adam was interested in astronomy, collected several books on building telescopes, and ordered the lenses used in making a telescope. And that's as far as he got.

In each school we've taught at, Adam has wanted to build the telescope with his students, but it never happened.

Until now. This morning, he began briefing Anna and Peter on the process. Then they took a short trip to Lowe's to buy some materials for building it.

We'll keep you posted! When it's finished, we plan to go to Uncle Max's farm in West Virginia in February, to look at the stars in the cold winter sky, with a telescope they built themselves!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

John Stossel Tells Us What He Thinks!

In this video from ABC's "20/20" John Stossel gives us a glimpse of what universal, government-run healthcare might look like.

This doesn't mean that our system isn't severely flawed, just that it's flawed in different ways that Canada's or England's systems.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's Working!

Finished: Two days of homeschooling. And, if I do say so myself, it's going well.

I homeschooled before for four years, but did it very differently: 1) the children were younger, 2) I used an outside, organized curriculum & testing to help me and give accountability, 3) I had a baby to tend to while teaching, and 4) I basically tossed the textbooks to my kids, told them to read and understand it, and went and did my laundry or dishes. If they had a question, I gave it my attention. If they needed to be tested, I hunted up the test.

It did not work well, and the kids did not like it much.

But this time, I think it will work well, and the children will learn better. How are things different this time?

1) I don't have any little children underfoot. All the kids are being taught, and the youngest is in 5th grade.
2) I'm teaching material that I know very well, have taught before, and I don't need a company to help me. Because I've organized my own curriculum, I have more interest in it, and more invested in it.
3) I'm sitting at the table with them, lecturing just as I would in the classroom, making my own quizzes and study sheets, and reading all the material before they do. This takes work, but it makes all the difference. I'm being a real teacher.

I'm NOT saying that homeschooling parents have to do it this way; I'm just saying that it works well for me. I know from years of experience that this teaching will produce very well-educated children who will slip easily into college-level work.

For those interested, this is how our day goes:
8:00 - Anna and Peter begin their day with Adam. On Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays, he spends an hour instructing them in math (Algebra II, Bob Jones text). He leaves for work, and they spend the next hour, till 10:00, working on math independently, doing the problems he's set for them. Thus, they get 6 hours of math work each week. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Adam does science with them (Astronomy, Moche's Self-teaching Guide to Astronomy). They do independent work again in the second hour.
8:30 - Julia begins her day working on her memorization. She's memorizing the same Scripture passages that Adam used for his middle-schoolers last year. She's also doing one Q/A from the Westminster Catechism each week. Not too strenuous, but will be great as she amasses it all year. During this first hour, I get to tidy the kitchen, start laundry, or whatever else I need to do.
9:00 - While the older two continue with their independent work, I do grammar with Julia (Abeka, God's Gift of Language B). 2 pages per day. On MWF, we work on a lesson in Writing Strands, and on T/Th, we do dictation from McGuffey's Reader. She finds both of these enjoyable.
10:00 - Julia reads literature. She's reading retellings of ancient classics, or fiction set in ancient times. There's lots of this around, good stuff. She's starting with Egypt, so she's reading "The Golden Goblet" right now. When she finishes the book, she'll write a summary of it.
While she's reading, I teach literature to the high schoolers. We're using the American Literature text by Harcourt Brace, which I used in Iowa. I love this book. It's so thorough, and is VASTLY superior to the Holt text that took its place on publisher's desks. I teach exactly as I did before, with all the rigorous quizzes, essays, charts and study sheets, and unit tests. AND, I'll be supplementing the text with pieces I taught in Massachusetts too. They'll be SO ready!!
11:00 - The high schoolers are worn out, so they do their reading at this time, preparing literature for the next day, while it's on their minds. They work studiously until lunch. Meanwhile, I do math with Julia. I can do 5th grade math, thankfully! I explain the material, and then set her problems for her.
12:00 - Lunch! They are LOVING having yummy, hot, fresh meals from the kitchen: quesodillas, hot dogs, pasta, sandwiches. And I get to eat with my hubby, who comes back for lunch.
1:00 - After a nice lunch and break, they're ready to begin again. Julia works on a logic puzzle (These are easy to find. Even Walmart has them.) on MWF. On T/Th, she works on beginner Latin. I'm listening to Adam teach her Latin as I sit here. It is a hoot. She loves both Latin and logic. She can hardly keep herself from those logic puzzles, and when she does one, Peter can't help but assist her, b/c he loves them too! Anyway, while she does all that, I teach American history to the high schoolers (Bob Jones US History text. Good book). I taught this text in Massachusetts, so again, I have all the curricular assists that I need. And I can integrate the lit and history well - sweet!
2:00 - Anna & Peter end the day working on their Bible assignments for the semester. They are summarizing the chapters of their assigned books (Anna - Luke; Peter - Acts), writing a chronological journal of each book, drawing maps indicating the movement in the books, and a timeline of the book's events. While they do this, I work with Julia on her history. She has a HUGE Kingfisher History Encyclopedia; she is summarizing each paragraph in the Ancient Period, and doing further reading on points that interest her. This week it's pyramids. The summarizing (and outlining) were very hard yesterday -- these are skills not taught in schools much -- but today was better. On T/Th she will do science during this hour, with help from me b/c she will be doing many experiments. She's studying astronomy also, using the "How the Universe Works" text -- high on hands-on experiments.

All in all, this is a schedule that works. I can't say that Peter is enthusiastic about homeschooling yet; he may not feel that way until he's 25. But the girls are pleased with it, and Julia is thrilled. It is a learning environment perfectly suited to her.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Up on the Hill

The sky was overcast on our first day at Covenant. We're sitting on the famous "overlook," which, in my day, was a bit overgrown and ratty looking (especially below), but is now an elegant venue for hors d'oeuvres and light music. The view is spectacular. I don't think many other colleges can rival Covenant's view.

Carter Hall, aka the Castle. Built in the 1920s, as a hotel. Elizabeth Taylor honeymooned there once, according to legend. Liquor was smuggled into the hotel for the high-brow guests. They danced on the front lawn. And because it was a hotel, EVERY ROOM has its own bath -- a nice feature in a college dorm! Much of the building has been renovated and refurbished.

The lobby in Carter Hall. This is the great meeting place, a location for late-night dates and rendevous. Love the architecture -- it formed the romantic backdrop for this girl's college years!

A little friendly (haha!) checkers game in the Carter Lobby. I didn't ask who won, but both of these guys are insanely competitive.

The college mascot is the SCOTS, and they are ALL into thistles and bagpipes and all things Scottish. The college is Scottish Presbyterian all-the-way. So ... they had 2 student-bagpipers on the central lawn to entertain the masses on Friday afternoon. It was fun to listen to them play; they were very good.

Make New Friends but Keep the Old

In addition to taking Philip to college, this past weekend was a time to see friends. Here's a shot of sisters Ginny and Bonnie. Ginny married a friend of mine from college days, but I've really gotten to know her on Facebook! We met at Starbucks and had a fun chat.

I SHOULD have gotten a picture with ALL my dear friends from college years! The school held an alumni/parent reception on Friday afternoon, and it was thrilling and wonderful to see and talk with (and hug and cry over) good friends from all those years ago. But I forgot to take a picture! So later I nabbed Jennifer in the dining hall, and Adam took our picture:

Here's MaryAnna and her youngest, Jeanna. Jeanna is Peter's age. MaryAnna and I have known each other for years, but especially when we worked together at a Christian boarding school in Iowa. She and her husband are both Covenant grads, and all four of their college age children have attended there. Covenant is a school full of precious connections like that.

What I noticed most about the alumni reception was how many COUPLES were there! I was one of the very few who had married a non-Covenant person. Now, of course, the majority of graduates marry elsewhere, but I think the lesson to be learned here is that couples in which both parents attended the college are MUCH more likely to send their kids there. And these couples tend to stay together and be happily married. It was a joy to see them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

How do I say good-bye?

We spent a whirlwind 48 hours cutting the apron strings and releasing our eldest son into the world. In other words, he went off to college. Here he is with his R.A., Sam (in the middle), and Peter (right). We've known Sam since he was in elementary school.
Philip is at a REALLY GREAT COLLEGE, also known as my alma mater, and has a wonderful, godly, talented roommate (taught him for a year too). Philip has no worries; he's in a perfect place in his life.

It's me I'm worried about.

How in the world do you say good-bye to your baby boy? I don't know.

And believe me, I never dreamed I'd be one of those moms who got weepy and felt angst at her child's departure. We've joked for years about "finally getting these pesky kids out of here so we can have some fun"!! Ha!

For several months I've found myself crying at unexpected moments. The other day the whole family came back early from an errand, and I had to dash from the kitchen to avoid being caught with puffy eyes. Philip made me a CD a few months ago (he was really tired of the one I was listening to). And one song on that CD always erupts the tears for me.

He's just a great young man. I won't list his (many) flaws here, but I'll tell you that he is almost unfailingly responsible when it comes to serving others. He takes care of Julia like a daddy. He cooks well. He loves to be helpful. He can manage his own money and laundry and even does dishes. He will hug me and tell me he loves me when I need him to. He's the kind of teenager that even adults know instinctively they can lean on. He's just plain dependable.

So, yeah, I miss all those things. But that's not why you love your kids. I love Philip because he was my scrawny 1-week old, and my huge-brown-eyed 2 year old who wouldn't put his hands in the grass because it was DIRTY, and my precocious 4 year old who beat high schoolers at chess even though he didn't really like the game, and my 8 year old who played the head angel in the Christmas play even though he felt ridiculous, and my 11 year old who put up with homeschooling for 2 years even though he hated every day, and my 13 year old that I could hardly talk to, and my 15 year old who lived through a heart-breaking move without once complaining, and my 18 year old who turned out so well, in spite of all our mistakes.

He is all those boys, rolled into one, and I lost them all at the same time.

I'm hoping that I find he hasn't really left at all, that he comes back over and over again. I've heard that this happens. Last night I stood in his empty room. When I walked back up the stairs, I felt I'd aged 10 years in these 48 hours. I've never felt that way before.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So you say you want a College Education?

I stumbled upon some interesting information this morning. We all know that various groups rate our nation's colleges and let everyone know that Harvard is THE place to be, or Texas A&M is still a podunk school! Well, there's a new group in town, and I like they way they think!

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has decided to rate America's colleges by their own standards, and it has nothing to do with a college's long and distinguished pedigree, nor how much debt you must amass in order to be snooty enough to attend there.

They examined core curriculum.

You know -- those boring classes you try to get behind you, in your first 2 years of college? Those courses in writing and math and science and history that feel vaguely like high school? The courses you'll REALLY need for your employer someday? Yeah, the core curriculum.

Only, many big-name universities and elite colleges are NOT REQUIRING these core courses anymore. Or, they allow other, specialized courses to meet the requirement. Or, worse yet, they simply allow the student to formulate his own curriculum. You know, individualize it ... because we should all be able to get what we want, right?

[Side rant: being able to get exactly what you want has become the mantra of American life. I can go into an ice cream store and get EXACTLY the combination of ingredients I want. Individualized. I can customize everything from my perfume to my kitchen cabinets. Everything is "do it my way." No one in America is expected to conform himself to anyone else, ever. That would impinge on our individual rights and freedoms. ARGH! This is what we're coming to!!]

This new group, the ACTA, knows better. They know that students succeed when they DO fulfill a core curriculum, and ACTA is very particular in what courses qualify to meet their definition of this "core." On the website I've linked to above, click on the "What Will They Learn" article; it's a download. LOOK at the listing of schools, and WHY Harvard, Yale, and Brown each earned an F!!! But the US Military Academy and Texas A&M both earned an A!!

I asked Adam why the Military Academy earned an A. He said that students there, once they declare a major, have all their course work determined for them. It's set. A school where you have to stand at attention in a uniform all day, and polish your own shoes, is not a school to allow you to customize your coursework for your personal pleasure.

The bottom line is that your average 19 year old is often not able to discipline himself to take the course that he SHOULD take. She can't resist that fun pottery class or rock-climbing class that the roommate gets to take. It's too easy to delay that biology class until 2nd semester of your junior year. I know. I did that.

If you want to search for your school, or request that your college be added to the study (as I did), here's the website with that option.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Date

Tonight Adam and I went on a date to the movies. I hesitated; movies are expensive, and we are a little on the potentially broke side. However, we haven't seen a movie together at the cinema since "Casino Royale" (3 years?), so I don't feel too guilty.

We went to "Julie & Julia." (Thanks, Lisette my dear, for the recommendation!) It was lovely. It was about food and cooking, so we had to wipe our mouths occasionally to keep from salivating into our laps. And we both love Julia Child. Watching a snippet of her life, her marriage, her culinary training, her epic cookbook -- this was a little magical. The flip-side of the movie, Julie Powell, was equally charming: a modern girl, searching for something to do with her life, who stumbles upon an idea that bonds her to a woman her grandmother's age, deepens her marriage, makes a cook of her, and opens her world.

Julie decided to blog, as I did (only her blog really caught on, ahem). She made a book and then a movie. Lord, preserve me from EVER being depicted on-screen by Jennifer Aniston! But some of Julie's struggles with blogging, with the weirdness of speaking to thin air, of sharing your life, and your family's life, with strangers, rang so true. Blogging is uncomfortable. It's brought out the unexpected writer in many a literary wallflower, but unearthed other, shall we say, things that should have stayed under-rug. When I saw Julie-on-the-movie type into her blog about her marriage troubles, and then hesitatingly press "delete," I sighed. Any blogger would.

I uploaded 52 pictures to my Iphoto today, and intended to share some of those, but I thought this fun movie might be more interesting, especially to all you bloggers out there. Enjoy.

Or, as they say, Bon Appetit!

Sandy's Progress

Little Sandy is so fun. We keep her busy!

She now has the run of the patio because Adam has set up a long board so that she can't escape into the yard, and he sits out there with her and lets her play. She LOVES LOVES LOVES playing with empty plastic pots! They roll, and she can attack them, and grab them on the rim. They are the ENEMY! Oh my.

And she's just about potty-trained. She tinkles every time she goes outside, hasn't had an accident in the house for several days. AND, Adam is teaching her tricks - she is one smart cookie! She will now sit and look at him in the eye, in order to get her little (itty bitty) treat. I'll have to get a video of it sometime.

Her favorite thing is a leaf, and of course our yard is getting more of those by the minute. Julia is her playmate, but she seems to be fond of all of us. Sweet pup!

Philip's last Sunday

Our oldest will be going off to college later this week, and Sunday was his last day at church with all his buddies. Here are some pics of his last Sunday:

The Youth Group - goofing off at our evening "Back to School Bash." Philip is stretched out in front, in the position of honor, since he's leaving :)

He really likes to heave a football.

Not too many churches still use choir robes, but ours does. Here are my good-looking sons, robing up to sing on Sunday morning.

The senior high Sunday school class was rather small on Sunday, but Mr. Shroyer brought nibbles for Philip's last class. Addison joins them. Everybody else just missed out on the strawberry cake!

My teens:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Warning: a little politics. Get some stiff coffee first...

I read an article this morning by One Sharp Cookie, David Warren. I've heard he's a Canadian, but he does a fine job of assessing our political climate "south of the border," in my opinion.

Warren does many things in this brief article. He slices up deftly the various parts of our political discourse. Some people are candid; some speak with thuggery and intimidation; some are "nice" but hypocritical. And he shows oh-so-well the double standard being employed repeatedly by many liberals today. So, let me give you few gems from his article.

"Candour is when you tell a truth that is disturbing, in language so unambiguous that persons in polite company will not want to hear you.... Rude language is quite unnecessary to this end: the hard truth itself, spoken plainly and publicly, will give sufficient offence."

"Thuggery ... consists not of candid argument but of naked intimidation." "A good example would be the "" e-mail address that was set up on the official White House website, to which Obama supporters across the country were invited to report "fishy" opposition to that health-care agenda."

"For one can be ... outraged, scandalized, breathtaken with surprise, when Richard Nixon was caught compiling an 'enemies list.' Yet perfectly indifferent when Barack Obama advertises for input to compile his."


The double standard again? Here it is, from Warren's personal experience: "How many 'nice' people I know, who casually asserted that a certain George W. Bush was mentally retarded, resembled a monkey, and was guilty of war crimes. Suddenly the same people have 'had it up to here' with squalid personal attacks on his successor."

Oh yeah, even WAY outside the beltway, down in the boonies where I live, I remember hearing that stuff about Mr. Bush.

He goes on to assess the "shadow cabinet" that Obama has amassed around himself, a group of unashamed leftists who, because they are personal appointees/advisors, are immune from Congress's scrutiny, and unknown to the likes of you and me. Yet they steer the very ship of state upon which we rock in this unsteady sea of CHANGE.

I appreciated his last point, a defense of Palin. I've heard no one defend the woman lately, and everyone vilify her, even her previous supporters. He notes that "It is assumed she will be running for president on the redneck ticket." Yeah, we all know she's been labeled, just like Bush. The big grin, the yokel accent. EVERYONE thought she was an idiot to label a portion of the healthcare bill as advocating "death panels." But when she did, what happened? "The U.S. Senate finance committee this week dropped a key provision to which she had referred, from the House health-care bill before them. According to the ranking Republican member, it was dropped 'because it could be misinterpreted or implemented incorrectly.'"

" That's a very nice way of saying that Sarah Palin had a point," Warren notes. He is right. And if that part of House Bill 3200 is that ambiguous, what hides in the other 999 pages?

Here's the link to the whole article.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Some things don't change

343 years ago today, Samuel Pepys wrote in his journal,"Mighty sleepy."

Isn't it fun that some aspects of a language don't change much?

Friday, August 14, 2009

A long-lost friend

The first real perfume that my mother introduced to me was Ecusson by Jean D'Albret. It was a French perfume, not too sweet or fruity, with deep undertones. It's unlike the modern harsh fragrances we smell at today's make-up counters. This is an old-fashioned classic. She and I both wore it for years. I recall that after a while it was hard to find, and Mother would drive to a little drugstore in Charleston, WV whenever we visited there, to buy a bottle. And, of course, after a while the company stopped producing Ecusson. We were both sad. But being a nostalgic pack-rat, I kept the old bottles:

This fragrance was so memorable that I once had an old boyfriend call me, after I was married, to ask me the name of the perfume I used to wear. He wanted to buy some for his fiancee.

Over the years I continued to look, check online, read antique perfume articles in old Victoria magazines. Finally, I gave up.

Until last week. I went with Alynn and the crew to Birkdale Village (one of the most fun places on earth). And we found a new store I'd never seen before: The Fragrance Shop. PLEASE, go check out their website if you have a long-lost fragrance you've given up hope of finding.

This place is a dream store. First of all, it looks and feels like an old apothecary's shop. The long counters are deep cherry wood. The counters are dark marble. The walls are lined with shelves of 1500 clear bottles, full of liquid gold.

The girls who run the store (I can call them girls because they're my age, y'know!) are knowledgeable and helpful. Their dad started the business 13 years ago. They have stores in Laguna Beach and New Orleans (I think). But I'm excited to have one so close to me!

Last week, Alynn walked in there and asked if they carried "Red II," her favorite perfume. Tom had had a lot of trouble finding it for her at Christmas, even online. These ladies reached up and pulled it right off the shelf. But, like all their fragrances, it's the pure oil -- NO alcohol. Did you know that perfumes you buy are 80%, sometimes 90% alcohol? No wonder they evaporate right off your skin! No wonder women leave their pricey scents in the elevator instead of on their bodies where they belong! With essential oils, it only takes a drop. They dispensed Alynn's Red II straight from their large bottle into her own bottle, and she took it home, happy as a clam.

And I was happy for Alynn, I really was. But I was also sad: I'd asked the girl about Ecusson, and she didn't even recognize the name! But, she said, if I had any old samples of Ecusson I could bring it in. She has a pretty good nose, and might be able to mix something very close for me. That made me happy, and we went home.

And I dug out my old bottles. I found 2 empty (evaporated) perfume bottles, and TADA!!! One bath oil bottle! Yessiree! So Adam and I traipsed over to the store again.

The girl looked at my bottles. The oil, unfortunately, had been tainted somehow and smelled atrocious. There was a faint whiff of Ecusson from one perfume bottle. I sighed. The girl with the "nose" wasn't even there that day.

"It's called Ecusson," I said despondently.

"Ecusson?" A third sister asked. She walked over and PULLED IT RIGHT OFF THE SHELF!

It was like walking around a corner and running into your best friend you haven't seen since 3rd grade. I wanted to hug that bottle.

At first I doubted whether it was really MY Ecusson, but they tried a dab on my arm, and I waited for the "top notes" to dissipate, and for those rich undertones to emerge, and sure enough - it's Ecusson!

We all know how smells elicit emotions and memories for us that we almost didn't realize we had. This fragrance does that for me.

You can buy larger bottles, but I got the little one for now. It will last me 6 months to a year. And the cool thing is that they make other products too: face/body lotion, body oil, a light dry oil mister for after bathing. They open the bottles of these products, insert a dropper or two of your fragrance, and you have your own signature body oil, in your fragrance. It was SO cool. You can ask for a dab more or less, depending on your taste.

I also asked about Ecusson -- The fragrance name had actually been bought by a company here in the US, Long Lost Perfumes. Whether they also acquired the recipe for the fragrance, I don't know.

But isn't it copyrighted? Isn't it illegal for these women to sell this stuff -- other company's products -- right off their shelves?

Actually, no, it's not! They explained to me that the ingredients in these fine fragrances are all natural, and available to anyone. It's true. I went online and found ALL the ingredients for Ecusson. It includes lemon and ylang-ylang, carnation and rose, musk and sandalwood and oakmoss, among many others. Anyone can mix them. It's takes a great nose to be able to blend them in the correct proportions to reach the exact scent you want. These ladies at The Fragrance Shop buy all their fragrances from France, and they are spot-on. She said there are only about 3 GREAT "noses" in the world, people who can dissect an assembly of scents correctly like a great chef can a sauce, with his pallet.

All that to say, I'm smellin' good! Welcome home, Ecusson!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lookin' for that happy place!

Blogland is a strange place, and you'd think that a grown-up girl like me would have caught on earlier that there are good places in blogland, and bad. It's a big blog world out there.

I enjoy debate, and I have frequented a few "debating" type blogs, like MommyLife or Molly's blog.

Barbara (MommyLife) attacks all debatable topics with the subtly of a pit-bull, but she doesn't make apologies for it -- it's what her blog's about. I don't comment there anymore, as I've said before, and I skip over all but her political posts, which I still find useful in this unsteady political climate. Don't always agree with her, but I like to see what she says.

And about a month ago, I started reading and commenting at Molly's blog, "Adventures in Mercy." Now, Molly seems like a nice lady, friendly and welcoming and non-judgmental. She repeatedly approaches topics on her blog that spark lively debate, and even though I can tell that we probably don't see eye to eye on many things, I liked conversing with Molly. I do wonder occasionally if she throws out these highly inflamatory posts to see if we will all bite, and sometimes bite each other. Probably not.

But to be honest, I found Barbara a little hard to take, and I find Molly's other visitors to her blog equally hard to take! Did you know that some people out there in blog world are just plain mean?

So, unfortunately, I've decided to unsubscribe to Molly's blog and not read anymore. She's got topics that I've already hashed through for myself years ago, and truthfully, I don't need any additional enemies or stress right now.

But I like blogland, and there are happier places out there. For one, I faithfully read "Please Pass the Salt" by my virtual friend, Moriah. I love Moriah. She writes about her life, which is stable, and about her husband and kids, whom she loves, and doesn't leave one feeling depressed or worried afterward. Today I found another blog, Musings of a Housewife. I think Moriah has mentioned this blog before, but I was too lazy to look it up. But today I changed my mind. I'd rather read Jo-Lynne's descriptions of whole milk and driving through the hazy countryside, that harrange through another theological topic with an angry woman with a chip on her shoulder. (No one in particular in mind there. I've met several over the years!)

So, here's to happier blogging! When I sit down with my cup of tea or coffee of a morning, I will smile beneficently upon the antics of Moriah's kids, or whatever Jo-Lynne is up to, and avoid the conflicts of the world. Hopefully.

And y'know what's scary? I found Jo-Lynne's blog in the past hour, and I have absolutely no idea how I did. Oh well!

Religious Dress

This matter has been on my mind lately because of some discussion in blogland. Adam mentioned to me that the French government decided to outlaw the wearing of "burkinis." Burkinis? Is that a cross between a burka and a bikini? The mind boggles.

So, here's some nice pictures for you!

Turns out, a burkini is just swimwear for Muslim women who normally would wear burkas, but still want to swim. Burka meets spandex. It seems strange to me that it's bad to show your ankles, but still okay to wear pants. Must be my American sensibilities from the '30s or something.

And I recently discovered that Mormons also wear special garments, what some folks call "Mormon underwear." I do apologize to any possible Mormons reading this, because Mormons are offended if their special garments are talked about. But I'm not a Mormon, and I do think people should be allowed to discuss other people's religions and theology, so there you go.

Here's the Wikipedia link.

There's a photo there of the old version of Mormon underwear, and also of the newer version. Here's another website with a more realistic view.

And here's a website article that gives a good bit of detail on the "sacred garments." Apparently they have special symbols or "marks" placed on them to remind the wearer of the commitments to the Mormon church that he/she has made. And evidently even when one set of garments is being exchanged for another, the wearer should remove one arm, insert that arm into the new underwear, and then remove the old completely, so that he is never without some of the garment on his skin. It's supposed to give the wearer both spiritual and physical protection.

Now, I could see how clothing could function as a barrier and discourage physical sin. The wearer would have to remove a physical object that is designed to remind him of his spiritual fidelity to his faith, before he could commit some sins. This might be a deterrent.

But I doubt very much that it would deter one from the sins of the mind, like, say, lust. HER garments might keep a Mormon man from lusting after Mormon awoman, since she would be more modestly clad, but it would do little for him when in the general American culture with its cami straps and low-slung shorts.

And the burkas, I suppose, just take the Mormon idea a whole lot further.

But Catholic nuns have their own style of burka, do they not? And priests wear dog-collars, and even some Protestant pastors wear a robe to preach in.

Before I demean myself by ridiculing the practices of others, I want to remember that modesty is in short supply these days and we could all use more of it.

On the other hand, modesty is a cultural thing; it's relative. Anyone who doubts this should read Elisabeth Elliot's account of the Indians she worked with in South America. They went naked, but their very body language served to communicate modesty or immodesty to the opposite gender. Because nakedness was their norm, they were comfortable with it, and were able not to sin by lusting.

A lot of what produces lust in the one who is lusting, is the knowledge that the provocative dress practices are intended to produce that lust. It's an invitation, whatever culture you're in.

But back to clothes. Do I have any religious clothing? What do I think about religious people who assert they must wear particular clothing for righteousness's sake?

Scripture speaks of the righteousness of Christ, of his robes, soaked in his saving blood, that are given to me, to cover the nakedness of my sin. The sin is spiritual. The nakedness and shame are in my soul. Thus, the robes of His righteousness are spiritual also.

"Well, that's convenient," some may say. "You can wear what you like." Not exactly! Physical clothing merely covers the body but does not heal the soul. The goal of being covered by Jesus's righteousness is a changed heart that longs to avoid sin and please God. This helps us to avoid both sinful actions and sinful thoughts. Jesus's clothing is so much more effectual that anything man invents!

Personally, I'd rather dress modestly because my heart has been changed to long for sinlessness in myself and others. God says He will write His law on His children's hearts. He changes them from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Perhaps that's the real difference between law and grace.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sandy, because she won't be this little for long!

I love these close-ups. Philip took them in the front yard the other day.

I love the adorable slope of her nose. She's so feminine!

Peter is a dog-lover from WAY back. He and Julia are vying for Sandy's attention these days.

Our Weight

A very cowardly (and rude) poster left this comment, after I posted our family picture yesterday:

"so you all look rather "overweight" (think fat). How do you think that will settle with the new Obaba Health Care Plan?"

Now, people who leave comments on blogs in this way do not concern me. The fact that he or she posts anonymously is a clear admission that the comment is something to be ashamed of, so I have the commenter's own admission to this shame. Whatever. (Plus, he/she can't spell!)

However, I do want to address the tacit implication here: namely, that my weight, or my family's weight (or any other health matter) is the business of the federal government.

Is it?

I gave our rude commenter a brief reply, but I will insert here that only 3 of the 6 members of our family are overweight. And it is true (in spite of the frequent photos of food on this blog) that we don't overeat. I stopped overeating in my 20s. I define overeating as still eating even after one's body has told one that the stomach is full. When I'm eating supper, and my tummy is full, I stop and leave whatever is left, on the plate. I remember when I didn't do that -- I ignored that little "off" alert.

As far as Adam goes, he wears a step-counter and walks more than anybody else I know. He got up to 20,000 and sometimes 25,000 steps per day. It didn't reduce his size, but it did convert a lot of fat to muscle. And he is very strong, although he would like to reduce his size as well. Still, he's trying.

We do like to eat. But we don't eat junk food. We don't eat fast food. We usually have cold cereal or toast for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, and a well-balanced supper of one meat and 2 vegetables for supper. We fry food minimally, and try to avoid pre-processed foods.

Most of all, regarding "healthcare," we are a very healthy family. In the past 3 years, only Peter has been taken to the doctor for a bad case of poison ivy. The other 3 kids don't even HAVE a local doctor, because I don't believe in using up healthcare or money unnecessarily. I've been in for my annual visit to the gynocologist twice, and Adam visited an asthma doctor during our first months here, and hasn't been to the doctor since then.

So, I don't think our weight will be much concern to anyone.

Do I write this because I'm defensive and think I have to make a case for myself to a stranger? No. I write this because I think this is an issue that concerns a lot of people. How serious is my weight? Is it worth going on yo-yo diets, buying expensive dieting aids, or cutting whole food groups out of my diet? I don't think so. I'd rather eat reasonably, not stuffing myself, and not putting unhealthy chemicals in my body, but also not hating my body or anxiously worrying over every pound. If I eat reasonably, and stay active, then the weight I am is normal for me. Period. I think it's a lot more important to be active, than thin. My grandmother, and thousands like her in a previous generation, was very heavy, but she lived into her 90s and was very active. I remember when I was about 23 and she was in her 70s, that she, my brother and I raised the whole side of a wooden cabin, up into position. She was no slouch.

But the bottom line is that my health is not the business of the federal government. It's my business. And I'd rather be a little chubby than a deliberate deceiver of millions, as Obama clearly is. Why can't he just be honest and tell us all that a single-payer universal plan, provided by the federal government, is his goal? And that all the steps he's implementing now, are toward that end? Just be up front about it. For him to hem and haw and say that the current plan in the Congress is not a single-payer system, is really a smokescreen. For him, this current plan is just a necessary step in that direction. He'd rather this plan went all the way to his goal, but he'll settle for part-way, for now.

Do I like our current healthcare situation? No. Have the Republicans been reprehensibly guilty of neglecting the nation's healthcare situation? Yes. I think it is disingenuous of Republicans now to get up in arms over Obama's plan, when they had YEARS to try to improve the situation, and devoted themselves to other matters. Clearly, a broken system was not a high priority for them. So, now we are stuck with Obama, and I do hold Republicans responsible for the fact that we now may have to swallow his healthcare agenda, because they did not make efforts to encourage Americans to revamp the system we've had. Should the government take over? No. Should the government try to facilitate a system where people who lose jobs, and have even LESS income, are suddenly responsible for BUYING their own healthcare? It's ludicrous to have healthcare covered by a mountain of insurance, and to have that insurance tied to employment. It's the worst possible system.

Except for a federal system. That would be worse.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Single-Payer System

Here is a video clip of President Obama speaking about his plan for implementing a single-payer healthcare system -- where the federal government is the only healthcare provider. Now he says he doesn't want this type of plan. But when he spoke to this group, he did!

Note also his plan to achieve his goal: get back the White House, the Senate, and the House. Admit that a single-payer, universal plan won't be gotten immediately, but he wants to work his way there eventually, incrementally gaining steps in that direction along the way.

Sound familiar? He's doing this, right now.

Family Picture

Well, no this is not a family picture, but I thought "Grandma Pam" might like to see how good Sandy is eating! She really attacks her food twice each day. She loves her kennel and takes frequent naps there during the day.

So, HERE'S the family picture! I really wanted to get one before Philip left us and took off to parts far and strange. It's pretty casual, but not bad for a home camera and a trip to CVS for a 29 cent pic!

Homeschooling Study

I just found this article from the HSLDA (Home Shcool Legal Defense Association). The HSLDA decided to do a current study, evaluating how homeschooled students perform, compared to their public school counterparts. It's an interesting read. In general, with the "average" public school student at the 50th percentile, in comparison the "average" homeschool student falls at around the 85th percentile. An interesting read.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fitting In

Sandy is doing so well! She has been the center of attention for 2 days :) Her potty training is going so well; she immediately tinkles as soon as she's taken outside now for her walks, and she hasn't had a mess in the kitchen floor for about 24 hours now! She's eating GREAT and is enjoying her new family. Lacey has gone back to sleeping, after the initial thrill of having a little doggie around. She settles down quickly when we put her in for her naps, and she's only gotten Adam up once each night so far to go outside. What a good little girl she is! She seems very happy and confident. She loves to explore.
Here she is, relaxing on Adam's tummy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Our week with friends

We had such a great week with our dear friends, Tom and Alynn, and their kids, Kayren, Lorien and Aleya. Jathan is in Texas doing wonderful things as a medic-in-training in the Army. Kesse and Kyrie are working to earn money for college and couldn't come. But we sure had fun with who DID come! And as all noted, we did spent a lot of time cooking and eating yummy food. Here is Aleya, helping Uncle Adam make homemade pasta for our spaghetti dinner. She is a pro!

We'd started working on a large (1500 piece) puzzle before they arrived, so I thought I'd leave it out, just in case they might enjoy it (and help us get the silly thing finished!!) After all, isn't puzzle-working part of a truly relaxing vacation? They did work on it, but we didn't finish it. It went back into its box, partially done :(

One day, we also took them to Birkdale Village, a nearby shopping area that is such a fun place to visit. We rummaged through Barnes and Noble, ate a great lunch at Qdoba, avoided Starbucks miraculously, found a thrilling fragrance store that has hundreds of name-brand perfumes in their oils (instead of with alcohol added) and enjoyed a final snack at Coldstone Creamery.

We once even dog-sat a little Jack Russel named Napoleon, while his owner went in a store.

On Friday, Carolyn decided to drive over (bless her heart!!) with her three little ones, for a visit. Now, Carolyn, Alynn and I go WAY back, and it is sheer joy to be all together again, considering the far ends of the earth that we've occasionally been scattered to! Adam took about 8 Very Silly Pictures of us, but I'll only post one.
I never did get a photo of Tom and Adam. They spent most of their time out on the patio, talking and talking. These two guys really enjoy each other's company. That's rather rare with men, to find a best friend. Since we only get to visit each other once a year, it becomes an intensive time of catching-up, enjoying time together, and nurturing friendship. We loved having them here, and hated for them to leave.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

So much to blog!

There's SO much to tell about our wonderful week with Tom, Alynn and the kids, but I don't have time now! So, I'll show you our new family member: Sandy! Here she is, happily playing with the children when we brought her home with all her toys:

She likes the cat-wand with the fish on the end.

Peter's new girl :)

Julia is so thrilled!

Investigating Daddy's shoe
I hope she sleeps well tonight!