Jan 30, 2013

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Her long-awaited American Girl doll, Saige, which she paid for, arrived today. Nothing like a new friend.



Jan 29, 2013

It's Gneiss to Meet You!


Quartz and Granite. Now really. Between the two which sounds like something you want to hold and admire? "Quartz" has this lovely rolling feel in the mouth ending with a little elegant buzz. It starts and ends with rare letters making it a valuable word in Scrabble (24 points!!) .

"Granite" on the other hand sounds hard, irritating, and just plain undesirable. GRR. GRRan-ITe. The only time I remember the word "granite" being associated with anything good was in the Flintstones cartoons when "Gary Granite" came to town. That and granite countertops. I'm dating myself of course.

This week's Outdoor Hour Challenge had us focusing on these two specific rocks. Once again I had to smile with gritted teeth at the idea of rock study. (The grit was from the rocks I bet.) But Mei's enthusiasm was infectious and so we gathered up our supplies. 

Finding samples of these two should be no problem in our area. The Appalachians are chock-full. Quartz I knew. It's everywhere. We also could cheat because I had purchased a beautiful pink quartz at the Penn's Cave gift shop last summer. But not so sure about the other. Free to gather whatever she found, Mei picked up several interesting-looking samples right from the rock-paved farm road near home, delivered from a near-by quarry.  

But first some general knowledge.
http://www.learner.org/interactives/rockcycle/index.html
Interactive Rock Cycle: thorough and fun!

Mei spent a LOT of time on the Interactive Rock Cycle site the Outdoor Challenge directed us to. It was great and there was even a test at the end that I could print out and include in a portfolio of her work (we're not textbook peeps).We were beginning to draw conclusions about our mystery rocks.


http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AQ6E2VG/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00AQ6E2VG&linkCode=as2&tag=motrobsnotfro-20
Our fav lenses especially the Carson Microbrite (right)
Now for the hands-on stuff. Using the printable from Barb's site, we recorded the various aspects of our rocks and compared with the field guides we had. I really like the simplicity of the DK Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals as a starting point. Another guide that I love is the National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Mid-Atlantic. It covers EVERYTHING in our neck-of-the-woods from skies, to rocks,  to plants, animals, insects, even weather. They publish similar guides for many other regions in the U.S.



http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1564586634/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1564586634&linkCode=as2&tag=motrobsnotfro-20
Field Guides to rock on with.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0679446826/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0679446826&linkCode=as2&tag=motrobsnotfro-20
Other areas available too!
Well, in the end the beautiful--did I say BEAUTIFUL?--black-and-white stripey ones were Gneiss. (pronounced Nice) They were very nice Gneisses too, don't you think? According to my Audubon guide, "gneiss is a metamorphic rock common in the Appalachians; forms from granites and other rocks rich in quartz and feldspars."
Gneiss. And a little moss.
Since we have taken up the hobby of geo-caching, we have discovered that we are in the middle of several interesting geological formations. One of them is the Baltimore Gneiss formation in Patapsco State Park. The other is at Fox Rock Quarry in (ta-da) Granite, MD. An interesting story tells of the Smithsonian Institution in the mid-1800's sending a Dr. Owen on an inspection of building material sources. On arriving he wrote of the granite
 "For about a mile square at this locality is an outburst of quartzose, granite of magnificent quality, both as regards beauty of appearance, compactness of structure and uniformity of color, texture and composition. I have never seen anything superior in this country. Indeed, I doubt whether it can be excelled in any country. It cannot be surpassed for strength and durability by any building material in the world."
Well, don't we feel special!  As soon as my foot is finished healing, we intend to find both caches and see the examples first-hand. Go to GeoCaching.com to learn more about this fun, educational hobby!
However we WERE able to meander over to a neighboring quarry, Vinci Stone, to talk with their friendly saleswoman and learn a lot about what goes into the business of beautifying our properties with Nature's mineral reserves. 

Landscape and building stone from across the country
 and around the world
 
We were especially captivated by the beauty and variety of materials, especially when it came to the granite that was displayed for countertops. (See?? Pale green and peach! It can be gorgeous.)
And then lo and behold, we were pointed to the mammoth block of LAVA! It had been shipped from California, and is looking for a good home if anyone on the East Coast has use for a black rock the size of a Volkswagen. 
Granite counters and a lava boulder just her size
 




So we have another nice page in our nature journals and a lot of new knowledge. And I have a better attitude toward rocks. (But I'd still rather paint clouds. ;-)  )
Thanks, Outdoor Hour Challenge! To see what others are learning about rocks visit the Outdoor Hour Blog Carnival at Handbook of Nature Study!


Got rocks in YOUR socks? Tell Mother All About It!

Jan 28, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: Sloppy Start

 Want the Ground Hog Day activities links? Keep scrolling :-)

Good Morning/Afternoon/Middle of the Night! An icy, sleety, freezing-rainy start to our week in the Baltimore/Washington area, the perfect "recipe" (HAHAHA, I"m so funny on five hours sleep!) for a three-hour commute for my blessed husband. When it comes to rush hour length, our area is Number One in the country! Rah, Rah. We're not even close to NYC or LA's populations, but because of the geographical lay-out of the city--straddling a river that chokes everyone down to only two portals--,there are simply no alternative routes to avoid a vehicular  lock-down.

Blizzard of 2010. City simply closed shop for a week. Not that our government needs an excuse for a shut-down.
And in this area of already stressed-out government employees who are transferred here from all over the country, many whose hometowns are in milder areas of the nation, a smidgeon of snow is a call for pandemonium.

So, if terrorists want to run the show, they don't need to get all fancy with suicide planes and such. They just need a snowstorm and a couple of strategically placed disabled trucks on the Beltway. They'll be in control  for days.

WELL! Enough of gloom and doom. You came here to get some recipe ideas!

So let's find something from 5 Dinners in an Hour to calm the nerves and warm our tummies and hearts in this dead of winter. And take heart! Groundhog Day, the halfway point, is this weekend!! Yay for the weather prognosticator, Punsutawney Phil !

For my homeschooling friends who like turning anything into a teachable moment, here are some links for learning and fun:
Free Punxsutawney Phil Lesson Plan: Free Groundhog Day Printables, Coloring Pages, and Activities for Kids 

Enchanted Learning: Ground Hog Day 

Monday

Slow Cooked Chicken and Dumplings (perfect start, eh?)
Green salad


Tuesday

Spinach Lasagna
Green salad


Wednesday

Tilapia Tacos
Sliced avocadoes
Black beans


Thursday

Slow Cooked Vegetarian Chili
Whole wheat rolls


Friday--Co-op, Dance class and Middle School Youth Group

Dinner out for Mother and Father Robin


Saturday --Ground Hog Day!

DITK (Dad in the Kitchen!) Gotta be something German, Father R, to recall your Western PA roots (home of the celebrated rodent)!

Sunday

Left-over Buffet

I'm feeling better already! How about you? Got Menu? Tell Mother All About It!
Then find more inspiration at Organizing Junkie!


Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Inauguration!

     Now how many posts are you going to read this week about a blogger's family member who marched in the Inaugural Parade? Well you can say at least one. 

   Our 17-year-old nephew, my middle brother's oldest, made history marching with the Black Horse Troop of Culver Academies last Monday. While we couldn't be at the parade itself--broken feet are excluded from standing in the cold for eight hours--we watched anxiously on C-SPAN for about 2 hours until near the end they arrived, all 90+ black stallions and riders, all carrying American flags on the 100th anniversary of their first appearance at Woodrow Wilson's inauguration. It was a thrilling sight. Or as my brother put it, Nephew will always have the mental image of the President saluting him


   We did get to visit the troop at the Prince George's Show Place Arena while they groomed the pampered mules hard-working steeds for their Big Day. Middle Brother wasn't sure if we'd be interested, but Mei's addiction to all things equestrian made the opportunity a must for us. That it was a cloudless, balmy day in January helped.
The Black Horse Troop horses are Friesians, notable for their wavy manes and tails.
  

 Late on the night of the 21st, while still watching C-SPAN (simply to see what the First and Vice-First Ladies were wearing to the Balls), the network opened the mikes to callers. One rambled on about how we have "checks and balances" of Republicans and Democrats in office. WHAT??? 

No mention of political parties.
    The next day I was still raving over this woman's ignorance (and C-SPAN's duplicity by not screening their callers). But of course as a dutiful homeschooling parent, I left no teachable moment unturned. So ensued a discussion of the REAL Checks and Balances . Thanks to a handy workbook, The Complete Book of Presidents and States lying around, we were able to cover that ground fairly easily and in a lively fashion.

    The rest of the week was less dramatic. Mei got sick which in fact counts as drama around here because of its rarity. And she's the most fun-loving sick person I've ever met! Her illness combined with my healing heel and instep, topped off with just enough snow to cancel extracurriculars, made for a quiet week. We learned to team-tackle fire-building to keep the living room toasty where I have been propping up the injured appendage. And we have our birdfeeders up and running again after a whole year off. We're gearing up for February's Great Backyard Bird Count and Handbook of Nature Study's February Outdoor Hour Challenges

   Speaking of the Outdoor Challenges, we are wrapping up our January studies of rocks this week. Just the word ROCKS sounds dull. But the challenges have created lots of appeal. More about our geological adventures here.

     We completed our first track of artists in the Meet the Masters program at the co-op where I teach art. The final artist was Andy Warhol. I don't care who you are or where you come from, this guy is going to elicit a response. Kids are no different. I'll have more to tell about them soon.

    In the days ahead, the weather forecast is for sleet and snow for the first morning rush hour of the new work week, never a good thing around the Washington Beltway.  I've already cancelled the follow-up x-ray of the snapped metatarsal. However I "feel the heal" and we can look forward to our long walks at the Conservancy again soon.  The dog is elated.

   That was our Inaugural Week. What was yours? Tell Mother All About It! 
    Hook up with others at Weekly Wrap-up!



Jan 26, 2013

Rocks: Up Close and Personal

Our enthusiasm for the study of rocks--not the sexiest sounding subject for most of us--has been bumped up several notches by incorporating the fun, hands-on ideas from the Outdoor Hour Challenges for January. This time it was to study them up close. You know, REAL close. Magnifying glass close!

The Collection. Penny and nail for testing hardness.
Mei had gathered several rocks from walks in our area as per the previous challenges' instructions. But we were doubly prepared because of our field trip last summer to Penn's Cave! Penn's Cave, located in the middle of Pennsylvania near State College, is notable for being "America's Only All-Water Cavern."
But not only do you traverse the cavern by BOAT, you also are treated to a mini-museum of the history and geology of the area, a wildlife park, and a HUGE gift shop. If you're ever in the region, go. It was there that I picked out several samples of minerals as a surprise for my (doubtful) future gemologist .

Now to the Study. After each of us chose a rock we dug out all of our magnification tools, pencils, colored pencils, our printables, and our new nature notebooks (Vol. 2!). Our preferred tool was the
Carson MM-24 MicroBrite Pocket Microscope
Carson Microbrite
With its built-in light and 20x-40x zoom, we really could get in close on our subjects. And for its modest price, we can bring it with us into the field. We used the Outdoor Hour Challenge grid from the January Newsletter as a kind of Bingo card, crossing out the squares that held descriptive terms of our chosen specimen. Then we began drawing.

You can see how bright the Microbrite really is. Lives up to its name!
Drawing rocks is challenging. There is no recognizable form that simplifies the result for an amateur artist like there would be for, say, a cat. This is a GOOD thing actually because it demands careful observation! No symbolic marks on paper like triangle ears and whiskers.

A sample of Purple Mica and the drawing
But we gained heightened appreciation for scientific illustrators when we tackled that magnified view. Holey, moley, was it hard!!

Step 1: Zero in on an interesting feature. Hold the scope there. Slip.Whoops. Relocate. Hold again.

Step 2: Draw. Oh, yeah.You have to do that with one eye cuz the other one is on the 'scope. Whoops.Relocate. Hold. Draw.
And back-and-forth with one eye on the rock and the other on the drawing. Impossible, really. So we fell back on blind contour drawing, an artist's method whereby your pencil follows the edge that your eyes are looking at without YOU looking at your pencil. Then we finished the drawings with our colored pencils and some memory!

So now when we see those minutely detailed, worthy-of-framing studies by professional scientific illustrators of the past, we will be in greater awe of their persistence. And in sympathy of the eyestrain!

Mei's Purple Mica
Mom's Granite/Quartz combo



Hook up with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletters at  Handbook of Nature Study and check out other rock-ologists discoveries! Got any great rock-gathering sources? Tell Mother All About It!




Jan 25, 2013

Rose Garden in Winter

My name is Leslie and I am an addict.

Of perfectionism.

I have spent too too TOO many hours perfecting the look and feel that I want to express on this blog. To the point that I finally went too too TOO far by attempting to upload a custom font to Blogger (the nerve). Not only did I spend several hours following the very well-defined steps by Kevin and Amanda on their uber-cute blog only to have my font conversion efforts thwarted by some Microsoft "we don't recognize the program that created this" gar-bage [insert French accent here], but then all Hades let loose and suddenly a new background that I only temporarily tried on took possession of my blog and wouldn't let go its grip.

It was more HOURS. I had so run out of ideas that I was ready to create a whole new blog and import. But I didn't trust that THAT would work either. And the repercussions were too horrible to consider.

Finally I offered up a prayer. Why is it that we (or at least I) turn to prayer as a LAST resort rather than a FIRST one?

Within a few minutes, I had a new stratagem, was led to new links, found this much-more perfect background than I was previously using (which, HORRORS, had not matched the shade of blue-green in my banner), AND discovered the why of the other resurfacing background. All within fifteen minutes of a feeble prayer.

Don't believe? Try it yourself sometime. Just don't wait hours.
So a BIG thanks to my Lord and Savior and a shout-out to The Background/Graphics Fairy for my rose garden in the depths of my winter of discontent.

P.S. So whaddaya think of my blog anyway? Tell Mother All About It!




Jan 23, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: Baby, It Got Cold Outside

The Mid-Atlantic has so far been granted another mild winter. Last year our total snowfall was not even memorable (really! I can't even find records!). Along with that it was also easy on the bundling up. This winter was proving to be  the same except for that Christmas Eve Mixed Blessing that created a White Christmas morning, but a treacherous drive for services the night before. Then the other little one that popped up on our way to the ER for my snapped metatarsal. Glad we avoided another accident in the hospital parking lot!!
The Black Horse Troop of Culver. Our nephew is in the second row!
    This past Sunday and Monday were just what the White House ordered for the Presidential Inaugural: mostly above average temps and sunny skies. The parade that included our nephew was pulled off without a security or meteorological hitch! But come Tuesday, WHAM! Party's O-VER! Highs in the 20's and lows in the teens.
     So let's have some warm-up food from 5Dinners1Hour.com to take away the chill! Then  find more ideas to fight the chill at Organizing Junkie!

Monday

Herbed Pork Chops
Broccoli
Carrots (I like to add a splash of orange juice and a tablespoon of honey during cooking)

 

Tuesday

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers
Green Salad with avocado

Wednesday

Oven Fried Tilapia
Brown Rice (they'll eat it-or anything-with soy sauce)
Green Beans

 

Thursday

Slow-Cooked Honey Sesame Chicken
Sugar Snap Peas
Green Salad with mandarin oranges and almonds

Friday (Ice and snow may be on the menu too...)

LO Buffet

Saturday

Spicy Steak Bites
Mashed Potatoes
Asparagus Spears (frozen. A cold snap in CA has sent fresh through the roof. Be warned)

Sunday

DITK: Dad's in the Kitchen!


Got Menu? Tell Mother all about it! Comments warm ME up every time!
    


Jan 15, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: Hail to the Chief (and Chef)


   Regardless of political leanings, you still have to feel proud and blessed to live in a country that has peaceful elections every four years. We sometimes even take it for granted until we see headlines of the violence in many countries that blows-up just to put the people's choice in office. So this week, let's celebrate that fact and show honor to our great nation on the 20th.
   Here's how we're doing it.
The Black Horse Troop of Culver Academy in 1913
   My middle brother's fam is coming East to watch their son, a member of the prestigious Black Horse Troop of Culver Military Academy, ride in the Inaugural Parade!!  And it's especially special because it is exactly 100 years since the first time they rode back in (quick, do the math) 1913. And he is LEADING the troop. I think he might even get to doff his cap or salute or whatever when they pass the President. And if that wasn't enough, my youngest brother's son's Boy Scout Troop has been selected out of all the troops in his region of New Jersey to provide community service at the parade.  So my family is representing quite well, thank you.
   But the broken foot thing prevents me from watching live curb-side with them. You can imagine the scene: crowds are huge, you have to get there hours in advance, and then stand, stand, STAND in the cold.  Looks like I'll be watching on TV like everyone else across the nation and around the world like I've always done. Maybe 2016? Nah, they'll all be grown up.
    Now on to the eats.
    Continuing with the 5Dinners1Hour.com. plan, I can easily whip out this menu.  I looked over the weeks from both the January list and some from previous months that I have paid for--weeks that I haven't used for one reason or another--and settled on TWO week's worth of menu-planning. I'm only gonna list one here now. You'll have to come on back next week for the other one! Oh, snap!
     Not surprisingly, I'm utilizing any and all shop-by-internet advantages I can find. My biggest groan right now is imagining thump-da-thumping with cane in hand through miles of grocery aisles while somehow also maneuvering a cart and then laoding and off-loading those bags. I hat doing it on TWO feet, much less one-and-a-half. So to avoid that, I am brushing off my dusty grocery-delivery account. I use Peapod by Giant for my service. (available in Maryland and PA; there are others out there.) Between the clearly written list on 5Dinners1Hour and the simplicity of the on-line browsing at Peapod, I can have two weeks worth of food picked out in less time than it takes me to drive to the brick-and-mortar store and back. Which is only fifteen minutes away. Clicked on yesterday, delivered to my counter-top today. And yes, you can use your coupons. Sweet.
    Now for the menu:

Monday

Leftovers to clean out for my 5Dinner cooking today

Tuesday

Roasted Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta
Mixed vegetables
Jasmine rice

Wednesday

Almond Crusted Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Sugar snap peas

Thursday

Slow-cooked beef stew
Green Salad
Whole Wheat dinner rolls

Friday

Date night (The youth group is going snow tubing at Ski Roundtop! )

Saturday 

DITK (Dad In The Kitchen!)

Sunday

Hoping to have a family dinner while all those celebrities are in town. In honor of refilling the Oval Office, we should at least have cherry pie!

What's on your menu? Anything patriotic? Find more menu ideas at Organizing Junkie and then get out those flags. Hail to the Chief (and all you chefs)!



Jan 11, 2013

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Masterly Inactivity. Doctor's Orders!


If it weren't for the pain, I could get used to this house-bound thing.
   Our school week has been so relaxed. So easy. With my foot in a soft boot, and doctor's orders to stay off it, I am completely excused from spending valuable hours running us from activity to activity. This must be the ultimate Masterly Inactivity that Charlotte Mason advises.
   School takes place entirely from a big easy chair in the living room with sun pouring in from three sides. Hot tea in a Thermos, laptop on the ottoman, stacks of books on the floor and we are ready to go.The only thing to ice the cake would be if I could successfully build a fire.
Project Gutenberg QR code
Master Skylark. Scan for
 download to your device
  Our main focus this week has been making steady progress in the book, Master Skylark,  the tale of a country boy in Shakespeare's time, who runs away from home to London, not to join the circus, but the theater. He discovers, Dorothy-like, that there's no place like Stratford and his dear mother's arms. Along the way he is essentially abducted by Gaston Carew, a "master player" who makes many empty promises to let him go "tomorrow." Except, that day never comes because, in classic Shakespearean double-speak,  it never is Tomorrow, always Today! In fact the book is full of word-play, most of which goes right over Mei's head but nonetheless demonstrates, along with the thickly-spread descriptions of scenery, clothing, and action, the author's intelligent writing. It is another selection by Simply Charlotte Mason for Module 5 that Mei at first protested about because of its high literary style that includes heavy use of the Elizabethan tongue, but now begs to be read from. Fits in nicely with our affinity for Shakespeare and the theater too. (see our theater field trips!)       Available as a download to your device such as a Kindle or smart-phone with reader and appropriate for late-elementary through middle school.
Science, homeschool, notebooking
Sample pages from the Atmosphere and Rock Lessons.
    The other subject that is commanding our attention is Science. I just am so pleased with Considering God's Creation .This publication, which has been around since the 90's, uses two books, one for me and one for thee (oops, can't lose that 16th century lingo!). It covers general science from a--Surprise!--creationist point of view following the seven days as laid out in Genesis. There are others that do that too, most notably Apologia's Exploring Creation and 106 Days of Creation. We tried Apologia last year with Day Six, Land Animals, but got so bogged down. There was just TOO MUCH of a good thing as far as we were concerned.
    Considering God's Creation is broken up into lots of short lessons with lots of hands-on stuff.Very easy to adapt to a multi-age setting or a co-op. There are extension ideas given with every lesson for deeper research for older students. The heart of it is the notebook that the student will create from the pages in the Student Book. It's all bound there with the mini-books ready to be filled in. I especially loved the solar system that hangs from a pop-up page! It also brings in other subjects from across the curriculum including Bible, music on a CD, vocabulary, and history lessons. A clever notebook page is entitled Science Detective, a fill-in-the blank form for researching those who have contributed to science in a notable way. Oral review questions and a crossword puzzle complete the units. For under $30, it has got to be the best science deal out there.

But the best part about our week of sofa rest has been seeing Mei involve herself in self-directed projects. She is currently making a 3-story dollhouse out of a large cardboard box. Today she is working out how to build staircases. I am totally uninvolved and she is totally loving it. Never would have happened if I was able to drive us to all the "important" stuff. Maybe I can keep on mastering masterly inactivity when I am more...active!
Cardboard townhouse.
Staircases ready to be installed.
   Have you ever taught more by NOT teaching? I need more ideas! Tell Mother all about it below and then head over to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and see if anyone else mastered inactivity this week!

 

Eagle's Wing's Publications, science, homeschool, notebooking
Considering God's Creation
by Eagle's Wings Ed

Rise and Hobble

Another day, another prop-up

Week 3 of Peg-leg Leslie and the Broken Foot
So my new morning routine is this. cautiously lean out of bed to reach my cane (or crop as Mei, the equestrian calls it), come slowly--and painfully--to my feet. Hobble into the bathroom for a few minutes of wake-up duty. Thump-da-thump to the closet for some old jeans, and a sweatshirt. Got to be comfortable sitting in a chair all day! Re-wrap the injury with a stretched-out Ace bandage given to me at the ER (love, love the edging of sewn-in Velcro for grip!) and strap on the stylish also-Velcroed bootie. Match up the heel height with the most similar thing I have: a navy L.L.Bean felt clog from around 1992 that has the toe area chewed out by the dog. Skip the make-up. Who's gonna see me?
   Take on the most challenging part of the day: descending the stairs. Ours are long and CURVE adding to the excitement. Good foot down, bad foot brought along-side while stepping perpendicular to the riser.This keeps the useless one from flexing, the most agonizing position the appendage can assume. Phone in pocket. Water glasses and yesterday's newspapers left behind. Need the hands for bracing myself! Father R will collect those on the weekend, hopefully before we run out of clean ones.
   Thump-da-thump-da-thump to the kitchen wishing we had a two-bedroom rambler. Nuke tea water, pour into Thermos mug ( saves getting up for the re-heat later), and plop in the easy chair for the rest of the morning, my laptop waiting to take me out into the virtual world, a place I have only been chauffeured to twice in as many weeks.
   The poor dog, whose own morning routine for five years has been to find a toy and be chased around the house in a catch-and-fetch version of Keep-away tries again to engage me, but gives up and lays at my feet again for another long day wondering what he did to deserve my rejection. If only he could read the blog.
 



Jan 8, 2013

I Have a Crush on My Math Teacher


After over 10 years of homeschooling, we've made a big change. Father R is taking over the math reins. (I actually love the graininess.)






 I think it could be the start of a beautiful relationship.


Wordless Wednesday









Jan 6, 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 5 Dinners-in-1 Hour

   Our menu for the week owes a lot of thanks to 5 Dinners-in-1 Hour, the meal-planning site that provides you with the menu, the grocery list, and all the prep directions to assemble five dinners in--yeah, you guessed it, even though you don't believe it---ONE hour! In fact, several week's worth of dinners at our house owe their thanks to 5 Dinners-in-1Hour. But when I broke my foot on Christmas night, boy was I glad that there were  meals filling the freezer that would not need more for me to do than throw them in a crockpot or oven to finish the job. I was also extremely thankful that Father R had planned to take the time off for the holidays, AND that he enjoys cooking. That allowed the freezer meals to wait to be popped out after he went back to work on Jan.2. And Mei got to play Clara Barton whose home and headquarters she had toured last fall. I think the novelty wore off by the end of the week, but if it gave her an appreciation for the profession, then lesson well-learned. Just wish it hadn't been at my expense.
   So as we enter Week Three of Peg-leg Mom, here's what's on the menu! I wouldn't dream of sharing the recipes; that wouldn't be fair to Michele at 5 Dinners. But you can try out a week's worth free here. I'm not including the weekend meals cuz that's HIS territory!
Dad's Lasagna. And She Helped!

Monday

Slow-Cooked Tangy Beef Sandwiches
Corn on the Cob
Carrots

Tuesday

Asian Chicken Legs
Sugar snap peas
Brown rice

Wednesday

Dad's Lasagna (NOT a 5Dinners1Hour meal. It really is Dad's!)
Green Salad

Thursday

Slow Cooker Almost Tamales
Black beans
Sliced Avocados

Friday

Slow Cooked Tuscan Bean Soup
Green Salad 
Whole Wheat Rolls

Looking forward to a fashionable black-tie party in the neighborhood on Saturday. My long skirt should be able to hide my orthopedic boot!
Check out other menus at Menu Plan Monday! What's cookin' at YOUR house? 



Jan 5, 2013

Hoeing a Rough Row

We have been hoeing a rough row the last several years. We are direct casualties of the economic fall-out of  2008, and it has been rocking our boat since then. While I feel the details of this are too personal to share publicly, the result has brought serious struggles to our personal economy, our marriage and family, and even my spiritual life. We have been facing questions daily about our future for over three years now and it is really eating at us. Praise God that Father R followed his wise grandmother's advice and "paid himself first" (not omitting God from that; she was also a believer, but this was just a motto to make a point.) This means saving. Had we been spending as fast as he was making it (like so many were), our lives would have been much more drastically altered already. I'm sure we would have had to sell our home and put me to work, doing what I have no idea. I have been out of anything resembling a paycheck since 1986.
    Of course, this would have meant putting Mei back in the high-pressure, award-seeking government school as from which we had just removed her.
    Mei came home from there after 1st grade. I knew she was struggling. The pressures were already mounting. Missing the bus because she is a slow eater.Cramming addition facts while driving her to school. Dressing in the back seat on the way to ballet, snack in a bag. Spelling homework at 8 in the car on the way home. Writing exercises for someone who still had trouble forming her letters (This was Kindergarten and first grade, remember.)
    And the evidences of it in her behavior: badgered by teachers about her thumb-sucking habit who believed they had her best interest at heart, ("She will be harassed by her peers." She wasn't, only by her instructors.), she took to chewing on her sleeves! When I pointed that out, she was switched to a stress ball. FOR A FIRST-GRADER?? Those things are for powerful, white-collar executives in high-rise offices that are nearing a heart attack!
   Father R and I haven't made any decisions yet, but his current job leaves us with almost no family time from Monday through Friday. He commutes an average of an hour-and-a-half EACH WAY every day (commute times in the Washington, DC area are the highest in the nation. Woo Hoo! We're Number One!!). He leaves before we get up, and is asleep before we fall in bed ourselves because he knows he's going to be up before the sun again in the morning. At least two nights a week, he works late on top of that. So Mei can go more than 48 hours without even having face time with her dad who she adores.  I know there are many, many people in this country that are living like this, so I'm not trying to start a pity party here. But, for us, we keep asking, "Is it worth it? And if not (it's NOT), what choices are we left with?"
   I will leave off here. We know God holds us in His hand as He has always demonstrated. And I know that  He has allowed struggles to bring us back to Him, which this one does. Secretly I get excited at the possibilities that He may be preparing for us at the end of this Valley. But patience and releasing control are not my strong suits. Yet I will trust in the Lord.
   My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.  For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Psalm 2:1-11 NIV
Proverbs 31 Ministries: God Is Waiting 

 



Jan 3, 2013

Life Lessons from a Broken Foot


My instructive left foot. 4 more weeks to go.
   A broken foot can teach you a lot and the New Year can be a good time for it to happen. Here's why:
   It's given me time to SIT STILL. This alone is a change I could learn to make a habit. While I'm being forced to SIT STILL, I have spent time on things that I've been putting off, like this blog for instance. Can't blog easily if you're always on the move. Or reading my Bible. Editing my thousands of pictures. Playing a board game with my family. These things require me to SIT STILL. 
   Another thing I'm discovering is that it forces me to change my priorities. Before the break, I would always find something else that needed to be done before I would allow myself to SIT STILL. This usually meant I would go all day without sitting still. How badly does the house need cleaning? Well, if I have to SIT STILL, then I'll have to clean less. And behold, the guilt of a floor needing to be vacuumed vanishes. So I have more time for that stuff I was talking about before. Stuff that requires me to SIT STILL.
   I'm also forced to let Mei fend for herself. This is a good thing for someone who has some anxieties. (Hers that is, but maybe a touch of mine too?) And not only does she have to do for herself, she has to do for ME. Some practice in servanthood which I couldn't have taught as well if I hadn't been doing what? That's right.
    A recent sermon quoted Tim Kreider about busyness that hit me between the eyes. (Father R was making um-humming noises next to me.) 
"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly   or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day." from the NYTimes article online
   Ouch! Is that my motivation for being busy? Maybe I need to think a about that. It takes time to think, reflect, ponder...in other words to engage the brain. Which I can do if I SIT STILL. 

Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God."
   


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