Thursday, February 13, 2014 in Iowa

I have vowed not to post again until I could come up with something either witty or wise to write. As it has been almost a month, I guess either this blog comes to an end or I renounce my vow. Zut.

Weather report: Snow and sub-zero temps.  Again.  I guess it's weird being just fine with this weather. It beats 90 degrees in the sunshine any time.

Fashion report: long pants, boots, sweaters and big, warm coats, hats and mittens.  Still.  Anything less = stupid...or being a teenager.


Reading (just finished a read-aloud for 3rd grade Native American studies; "Indian Captive"), fabulous read! I forcibly signed the two youngest up for the reading program at our library. This is the program that I boycotted when the two oldest were young, back when I lived my belief in reading for reading's sake. With the introduction of video games in our lives, reading has taken  a backseat and I'm having none of it. Bribery it is; they have one week to complete the month-long program. What can I say? The prizes are good.

Writing; cursive and printing, English mostly, some French and a smattering of Spanish. I think Cate is learning Runes or Swahili this week, along with the German she is pursuing consistently. 

Arithmetic; the two girls, 12 and 17, have the pleasure of a weekly math seminar with our excellent math tutor. I attend too. I am almost up to the level of my 12-year-old. Determination WILL trump math phobia.

Geography and History: water has been our favorite topic the past few months. After Cate spent a week on a tallship, we were all curious to know more about our national waterways and islands far away. Last week, the Straits of Gibraltar were mentioned while learning to spell and not spell the word "straight". (Danggit, English is a tough language to spell.)  From there, we talked about other "ways through the continents," and the creation of canals to make that feat possible.

This weekend at the library I found a great documentary on the Panama Canal that we are watching this week; "A Man, A Plan, A Canal." The narrator is David Mccullough; an American author, narrator, historian, and lecturer, whom we know and love as author of books such as "Cathedral", "City" and "Mosque". Do you remember how many lives were lost in the first years of the largest construction project ever? Do you know how they resolved the problems that were killing workers? What the conditions were of the laborers and of the engineers? How about how it was changed from a digging to an elevation endeavor? Do you know the original name of the country of Panama?

Duncan, 15, is able to chime in on the dinner table discussions, as this is a topic he has been studying in school. He likes to be outraged about (and report on) the slave labor used, the horrendous conditions, the French failure and other unsavory aspects of the Canal. It's great to have a teenage perspective on the world; justice and defense of the underdog.

We baked an unpopular dish for our Native American study unit; corn pone. Charles insisted on making 2 versions of it; the unsalted, unsweetened dish that Molly Jemison of "Indian Captive," discovered upon her first breakfast among the Seneca, and the version her mother would have made back home, before she was kidnapped. The second version was delicious while hot, but lingered as a leftover. Clearly, my children have never known hunger. It was great corn pone, as corn pone goes! Recipe below.

We've been going to the Y to run around, swim and play basketball. It has honestly been consistently colder than the deepest level of  Dante's Inferno around here for way too long. I love sitting inside, by the fire, watching the snow fall, but it does not make for good outdoor play weather. The gym membership has been a blessing this winter.

Wisdom; none of my own, but brought to you by Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet I've been reading for an evening class. He has something to say on every topic. Here are a few, from Goodreads. 600 more can be found at this link.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”  
And one last gem,  really more appropriate for a Friday than for mid-week;
"Sit, be still, and listen,
because you're drunk
and we're at
the edge of the roof."

Corn Pone

11/2 cups cornmeal
11/3 cups buttermilk or yogurt with a little milk
1/4 cup shortening, melted
3TBSP. vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
11/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar or honey

 In a cast-iron skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Heat oven to 370.

Mix together; cornmeal, salt and sugar (unless omitting these last two for Indian authenticity). Add in buttermilk, melted shortening and eggs (add honey now, if you choose this option). Stir/whisk 2-3 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat for a minute, pour batter into skillet (watch the splattering of hot oil, this is an adult job.) Turn off heat, put skillet in oven, bake 20-25 minutes until done. Try to remove before the edges become black. This indicates burnt pone, not the best. Enjoy with a hot drink!

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