Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Joy is in the Air...

...and I love it all; the Solstice, the dark, the candles, Yule, Santa and the manger waiting for Baby Jesus. The tree is up, there is chocolate bread baking in the oven, cookies made and it is 22 degrees, so it is feeling more like the holidays are almost here. 

I am not writing with news of great lesson accomplishments or new break-throughs in teaching. A big, bad cold has wound its way through each and every child the past week and slowed things down, except for the oldest who was in the middle of finals at college. 

No, today I am writing to pause and give thanks.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

St.Nicholas and Christmas Crafting

Plodding Away

Plodding a big old farm horse, not real sexy or going anywhere fast, but some progress is still progress. That is what the past week of homeschooling has felt like, and what it may be like for the next couple of weeks of December. This is my favorite time of the year. At home. When I don't have to run all over the city and everywhere else. When it is snowing and everyone is in bed by 8. New reality; the kids are older, I have a job and they are in a whole bunch of stuff that they need to get to.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Craftsman Afghan (Knit-Too-Loose) Repair

This is called my "Fix to a Loosey-Goosey Blanket". I am tying it on to a piece of fleece with yarn and needle. I've spread it out neatly on the floor and with a little patience and application, I am stitch-tying (many) key parts of it to the bottom fleece blanket. I made this Knitpicks Craftsman Afghan a few years ago for Cate, but the needles I used made a looser-than-desired fabric. The result was less than satisfactory and I knew, with age, that it would not improve. My fix, and my early-20th-century chick-lit reading, as posted on Small Things Yarn Along.

Yarn: sport-weight or worsted split in half. Needle: one big embroidery needle. Difficulty: 0

And, done!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thank You

I am curled up in a warm, furry robe, the only one awake, which is, in itself, a reason to be grateful. They are all in their beds, at home, safe and snug, and I am happy for them to be there. Saturday we were so happy to host the family Thanksgiving meal, and at the same time, saddened that the snowstorm left two of my three siblings and their families stranded. We missed you!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sleep and Loopiness

Or technically; preventing dementia through early rising and enough sleep. This particular bit of advice is both to myself and to validate the habit of early bird exercise and activity. (Or; "I'm not nuts now, but YOU may be later.")

Saturday, November 14, 2015

French and Paris

There is something simply incongruous about returning home from an exam (French) to which I gave all of my energy for two months, to hear that Paris is under attack. My thoughts and prayers today are with Paris and France as they face this nightmare and future challenges.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Detox for Fall and the Fallen

I present this post in all humility, for the sole reason of reaching out to anyone it may help. This is my long, twisted path to health through nutrition, mindfulness and movement. I am the anti-diva in this domain, the sugar-addict, the one who will always choose pleasure over discipline. The believer in the "Life is Too Short" mantra. But...sometimes it takes a wake-up call followed by a little inspiration. Years of painful, disfiguring eczema and debilitating doses of prednisone have led me here; ready, finally, for a viable (in every sense of the word) solution.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Must Dust...Here's Why

One reason to dust this morning: in order to be the first one to find the pretty gourd that changed colors like the leaves outside and grew itself to your mantlepiece. I am fairly certain it would be just as revolting were it on your bookshelf or bedside table.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Country Roads

This is an annual event; huge chili dinner at grama and grampa's, we all feast like the recently starved, and then go walk it off at the pumpkin patch. The same pumpkin patch. Every year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Waldorf Wednesday: A Retreat

A dream retreat for a Waldorf mama; a cabin in beautiful woods along a lively river with two good friends who share a love for knitting, deep conversations, chocolate and red wine.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Simple French Food: Recipes and Hints

As a part of my tribute to simple cooking, I am re-publishing our own recipes from years ago. I realized that the "search" feature on Blogger does not work for posts older than one year. So, here are my favorites again: 

What to eat with your beautifully cooked chicken: (those instructions below)? How about green beans, or maybe zuccini? Here is a simple way to cook up a vegetable

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Day Off? Letter-Writing, The Blood-Red Moon

I woke up this morning and thought that maybe we needed a day off. I sat down with my tea to contemplate what that would look like, and opened up the MCC *(Mennonite Central Committee) review we receive. I read about a day in the life of Congolese refugee children and their mother in a camp where they have lived since 2009. I realized that every single day of my life IS a day off. It is all about perspective.

Refreshed and ready then, I thought I would share our "back-to-letter-writing-campagn,"

Friday, October 2, 2015

Signs Not to Ignore

Sometimes I know that the task set before me may not be easy, but I feel the utter necessity of following through if my kids are going to grow up to be anything more than dissatisfied adults with unfulfilled lives full of tv, bad food and lite beer.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Self-Directed Science Study

...and family support and supervision. While researching targets for knife-throwing, Charles came across a recipe for making a cork explosive. Between just these two activities, I believe that our lives would be more complicated in a less understanding, less compassionate neighborhood. So, here is the family, out to watch as, after a whole day of reading, diagramming and assembling, my son:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Latin, Stars, Sailing, Car Washes and Dance

What a vast richness fill our lives. My oldest, Cate, is sailing in Madison today with the U of I sailing club. The next oldest, Duncan, is busy writing music when he is not in his two high school classes or at work, washing cars. He's rediscovered his skate board and is even biking more. Nothing like not having a driver's license yet to motivate one to new levels of locomotion.

Latin is back in our school days, to my great pleasure. Charles expressed an interest in learning Latin and I, super-casually, exercising great restraint, armed with only 3 of my 4 Latin courses, jumped right on that. He is surprised to see that because of his knowledge of Spanish and French, many Latin words make sense right away to him.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lesson Plans: Grade 3, 5 and 8

I love this first week of school when everything is fresh and new, as well as the level of enthusiasm; it all seems possible. We will all speak fluent Spanish and read in Latin by the end of THIS school year. They will be performing at a 12th grade level in math and writing stories and reports that put a college freshman to shame. No, I guess I never was ambitious in that way...or not to that extent. I periodically rewrite

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Leek and Potato Soup: The Base of French Cuisine

Leek and Potato Soup, the Base of French Cuisine

This is a recipe that all of my children over five know how to make, easy and delicious.
3 leeks
3 potatoes
1 large or 2 small bouillon cubes or 1T "Better than Bouillon" any flavor
salt, pepper

Fill a 3-4 quart pot with water, add salt, heat to boil
Cut leeks lengthwise and chop into 1/2 inch slices, soak, wash, rinse, repeat until all sand and dirt is gone (2-3 times).
Wash and peel potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
Put both into pot, add bouillon, bring to boil then lower flame to simmer for 30 minutes.

Once soup is finished, you may add pepper, if desired. It can be served as is, or pureed in a blender. Some kids prefer it pureed and served with a straw, it goes down faster when it's new.

Variations: add any other vegetables, a hamhock for non-vegetarians. Pierre's grandmother adds beans (Great Northern), carrots and angel hair pasta (the short variety).

If you are planning to eat a chicken that week, plan the soup for the next day. Chicken soup recipe for tomorrow.

Serve with a loaf of bread. And it would be a shame to forget the red wine.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Millionth Vegetarian Clam Chowder

Once upon a time, I had a fantastic recipe for a soup that the whole family loved. Everywhere this soup was brought, it made taste buds happy. And I could bring it anywhere; it was vegetarian! Then, the cooking website I always found it on no longer had it there; just like that. I searched through every single option offered on every food and recipe network/website and blog available; nowhere. So I had to re-make it up, and it took me this long. Tonight, after months of it turning out "OK," I tasted it; success? I think so...I had my mate and taste-tester with no compunctions about telling me; "eh, so-so," try it too. His verdict: "Success!" So I will share it, below. It's more or less my millionth attempt to get it right.
Do everything exactly as I say and it will turn out to be a treat, I promise. But tell me you substituted skim milk for the cream or celery salt or chili powder for the real things and all bets are off.  Bon appetit!

Millionth Vegetarian Clam Chowder

Oyster mushrooms (10 oz. fresh) (1.5 oz. dried)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery stick
1T Better than Bouillon (vegetable flavor) (or for a non-vegetarian, delicious version: beef)
2-3 red potatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 of a dried chipotle pepper
1 1/2 c whole whipping cream
1/2-1 sheet of dried seaweed, ripped to tiny shreds 

For fresh mushrooms: chop and saute in olive oil with chopped celery and minced garlic until tender; 5 minutes. (For dried, see below.) Continue to simmer for 20 minutes or so to reduce. Boil a quart of water.

Add bouillon to boiling water. Add potatoes and mushroom mix. Cook 10 minutes. Add corn and chipotle pepper. Adjust salt to taste. When corn is hot (5 minutes or so), add the whipping cream and seaweed. Warm through and serve hot. 

For dried mushrooms: soak for 20-30 minutes (you can use the broth you've made with the bouillon.) Remove from water with a slotted spoon and add to the pan with the olive oil. 

Serve with a chilled Chardonnay or a dry Riesling. Homemade bread or a nice, crisp baguette goes well with it too. Now I'm making myself cry. If you find that baguette, drop one off here on your way home, will you? Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Not in School: Poor Mom?

No, not "poor mom" and here's why: I keep hearing the joyful exclamations of parents about their children being back in school. I am joyful too; but because there is nowhere else I would rather be! Over the summer, I had a few misgivings about how things would feel in a house where the normal 4 or 5 children was suddenly reduced to 2 every morning. I even fleetingly thought they might be better off in school. Here are some of the things we are doing instead: (as well as yesterday's photos, all from my i-phone, of playing along the Mississippi. The first ones are of a walk we took after dropping off my son at high school Monday morning. Poor us.)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It Really is All About Rhythm

Our lives have been turned upside down with just a few flicks of the hands of the clock. Two nights ago, I was saying goodbye in my heart to my oldest; off to college yesterday. I did not sleep a wink. She slept like a baby, thank goodness,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nature Study and Growing Monarchs

It has been a summer for camping, sailing, bonfires and way too much indoor time because of illness. Ordering monarch caterpillars was an idea that came before kids got sick, one after another, but it has been a wonderful starting point for observation and discussion of life cycles, metamorphosis and the botany we began in the spring in grade 5. A couple of days ago, our lovely critters began to emerge; this is number four and counting. It is so exciting! We have been growing milkweed for six years or so. It all began with our wonderful friends Henry and Vivian who brought us our first monarch caterpillars in mason jars, sealed with cheese cloth. They also brought along milkweed transplants for our backyard. We were all hooked from that very first magical chrysalis rimmed with gold and the naissant butterfly that was reborn out of it.

In the past two years, however, our milkweed seems to have been planted in vain. We had zero eggs or caterpillars two years ago and just one or two last summer. I did not exactly panic, but I do have to fight a little to keep the towering milkweed from being tidied up by some family members, and I wanted to make a difference in the restoration of these beautiful butterflies. So, this year, I ordered bugs, online, and they arrived already rather large and ready to go into chrysalis. Here is where you can find the company: Butterfly Bushes. I would recommend ordering as close to home as you can, so that you can enjoy the caterpillars for longer before they go into their next stage of life. However, this company is excellent: all 20 of the beasties arrived alive and we have had almost all of them survive to chrysalis form. 

We will be avidly observing our milkweed for eggs that may be left on the leaves, and hoping for our next crop or two of monarchs before fall. The children are really good at spotting them and bringing them in before they can be eaten by something else. 

It is the right time of year to raise them, if you have a desire to do so; as late as August the milkweed is still very nourishing, after that the success rate can decline because of the dwindling power left in the plant as autumn approaches. Happy butterfly discoveries!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Rice Salad; A Warm-Weather Simple Meal

Rice Salad

A summer staple in Southern France. Easy to prepare, keeps well, everyone seems to like it.

Rice, we like to use Basmati, but use your favorite. 11/2 cups (uncooked) for 5-6 people;

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Darling Graduate: Congratulations!

So, here are the photos, in case you missed the party. Thanks to Joseph Maciejko and Jay Strickland for the lovely photography! If you did not receive an invitation, you should have; my apologies! We missed you! You have been a part of this fabulous community that has helped raise these kids so far, thank you. Cate and her friend, Mina celebrated the end of homeschooling, the beginning of college and the rest of life. This is Cate with Mina, whose family clinched the question of whether or not to homeschool that had been gnawing at us for years. Mina who reads over 400 books a year; thank you to you and your wonderful family for the inspiration and years of friendship.

Little sister on the right
It was a great day for babies
The youngest of my bandits

My friend, Audrey, from Africa, and her mother and infant son, Phanuel (you can see him better below)

My wonderful neighbors, holding the darling baby, Phanuel, and my dear ol' Dad, thank you, Dad!

The parents at the end of the day; Thierry, Angela, Cecilia, Mariano

I wish I had more photos with my mom, she's the one in the middle; thank you! She, like Cecilia, Mina's mother, was a moving target, tirelessly making sure STUFF GOT DONE all day. Elizabeth, in purple, has been a true friend, math savior for my children and knitting and writing companion. I couldn't have done it without her! There are others, but if I start naming names, I will forget someone, so thank you all!'

Monday, June 15, 2015

You Need this Bag

I am all about promoting and supporting local and small businesses. Today's choice: the best bag ever (and you know, I really love bags.) It was made out of 100% recycled materials (old pants' leg and an old tie)  by a lovely friend of mine with a fab etsy shop. What do I use it for? EVERYTHING! It began as a knitting bag, and quickly became my pick-up-and-sling-over-my-shoulder-to-go-anywhere (especially a walk with my puppy: poo bag holder, or to the gym: keys, license, towel) bag. I also use it for my knitting in the afternoon and evening.


I know, I should have had one of my super-cute kids model this, but it is MY bag and here I am; sweaty and post dog-walking, in real life, with my companion bag. If you are short-waisted or long-waisted, you can custom-order the length, choose your colors, etc.

The best part: only $10 on Etsy now! Here: The Gin Blossom

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spin on Fitness: and Caution for the Hypermobile my fitness challenge to a new level with a cycling class. I am 99.9% sure my derriere will not be functioning tomorrow. Not to sit on, not to move my legs, nothin'. But just as I start to think maybe one track will be sufficient for my first day of class, the smiling face of my Body Pump teacher stops by; "hey, are you taking up cycling?" -"Yeah," puff, wheez, "just starting, gasp, "think my butt will be sore tomorrow." "Good for you! Buy yourself a pair of padded shorts, that's less weird than a padded seat, right?" "Huh?" Bottom line; I stayed until the end of class; I had no idea whether or not my instructor was lurking in the shadows, waiting to see if I made it all the way through.

...that was a few short days ago, and incredibly, my tush suffered no lasting damage, but I am icing my knee for the 3rd day in a row. It quit. I hate that. Hypermobile individuals are more prone to osteoarthritis.

That knee injury may either be because of the running (just intervals I began again a couple of weeks ago), or the cycling or the crazy elliptical spree I went on for 15 minutes before class on Saturday. Hard to tell. (Update from the physical therapist: it was probably the running, or the standing up while cycling. Serves me right, show-off.)

The point is; I am trying new things, shaking up the routine, upping the ante, and in the process, breaking the barrier of the pounds that would not part ways with my middle. You have to try this once in awhile.

But please: proceed with caution!

Sadly, your body is not as young as it once was, it may take a minute to adjust to a new demand on the joints. So why do it?

Because: it feels like you are starting all over, it is motivating and fun...and even having to ice your knee has advantages; more knitting time! I have lost some weight; that last 15 lbs. I would like to see gone has begun to melt away; ha! That sounds way too easy! It is a process; I'll say healthy food choices and more exercise has been chipping away, very slowly, at it. Keep the faith, change your routine, share your journey below!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Humor Help

My sense of humor is something that seems to be tampered by my own (and my family's) intensity much of the time. I want to thank them, as well as my friends, for the many times they crack me up. Some days, I would not survive a minute more without comic relief.

I returned home from a 5-minute, "drop Cate at work," errand on Tuesday to find a car frantically signaling and my friend waving me down as I pulled into the driveway. She just needed to let me know she was kidnapping my children for a minute for a duck rescue...? Here's the story:

Then there is the daily drama with the squirrels, which, in the winter, is limited to the dog giving chase like a crazed hell hound, but in the summer, takes on a much more dire tone...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Original Sweater for my Niece

I mentioned the sweater that I made which inspired the dog needing his own sweater. It's been at least a year, but here is the original (she was born with my hair, isn't it cute?) It was very fun to make, as I ran out of yarn, I grabbed another skein of cotton and kept going, and the sheep are simple little fuzz balls.

It is from Stitch n' Bitch Superstar Knitting, but I can't tell you what the name of the pattern is because the person to whom I loaned it did not return the book. Not sure who it might be, but if you are reading this and you have a copy of it with no name in it...well, you know where it lives now.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cultural Spring

...sort of...knitting a pink elephant:

Spring Things

Like walks in the woods, picnics, and road clean-ups:

An Emergency Sweater for Dog

My adorable niece, on one of her way-too-rare visits, had a little souci: her beloved dog was stark neked. Auntie had made her a sweater: could she not make one for dog? I told her we could solve that problem lickety-split. Between serving Easter dinner and refilling glasses, I grabbed two leftover sock skeins, in pastel rainbow colors to satisfy the request for "puw-puw, pink and owange,") and holding two strands together, made a teeny-tiny dog sweater:

She wanted buttons; so the opening is on his belly. Don't you just love it when the duty that calls is one that requires knitting?

Monday, April 27, 2015


No tears, they rust a keyboard like nobody's business. Besides, I've been intermittently sniffling since August when I completed her "transcript" or summary of a lifetime of books, play and work. So, here are photos of Cate, my first-born, senior prom, senior portraits, and friend with whom she will share an end-of-homeschool-on-to-college party: (pass the tissues, I will miss you, darling).

Photography credits (and many, many thanks) for the portrait photos go to Joe Maciejko.