Monday, December 29, 2008

Gorgeous Yummy Granola

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! We enjoyed Steve's homemade apple pie as usual, complete with a birthday candle and the singing of 'Happy Birthday Jesus', followed by the reading of Luke 2. It is always a very special morning with our immediate family and my dear Mother-in-Law, who sacrifices sweet sleep to drive to our place very early every year. Later on, we all trek over to my parents' home to join my parents, my siblings and their spouses for some extended family time.

On Boxing Day, I made some granola from a recipe that my dear friend, Elisa, made for the craft exchange I participated in in November. We are big granola lovers in our home. Many recipes are very similar, but this one was just different enough that I thought it was worth sharing with you. I only very rarely buy cold cereal, as it is way too processed for my liking, but I love the convenience. Granola that has been made ahead is just as convenient, much tastier and very healthy.

Molasses Maple Nutty Granola
(from If Kallimos had a Chef ~~ Debra Stark)

1 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup canola oil

4 tsp cinnamon
6 cups oats
1 cup walnut halves
2 cups pecan halves
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
(I have also added sesame seeds)

Preheat oven 300 degrees.

Combine wet ingredients. Combine dry ingredients. Pour wet over dry and mix well. Divide granola between shallow baking pans and bake in a 300 degree oven until roasted and dry, about 1 1/2 hrs. Stir every 15-30 mins. (Mine was ready after about 45 mins.)

Let granola cool completely before storing in air tight containers.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. We love granola with farm fresh milk and home canned fruit. The only easier breakfast to make in the morning is 'geturoni', which is another one of my favourites. ;)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Don't Go Surfing...Let the Blogs Come to YOU!

Photo courtesy of e³°°°

Awhile ago, I read an excellent article on 'subscribing' over on the Simple Mom blog. Up until this point, I had my blogs bookmarked individually. It took a fair bit of time to click on each one, only to find that many hadn't been updated. (Not many moms have time to blog every day.) Learning to subscribe to my favourite blogs was a real break-through.

Subscribing means that the blogs come to you whenever they are updated, just like getting a letter from a friend. I was concerned that all the updates would come to my e-mail account, cluttering up my inbox, but this is not the case. Using a free 'reader' page on the internet, you simply click to subscribe to the blogs you read. When they are updated, they will show up on your 'reader' page, all in one organized place. It is a huge time-saver and makes reading blogs much more fun. You can even organize the blogs you have subscribed to by category (ie. inspirational, homeschooling, cooking, crafts), if you like.

Rather than trying to give you all the information on subscribing, I am going to refer you to Simple Mom's fantastic article. Taking a few minutes to understand RSS subscribing will be well worth it, I promise!

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Enough Already

Photo courtesy of *Ann Gordon
(This isn't my kitchen. I was too lazy to take a picture of mine.)

It's time to get your kitchen counters clean. There is no tidy house fairy that will be visiting your home to do it for you. It is up to you. ;)

Now, here is what I want you to do:
  1. Get a nice clean dishcloth, but don't go putting in a load of laundry or run to the store for a new one or anything. Just do your best.
  2. Next, get it wet. You don't need to find Grime-O-Remover or Sudsy-Suds or any product; just some nice hot water will do the trick.
  3. Start at one edge of the kitchen and get wiping. If there is something crusty, I find a green scrubbie pad helps (but for heaven's sake, don't go buying any in the middle of my lesson!). Otherwise, it is just you and the cloth and some hot water. Please move every single thing out of the way temporarily to another part of the counter and wipe the WHOLE thing. You might have sparkly counters, in which case you can ignore me and this entire bossy post, or your counters might be really cluttered. If so, just move the stuff, wipe the surface down and put the stuff back for now. When you are all done...GOOD FOR YOU!! Isn't that nice? No crumbs or sticky stuff anywhere.
What you have done is the easy part. The hard part is training yourself to be in the habit of maintaining. Every time you do anything in the kitchen that makes even the smallest mess, grab that cloth, wet it and wipe it up. Every time. EVERY time. Don't leave the crumbs from toast-making until after breakfast to do a 'mass clean-up'. Clean people don't do mass clean-ups. They clean as they work. I know from watching my super-clean friend, Leslie. Wipe it up right away because knowing that your kitchen is tidy will make your breakfast better. :)

You can do this. I promise. I used to have a sticky, crumby kitchen counter. It would drive my husband nuts that when I cooked, I made a huge mess in the kitchen. Now, I am so used to cleaning as I go that when it is time to serve dinner, most of the time the kitchen looks very nice. I had prayed that God would give me a vision for homemaking and He helped me to see that doing little things right away makes my job a million times easier. If you have an icky counter, please just try for the Christmas holidays to wipe your counter constantly. You will love it and by the end of the holidays, you should have a well-established habit.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can you take more sock knitting pictures?

Because I have to have someone to share them with!

Here are some socks I did for my five-year-old. I did them with Cascade Fixation, which for those of you who don't know, is a cotton yarn with some elastic in it. I thought I was a wool-only girl, but I just loved this yarn for kids socks. They are probably the best-fitting socks I've ever made. I did them toe-up in a basic 2 x 2 rib with a picot bind off.

Here are Steve's boring work socks all finished. They turned out well - fit great, feel nice and look good. These were a 3 x 1 rib (finished in 1 x 1 rib for 1 1/2 inches or so). I used this pattern, which is my new go-to sock pattern. Sigh. Why don't guys like lace? I am the model in this pic, so the socks don't fit as snugly as they do on Steve.

And, some Basic Dude Socks I made for my dad for Christmas. I don't think he reads my blog. I'll have to warn my mom not to read this when my dad is in the room! These socks are made with worsted weight yarn (actually, three strands of sock yarn twisted together). They knit up VERY fast. I could get used to this! Again, I'm the sock model here, so they look baggier than they will be on my Dad.

And, that's it for finished objects. I've cast on some little socks for my baby for Christmas, which I think will also work up quickly, seeing as his little feet aren't very big.

Well, I'm off to knit!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"I don't know how you do it."

Probably if you are reading this blog, you have heard this before. I hear this very frequently and it always makes me feel a little sad. I feel especially sad when I hear it from other homeschooling moms or other moms with lots of children. It is my heart's desire to minister to other moms by being a real person. I'm not going to unload all my baggage or to say anything that might hurt anyone in my life, but I am far from perfect and I do try hard to let that show. We all have struggles. We all have past hurts. We all have hang-ups. AND...we all have dirt in our homes (well, except for my friend Karen B. LOL!!)

You know, this being true, I think people must mean something different when they tell me they don't know how I do it. I think the real meaning behind this statement is the real reason so many people don't have more children today. I think what they mean is...

...they don't know how I can possibly handle all the adorableness that 6 children (that's SIX BABIES) brings!!! Frankly, I don't know how I do it, either! I know the Lord says He will only give us what we can handle, but sometimes I think he pushes me right to my limit of daily cuteness. Do you know how adorable is the sound of a crawling baby's hands slapping on the ceramic tile floor as he comes to find me? It is almost too much for one person to take. I think that is why the Lord has given me 5 other children and a husband - to spread the cuteness around, just so we will all be able to cope.

Next time, someone tells me they don't know how I do it, I will continue to answer honestly that it is only by the Grace of God. And, I will mean it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Good Moms Make Waffles

Photo Courtesy of groovehouse

Hey, I didn't say how often they make waffles!

Yesterday was one of those days where it was dreadfully snowy outside, several children slept in, and I started knitting and sewing before breakfast, which always leads to my being distracted and no one eating for awhile. Soon enough, it was 11am and everyone was complaining about being hungry. (Kids are so demanding, aren't they?!)

I decided to pull out the 'let's have a special brunch' card. This works very well for turning the work of two meals into one. And, better yet, the kids think you are great! The only stipulations are: it has to be something out-of-the-ordinary and relatively substantial and you have to offer some kind of half-decent snack in the mid-afternoon.

What could be more special than waffles?

I normally avoid making waffles, save once or twice a year, because I am too lazy to do all the work of beating egg whites and 'folding' them in. However, I found the ultimate lazy-mom's waffle method yesterday. Everyone LOVED them. They were completely whole-grain and extremely easy, but they didn't taste grainy at all. The recipe is from my MOMYS cookbook. We found this was enough for us with 4 1/2 waffles leftover. So, if Steve had been home and our baby was eating more, I think it would be about right for eight people. I love leftover waffles because they can go in the freezer and then I can knit instead of get the kids something to eat!

Blender Batter Pancakes or Waffles
(submitted to the cookbook by AnnMarie in Florida)
4 c. Buttermilk or Milk with 1T. yogurt (I used lemon juice)
1 c. Whole Millet
1 c. Whole Brown Rice
1 c. Oats (I used steel cut)
1 c. Soft Wheat Berries or other grain
1/3 c. Oil (I used unmelted butter -- I'm not a huge fan of seed/vegetable oil)
2 Eggs (I used three)
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Salt
1/2 t. Baking Soda

Place milk, oil/butter and grains in blender. Blend at highest speed for 4 minutes. If this is too much for your blender (ours is a Vita-Mix with a 2 litre capacity), reduce recipe. If the mixture does not hold a vortex, add a bit more milk. Cover this and let soak overnight or proceed to next step (I didn't soak the grains overnight). Add eggs and blend 1 minute. Add baking powder, salt and baking soda and blend briefly to mix in leavenings. Prepare pancakes or waffles from batter.

I used about 3/4 c. batter per waffle in our Belgian waffle maker. I let it cook 3 mins and they turned out perfectly. I served them with home-canned peaches and maple syrup.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Charlotte Mason Basics: Self Education

In Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series, she asserts, "There is no education but self-education and only as the young student works with his own mind is anything effected." (emphasis mine). Over the years, I have mulled this over many times. I'm all for self-education, but to say that there is nothing else? Do I really believe this? What does this look like? As a person raised in a traditional school system, when I hear self-education, it drums up images of struggling through a dreadfully boring correspondence course. This is not what is meant by self-education.

Let's start with something near and dear to my heart - a baby just learning to walk. To my heartbreak, my sweet little baby boy has decided to try walking at 9 months. He isn't walking yet, but I've caught him taking a step and he stands alone. None of my other children walked this early, but let's say I had wanted them to. Here's what I would not have done:
  1. Research walking on the internet and at the library. Find out the most important parts about the history and physiology.
  2. Create a walking textbook (with a dvd, of course!) of just the most important points I discovered above.
  3. Schedule in a structured time for baby's walking lessons. (Consistency is key!) I want him to be advanced so I will start at 7 months.
  4. Sit baby down and read from textbook. Give baby a quiz afterwards to see what he has remembered. Hubby will do remedial help in the evenings for anything baby was struggling with.
  5. Get baby to memorize 'steps to walking' so that he will be fully ready when we start the practice sessions. (See step 6)
  6. Once baby has the steps memorized, schedule in practice times. Again, consistency is key, here. We find that if parents are very diligent about following the steps exactly as outlined, starting at 7 or 8 months, virtually all babies should begin walking anywhere from 9-15 months of age.

HUH?! Ridiculous, when I put it that way, isn't it? Why? Because the above points do not take into consideration:
  • how a baby learns
  • the baby's readiness
  • the baby's motivation
The above method only takes into consideration that which is measurable and practical for the teacher. It also takes all the fun out of it. And, it complicates things way more than necessary. :)

When Charlotte said that the only education was self-education, she did not mean that the student did not need a teacher anymore than a baby learning to walk could do without parents. As parents of a learning-to-walk baby, we are there to model walking, to offer little helps and guidance, to provide a safe place for baby to walk, to encourage with our words and facial expressions and to offer guidance and support when baby falls. We cannot, however, walk for the baby.

In Charlotte Mason education, a student learns by experiencing for himself, which is truly the only way we ever learn anything. Without experiencing something for myself, I have nowhere to put the information I hear or read. It just floats around, not hooking onto anything and will soon float right out of my head.

The great thing about a Charlotte Mason education is that a child can experience something for himself by using the wonderful tool of imagination. Our children don't have to have survived the American Revolution to be able to 'remember' vividly what happened. They can experience it by reading the stories of those who did. It is only when they read what happened in story format that they will really remember because it is the story format that allows the child to enter into the place or the event and 'experience' it for himself. Once a child enters in, imagining himself a part of the story, he has made it his own and he will remember because he has lived it.

My darling little baby boy will soon be a toddler. He will never forget how to walk because he will have struggled for each step on his own. I can't do it for him, nor do I want to. Besides, it is so much more fun this way.

Charlotte Mason Basics will be on Christmas Vacation for a few weeks, but I will continue blogging now and then. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season to Use Whole Nutmeg

Photo courtesy of annosvixit

I know this is kind of insane, but I actually avoided using whole nutmeg because I thought you had to have a little, teeny grater to use it. I guess I knew you didn't have to have one, but I didn't bother to look for any alternatives that already existed in our home and kept using pre-ground nutmeg.

One day, I was making eggnog. I like to make eggnog to round out a lunch that I haven't made enough of an effort on. It is quick, healthy, a kid-favourite and guilt-banishing. Anyway, we were out of nutmeg. I remembered that my Mother-in-law had given me a couple of whole nutmegs (nutmeg cloves? nutmeg seeds? nutmeg pods?) several years ago. I hauled them out and thought about how I could grate them. Well...the grater, of course! I have one of those four sided cheese graters and I really only use one side. The side with the small bumps worked very nicely and the nutmeg was delicious in our eggnog. I knew I would never be buying ground nutmeg again!

The next time I made eggnog, I realized that my stainless steel rasp (which I use to grate lemon zest and other things) would probably do a great job on the nutmeg. I gave it a try and it was even better than the cheese grater!

If you aren't using whole nutmeg, I really encourage you to try using it. It made a huge difference in the flavour of our food and really wasn't very expensive at all (seeing as nutmeg does not take up much of our food budget)!

Oh, here is our eggnog recipe, in case you spend too much time reading blogs today and need to add something to your lunch of cheese, crackers and cucumber slices:

(We have a Vita-Mix, which holds 8 cups and this recipe fills it pretty well after 'fluffing'. Adjust quantities if your blender is smaller.)

Place in a large blender:
- 3 farm-fresh eggs
- 1/3 c. sucanat or unrefined sugar (okay...or just regular sugar!)
- a splash of vanilla extract
- some freshly grated nutmeg

Then, add milk to about the 5 1/2 c. level and blend slowly until well-combined. If you zing it around on high, you will regret it as it will make a lot of foam which will fall out of the top when you open the lid. You can grate a little extra nutmeg on the top of each glass if you like. Mmmmm! I almost want to go make some right now!

Monday, December 15, 2008

One-Step Menu Planning

Menu Planning in One Easy Step:
1. Ask your five-year-old what she thinks you should have for dinner tonight.
"I think we should have chocolate chips for dinner...or, we could have soup."
Soup it is! (Wasn't that easy?!?!!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Charlotte Mason Basics: Short Lessons

Photo courtesy of apdk

As we have discussed, narration is invaluable for building a host of skills, one of which is the habit of attention. This habit is one which will serve our children well for their entire lives. It will allow them to gain all kinds of knowledge from the things they read without having to tediously review and quiz themselves.

The habit of excellence is another wonderful servant. When we keep our children's lessons short, we help them cultivate this important habit. We do this when we end a 'lesson' before our child becomes 'dull', as Charlotte would say. In Charlotte's schools, lessons were very short for young children (15 mins, for example) and lengthened as the children got older. It is tempting for me to give you a list of appropriate ages and their corresponding lengths of time, but this misses the spirit of the idea. Charlotte's schools had to be timed for practical reasons. There were many students in a classroom that needed kept moving along, aiming to serve the majority of students. In our homeschools, however, we are free to move at the pace we deem appropriate for each individual child.

How do you determine what the appropriate pace is? Like so much of parenting and homeschooling, you watch your child. The concept of short lessons is very simple. We are aiming to end the lesson while the child is still fresh and before the work starts to become tedious or sloppy. We do this regardless of whether an entire math page has been completed or a whole copywork selection copied. Let's look at the example of handwriting for now.

Let's say our young child is practicing her 'C's. If she copies 5 lovely 'C's and we notice she is starting to become fidgety and the next couple of 'C's aren't quite as nice as the previous ones, it is time to end the lesson (and to aim to end it a little earlier next time). I know it is difficult when the page is not finished, but this concept makes sense. If we allow her to continue past the point where she had enjoyed printing and has done beautiful work, we teach her two things. First of all, we teach her to produce poor-quality work without a good effort. She learns that working for the sake of working is more important to us than her taking pride in her work and doing her best. When she is no longer able to give her lesson her full attention, we have effectively handicapped her from being able to do excellent work. Secondly, we leave her with a bitter taste in her mouth for the task at hand since it has gone on for longer than she has the ability to concentrate. We leave her wanting less of the work and not more.

Charlotte believed that it was better to write a few letters beautifully than a page full of sloppy ones.
I agree wholeheartedly. In this way, our child learns that she can produce beautiful work and this becomes the standard, as opposed to the work produced from a half-hearted effort. She enjoys her work because it has been interesting and she knows she has done something worthwhile and beautiful.

This is another one of Charlotte's concepts that I find very freeing. It allows me to be free from the prescribed length of a handwriting page or a math page. It allows me to encourage a child to take a break from a very challenging read to do something else for awhile, regardless of whether or not the chapter is finished. A big task is always better completed when we take regular breaks, divide the work into manageable chunks and arrive back with fresh perspective. I think this is an excellent life-lesson.

Does this mean our children are never encouraged to persevere when something is difficult? Not at all. Finding something difficult is different from finding something boring. However, when something is very challenging, it is can quickly become boring or frustrating if we don't refresh ourselves regularly by taking a break. I believe that keeping our lessons short will actually help, not hinder, our children to develop the ability to persevere because they will learn the skills they need to get through difficult tasks.

Another question I am often asked about short lessons is what to do when a child is fully immersed in something they love, wanting to keep working on a particular task. The concept of short lessons is a servant, not a master. If a child is truly fresh and enthusiastic, they can certainly work longer. However, we don't want to allow the work to continue until we are starting to see boredom set in. If so, the lesson has already gone on too long. You are a student of your child. Learn when he needs to switch gears and help him do so while he is still fresh and attentive, not when his attention is beginning to wane. It makes homeschooling so much more pleasant, and efficient I might add, when our children enjoy their work.

God bless and enjoy your weekend! I have a busy weekend ahead of me with two of our girls in a Christmas Highland Dance recital. They are just adorable in their full Scottish outfits! We are also celebrating several family birthdays on Saturday. I am so grateful that I have such a wonderful extended family on both sides.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Book Organization

For a long time, I wanted to make our Christmas books 'special' by taking them out in December and giving them a dedicated place for everyone to enjoy. It would always be a pain in the neck to go around to our various bookshelves and try to collect them. Inevitably, some would be missed, or of course, misplaced! A number of years ago, I solved the problem by creating a special box they could be kept in.

I took a sturdy, cardboard box, tucked in the flaps on one end and wrapped it in Christmas giftwrap. I actually added some nice ribbon and a pretty matching bow, but this has since been ripped off. You can imagine that part. It was really quite lovely. However, this is 'The Real Life Home', not the 'Faked for Photos' home, so I decided to leave it as it was instead of fancying it up for you. (I also photographed the box in front of a real life wall in our real life home, complete with real life gouges in our baseboard!!)

I keep the books in this box during the year on a shelf in our basement and when December 1st comes along, everyone is excited to take out the box. I like the idea of the box looking like a gift because I think books are a wonderful gift from God to His children.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Why I Haven't Been Blogging too Much Lately

I am hopelessly enjoying sock knitting!

I finished a pair of socks for my 5yo daughter. I'll post a picture another of the socks is in the wash!

I finished a gorgeous pair of Baudelaire socks for me. True Love.

I am busy working on a pair of boring work socks for Steve. Fortunately, they are made with a lovely wool/silk blend. Unfortunately, the most exciting thing that happens is that I purl every 4th stitch.

Well, I'd better run. Baby is under the weather and there is the matter of the socks needing knitting. ;)

A Great Read for Homeschooling Moms

Have you had a picture-perfect homeschooling day today? Did your children finish off a big list of different subjects this morning? Did you get up a half hour before the children to have quiet time? Did you plan 3 nutritious, homemade meals and 2 healthy snacks? Do you look put together? Are you together?

No? You may want to read this article.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Charlotte Mason Basics: Living Books

Have you ever had a time where, in reaching the end of a chapter of a read-aloud, your children begged you to read 'just one more chapter'? Were you encouraged to continue because you loved it just as much as they did? I'd be willing to bet that the book you were reading was not a textbook! What you experienced was the power of a living book.

What is a living book?
Charlotte Mason talks about the mind being an living entity that needs to be fed, not a container to be filled. This important distinction sets the stage for understanding the concept of living books. If the mind were a container, we could simply give children a list of all the 'facts' or information they needed for life, get them to spend their days memorizing it and they'd be educated! However, this is not the way the mind works. The mind, being a living thing, needs the food of ideas, not information. Ideas feed the mind because they stick and they take on a life of their own. They originate in the child's mind. They are not put there by someone else. A worthy idea is like a room in a beautiful home. It becomes a place all our own where we can store the treasures we want to keep. Information is just stuff. Without a place to put it, it gets lost, it is not useful and it is a burden to try to drag it all around since there is nowhere it belongs, nowhere we can put it down.

This is where living books come in.

Living books are those books that inspire ideas - the unique thoughts originating from the thinker - not information which originates elsewhere. They inspire because they are written in a story format by an author who is passionate about the subject, making his interest contagious to the reader and sparking an emotional response. These books leave the reader wanting more of the subject, not less. They contain literary language, intended to help the reader's mind form a vivid mental picture. If there are illustrations, they are accurate and inspiring.

How do you know whether or not something is a living book?
Of course, you could read the entire thing, but in the middle of a giant used book sale, this is not practical. ;) Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion, suggests doing a 'one page test'. After judging the book for general suitability, she recommends reading one page aloud to your children, while you watch for signs that their minds are opening up. She says that a living book can be identified by the children begging for more! I would suggest that you can do the very same thing, without your children, if you are on your own. Pick up the book, decide whether it promotes ideas that are true, noble and beautiful. Choose a page and read it to yourself. You should be able to tell soon enough if you have found a keeper. You will want to continue reading.

It is also a great benefit for a mother to learn who may be trusted to recommend true living books. There are a number of great lists available in print form or online which are helpful in choosing books. Sometimes, you will find librarians who really understand the concept of living books, as well as homeschooling companies who promote the same kind of education you are seeking for your children. (I know I can trust anything recommended in the Ambleside Online curriculum, for example.) These are all terrific sources, since it is impossible to preview all the books your children will want to read. My children have far more time to read than I do!

One caution I would add is not to buy into the idea that a book has to be old to be worthwhile. Or, that all old books are living books. Or, that all Christian books are worthy of our time. Charlotte Mason was always on the lookout for newly written books for her students. There are books being written all the time that are true, noble and beautiful and fit the criteria of living books. You will also find there is a ton of old twaddle (and plenty of Christian twaddle, too).

What is twaddle?
I find the word almost self-defining. Twaddle refers to books that are 'dumbed-down' to a level beneath the child. They are books that lower, not raise the bar. A red-flag for me is when I see a shelf full of nearly-identical looking series books. The books may appear to have one author, but often the name is really a pen-name for a team of authors all cranking out book after book in a single year. Often, the books are connected with television in some way.

I have heard it said many times that it doesn't matter what a child is reading, as long as he is reading. My friend Sandy responds that this is like saying, "It doesn't matter what they are eating, as long as they are eating!" Of course it matters. The act of reading by itself does not encourage a healthy mind anymore than the act of eating alone encourages a healthy body. In fact, if we are not careful about what is going in, it will actually do the opposite.

In our family, I do allow a little bit of twaddle, which we call junk-food books, as long as the content is not objectionable. However, I severely limit the quantity. The children are allowed to choose only one 'junk-food' book when we go to the library.

On the subject of living books, we have a favourite Christmas tradition I would like to share with you. Each year, in December, we read the book, Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkein. We read one letter each night. They are absolutely hilarious and each one is accompanied by a lively illustration. Our entire family loves this tradition and we never tire of hearing the letters again and again. I can highly recommend this book.

Do you have a particular favourite living book your family or your children are currently reading?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

This is the life.

The older children are playing outside in the snow, my three year old is snuggled with me under a quilt, napping. My sweet, chubby baby is at large - as always - exploring and already no longer needing me as much as he did only weeks ago. The 'official' homeschooling is done for the day and I can sit for a few moments of quiet, focusing on my knitting and the blessings of this beautiful life that God has created for me.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

See you tomorrow as we take a look at Living Books, the next topic in the Charlotte Mason Basics series. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Need me to bake you anything in LARGE quantities?

This summer, we were on vacation in Northern Ontario on a small island which used to be an old Anglican Church Camp. No longer in use as a camp, the island is leased out to cottagers, but the old kitchen with all the big equipment still remains. My brother-in-law's father and uncle joined us, too, for about a week to do some fishing. While they were there, I was coveting the beautiful, large and unused 20qt. mixer in the backroom of the kitchen and wondering if there was any way Steve and I could purchase it and haul it home. Ian's uncle piped up, "How big a mixer do you want?" I said the one in the backroom was perfect. His response? "Well, I have a Hobart mixer about that size in my garage. If you want it, it's yours." WooHoo!!!

Jim's dad used to be a baker and Jim kept this antique, but well-working mixer in his garage. His wife, Wanda, was very happy to see it out of her garage and into a new home which would use it . :) Jim was kind enough to put on a new switch, power cord and do some greasing to get it running very smoothly. It needed some aesthetic help, which we finally ended up having done by a wonderful, local man who sandblasted the whole thing and painted it a fire-engine red! The other challenge was to find a dough hook. It wasn't easy, since no one could seem to identify the model. My dad and I were finally able to locate one at a restaurant supply place about 1 1/2 hours away. They were extremely helpful. We finally brought our new mixer home on Friday night and I was able to start using it on Saturday! So, without further adieu, I new mixer:

I know the bowl isn't perfect and shiny like the rest of the mixer, but it is very functional. On Saturday, I made 9 loaves of bread at ONE TIME!! I actually had to do two baking sessions since my oven can only hold 6 loaves. Yesterday, I made a huge batch of cookies, which I normally have to mix by hand in an extra large bowl because the recipe is too much for my Kitchen Aid.

My three year old thinks the paddle is great for licking, since it is many times bigger than the normal paddle she gets to lick!

Just for interest's sake, here is my mixer before we had it painted:

Pretty amazing, hey?

And, here is the Hobart's dough hook beside the Kitchen Aid's dough hook:

Funny, before we had six kids, I thought the Kitchen Aid was really big. ;)

I know we are going to get lots of use out of our new mixer. It had become a hassle to make a batch of bread (I could do three loaves at a time in my Kitchen Aid) knowing it would all be gone before the end of the day.

Jim and Wanda...God bless you! We are just loving our new Hobart!