As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Touring Italy

In our little homeschool this year, we are studying world geography.  We are making our way through approximately one continent per month, choosing several countries on each continent to study a bit more closely, although there is so much to learn, it feels as if we are barely scratching the surface (we are).



Last week, we had a grand time "touring" Italy!  Here are some of the things that we did:

  • Discovered the many things that had their origins in Italy.  You knew about pizza; did you know that cookies and pretzels came from Italy too?  The piano and musical notation?  Mechanical clocks, the radio, and eyeglasses?  (Look What Came From Italy gave us the scoop.) 
  • Learned a few basic Italian words: grazie, ciao, gelato, signore, signori...amore (thank you, Dean Martin).
  • Read C is For Ciao: An Italy Alphabet.  I love the books in this series.  The short four-line poem per letter will satisfy the younger set.  But there is loads of fabulous information in the sidebars to interest older readers (and their mothers). 
  • Labeled a map of Italy (from Uncle Josh's Book of Outline Maps) with mountain ranges, rivers, major cities, and surrounding bodies of water.
  • Sang "Southern Europe" from Geography Songs by Larry and Kathy Troxel.
  • Made a page of Italy for Bekah's geography notebook.
  • Read The Year I Didn't Go to School, a true story about an American family who toured Italy with their own small theatre company. 
  • Ate Italian foods. (Oh yeah!) We had chicken piccata.  We ate a meal at Olive Garden (Dad's suggestion...I didn't argue).  And on Saturday, Bekah made "Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti" and "Pepperoni and Fresh Mozzarella Paninis" from Emeril Lagasse's cookbook for kids, Emeril's There's a Chef in My World!: Recipes That Take You Places.



This week...on to Czech Republic and more happy travels!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Snapshots: Bookworms

Although I didn't snap many shots today, I am in love with this photo of Aunt Kati and her little nephew and niece.  Ben (3) brought her a book to read to him, and Alaine (1), not wanting to be left out of the fun, clambered up to Aunt Kati's lap too. 

Bookworms all.





Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pinspiration

A few months ago, my daughter Kristin told me about a birthday tradition in their family.  At dinner time on each person's birthday, they go around the table, each sharing some particular thing that they like about the birthday boy or girl.

I loved this idea!  When my dad's birthday rolled around I wanted to do this at our family celebration, but I wondered aloud whether I should "steal" Kristin's idea.  And then Bekah said to me,

"Mom, it is not 'stealing' to be inspired by a great idea."


I had to agree with her, and we did use that great idea at my dad's party. 

Enter "Pinterest." 

Oh my.  Talk about inspiration.  Talk about great ideas. 

My daughter Kati joined Pinterest.  I have heard bloggers raving about Pinterest.  Then I "eavesdropped" on a couple of facebook friends who were pinning.  And yesterday I took the plunge and pinned my first pin on my first board.  After midnight, I closed the laptop and firmly told myself, "No more pinning.  (Today.)"


My first pin: "Cabinet color inspiration" on Kitchens board. 
(...lest you think I've forgotten about painting those kitchen cabinets...)

So let me ask you.  Do you pin? 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Soup On Tuesday: Week 4

Another winter Tuesday, another soup night.  This week, I made a "copy cat" recipe based on the Broccoli Cheddar soup that my husband has enjoyed several times at Panera Bread.    

We all decided that this one is not a repeat.  While it was loaded with vitamins (carrots, onions, and a generous amount of broccoli) and flavor (the broccoli flavor was pronounced), it was also loaded with fat.  I am not typically a low-fat kind of cook.  (I should be, but I am not.)  But this soup was too rich for me.  If I were to make it again, I would probably reduce the amount of cheese by half. 

The real success of the night were the French baguettes that Kati made to accompany the soup!

Remember last week when I hinted to the resident baker that it would be nice to have some homemade bread with our soup?  Well, this morning I reminded her.  And then when I began to cook dinner tonight, I asked her what she had decided, thinking that she must be planning to make muffins or some sort of quick bread since she had not yet begun.  Gasp! (from Kati)...she had forgotten my request.  She did a quick Google search (the word "fast" was one of her search terms) and announced that she was going to make Fast French Baguettes. 

I must confess that I doubted that we would be having hot yeast bread by the time the soup was ready...but she surprised me!  She substituted rapid rising yeast for regular, allowed the dough to rise in a warmed oven, and shortened a bit of the rise time.*  And the bread was ready before the soup!


Tonight's soup...and bread...



Click ~here~ for soup recipe.
 Click ~here~ for bread recipe. 




Have you ever tried a "copy cat" recipe?  Did you think it was as good as the restaurant version?

* Note: Kati also substituted some whole wheat pastry flour for some of the white flour, but, of course, that had no effect on the speed. ~smile~

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunday Snapshots: Bookshelves (And Dessert)

Sunday afternoon was spent at Kristin and Brian's house this week.  Saturday's plans to deliver and install a set of bookshelves for them were waylaid by unsuitable weather, so we went with Plan B (although I think it may have been C or D or even E by the time we got all of the details worked out).

The important thing is that they now have bookshelves!  They have some smaller bookshelves here and there, but no place to store the lion's share of the many, many books collected by this homeschooling, reading, book-loving family.  (Have I told you that Kristin and Brian met at the library?)  I will be very surprised if the painting of these bookshelves does not begin today.  (Have I also told you that Kristin is not a procrastinator like her mom?) 



Of course, we took time out for a delicious lunch, and for dessert of a luscious lemon-filled coconut cake and fudgy brownies.  Wouldn't you?!



Saturday, January 21, 2012

"Burnt Hills" Is On the Wall

It was certainly worth the wait! 

This morning, we finished the frame, inserted the print, and...VOILA...hung the picture in its home in the kitchen!  It is just what was needed to freshen up my surroundings.  (Do you, too, feel the need for freshened up surroundings in January?)  I can't stop looking at that wall.  I love it!




The big picture, so to speak...


...and the close-up.


A happy ending for this story!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Star Struck!

(In Which I Make a Short Story Long)

Do you like to hear the story behind a gift?  We do!  In fact, it can often take us a long time to open gifts because there are stories to tell.  "The reason I chose that one..."  "You'll never guess where I found this..."  "It was the night that Dad and I went to the house tour..."

This year, a gift from Ron had a story that was almost better than the gift!  Well, no...it wasn't really better.  But the story did make the gift even better!

I like to freshen things up in my house from time to time.  (I used to rearrange the furniture when I got in the mood for a change.  There are two reasons why I do not do that anymore.  One, I have too much stuff.  As we have filled the rooms with furniture over a span of thirty-one years, everything has its place and there are just not a lot of ways to move things around.  Two, I am just too old.  In my younger days, it was nothing to, on a whim, shift and drag and slide large pieces of furniture all over the place, trying for a new perspective.  And if I didn't like the result, I'd just shift and drag and slide everything back.  Today?  It is me that I am shifting, dragging, and sliding and that is enough.)

So with a mind to freshen up the house a bit, I looked at the picture that hung over the loveseat in the kitchen, the one that had been hanging in the same place since we remodeled the kitchen in 1995...and I decided that we needed to relocate that picture and hang something else there.  I might have mentioned that a Warren Kimble picture would be perfect in that spot.  ~smile~ 



Now for the story...
In mid-November, Ron secretly ordered a Warren Kimble autographed print as a Christmas gift for me!  He had it shipped to Kristin's house, and he and she waited for it to arrive.  When a few weeks went by with no signs of said print, and then when our bank statement had no record of the transaction, he decided to call the business.  He spoke with Elena and learned that the company who took care of orders had quit, and so Ron's order was lost in the other company's records.  Elena told him to mail them a check for the print, and that it would be mailed out right away. 

More time went by, and Ron called again to make sure that his check had arrived.  He spoke with a gentleman who told him that Elena was not there, and that he wasn't sure whether the check had arrived because they had not checked the mail, but that Elena would return his call. 

Shortly afterward, Elena did call Ron, and she assured him that the print had been mailed.  "Warren, when did you mail 'Burnt Hills'?" she asked someone in the room.

"Warren"?! 

Ron had talked to THE Warren Kimble

So as Ron told me this story on Christmas Eve, I was star struck!

My husband had had a conversation with Warren Kimble. I looked at him with new respect.

The print did not arrive in time for Christmas, but it did not matter to me one bit. I knew that it was on its way, and that it had been mailed personally by Warren Kimble.


It arrived at Kristin's house the week after Christmas, and she brought it when they came for dinner. While everyone else was filling their plates, I sat on the loveseat and carefully opened my print, admiring Warren's very neat handwriting on the address label. Inside was the desired print, with the promised autograph. There was even one of Warren's own business cards, which I have put up on my refrigerator below the family photos.  (I wonder if he minds me calling him by his first name.)

I continue to be star struck. 

"Burnt Hills" has not yet been hung above the loveseat.  Ron made a frame for it on Saturday, and I am painting it this week.  I promise to show it to you when it's up. 


And you can oooh and aaah over the art that was created by the Warren Kimble...who talked with my husband. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Soup On Tuesday: Week 3


Another winter Tuesday, which means it was the night to make soup--this time Pizza Soup!  It was a new one for us, but it was a hit for our pizza-loving family...and quite quick and easy.

Tonight's soup...


Ingredients:
1 cup chopped onion
1 lb. Italian sausage
3 cups water
2 15-oz. jars pizza sauce
1 7-oz. package pepperoni, chopped
1 32-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
shredded mozzarella
Directions:
  1. In a large soup pot, over medium heat, cook Italian sausage and onion. 
  2. Add water, pizza sauce, pepperoni, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Before serving, stir in Parmesan.  Garnish with shredded mozzarella. 

Next week, I'll be experimenting with a "copy cat" recipe from one of my favorite places.  Hmmmm...maybe I can convince our resident baker to make some kind of bread each Tuesday to go with our soup.  A good idea, yes?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Snapshots: A Birthday and More

Brrrrrr...a Sunday afternoon that felt like winter!  The grandkids arrived with layers of sweaters and hats and coats and boots and mittens galore, and I marvel that Kristin and Brian are brave enough to venture out at all during the winter months with all of those extra pieces.  (As our own four children were born over an almost 21 year stretch, I never had more than two little ones at a time who needed help with their outerwear, so I am impressed.)

We spent the afternoon either hovering near the woodstove, or moving away from it to cool off, or cringing as tiny people walked a bit too close for (our) comfort.




We celebrated Brian's birthday (photos 1 and 3) yesterday...with lots of chocolate! Kristin had made a delicious chocolate buttermilk cake. Kati provided brownies with a secret ingredient (I think she plans to blog about it this week). We had cookies-and-cream ice cream. And Brian brought a ginormous box of Russel Stover chocolates that his grandmother had sent him.  (Photo 2: Ben sneaking a peek at that candy!)


(I know...poor us.)


After the party, the children played "jobs."  Bekah printed music.  Maddie was a pet sitter.  Owen had a post office and he and Bekah, Maddie, and Aunt Kati designed oodles of stamps.  Gavin was a banker and made money (5).  Yes, he made money!  

The day ended with another play from the drama team (4).  This one is a serial.  Other acts to come on future Sunday afternoons. 



Friday, January 13, 2012

Confessions Regarding Morning Time

Yesterday I promised to share some of the reality of our Morning Time, and here it is. 

Morning Time is one of  my favorite parts of our homeschool day.  Over time, I have seen encouraging results of our gathering these little grains of sand.  Life is breathed into our souls as we read His Word, sing the words of the hymns of the church, read beautiful poetry, and soak in the works of the masters of music and art. 

But as I have talked about our "Morning Time" so often here at Thinking About Home, I think it is only fair that I also share with you some of the nitty gritty details. 


Morning Time doesn't usually happen five days per week.
Our ideal is to have Morning Time five days per week.  But I am pleased when we accomplish four (or even three) days.  Every little bit feeds our souls.  Remember, "little grains of sand..."


Morning Time is sometimes abbreviated.

On days when our schedule is tight, we will omit elements of our Morning Time plans.  If we have sore throats, we don't sing.  If someone has finished her poetry memorization but hasn't chosen a new poem, then we'll leave out poetry for a few days.  (We always begin Morning Time with Bible reading though, as that is the most important.) 


Morning Time is sometimes in the afternoon.

Yes, it's true. I am not a morning person, so there are days when the girls (well, this year it is just the girl) begin their independent work before I am ready for Morning Time. So we get to it later in the morning, or even in the afternoon. (Morning Time in the afternoon displeases Bekah for whom names matter. "How can it be Morning Time when it is afternoon?, " she complains.)


Morning Time plans have been altered.

Sometimes, one of us will change a poem because the one we've chosen just doesn't click, or (dare I say?) we've become bored with it.  Or maybe we'll all decide that we have learned enough about a particular artist and move on to one who engages us.  Or we'll decide to hang out with a composer or poet beyond the end of our designated term (as we are currently remaining with Bach for another term).



Now you know the true story of our Morning Times. 

But just because we do not achieve perfection does not mean that the time is wasted!  As I have said many times, our lives are richer because we have made time for the good, the noble, the beautiful

Perfect or not, Morning Time is a valuable part of our little homeschool. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Morning Time: Winter 2012

Wintertime is a great time for collecting our little grains of sand. Life slows down just a bit, and so Morning Time can be more consistent.  It continues to be one of the most gratifying parts of our day, a time that enriches us, one that is well worth the minutes that are sown in exchange for the bounty that is reaped.


Morning Time currently looks something like this...


BIBLE READING

We continue to read through the passages listed in the Daily Bible Reading Plan for Children, found ~here~ , which features Bible stories and truths that every child should know.  Bekah is enjoying this walk through the Bible, and sometimes presses me to read a longer passage, or the next passage...which, of course, I usually do.  Why would I say no to more Bible reading?

BIBLE MEMORY
We will learn more verses in Romans 8.  Our goal is to memorize the entire chapter this year.  We have memorized the first six verses, and we memorized the last five verses last year, but there's a quite a chunk in the middle, so I'm not sure that we'll reach our goal (this year). 

SING A HYMN
We are learning “"Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”, by Louisa Stead, a lovely hymn for year's beginning.

POETRY RECITATION
Bekah: “The Country Mouse and the Garden Mouse” by Christina Rosetti 
Mom: “Who Shall Deliver Me?” by Christina Rosetti  (Yes.  Again.  The ~ahem~ older brain has difficulty with memorization, but I love this poem and its message, and so I am determined to keep on with it, in lieu of choosing another poem to partly memorize.)

POETRY EXPOSURE
We're taking a somewhat different tack this term, and instead of concentrating on the works of a single poet, we are reading poems with an animal theme.  We are using the book Poetry For Young People: Animal Poems as a springboard, but may also choose some from Favorite Poems Old and New

LISTEN TO A PIECE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC
We are continuing to listen to the music of Johannes Sebastian Bach.  Although we typically study three composers each year, this year we may only get to two.  The fact that we often missed Morning Time over the holidays, combined with the fact that there is so much music by Bach, and also combined with the fact that Bekah is serious about music, causes me to think that we will benefit by another term with Bach.  

ART APPRECIATION
We are studying the works of the popular American artist/illustrator Norman Rockwell.  Rockwell was not one of the artists I had selected to cover this year. But we began our December with Norman (we had picked up an advent calendar at an after Christmas sale at Barnes and Noble last January), and then I came across some other resources in ~this post~.  Kati brought out of her thimble collection one with Rockwell's painting of Tiny Tim, and we were reading A Christmas Carol as a family read aloud.  So...Norman Rockwell it is!  We are especially enjoying Norman Rockwell: Storyteller With a Brush, a delightful read. 




 Norman Rockwell's Tiny Tim, 1934
(image from allposters.com)


 Would you like to hear about our Morning Time reality?  Join me tomorrow for Confessions Regarding Morning Time. 


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more reading about "Morning Time":

An introduction to our own "Morning Time"
What Is Morning Time? by Cindy Rollins
Cindy's Inspiration for Morning Time
Kathy's "Morning Stack"

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Soup On Tuesday

After my meltdown last Tuesdaythe one that ended so well with a (mostly) orderly house and delicious soup for dinnerI decided to go with a soup theme on Tuesday evenings during the winter months. 

I really like having "theme" nights on the dinner schedule.  During the years that Kati took gymnastics on Monday afternoons, we had some kind of Mexican food every Monday evening.  For several years, we had breakfast-for-dinner on Bible study nights.  And of course, we still do carryout on our Friday family movie night.  (By the way, I was introduced to "theme" nights by my friend Mary, my organizing inspiration!)

"Theme" nights ease up some of the decision making.  There are already parameters in place before I search my entire recipe collection.  I like already having some direction before I plan the week's menu. 

"Theme" nights also encourage me to try new recipes.  I tend to get in a rut and prepare the same meals over and over.  But having a theme causes me to venture out and try some new ideas that fit the theme.  I have already looked in the soup section of my Soup/Bread recipe notebook, and have found quite a few recipes that I have never tried.  I have decided that I will not repeat a soup for at least two months. 

Tonight's soup...




Ingredients:
5 bacon slices, cut into 1/4-inch peices
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/2cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
8 cups milk
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 6.5-oz. cans minced clams, undrained
1 pound small shrimp

Directions:
  1. In a large soup pot, over medium heat, saute bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside.  Drain fat from pot.
  2. Reduce heat to low.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Add onion and saute until soft.  Add flour, salt, and pepper, stirring constantly until well blended.  Add milk, stirring constantly until sauce comes to a boil and thickens.
  3. Add potatoes and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft.  Add clams with their juice, shrimp, and reserved bacon, and simmer until thoroughly heated.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. 
Notes:
I wanted to add Old Bay® seafood seasoning to this soup, but decided to let everyone add it (or not) at the table to accomodate different spice preferences.  I think that it adds the perfect zest to the chowder.  (The photo I included is my own bowl of soup with a generous addition of Old Bay®!)

Do you ever do "theme" nights?


*** Index to all Soup On Tuesday recipes can be found ~HERE~. ***

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday Snapshots: Chicken Butt!

Yep.  That's what I said...Chicken Butt! 

Today, the grandboys brought a book to share with their Papa. 

Kati had stayed overnight with them this week and helped out while their mama had dental surgery, so she happened to be there when Kristin first read the book to Owen (5) and Ben (3).  She reports that Owen laughed uproariously throughout the book--the uncontrollable  kind of laughter, the kind that comes from way down and leaves one barely able to breathe!  As soon as the book was over, he ran to get Gavin and Maddie to tell them to come and listen, and then he laughed almost as much the second time around!  

So today, Owen handed the book to Papa to read, and before the first page was turned, all of the children were gathered around him. 




Some silly jokes, generous use of the word "butt", and a Papa to enjoy it all with you...smiles all around!


~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

And just for good measure, I must show you this little chubby-cheeked sweetie...




Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Difference A Day Makes


Yes, what a difference!



When I posted this crazed rant yesterday, I was in a dither due to post-holiday disorder in my house.  When my house is in a dither, so am I. 

But I did "get back to work"...and amazingly enough, it did not take me 31 days to get it all back together. 

I came up with a stategy. Stop flitting all over the place, from one untidy mess to another, and just tackle one spot at a time. I also enlisted help. (Great idea, Vee!)

First, I planned to eat, because if I didn't do that first, it might be too late to make preparations.     



Sausage Bean Chowder (recipe at the very bottom of ~this post~)
and Sister Schubert's® whole wheat rolls



Then Kati and I tackled Mount Dish-more while Bekah worked on her math.

After the math lesson, we all did a Ten Minute Tidy.  (Remember, that's thirty minutes worth of tidying with three of us working together!)

By this time, I could feel calm returning.  Now that many areas were tamed, I could look around and see what else needed doing.

I did some read alouds with Bekah, and taught her science lesson, and then...guess what!  Another Ten Minute Tidy

Then we set about the pleasant business of decorating...a different runner on the table, some new candles placed, a simple mantle display...




Today, I got out this tray that Ron and I made years ago (he made it; I painted it)


...and stocked it with tea supplies to cozy up our winter.


A beautiful collection of instrumental hymns is playing in the CD player, the scent of a cinnamon roll candle is filling the air, and pork ragu is simmering on the stovetop. 

And it didn't take 31 days!  :-)


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Goals?

I have been pondering goals for the New Year--personal goals, house projects that I'd like to accomplish, goals for our homeschool. 

But today?  I don't even know where to begin.  The house looks like a train wreck, and I can't think straight. 

Ron had the day off yesterday, and we decided to dismantle the holiday decorating and put away all the gifts.  We were going great guns until Ron decided that we should go out for dinner as a last hurrah  before he returned to work and we got back to our homeschool routine.  Well, we couldn't say no to that offer, and so we left for an early dinner and an errand, but by the time we got back home, the momentum (or was it our energy?) was gone.

This morning I have tried to get organized, but I feel like I am spinning my wheels, much like my washing machine is furiously spinning the bed sheets as I type.  I am flitting about from one spot to the next, but I am not making a dent in the work that needs to be done.  And now I sit here blogging as Bekah is practicing the piano.  Hmmm... 

Another mystery.  Why is it that I don't remember what went where when I am putting the house back together after Christmas?  Does that happen to anyone else?  I mean, it was only a month!  There is no logical reason why I cannot remember what was on this table or that cabinet before I decorated for Christmas, but for the life of me, I cannot.  Crazy. 

There are still dishes in the sink (and they're spilling over onto the counter too), three bare beds, lots of blah surfaces, piles of school papers to organize, dinner to plan, laundry to fold. 

You know that blog series I wrote back in October...you know, the one that was titled  "31 Days to Make Your House a Home"?  Well, I am certainly not living up to those ideals today!  There are no candles lit.  The house is not tidy.  There is no beautifully set table.  (You can hardly even see the top of the table.) I have not planned to eat.  And Ugly Stuff is all over the place! 

Hey, wait a minute!  That series was 31 Days to Make Your House a Home! 

That's all I need...31 days. 

Back to work...


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