09 10

30 August 2016

Almost Sourdough Maple Banana Bread

I had bananas that needed to be bread and sourdough that I wasn't in the mood to make, so it needed to be cycled so it will stay fresh. This is what happened when they got together.

Almost Sourdough Maple Banana Bread
3 over-ripe bananas
1/2c soft butter
2 eggs
1/2c sugar
1/4c maple syrup
1 heaping cup whole wheat sourdough start
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1 2/3c white flour

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, mix ingredients in order given, mixing between each addition. Pour into 2 loaf pans, sprayed with Pam. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

It's pretty yummy - enjoy!

29 August 2016

Frog Study 2016-2017

I want to include some reading about and drawing critters, to help the kids be able to identify more when we are out and about. This will also help them to develop drawing and coloring/painting skills, as well as observation and classification skills, which are key to science work. We keep finding frogs when we are out and about - according to the DNR our State has 12 species of frog - so I think we'll start with some frogs This project will be done irregularly, in "off weeks" opposite Picture Study.

American Toad

Blanchard's Cricket Frog

Boreal Chorus Frog


Cope's Gray Treefrog
Gray Treefrog

Green Frog

Mink Frog

Northern Leopard Frog

Pickerel Frog

Spring Peeper

Wood Frog

28 August 2016

Picture Study 2016-2017

For picture study this year, we're going to just follow the AO schedule, which calls for learning about Mary Cassatt, Giotto di Bondone, and James McNeill Whistler. Their schedule is reproduced here with minimal changes, so that I can find it more easily when it's time to look at these.

Mary Cassatt:
1. In the Loge/Woman in Black at the Opera, 1880 (this link includes a bio)
2. Woman and Child Driving,1881
3. Children on the Shore, 1884
4. The Child's Bath, 1893
5. The Boating Party 1893/1894
6. Young Mother Sewing, 1900
Further Interest: Breakfast in Bed, 1894
Child Drinking Milk, 1868

Giotto di Bondone: 
Works are all portions of larger frescos in Italian chapels. Most date from the early 1300's. View large images of whole frescos to give a sense of the scope, scale and presentation of these works. An overview of the Scrovegni Chapel at Padua, Italy.
 1. Resurrection of Lazarus
 2. Birth of Jesus
 3. Jesus washes the feet of the apostles
 4. The Allegory of Justice
 5. The Nativity and adoration of the shepherds (Lovely close-up detail)
 6. St. Francis feeding the birds
         Further Interest: Francis Gives His Cloak to a Poor Man and Madonna Enthroned (or here)
         Vices and Virtues at Scrovegni Chapel (These personifications offer fodder for observation and discussion. Click on the thumbnail images for a larger view.)
Biographical Informaton: CGFA; Amy Steedman's Knights of Art; ArtArchive; Christus Rex

James McNeill Whistler:
   1. Black Lion Wharf, 1859 (or other etching such as Unsafe Tenement, 1858, The Pool, or St James Street, 1878)
   2. Symphony in White No. 1: The White Girl, 1862, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
   3. The Last of Old Westminster, 1862, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
   4. Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso Bay, 1866 (Wikipedia says Whistler, who was on an American ship, painted the Chilean merchant fleet at their moorings the night before the bombardment. See also The Morning after the Revolution, Valparaiso)
   5. Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 (Whistler's Mother), 1871, Musee d'Orsay, Paris
   6. Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1874, Detroit Institute of Arts

Questions and Discussion Starters drawn from AO Picture Study resources
'What does this picture remind you of?' 'What do you think of this picture?' 'Do you like it?' 'I feel - , when I look at it.' 'Is it daytime? Nightime? Stormy or clear weather?' At the same time - interspersed with her commentary, I would share my own ideas without pushing my viewpoints on my daughter. 'When I look at "The Little Pine", it reminds me of going Christmas tree hunting when I was a kid - and finding that perfect tree! Those streaky lines in the sky make me think of a windy night. Or maybe the nights we have seen the aurora borealis dancing in the sky! And the sweeping green colours make me feel like the tree is growing. It is alive! I like this picture. I like it better than some of Emily Carr's other tree pictures, which seem so dark and brooding. This picture seems brighter and happier to me.'

Create a drawing based on what you have looked at.


Blogs and other Resources:
Picture Talks which draws from a Parents' Review article by the same name.
Artist Study - ideas for what to do after your child made a reproduction of the work.
Picture Study Questions to Ask

27 August 2016

Madam How and Lady Why

One of the science recommendations from Ambleside Online this year is to read Madam How and Lady Why. The ladies of Ambleside have accumulated and created a number of resources for use with this book that appear to expand its usefulness considerably.

Madam How and Lady Why - ebook text, free, .pdf

Teachers' Notes for MHLW by Katie Barr
Study Guide (Year 5) by Annie White

A forum thread with suggestions for tackling the book, and for narration/discussion after each reading. Another thread mentioned that this one does well as a read-aloud, as there is lots to look up and discuss.

Good thoughts from a FB thread about science and AO:

" I just recently listened to John Muir Laws at the CMI conference. He says not to worry if you don't know the name of something. "The name is not the thing." His prompts for observing and asking questions are: 1) I notice... 2) It reminds me of... 3) I wonder..."

 "I am actually part of AO's Living Science team, and we are responsible for writing the high school curriculum. (We are just about to release year 9. Whoot!) If we could have everyone committing to just do nature study and read the few scheduled books in primary school, it would make our job so much easier! Kids need to learn how to observe. They need to learn to see. Then they need to be able to reproduce what they see by painting. They need to learn what make things similar, and what makes them different. This is classification.  
If they can do this, they're set for high school. Honest."

Copywork selections 2016-2017

These are selections for Hero to use in copywork and studied dictation this year. This won't get us through the whole year, but it will get us started. The plan goes like this:

Day 1: copy the passage
Day 2: corrections and spelling
Day 3: grammar check; dictate to Mom - and correct it
Day 4: dictate to Hero

"God has given you eyes; it is your duty to God to use them."
-Madam How and Lady Why

Four ducks on a pond,
A grass bank beyond,
A blue sky of spring,
White clouds on the wing;
-Mother Goose

Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.
-Miguel de Cervantes

"Adam stood there between the wood and the river, shivering in his wet clothes. He could go no farther."
-Adam of the Road

 "We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."
-First Article of Faith

"I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be."
-Emily Dickinson

"God's Book, which is the Universe, and the reading of God's Book, which is Science, can do you nothing but good, and teach you nothing but truth and wisdom."
-Madam How and Lady Why

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
-Matthew 7:7

"The houses and cottages, each in its garden, clustered together along both sides of the road, while the fields and the meadows and the pasture land and woodland spread out all around them as far as the eye could see."
-Adam of the Road

"There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry."
-Emily Dickinson

"Children of our Heavenly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e'er was given."
-Hymns  p299

"He always reads to rest himself from his labors, finding that after work nothing refreshes so much as communion with a book that teaches us the best that others have done, said, and thought."
-Storybook of Science

"Come all ye young fellows that follow the sea,
To my way haye, blow the man down,
And pray pay attention and listen to me,
Give me some time to blow the man down."
-Blow the Man Down

"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith."
-Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

24 August 2016

Scripture Readings

There is a lot of focus on the Book of Mormon in church classes, and that's what we read with the kids for family scriptures. For school, we're starting with the Bible, and will eventually proceed through the standard works chronologically. I love the language of the King James, and I'm excited to be doing it with my kids. With being blessed with so much scripture, it can be hard to cover it all well, and make sure that we know all the stories from all of the Standard Works.

Dragon and Hero both use the same list of narrative passages. I'm deeply indebted to Calvary Curriculum's readings they use in their original children's curriculum that they generously share for free. We do not do their worksheets, but their work at selecting the narrative portions of the Bible's text has been invaluable to me. I debated, then decided to include all of the Psalms, although they are not technically narrative. Not only are they some of my favorites, but the Book of Psalms is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament; both Paul and Christ drew heavily on it. I have also used our chronological Bible to order the Old and New Testament stories, and followed their pattern for where to insert Psalms. Psalms can be challenging; I encourage you to take your time and help your kids to really understand them: they are beautiful, and well worth the effort. (I am sharing my study of the Psalms on my Bible Study index.)

For the very youngest kids, I'll tell the story; as soon as they can handle it, I start reading it for them to narrate back from the actual text. Part of what I want to accomplish is for my children to be comfortable with the actual text of scripture, so we start with that as soon as I think they can narrate from it. When they have narrated, then we choose a phrase to draw into his Bible, along with a scene to illustrate. The next time we read, we usually start by reviewing the last several passages to pick up the thread of the story. Hero simply reads the text himself, and the narrates it to me. Right now, we typically do our Bible work about 2 times in a week.

This is the schedule we use, reading in the King James Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted:

Creation: Genesis 1:1-2:25
Adam and Eve in Garden: Genesis 1:26-2:25
Eating Fruit: Genesis 3
Cain and Abel: Genesis 4:1-17
Enoch: Genesis 5:18-24
Enoch: Moses 6:26-50
Enoch: Moses 6:50-68
Enoch: Moses 7:1-12
Zion Taken: Moses 7:13-23
Ark Building: Genesis 5:28-6:22
Great Flood: Genesis 7:1-8:19
Rainbow: Genesis 8:20-9:17
Babel: Genesis 10:8-10, 11:1-9
Brother of Jared: Ether 1:33-43
Jaredites: Ether 2:1-18
Brother of Jared’s Vision: Ether 2:18-3:18
Invitation: Ether 4:4-15
Abram Called: Genesis 11:26-12:9
Visiting Egypt: Genesis 12:10-13:1
Lot to Sodom: Genesis 13:5-18
Abram Tithes: JST Genesis 14:25-40
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 15:1-18
Hagar and Ishmael Genesis 16
Sarah and Holy Men: Genesis 18:1-15
Bargain for Sodom: Genesis 18:16-33
Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 19:1-29
Isaac: Genesis 21:1-8
Isaac Sacrificed: Genesis 22:1-19
Isaac’s Bride: Genesis 24: 1-28
Isaac’s Bride: Genesis 24: 29-67
Mess of Pottage: Genesis 25:19-34
Birthright: Genesis 27:1-46
Jacob’s Ladder: Genesis 28: 10-22
Rachel and Leah: Genesis 29:1-30
Jacob’s Sons: Genesis 29:31-30:24; Genesis 35:16-20
Israel: Genesis 32:22-32
Joseph Sold: Genesis 37
Joseph and Potiphar: Genesis 39
Pharaoh’s Servants: Genesis 40
Pharaoh’s Dream: Genesis 41
Joseph’s Brothers: Genesis 42
Benjamin in Egypt: Genesis 43
Take Me: Genesis 44
I’m Joseph: Genesis 45:1-15
Jacob to Egypt: Genesis 45:16-28
Slavery of Israel: Exodus 1:1-22; 2:23-25
Moses Born: Exodus 2:1-10
Moses Exiled: Exodus 2:11-22
Burning Bush: Exodus 3:1-4:18
More Burdens: Exodus 5
Plagues Begin: Exodus 7
Frogs, Lice, Flies: Exodus 8
Cattle, Boils, Hail: Exodus 9
Locust, Darkness: Exodus 10
Passover Announced: Exodus 11
First Passover: Exodus 12:1-30
The Exodus: Exodus 12:31-51
Remembrance: Exodus 13
Parting the Sea: Exodus 14
Manna: Exodus 16:4-35

Horeb and Amalek: Exodus 17:1-13
Moses Delegates: Exodus 18
10 Commandments: Exodus 19:1-20:17
Israel Covenants with God: Exodus 24:3-5; 12-18
Golden Calf: Exodus 32
Moses Talks With God: Exodus 33:7-23
New Tables of Stone: JST Exodus 34:1-2, Exodus 34:3-17
The Tabernacle: Exodus 36
Levites Ordained: Numbers 8:13-26
The Tabernacle Dedicated: Exodus 40
The Cloud and the Fire: Numbers 9:15-23
The Lord Sends Quail: Numbers 11:4-14
The Spies' Evil Report: Numbers 13
The Good Report: Numbers 14:1-10
A Prayer of Moses: Psalm 90
Doomed to Wander: Numbers 14:26-39
Israel Tries Anyway: Numbers 14:40-45
Rebels Seek Priestly Offices: Numbers 16:1-12, 23-35
Moses Takes Credit: Numbers 20:1-13
Praise the Lord: Psalm 95
The Brass Serpent: Numbers 21:4-9, Alma 33:19-22
Balaam: Numbers 22:1-21
Balaam's Donkey: Numbers 22:21-38
Joshua Called as Prophet: Numbers 27:15-23
Moses Taken Up: Deuteronomy 34; Alma 45:19; Matthew 17:3-4
Joshua Leads: Joshua 1
Rahab and the Spies: Joshua 2
Give Thanks to the Lord: Psalm 105
Crossing the Jordan: Joshua 3:5-17
Memorial: Joshua 4
Jericho Destroyed: Joshua 6
The Gibeonites Deceive Joshua: Joshua 9
Sun and Moon Stand Still: Joshua 10:1-15
Joshua Dies: Judges 2:7-10
Deborah: Judges 4
Gideon's Fleece: Judges 6:7-40
Army of 300: Judges 7
Samson is Born: Judges 13
Samson and Delilah: Judges 16:4-21
Samson Pulls Down the Temple: Judges 16:22-31
Ruth and Naomi: Ruth 1:1-18
Ruth Gleans: Ruth 2
Boaz and Ruth: Ruth 4:1-17
Hannah: 1 Samuel 1:1-19
Samuel is Born: 1 Samuel 1:20-28
Eli's Wicked Sons: 1 Samuel 2:12-36
The Boy Samuel: 1 Samuel 3:1-21
The Ark is Captured: 1 Samuel 4
Philistines Plagued by the Ark: 1 Samuel 5
Philistines Return the Ark: 1 Samuel 6-7:2
Israel Wants a King: 1 Samuel 8, Mosiah 29:16-24
The Lord Sends Saul to Samuel: 1 Samuel 9
Saul is Made King: 1 Samuel 10
Saul Rejected by God: 1 Samuel 13:1-16, Hebrews 5:1-4
Saul Disobeys God: 1 Samuel 15:10-35
David Anointed King: 1 Samuel 16:1-3
David and Goliath: 1 Samuel 17:1-52
David in Saul's Court: 1 Samuel 18
David Driven Out: 1 Samuel 19:1-20
David and Jonathan: 1 Samuel 20

Deliver Me From My Enemies: Psalm 59
David Saves Keilah: 1 Samuel 23:1-15
David Spares Saul: 1 Samuel 24:1-22
He is My Refuge: Psalm 91
In Thee Do I Put My Trust: Psalm 7
The Lord is My Light: Psalm 27
Thou Art My Rock: Psalm 31
I Will Bless the Lord: Psalm 34
Why Boasteth Thou Thyself: Psalm 52
Be Merciful Unto Me: Psalm 56
I Cried Unto the Lord: Psalm 120
Deliver Me, O Lord: Psalm 140
Lord, I Cry Unto Thee: Psalm 141
I Did Make Supplication: Psalm 142
Nabal, Abigail, and David: 1 Samuel 25

David Spares Saul Again: 1 Samuel 26
Hear the Right, O Lord: Psalm 17
God is Good to Israel: Psalm 73
Plead My Cause, O Lord: Psalm 35
Save Me, O God: Psalm 54
O God, Thou Art My God: Psalm 63
I will love thee, O Lord: Psalm 18
Saul and His Sons Slain: 1 Samuel 31
I will lift up my eyes: Psalm 121, 123
Blessed be the Lord: Psalm 124
They that trust in the Lord: Psalm 125
Blessed is every one that: Psalm 128, 129
Out of the depths: Psalm 130
Rebuke me not in thy anger: Psalm 6
I will praise thee, O Lord: Psalm 9
Why standest thou afar off, O Lord: Psalm 10
The fool hath said: Psalm 14
Preserve me, O God: Psalm 16
Joy in thy strength, O Lord: Psalm 21
Judge me and plead my cause: Psalm 43
Hear this, all ye people: Psalm 49
The sparrow hath found a house: Psalm 84
Thou has forgiven the iniquity: Psalm 85
Glorious things are spoken of thee: Psalm 87
The transgression of the wicked: Psalm 36
I will take heed to my ways: Psalm 39
I cried unto God: Psalm 77
Give ear, o my people: Psalm 78:1-32
They inquired after God: Psalm 78:33-72
Sing aloud unto God: Psalm 81
O Lord God of my salvation: Psalm 88
It is a good thing: Psalm 92
The Lord reigneth: Psalm 93
David Crowned: 2 Samuel 5:1-5
How good and pleasant it is: Psalm 133
The Ark Brought to Jerusalem: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
Who shall abide in thy holy tabernacle: Psalm 15
The Lord is my shepherd: Psalm 23
The earth is the Lord's: Psalm 24
O my God, I trust in thee: Psalm 25
O clap your hands: Psalm 47
I will sing of the mercies of the Lord: Psalm 89
Sing unto the Lord: Psalm 96
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord: Psalm 100
I will sing of mercy and judgement: Psalm 101

O give thanks unto the Lord: Psalm 107
God Covenants With David: 2 Samuel 7:1-17
David Honors Mephibosheth: 2 Samuel 9:1-13

20 August 2016

Psalm 12: The Double Heart

There seems to be a consistent longing among the men of God for a previous, more righteous, age, and this Psalm starts out expressing regret over the decline of civility and righteousness:

Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.
They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
-Psalm 12:1-2

David was hardly the only one to lament and long for a more righteous time. Nephi, just prior to the Lord's visit to the Nephites, talked about how he wished he had lived previously, in a time when the people were "easy to be entreated", and Brigham Young spoke to this same theme where he quoted James's words: 

In speaking of the tongue the Apostle says, “But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” If the tongue cannot be tamed, it can be bridled. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridle not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” If this unruly member is not held in subjection it will work our ruin, for, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, and it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” If the tongue is unbridled and uncontrolled, it sets in motion all the elements of the devilish disposition engendered in man through the fall. The Apostle has represented it well, in comparing its influence to the fire of hell which will eventually consume the whole man.
-Brigham Young, JD 9:268

And it's true: words can cut deep wounds. When I was a kid someone taught me to tell bullies, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me," but in reality that sort of thing is false bravado. Words can deal deep and lasting hurts. I think it's telling that the Psalmist laments over the loss of righteousness among his people, and the very first proof he offers is that people are speaking wrongly, indulging in flattery, prideful speech, and speaking with a "double heart".

I had to spend some time searching out what, exactly, is a double heart. Elder Brough described what it is to have a single heart this way, using David's mighty men  as an example:

These men did not have a “double heart” which compelled them to seek their own personal interest ahead of that of Israel. Because of their single heart, manifest by pure motives, they did not aspire to a different position or rank within the armies of David. -Monte J. Brough, Oct. 1993

This passage was a favorite of Brigham Young's; he referenced it repeatedly, stressing the importance of serving God with an undivided heart.

I have never asked but one thing of the Latter-day Saints, and that is for them to serve the Lord our God with an undivided heart. One says, “I knew brother Joseph, but I do not know much about brother Brigham.” I do not care for this; the question with me is this, do you know Jesus and the Holy Spirit?
-Brigham Young, JD 10:310

I found a collection of verses that I'll be marking as a scripture chain. These verses are mostly ones that I found using the BYU database that had been quoted or referenced in context with Psalm 12:2 as I was looking through the various places where Brother Brigham referenced this idea of serving God with an undivided heart: 

Psalm 12:2 - they speak vanity, pride, and have a double heart
Hosea 10:1-2 - Judgements on Israel's empty vine and divided heart
Zechariah 8:17 - The Lord hates evil in the heart and false oaths
Deuteronomy 5:32 - Keep the commandments without swerving right or left
Moses 7:18 - The Lord's people are of one heart
D&C 104:3-5 - Cursings on those unfaithful to covenants
Psalm 119:16 - Delight in His statutes; do not forget His word

Then I started looking for connections between the heart and the tongue, and I added a couple from that:

Luke 6:45 - men speak from what's in their heart
Mark 7:21-23 - evils arising in the heart defile the man
Matthew 12:35 - evil hearts cannot speak good things
Moroni 7:9 - false prayers are counted for evil and not received by the Lord

At this point, I go back to my Psalm and reread it to recenter and refocus on the chapter I am studying. One thing that stands out, now that I understand the first two verses better and I'm no longer stumbling over the unfamiliar usage of the words, is the way that the Psalmist has contrasted the words of those who turn from righteousness against the Lord's words. The words of the failing faithful are flattering, prideful, and deceitful. In contrast, the Lord's words are pure, tried in a furnace and "purified seven times".

Another thing that strikes me as I study this passage and the related verses is the way that it sheds light on the character of Christ. In order to exercise faith unto life and salvation, we need several things, among them a correct understanding of His character, perfections, and attributes (See Lectures on Faith, Lecture Third). There is a tendency to focus solely on Christ's mercy, and to overlook or play down His justice and judgements. But if we are worshiping a smooth, easy, non-judgmental Being, then we are not worshiping Jesus Christ; He exemplifies both mercy and justice, having both attributes in perfection. Some of these verses really bring that justice into focus, particularly in relation to the dissenting believer that this Psalm is specifically addressing. These verses (and there were many more that could have been included) talk about how the Lord hates -and hate is a strong word- evils in the heart, how those evils defile us, and make our prayers useless. Useless prayers -one could pray regularly, but if the heart's wrong, you might as well leave it undone, the prayer is rejected. That's a sobering reality. And cursings - if we break our covenants He has said that He will not be mocked, and the consequences -the just wrath of an offended God- will follow.

No wonder Brother Brigham repeatedly emphasized the importance of serving Him with an undivided heart!

19 August 2016

Back to Nature

We usually school year round, but this year we took a summer break. It's the first time we've done that, and it's been a good call for us this year. But we're starting the process of easing back into school; the kids hadn't noticed: I checked this morning. But we've got stuff going on more and more of the time. Today, the thing we put back was Nature Study. Between our irregular schedule, and our nature buddies' irregular schedule, it's been hit and miss all summer. I think the park was excited to have us back; it was a really eventful day!

First, we saw these beautiful flowers. I'm still working on identifying them.

Then we found this fuzzy little guy. He was fast, and when we scooped him up on a stick so that he wouldn't be gone before the kids could see him, he curled up into a fuzzy ball. 

One of the boys found this bit of snakeskin. The park has a whole bunch of little snakes, and in winter they all come hybernate in the nature center's walls. So we occasionally see evidence of snakes at the park.

But as exciting as the bit of snake skin was, watching a snake eat a frog was even more exciting. 

I noticed them because the frog, not enjoying the process, was squeaking. The snake wasn't very happy that we were watching, but didn't seem able to leave until he had the frog all the way in his mouth. 

It was pretty hot and muggy outside, so we didn't last super long. We headed to the nature center to spy on the birds, and saw this juvenile Grossbeak, and there was also a juvenile Downey Woodpecker, in addition to the usual assortment of birds at the feeder. Lots of Nuthatches this time. 

Then there was this cute little guy. The nature center is a little bit earth-sheltered, so the windows by the feeders are at ground level, which gave us a great view of the antics of the chipmunk that was digging around in the mulch right at our eye level. He was hilarious. His face was all pouched out, and then he'd stare at us: "You better not be after my seeds." Then he'd dive through the mulch, come back up and stare at us suspiciously again. He was super cute.

Not too shabby for a little under an hour at the park!

18 August 2016

Novice Bakers

Tis the season: we've been given a bunch of zucchini. Which means zucchini bread - the kids want more. So, this time, Hero wanted to do the baking, and he's been doing really well with that. We're at the stage where I need to be available, but I'm not to hover; it's his project. So I set him up with the recipe, and I went and checked on some things, and when I came back things were ... interesting.

There was about an inch of oil in the bowl, along with the eggs and sourdough. When we measured, the eggs and oil combined came to just over 3 cups. I couldn't bring myself to just throw it out and start over -- and it would take several hours to get the sourdough ready. So we quadrupled the recipe. Mostly. I didn't have enough sourdough to actually do it, and the measurements were just a little bit, ah, fuzzy. We put it in the stock pot, because that was the only thing big enough to hold it all.

When all the mixing and measuring was done, we had enough batter to make 8 loaves. But we don't have 8 loaf pans; we have 2. So I started digging around. 

Two loaf pans. Check.

Two mini loaf thingys that I always burn. Check.

This time, they didn't burn. Yay! but the dough is so soft - I think we should have had a little more flour - that when I tried to get it out, the tops came off. Very messy. We ended up eating them with spoons out of the dishes. But we ate them, and they were tasty. Win.

Casserole dish. Check. This is a lot of zucchini bread.

Still going. Let's try the square pan. Check.

Finally. We used up all the batter!

So. Maybe it was because his sister was "helping" which could have been a lot for a new baker to deal with, in addition to managing the recipe on his own. Or maybe it was just one of those things that happens; we think he added the 2/3c oil, then looked at the sugar measurement and added that, in oil, as well. Whatever happened, we now have a ton of bread. And he has experience which he just couldn't have had from things going the way they ought to go.

He shared some with his cub scout den and with our violin teacher, who just had a baby. And we froze some. And we ate a bunch.

And it's all very yummy.

12 August 2016

What Did You Give Up?

I recently read the conversion story of a woman, a liberal university professor living in a lesbian relationship, and a little bit of her journey as she made the dramatic changes to align her life with the Truth she discovered in the Bible. It's a remarkable story, and I find myself wondering if I exemplify Christian love as well as the church she found does. There's a lot of food for thought in the story.

 I had some really burning questions for people. I would go up to my homeschool mom friends, and say “Look, I have to give up the girlfriend: What did you have to give up to be here?” I heard amazing things that made me realize I did not have any more to give up than anyone else. I learned there were other people in my church who struggled with sexual sin, with lust, with faithlessness … and they told me that! They took the risk of no longer looking all cleaned up to me.

What an amazing question. What did you give up? 

My initial reaction was that I haven't given up much. I was born into a family that's been strong in the church for generations. Nobody disowned me when I got baptized; Mom made me a beautiful pink dress (probably the last pink dress I ever owned), floor length, with a sweetheart neckline and this amazing satiny fabric. I was in Little Girl Heaven, and not thinking of sacrifice at all. There were cookies and out of town relatives all smiling proudly.

But later, when the dress and the cookies were done, the work began.

 There was mockery and ostracism at school. 

There was that young man I chose not to date because he did not share my beliefs. 

There was that time when, after I passed the audition, I found that rehearsal was on Sundays and Wednesdays, and conflicted with every church meeting. I can still sing several of the songs, even though I only went twice. 

There was prioritizing marriage over study abroad in Japan in college, and trips to Japan that I skip now because I put my children's needs -my role as a mother- before my martial arts practice and dreams of travel. 

There are homeschool groups I cannot join, opportunities my children are barred from, because we are the "wrong" sort of Christians. 

Job opportunities and other activities our family has walked away from because they demanded Sabbath work. 

There are days and weeks and months and years spent at home, rather than on career, travel, adventure vacations, and so on. 

Once I start thinking about it, there's a fair amount of sacrifice. But it doesn't usually feel that way. Once it did. In junior high school, when I was a pariah, and nobody would talk to me except to mock me, and I wasn't certain of my conversion, when all I saw was stacks and stacks of rules, Thou Shalt Not, but I had not yet discovered why God's plan is called the Plan of Happiness... I'm not so different from the rich young ruler; I was being good, but I couldn't see where it was all headed, either. And we don't know how his story ends; there's no knowing if he came around again later.

Eventually I realized that there are 1001 reasons why we call it the Plan of Happiness; gradually the glimpses of what He is trying to do with my life started to feel real. Things are still hard. They're hard right now, and adherence to the faith is a major factor in what's going on. But there is immense joy in the journey, and satisfaction in the service, too. There is deep satisfaction in knowing that you have done your level best to do God's will - and that He knows it, too. My efforts to give up all I have and come follow Him are still imperfect - but He knows that I am giving it my very best. Effort counts. Intent matters.

When I stack things up and count the blessings and the cost, I find that I have been richly rewarded for the sacrifice. This was the phrase that came to mind:

...it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over...

There's another important thing she says in that paragraph:

I learned there were other people in my church who struggled with sexual sin, with lust, with faithlessness … and they told me that! They took the risk of no longer looking all cleaned up to me.
-Journey of Grace, emphasis added

I think this is important, but it's so, so hard. It's hard to be vulnerable to judgement, to risk revisiting painful episodes, to know how to deal with talking about problems that involve other people without being gossipy, to risk exposing the messy, broken parts of ourselves. We have to be kind and gentle when those around us are not looking "all cleaned up". There's a lot of sensitivity to the Spirit that needs to be had in having this kind of conversation. But look at the fruits that it bore for this church and their new friends, when they had the courage to allow a peek past the cleaned up parts: look at the understanding they were all able to develop, the bridges they became -I love the quote, “You are a bridge, and bridges get walked on.” There's so much truth in that. It's not easy. She talks about how the conversion process creates "comprehensive chaos", and I think she's right. And not just at the outset; conversion is an ongoing thing; we can never stop trying to become better, more Christlike, and the process continues, upending things we thought were solid. Sacrifice is a process of sanctification at any point on the path, not just at the beginning of our journey with Christ.

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things: it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things, that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has, for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice, because he seeks to do his will, he does know most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
-Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:7

So, what did you give up?

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Saga: Part 6

 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

Before I tried again, I checked the with a sourdough bakers group online that I like, to see if I could find some ideas for how to proceed. And I learned some more things:

1. Sourness is adjustable. I'm actually not a huge fan, and so I'll be messing around. Apparently, baking soda can help, since it's alkaline. I'm not sure if I can add it directly to my start, and adjust it right at the outset, or if I'd have to continually adjust the dough. I may make a test batch of start and try it out to see what happens.

2. Another suggestion was to try a springform or other pan with tighter sides nested inside my dutch oven. The dutch oven keeps in the steam - and with a nested pan you can add a couple ice cubes right before you put it in - and the steam helps slow down crust formation. That would help two of my problems with the last loaf.

3. Somebody stopped by the last post and clarified about bakers' percents in the comments, which was very nice of them - it's by weight, not volume. Which is tricky; I don't have a good way to measure weight, and going out to get new equipment is not in the cards right now. But it's good to keep in the back of my head, and they had a suggestion of how they deal with the differences, which should be very helpful. I just have to figure out what this new information is going to mean when I am standing in my kitchen doing stuff.

4. I think the last batch may have been too wet, which lead to it not holding its shape. I need to read some more about hydration. Which will mean diving into more percent stuff.

So I cooked a batch of white bread with a little oats in it because I like it that way. And it turned out lovely.

So back to sourdough. I decided that the last dough was too wet, and that's why it hadn't held its shape well enough to rise up. And I took a suggestion from the sourdough people to try nesting a springform pan inside my dutch oven. That shrinks the space just a little, and gives a bit of support for the sides, and I still get the lid hold in the steam. So I made the dough and set everything all up. 

The dough felt good, and it rose nicely, I shaped it and put it in the pan, and let it rise again. I was making dinner, and looking at it, and it wasn't quite done. So I stared at it. It didn't make it go faster, but I did it anyway. My husband and sister laughed at me a little. But I kept peeking at the bread because it was acting right, and I was getting excited. Turns out there was good reason for that - it turned out great! So here's the final recipe:

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread
1c sourdough start
1c warm water
1T honey
1t salt
2-3T oil
about 4c whole wheat flour

Put start and water in the stand mixer with honey, salt, and oil. Begin mixing and add flour a little bit at a time. Dough should ball up around the dough hook, but still feel spongy and moist when touched (do that with your mixer turned off so you don't break your finger). Let rise 2-3 hours in the bowl, until doubled. Spray a springform pan that fits in your dutch oven with Pam, oil the dough to keep it soft, and set it in a warm place to rise till double, about 1 1/2 hours. Squeeze an ice cube between the springform and the dutch oven to provide steam, and put the lid on the dutch oven to keep it in. This helps the crust stay softer and thinner. Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake 5-10 more. Remove from pans carefully, and let cool 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Isn't that pretty? It's tall enough to use for sandwiches. The crust is soft enough to please even Dragon - he devoured his piece and came back for more.

It was delicious.

Up next: sourdough muffins. 

10 August 2016

Whole Wheat Sourdough Saga: Part 5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

OK. So, you know how I said that I wasn't going to be learning about bakers' percents? I sort of did it by accident. And it might even be useful.

In using baker’s percentage, each ingredient in a recipe is expressed as a percentage of the flour weight, and the flour weight is always expressed as 100%.

So if I have 4 cups of flour (100%) and 1 cup of water, then the water would be 25%. Huh. I learned about it by accident here, when I was reading about the role of oil in bread. They say that, on average, the oil in pizza dough will be between 2% and 5%. So in a 4c of flour recipe, 1/4 cup of oil would be 5%. I am making approximately a 4 cup recipe, but then there's more flour hiding in the start, and I'm not quite sure how to go about determining how much. But it would put the 1/4c oil that I'm thinking about putting in right about in the right range.

So I'm going with 1/4c oil for this variant. Here's today's recipe:

Today's Sourdough Bread
3/4c sourdough start
1c water
~1T honey
1/4c olive oil
3 1/2-4c whole wheat flour

So I baked it, and it turned out the best of any of the loaves so far. Really, the only complaint I have is that it's so flat. It spread out, rather than puffing up, and I'm not sure how to troubleshoot that. I'm thinking I'll have to take my questions to the sourdough group. Once it's cut, it's shaped a lot like biscotti.

The crust is reasonable. It's crunchy, rather than almost not there like the white bread, but it's a pleasant kind of crunch. The texture is nice. The flavor is good. The kids are eating it, and describing it as "awesome, except more hard crust". I think Dragon, my fussy crust guy, would adapt.
I just wish it was a touch taller, so we could make better sandwiches. 

"Mom, can I have another bread with jelly?"
"We can have bread, and jelly! Together!"

And they both at it all up. Yum.

09 August 2016

Whole Wheat Sourdough Saga: Part 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or Part 5.

I usually make at least some of our own pizza when we have a Pizza And Movie night, and since I'm on a roll, it was sourdough today. Actually, The Daddy got almost everything ready while I wasn't paying attention (he's sweet like that), and I quick threw in an extra pizza because the dough needed to be turned into something. So I slapped it into one of my cast iron pans, tossed some stuff on top an BAM! Pizza. I've used the same recipe for loaf bread and pizza bread for a long time with great results; it's all bread.

Shoulda been two pizzas, though; the crust was too thick. And that made the sourdough flavor, which is stronger than white even when the start is being cycled this often, a little too prominent. I'd increased the oil again this time, and it rose a lot more than the last batch - almost as much as my regular yeast bread. But it was still very dense in the crust. I will probably try this one again, and make it into a loaf in my dutch oven, so that I'm able to compare it in a more apples to apples kind of way. Anyway. My kids ate it, so it's a success - but I'm not done playing around to see if I can make it better. This is what I did today:

Sourdough Pizza Crust
3/4c sourdough start
1c water
2T oil
1t salt 
~3 1/2-4c whole wheat flour

Mix start, water, oil and salt in a stand mixer. Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour; dough should be moist enough to be tacky, almost sticky. Roll onto two pizza stones or press into a pair of large cast iron pans. Prick with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes; top with sauce and toppings of your choice. Return to oven for another 10 minutes, until cheese is melty. Let sit 5 minutes; slice. Eat.  

08 August 2016

Photoshop Elements Digital Painting

Digital painting has both The Daddy and I intrigued. So I'm gathering up some tutorials. Here's what I've found today.

First, the basics of using Photoshop Elements:

Tutorials from Adobe
20 Elements Tutorials - basic tools, swapping facial expressions, fixing lighting...

A playlist for getting to know Elements: various tools, layers, layer masks...

Smart Filters video Tutorail

So, you know your tools, then you can start looking at tutorials that are specific to digital painting.

The guy that does that has a pretty extensive YouTube channel, and this particular playlist has over 100 tutorials for a whole bunch of different things you can do in digital art stuff.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Saga: Part 3

I woke my start up making zucchini bread. It was yummy. 

Now for sandwich bread. 

I have a recipe all picked out. I made the dough right before bed, then baked it the following morning. 

The recipe doesn't call for any oil, which I wasn't so sure about, since oil has an important part to play in bread. So I set up a second loaf for the afternoon. 

It's not terrible bread. But it's dense, which my family doesn't prefer, and the crust is really tough. I have to figure out what makes crust that way, so I can quit it. I have no idea at this point what is my problem and what is the recipe.

The second loaf, with oil, was better. But it's still tougher and denser than I like. There will be more experiments. I think the next one will be to use the dutch oven, and see if the heavier, lidded pan does better for me.

07 August 2016

Whole Wheat Sourdough Saga: Part 2

So there's baking going on. Because I want to learn a very specific type of bread:

Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread. 

I can make a lovely white bread loaf, and if I treat it like white bread with regular commercial yeast, I can add sourdough and make it up to half-wheat: transitional bread. But I want to have the option of doing the whole thing in whole wheat. I like whole wheat; I like what it does to my body.

So anyway, Part 1, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

This is Part 2. Where we eat tasty zucchini bread.
Yes, that's relevant.

I haven't done much with my sourdough start lately. It's been in the fridge a couple days now, because if I keep it on the counter when I'm not using it nearly every day, then it gets a bit gross. I think it's the heat. It's been warm, downright hot for the area - got up into the 90s, with something like 83727495% humidity. The start doesn't like that. So I keep it in the fridge. Where it's not gross, but it doesn't do much, either.

So the first thing was to wake up my start and get it happy. You do that by feeding it, and I needed to make room in my jar before I could feed it. So I made zucchini bread. And that part of the starter that the recipes are always saying you should discard, I "discarded" -- right into the bowl for the zucchini bread. Which turned out yummy. I sort of used this recipe, but had to adapt it to cycle my start. Most quick breads are easy to just add start to; a sourdough start that's fed pretty close to a 1:1 ratio of flour and water has about the same consistency as most batters. Or, you can do what I did with this recipe, and try to reduce the liquid, which means that you can count the flour in the start as part of the flour in the recipe. You're supposed to be able to leave out the baking soda and baking powder, and let the sourdough make it rise, but I didn't try that this time. This is what I ended up with:

Sourdough Zucchini Bread
aprox 1c sourdough start (be generous)
2/3 c oil
1 3/4c sugar
2 eggs
2t vanilla
2c shredded zucchini (I eyeballed it)
1c whole wheat flour
1c white flour plus some extra
1t salt
1t baking soda
1t baking powder

Preheat to 325, spray 2 loaf pans with Pam. Mix up the wet ingredients, except the zucchini. Add salt, soda, and powder, mix. Add flours, and adjust to get the right consistency (It should just look like batter. Kind of thick batter. Eyeball it.). Stir in the zucchini just until incorporated. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then remove from the pan.

Snarf. My kids more or less inhaled this. I'm getting complaints because I'm out of zucchini, so there is no more. Pretty sure that I can find another zucchini somewhere; tis the season.

And now my start is ready to make bread!

06 August 2016

Preparing for Studied Dictation

I've been wanting to do more with our copywork and dictation for Hero, but I've been uncertain as to how to go about it. Turns out, there's a lot of tutorials out there on how to use copywork and dictation to teach language arts. Here are some of the resources that I've learned:

DICTATION is a natural way to teach proper spelling to a child. The words are meaningful because they are taken from the child’s schoolbooks. They are also learned in context, rather than list form, which also aids the child in remembering how to spell the word. -Higher Up And Further In

I thought this was especially interesting, because it made me think of how I'm working on learning Japanese -- in many ways, I'm doing a variant of studied dictation, but without a person to read it to me like a mom/teacher would. This is encouraging: I know that what I'm doing with Japanese is effective, and this being so similar, it should work very well, even though it's a huge departure from the usual spelling list method.

After reading the whole article, I still had some questions about what it might look like in practice. When I googled, hoping for more blog posts, I ended up with a bunch of YouTube videos in my results, and those are very helpful.

After our first exercise, I went looking for more suggestions from the lovely ladies on Ambleside Online. And here are a few more things they said could be helpful:

--They've collected Miss Mason's thoughts on the topic.

-- He's used to oral dictations, now his brain needs to be trained to do written dictations; there's going to be a transition period.

-- It's ok if it takes more than a week; don't do the final dictation until he's prepared well enough to be confident that he can do the whole passage perfectly.

--Ask him to look at the words, then close his eyes and picture them before he writes. If there is any part that he's unsure of, then he should do it again until he can see the whole passage in his mind's eye. 

--Copywork examples can be placed progressively further away, or on the reverse side of a folded over notebook, in order to require him to hold a detailed picture of the writing in his head. 

--The Ambleside FAQ has a section on copywork, what is meant to be happening, and how to get there; our copywork can be more effective than it currently is. 

--Put a post-it over errors, then have them write the correction on it, so they only see the correct way of doing it.

--Don't over-correct. If you get a lot of errors (and you should study till that's not a huge issue) then just chose the most important one or two to deal with.

05 August 2016

Fractal Play

We are getting more milage out of the fractals than I ever imagined we might. The pictures in this post actually represent at least 3 days of playing with the patterns. 

We started with reviewing the Sierpinski Triangles. All three of us made at least one because that first day was one of the days Dragon wanted in on school. Hero made several. By the end of the day we had gone to taping them together on the fridge because we outgrew our papers. Later, we moved them to the ceiling in Hero's bedroom because we couldn't find wall space big enough. 

As we got into it, Hero started to branch out. He wanted to experiment with making his own "fractals." I suggested that the Sierpinski Triangles have a rule: leave the center empty. So, if he wanted to try and find another shape, perhaps he should try a slightly different rule. The first time, he drew this. 

Another day, we did these. With this batch he was starting to understand better, I think, what I was trying to suggest with the idea of a "rule." He made the center shape, and wanted me to copy it. 

We ended up with several stacks of the same shape, colored according to different "coloring rules", but drawn with the same "shape rules", and I was very surprised at how different that could make them look.  


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