"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Monday, November 28, 2011


Well, I've enjoyed a completely unplugged week to celebrate the holiday.

We celebrated Thankgiving (multiple times).

We celebreated Isaiah's First Communion.

We ran in a Trail Stomp. What is a Trail Stomp? Weeeeell, it involves lots of mud, biting wind, poorly marked paths, and me- with a 30 pound toddler strapped to my chest, getting lost and ending up on the "Extreme Trail." To top it all off, I lost my camera and couldn't photograph the evidence- several pounds of mud caked on my butt.


And I've gained 2 pounds.

Now I am sitting on my 2nd favorite chair, in our 'old house,' trying to decide exactly how much I miss Kansas. I'm glad the house hasn't sold so I could come back and feel it again.

If I pretend we never left, it feels suffocating. If I pretend we never come back here again, it aches. If I pretend we come back here for good once we're done wandering, it feels just a bit restless.

And I'm reminded of the words of St. Therese in Story of a Soul, 'This life is nothing but endless aching and sorrow; so many chains of bittersweet goodbyes.'

Er, she wrote something like that. My library is a thousand miles away at the moment, so I can't look up the exact quote.

I suppose it's a special privelege for a Christian, to feel oneself as never-quite-at-home. It keeps one hyper-aware of the fact that this world never will be our True Home.

Good for the soul, but kinda hard on the psyche...

"How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you - you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences - like rags and shreds of your very life."
~Katherine Mansfield

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We love Pomegranate Season!

"It is not how much we do in our lives that is important it is how much love we put into what we do."
-Mother Teresa

Monday, November 21, 2011

Trail Mix Bars and PeanutButter-FauxChocolate-Custard Ice Cream

I started a knitting project as an avoidance behavior. “Wow, I really need to pack and make snacks for the trip…. Or maybe I’ll start that baby sweater….”

Well, the sweater is almost finished, and I’m cutting it pretty close on the trip. But we did make some Trail Mix Bars for the road. While we were at it, we attempted some Peanut Butter-Faux Chocolate-Custard Ice Cream. Just because.

I wanted a somewhat-raw bar. I don’t have any dates (the best for raw bars) and I’ve been wanting to hack a health-food-store trail mix bar for a while now. I’m appalled at the ever-growing number of ‘power bar’ varieties at the grocery stores and the health food stores. Most are just overpriced junk food and you might as well eat a Snickers. So I BreadwithHoney’d the ingredients list to produce a much more nutritious, still delicious, trail mix bar.

Peanut Butter Trail Mix Bars

Coarse-grind 3c almonds in your blender/ food processor/ etc.
Add 3c o-type cereal and 3c puffed rice, kamut, etc. (I’m using kamut because you can get a huge bag of organic puffed kamut at our health food store for 2 dollars.)

Melt 1 (16 oz) jar natural peanut butter and 1c brown rice syrup over lowest heat. (Only rice syrup or maybe gradeB maple syrup have the viscosity to hold these bars together- honey and agave nectar won’t work nearly as well.)

Combine in your pan a la rice krispie treats. (Add more warmed rice syrup if your mixture is too crumbly- a little crumbly is ok.) Press into a parchment-lined pan.

Refrigerate for 1 hour or more. Cut into bars and wrap individually in wax paper. Or just keep the pan in the fridge and cut as needed.


With our leftover ground almonds, we decided to make ice cream for our afternoon snack. I wanted something over-the-top rich. Just because.

Peanut Butter-Faux Chocolate-Custard Ice Cream, dairy-free

2 cans coconut milk, full fat (fat is what makes ice cream creamy)
1/2c course chopped almonds (optional)
1/3c carob powder
1/2c peanut butter (peanut butter always makes carob taste more like ‘real’ chocolate)
2 eggs, beaten (optional, but that’s the ‘custard’ element)
Sweetener to taste- ripe bananas, agave nectar, honey, stevia, etc.

Combine all ingredients except eggs in your blender.

Pour out about 1c into a small pan over medium-low heat. Add beaten eggs and whisk until mixture is cooked, about 4 minutes. Add back to blender and blend again.

Pour into ice cream maker. Turn on according to manufacturer’s directions.


And then my favorite part:

"Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment."
~Robert Benchley

Saturday, November 19, 2011

5 Photography Tips for Crappy Cameras

Usually when I get a complement on the photos here, I say something like, "Oh, it's just my camera. It takes good pictures."

Well, that's a lie.

Shame on me!

There are lots of tricks for taking great pictures with a cheap, crappy camera. My camera is a Kodak Easy Share and cost a whopping 70 bucks. I do like the cheap Kodaks better than any of the other cheap cameras out there, though.

Whatever camera you have, take time to fiddle with the settings. Try them out. And always use the highest resolution unless you need a low dpi for a particular website you're uploading to.

Ok, on to the tips:

#1 LIGHTING- Cheap cameras need lots of natural light. Flash pictures are difficult to do well with a cheap camera. Also, clouds are your friend. Your pics will come out better on a cloudy day than a bright day, because the shadows are soft and the light is even.

#2 COMPOSITION- Zero in on your subject. If it's a photo of your kid, no one wants to see your kitchen cabinets- just the kid. If it's a photo of a flower, don't fill half the frame up with grass. Crop in photoshop if you can't get close enough without blurring your subject. Also, stack your subjects if there are more than 1- kids, cups, cars, whatever; i.e, overlap your kids instead of standing them shoulder to shoulder.

#3 DON'T JUST STAND THERE- Lay down, climb up a ladder, squat. Have your kid look over her shoulder, hang upside down, etc. The angle from which you shoot can lend a lot of interest to your photos. Direct, frontal shots are often static and boring, unless you're intending to convey flatness, find an angle to shoot from!

#4 PHOTOSHOP IS YOUR FRIEND- I realize that not everyone is obsessed with tinkering with photographs. (I said I realize, not I understand!) But if you play just a bit, you can really improve your photos' appeal. Contrast is a great place to start. Increase the contrast of boring pictures to see something pop out at you; decrease the contrast of photos with bright highlights and extreme shadows to see
if it makes the image nicer to look at.

#5 WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS- Try black and white. You'll notice more interesting things about pictures when all you see is light and dark.

See? I knew all those years in art school would be worth something some day.
Happy shooting!

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it."
~Salvador Dali

Friday, November 18, 2011

BreadwithHoney is writing at GYH

A dear friend of mine asked me to join a new blog,

www.growingyourhomeschool.blogspot.com (cut and paste, sorry!)

and I'm very excited! I'll be writing there every 2nd and 4th Thursday, and I'll link from here on those days. Every Friday is a round-table discussion on a random topic.

Hope to see you over there!

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."
~Mark Twain

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Whatcha been up to?

We've been busy!

We did this:

Lots of this:

Some of this:

Still doing lots of this:

And we've eaten so much we're about to be sick of:
No, I could never get sick of fresh apples!

Not to mention: books, dance, piano, books, bikes, hikes, books, drawing, BOOKS...

I'm in a super mood because of the Indian summer weather we're having! Less cooking, more playing. Recipes will return with the usual frequency once the weather fouls up- pinky promise!

"The most beautiful make-up of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy."
~Yves Saint Laurent

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Almighty Formula

Once, as a very new homeschooler, I attended a homeschool support group meeting and asked “a question” about math books. O boy, was I in for a shock.

I had about a dozen veteran homeschooling mothers- lovely, kind, generous moms whom I absolutely adore- jump down my throat and give me 12 different answers to my question. And after the meeting, several more gave me their “solutions”. “Do it *this way* and life will be great.”

Now none of those moms meant to overwhelm me. Or tell me what to do. But they were making what I consider to be THE fundamental mistake of homeschooling.

Calling on the Almighty Formula.

Everybody does it. Summer is the worst- your mailbox is flooded with a million (ok, maybe more like a trillion) glossy catalogs claiming to have the Almighty Formula for you. Right here, direct from God, all your answers in this box. Or look! Over here you can pick and choose from a wide selection of components and create your own Almighty Formula!

But let me share with you a little metaphor. Do you know the main difference between formula feeding and breastfeeding? Well, experts get together to create formula. They determine what a general human baby needs to *not die* and they try to cover all unknown factors (impossible), then they pour it in a can, slap a label on it, charge you exorbitant amounts of money for it, and you take it home. You mix it exactly the same every time and give it to your baby. But when you breastfeed your baby, what happens? Your body, and your baby’s body, communicate. Your body reads your baby and adjusts the components of your milk *every day*. And even hour to hour. Someone coughs on you, and your breasts know immediately that germ x is in the air, and automatically begins to manufacture the necessary antibodies. Human milk is alive.

Wow. What a difference. To me, a curriculum is the formula. Someone else made it. Someone else determined what “children”, in general, needed, and now they are trying to sell it to me. Not that curricula are all bad.

After all, there are cases where formula saves the lives of babies whose moms have died, or are physiologically unable to make milk, or choose for personal reasons not to nurse their babies. Thank God for modern technology, and I mean that. Feeding my kids a curriculum won’t kill them. Some children and their parents enjoy curricula, and if it works for that family, great! BUT-

But. But I trade a living relationship for a static one. (And please note I refer here to the actual milk, not the parenting aspect of my previous metaphor!) I trade the thrill of exploration and reciprocation for the (false) security of scope and sequence.

And if I may stretch some more metaphors- what if you read about some wonder food (on my blog probably- LOL) and it sounded awesome, just what your child needed. So you ran out and bought him a 9-month supply. But after a month you notice he has developed a terrible allergic reaction. Do you force-feed him the rest just because you paid for it and you don’t want to be wasteful? Or because you know it’s a good food, full of vitamin C, and your child is definitely vitamin C deficient, and maybe the reaction is a fluke? Or it will go away eventually?

Of course not. Er, I hope not.

When we look around at God’s creation, so much of it is self-regulating. Yet we feel the need to control. We think so much depends on us, when really it all depends on God. I would never tell another homeschooler what to do, how to do it, or how to solve her problems. But I would hope to empower her to find her own solutions. To encourage her that no expert knows her child better than she. That education happens everywhere, not just at the table, not just in books. That her child’s needs might not fit the scope and sequence charts, and that’s ok.

That’s the beauty and freedom you have, as a home educator.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”
-William Butler Yeats

(This was originally written as an article for a homeschooling website. The site decided it was too controversial to publish there. PLEASE NOTE that I do NOT intend this article as a criticism of formula-feeding mothers, or mothers who choose a preset curriculum. It is an opinion and all are free to take it with a grain of salt. Or a dozen. I am always interested in hearing your reactions to what I've written.)

"You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can't please all of the people all of the time."
-Abe Lincoln or Mark Twain- who knows!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Home is where the

mess is.

Sigh. This morning I made a mistake.

My house isn't a pit, but it's not as shiny as usual. My kitchen is littered with breakfast detritus and I'm a bit too tired to deal with it at the moment. I stayed up till 3 am last night snuggling, talking, and watching movies with my husband. I somehow managed to get up at 7 am with my eldest offspring and chat with him over breakfast.

Now I hear an entire box of Legos being upturned in the playroom. I also hear a very bouncy almost-5-year-old thumping around in her closet, which means 18 pieces of clothing, formerly folded into matching, seasonally appropriate outfits, are now scattered over the floor at random.

Anyway, I read a blog. Someone else's blog. A blog where a mom cooks 1-2 meals a day, nurses a toddler, and sends her older children out the door at 7:30 am to climb onto a schoolbus. Then she tidies up her house and preps a gourmet dinner. Then she goes shopping- I guess she doesn't live in a mountain-top village, either!

The blog is called "How to have complete control over your life, home, and kids."

OK, I'm paraphrasing.

And I shouldn't have read it.

We live in our home. And our living gets messy. We do art projects and wood projects and food projects. This house is a laboratory, not a museum.

One of the moms who originally inspired me to homeschool sighed to me, several years ago, "If my kids were out of the house 8 hours a day it sure would be easier to clean. Of course, it wouldn't need so much cleaning

While I happen to be a neat-freak and clutter-hater, and I really enjoy organizing and streamlining anything from pantries to morning routines, I really bristle at the 'how-to-get-it-all-together' genre of modern self-help literature. From blogs to books to systems-in-a-box. Everybody has the answer.

I've got kids and a home. I'm blessed. And no matter how I organize it out, I spend a goodly chunk of my day picking up, washing things, and fixing things. There's just no way around it-

Life as a homemaker and homeschooling mother involves work.

Lots of it.

And I can get resentful about it sometimes. But it's a choice. I'm happier and my family is happier when I just accept the work. And think of it as a gift.

The mess means we're learning; the dishes mean we're eating well; the legos (and crayons and wood scraps and paint stains and rearranged furniture and overturned storage boxes and pattern blocks in the bathtub) mean creativity is flowing through my house.

So, O Boohoo, I've got to pick it all up at the end of the day- poor me! More like: Wow- what a great day! I can't wait for it to all happen again tomorrow!

I've got to do the work anyway, so why not make the mental effort to love it?

(And yes, my kids have chores and help around the house! But there's always the 2-year-old, right?)

Hope you enjoyed the seasonally inappropriate nature photos!

Have a great week!

"Childhood is a short season."
~Helen Hayes

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Blueberry Crumble, optional plus

Mmmmmmmmmmm- looks good, huh?

I love making up recipes that can double as a full meal. This blueberry perfection can be a snack or dessert, but with the optional plusses I can actually serve it as a meal. Quite a fun change for us from the usual.

Blueberry Crumble, optional plus

5c frozen blueberries
1c apple juice
14-1/2c lemon juice
optional: put your juice in the blender with 4 Tablespoons green powder or 2c spinach, add stevia to taste

Combine the above in your casserole.

Make your crumble:

2c whole wheat flour
2c rolled oats
2t cinnamon
2c pecans or walnuts
olive oil or coconut oil to combine, about 1/2c (you want it crumbly, but not overly oil-saturated)
optional: 1/2c ground almonds

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until your topping is nice and crispy.

Then, enjoy!

"It is better to stir up a question without deciding it, than to decide it without stirring it up."
~Joseph Joubert

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Home is where the


Killed a black widow inside last night.

Keep finding dead wolf spider carcasses everywhere.

Are the black widows killing them off?

Is it a conspiracy?

The elk and deer aren't moving through the canyon right now, but the spiders are moving in.... I'm not feeling like doing a unit on spider study.

No, siree, I just want 'em dead.

Apparently, Pope St. Felix is the patron saint of spiders. I can't find a patron saint for protection against spiders, though.

"Some primal termite knocked on wood;
and tasted it, and found it good.
That is why your Cousin May
fell through the parlor floor today."
~Ogden Nash

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sick Kid Shake

I decided to knit a scarf today. Isaiah begged to be taught to knit. So, with great trepidation, I agreed to give him a lesson. We’ve tried many times before with disastrous results, but today he chose some blue yarn to make a scarf as a Christmas gift for his little brother, watched very carefully and then, flawlessly, executed 3 rows of stitches. Phew.

Then we made a big, green shake. It’s a variation I like to call Sick Kid Shake.

Sick Kid Shake
2 very ripe bananas
2c spinach or 2 heaping Tablespoons green powder
1 ounce black cherry concentrate
1 ounce elderberry syrup
3 heaping Tablespoons protein powder
3c frozen fruits
4 droppersful Echinacea tincture
Water enough to thin
Stevia to taste

Everyone drank a nice, big glass. I’ve recently discovered a new protein powder. It’s called “fermented soy powder.” Regular soy is controversial and is definitely a thyroid interruptor, so I try to avoid it. But fermented soy- tempeh, miso, soy yogurt- doesn’t cause the same problems. Of course, most fermented soy isn’t particularly delicious, so I was a little nervous about it. But this NOW Foods Fermented Soy Powder is very mild-tasting. So much so that I can stir it into a bowl of oatmeal and no one minds.

It’s nice to kill 2 birds with one stone in a shake- fruits and veggies plus protein. I haven’t used protein powder since we went dairy-free because most non-dairy protein tastes… well, bad. And most protein powders of any sort are full of junk ingredients and fillers. This NOW powder is very clean, and like I said, very delicious. It will be nice for my next pregnancy to have a ‘legal’ protein powder for my shakes; blood sugar can be very sensitive to such a big sugar rush- even if it is from fruit- during pregnancy, so adding a protein element to a pregnancy shake is helpful for me.

My kids have fevers and I have baby fever….

Hope your weekend is great!

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home."
~Edith Sitwell

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sick kids

Kids are getting a cold.

Had to break into my immature Echinacea Tincture.

Have used up a LOT of that double-strength Elderberry Syrup JP and I made.

Got an order in the mail today of 8 pairs wool socks (made in the USA, even!), 3 hats, and 3 pairs waterproof gloves.

Everything fits- phew.

I took a stroll tonight; it was 30 degrees. I was almost warm after trotting 2 miles.

Shaping up to be a great five months of winter.

"Brew me a cup for a winter's night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I'll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair."
~Minna Thomas Antrim

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Christmas Story

So we're talking about stories that enrich our children's experience of the holidays. When we read one of our books, we're often inspired to do. Not that I plan out a schedule of 'activities to accompany stories read.' Hardly. But I know every year when we read the 'Legend of the Birds' from Hark! A Christmas Sampler, I'd better have peanut butter and millet on hand so we can make bird feeders right then! Nothing spoils a special "let's do it" moment like a trip to the store.

Of course, we might be inspired to do something simple, like trace a favorite picture from a book to make a Christmas card, or 'sweep the house from top to bottom' (mum sure likes that one, Strega Nona !)

Lots of our favorite stories, like Jingle the Christmas Clown inspire cooking! Unfortunately, many- ok maybe ALL- holiday treats are, simply put, bad. for. you.

What's a mum to do in a dairy-free, sugar-free house?

But you know breadwithHoney, and what we do here! Jingle's star cookies? Yup, we've hacked them! Seriously- can you make sugar cookies without... sugar?

Absolutely! And ginger bread cookies, and pumpkin pie, and cinnamon coffee cake. I'll be pulling out the big guns this month, sharing all my sweet secrets....

Food and stories; stories and food. Christmas, and my personal Heaven, in a (raw-honey-saturated) nutshell.

"Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas."
~Pope John XXIII

Monday, November 7, 2011

Christmas is Coming...

The goose is getting fat!
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny
Then a ha'penny will do-
If you haven't got a ha'penny
Then God bless YOU!

In our consumer-driven, sugar-saturated culture, it can be difficult to develop one's own healthy, spiritually meaninglful holiday traditions.

I've been waxing long on nutrition and food- man, that series of 11 posts was a lot! It burned me out a bit. What do you do to celebrate the Holiday of holidays when you choose not to resort to gingerbread houses, a bottomless candy dish, piles of presents, and all the other typical Christmas trappings?

Well, at our house, we don't decorate for Christmas till Christmas Eve.
We mark the passing of December, Advent, with stories. The stories start with a big, red book on the purple-clad buffet in the dining room. (Purple is the traditional color for penance and waiting.) An Advent wreath sits on the dining room table. And on the first night, we begin.

Every night we hear a story from The Jesse Tree and each child makes a tree decoration with a picture of the story. For years I've been working on a fancy-shmancy embroidered set of Jesse Tree decorations, but this year I officially give up. I don't think it would mean as much to take turns hanging up a pretty bauble mommy made- they take so much pride in creating their own tagboard picture, tying on a ribbon, and hanging their story on the tree. And there's no fighting over who's turn it is to hang up the decoration!

In addition to reading through the history of the Poeple of God from Adam and Eve, to Noah, to Abraham, to Jesus, we revisit all our favorite Advent and Christmas stories. For 28 days, we will read and bake; play and plan. We usually start with Merry Christmas, Strega Nona becasue of the emphasis on preparation and waiting. Then come all our favorite St. Francis books- Merry Christmas, Strega Nona being our favorite! We talk about how different Christmas would have been without St. Francis' gift- the nativity scene.

The stories build to Christmas Eve, when, before Mass, we listen to the story of Christmas from the Word Itself (the Bible), and we place our Baby in His waiting manger. (Our nativity is great- Mary can hold the Baby, so He's usually there- "Where He belongs, Mommy!" the children say.)

Can tales and really mean as much to children as Christmas wishlists, 'Toy Boy' (remember him?), and cookies for Santa? I certainly think so! After all, what is Christmas but the beginning of the greatest Tale ever told? And even in a family that celebrates a more mainstream presents- cookies- Santa Christmas, making the telling of stories of the real meaning of Christmas part of your family traditions adds a layer of richness to the experience of the season.

Here are a few more of our must-read, Christmas-wouldn't-be-the-same-without-it story books:

The Real Santa Claus: Legends of Saint Nicholas

Hark! A Christmas Sampler

An Early American Christmas

The Night of Las Posadas
(This year we will actually get to go to the "Posadas" in this book, in Santa Fe, New Mexico- we are very excited!)

Baboushka and the Three Kings

Do you have any special books that mean "Christmas" to your family?

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
~Peg Bracken