Wednesday, November 29, 2006


It is impossible to make a quick stop at a craft or hobby store the week after Thanksgiving. What was I thinking? Yesterday was ballet day so we do our errands in the city. One of the errands was to pick up some raffia and plaster of paris for an Egypt project. We were trapped in Hobby Lobby for an hour!!! Check out lines were completely swamped. Every aisle was crowded and every item I touched had someone waiting if I didn't choose it. Did I mention that I hate crowds? And feeling that tension of a buying frenzy? I thought about walking out and leaving our items in the store, but imagined the children would think I was weird. I persevered. I made the purchase.

As soon as I left the store, and I do mean immediately, I remembered that we needed some balsa wood. I didn't go back even though I was only a few yards from the front door.

I will have to go next week, but will have a whole week to bolster my resolve. Or, maybe all the Christmas decoration stuff will be gone and the crowds will be gone.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tab Can Angels

Here they are!! Can Angels were the brain child of my nephew's nameless teacher a few years ago. I saw one on my sister's tree and thought - recycling of Tab cans, art project, yearly ornament. They are cute and if you drink enough Tab you will look like this angel. AGGHHHH!

To make them, you need:
  • cans
  • silver paint
  • wobble eyes
  • feathers
  • peach or other skin tone paint
  • pink paint
  • silver pipe cleaners
  • glue gun
First, drink the contents of the can. Rinse, then carefully squoosh one side. Spray paint can silver. When dry, paint end with opening peach or other natural skin tone. When dry, paint two pink dots for rosy cheeks. Next form the pipe cleaner into a halo leaving an attachment with a hump (to attach the ornament hanger). Attach with a glue gun. Don't try regular glue unless you have an enormous amount of time for drying. Once secure, attach feathers to create the wings. We used white feathers along with one or two other colors.

Have fun!!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Search for the Perfect Christmas Tree

Even though I would have preferred to wait a week or so before Christmas tree shopping, schedules and the short supply required that we make a mad dash to the local (10 miles away) Christmas tree farm. Those searching for a tall tree know to arrive at the Rosebud Farm Thanksgiving day. We waited a couple of days, so there were only 20 large trees remaining. We chose a 9' Leland Cypress that was somewhat narrow at the bottom. Our tree is not as natural looking as we would like because the drought caused the trimmed branches not to regrow as quickly, but we like supporting the local farm.

In previous years I have been jealous of my older sister's Christmas tree. In fact, just yesterday my younger sister and I were trying to decide what it was that made the other sister's tree so beautiful. We talked about ornament type and placement, type of tree, and other somewhat intangible elements. We also talked about our jealousy. My older sister does not even have a tree, yet I know I will ultimately have tree envy.

Yesterday, I was excited to see and place some of the children's handmade ornaments. We have made something for the tree almost every year - bell wreaths, Tab can angels, construction paper Rudolphs, and glitter stars. They were also excited to see their special purchased ornaments my mother gives each grandchild. Then we unpacked older ornaments - an apple given to me by a student along time ago, a cat my sister sent when she lived in NYC, snowflakes and an egg my aunt made, silver balls from my first married Christmas, and a few ornaments from my childhood and my husband's Santa ball ornament made with one of those nylon thread covered balls. Once we finished decorating, the children and I sat down and looked. Of course, I was judging. We need bigger lights, more lights, and larger ornaments. I need to rearrange the ornaments. The tree is a little crooked. I can't help myself. Then, the children started oohing and ahing and pointing out their ornaments and their joy was contagious.

Our tree is beautiful, I just wasn't seeing it properly!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Giving is Receiving

Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I made a point to visit an older friend of mine. Life had slipped by and I realized that though I used to see her everyday, it had been months since I had visited. Then, she got sick and I felt terrible. I knew she had come home from the hospital and I was determined to make things right before any more time elapsed.

I took her a small jar of my honey. After she admired the jar and the honey, she went for her pantry and brought out a jar of muscadine jelly. We visited for a while, talking about my garden and chickens. I realized I should have brought her some eggs. The older people in the community really like yard bird eggs, especially Dominecker eggs. I told her I would bring her a dozen after I finished my chores.

When I got home our older neighbor was in the driveway. He said there was a calf in his yard. He thought it might be ours (Thankfully it wasn't). We talked about the holidays and what his wife was cooking. He said she was getting ready to make the cakes. I asked if he wanted some good eggs to make the cakes more yellow. He wanted to pay for them, but with neighbors it is best to give. Next time the calf might be mine and I never know when the yellow dog will create mischief in someone's yard.

Anyway I gave him a dozen eggs and then took my friend her eggs. When I got to her house she had egg cartons, homemade candy for the children, and some seeds from her garden that she saved especially for me. When I got home my neighbor was back with a full sack of turnip greens. He invited my husband over to harvest collard greens this weekend.

I have decided that with these older people in town, it is impossible to give anything without receiving more than you gave. I have laughed about this often. I like to bring a small something, jar of jelly or honey, cookies, or a mess of vegetables. Yet, I never feel as if I have given anything. I don't understand all the old ways. I'm not sure if they don't want to be indebted to someone or whether it is traditional to trade so that everyone has a diverse larder. Whatever is happening, I like being a part of it - a part of a community.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Sometimes you can't fully appreciate Thanksgiving until the leftovers are served. Our images of the Thanksgiving table creaking under bowls heaped with the bountiful harvest and the "Hallmark inspired" loving interaction between family drive the expectations for this holiday to an almost unattainable level. We make too much food and we try to force family interaction. Unfortunately, the large gathering and the full table make it difficult to fully enjoy the individual.

We started Wednesday night with chili and Scrabble at my house. The Scrabble game was one of the more amusing I have played. My brother and nephew came after most people ate and after the Scrabble game began. My nephew acted as roving helper. Coining words and selling them is his forte. Unfortunately for him, I am a hard sell. My sister and I know too many words, but we laughed until tears were dripping. Next, we drove to Mother's house and had birthday cake for my niece. My sister's son came home with us. I was scared that he and Pink Panther would stay up all night, but I checked on them at 11:30 and they were sound asleep.

The actual Thanksgiving Day festivities seemed quiet because my brother was at his in-laws, but the house was still full. Counting my little sister's new baby, there were fifteen (of 20) of us. There was an enormous quantity of food: a green salad with pears, walnuts and blue cheese, turkey, cornbread dressing, green beans, spinach, homemade rolls, sweet potatoes, pound cake, fruit cake, pecan pie, brandied fruit, and cranberry sauce. I may have forgotten something. Most ate more than needed, but there were still leftovers.

I love Thanksgiving leftovers more than the real meal. True, the ambiance is not of the Thanksgiving quality, but at the big meals there is simply too much food to enjoy anything. Today, for lunch I had Southern Cornbread Dressing with Cranberry Sauce. For supper, I had a piece of Pecan Pie. By the way, the pie was better with honey. Everyone, including my dad, thought it was the best. Eaten individually I could savor the flavors. I could taste the honey in the pie and the onion in the dressing. Yesterday, everything blended.

I think family gatherings are the same. I love the big festivities when everyone is together and other obligations (like work, school, and activities) are not distracting or limiting, but I can't fully enjoy the individuals in my family when we are sharing such a limited time and space. I've noticed that when our whole family is together, the individuals gravitate toward their childhood roles in an adult way. I, too, find myself easing into my traditional place of comfort, even though I am aware I am doing it. Amusing on the surface, not allowing for growth and change can prove offensive. As far as I know we didn't have any seriously hurt feelings or explosions, but I don't feel that I connected anyone. I wish there were leftover days for brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, and parents.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Let the Thanksgiving Games Begin!

I'm so excited! My sisters will be coming into town today to begin the Thanksgiving festivities. I love the action, food, and general good feeling. I will have chili at my house tonight to give mother room in her kitchen for the main food. Maybe there will be an opportunity for Scrabble!!

My to do list is enormous today:
  1. Repair a few chairs for mother
  2. Finish two work projects
  3. Make cranberry sauce
  4. Make the crusts for the pecan pies
  5. Bake the sweet potatoes for the puree
  6. Make chili
  7. Straighten and shine my house
  8. Wash clothes
I love the energy and expectation before holidays. True, they don't always live up to the sky-high Norman Rockwell inspired expectations, but on the day before there is always possibility.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I have a new curtain for my office

But it is driving me crazy, already. The curtain was put in place because I was adamant about keeping all the old windows that were usable. The usable windows are not particularly airtight so last winter I experienced a bit of a draft while working. I thought I would solve that problem before it got too cold. I made the lined shade this weekend. The shade does eliminate heat loss, but it will probably have a short life.

First of all, I cannot see outside. Admittedly, I frequently get distracted by what is happening out there so having a curtain should make me more productive, but not seeing anything could be considered torture. Secondly, I didn't consider the negative impact of eliminating the sunlight in this small room with dark natural wood walls. I will have to purchase better lighting if I keep the curtain. I work a lot at night and the lack of light has never bothered me, but to need extra light during the day seems silly. Lastly, the fabric I chose is so bright I can barely focus on the computer and my projects. It is happy and matches my bright orange, blue, and green chairs but goodness gracious it is loud!!!!

What do you think?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do you realize how difficult it is

To find a payphone these days. Friday, I had to make an extra trip into the city. Bad enough in itself, but once I got almost half way there I realized I didn't have my cell phone. I didn't let anyone know where I was going, either. I am not a cell phone person. In fact, I probably didn't have my cell phone because of a subconscious desire to disconnect permanently. If I have my phone or if I am home people call me almost non-stop to ask stupid computer questions. Yes, for the most part it is my job, but there are those who are too needy. Anything for which the answer is check the power, reboot, or is the peripheral attached to the computer does not need a computer consult.

Anyway, things took longer than planned. I, also, neglected to let my husband know I was leaving. When I thought my husband had gotten home from work, I started looking for a pay phone. There were none. Alright, I eventually found one but I was only 16 minutes from home when I did, which was two hours after I had started looking. I suppose everyone has a cell phone now. Or maybe payphones began to attract an unseemly crowd. Or maybe they are no longer profitable. We have two in our tiny town and I suppose I didn't realize pay phones had disappeared.

When did this happen?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This always amazes me!

Rye grass mixed with clover that I planted a month or so ago has sprung like it is Spring. Other than the tan frost burned bermuda grass and that one golden tree in the background you would never know it was mid-November.

Most people around here plant some winter forage grass for cattle, so our pastures are not unusual. But, I am still amazed when I see the bright lime green when you expect to see winter. We only planted two whole pastures and part of another so I can compare.

If I thought all the chiggers were frozen, I would go wallow in the grass and pretend it is Spring.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bucking Tradition

I am not hosting Thanksgiving this year. I must say, I am completely disappointed. I love Thanksgiving. I love planning the food. I love cooking. I love having a house full of family. But, our house is not exactly Thanksgiving worthy if the weather turns cold, if it rains, or if it gets hot. Houses like this take time. We don't have a dining room, yet.

Last year we took a risk. We invited the entire family for Thanksgiving and placed tables down the center of the dog trot. We had about 20 people and served buffet style from the kitchen. The day was a perfect 70 F. I thought everything worked well, but didn't want to risk it again.

So, this year we are having Thanksgiving at mother's house. I will still make a few dishes - the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes, and a couple of desserts. We have pecan trees with pecans, so I mentioned that I would probably bring a pecan pie made with ingredients from our farm - pecans, eggs, and honey. I told mother that I would use our honey, instead of corn syrup since Karo Corn Syrup, which is the staple of most Southern pecan pies, has succumbed to the high fructose corn syrup craze. Last year as I was getting ready for Thanksgiving, I happened to notice the ingredient list on the bottle clearly labeled corn syrup and there it was - another "pure" product adulterated with high fructose corn syrup.

Mother said that Thanksgiving is not the time to experiment with traditional recipes. I agree (sort of). I know that many foods are only served on Thanksgiving (pecan pie is not one of them here) and people salivate thinking of that meal and those dishes. I, also, know that I don't want to serve chemicals to my family. I would guess that the original pecan pie in this area was made with honey or cane syrup since corn syrup is a relatively modern sweetener (1902). Because so few people keep bees and grow cane here, Karo has become the mainstay of Southern pecan baking. So, even though I am bucking tradition with a non Karo pecan pie, I feel as if I am returning to the original rather than abandoning it. True, I may offend the guests by serving something other than what they are expecting, but I think most of my family will appreciate that they can eat something almost entirely produced on my farm.

BTW little sister, I am not changing the cranberries and I promise to make enough for you to have extra.


We had a noticeable hard frost last night. When I went to feed the cats and open the chicken coop, I got to see the glistening white of the ice tipped pastures as the sun was easing over the hill. I got to feel the crunch of icy grass beneath my rubber boot shoes. I had to hop to safety when my foot slipped on the frosty cattle gap. I breathed the crisp air and felt invigorated.

Already, the frost is gone and the ice is melted. Shortly, we will reach our forecast 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

You have to get up early to find Fall in Mississippi.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Changing Perceptions

A few weeks back, I divulged that we had just finished reading Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary. Even though this was Pink Panther's book, I couldn't resist. While perusing his book, I saw a name I remembered, a favorite name from my childhood reading - Ellen Tebbits. I remembered choosing this book from one of those Scholastic Book Order Forms when I was in school. I was lured by her secret. I, too, wanted to be privy to that information.

I loved Ellen Tebbits then and thought Princess would like it, too. I had a difficult time finding the book locally. In fact, I had to order it so when I ordered I got the "companion" book Otis Spofford for Pink Panther, even though he needs no encouragement for latent mischievousness. As soon as we picked up the books, I started reading Ellen Tebbits to Princess (and Panther, because, even though he said it looked like a girl book he kept appearing during the reading). She loved it so much that she is now reading it to me, which is huge. Meanwhile, we decided to have Otis Spofford as a read aloud since everyone wanted to hear. Pink Pan and I are taking turns.

WELL, while reading both these books, I realized how much our perceptions of healthy weight have changed. Ellen thought she was too thin and her mother had her take special precautions because of it. The rat chapter in Otis Spofford illustrates it perfectly. The class was doing a science experiment in which one rat was fed white bread and soda pop and the other fed the nutritional meal from the cafeteria (I suspect you would be hard pressed to find a nutritional meal in a cafeteria now). The teacher wanted to illustrate that white bread and cola was not nutritionally substantive and that the rat that ate such rubble would be too thin and unhealthy. The lunchroom fed rat was plump and healthy. Wow!

Ellen and Otis were written in the early 1950's when food was cooked at home, commercial food processing had not taken over America or the school cafeteria, and people weren't scared of food (see Zilla's orthorexia entry). If we go by the perceptions shown in the books, being too thin was a negative. The ideal was a fleshed out body with a healthy glow. Today, our society is incredibly weight conscious with anorexic models causing stirs during fashion week in Milan, girls as young as six or seven obsessing about body image, and television and movie personalities getting thinner and thinner to make up for the camera weight. Yet, an astounding percentage of Americans are morbidly overweight.

I don't know where I am going with this and I suppose I should have figured that out before I started writing, but I do believe perceptions, self image, and eating are related. Without the influence of a medical problem, people who are happy and have a positive self image eat less and do more. They also have a healthy glow. I also believe that Mrs. Gitler's hypothesis (from Otis Spofford) was flawed. True, white bread and cola have no nutritional value, but by training ourselves to fill up on food with no substance, we eat more and more while trying to satiate our bodies' cravings for nutrition.

Meanwhile, we are bombarded by television, movie, and magazine images of super thin models that have been digitally enhanced to heighten youthful appearance and sharp angles. We don't have a chance to feel good about ourselves unless we are naturally willowy, with perfect skin. Added to that marketing disaster is the frenzied pace of life that requires eating in the car, or at the desk, or at least grabbing a bunch of processed foods to sling on the table when you get home late. Pile on the marketing ploys of the food industry that confuse us with the misuse of terms like "healthy," "natural, "wholesome," and "pure," and the blatant misleading with phrases on packaged chicken that tout, "no added hormones or antibodies." I'm sure the only reason the processors can stamp that on the plastic covering is that they didn't inject that chicken at the processing plant.

What we have in the end is a super thin model who swanks around in clothes that will only look good on a model creating the standard for women. We have an untrustworthy food industry that has hyped us with artificially sweetened, artificially flavored, and chemically made food that will make us thin and beautiful without breaking a sweat in the kitchen or the gym. And we have the reality of low self esteem in young girls, young adults, older women, and even men. We have the reality of high fat, high salt fast foods and prepackaged meals that are eaten so we can work more hours, have our children participate in more activities. We have the reality of chemicals in food our bodies don't know how to process. We have the reality of our bodies craving real nutrition and real food.

We have a mess with no easy answers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Could you resist this face?

Mississippi got cooler, again. We may have even gotten to 32 degrees last night. I know you Northern readers aren't sympathetic. I know you have been shivering for a while. As it was getting cooler, The Yellow Dog came to the screen door. He whined a bit. Wagged that tail and tried to look cute. He is a disaster in the house - chewing things he shouldn't chew and banging that tail into everything. But how can you resist such a cute face and pleasing manner?

I let him in the dog trot which is no warmer than outside, in fact, it may be cooler because of the wind and lack of sun. He seemed happy, then Princess brought him some warm water and a blanket. He loved the attention. An hour or so later we went into the kitchen and left Yellow Dog in the hall.

He was satisfied no longer. He put his big paws on the kitchen door and looked in the window. I don't have a picture of that one because the children immediately said, "Look at him. He is so cute and he is cold." They opened the door. I laid down the law. "He does not leave this room and you will watch him constantly. If you leave the kitchen, he goes outside." My children don't stay inside long so the dog stayed in all of twenty minutes, but I wondered what would happen when it gets really cold and wet. The dog has a labradorish thick coat and it was only 45 degrees. He is supposed to be an outside dog. Why can't he just stay outside?

He has that cute face and those pleasing mannerisms when he asks. Pleasing manners win every time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veterans Day

I know Veterans' Day was yesterday, but today there was a short, informal Veterans' Day service. Veterans of all wars were called forward by war. Pictures of the men in uniform in their younger days had been gathered. After the little talk, the audience was invited forward to say individual thank yous and look at the pictures. My husband said he felt a little emotional so he didn't want to stay. Pink Panther really wanted to meet the mostly older men (World War II and Korea) and find out where they fought and what they did in the war. So, we went back inside and shook each and everyone of the teary eyed men's hands. Pink Panther found Navy men who fought in the South Pacific, a pilot who was based in England, a Marine who never left the safety of the USA, a foot soldier who fought in Germany, and a soldier who fought in Italy. There were also soldiers from the more recent Desert Storm and a soldier who had just returned from the conflict a couple of months ago.

Many of the men seemed so flattered that someone so young was so interested in them and their stories. Many wanted to tell their whole story, but there was not time - the line kept pressing us forward and away from the stories.

I wonder how many times I have walked away from something important, just because I felt a little uncomfortable.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Nighttime Pacing

Last night Pink Panther went on a Boy Scout bowling outing. They left at 6 p.m. The bowling alley is about an hour away so add in a couple of hours travel. They went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant before bowling so add in another hour or two. Bowling should take a couple of hours.

At 1 a.m. I started pacing the floor. At 2 a.m. I gave up any attempt at being a cool mother (I didn't care whether Pink Panther was embarrassed) and had my husband call the Scout leader to ask him what was going on. At 3 a.m. my 10 year old son came slouching home. Obviously, there was a miscommunication about the outing or things just took longer than expected. I don't know.

What I do know is that I need a non-thinking hobby for time spent waiting, worrying, and trying not to embarrass my son. I tried to read, but I read the same page three times and still hadn't a clue what was said. I piddled on the computer, but news feeds are not calming. I need something productive and quite (so I don't keep everyone else awake). My mother suggested sewing. Perhaps she is right. I could have sewn the curtains for my bedroom and office that have been on the back burner for the two years we have lived in this house. Of course, I would have to plan so I would have fabric, thread, and other necessities on hand.

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Yesterday afternoon was a wonderful high blue sky day with temperatures in the lower 80s. I was tied to my computer, but the children decided to go fishing in the neighbor's pond. I wasn't monitoring them closely because they wouldn't have to leave our property until they crossed the fence to get to the pond. I'm not great estimating distances, but I suppose they were only 1/2 a mile away.

After they had been gone a couple of hours Princess comes huffing into the office telling me to get the car. She says that she is "stressed out" and that Pink Panther is too and I need to go get him in the van. When I walked outside I saw that she had been pulling the wagon loaded with every imaginable fishing tool, including a hammer (what was that for). I made some comment about how children should be able to walk a couple of miles even if it is up and down hills and then asked what had stressed Pink Panther so badly that I had to retrieve him.

I got into the van as I was directed and when I got over the hill, I understood fully. The wagon load of stuff Princess brought home was only a fraction of the fishing stuff they carried with them. There were two folding chairs (not the kind in the neat little satchels), another tackle box (huge), three rods, one super long brim master pole, a container of bait, and some other stuff. Pink Panther opened the door of the van and said the obvious, "I think we carried too much stuff. I'm sorry you had to interupt work."

I asked the not so obvious, "How did you get all this stuff here?"
"We had it lashed to the wagon," he said.
"Why didn't you lash it back to the wagon?"
"It wouldn't fit. Princess was too tired. She rode down the hills in the wagon so she could make it home."
"Oh! Make sure you put your daddy's fishing stuff away before he comes home."

Lest you think I was planning to keep the use of his fishing stuff secret, I told my hubby the story when he got home. He said to Pink Panther, "You probably didn't need the hammer." Then he looked at me, smiled, and said, "I guess he takes after me." Hubby and I are complete opposites in packing. I am a minimalist while he wants to be prepared. We have been playing a packing tug of war for twenty years. He has now recruited someone to his end of the rope.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You know you are procrastinating when . . .

1. You decide it is mandatory to have all the clothes washed . . . and folded and it is not laundry day and you've never had all your clothes washed and folded - ever.
2. You start cleaning the children's rooms.
3. You start experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.
4. You keep flipping through your blog feeds hoping someone will post something new to distract you for a few minutes.
5. You start reading blog archives.

Should I go on? I have a deadline tomorrow for a bull sale catalog and I can not get excited about finishing all the meticulous genetic information even though some of the bull names are amusing in a perverted cattle humor sort of way. Should I sully my blog by sharing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Three Junes

Two weeks ago I finished reading Three Junes by Julia Glass and I still have not been able to extract the kernel of epiphany. The book is so rich with relationships, personal journey, and life to mill the book into one of my one to two sentence commentaries.

Three Junes, starts slowly. In fact, I first picked up this book six or seven months ago. I put it down after having read only the first part of the first chapter. Big mistake. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked. The book is divided into three sections. The first is a June trip to Greece where Paul is struggling with his wife's life and death seeking to find meaning and happiness for his remaining life. The second June is spent with the children of Paul and Maureen dealing with the life and death of their father and their roles in the family as grown-ups. I especially liked this section. The third June pulls in the characters who appear in other sections of the book - a girl Paul met on his trip to Greece and a lover of Fenno's. In this section, Fenno continues his journey of self study and possibly learns to live.

So, Three Junes is a book that brings people together in death, so they may learn to live. Obviously, the nuances of the book make it much more complex than that.

Monday, November 06, 2006


This is one group of my chickens that rummage through the paddock seeking tasty morsels every day. When Mr. Wisteria was on his sales trip I fed a big round bale of hay here to lure the mama cow that had a piece of stick in her eye. We haven't fed here again, and the cows have been moved across the road, but chickens are still working that bale making sure that there is not one piece of hay left on top of another and that there is not one seed remaining.

Chickens are great that way unless they are doing it in my garden or flower beds!

Time line

I worked on my timeline solution this weekend. Of course, it did not turn out exactly as I imagined, but I did get to use the Timeliner software and I have timeline pages for the children to use for narrations, illustration, self-expression. I divided the ancient timeline into really ancient (5,500,000 BCE to 4,500 BCE) and ancient. I entered all the timeline dates from The World in Ancient Times Series, color coded by area (Mesopotamia, South Asia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, America, Chinese) . There are some pages that have almost too much information on them and then there are pages with no documented history. The children will have fun finding something to go there. I, like Jove, prefer to let the children explore and bring information to table. They are old enough to start seeking within the structure of the base timeline. What is another word for timeline? I know I have used it 20 times already.

I have printed the timeline pages on card stock and will trim (because I am obsessive compulsive) and tape the edges so the pages can be spread and studied. I am so excited!!!!

Take a look at the Ancient and the Really Ancient and Earliest Clues. I have repaired the links (I really did this time), but dial-ups should still be warned. The first file is over over 1 MB, but the others are relatively small.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Cure . . . and the Preventive

Mississippi has had its second taste of cool. We will fluctuate warm, cool, cold until most everyone is sick. I don't get sick often, nor do my children or husband. I have a theory about keeping a stable core temperature that has little to do with basal body temperature. The core temperature is much more wishy-washy than science. It has to do with naturally adjusting to the temperature changes and finding ways to warm the inside - either physically or emotionally. You caught me, I am truly weird. Sometimes, it is simply finding a warm sunspot and lounging with a book and a blanket. Other times it is a hot bath in the completely full deep claw foot tub. All else failing, turn to the medicinal properties of food. My mother makes a wonderful chicken-vegetable soup that the children affectionately call "Birthday Soup." This soup heals. But, I have an even better cure-all. My grandfather made potato onion soup, served it in a huge bowl, then completely covered the surface of the soup with pepper. My younger self stood in amazement of the spectacle of the pepper, now I stand in awe of the wisdom. A version of that soup is my ultimate warmer-upper/ core renewal/ heal-all.

We are having it for supper tonight with grilled cheese sandwiches. Here is the recipe I use which is Julia Child's recipe. A version of this recipe appears in almost every one of her cookbooks - a true miracle food and French basic. Since I want to give proper credit, I will source The Way To Cook.
Basic Leek and Potato Soup
2 TBLS butter
3 cups sliced leeks, white and pale green
1 1/2 cups sliced onions (about 2 medium)
2 TBLS flour
6 cups water
4 cups peeled, diced potatoes
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

Melt butter in the saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the leek and onion pieces to coat with butter, cover the pan, and reduce the heat. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft, but not colored. Uncover, sprinkle on the flour, stir to distribute and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Stirring continually, gradually pour in 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to simmer. When the liquid is smooth and starts to thicken, stir in the rest of the water. Add the potatoes and season. Quickly heat the soup to a gentle boil, cover, and lower the heat. Simmer about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Correct seasoning. To serve, mash, blend, or puree the soup to the desired consistency and adjust the seasoning. Garnish.

Don't panic! If you don't grow leeks or you can't buy them, just use onions. If you don't eat wheat flour, just use some other thickener. If you don't have white pepper, use black, but know that black specks floating in white soup isn't beautiful (My grandfather coated his in black pepper, but Julia Child has a hang-up about it). I prefer this soup (when no one is looking) chunky, so I take an old fashioned potato masher and just smash around a little, but you can dress this soup so it becomes fancy fare.

Make no excuses, there is nothing other than healing goodness in this soup. And, if you puree you can claim that you have produced vichyssoise. Heal yourself.

When Words Get Away from You

I have never talked to my children with "children's words." As a result of my inability to verbally meet my children at their level, they possess many words. Possessing words does not necessarily mean you are the master of the words. Frequently, I will hear one or the other child using a word in a bizarre manner and I will ask her/him what the word means. Sometimes she will answer appropriately, but many times she will say she doesn't know. I have warned them not to publicly use words for which they are not sure of the meaning. Speak freely at home, but leave your budding vocabulary at home lest you offend someone.

Today, Princess came running into my office for the exact definition of pathetic. Pink Panther had questioned her use of the phrase, "Pathetic excuse of a life," as it related to a pile of sand. At first, I didn't understand her usage but while I was trying not to laugh at her creative use of words I realized she was right on target. The sand pile is in the yard because we are having some brick/tile work done and the bricklayers are using the sand to make mortar. The children played in the sand so much that once the bricklayers arrived we had to buy more sand. The children have been playing in the sand this afternoon and the life of that sand pile is doomed to pathetic shortness. We will have to buy more sand Monday, but I am laughing!

Pathetic -- arousing pity; informal miserably inadequate

Friday, November 03, 2006

Timeline malfunction

A few months ago, I made the decision to use Timeliner, a fancy computer time line tool, with our history study. Committed to the computerized time line, I made the entries for the first two books of The World in Ancient Times series. The children showed only limited interest in finding clip art, websites, and other information to use in the timeline. The reality and fun of making their own pages for a hands-on book far outweighs the cool timeline slideshows and interactivity of the Timeliner timeline. On another note, I am disappointed that I am not able to stop the timeline where I want it. I only want to work with ancient history this year and once I enter a few ancient dates the timeline defaults to a geologic timeline that represents 5,500,000 years ago to the present which would be fine if I had unlimited expansion so that when lots of documented action begins the entries aren't so crowded. I don't mind the umpteen blank pages so I feel the program should allow me to spread it out as far as I want. It doesn't.

I'm frustrated because the program, though great, is not working for us and if I scrap it, we will be forced to stop history and go back to redocument our progress. If I don't stop using it, I will be responsible making timeline entries with only marginal interest from the children. I could just start from where we are, but I want them to have a complete record of the four year history cycle.

I will be making time line pages for the children this weekend, unless someone has already done this and would be willing to share. ?????

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Competition for paying chores

My children have been competing for some of the paying chores lately. A few weeks ago, I jokingly suggested that Princess would get fired from egg collection duty if she kept forgetting to collect and kept missing eggs that were in the hutch but not in the boxes. From that point on, every task with money(we are talking very small money) involved has been up for grabs. The competition seems to make them a bit more excited about doing a good job, but that was never my intention.

I always imagine a completely cooperative environment where everyone is helping, not because of money, but for the good of the family. The children have been saving money for their father's birthday and Christmas, so lately the competition is high. Today it ended in waste.

Pink Panther went to shovel out and put new shavings in the chicken coop. When he started working two hens who have been sitting for almost a week left their nests. Pink Panther grabbed all the eggs and came running into the house screaming fire Princess, fire Princess. He had so many eggs I realized what had happened and I screeched, "Go put those eggs back." So far, only one hen has returned to her nest. We can't eat that dozen eggs because they have been incubated, and since it is cool today the embryos will be wasted if broody doesn't show up in a few minutes.

Never a dull moment here!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The truly bizarre nature of trick-or-treating in my neck of the woods

Last night I drove twenty-eight miles in one and a half hours so Princess and Pink Panther could trick-or-treat at 13 houses and get loads of artificially colored and flavored junk that I don't want them to eat. Meanwhile, my husband stayed home so he could give candy to the one family who told me earlier in the day they would be coming. The reality of living in the country is that Halloween doesn't turn out to be the Halloween of books, movies, and television where a group of children or parents and children traipse around a neighborhood screeching trick-or-treat and laughing. Instead, the children are in and out of the car a dozen times at houses whose owners know to expect us. We went to one of Princess' friend's house and when the father, one of my childhood friends, answered the door he was truly excited. He said he had never had a trick-or-treater before.

When I was a child things were about the same so Halloween rituals are not exactly a shock. The children accept this method of madness and think it is grand. More candy comes from those you know and see daily. But, I've always wanted the Halloween of my mind's eye. It may not exist, in reality, but a little less driving and a little less in and out would be fantastic. Homemade treats and a carnival would be a nice touch! I want a steady stream of trick-or-treaters. We always have really great treats!!!

I did get the ultimate Halloween treat - a new neice!! My younger sister had a baby yesterday. I will see her today. But, now I have to go dip into those treats!