Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Parenting without Scolding

Shinichi Suzuki, on retraining a bad attitude in a child--

"Scolding does no good and should be avoided....the whole household would do no more grumbling but that we all would have to display better manners and conduct in our daily life. 'If we create such an environment, Koji [the child who had a bad attitude and had been scolded] will, without noticing it, become a good child, and his life will not be harmfully distorted by scolding.'"

               --from Nurtured by Love

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Autumn is almost here!  And on this cold and rainy day it truly feels like fall and makes me think of baking with pumpkin. While wearing a sweater.

This is my go-to pumpkin muffin recipe, adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance. (Here's a photo.)

1 3/4 c. flour (I use a combination of oat flour, sorghum flour, rice flour)
Between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup sugar (or sucanat)
1 T baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (I just use a long dash or three)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice 
1/8 tsp cloves
1 cup pureed pumpkin 
1/2 cup non-dairy milk of choice, or cow's milk if you can do dairy
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
2 T molasses 
chocolate chips

Mix all the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips together, In a separate, larger bowl, mix the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Bake in greased muffin tins (mini or regular) at 400 degrees until they are done--in my oven, this is between 10-15 minutes.

Happy autumn!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Beads and Tulle

Annie is a wonderful child to behold: she loves fancy stuff and picks the best clothes to wear.  The other day she ran around in her jersey-and-tulle pink dress (excellent for twirling) and, because it was chilly, she wore a gorgeous white sweater with beading all along the edge.

All day I enjoyed looking at her sparkles. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Gift of Friday Afternoon

Every Friday afternoon for four hours I have the luxury of a babysitter.  She is a homeschool graduate, just starting her first year of college, and has been coming for about a year. 

I love Fridays!  I am an INFJ, and alone time is essential to me.  By bedtime I'm usually too exhausted to do much, and early mornings are my time to write for half an hour and then exercise--and then we hit the ground running.  So I need time to focus on my inner life.

Fridays are a wonderful time.  For four hours I do not answer questions.  Instead, I refresh myself in any way that feels appropriate for the day.  Today I Kondo'ed my shoes, handbags, and accessories, uploaded photos, prayed for a friend, worked on a few poems and updated my publication list, returned a couple of emails, and cut out squares for Annie's quilt (while drinking decaf coffee). 

The time is a luxury and a gift and I treat it as such.  It helps me rejuvenate and refill my tank for another 6.5 days of teaching, cleaning, cooking, laundering, laughing, communicating, disciplining, loving and serving.   I went for over seven years without any childcare help, and am grateful for it now!  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shinichi Suzuki, Meet Charlotte Mason

I read Shinichi Suzuki's Nurtured by Love last year and enjoyed seeing how this 20th-Century Japanese music teacher's philosophy dovetails so beautifully with the educational methods of 19th-Century British educator Charlotte Mason.  Both Mason and Suzuki believed in the inherent dignity of the child, in the pursuit of beauty and truth, and in habit formation!

Here are a few tidbits from Suzuki that I copied in my notebook because they rang true, inspired me and also 'clicked' with the educational philosophy that makes so much sense to me.

*               *              *

"Every single human being's personality--his ability, his way of thinking and feeling--is carved and chiseled by training and environment. It shows in each person's face and eyes.  His whole character becomes visible."

"We don't have to look for specific innate abilities or talents.  It is a superior environment that has the greatest effect in creating superior abilities."  (This reminds me of Charlotte Mason's maxim that "education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life".)

"With the emphasis only put on informing and instructing, the actual growing life of the child is ignored." 

"The habit of action...this, I think, is the most important thing we must acquire...it is an indispensable skill."

Suzuki's response to a parent who asked if his violin-playing child would ever amount to anything: "The only concern for parents should be to bring up their children as noble human beings.  That is sufficient.  If this is not their greatest hope, in the end the child may take a road contrary to their expectations. Your son plays the violin very well.  We must try to make him splendid in mind and heart also."

                                                    *                       *                       *

Refreshing, visionary words to read.  How many people these days talk of raising a child to be noble? 

Thank you, Shinichi Suzuki, for inspiring me as a teacher and parent--and also a pianist.  Since reading this book I have memorized one brief piece of music from start to finish, and now I'm working on playing it beautifully. (Suzuki believed that the ability to play one piece of music beautifully was far more valuable than playing many pieces with mediocrity! Mine is merely an extremely simplistic, shortened version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring but it makes me happy-and maybe a little more noble.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Moon Singer

Here is a book my children love and beg me to read.  This book is excellent if you enjoy speaking in a variety of different British accents.  I work in dialects that include a to-the-manor-born, a sort of "received pronunciation" voice, a poor peasant boy, a cockney servant, and a country miller (going for a more West Country effect there).  I'm not the best at accents, but I do love trying.  

Anyhow!  It's a simple story of a boy whose calling in life is to sing to the moon and stars.  A wonderful reminder that God makes us unique and that we should live out our individual calling. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Beautiful September

The weather was so glorious today!  This morning I opened the doors and windows to let the cold air into the house.  Drinking coffee in a crisp breeze is so refreshing.

After we finished schoolwork, lunch and letter-writing (I'm writing lots of thank you notes for my Granddad), we took the dog and hit the trails.  I wore my Alabama Chanin raspberry tank dress and a cardigan: most comfortable clothes ever.  Annie and Finn were wild with delight; Annie spent the first half of the hike running between shady spots: interval training, if you will.  She wore herself out and spent the last half of the hike articulating just how sore her legs were. 

Everything is still green, but getting a little rusty-looking.

The crepe myrtles are finishing up and the goldenrod is in bloom.  The sky was a cloudless blue. 

Then we did Small Town Errands: the post office (made it just in time!), the bulk foods store, the library.  Small Town Errands always involve running into people you know and then spending a few minutes (per person!) chatting.  Often there is a discussion about kinfolk.  Today we ran into a lady who knows us vaguely from church and we launched into a detailed genealogical discussion.  I never go to town unless I have ample time to discuss ancestry.  

Then we came home to a supper of lemony grilled chicken, rice pilaf and green beans....a great start to the week!

Hospitality: Magic Tricks and Coonskin Caps

On Friday evening we hosted a pastoral candidate; our church is interviewing candidates to replace our pastor, who is retiring after over 30 years of service.  I am on the search committee, and we have a guest room, so we hosted the latest candidate. 

After the interview we came back to the house where Finn and Annie were already in pajamas.  We sat around talking for a while, although it was late, and Finn and Annie pulled out all the stops: Finn showed off his best magic tricks, and Annie pranced out of her room wearing her jammies and a coonskin cap, which made her father dissolve with laughter.  

Not knowing what our guest's morning schedule is like, I opted for the continental breakfast.  I can totally see why hotels do this: it's easy and can last from 6 am to 9 am.  I'm glad I did it, as he turned out to be a rather late sleeper (after 9!).  The coffee was still hot, the fresh bagels were ready, the bowl of berries and grapes was waiting.  

We spent the rest of the weekend on workouts, church, another pastoral search committee meeting, family time, chilly games of hide-and-seek outside, kicking around leaves, visiting Granddad, and grilling burgers for Sunday supper.  Satisfying September!

Friday, September 11, 2015

You Need to Know Yourself

"Simplicity is what you get when you remove from your life certain complications: items that don't serve or delight you, and activities that take more energy than they give back....

When you do seek to simplify...you need to know yourself better than at any other time. This is because the process asks you to discard objects, activities, and habits you may have had so long that they seem like another limb.  You want to be sure in any scaling-down effort that you're disposing of what you yourself know to be extraneous....

This is the essence of selective complication: paring down the possessions and occupations that rob you of hours and energy so you're free to focus on what matters to you.  Then if there's clutter, it's the residue of projects you're passionate about.  If there are complications, you'll have chosen them instead of the other way around."

--Victoria Moran, Creating a Charmed Life

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

School is in Session!

The schoolroom is fresh and ready after being thoroughly cleaned and tidied over the weekend.  I've got the books, the pencils, the coffee (for the teacher): now I just need my pupils!

I always take crooked photos; I think it's my scoliosis at work!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Greco-Roman (and *mostly* gluten-free) Toga Party

Finn had planned the day for months: a toga party, featuring food, toga-wearing attendees, and commemorating the anniversary of the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.

So on August 24 we had our feast.  I realize that Pompeii is in Italy, but we went with Greek food: it's so good and easy to make gluten-free. We'll just call it a Greco-Roman toga party. We invited my in-laws and I started to cook.

The makings of spanakopita (I love dill!!),

the makings of moussaka (made with beef from our farm!),

the makings of more spanakopita,

my favorite tray, which involved a spinach-feta filling in phyllo cups and tomato-feta-balsamic skewers,

my fauxnakopita (that's what I'm calling it, because I did not use phyllo dough--just pie crust),

gorgeous black grapes and delicious dolma, 

a crudite-and-hummus platter,

and not pictured were pita crisps and a big pan of moussaka.  

I lost it twice: when I put the toga on my husband, and when my in-laws showed up in togas.  They had driven to our house wearing togas.  I don't think I will ever recover from the hysterics.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Front Porch Chair Makeover

I did this a couple of years ago and have been happy with the results.  My neighbor, a thrifter-extraordinnaire, had found two dirty but sturdy white plastic chairs with old icky cushions on a street somewhere waiting to be picked up with the garbage.  She rescued them and gave them to me.  I scrubbed and scrubbed both the chairs and the cushions but was never able to get them clean-looking.  So I decided to make them over. 


and after!

I then took the cushions and decided to cover them with red outdoor fabric. I just traced around the pillow with a pencil right onto the fabric, making the outline about an inch or so bigger all around than my pillow.  I sewed right sides together, flipped it inside-out, and then sewed on Velcro as a fastener. This allows me to wash the cushion covers regularly...they always seem to need it, especially because our cat likes to curl up on the chairs.

 The old cushion still lurks inside....

but I can velcro it shut!

I admit that the red and black color scheme is not at all my thing, but it seemed to work because we have a grey house, black front door, and I value simplicity.  This looks nice, especially in autumn when I load up the porch with mums and pumpkins.  They also look great with the Christmas decorations and blend nicely with anything we might do for summertime. 

And these chairs are *very* comfortable. I love to sit out here and read!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The End of the Summer

Last night through the screen I could hear the crickets chirping.  They say summer is ending.

Leaves fill the side yard already.  As we walk down the lane each day we hear the unmistakable pop of walnuts falling onto the barn roof.  The Concord grapes down the lane are ripe and they smell beautiful.  Finn grew out of his summer Crocs.  Annie is taller and her hair is longer.  The corn in our neighbor's garden is crispy brown and beautiful.  My thoughts have slowed; after a strenuous season of illness, hospice, Vacation Bible School planning, death, wedding, retirement party-planning I'm no longer *planning* anything.  Today I noticed a row of colorful zinnias in a place I pass every day. I'm drinking in the first of September; the shadows always look different as the planet tilts and the season changes.  We spent the afternoon at the pool, where Finn has conquered the water slide.  He lost his second front tooth this summer.  How do children grow so fast? 

I am grateful for this life and for the changing seasons.  God's goodness has permeated the summer; even in, especially in, the hard places, He has been here.  Life is the biggest mystery.  I can't get over how if the Earth were oriented differently on its axis or located elsewhere in the solar system we wouldn't exist. 

And yet: here I am, listening to the crickets.  There is so much beauty and wonder in the everyday.