Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marianna's Easter Shawl

With less than a week until the Easter Vigil, here is my progress so far.  Yes, I am crazy!
My goal is the sweet Little House Shawl.
Happy Holy Week . . .

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What is THAT?

Don't scroll past the picture until you make at least one guess!

Now and then I make my deviled egg filling extra smooth by pressing the yolks through a fine strainer.  Most hangs from the bottom until I scrape it off into the bowl.  Weird, huh?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Me and My House: March 2012

" . . . decide today whom you will serve . . . 
As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."
Joshua 24:15

That's our goal, anyway.  Lately we've been trying to read Scripture in conjunction with the Lenten "Jesus Tree."
Here's a snapshot of what else is going on:
  • Len supervised the replacement of his parents' driveway with a new, concrete one.  The owner of the concrete company is a friend from elementary and high school.  Who has such long term connections in northern Virginia?  Wow!
  • I signed our family up to pray outside an abortion clinic in conjunction with 40 Days for Life, a peaceful, prayerful, worldwide movement.  We spent an hour lifting up babies, their parents, and the clinic workers.
  • Lauren is home for spring break this week.  She's been visiting, doing schoolwork, and preparing for life after college.  She and most of her bridesmaids went dress shopping, and today Adam and Lauren went apartment hunting.  No final decisions on either front, although Lauren found a dress for herself for the rehearsal.
  • David (also home for spring break--hurrah!) and Colette celebrated Pi Day (3.14) by making two pies:  a chilled, creamy raspberry and a baked cranberry.  Those who didn't give up dessert for Lent seemed to enjoy both.  ;-)
  • On Saturday Daniel took his first SAT.  He's practicing the goalie position on his school's lacrosse team; the first game is next week.
  • Joseph is not playing lacrosse, but has joined the running club at school.  With our current warm temperatures (hitting the 80's this week!), he must be working hard.
  • This year Marianna is dancing in both her regular and a "show" class, which means she is stepping out quite a bit this month.  Last weekend she danced in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Washington, DC:

She's got two performances tomorrow, with another on Saturday, and a second parade!
  • Rebecca, our resident ballerina, has learned some Irish steps so she and Marianna can dance together.  She was disappointed yesterday (and wasn't the only one) to discover that Tangled is no longer available on Netflix's instant programming.  We were hoping to to watch it with Lauren, who has shockingly never seen it!  Even Daniel and Joseph enjoy this movie, and quote their favorite sections.
I've been trying to type this up all week, so rather than searching for a clever conclusion, I'll just wish you continued growth and peace this Lent.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Drawing Upside Down

Our tiny homeschool co-op (6 students, 3 families) meets weekly for poetry recitation and writing.  We fill the rest of our time with science projects or drawing.  For the most part we're using Mona Brookes' Drawing With Children, but this week another mom found something different.

We gave the children an upside down line drawing to copy.  Even though most of them figured out what the image was, they focused on following the lines and curves as presented.  After turning their pictures around, they added watercolors for beautiful results.  See for yourself:

 by Rebecca, age 7
by Marianna, age 11

Friday, March 9, 2012

Stations at Home

Although our parish prays the Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings during Lent, our family hardly ever goes.  For many years we had small children and Stations was just too late and too long for them.  We sometimes make it these days, but Joe's violin lesson is now a conflict.

Our solution:  Stations at home.  We dim the lights and burn candles, one for each station.  We pray together, using large pictures and an appropriate-for-children meditation booklet.  After each event, a candle is snuffed out.  This makes a solemn contrast to the Advent wreath, which gets brighter with each passing week.

Once upon a time we used a child made (love those co-ops!) stand that held small tapers (Shabbat candles from the grocery store).  A few years ago Len made one that holds tea lights, which are easier to manage and just as lovely.
 Here's a photo taken with the flash, so you can better see the layout:
The stand sounds relatively simple to make for a handy person.  Len routed the edges of a board, then used a spade bit to cut the depressions.  Sanded, painted, done!
BTW, Len's handiness was a complete bonus--I was clueless about this side of him when we married.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Warm Walk

Yesterday it was warm enough for the girls to roll up their sweatpants within the first few minutes.
Some life is beginning to show, but most of the woodsy landscape is brown, brown, brown.
 We found a caterpillar near the trail and wondered if it was out too early.  "What is there to eat now?"

These beautiful, tiny flowers are growing in a neighbor's lawn.
I hope you're enjoying your spring, whatever stage it's at right now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Winter Window

Now that spring weather is here (40's yesterday, 60's today--whatever!), I'll show you the winter view from my sink.
After experiencing technical difficulties with last year's equipment, I bought a better bird feeder.
 We've observed many species, including some beautiful woodpeckers (not shown here, alas). 
 This feeder has multiple ports, and sometimes we have several birds nibbling with more waiting on nearby branches.  Some eat here while others grab seeds "to go."

This is our Squirrel-Be-Gone 3, a marvelous contraption.  Our S-B-G 2 lasted many years, but when I replaced it last year, the newest model was a bust!  It had a broad base the squirrels could sit on while chewing through the plastic, outwitting the device.  So aggravating!  I happened to stumble across this upgraded (and more expensive) model, and it has performed beautifully!  Enjoy a tour . . .
There are 3 sections which can each hold a different seed mix.  One above is full of sunflower seeds.  Later in the season I switched to a fruit and nut mix (in just one section), which helped attract two species of woodpeckers.
Now here's what makes the Squirrel-Be-Gone so effective:  springs.  Maybe you can see them on the sides.  The springs can be tightened or loosened so that birds on the perches can grab seeds from the ports, while anything heavier--like a squirrel--
pulls down the metal covers!  It is wonderfully effective.  In fact, we had fun watching squirrels whenever they attempted to grab the birdseed.  They could jump onto the feeder, but were never able to tread lightly enough to steal any food.  Mwa-ha-ha!  (Now can you see how the wide base on the newer S-B-G 2 was a disaster?)
The birds must have been hungry this day.  Rebecca sat quietly, but not for long, and saw several birds up close.  You may not be able to easily find the one above, so below is a fuzzy zoom-in.  Hey!  It's one of our neighborhood woodpeckers after all! 
This contraption (thanks to my husband for financing and installing) has been enjoyed by all of us.  We can see it from the kitchen table, sink, and craft area.  It will be retired soon, waiting for next winter.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Is media coverage of the HHS mandate driving you crazy?  After the first few days, the mainstream message (okay, I mostly listen to public radio . . .) has become, "the bishops don't want women to have the right to use contraception." 

HELLO--many Catholics don't want to be forced to pay for abortion-causing drugs and sterilizations.  It's about our freedom of religion!  Anyway, Americans United for Life is trying to get the word out.  This reasoned, non-strident little video is from AUL:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Repost: Spring Botany Inspiration

March has just begun, but our cherry tree is ready to draw.  Below I'm sharing one of our best nature study projects ever.  This was originally posted in 2009.  I hope you are inspired!

We last concentrated on botany three years ago. We used Exploring Creation with Botany as our backbone text.

Our very best project, though, did not come from the book. I decided to follow our cherry tree. What I mean is that the homeschoolers and I observed the tree closely, from the first swellings on the branch to ripe fruit. We drew (and wrote about) the multiple stages, sometimes several days in a row.

I've been trying to write this post since Thursday (the first day of spring), and finally here are pictures and notes from our study. The children were 11, 8, and 5 (plus the one year old!). I did some drawing, too, which was a real treat. Just like teaching makes one learn more thoroughly, so drawing made me more observant.

Our cherry tree is right next to the deck,so we started by choosing a particular branch that hung over the railing. We started drawing when it had only brown swellings.I drew (after the first day) in a small, spiral notebook, but had the children use larger paper that could be punched and stored in a three-ring binder. When the paper is separate, it's so much easier to make another try if a child gets frustrated with an unsatisfactory picture.

We wrote notes with nearly every drawing, explaining our observations, and usually recording the weather, too. Sometimes the children did their own writing, but there were other days when I took dictation, even from the older ones. Time was occasionally a factor, plus mine would often say more if someone else was writing it down. (And my printing fits on the page better!)We observed almost every day, but only drew when the change was significant.

Above and below, two versions of the same bud--different skill levels, but the same details noted.These buds are turning green, but they are not leaves--just the covering of the blossoms.Blossoming time is getting closer...With open blooms to draw the next day:And then the leaves appeared! The reason cherry trees (and others) are so beautiful in the spring is that the blossoms open BEFORE the leaves do. It's one thing to know this, but another to watch day by day by day, and really SEE it. The drawings so far go from March 17 to April 14.The next stage was really cool! The petals fell off, but the carpel and stamens remained. The ovaries of the pollinated flowers began to swell--the beginnning of their fruit.When the cherries were still tiny (see below), we dissected one. The pit was there, but still soft.All along we had noticed that the side of the tree facing the afternoon sun (our house shades the other side from morning sun) progressed more quickly. As the cherries grew, we noticed that not only did one part of the tree ripen more quickly, but the sunny side of each cherry also changed color sooner!Another service I provided my children (besides encouragement and some writing) was color advice. We used Prismacolor pencils, which come in many tints and shades, and also blend well. On some of my pages I recorded colors that were accurate for the current stage. I even tried out (for all our benefit) different combinations/blends to help get just the right green (it changed frequently) or new red highlight. It was fun for me to experiment, and my students appreciated the chance to be accurate without sorting through the big box of 72. (Yes, 72--it was a Christmas present one year!)This long ago, long-term project (June 2 is the last recorded date) is still one of our best ever. We've always had a great affection for our tree and its fruit, but that up-close-and-personal view made the harvest that much sweeter.