Monday, November 29, 2010

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

This no longer looks as appetizing as it did a few days ago...

A plate filled with food on Thanksgiving Day

Starting at noon on the plate above:

Old World Stuffing (my very own creation which includes Tuscany bread, bacon, walnuts and apples)
A tiny dollop of cranberry sauce
Yes, that is the very famous Carrot Souffle
Awesome Broccoli Cheese Casserole with both Ritz Crackers and French Fried Onions on top
Sweet Potato Casserole with roasted pecans in butter and brown sugar
A slice of ham and turkey
Your basic frozen shoe peg corn microwaved before serving...
and in the middle, roasted garlic mashed potatoes with turkey gravy (the gravy was from a jar this year and, well, it worked for me since no one else here likes gravy).

Rachel made four fabulous pies: two pumpkin, one peanut butter, and one coconut cream. Dear goodness, this girl can cook!

And, no, we did not eat four whole pies! We took them to a get together with family later in the day. Thank you, very much!

I've hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the past thirteen years. In all those years, I've never taken a photo of a plate filled with food. I suppose it was because there was between 20 and 25 hungry people milling about as I finished mashing the potatoes (always the last thing I do before dinner is served) and as my dear aunts helped make the gravy and slice the turkey or rib roast or ham. I was always too busy to take pictures and by the time things had settled down, I wanted to sit down with everyone else.

This year was different. It was just us. Four people. We decided to do things quite differently. Rachel set a formal table using our wedding China, silver, and crystal. We decided against the white linen table cloth although we splurged and used the white linen napkins. She insisted on lighting long white taper candles. And so we ate our Thanksgiving dinner with the lights off and the candles flickering. It was a lovely atmosphere and I am thankful for the memory. This was the first year I slept in. And this was the first year I took a nap in the afternoon. I must say, I liked it!

Now, rewind to four days before Thanksgiving.

We went to church and came home knowing we had a short break before we had to leave for Rachel's piano recital. The moment I walked in the door from church, I knew something was wrong. The house was cold. I peeked at the thermostat and sure enough it was cold as it read 65 degrees (we keep the house at 68 during the day). Mr. Wonderful went downstairs and discovered that, once again, the ignitor on the furnace had died. I think this is the third or fourth time this has happened in 15 years. He called the heating and cooling company (remember, it's Sunday) and within a few minutes received a call from the repairman telling him he would arrive at 1 o'clock...exactly the same time we need to be at Rachel's recital. He explained our predicament to the guy, but realized heat in the house was more important than a recital. And so it was decided that Mr. Wonderful would stay home while the kids and I headed for the recital. Within about three minutes, the phone rang again. It was the repairman. He had received a repair call just a few minutes before ours. He called them, told them our situation, and asked if they would switch appointments. Amazingly, they agreed to switch. Even more, he was pulling into our driveway as he spoke!

And so what did Yours Truly do? Why she stood in the kitchen and started sobbing. Because she was thankful? No. Because she was not thankful. She was having a big fat pity party for herself. She could not find a moment of thankfulness in that situation even though it appeared to be a small miracle...a repairman at your house within five minutes, a problem fixed in an hour, and everyone able to go to the recital without delay. No, I wasn't thankful. I was angry.

A dear friend reminded me later that day of the song that ends with these words:

"You give and take away,
You give and take away,
my heart will choose to say,
Lord, blessed be your name."

Well, it's been feeling like a lot of take away for quite some time now and on this particular Sunday, I am sorry to say that I didn't respond with, "Lord, blessed be your name."

Fast forward to the morning after Thanksgiving.

We had made it a very late night on Thanksgiving after visiting with family until midnight. We came home and decided to watch a movie together and so we didn't crawl into bed until after 2:30 a.m. I can't even remember the last time we stayed up that late, or that early, I should say. Anyway, I was the first one up. Jesse puppy was eagerly waiting for me since it was past her regular breakfast time. As I walked into the kitchen and around the island, I stepped into puddle of water. Is it water? Hmmm. Yep, it's water. Actually, it's a huge puddle of water right in front of the refrigerator. So, I open the refrigerator and quickly discover that it had died. And it had been dead for a while because everything in the refrigerator door and freezer door was warm. A few things in the front of the freezer were also thawed, but for the most part, everything was still frozen since the items were stacked closely together.

What a difference five days can make. And knowing dear friends are praying for you. Thank you, dear friends! Instead of standing there and sobbing into the big puddle of water on the floor as I held a bag of warm soggy strawberries, I thanked God the refrigerator didn't die on the morning of Thanksgiving. It could have, but it didn't. It died after Thanksgiving. And, thankfully, we have a smaller refrigerator in the basement where we carried the frozen food and the food that could be salvaged from the refrigerator. I am so thankful!

Oh, that God would find me faithful to be thankful no matter the circumstances. He gives and takes away. He gives and takes away.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practice, Persistence and Prayers

Some beautiful music for your enjoyment...

Sonatina Op. 55, No. 3 (Kuhlau)

Rachel played this piece for her fall recital this past Sunday afternoon. During the two minutes she was at the keyboard, I will tell you that I could hardly breathe (like every other mother seated in the audience). I am thankful to say that my heart wasn't pounding out of my chest like it usually does!

Is it OK to say we are proud parents? I hope so. I will follow that by saying we recognize God has given Rachel a wonderful gift. We pray she will be able to use her gift to serve Him and bring glory and honor to His name.

In the end, recitals are a great opportunity to showcase, for just a few moments, the many hours of practice, persistence, and prayers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers TOS Product Review

About six weeks ago, we received in the mail A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers from Bright Ideas Press. This oversize 298-page book is beautifully presented, professionally published, and covers a full year's curriculum in 32 weekly lessons. The Introduction includes a letter to teachers as well as to students which I found to be very helpful and informative.

A number of years ago, we studied the history of classical music. We loved it back then, but I wasn't sure if it would be met with great enthusiasm again. I asked my daughter, Rachel, who is 12, to go through the book with me. It became clear very quickly that this was a curriculum to get excited about. After all, Rachel loves music and plays classical pieces on the piano daily!

Here's an excerpt from the Bright Ideas Press website which best describes this book:

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

A User-Friendly, One-Year Curriculum for Grades 4-8

Christian, Creative, Chronological

Why take the time to “Crack the Code” of Classical Music?

• Music is from the Lord. He created it, and He created us with the ability to both make and appreciate music.
• Classical music is uniquely part of our Western civilization.
• Research suggests that both listening to and playing classical music aids brain development.
• Even rudimentary exposure increases one’s level of enjoyment and understanding.

This course provides a close-up look at famous composers, their music, and their times, with special attention to character traits and Christian testimony (or lack thereof). Even the musically challenged will enjoy this course! It’s perfect for grades 4-8 but is easily adaptable for younger and older students. Minimal teacher prep will return maximum enjoyment!

• 32 Weekly Lessons
• 26 Bios of Famous Composers
• 6 Eras of Music Explained
• Easy-to-Use Comparative Timeline
• Easy-to-Use Maps
• Composer Info-Cards & Game Directions
• Note-taking Pages
• Quizzes
• Answer Keys
• Listening Suggestions
• Intricate Coloring Pages
• Resource Books

Let me see if I can unpack some of these wonderful things just a little bit.

First of all, I quickly realized that having the paperback book presented a slight challenge. While I love having the physical book in my hand, I think I might have preferred the CD-ROM book instead. Of course, the CD-ROM book has its own set of challenges (i.e., you either have to read the lessons from a computer screen or you need to print everything out). Anyway, because a number of the pages need to be used by the student (note-taking pages, quizzes, coloring pages, time-lines and composer cards), there's just no way around either need to photocopy pages out of the book or print pages from the CD-ROM.

If you'd like to see a few sample pages of this book, click here.

Here's my little suggestion to the publisher: Making PDF files of the consumable pages available at your website (either for a nominal fee or via a password which is given with the physical book), would be a huge help.

Anyway, I did the unthinkable in order to overcome my little consumable pages challenge. I used a ban saw to cut the binding off the book. Yes, it's absolutely true! Then we three-hole punched the entire book and placed it in a sturdy binder. All of the consumable pages are now loose and easy to photocopy. How's that for ingenuity?!

Rachel loves doing everything suggested in the curriculum... everything! Each lesson is laid out over a three-days a week schedule. We read the lesson aloud together (this takes us about 10 to 15 minutes) and then Rachel fills-in the note-taking pages (or the student review questions). We listen to the suggested music selections (links are provided in the book so a student can listen to the music via YouTube if needed). We happen to have a huge library of classical music on our iPod and so had most of the selections available without having to use the computer. Regardless, it's great listening to a piece of music after reading about its composer.

Composer cards are created (using an index card and a couple of the consumable pages I mentioned above) by coloring the composer's portrait, matching the composer with his country of birth (a little mapping exercise is always a great thing), and providing important information about the composer (when he lived, where he was born, 3 facts about him, two of his compositions, and whether or not there was evidence the composer was a Christian).

In addition, a detailed timeline is filled-in and colored as recommended by the curriculum. All of these items are then placed in a notebook for easy access and reference (there are instructions on how to create a notebook, but some pictures would be helpful). In addition, a great assortment of coloring pages are also available. These pages are fun to color while listening to the selected piece of music or while listening to the lesson while it's being read.

Another thing I really appreciated about this book is that the faith of each composer (if evidence supports it) is often included by using direct quotes. Introducing the composer's faith to the reader is not forced. Here's an example:

...when Handel was writing the "Hallelujah Chorus," his servant brought him food, as he usually did, and found Handel with tears in his eyes. Handel said, "I did think I did see all of heaven before me and the great God Himself!"

"...I should be sorry if I only entertained them; I wished to make them better."

What more can I say? Well, we love the idea of studying composers and found A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers a great way and a fun way to learn.

If your family hasn't yet studied the classics, I highly recommend this book!

Here's the scoop:

Recommended for grades 4-8
$29.95 CD-ROM book
$34.95 paperback book (298 pages)

Most products are intended and licensed for single-family use only. For co-op pricing, click here.

For more information, go to Bright Ideas Press.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Friday, November 19, 2010

KBTeachers TOS Product Review

When we started homeschooling ten years ago, we began our journey by learning a  letter and a number each week. I have fond memories of the kids creating Alligator Al, a green salt dough alligator that would represent the letter and phonetic sounds of Aa. Yes, Alligator Al is safely tucked away, along with all of his other letter of the week pals, in a storage container in our basement. I never had the heart to throw them away. Memories!

Oh, if I would have known about the wonderful resources  at KBTeachers! As I browsed their many pages of fun printable worksheets, I kept envisioning how we could have incorporated some of them into our school week. Check out this link to the alphabet worksheet pages. And to think, with the help of KBTeachers, I could have easily incorporated sign language into each week's lesson. If you're just getting started as a homeschooler (or if you're in the middle of your homeschooling journey), this family friendly resource is a must.

A few years later, I have fond memories of unrolling butcher paper on our kitchen island and creating full body outlines for each of the kids which we hung on the walls of our school room. Each week we would learn about a new bone in the body and then later, important organs, their uses and where they were located within the human body. The kids loved creating their bodies one piece at a time. Again, how fun it would have been to add to our weekly studies, the great resources available at KBTeachers. I think they have thought of just about everything. Here's a link to their human anatomy section which not only has a number of worksheets and activities available, but includes direct links to recommended study websites. It's a great time saver having so many resources available in one place!

Fast forward to just a couple of years ago when we spent a year going through a very extensive study on world geography. I cannot even tell you how much time I spent searching for maps that would allow the kids to practice and study what they were learning. Again, KBTeachers has so much to offer. Check out their social studies worksheets and activities here.

There are so many benefits to becoming a Premium Member of KBTeachers. Here's what they have to say on their website...

For Parents, Teachers and Educators
* One click worksheet generators and alphabet factory
* Create an unlimited number of engaging printable activities - For all ages and grade levels
* No watermarks and unlimited access
* Exclusive graphics and clipart - Decorate your websites, Blogs, activity sheets etc...
* Diverse educational resources - From simple ABC worksheets, to 20 pages exams
* Intuitive activities online or off - At home, at school or in study hall
* Free 24/7 Support - If we don't have it, we'll create it - or help you find it
* Answer Keys - Proofed and checked quality materials you can trust
* Updated regularly - New features and member created content added every week
* Nothing to download, instant access - From any internet connection

Access content based on standards set by the following organizations
* NCTE National Council of Teachers of English
* NCSS National Council for the Social Studies
* NSTA National Science Teachers' Association
* NCTM National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
* ISTE International Society for Technology in Education

As a KBTeacher you will

* Join an online community that shares knowledge and makes learning fun
* Increase technology awareness
* Encourage collaboration
* Engage students in learning
* Diversify educational materials
* Structure activities online or off
* Combine traditional and progressive teaching techniques
You'll also find seasonal and holiday activities along with monthly webquests. Did you know that November 26th is Charles Schultz birthday? Meet him through the Schultz Museum and learn about his life and philosophy. How fun is that?

A premium membership at KBTeachers is only $29 for 12 months or $49 for two years. An extensive library of printable worksheets (without watermarks), activities, and valuable resources for you and your students (Kindergarten through 10th grade) are just a click away!

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review. Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Random Thoughts on Tuesday

Here are some thoughts going through my head:

1. I had planned on making pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes, and a Caesar salad for dinner. After putting the potatoes in the oven, I opened the 1 lb. package of pork tenderloin (which I had pulled from from freezer a couple of hours ago) to discover it didn't smell like something we would want to eat. After calling Mr. Wonderful into the kitchen, we both agreed something went terribly wrong somewhere. So, what's for dinner? No clue. Um, roasted sweet potatoes?

2. I wanted so much to work on a quilt that doesn't intimidate me that Rachel and I went shopping and bought cozy warm fleece fabric from Hobby Lobby over the weekend (on sale, I might add). I chose a wintry looking blue and gray print for the top with matching gray for the bottom. Rachel chose camo pink for the top and matching hot pink for the bottom. We started them this afternoon...she's at the kitchen table, I'm at the island in the kitchen. We have our basting finished. I am hoping to have a new snugly blanket for the family room by week's end.

3. Access to my computer has felt limited lately. I'm used to having my own computer much of the time. Caleb joined a fabulous speech and debate club a couple of months ago which requires quite a bit of research. He's using the school room computer which means Mr. Wonderful needs access to my computer. I am learning how to share...again.

4. Rachel is performing in a piano recital this coming Sunday afternoon. I have been listening to her practice her piece today (although she's been working on this for some time). She plays just beautifully and I am reminded of the incredible gift she has been given by her Lord.

5. We were spoiled with about ten days of perfect weather. Today, the reality of November on the great North Coast settled in. Gray skies. Cold winds. Pouring rain. At least it's not snowing...yet.

6. I need to give Jesse Puppy a bath. She's going through a major molt right now which will make bath time very messy. We cannot brush her enough. Dog hair rolls on the tile floors like tumble weeds. Sweeping the entire downstairs every morning has become the new routine. And the poor girl is suffering so. Her face has been messed up and bleeding since the end of July. I've done everything I know to do. Of course the vet told me he knew what he was doing. Yeah, right. Nothing has worked although I started her on yogurt and acidophilus capsules last week. It might take weeks before we see any improvement. I am so tired of cleaning up blood on the tile and having to wash her blankets every couple of days. I do love her so and know it's not her fault. She's been my loyal companion for over nine years.

7. I was thinking that when my children were babies I never felt like I had time to do anything. I am learning that I accomplished more when they were babies than I am able to now that they are independent and self-sufficient (for the most part). I don't know what it is. Am I just getting old? When I would nurse them in the middle of the night or go in and check on them, I would pray over them. I have come to realize recently that I don't pray for my children like I did when they were little and depended on me for so much. That makes no sense at all especially since they need my prayers more now than ever before. The world wants them in the worst way.


Befor The Throne Of God Above Lyrics

8. Thanksgiving is next week. We have hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our home for the past 13 years. This included the very famous Thanksgiving Dessert Contest. Next week things will be dramatically different. I have very mixed emotions about this change. But I am so thankful for the wonderful memories we have shared together. I am entrusting this very special day to the Lord and hoping new traditions will bring much joy.

9. I have been wondering lately if my blog has, in a very strange way, become Satan's To Do List. Sometimes I feel like some of the very things I have written about have become a target for attack. I'm still working on this one. Quit blogging? I don't know. I sure hope not.

10. The kids are singing with the Christmas choir this year. This undertaking is no small task. Choir practice started back in September. They will be performing next to another 125+ voices along with a full orchestra. So, throughout the day, I hear singing. Beautiful singing. Amazing words that touch my heart. Sometimes two voices harmonizing together. And I smile to myself. Surely God has blessed me beyond measure.

Thanks for letting me ramble on...

Much love,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No Words Needed

Random Act of Culture ... October 30, 2010 (Macy's in Philadelphia)

To see the original YouTube video (Blogger seems to cut off the screen), click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Write Foundation TOS Product Review

I received the following writing curriculum, for purposes of review, from The Write Foundation:

Level 2: Paragraph Writing  /  Suggested Ages: 12-15

- Lesson plans formatted in an easy-to-follow system
- Begins with steps to writing the basic paragraph
- Improves sentence structure with basic grammar and figures of speech
- Teaches different styles and techniques each week
- Teaches the organizational process of  brainstorming, outlining, rough draft and editing
- Progresses to writing two-, three-, and four-paragraph paper
- Introduces the five-paragraph formal essay
- Creative poetry writing
- Guidelines, checklists and correct structure
- 15 lessons with lesson plans
    As stated by the author, this level is designed for the student who can write a single paragraph, can follow directions and is beginning to work independently. It teaches how to move from simple paragraph composition to quality multiple paragraph writing.   More structure and mechanical requirements are introduced and encouraged, to develop more complex paragraphs, using the writing process.

    For ordering and pricing information, click here. Please understand that only one student may use the consumable worksheet pages. Pages cannot be copied even within the same family. Additional sets of worksheet pages may be purchased for an additional $25 plus tax and shipping.

    When I received the Paragraph Writing Instructions and Paragraph Writing Worksheets (covering lessons 1 through 15), I sat down and spent quite a bit of time going over the Step by Step Lesson Plans. Since I didn't seem to be "getting it" I decided to walk away and try again a couple of days later. This time as I went through the information, I took notes. As I look back upon them even now, "1 1/2 hours per day" is double underlined. Another thing I took note of was a Reading List which explained that students need to read several books per semester from the book list. They must select a book they have not read on their own previously. The curriculum also suggests using Mind Benders which are to help develop the student's organizational processing.

    Honestly, I'm not really sure I understand why a writing curriculum includes a reading list (or Mind Benders for that matter), but since my 12 year old daughter just finished reading Pride and Prejudice (a book she was reading just for pleasure), I guess it's worth 20 points toward a 48 point goal for the semester.

    I spent hours going over the teaching materials which, for me, invalidates Lesson plans formatted in an easy-to-follow system. I didn't find anything easy about it. I was very confused and actually, it made me feel just a little bit crazy at times. The flow of the teaching materials did not go along with the order of the daily schedule and worksheets.

    I read instructions on assembling an 8-tab notebook and buying an assortment of highlighters (which reminded me of an Inductive Bible Study). Between acronyms with which I am unfamiliar to the grammatical errors and typos, I kept running into difficulties. Right out of the gate, Lesson 1 says to highlight in the sample paragraph four supporting sentences with four different colors (next four sentences). There are six sentences. I don't know what we're supposed to do with the other two sentences. Do we delete them? Do we rewrite them? Do we need two more highlighters?

    Honestly, I just don't have the time nor the patience to try and read in between the lines. It's supposed to be very straight forward and simple to understand. Actually, it's touted as a grab-it-and and go writing curriculum. It wasn't for me.

    The curriculum appears to be written for a co-op setting although it is supposed to transition well for individual homeschoolers. As I read through many of the website testimonials, most, if not all of them, were from students who attended the author's (Rebecca Celsor) class. I don't recall reading one testimonial from an individual homeschooler who used the curriculum.

    I have no doubt that a huge amount of time and effort was put into creating this writing curriculum. I am sure that if Rebecca is teaching the class, it is a fantastic curriculum that gives great results. However, from an end-user point of view, there are many things which need corrected and/or revised in order to make it user-friendly. I am sorry to say that I cannot recommend this curriculum in its current printed form.

    I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for a thorough and honest review.  Though I am compensated with free products, I am not compensated in the form of cash for my reviews.  My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Teddy in the Pickle Jar

    I'm hoping enough time has gone by that everyone has forgotten about my last childhood animal story. Probably not. But don't worry. This post should leave you with a smile.

    Teddy was a dog my Grandma Meme found...or maybe he found her. I don't remember.  I don't even know how old I was at the time, but I'm going to guess between 7 and 8. I just remember that Teddy was a ball of fur and was blind in one eye. As dogs go, we had him longer than most other dogs all of my growing-up years. Remember, we lived in the country and most of the animals that were a part of our family were there because someone else had discarded them.

    I think Teddy knew he had been rescued and maybe for the first time was really shown love. My grandmother had a way with lovin' things. I don't know how Teddy ended up at our house (if it was after my grandmother got sick with cancer) or before, but in my mind's eye, he was always a part of our family. When my father would get mad at him for doing something he shouldn't, he would call him "Theodore" in a very stern voice. Teddy knew he was in trouble! I remember one time when my father was messin' with my mother in the backyard and Teddy thought something serious was going on. My father decided to see what would happen if he pretended to be hurting her. I remember thinking Teddy was going to take my father out! He didn't like it, fun or not, one little bit.

    So early one morning my sister and I were heading out the door to go to school. We had to walk down our driveway (which was very long) to wait for the bus. As we got closer to the bottom of the driveway, we saw Teddy over in the far front yard. Something was quite wrong. Somehow poor Teddy had found an empty pickle jar (it was white plastic and I'm guessing held a couple of gallons). While trying to sniff whatever was left in the bottom of the pickle jar, Teddy got his head stuck.

    Now at first glance it was a pretty funny sight...a dog walking around, head completely encased in a big white pickle jar, running in circles and falling over. Except upon closer examination, we quickly realized the plastic jar was being sucked in and out. Teddy was suffocating!

    Well, lo and behold, the school bus pulled-up just in the nick of time. We screamed for the bus driver to please come and help us get the pickle jar off poor Teddy's head.  I'm sure it was against all the school regulations so, as you might have guessed, the bus driver looked at us, mumbled something, closed the door, and drove away.

    Panic set in. Poor Teddy was in big trouble and we couldn't budge the pickle jar. I think I stayed with Teddy while my sister ran back to the house to get my mother. I don't remember if she called my father at work for advice, but she came to Teddy with a huge serrated knife in her hand. The pickle jar was so tight around his neck that it was impossible to get the knife under the lip of the jar. So my mother punctured the end of the pickle jar with the knife. I just remember hearing this huge sucking sound as poor Teddy tried to gasp for air. My mother managed to cut the end off the pickle jar. And so, until my father got home later that night, Teddy walked around with a pickle jar on his head!

    Who knows! Maybe this is how the modern-day "cone of shame" was developed.

    I know! It was the bus driver...he probably holds the patent for the cone of shame! And all at poor Teddy's expense and utter humiliation!

    See, that wasn't so bad now was it?

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Hot Fudge Brownie Cake

    The weather has turned so quickly around here. We noticed late last week that the beautifully colored leaves are gone. Gone. I must admit that it's just a little depressing. There won't be much else to lift our spirits except an occasional blue sky here and there. Actually, I went back and looked at my first couple of blog posts (last March) and, well, we had almost two feet of snow on the ground. And here we are again. We had our first snowflakes on Friday.

    But God is great and life is good! While time seems to be moving quickly, I am encouraged to know that a warm spell is coming in tomorrow and is suppose to last through the end of the week. Blue skies and sunshine--yes! I am so hoping to get a fire in...even if it's in the middle of the afternoon. There's just something yummy about sitting at a crackling fire wearing toasty slippers and holding a big mug of hot mulled cider. Mmmmm mmmm!

    Since we're talking about warm and cozy things, I thought you might enjoy this recipe. I discovered it almost two years ago in my all-time favorite magazine, Southern Living. With the exception of a recipe for baked oatmeal (oh, was it ever disgusting), I don't think I've ever made a recipe that turned out badly. When you see what you do to make this cake, you'll think there must be some kind of mistake. But, no! I can assure you it is fabulous and looks exactly like the picture. Oooey, gooey, yummy, chocolaty and delicious. You get the idea!


    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Marriage Matters

    Mr. Wonderful and I attended a Marriage Matters workshop at our church last Saturday. The workshop was based upon the book Lasting Love, How to Avoid Marital Failure by our pastor, Alistair Begg. I believe this book should be read by anyone thinking about marriage, is already married, or knows someone who is married!

    Since these free resources have just been made available, here's the link to watch the videos or listen to the audio of the seminar we attended.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Classical Gas

    Music fills the rooms of our home most days... it's a wonderful thing!

    Caleb knows he could play this song for me a hundred times in a row and I'd never tire of hearing it. I just love it! Well, truth be known, I love to hear him play anything on his guitar. It brings this mother's heart great joy.

    This song was originally titled Classical Gasoline as written by Mason Williams in 1968. It was later shortened to Classical Gas and is considered one of the most loved and recognized songs in instrumental music. I will confess that while I recognized the song when I first heard it, I didn't know its name. Classical Gas is a funny name, don't ya think?

    Caleb started playing guitar when he was 7 years old...half his life ago!

    Happy Thursday!

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Autumn Only Lasts So Long

    My Little Missy

    Oh, today has been such a nice day. For a number of different reasons I suppose. I don't know. I woke-up extra early and decided to sneak downstairs and linger over a cup of coffee while reading from The Valley of Vision. Do you have this little book in your library? If not, you really should. This devotional contains prayers from the largely forgotten deposit of Puritan spiritual exercises, meditations and aspirations. The beauty of the language stirs my heart and helps me see through eyes which are not my own. I could never speak so eloquently, but my heart feels each word as if it originated there.


    O Lord of Grace,

    The world is before me this day,
    and I am weak and fearful,
    but I look to thee for strength;
    If I venture forth alone I stumble and fall,
    but on the Beloved's arms I am firm
    as the eternal hills;
    If left to the treachery of my heart
    I shall shame thy Name,
    but if enlightened, guided, upheld by thy Spirit,
    I shall bring thee glory.
    Be though my arm to support,
    my strength to stand,
    my light to see,
    my feet to run,
    my shield to protect,
    my sword to repel,
    my sun to warm.
    To enrich me will not diminish thy fullness;
    All thy lovingkindness is in thy Son,
    I bring him to thee in the arms of faith,
    I urge his saving Name as the One who died for me.
    I plead his blood to pay my debts of wrong.
    Accept his worthiness for my unworthiness,
    his sinlessness for my transgressions,
    his purity for my uncleanness,
    his sincerity for my guile,
    his truth for my deceits,
    his meekness for my pride,
    his constancy for my backslidings,
    his love for my enmity,
    his fullness for my emptiness,
    his faithfulness for my treachery,
    his obedience for my lawlessness,
    his glory for my shame,
    his devotedness for my waywardness,
    his holy life for my unchaste ways,
    his righteousness for my dead works,
    his death for my life.

    Some of those lines--I just have to pause and really think about them. Amazing love! How can it be, that thou my God shouldst die for me?

    This afternoon I am home alone with my sweet little missy. It's unusual that we're home on a Wednesday afternoon. So, do you know what we did? We decided to get a little brave and pull out ... drum roll please ... our sewing projects! Rachel is finishing an embroidery project she started earlier this summer. And me, well, do you remember this post? How about this post? I must confess that since cutting out all the squares for my quilt back in July, everything has been tucked away. I guess with the weather changing, it seems like the perfect time to pull it all back out again.

    But I'm scared!

    Rachel and I took everything upstairs and used the bed to create a grid so that all the pieces were correctly placed (the finished quilt will be 6' x 5'). Then she carefully wrote labels for each square (column 1, row 1, etc.) and I pinned them in place. I don't know if that's what you're suppose to do, but I feel like I need to know exactly what is what and to know where what goes! Then we carefully stacked up each row and placed them into plastic bags in order to keep them from getting mixed-up.

    Rachel asked, "So, are you going to sew now?"
    "Uh, no. I'm too scared!"

    So, we're headed in the right direction, but have much to consider. This is my first big quilt (big for me!) and I really want to do a good job.

    I'll keep you posted!

    By the way, I hope you like the new blog background and colors. I'll probably still make some little adjustments here and there. I must say it was quite fun choosing something new and my little missy was right there helping every step of the way. Since autumn only lasts so long, I'll be able to do it all again in another couple of months!

    Happy Wednesday!

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    Walls of Wisdom

    This post is to respond to a recent request from a fellow blogging friend, Lady Rose, to see the quotes and Bible verses displayed in my guest powder room.

    The space is rather large for a powder room, but when we built our home 14 years ago we decided to cut way back on a hallway closet and expand the bathroom floor space in order to accommodate my brother, Derek's, wheelchair. We were happy to have the opportunity to help him in this small way.

    Long ago, I thought an angel motif might be nice for this little room. This print is actually fairly large (about 3' x 2.5') and the dried flower arrangement on top is over 20 years old. Rachel had fun taking a blow dryer to it a few months ago. The accumulation of dust and cob webs were just a little bit much. You know me...I hate dusting. Anyway, give me a break. Unless you looked-up in there, you really didn't notice!

    Just in case you're curious about the walls, they were first painted with flat paint and then sponged with the same exact color of paint except in high gloss. It creates a beautiful pattern. This was the first room I painted shortly after we moved into our home. Caleb was about six months old at the time. I distinctly remember enjoying that little bit of creative time all to myself!

    These frames contain various quotes and are directly across from the throne. Please keep in mind that I made all of these using a regular ink jet printer, scrapbooking adhesive, and inexpensive frames I purchased at Marshall's. The exceptions are the stone plaque and the little frame with the oval mat (this contains the Corrie Ten Boom quote). Starting at the lower left frame and moving up and over to the right, this is what they say:

    Keep moving forward... Walt Disney

    This certainly applies to Christian living, my friends.


    If all that we say in a single day,
    With never a word left out,
    Were painted each night in clear black and white,
    It would prove queer reading, no doubt.

    And then just suppose 'ere our eyes would close,
    We must read the whole record through,
    Then wouldn't we sigh, and wouldn't we try,
    A good deal less talking to do.

    And I more than half think that many a kink
    Would be smoother in life's tangled thread,
    If half that we say in a single day
    Were forever left unsaid.

    Author Unknown

    Our pastor, Alistair Begg, quoted this during a sermon. It had no title, however, I decided to give it one (i.e., Unsaid) because I thought it would look better in the frame.

    Love of God

    Could we with ink the ocean fill,
    And were the skies of parchment made,
    Were every stalk on earth a quill,
    And every man a scribe by trade;
    To write the love of God above
    Would drain the ocean dry;
    Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
    Though stretched from sky to sky.

    Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure--
    The saints' and angels' song.

    Frederick M. Lehman, 1917

    These words are part of a much loved hymn from days of old. It was the second frame I created and hung upon the wall. The first was the quote below by Corrie Ten Boom.

    Every experience God gives us,
    every person he puts in our lives,
    is the perfect preparation for the future
    that only He can see.

    Corrie Ten Boom

    The last frame contains the May 3 devotional (morning) from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening. This devotional just happens to fall on my birthday and so the words have been a solemn reminder to me.

    JOHN 16:33

    Are you asking why this should be, believer? Look upward to your heavenly Father, and behold Him pure and holy. Do you know that you are one day to be like Him? Will you easily be conformed to His image? Will you not require much refining in the furnace of affliction to purify you? Will it be an easy thing to get rid of your corruptions and make you perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect? Next, Christian, turn your eye downward. Do you know what foes you have beneath your feet? You were once a servant of Satan, and no king will willingly lose his subjects. Do you think that Satan will leave you alone? No, he will always be at you, for he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”¹ Expect trouble, then, Christian, when you look beneath you. Then look around you. Where are you? You are in enemy country, a stranger and an alien. The world is not your friend. If it is, then you are not God’s friend, for whoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Be certain that you will find enemies everywhere. When you sleep, remember that you are resting on the battlefield; when you travel, suspect an ambush in every hedge. As mosquitoes are said to bite strangers more than natives, so the trials of earth will be sharpest to you. Lastly, look within you, into your own heart, and observe what is there. Sin and self are still within. If you had no devil to tempt you, no enemies to fight you, and no world to ensnare you, you would still find in yourself enough evil to be a sore trial to you, for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.”² Expect trouble then, but do not despair on account of it, for God is with you to help and to strengthen you. He has said, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”³

    ¹1 Peter 5:8 ²Jeremiah 17:9 ³Psalm 50:15

    The three frames below are on the wall next to the door, beside the pedestal sink. Starting at the top left and moving right and then down, here's what they say:

    If we work on marble, it will perish; if on brass, time will efface it; if we rear temples, they will crumble into dust; but if we work upon immortal minds and imbue them with principles, with the just fear of God and the love of our fellowmen, we engrave on those tablets something that will brighten to all eternity. Daniel Webster 1852

    These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9

    I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
    3 John 1:4

    And lastly, over the throne, a quote from Lord of the Rings:

    I can't do this Sam.

    I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo…the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding onto something.

    What are we holding onto Sam?

    That there's some good in this world,
    Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

    The Lord of the Rings
    The Two Towers

    And so, there you have it. Walls of wisdom in a little powder room. I sometimes forget about the walls being covered with so many words and would wonder why some guests hung out in there for so long. Then I would remember...they're reading the walls!

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Friends are Everblooming Flowers

    Remember all the beautiful hydrangeas from earlier this summer?

    I picked the best ones...

    to give to my friends!

    Hey, who's that handsome guy?

    I left the hydrangeas alone until they dried naturally on the plant. They don't usually retain their original colors (blue and pink), but I happen to think the lime green and rose colors are just gorgeous.

    Several friends asked for dried blooms earlier in the summer and so after cutting them, we decided to make some unexpected special deliveries as we were out and about one afternoon. It was fun to see surprised faces and to watch how they would choose which blooms would best fit their decor. I can see why a flower delivery person would enjoy their job...much joy follows!

    One little side story to this story is that while driving down the road I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. Just above my head, over the window, was a little spider. Hmmm. At the next red light I pulled out a tissue and quickly removed him from what was clearly my domain.

    I have to pause here to say that I don't enjoy a dangling spider in front of my face nor on me while driving. It has happened once before and, let me just say, it wasn't pretty.

    Apparently, a clutch of little spiders (I'll just call them that for imagery), must have had a home in the hydrangeas and the car was warm enough that they awoke from their slumber and started moving about. Within several minutes my tissue became the final resting place of about a dozen spiders. Oh, yes. I shiver even now at the thought!

    I warned the new owners to be wary of critters whose homes might be within the beautiful blooms. "You might want to keep them outside for a while!" Unless, of course, they don't mind a little spider here and there.

    I am reminded of a delicate water color painting I bought shortly after I moved into my first home a number of years ago. It's a beautiful posy of wild clover, roses, and baby's breath all tied together in a blue satin ribbon. Under the painting and on the matting are these words:

    Friends are the everblooming flowers
    in the garden of the heart

    It made me think of you!

    P.S. I still have some dried hydrangeas left. If you'd like some, just let me know.