Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stop, breathe, think -- and food comments

I just wrote this to a friend, and it bears posting here.
Time is flying by for me -- every Saturday I stop, breathe, and think, "It's Saturday again already?!?" That's okay. I'm memorizing Latin and poetry along with the boys, and flexing my little-used math mental muscles, and encouraging Son1 through his writing exercises, and learning to write Italic along with the boys as well, and encouraging the boys in their Cub Scout projects and tasks. And we're starting to get more household chores done during the week than we did at first. Yay laundry and homecooked food!

The house needs a good paper-filing and general decluttering session, but we are on-pace with the homeschooling by the end of each week and we still kinda love the whole thing (not the work but the tackling and mastering of things and the aha! from time to time, of course).

Dear husband was more shocked by the appearance of whole milk in our fridge than anything I could say about trying a new approach to what we eat. As I read and think more about this traditional-foods, Nourishing Traditions, no-prepared/little-processed foods approach, I think it's really worth trying. Certainly the low-fat kick I've been on for 15 years has not prevented us from slowly adding fat to our bodies, nor had all of my "healthy" food choices and preparations lowered dear husband's blood pressure or my cholesterol numbers. We're pretty sedentary, but still! It also fits in very, very well with my increasing interest in eating locally produced foods and food that has as little manufactured stuff as possible (pesticides, hormones, herbicides, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, etc.).

So, I'm trying the easy stuff for this family. That is, aiming for a different balance "on the plate" -- protein and a bit of good fat for staying power, and veggie or whole grains to fill the tummy, rather than sweet things (oh my sweet tooth must be tamed!) and leaning heavily on carbohydrates. For me, working toward better portion sizes. Switching to better fats -- little-processed milk products and olive oil, for now. Soaking the whole wheat flour portion for my homemade breads, quick breads, pancakes, etc., to make more digestible the carb-y stuff we like. (Biscuits with half whole wheat, soaked, became the best, lightest, crispest WW biscuits I've ever made -- wow!) One son and I love the crispy almonds (soaked overnight to start the sprouting process, then dried in a slow oven). I am going to try soaking for black beans, rice, and lentils as well. Buying more (most? all?) grass-fed/pastured, organic meat from producers through our co-op, as well as free-range eggs. Working to spend less on packaged foods and fast food, and cook more frugally, as I once did, so we can buy this good stuff.

For more, I wait somewhat impatiently for my interlibrary loan of Nourishing Traditions to show up. My library's copy of the complementary The Maker's Diet is en route. I've found some similarly oriented Web sites for recipes and tips. And I'm keeping a critical eye out for good and bad changes in our bodies, our health, that stuff. Who knows if this will work out well, but I think it won't hurt us, really won't hurt us, to try it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

42nd Carnival of Homeschooling

For some interesting browsing, check out the links at the Carnival of Homeschooling No. 42: The Answer to Everything. I'm now going to take my own advice; I shall go forth and browse.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fall Fruit Salad, yummy yummy

Two weeks ago I needed to bring some sort of side dish to a gathering, and had a bright idea that worked out great.

Fall Fruit Salad

Two crisp apples or firm pears or one of each, cored and diced
A big handful of pecans, halved, plus bits
A generous drizzle of Vidalia onion dressing from Tastefully Simple

Et voila! A lightly sweet yet almost -- but not quite -- savory fall fruit salad. It's very pretty and delicious with a combination of reddish Gala apples and green Bartlett pears, and pleases the senses even with one fruit alone. It's also a nice balance of protein and not-too-carb-laden fruit, so not bad for the sugar balance or whatever. It doubles or triples very nicely, and is very fast to put together. Finally I have an easy, not-too-sweet fruit salad!

I'm taking it to a post-church dinner today. Yum yum.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sock knitting update

Though slowly, I have indeed been making progress on my in-progress socks. In fact, I've turned the heel on two different socks and picked up the rest of the stitches to start knitting in the round for the foot.

As it turns out, I did one in the wrong direction and now I have to frog it back to the point just before I picked up all of those parked stitches, sigh. The bright side is that it's the second sock of the neverending Harry Potter/Gryffindor socks, and that means that all I have left to knit is the foot!

With the sock I did correctly, the next thing is to continue the lace pattern from the leg down the top of the foot. I can do that.

Since I'm making sock progress, however slow it might be, I may actually pick up the hoses-and-ladders, ruffle-topped, pink sock for a niece and get back to those little cables (they don't cross, so they're wiggly hoses, too funny).

There you have it. Tell me to knit more, and more often, so I don't forget which direction I'm supposed to knit next time I pick it up!

Enjoy it! Great meat, butter, whole grains, veggies

I've been reading various things about food over the last several months. Slow food, seasonal foods, traditional local food, eating local foods, eating within 100 miles, organic foods, grass-fed pasture-raised meat, organic butter and milk and cheese, pesticide- and hormone-free fatty foods (butter, milk, cheese, meat), whole grains. This fall I've been reading about hunter-gatherer eating, "neander thin" and "paleo diet", all of which avoid grains and beans, which is too much of a sticking point for my family and me.

Now I seem to be landing at the book (and idea), Nourishing Traditions. Great meat and eggs (grass-/pasture-fed, organic). Moderate amounts of whole-fat dairy (organic and not ultra-pasteurized). Yummy nuts, beans, and whole grains, prepared so they're easier to digest and their nutrients are more available (and, I think, so they're more familiar to my bread-loving family). Olive and coconut oils; butter and homemade cream cheese. Full-fat cheeses in general. A big variety of veggies except root veggies. Small portions of fruits other than berries. Switch from processed grains and flours to prepared whole grains and flours, and eat somewhat less carbs. Total avoidance of most prepared foods, with their high-fructose and other corn syrups, trans fatty acids, and super-processed sugars and flours.

I'm entering my high-energy, happy in the kitchen time -- early fall. I think I'm going to try to change our way of eating toward this and see how it goes. I'll start with changing our dairy, grains, and fats/oils, and add nuts and more veggies. Tia has posted so many wonderful meal plans on her blog Living Deliberately that this seems do-able. She is adapting lots of recipes, and it helps a lot to know that I can adapt what we know and like already, as well as add new dishes. Check out her breakfasts!

Er, have I mentioned that my husband may go into shock when I bring home full-fat cheese and dairy???

Scouting: the pace picks up

Both boys have now earned their intro Cub Scout badge (Bobcat), and Son1 is well on his way to his Webelos badge, a couple of other badges, and stuff that will contribute to the Arrow of Light (his big challenge for the year). Son2 enjoys being a Tiger Cub, and the two boys love to practice their den yells and the hilarious one of a Boy Scout patrol (learned on their campout).

A newer development: I get to sew a bunch more patches. Yes, dear husband is almost certainly going to be the den leader for Son2's Tiger Cubs den. Time to buy his shirt and another set of patches, plus whatever den leader specifics are required. Got my thimble and needles; I might break down and buy the set of spools of thread that match the various Cub Scout uniform/patch colors!

The rest of this weekend will, apparently, be devoted to lots of sanding and painting. The boys' Raingutter Regatta race of balsawood boats takes place on Tuesday, and they need to shape their boats and paint them, and then decorate the sails. So... my plan is to do my own thing -- Web site updates, write articles, background reading for homeschooling and for me, and catching up on laundry and meal planning -- while the guys do their thing.

We have a few more calls to make to finish our attempt at selling popcorn for our first Cub Scout fundraiser. Between dear husband and me, this is our "getting our feet wet" fundraiser; we expect to spend more time on the mulch sale in the spring. The boys' share of the funds raised will help them go to day camp in the summer and on campouts here and there; apparently we can also tap into the funds to help them get needed gear from approved scouting-supply stores in our area.

At some point dear husband will probably attend the two-weekend outdoor skills training for adults, which means two Saturday overnights for him and tons of learning so he can teach Webelos. How cool is that?!?

A few days after Christmas, Son1 and dear husband are going to participate in the four-day, three-night Dead of Winter (brrr!) campout for Webelos with the Boy Scout troop they'll probably bridge into. Apparently it's a test of what the Webelos have learned. They are dropped off at a prepared site with the gear/supplies that were hidden around the area for them. As teams they must find the needed gear/supplies and set up camp (shelter, fire, water, etc.). Wow!

Dear husband and I are talking about camping and hiking/outdoor gear as potential family gifts for Christmas, and both gear and uniform parts (pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats) as potential birthday/Christmas gifts for the boys. I'm pretty sure long underwear for outdoor activity will be on that list as well, with the Dead of Winter thing around the corner! Hmm. I think this Cub Scouting thing has struck a really good chord with all of us. Dear husband and I are a bit bemused by how well Cub Scouts fits right now, when a year ago we weren't interested.

Game Day

Today is a Game Day here in our town. Specifically, big-time college football that is a highlight for our entire state. Yes, plenty root for the land-grant/ag school up north a bit, but a whole lot stream into this town in the days and hours before each football game to fill the parking lots, side streets, and any open spaces within a 15-minutes walk of the stadium. They have tailgate parties within sight of the stadium, or gather around a TV at a friend's house, or actually enter the stadium and help make the roars of excitement or frustration that roll into the TV microphones and up and over the top of the stadium for everyone else to hear. The population of our town doubles on Game Days, just like another college town we once lived in (Go Penn State!).

I had some errands this morning and realized that, even though it was only an hour before game time, my best route meant I'd be able to stay at the edge of the intense stadium-bound traffic and travel the opposite direction, so I ventured out. Waiting at the traffic light at the nearby state highway that skirts our town, it was kind of fun to see the stream of traffic coming in, car flag team colors showing that so many people are arriving in our town from all parts of the state for the game this morning. It's a beautiful fall day, partly sunny, not too hot or cold, no rain expected until this evening. Nice.

After my stop at the credit union and several browsing-with-purpose sessions at area bookstores, I headed home in that oddly quiet time when almost all of the unseen doubled population is in the stadium or watching the game at their tailgate or at home. From previous experience I know that the grocery stores are piping the game coverage through their sound system for those poor souls who are not at the game (my guess has always been -- it's really for the store employees, and for the shoppers who want to know when to head home to beat traffic). My path took me about half a mile from the stadium, and it was amazing to see how FULL of vehicles every front yard was, and every side street, and any open space around retail properties. Wow. A lot of money changed hands for that parking!

I never went to a single football game at my alma mater, and I had no idea what I was missing until my beloved took me to football games while we were in grad school at Penn State. What fun! We went to a football game where we were hot and went home sunburned (early September), and to another where we watched the falling snow draw near to us along the valley and snow fell as we headed home (late November). The experience of a college football game is pretty exciting and very fun... as long as you're not losing feeling in your extremities due to wind chill. I think we left that game early, actually.

Our sons would love to attend a football game inside the huge stadium we pass nearly every day. At normal ticket prices it's highly unlikely. We've taken a university walking tour and glimpsed the inside of the stadium, and we've attended a meeting held in a gorgeous room on an upper floor of the stadium with an incredible view of the field, but they have no idea what it's like to attend a football game in this football-crazy town or any other. Someday we'll stumble across an opportunity for a few tickets being given away at the very last minute by someone who knows someone (incredibly unlikely), or we'll be able to buy some game tickets at face value (more likely). Or -- we'll go to a high school game, or attend the spring scrimmage or the fall meet-the-team event in the stadium, or they'll just have to wait until they're in college and can get low-priced tickets themselves. I keep meaning to plan a family outing one game day to enjoy the pre-game festivities near the stadium. There are kids activities and we could see the HUGE TV screen in action, and we'd catch a bit of the excitement.

But then we might end up with not just one, but two local-big-university sports fans in the family, and dear husband and I would not be among them! Ah, the little fears of parents! Dear husband has unbent enough to give them local-big-university T-shirts as gifts, O fatherly love.

Living Math Through History

Living Math Through History -- this is so cool! Yet another great thing over at LivingMath.net. The first set of topics fits great with our ancient history focus, so I'm going to have fun with this stuff while we wait for our next set of math curriculum books.

Introduction and Lesson 1: Math is Everywhere!
Ancient Roots of Mathematics in...
- Lesson 2: Africa and Asia
- Lesson 3 The Americas
- Lesson 4 China and India
- Lesson 5: Thales and the Egyptians
- Lesson 6: Pythagoras and the Early Greeks
- Lessons 7 and 8: Archimedes, Geometry and Pi; Archimedes' Myriads and Eratosthenes, The Librarian Who Measured the Earth

I discovered that our library has a copy of two books highly recommended at LivingMath.net, The Joy of Mathematics and A History of Counting so I checked them out a few days ago -- again, very, very cool. Browsing through the very browsable The Joy of Mathematics, I'm remembering all sorts of fun math things that were part of why I enjoyed math. The book on the history of counting is fascinating: body counting, keeping count with symbolic objects, tallies, and then the development of numbers. An intriguing approach to mathematical concepts as well as how they developed, stories of math, and mathematicians.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Very Late Friday Five: Civic Duties

Friday Five: Civic Duties, from RevGalBlogPals.

It's that season of the year when lawn signs are sprouting as surely as flowers in the spring; elections are just around the corner. And so today we bring you a Civic Duty Friday Five.

1) How old were you when you voted for the first time? I think I was 22. Thing is, often that first-Tuesday-in-November Election Day falls on my birthday, and when I was 18 and rarin' to vote for Jimmy Carter I read some get-ready-to-vote language that seemed to make it clear that I would not be eligible to vote that time (Election Day = my 18th birthday). I still wish I'd checked that out, 'cause I suspect I could have voted just fine.

2) What was the contest at the top of the ballot? When I was 18, Carter vs. Reagan, 1980 presidential election. When I was 22, another presidential election, and Reagan stayed in office.

3) Can you walk to your polling place? I could, but I really wouldn't want to; although it's not far as the crow flies, it's about a mile-long walk that includes the shoulder of a busy divided highway, bleagh.

4) Have you ever run for public office? Nope.

5) Have you run for office in a club or school or on a board? Yes. Various officer positions, from the honors student group in college to my MOMS Club chapter here, and also I picked up enough votes at last winter's annual parish meeting to be a delegate for my church at the annual statewide meeting. It's one way to help things happen. I tend to get involved as an officer/board member of something that really interests me and not a whole lot of others. Niche Woman, that's me!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'm extremely logical (when I want to be!)

I saw this quiz on Jessica's Trivium Academy blog and proceeded to take the quiz very carefully. I think one of the questions had no correct answers so I faked it. Hee!

You Are Incredibly Logical

Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic

You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.

A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!

Take the quiz: How Logical Are You?