Posted: under Homemaking, Travel.
Tags: , ,


Oia, Santorini

Oia, Santorini

Patina –  (noun) – color and texture of the surface produced by wear.

Is it any wonder that I am attracted to furniture with patina?  Immediately even new furniture in my home takes on “patina”.  Certainly  you can purchase mechanically pre-worn furniture, but honestly, no factory can reproduce the impassioned fork marks on the top of my dining room table made by my toddler.  Or the teeth marks on the bed post. Or the tire tracks on the coffee table.

I am comfortable with having love-worn furnishings instead of those that are shiny and new.  I gave up superficial perfection long ago.  My priority is child rearing, not House Beautiful.

But there is a tension between “vintage” and “neglected” and between mature, refined furnishing and those that are dilapidated.  It is hard to verbalize, but I know it when I see it.  And I have never seen age and antiquity harmonize with beauty  so well as it does in the Greek island of Santorini.

Fira, Santorini

Fira, Santorini

In all of my travels I have never seen a civilized place so beautiful as Santorini.  Perched on the caldera of a dormant volcano, it basks in the Mediterranean sunlight in glorious shades of blue and white.

Sun drenched Santorini

Sun drenched Santorini

I suppose if I had to name a “perfect day”, it was the day my husband and I hiked from Fira to Oia.

Doug and Cyndi

An attempt to revive the memories of that day inspired the color-scheme of my homeschool room.

Blue and white church

I spend most of my waking hours in my school room.  We built it as an addition to our home the year after our trip to Greece.  I knew exactly how I wanted it !  Abundant sunlight.  Geometric patterns.  Vivid blues and creamy whites.

My schoolroom

My schoolroom

Three chairs in my much-used schoolroom crossed the barrier from “well-worn” into “spent”.  They are antique chairs but are not valuable.  I frequently have to re-glue and clamp them.  No chair can withstand the mechanical leverage of a child leaning back.  Every one of my nine children seems determined to assault my chairs.

Looking not-so-charming

Looking not-so-charming

I was contemplating the replacement of these chairs when I stumbled upon a number of wood refinishing Do-It-Yourself sites while unwinding before bedtime.  (I know.  I should have been knocking out that summer reading list. )  But I was inspired!  I rarely embark on DIY projects, but I rocketed into this one with a sense of determination.

Four steps would take me through the project.

1.  Paint furniture with a vibrant-colored base coat.

"Oh no, what have I done?"

“Oh no, what have I done?”

That moment when you wonder if you should stop.

That moment when you wonder if you should stop.

2.  Apply lightly a neutral-colored top coat using a “dry brush” technique.







It is desirable for the base coat to peek through the top coat.


3.  Roughen edges and vulnerable areas with 80 grit sandpaper.



4.  Apply a tinted glaze, then promptly wipe it off with a damp paper towel.

Waiting to dry

Waiting to dry

The final effect

The final effect


My children were critical of my project.  “Mom, why did you make that chair ugly?”

My tough critic

My toughest critic

I am pleased with the result.  The colors are warm; the chairs are visually interesting.

Basking in light

Basking in light

In no time, I am sure, this paint job will be dinged up, peeled off, and worn out.

At home in the schoolroom

At home in the schoolroom

My faux painting will have achieved “patina”.



Comments (1) Sep 17 2013

Learning Something New

Posted: under Homemaking.
Tags: ,

peach bishop1











I remember looking at the adorable girls at church in their hand-smocked dresses and saying, “If only God would give me another little girl, I will learn how to smock…”

He did, so I did.

peach bishop2


Some older women from church came to my home and walked me through the process.  I am not very good at sewing or smocking, but I really enjoy the creative process

teal bishop1teal bishop2

  harmonizing the designs with color and fabric.

A real pleasure in the doing.

blue bishop

One of my greatest hindrances to completing my dresses is that I spend little time off of my feet.  If I am sitting down, there is usually someone sitting on my lap.

Or maybe three someones.

purple bishop

For a while my most productive time to smock was while waiting in airports UNTIL my favorite tiny embroidery scissors were confiscated in Grand Cayman.

Threatening and dangerous?  Really?!

Threatening and dangerous? Really?!

Pretty threatening, huh?

If there were an award for “Worst Application of a Placket in a Smocked Bishop”, I would OWN that award.  My consolation is that my daughter is rarely still; my dresses will not be closely scrutinized.

red bishop

My smocked dresses take so long to complete, that my daughter soon outgrows them.

purple bishop

I display them in her bedroom as little “works of art”.


While I may not be the best seamstress, it is my hope that with lots of practice, I will one day be an awesome grandmother…

And there is encouragement in knowing that sometimes you can “teach an old dog new tricks”.







Comments (3) Aug 29 2013

“I need a vacation!”

Posted: under Homeschooling, Reading list.
Tags: , ,

“I need a vacation, ” said the woman who travels every chance she gets.

Yes, I am talking about me.

More specifically, I need someone to come feed and nurture my family while I chain myself to a hammock.

Maybe somewhere like this:

Roatan, Honduras

Roatan, Honduras


“Why?” you ask?  Why would I try to flee the care and comforts of the family I love?


I am so behind.

There are twelve books haunting me on my nightstand.  AND THAT DOESN’T INCLUDE THE NOVELS I DOWNLOADED TO KINDLE!


Summer reading / Teacher inservice





Cognitive skills training and executive skills training.

I think I’ve read some of each book, but have yet to finish one.

Why am I so behind?

Then it dawned on me.  My youngest child is three years old.  I have not nursed a baby in two years.  I got my  best reading done during those years of nursing younguns, when I had to get off my feet and sit still.  I used to knock off several books a week, but now I struggle to finish a couple per month.


The LORD certainly knew what He was doing when He designed the whole “nursing mother” plan.  He knew that a mother with an infant needs to get off of her feet every two to three hours to nurture that little one.  At the time it seems inconvenient, but it is restful for the body and refreshing to the mind and  soul.  I miss those times, and now my ambitious reading list, my “homeschool teacher inservice training”, is haunting me with the Specter of Unfinished Business.

And that leads me back to my dilemma.

I need a vacation.

Or better yet, another baby.


What was on your summer reading list?









Comments (0) Aug 15 2013

Pizza Crust Perfected

Posted: under Baking bread, Cooking with children, Family favorites, Hiking, Italy, Large family.
Tags: , , ,





I am not a pizza professional, but you could certainly say I am well-seasoned!  My family enjoys making and eating pizza, and even my children have high standards about the quality of the ingredients they want to eat.

A few years ago when my husband approached his fortieth birthday, he told me that he expected me to “go all out” for his birthday.   I knew exactly what I wanted to do–  build a wood-fired pizza oven.



The year before we had gone hiking in Crete.  We hiked through terrain that felt entirely remote and deserted, then would come around a rock and find a taverna, a family-owned restaurant.  More often than not, these tavernas would have a wood-fired oven, producing some of the most delicious food and flat bread I have even eaten.

Taverna in Crete- they could not speak English; we could not speak Greek.  They brought my husband into the  kitchen and had him point to what we'd like to eat.

Taverna in Crete- they could not speak English; we could not speak Greek. They brought my husband into the kitchen and had him point to what we desired to eat. See oven door on left?


Constructing a wood-fired pizza oven is certainly a Do-It-Yourself project, but I didn’t do it myself.  I had neither the time nor inclination to muck about with cinderblocks and mortar, so I hired someone to build it for me using plans that are available for free from a site called “Forno Bravo” :

Pompeii Oven under construction.

Pompeii Oven under construction.


The finished product was a resounding success!

Silk Road Catering used the oven when preparing the meal for my husband's birthday celebration.

Silk Road Catering used the oven when preparing the meal for my husband’s birthday celebration.

The following year we confirmed that the construction of our oven was authentic when we went hiking in Italy (notice a pattern here?) and visited the ruins of the city of Pompei.

Wood-fired oven in Pompei, buried under the ashed of Vesuvius.  When unearthed, there were actually loaves of bread entombed inside.

Wood-fired oven in Pompei, buried under the ashes of Vesuvius. When unearthed, there were actually loaves of bread entombed inside.

The inside construction of the oven was identical to mine, only much larger.

Domed bricks and thick walls enable oven to reach a high temperature for ideal pizza and bread making.

Domed bricks and thick walls enable oven to reach a high temperature for ideal pizza and bread making.

Here is a basic description of how a wood-fired pizza oven works:

1.  Build a very hot fire in the oven and wait until all the bricks on the ceiling are white.  That means the oven is between 750 – 800 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Push the remaining logs to the back of the oven, then brush the baking surface clean with a brass wire brush.

3.  Using a pizza peal (it looks like a giant spatula), gently transfer uncooked pizza into the oven.

4.  About 90 seconds later, rotate the pizza for even cooking.

5.  A couple minutes later, remove finished pizza.  That’s right – the whole process takes less than five minutes, and your pizza with be hot, bubbling, with a perfectly carmelized crust.

NOW THE REAL CHALLENGE was finding a pizza dough recipe that didn’t take all day and was able to withstand the high heat of the pizza oven.  The authentic recipe from Italy  not only requires Tipo 00 flour, which is great if you can find it, but also 4 – 5 hours of preparation.  Not ideal for spontaneous “honey, let’s make pizza tonight” occasions.  Which brings me to a story:

It was a Saturday and my husband worked in his office while I was cleaning the garage.  Around 4 PM he announced that he wanted to “fire up the pizza oven” and make pizza that night.  I did not have the time or energy to “throw together” pizza dough, so  he went off to the grocery store to purchase refrigerated pizza dough – you know- the kind that comes in a tube.  We had never bought it before.  As stated earlier, the pizza oven cooks at a very high temperature, which is what makes it so wonderful.  Well, we unrolled the pizza dough and added the toppings.  My husband shoveled it into the pizza oven and it went “BOOF!”  The pizza crust instantly incinerated!  There was nothing left but the now-charred mushrooms and cheese that my husband had to scrape out of the oven.  I am not saying that he burned the pizza crust.  There was no pizza crust – only ash.  What kind of volatile ingredients did they put in that dough?

At last, after much experimenting, I  discovered a “quick”  pizza dough recipe that yields thin-crusted pizza and is able to withstand the high heat of a wood-fired pizza oven.  I did not invent it; it comes from Alton Brown from the Food Network and is found here:    So when my husband says, “Let’s fire up the pizza oven tonight!”, it takes me only two hours and fifteen minutes to go from “idea” to “ready for the oven”.  Most recently we  baked pizza after biking 30 miles with the children at St. Simons Island.  It was a great way to celebrate the end of a full day! (It also explains my husband’s outfit in the photos.)

The oven is heated unti the bricks on the inside turn white-hot.  Because it is so well insulated, the outside is cool to the touch!

The oven is heated until the bricks on the inside turn white-hot. Because it is so well insulated, the outside is cool to the touch!










The pizza is ready for the oven.

The pizza is ready for the oven.









Only minutes later the crust is brown and bubbly.

Only minutes later the crust is brown and bubbly.









My husband typically bakes the pizza while I assemble the next one.  I usually make 6 - 8.

My husband typically bakes the pizza while I assemble the next one. I usually make 6 – 8.













Perfectly baked homemade pizza.  Perfect!

Perfectly baked homemade pizza. Perfect!















Not everyone has a pizza oven, but doesn’t everyone love homemade pizza?  I am sharing a recipe I have used for years that makes delicious “baked in the oven” pizza.   I call it “Presbyterian Pizza Dough” because it includes beer.    I am not a beer drinker, so I just buy whatever is cheapest.  However, I would only recommend King Arthur Flour brand of All Purpose Flour.

Presbyterian Pizza Dough

12 oz. can of beer

3 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

3 Tsp. sugar

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 Tsp. butter

1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast OR 2 tsp. rapid rise yeast


Mix these ingredients in a large bowl, then turn them onto lightly floured counter and knead about 8 minutes.

 To make 4 thin-crust pizzas:

Divide into four parts.

Shape each into 12 inch round.

Place on pizza pan and brush with olive oil and let rest about 15 minutes.

Put on your toppings.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


To make 2 thick-crust pizzas:

Follow same instructions except shape into two pizzas instead of four.

Baptists may omit beer, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Comments (0) Feb 10 2013

Autumn = Fall

Posted: under biking, Hiking, Large family, Traveling with children.
Tags: , , ,

Pine Mountain, Georgia

Finally at the end of November a frost has descended on my home, turning the emerald zoysia into a golden carpet.  However my yard still appears quite green and lush.  The bougainvilleas hang with heavy clusters of lilac flowers on my trellis. The Mexican heather is covered with migrating butterflies. Even my tender banana tree is still green. A few trees have lost their leaves, but that was only noticed by the child who had to rake them.  Their nakedness is generally cloaked by Spanish moss and clusters of mistletoe.  The overall effect is that autumn in Savannah is not the fiery-hued explosion of foliage like in the rest of the country, but instead a gradual fading to olive green.  The live oaks, which canopy this city, will cling to their leaves until spring.

Isle of Hope in Savannah, photographed on November 23th. I was impressed by the incredible greeness of Bluff Drive.

This presented an interesting dilemma as I tried to teach my younger children about the seasons.  I explained that autumn is also called “fall” because, in most places, the leaves will turn bright colors and fall off of the trees.  My younger children seemed perplexed.  Their responses were generally along the line of “You’re kidding, right?”  Of course they have  seen colored leaves, but to them a colored leaf is equivalent to a dead leaf, and not something to define an entire season.  I knew it was time for a field trip.

Where could we take our children to experience fall foliage within about 4 hour drive?  We could not take them to New England, where the maples and oaks are unequalled in their brilliance.  We had to choose a location that was a little further north and a little higher in elevation.  We decided to take the children tent camping at FDR State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was the last weekend of October.

Callaway Gardens at Pine Mountain, Georgia

Visiting a state park has got to be one of the best vacation values there is.  Our experience has been that the facilities are always terrific, the setting is scenic, and park rangers are probably the nicest people on earth.  While there are a variety of activities available at different  parks, I have often found my children to be thoroughly entertained by exploring the rustic park and playing freely around the campsite.

Biking at Callaway Gardens

We only had three nights to squeeze in memories and fun.  We spent one full day biking through Callaway Gardens. We explored the extensive gardens where “Victory Gardens South” is filmed, and the butterfly pavilion, where exotic butterflies are housed indoors and native, wild butterflies are plentiful outside.  Callaway Gardens is noteworthy for the large variety of trees and native plants that grow there.  While there is golf and housing available at Callaway Gardens, it is very low key and does not intrude on the landscaping.

Seven of my nine.


On our second day, we traveled south to Providence Canyon, another state park that is absolutely, positively in the middle of nowhere.  What a surprise awaited us there!  Poor farming practices in the 1800’s led to severe erosion that carved a significant canyon in the land. The result is a “Mini Grand Canyon” of vivid, colored strata of soil.  There is a 7-mile, strenuous backpacking trail available and a 3-mile, strenuous hiking trail.  We took the three mile trail, but it wasn’t strenuous at all. The only challenge was a strong possibility of getting your feet quite muddy when crossing creek beds.  Even my two-year-old and four-year-old found the trail manageable, and were only carried when they became too distracted by the mud puddles.

Providence Canyon

Long-abandoned car, captured by the woods. More ecologically sound to leave it.

Our final night of camping provided an opportunity for the children to go on a hayride at FDR State Park.  The popularity of hayrides baffles me, but to my little guys it was one of their “favorite things ever”. It served to remind me that I must not underestimate the significance of even small experiences in the memories of my children.

One of the advantages to the four-hour limit on our drive was that it enabled us to attend morning worship at a church in Columbus (where we happened to run in to some dear friends- an added bonus!), and make it home in time to attend evening worship at our home church in Savannah. It is good to be with the Lord’s people on Sunday!

As I sat next to my children in church I could see remnants of twigs and leaves in their hair and smell the fragrance of campfire smoke.  I felt confident that the dirt would wash off, but also hopeful that our immersion into the leaves of autumn would serve as the fertile ground for my children’s sweet memories to flourish.

Time together and time outdoors.

Fall leaves… One of those things you’ve just got to see for yourself.

Comments (0) Nov 27 2012

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemaking, Large family.

Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Beans

No one ever accused my mother of being a great cook.  No one.  But she did keep an immaculate house.  I don’t think I ever even saw a dust bunny until I went to college.  (Imagine my surprise.)  But she had a good excuse.  When my mother was a young girl, her own mother became bed-ridden, and my mother assumed all the responsibilities of the housework and the care of her father and older brothers while her younger sisters cooked the meals.  She honed her housekeeping skills into an art form.  (Alas, she did not teach me.)

My mother never complained about cooking (and my father never complained about her cooking), but she never aspired to improve her dishes or learn new things.  A typical meal went like this:

a meat, well-done

two canned vegetables, which were always flavored with bacon grease  (that is, until the heart disease connection was made)

store-bought white rolls

an iceberg lettuce salad with radishes, chunks of apple, cubed cheddar cheese, and carrots

That was the template for dinner pretty much every night.

One of the dishes my mother made with frequency, and in great quantity on special occasions, was green beans.  Ew, I can smell them in my brain.

She started with one large can of green beans, which she flavored with bacon grease, then cooked, and cooked, and cooked until every bit of cellular structure was broken down and the “green” beans were gray.  You probably didn’t even need teeth to eat those green beans.  You probably could have slurped them down with a straw.  In fact, I think having teeth only complicated matters  for me because the more I chewed them, the bigger they got.  And then I had to swallow them.  Oh dear, the memory is invoking a gag response.

So that is what green beans were to me:  gray, amorphous blobs robbed of all nutrition and flavor.

When on occasion I encountered green beans that were actually green in color, such as at a cover-dish dinner or company picnic, my mother would announce, with disdain, that “So-and-so cooks her beans like a Yankee.”  (That was a bad thing.)  So it was many, many years before I actually ate a green bean that was green in color.

I still remember the day:  July 19, 1991, at an elegant restaurant near Williamsburg, Virginia, called Indian Fields Tavern.  I even remember what I ordered:  Pork Medallions with Peach Sauce.  Oh, yum.  And when the plate arrived, there they were – green beans!  I eyed them suspiciously. Long and slender.  Bright in color.  No wider than the tines on my fork.  I was emboldened to taste them.  A little sweet with a bit of crunch.  They bore no resemblance to the water-sogged blobs of my childhood.  I was converted.

So I am going to share with you a recipe my older daughter, Catherine, created  for green beans.  She developed this one time when I left town (actually, left the country), leaving her and my mother-in-law in charge of running the household and feeding the whole crew.  One of her tasks was to creatively foist vegetables on her younger siblings.  Now frankly, my children eat lots and lots of vegetables, but we had been given pounds and pounds of green beans and okra that had to be consumed.  The okra was a bit of a challenge.  How much gumbo can one family eat?  She creatively buried the  extra okra in chocolate muffins, winning accolades from her siblings.  A resounding success.  The green beans she transformed into a kind of finger food.  She called them “Hulk Fries”.  They ate every bite.

So easy, even a male teenager can help.


Catherine’s Incredible Hulk Fries

2# fresh green beans, trimmed

1/4  cup canola oil

Kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

1.  Preheat the oven broiler and raise the rack.

2.  Toss green beans with oil.  They should all be slick and shiny.

Shiny, oiled beans, ready for the broiler. Please note the color.

3.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.  Put under broiler, but don’t walk away!

Into the oven on broil.

5.  After 2 – 3 minutes,  stir the beans.  You want to see areas of brown.

Time to stir. Note the brown parts. That is a good thing.

6. After another 2-3 minutes, stir the beans again and remove from oven.

Ready to serve. Please note, they are still green, with patches of brown. We say, “That’s Hulk’s hair.”


The beans are bright, crisp, and tasty!  It may sound uncultured, but I let the little ones eat them with their fingers because, after all, they are “fries”.


Green beans.  Bright green.  Tasty and nutritious.  And definitely not made by a Yankee. Who’d have thought it?

(For the record:  When I uploaded the snapshots, my four-year-old pointed to the raw beans and said, “Green beans.  I hate green beans.”  Then he pointed to the “after” photo and announced, “Those are Hulk Fries.  Yum.  I eat Hulk Fries.”  Enough said.)


Comments (2) Nov 16 2012

Large Family FAQ: Grocery Store Interrogation

Posted: under Homemaking, Housework, Large family.
Tags: , ,

My brood. Perhaps the hardest thing about raising a large family is getting everyone to look at the camera.

Imagine if you will a typical grocery store visit for me.  I am one of those “perimeter” shoppers.  Because  I don’t buy many processed foods, and fresh ingredients have a bigger volume than boxed snacks, my cart is ALWAYS heaped up on top and fully loaded on the bottom rack. When I head to the check out, I typically have to pull my cart, because I am usually carrying a couple bunches of bananas in my arms, and maybe a few bags of ripe peaches, too.  I rarely take my younger children to the grocery store with me, primarily because I don’t have enough room in the cart, but also because they assault the groceries and thwart the other shoppers.  Last week I had to take both of my youngest.  Big mistake.  My four-year-old kept jumping in front of other carts, spread eagle, and demanding, “What’s the pass word?”  Later, back at home, I discovered teeth marks in the tube of goat cheese.  Beautiful, lovely teeth marks.  Like a dentist’s impression.

Tag-team troublemakers

Once I get to the check out, the interrogation begins.  Sometimes questions come from the cashier, but usually they are from another customer, like the unhappy soul in line behind me.  Now mind you, I go through a form of these same questions every time I go to the grocery store.  Everytime.  EV-ER-Y TIME.

“Are you having a party?”

No.  (Sometimes I say, “No, we are our own party.” But I digress.)

“How many children do you have?”

Nine.  Seven boys, two girls.  Ages 21-2, no twins.   (Right there I just pre-empted the next three questions.)

Then it comes:

“Are you Catholic?

Are you Mormon?

Are you Orthodox Jew?”

No, I’m Presbyterian.  (That last question might throw you, but it might help you to know that we are one of the only Gentile families in the entire neighborhood.  We live within walking distance of a synagogue.  Or maybe it’s because they saw the Kosher chicken; yeah, right there in the cart next to the pork tenderloin…)


“Do you know the Duggars?”

No. I don’t even own a TV.


“I hope you figure out what causes it!” and of course, they laugh at their own joke because, after all, it is so clever, so witty, so original.  I just smile.

Now there are variations of the Frequently Asked Questions that my older children have to endure, especially if they are on outings with the youngest siblings.  My nineteen-year-old daughter has to deal with a whole different realm of questions and assumptions.  Like this summer when the lifeguard helped her coaxed the little ones out of the pool by telling them to “Listen to your mother!”

Then there is a question that REALLY shocked me.  That is, really shocked me  when I heard it the first time.  It occurs when I am on an errand with my oldest son and one of the youngest children.  Complete strangers will look at us and ask me if I am on my second marriage!  Excuse me?  I don’t have a clever response.  I just reply, “No, there are seven in between” and smile. Frankly, I am not sure whether they are baffled by the age difference of my children or think my son is my second husband.

Oldest and youngest – Easter 2011

Oldest son, youngest son

 Then there is a final realm of questions that is related to those people, like the health department nurse or the census bureau, who are reluctant to believe that all of my children have the same last name. Sigh.

I suppose if I were enterprising, I would market a line of products to cater to the questions endured by extra-large families.  Perhaps I could sell t-shirts with the following slogans:

“Not a daycare.”

“Yes, they’re mine.”

“Same father.”

“My hands are full.  Full of blessings from Christ.”

But let’s face it.  Who would buy these products?  As my little guy one day realized – being a seventh child is a very rare thing.

Indeed, people notice my large family and my overflowing shopping cart, whom I do not myself notice.  One day while shopping unaccompanied, I headed in to the grocery store with an empty cart. The door opened and out came an elderly woman pushing her groceries.  She looked at me and said bluntly, “Going to buy out the store again, huh?”  What?! I had never seen this woman before in my  life, but she had seen me.  So while part of me would love to be armed with witty and cutting responses to the weekly FAQ, I realize that I can instead have a positive effect.  I have said it before and I will say it again:  One of the strongest pro-life statements I can make is to go to the grocery store with my hair combed and a smile on my face.

Now do you want to know about questions endured by a “grand multiparous woman” when pregnant? That would be another post altogether.


Comments (0) Nov 15 2012

Thanksgiving Sanity-saving Cheatsheet

Posted: under Cooking with children, Family favorites, Homemade, Large family.

Grubby pilgrim – 2007

Do you want to talk about an adrenaline rush?  How about realizing that Thanksgiving is in ten days and you have done NOTHING to prepare for it?  Nothing, I repeat, nothing, and you are expecting 36 guests and counting.  I say, “and counting”, because you really never know who all the college kids will bring home until they have packed up and are underway.  The more the merrier, and I mean that with all my heart.  It just takes some planning, whichI have only now begun.

My husband and I love to cook. We love to try new dishes and improve our favorites.  On Thanksgiving Day we have a great time getting our “cooking itch scratched”.  We almost always eat supper together as a family every day, but the time pressures of our daily life too often squeeze our cooking time, and the meals-of-choice become those that are lean, nutritious, easy to make, and quick to clean.

But on Thanksgiving Day, we get to savor not only the eating, but also the preparation of the food.  There is a joy to be experienced in the chop, chop, chopping of the ingredients alongside a child.  The aromas, the flavors, the little noses peeking over the counter seeking beaters to lick – I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thankfully, I do not have to recreate a Thanksgiving menu from scratch every year.  There is a little organization technique I figured out a few years ago that works wonders for our family.  If you can picture my husband, my daughter, and me, racing around the kitchen, cooking and stirring and roasting and whisking.  We were constantly misplacing our recipes and finding our favorite cookbooks smeared with mousse or gravy.  Then there was the whole challenge of timing the cooking.  Sometimes two ovens just didn’t seem like enough!

Checking the master menu.

As a coping strategy, I started photocopying or printing off the internet our planned Thanksgiving recipes.  Even recipes I know by heart I added to this pile, because I wanted to have a complete menu. I fastened all the recipes together. I made a list of my dishes on the front, then put the recipes in order.


Next, I made a cheatsheet of cooking times- what needs to bake at what temperature and for how long.  By charting this, I could visually see how to pair up dishes, and I could stick a post-it note reminder on the oven.   “Beef goes in at 12, mushrooms go in at 12:30.”  The master recipe menu also helps to plan for prepping.  “Exactly how many garlic cloves do I need to peel?  And how many cups of chopped onions?”  Having the recipes all together, even the ones memorized, helps to delegate tasks when you can not be two places at once.  “Finish up the casserole; I’m finishing the gravy.”

Many of our favorite Thanksgiving recipes come from Bon Appetit magazine and can be printed off of their online source,  Often their recipes offer “Do Ahead” suggestions, saving time and sanity.

If it’s smeared with gravy, it’s got to be good.

When the meal is over and the dishes all washed, this collection of recipes becomes a memento of the year’s feast, and a reminder for next year’s planning.  Some recipes, such as Masa Cornbread Stuffing with Chiles, become family favorites.  Others, such as Popovers, will be passed over this year.  Popovers are easy and delicious, but are oven-hogs, requiring 40 minutes in the oven- and no peaking or sharing oven space!


When all is said and done, there will be tons of food and piles of dirty dishes.  But also bellies filled with delicious food and hearts bursting with warm memories.  And that’s the best part.




Comments (0) Nov 13 2012

Little Rebels: Applied History

Posted: under Large family.

Don’t let those sweet, innocent faces fool you!







One of my favorite things about homeschooling my children is that I learn so much alongside them. It seems like I enjoy an “ah-ha” moment every few days.  This week I experienced one of those moments, with additional implications.

We are studying US History again. I emphasize “again” because, let’s face it, US History is relatively brief. However American school children typically hit it three times during their twelve years of schooling, digging deeper each time, so I comply.  This year, however, I am widening the net to put American history in the context of the political and social events of the rest of the world at the same time.  To that end, I have been reading aloud to my children an excellent book, The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster.

It was in reading this book that I experienced a big “ah-ha”.  I knew that the Netherlands (Protestant)  were once ruled by Spain (Roman Catholic). I knew that Philip II of Spain desired to dominate all of Europe and put down all forms of the Protestant Reformation. What I did not know was that in 1581 the Netherlands issued the “Act of Abjuration”, kind of their own little “Declaration of Independence”. Don’t these words from the preamble sound hauntingly familiar?

“Whereas God did not create the people as slaves to their prince to obey his commands whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects, to govern them with equity and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, [therefore] when he does not behave thus, but oppresses them, seeking to infringe on their ancient customs and privileges, then he is no longer a prince but a tyrant and the subjects may legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense.” (page 20)


How surprised I was see to read this, especially since it predates not only our own Declaration of Independence, but also predates even John Locke (you know, the “pursuit of life, liberty, property” guy). What followed, of course, was a discussion of the responsibility of rulers to their subjects, getting about as deep as you can with elementary-aged boys who prefer to wrestle.  I figured my “ah-ha” moment was lost on them . Or was it?

The next morning I was tidying up the toy closet and there I found it on the floor.  Some of my little boys had written their own Declaration of Independence. I am uncertain who penned it; it looks like a group effort.

They started by enumerating faults :

1.he’s a coward
2.a bully
4.Cares only about himself
5. A wimp
6. He’s weak
Resons we Revolt:
Your a bully.
We’d rather Nick as a leader.
You never let us play.
We’re tired of be cammaned by YOU.
We Ages 4-9 want to be free.  We have reasons.  1. were tired of being bullied around, 2. so we have freedom from you.  This is the consitusion of us all.
Sighned, Timothy, Christian, Stephen

While that is not the reaction I desire my children to have in the face of conflict, it did signify one thing.

They WERE paying attention. 

Comments (1) Nov 12 2012

My Scouting Haiku

Posted: under Hiking, Traveling with children.
Tags: ,

Webelos Weekend

















My Scouting Haiku

Sticks, fire, pocketknives

In the furnace of camping

Boy forged into man.

(Yeah, yeah, I know it stinks, but you get the idea and the sentiment in genuine.)

Comments (0) Nov 11 2012