Monday, December 23, 2013

Pacific Beauty

We spent last weekend with lots and lots of family! I officially started my full week OFF and it has been lovely. I am not checking my work email for the whole time I am off so there is absolutely no stress at all!

We had a lovely visit with my family where we enjoyed amazing food courtesy of my mother. We don't do gifts for anyone but the children so the big Christmas meal is her gift to all of us. This is her roast pork seared and ready to enter the oven:

She made a vermouth sauce that went over the top once it was served. Wow. So good!

To go along with it, she made a salad and a scalloped potato and turnip dish that is baked with cream and Parmesan cheese. That is one of my favorite dishes! 

This was one of the desserts - a Pumpkin Gingerbread Triffle that had chopped, sugared, crystallized ginger on top. This is what it looked like:

If you like gingerbread and you like pumpkin - you will LOVE this. :) We did! It disappeared quickly and was loved by everyone--even the picky eaters!

On the way to my husband's sister's house, we made a stop to enjoy the coastline outside Pacifica, CA. It was stunningly clear and beautiful.

I had not seen the ocean for some time and wow, was it wonderful to sit and smell the fresh air and take in the expanse of the ocean. I love how tiny I feel in the midst of all that water in front of me yet I know my Savior loved me enough to go to the cross for me. In this season of celebrating His advent, I feel it is important to remember that He went on to accomplish something we never could--our salvation.

It is funny that the moment my children get access to the sand they take off for the water! We were there long enough for my youngest to get her shoes wet enough that she couldn't put them back on. :+) Nothing like the ocean!

We met up with the other side of the family and had a lovely second Thanksgiving/Christmas get together. It was such a nice day! All the grands got together for a photo. It is hard to believe that just a few years ago we all had little ones. Time keeps marching on!

In my husband's family, my sister-in-law has contributed all the boys save one, and we have contributed all the girls. We think they are all a pretty amazing bunch. :+)

I want to take a moment to wish you the very best of Christmases with your families. Enjoy this time with your children, friends. It goes awfully fast!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

This week in history, life, and faith...

We are studying the ancient Assyrians in co-op. They were such a fascinating warlike people that did a lot of conquering and killing. However, they did create some pretty amazing art and much of their history directly intersects with Israel's history. You can find some neat up close and person art/history/geography lessons about them on Khan Academy and I link to a few videos below. I highly recommend you watch them!

If any of my readers read the Bible (and I am guessing quite a few of you do!) this will be of interest to you.

Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions, gypsum hall relief from the North Palace, Nineveh.

Yes, THAT Nineveh - you know, the one Jonah tried to avoid. This photo struck me as simply astonishing:

This is an artist's view of what ancient Nineveh would have looked like. That is what Jonah would have walked into--where God sent him to preach against their sin. It gives you a better idea of why he chose the whale. God sometimes asks us to do hard things, doesn't He?

The second Assyrian art I wanted to share was this:

I have seen one of these up close and they are intimidating. These were in the entrance of the throne room of the Assyrian King. The videos are brief, but give so much good information. I loved that they talked about the fact that they (in addition to the whole room) would have been painted to look like this:

These winged lion/bull/kings are over ten feet tall. If you ever get a chance to see one - go do it!

The history of Assyria and Israel is a sad and shocking one:

In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered Israel. The Assyrians were aggressive and effective; the history of their dominance over the Middle East is a history of constant warfare. In order to assure that conquered territories would remain pacified, the Assyrians would force many of the native inhabitants to relocate to other parts of their empire. They almost always chose the upper and more powerful classes, for they had no reason to fear the general mass of a population. They would then send Assyrians to relocate in the conquered territory.

When they conquered Israel, they forced the ten tribes to scatter throughout their empire. For all practical purposes, you might consider this a proto-Diaspora ("diaspora"="scattering"), except that these Israelites disappear from history permanently; they are called "the ten lost tribes of Israel." (Source)

So here is one of the more fascinating twists in history for you!

Assyrians turn into Samaritans...

24 The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. 25 At the beginning of their living there, they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, “The nations whom you have carried away into exile in the cities of Samaria do not know the custom of the god of the land; so he has sent lions among them, and behold, they kill them because they do not know the custom of the god of the land.”

27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, “Take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile and let him go and live there; and let him teach them the custom of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile from Samaria came and lived at Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord.

29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived.
(II Kings 17:24-29)

Isn't that interesting? So now you know why the Samaritans had such a messy faith and why the "pure" Jewish leaders disliked them so much.

I love the study of the ancients, but I really love it when it intersects with my faith in some way. These were real people - people that walked away from the God of the universe - and they were lost forever.

We have this time, right now, to know our Lord! As Romans 5:8 so beautifully states, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

I don't want to be an Israelite lost forever. What a terrible terrible fate.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Cranberry Orange Bread!

Who doesn't like recipes around Christmas! Here is mine to share. 
This is one of our family favorites and doesn't get put away until the last of the cranberries are out of the store. It is just delicious!

Cranberry Orange Bread

4 C white flour
2 C sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 C butter, soft, but not melted
2 eggs
grated rind of a whole orange
11/2 C orange juice
3 C chopped cranberries (or a regular 12 ounce bag)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter. Add the egg, orange juice, orange rind, and stir until moist. Fold in cranberries and pour into two greased loaf pans. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, depending on the thickness of your bread and the length of the pan. I have shorter bread pans so they tend to take longer. Let it cool for 20 minutes before removing from pan and cutting. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Giving Thanks

Many years ago I had my children, then pretty small, memorize Thanksgiving poems. This was one of them:

Giving Thanks 

For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped,
For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped,
For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb,
For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! 

For the trade and the skill and the wealth in our land,
For the cunning and strength of the workingman's hand,
For the good that our artists and poets have taught,
For the friendship that hope and affection have brought --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! 

For the homes that with purest affection are blest,
For the season of plenty and well-deserved rest,
For our country extending from sea unto sea;
The land that is known as the "Land of the Free" --
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving! 

~Author Unknown 

I still love it. We have so much to be thankful for and God is GOOD to His people.

This was my small Thanksgiving with some of the very best people I love.

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving too!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving

If we shop on Thanksgiving, we are only contributing to the problem.

I believe in letting folks have a day that is devoted to their families.

Monday, November 18, 2013

How to help the Suarez family in their time of need...

The staff of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine would like to help gather funds for the Suarez family, as they will need money for food, gas, and hospital bills for the immediate future and ongoing for quite a while. 

Thank you!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


To me, these are a few of the most amazing people I know in the world.

That is my Nanny. She turned 95 years old this past September. I think that is amazing. My two daughters standing with her also had birthdays in September thus the trio. It is downright wonderful to me that my children know their Great Grandmother. She is a rich blessing to us.

My children are a rich and deep blessing to me. God be praised!

Saturday, November 09, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things...

Last week we watched The Sound of Music and "Favorite Things" is one of my favorite songs from that film. There are so many beautiful things in the world, aren't there? Life certainly has its ups and downs, but when we take a few minutes to just enjoy what is around us, there is beauty everywhere.

Sometimes to get that beauty, you have to work a little bit! My garden is my outside haven. I don't have a great garden and I struggle to get things to grow even with my most amazing garden find ever, my Earthboxes. This year, my struggles were caused by a very real world problem: an entire family of rats. They ate all my melons and almost every tomato. I didn't know it until the end of summer. I just thought it was birds or a bad growing year. (I am a little slow...) I am hopeful they are all now dead due to a bad case of rat poison. However, gardening is still work and there are never "sure things" when there are also "sure things" like bugs, snails, rats, inclement weather, and other animals! So today, I spent some time with my daughter putting in more of our winter garden.

Do you plant a winter garden? Can you plant one in your area? I am very blessed to live in a place where I can grow things year-round. I know that is definitely not the case for all my web friends!

This year we planted a few things I have never done before: bok choi, Swiss chard, and kale. I am not a big eater of these kinds of greens, but I am very much hoping they grow. I want to be a better eater of greens and Bok Choi - I can stir fry that and I think it will be delicious! It will also help feed our iguana as she is an herbivore and eats all the green leafy things we are supposed to eat too. (See, I *can* learn from our reptiles! heehee) We also planted turnips, broccoli, green cabbage, cauliflower, snow peas, and lettuce. I will add arugula soon and maybe more turnips or rutabaga. I am not even sure if turnips or rutabaga are winter veggies, but we have such mild winters here that even if they are not, I am willing to give it a try! :D

My son is beginning his journey with braces. We went in this week to a) fix his broken front tooth, and b) get the measurements and computer tech aspects done for his Invisalign braces. My older two did braces, but they did brackets so this is brand new to us. I was *very* happy to see his front teeth looking like normal teeth again!

While he was in there being fixed and measured, I took off for an hour trip to Barnes & Noble. Can I just say how much fun it is to spend an hour poking around that store!? These were some of the pretties I found. 

They have the loveliest leather journals that are *so* very tempting--and I don't even journal. :D They are just so beautiful and elegant and I want to want to journal. That has to count for something, right? ;)

I have a particular interest in all things Plantagenet and this book looked so interesting to me. I did not buy anything but a mocha there, but I sure have fun poking around and thinking about Christmas. Isn't that book set delicious?

Where do you go to poke around? Bookstores are my drug of choice. 

Speaking of books, I just finished a really interesting read. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

Now on the surface, you might think that is Benjamin Franklin's wife, but it isn't. It is his sister. They have letters to and from Franklin and his sister through much of her life. She was the only sibling of his to live to old age and they seemed very close. It was such an interesting time to live, but not one I would have wanted to go through. She has a hard life! I highly recommend the book. The author writes from a modern perspective that I did not love, and at times I thought her hypothesis of events or her comments of what "Jane must have thought" were off (at least they were off to me), but it did not take away from the book in any real way. What are you reading?

We have begun a brand new Bible study that was only just released.
Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults, Volume 1
Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults, Volume 2 and
Bible Doctrine for Teens and Young Adults, Volume 3 We are beginning with Volume 1. I am *very* happy with these resources. This is the Table of Contents for the first volume:

1. God's Essence, God's Names, God's Attributes

2. God's Revelation - General and Special, God's Word - Its Inspiration and Completion

3. The Bible - Its Ancient History, Translations, Infallibility, and Qualities - False Religions

4. The Trinity, God's Decree, Predestination

5. God's Creation, Theory of Evolution, Angels

6. God's Providence

7. The Creation of Man, The Image of God, Man's Soul and Body, The Covenant of Works

8. The Fall of Man, Sin, Death

9. The Covenant of Grace

10. The Mediator, The Natures of Jesus Christ, The Names of Jesus Christ

Doesn't that sound amazing? We are in the second chapter already and wow, this is such an amazing resource! I have never found anything this thorough for older children so I was very happy to discover this.

What are the resources you use that you love?

This blog post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Do you want to be on the Schoolhouse Review Crew?

Are you a homeschool blogger?
Are you a curriculum junkie?
Do you enjoy writing reviews?

Then YOU might be perfect for the Crew!

Click HERE to apply now!

 Application will close Friday, November 8!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Snapshots of Life - October Days

I like taking photos. It is fun to see trends of things that I am drawn to and photos of what we do in our lives every week. Animals and science experiments are a trend for me right now! This is one of the experiments we did in co-op on density from Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Lady Charlotte leads this part of our co-op, and I am so grateful because I am just not this fun. I would probably have skipped this experiment because it required so many things, but she chose it because she is awesome like that.

Sometimes the sweet moments are unplanned. On the spur of the moment I told my children to get shoes on and that we were going for gelato. No one argued. :D We went to The Fountains. This is a beautiful outside marketplace filled with flowers and, of course, fountains. It was a lovely evening where we discovered a fun store that and enjoyed the company of two other friends too. I very much enjoy spur-of-the-moment events.

On a visit to a friend's home, we discovered the glory of the Chinese Tallow Tree. It was in full beauty for fall. Isn't is lovely? Fall makes me happy. Do you have a favorite time of year?

On the way home from our friend's, we stopped at one of the prettiest places around, High-Hand Nursery, in Loomis. This place is astonishingly pretty and refreshing. Emma was playing with the koi as they nibbled her fingers. 

Below is another shot from inside the barn area at High-Hand Nursery. Aren't the colors beautiful?

Most of you know that we enjoy reptiles here. This is courtesy of our reptile-loving daughter. As you can see, she has an iguana and she likes to do her school with the iguana. Yeah, I know, funny, huh? God has grown me so much with this whole reptile thing. It began a few years ago when my husband and daughter brought home three snakes and two bearded dragons - at one time. (Yes, we are still married! :D)

I was NOT into reptiles at all, but I knew this girl of mine had a real interest in them so I just knew this was an area that God was growing me in. I didn't want to know about reptiles much less own any, but when one of your children loves something, sometimes we do things we might not normally do. I went to a reptile show with her around this time and began to get excited about these strange creatures. God grew our relationship because of it. I am very grateful. 

Do you like poison dart frogs? I find them adorable and fascinating. This one is not ours, but is located at the local reptile store. Did you know that in the wild they are, of course, poisonous, but in captivity they are not? What makes them toxic is what they eat. I had no idea. This guy is about as big as a quarter if you count his legs. He body is as round as a dime. They are very small, very bright, and entirely beautiful to me.

This is our little chameleon. I know I shared a photo of him last time, but he is just adorable here all curled up and sleeping. When he is full grown, he will be red and blue and gorgeous. He already flares up into green when he gets riled. He is a funny little creature!

Not only does this child like reptiles, but she loves dogs. This is our rescue dog, Rocky. He will probably never be an easy-going dog, but he is loyal as the day is long and loves our family--especially my girl. He is a funny addition to our home that I didn't expect to love nearly as much as I do. See those big brown eyes? Yeah, he is a real sweetheart and uses them against us!

Here is my science theme again! Here we made lava lamps and just had a ball!

I enjoy art so much. I know I have posted on this topic a lot, but there is nothing like art. The talents God gave some of these men and women astonishes me. It is a reflection of His glory. This past week we studied Cezanne. His art is not as amazing to me as some, but it was very fallish and the colors were lovely. We used chalk again and recreated Cezanne's Apples and Oranges

Today is the birthday of my youngest. I cannot believe it has been 11 years since her birth. She is a delight to me, full of life and joy, and she brings sunshine where ever she goes. The happiest birthdays to my girl!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bridgeway Academy - Marine Biology Online!

You might be thinking, how is that possible? Marine Biology online? It is! When the Bridgeway Academy review opportunity, Fun with Science - Marine Biology, came up, I thought of my son. He enjoys the study of the ocean and I do too so I figured he would like Bridgeway's Learning Labs. When I was young, I took one of those standardized tests that told me what my strengths were and what I might consider doing for a career when I grew up. One of the things it said about me was that I should consider being a marine biologist. To this day that amuses me because really, science is most definitely not my favorite thing to study, but I have always loved the ocean.


So what is Bridgeway Academy? 

Bridgeway Academy is an online resource for homeschoolers anywhere in the world. They offer a wide range of course options for K through 12th grade classes, full curriculum options, partial enrollment, as well as what we reviewed, Learning Labs - Online Homeschool Co-ops. The Marine Biology course was one such class. This is offered for $145 and lasts for nine weeks. These are live online courses where your child will interact, not only with the teacher (who is visible via a web camera), but also with students all over the world--this is the "co-op" aspect to the class.

How does it work?

Intended for grades 5-8, all students must have a high speed internet connection, a working microphone, and a working headset to participate. A webcam is highly recommended but not required. We had a webcam and this enabled the teacher to see my son when she interacted with him. My son could always see her face. These classes are designed "to encourage critical thinking, interaction, and hands-on learning through interdisciplinary topics." I found this to be true with the exception of the "hands-on" since there was not much of that via an online interaction. Students meet together in an online classroom (Jigsaw Meeting) and class instruction and discussion is facilitated by PowerPoint presentations, PDF documents, videos, in addition to the questions and answers the teacher utilizes throughout the course.

This is what my son's screen looked like:

The upper left is, of course, the teacher. In this case it was a lovely, educated, and interesting woman named Carla Berg. She really knew her subject and her interest in it was infectious. She has been a math and science teacher for eleven years and definitely knows and loves her subjects! There is also a map where the other students are located, a white board and an area for discussion as well as a chat area (with limited access so the kids don't get distracted!) The videos and PowerPoint presentations are enlarged when the teacher is utilizing them as she teaches through the subject. 

What is covered in Fun with Science - Marine Biology?

Our course covered these subjects in the hour and fifteen minute classes:

What is Marine Biology?
Osteichthyes (fish with bony skeletons)
Chondrichthyes (jawed cartilaginous fish - like sharks and rays)
Marine Mammals
Sea Turtles
Coral Reefs and the Arctic 
Polar Seas

To give you an idea of the thoroughness of these courses, this is an example of the 40-page PowerPoint presentation on Osteichthyes:

*Why do fish move?
*What slows fish down?
*Types of fins (detailed information on each kind)
*Anatomy of fish
*How a fish swims
*Cruising Speed
*Different kinds of fish (photos and graphics)
*Muscles of Fish

*Fish Senses (sight, hearing, etc.)
*Lateral Line (defined, explained, demonstrated)
*Swim Bladders
*Gills and Respiration

She carefully goes over each of these things and engages the children, asks good questions, and draws them into the conversation. It is a very Socratic way of teaching that I appreciated a great deal! 

After each class, she would assign homework that coincided with the subject of the week. One week my son had to write a paper on an endangered species. Another assignment was to showcase the "food web" in the sea. He was responsible for the assignment and for making sure the teacher received it on time. Jigsaw Meeting enabled us to go back and redo the PowerPoint presentations, obtain any PDFs or assignments we missed, and even re-watch the whole class if we happened to miss it. This is an example of what you will see inside and what you have access to after the class is over:

We did not need to provide anything for this class as it was all provided by the school via PDFs throughout the course. I really appreciated this! 

What did we think?

Every Monday at 10:15 am, my son would jump onto the computer, put his headphones on, and get going. I loved that he was learning through another teacher and that I didn't have to do any footwork for the class except to ask him, "Did you do your assignment?" He is a fairly self-motivated child (most of the time) and this class was interesting to him. I have never met a child that isn't fascinated with the sea or its creatures and what goes on under the waves. He is no different. I also really liked the manner in which the teacher engaged the students. She definitely drew them out and her love for the subject was appreciated here. At $145 per course ($16 per class), this might not be something that every family can do, but I do highly recommend the courses found at Bridgeway Academy. I know for certain we would never have spent this much time on marine biology, in this much depth, so I was thrilled that he was able to do so. What doors might this kind of learning open up for your child?

The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed two other Learning Labs from Bridgeway Academy in addition to a physical remedial English course called Bridgeway English (Book 1 and Book 2). I definitely recommend you check these reviews out on the Crew site! This is one company I will recommend for a long time to come!