Monday, November 30, 2009


We are trying something different for Advent this year. (In the past I've used this little Advent reader and cabinet full of treasures.) Beginning tomorrow, we will be reading the 24 stories in Geraldine McCaughrean's The Jesse Tree. I am using the images linked here to print and have the boys color for our Jesse Tree. (I also like the free printable ornaments here.) We have never done this activity, so I'm really looking forward to it!

As a family, we have also started reading through The Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader, which I already adore. Each day's reading begins with a passage from Handel's Messiah (with Biblical reference), then goes on to tell a story (we learn about shepherds, refining gold, the history of the Messiah, swaddling babies, O. Henry's 'The Gift of the Magi', the story of 'Silent Night,' and more). Each story includes a work of art (Rembrant, John Singer Sargent, Dazario, and others) or a photograph. The book holds a CD with corresponding portions of Handel's Messiah to listen to after the day's reading, beginning and ending with the 'Hallelujah Chorus.' A section at the end of the book also provides extra details and information, Bible passages to read, and additional activities such as reading or listening for those who would like an expanded Advent experience. I may incorporate those as the boys get older.

While we're on the subject of Handel, the boys are also listening to Hallelujah Handel.
And our favorite Christmas CD, A Classical Kids Christmas, is gracing our day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Senior Photo Session #3

Senior 2

One more senior photo session to share!
This has been such a crazy year for me as far as my photography goes.
I'm not really advertising or searching out clients,
and honestly I'm not really at a place where I feel comfortable doing so (for a bunch of reasons).
BUT, I'm elated (and terrified) when photo session opportunities fall into my lap.
This is the third senior session I was asked to do this fall when I had no expectations of doing any,
but I've much appreciated gaining a bit of experience on these brave people.
And, golly, it sure does help my photography look good when they are GORGEOUS to start with. Grin.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Glorious Green Friday

Green Friday

Did I mention that Thanksgiving day was wet and dreary (outside only, of course)?
Well, check out our weather for the second annual GREEN FRIDAY.
It doesn't get better than this, folks.
Two-hour nature hike and treasure gathering for Christmas decorating.
This time Shannon and Ben joined us.

Oh, and did I mention that I have the BEST family in the whole world?
Yeah, baby.
Rose hips, apples, snake, branches, frogs, moss, sunshine. Gorgeous, heart-warming sunshine.
(Then back to Holly's for cedar branches!)

Nature Hike

Rose Hips



Friday, November 27, 2009

Living. Lovely. ~ Heart of Gratitude

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

~George Herbert

To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant,
to enact gratitude is generous and noble,
but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.

~Johannes A. Gaertner

O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.

~William Shakespeare

Did you

Have a Heart of Gratitude

this week?

Did you have a lovely Thanksgiving?


I am so full to the brim with gratitude this week.
My grandparents arrived on Tuesday (up from California).
Have I ever mentioned how much I adore my grandparents?
I cherish every minute we are able to spend together!!
They have spent Thanksgiving with us for years and years, now.
I hope we have years left to continue the tradition.

My mom is always a wonderful hostess.
Delicious food, beautiful table, lovely company.
(My Dad's mom passed away almost 3 years ago, and her dishes now grace our Thanksgiving table every year.)

Cheer and Welcome

The Fullness of Life
We often go walking in the late afternoon after Thanksgiving dinner,
but this year was so rainy and dark, we just snuggled up in the living room for quiet talking.
The boys colored, played with Legos, and occasionally snuggled for a minute or two.
Eventually, Ben hooked up the Wii, and hilarious entertainment ensued.

Our Treasures

Most of my favorite childhood memories include my grandparents.
I can't even describe to you how willing they were to jump in and participate in every childhood delight we desired!!
(Do you see them above playing the Wii? Cow racing. Couldn't. Stop. Laughing.)

My grandma brought a stack of old photos with her this trip.
Photos they took while visiting us years and years ago.
One of the pictures shows the three of us girls (I was probably 6 or 7) playing with Legos we had just received for Christmas.
The same Legos the boys are playing with in the collage above.

The photo below pretty much sums up my childhood.
The three sisters standing in front of our huge veggie garden.
Grandpa in his swimming trunks..... playing in the sprinkler with us.


Life is really, really good. And I'm full of gratitude for an abundance of blessings.


Next week's Living. Lovely. challenge:

Believe in the impossible.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

'Tis the Season

Tomorrow is our second annual Green Friday.
Wahoo for beautiful, meaningful traditions!!

To Grandfather's House We Go...

On the Thanksgiving Menu

We're off, braving the two mile trek through the country (grin) to spend the day with family.
This photo is from two years ago, but we are all about tradition around here.
I'm adding Swedish Limpa (bread) and Orange Cream Souffle (mousse-like jello salad) to the menu, as always.
Shannon and I spent yesterday evening together making bread dressing and watching a romantic comedy.
We walked/ran this morning in the rain so that we wouldn't have to feel quite so badly about the amount of food we will surely eat this afternoon....

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!!

(Living. Lovely. will go up late this evening or tomorrow.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I {heart} Netflix

Eight and a half glorious hours of Dickens.
Instant play. Oh, how I love Netflix.
Bleak House was fabulous.
I can't fathom watching it in several episodes over time (as it was shown on PBS).
I could barely stand to stretch it out over two evenings.

Just as with Little Dorrit, BBC is unparalleled at making Dickens come alive.

To Be a Boy

Back in August, Chewing the Cud by Dick King-Smith jump-started my reading after a slight drought. I truly loved his memoir. Lately, I've picked up a few more memoirs. Somehow, they've all been by male authors. Interesting. I'm wondering if I had a subconscious need to see childhood through a boy's eyes.

26 Fairmount Avenue by Tomie DePaola is a very short child-friendly book, which is the beginning of a series I am now looking forward to reading. It charmed my socks off. Life as a five-year-old boy in 1939.

Before that, I read Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl. Hilarious escapades, not so hilarious school beatings, but always engaging. Life as a boy in Norway/Wales/England in the 20s and 30s. I have Dahl's sequel about his years as a WWII pilot, Going Solo, on my book stack.

I then read The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson. Side-splitting, laugh-out-loud funny. Completely irreverent and, ahem, indecent at times, Bryson left out nothing about what it is like to be part of the male species. The memoir is filled not only with memories of a boy growing up in Iowa in the 50s, but with an astonishing amount of information about the era. I seriously feel as if I completed a crash course in American history, circa 1950.

The Thunderbolt Kid reminded me a bit of The Great Brain, simply because neither book glosses over boyhood experiences from a politically incorrect age. And they both have a shockingly matter-of-fact tone when describing things such as helping a friend commit suicide, polio and other childhood diseases, school-yard hierarchy, neighbors starving to death, ethnic people, planting alcohol in a teacher's room to get him fired....I think I turned pale several times when reading The Great Brain aloud to Levi a while back. I didn't remember a lot of things from when I read it as a child.

Speaking of The Great Brain, Papa Married a Mormon, also by John D. Fitzgerald, is near the top of my towering book stack.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Writing Our Story

Alleluia! We don't have to be right! We do have to love, to be vulnerable, to accept joy and pain, to grow through them.

Was it predetermined that Milton go blind in order to write Paradise Lost? That Beethoven go deaf to write the Ninth Symphony? That these artists grew through affliction is undeniable, but that this affliction was planned? No! Everything in me rebels. I cannot live in a world where everything is predetermined, an ant world in which there is no element of choice. I do believe that we all have a share in the writing of our own story. We do make a decision at the crossroads. Milton could have retreated into passive blindness and self-pity instead of trying the patience of his three dutiful daughters and any visiting friend by insisting that they write down what he dictated. Beethoven could have remained in the gloom of silence instead of forging the glorious sounds which he could never hear except in his artist's imagination.

Sometimes the very impetus of overcoming obstacles results in a surge of creativity.
It is in our responses that we are given the gift of helping God write our story.

~Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water, pp 232-233

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Field Trip #9 ~ Evergreen Aviation, Take 2

Evergreen Aviation

Now this was more like it.
Leif spent the day with my mom
while I took Levi and Luke to the Evergreen Aviation Homeschool Day
Ilex increased the 'adult' child ratio to 1:1. Ahhhhh.

(Drake was with us as well, but participated in the activities for grades 5-12.)
Thank you, thank you, Ilex. You're a gem!!

The theme for the day?
The Wright brothers and Louis Bleriot, the invention process, and simple machines.

(Aha! So that's why we were reading those books....)

Our day started off with the IMAX show: The Magic of Flight.
Incredible!!!! We got to fly with the Blue Angels!! Yeah, Baby!!

Then off to tour the aviation museum.
Da Vinci's flying maching, the Wright Bros., Bleriot, and Howard Hughes and the Spruce Goose.
After lunch, we had a class on the invention process and simple machines.
Various stations were set up for experimenting with gears, pulleys, and more.

Then the kids got to invent their own games.

Much, much easier than the engineering projects last time. (Sigh of relief.)
We even had a little extra time to see more of the museum. What a gorgeous place!

The Wright Bros.

Museum Tour


If you have never seen the Spruce Goose in person, it is hard to fathom it's colossal size.
It has the largest wingspan and height of any aircraft in history. Whew!!
And it is made out of wood.

Spruce Goose

Aviation Museum

Aviation Museum 2

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the Book Stack

(Gorgeous illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen... two of my favorites!!)

Living. Lovely. ~ Be Silly

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

~e.e. cummings

So, did you take time to

Be Silly

This week?


I'll be honest and admit that this was a tough challenge for me this week. I'm tired, and the boys are going crazy. We have some routine/discipline/training revamping to do in the next few weeks. Something's gotta change.

I've been trying to get in bed earlier at night to get in a decent amount of sleep before waking up at the crack of dawn to go walking/running, but it is really cutting into my down-time in the evening. Last night I desperately needed some silly, mindless entertainment. The dirty dinner dishes stayed in the sink, and I watched a movie instead. (GASP!)

The Man Who Knew Too Little is pure silliness.
Bill Murray was cathartic for me. And worth the sink of dirty dishes that faced me this morning.


Next week's Living. Lovely. challenge:

Have a Heart of Gratitude

The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies;
but let the thankful heart sweep through the day
and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find,
in every hour, some heavenly blessings!
~Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Living. Lovely. Late.

My weekly Living. Lovely. challenge post will be going up a day or two late this week.
But I promise it will be here by Friday afternoon....

Field Trip #8 ~ Bob's Red Mill

Mill Tour #2

Did I mention we have been all about grains/mills/bread lately?
I've been meaning to get up to Bob's Red Mill (we use several of Bob's grain products),
and I thought their mill tour would be perfect for the boys.

I would just love to tell you all about my well-behaved, intelligent, quiet/still, curious boys and how much they loved this field trip.
I would love to tell you that I am a super-homeschooling-mother and was cheerful and gracious to my well-behaved boys.
Sigh. It was an off-day for all of us. We left the tour part-way through.
The boys were on over-load, needed to go to the bathroom, hungry.... I don't know, but it wasn't pretty.

The visitor's center/store/cafe is just down the road, and I decided a bite to eat might be what we all needed.
Sigh. We survived lunch, and then my mom and I took turns watching the boys in the truck while the other shopped for a few minutes.
(I think my mom was entertained by my meltdown.)
The long drive was by far the best part of our day. I'm so glad my boys are good on the road.

What I can say, is that it was certainly an awesome place to visit without young boys
with ants in their pants and an inability to keep noises from emanating from their bodies.
You can watch the mill tour video here.
The store/cafe/visitor's center is fabulous, and I would love to have a few hours there by myself!
They also sell their products online.

Mill Tour #2

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Fire Cat

Meet The Fire Cat.

I often call Luke Curious George, but he is also very much like Pickles, the Fire Cat.
Pickles has big paws and wants to do big things, but he gets into trouble when he is bored.
He isn't a good cat, he isn't a bad cat, he is a good and bad, bad and good cat. He is a mixed-up cat.
Until he becomes the fire cat and gets to do big things.
The Fire Cat is Luke's favorite book to read.

It is a fun surprise for kids to get a peek at Jenny Linsky in the pages of The Fire Cat.
Jenny, the black cat with the red scarf.

Kids can meet Jenny in the pages of Jenny and the Cat Club (also by Ether Averill) in which they get to revisit their old friend, Pickles the Fire Cat.
I find this is a handy way to get kids interested in reading a book at a higher level:
give them something (or someone) familiar to get them instantly hooked.
Both Levi and Luke love Jenny and the Cat Club.

And if kids love Jenny, the rest of the series is now back in print, as well!
Guess what is on our Christmas list?

Luke Reading

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Science of Bread

Bread, bread, bread. I'm up to my ears in it! We had a fabulous visit to Thompson's Mill, made a few batches of Cranberry Orange Bread, visited Bob's Red Mill (more about that later)....

We found The Science of a Loaf of Bread at the library. It fit in perfectly with life and studies the last couple weeks. I was surprised by the amount of information in this book, and at a level just right for Levi and Luke. It covers various grains, why we eat bread, the different parts of wheat, how flour is made, how yeast works, making dough, how bread rises, what happens to bread as it is baked, how your body digests bread, physical and chemical changes, pictures, diagrams, experiments, and recipe and instructions for making bread.

Luke begged to make the bread. He had already read all the ingredients and instructions in the book, so there was no deviation from his plan. I think he had most of the ingredients out and on the counter before I finally caved. The kitchen was a disaster, we had other things to do, but there was no putting him off. We made bread. And, boy howdy, was he proud of his loaf!

Luke's Bread

I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series. We have The Science of a Glass of Water on our stack for this next week. Water.... I think I can handle that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Living. Lovely. ~ Savor Slow Food

Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well.

Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food

as you devote to your appearance.

Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.

~Charles Pierre Monselet, French author (1825-1888), Letters to Emily

Did you

Savor Slow Food

this past week?

Tell me all about it. Pictures! Recipes! Do share!


I was in bread mood. Really in a bread mood.

[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony.

It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...

there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel,

that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.

~M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

I love bread in all forms.
French baguettes. Whole grain toast... buttered, of course. Corn bread.
Biscuits. Banana bread. Scones. Fresh tortillas. Focaccia. Croissants. Shall I go on?
Swedish Limpa (more about that in a couple days).
Orange Cardamom Bread with Cardamom butter (be still my beating heart...).


I had fresh cranberries on hand this week. My mouth was watering for Cranberry Orange Bread.
My dear mother brought me her Pillsbury's Bake Off Breads Cook Book she has used since first married (40 years ago!!).
I thumbed through the pages, remembering various breads she has baked for our family over the years.
I'm pitifully sentimental. I think the Cranberry Orange Bread tastes so much better,
just because I got to use Mom's bread cook book....

Baking with Helpers

I always have helpers in the kitchen. Always. Luke and Leif refuse to miss out on the process. Levi joins us here and there.
I'm counting on the fact that the boys will be able to cook and bake on their own in a few years.... (We also made yeast bread this week, but I'll post about that in a day or two.
There is nothing more theraputic than kneeding bread, I tell ya!)

I made a couple batches. The loaves don't last long around here.
This is all that remained when I remembered I needed to get a picture:

Cranberry Orange Bread

Want the recipe? Voila!

Cranberry Orange Bread

4 cups unbleached white flour (I use 3 cups white, 1 cup whole wheat)
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons grated orange peel
4 Tablespoons (or 1/4 cup) shortening (I use olive oil)
2 eggs
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped or halved
(1 cup chopped nuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9x5 loaf pans.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and soda. Stir to mix well.
Add orange juice, orange peel, shortening and egg to dry ingredients. Mix until well blended.
Stir in cranberries (and chopped nuts). Pour into loaf pans.
Bake for 55-65 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool thoroughly

Next week's Living. Lovely. challenge:

Be Silly!!

Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans;

it's lovely to be silly at the right moment.

~Horace (Ancient Roman Poet. 65 BC-8 BC)