Sunday, October 28, 2012


He has never forgotten.
Never missed the day.
Not once in the 32 years
since he asked me to "go steady".
Or in his exact words,
"make it official".
October 17th, 1980.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Short History of Bread

This has been a long road and although I am now travelling successfully down it, I still have a way to go. When I first started to make bread years ago, lots of years ago, I used a 1lb bread maker with a nice paddle that got lodged in the bread. We were busy home schoolers back then. Each morning one of the girls was responsible for putting the stuff in the bread maker. Every day at lunch we would take out the warm loaf and slice it vertically into 4 long wedges. It was hot and tasty but not very aesthetically pleasing. Plus the issue of that dumb paddle.

Moving on...
About a year ago I decided that I would try making bread again. I got a recipe and a Kitchen Aid and threw everything in and turned it on. The dough was too firm and it stuck on the bread hook. My husband said there was too much flour. (He was a Safeway Bakery Manager for many years). I argued that the recipe called for that much. After many poor loaves I gave up using the Kitchen Aid. I told myself I can do this. I can. So I started from the beginning.

I got a recipe and some bowls and my ingredients and some elbow grease and set out to learn to make a decent loaf of bread. And you know what? It worked. I have learned several things in the process.

  1. The amount of flour in a bread recipe is approximate.
  2. You need to get a feel for how the dough should be.
  3. Sometimes, doing things the old fashioned way is best.
  4. Ask your blogging and facebook friends for advice.
  5. You can teach an old dog new tricks.

This is my everyday bread recipe. I don't know where I got it from but I have changed it so much from the original that it matters not.

Everyday Bread

2c warm filtered
1/2 cup sugar (scant)
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast

I boil one cup of water, add the sugar to dissolve and then add the other cup of filtered water from the tap. After the sugar is dissolved, add the yeast and allow to activate.

Add: 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
         1/4 cup melted butter
         and around 5 1/2 cups of flour

Knead until smooth, allow to rise until doubled in a well greased bowl covered with a damp cloth. Shape into two loaves and put in bread pans. Let rise until it is just above the top of the pan. Bake at 350 for exactly 33 minutes.

I proof the bread in my oven using the bread proof setting but if not just put it in the oven with the light on. I also use some whole wheat flour and some white. More white. Way more. Say, 1 cup whole wheat and the rest white. When I am trying to be particularly healthy I use 2 cups whole wheat. :)

And like I said, I still have a way to go. I have some trouble with the shaping, and can someone tell me why this happens more often than not? My husband tells me it is rising too fast but what would he know? ;)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sweet Symphony

When I saw that the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra has a family concert series, I knew I had to get tickets. She loves Classical and Baroque music so much. In fact, she is now listening to a Bach CD each night as she falls asleep. Her choice.Neither of us had ever been to the symphony although I have wanted to go for many years. (My thing is winter highway driving)

This particular symphony called "See Me, Hear Me" was geared to children. There was also instruction by the guest conductor Richard Carnegie. He taught the kids, and adults alike, about the subject of a piece. Then he had some "Where's Waldo" child actors hiding among the musicians. When the subject would be played a Waldo stood up and the audience was to wave their arms. Then later in the piece we were to see if we could hear the subject without a Waldo popping up. It was brilliant!! He also taught them how to conduct. Down, right, left, up. That was kind of fun.

The guest artist was a 13 year old viola player. She was a winner at the music festival and her prize was a debut at this concert. Her name is Katriana Philipenko. Of course it was. There was no way her name would be Molly Green. :)

At intermission, there was an instrument petting zoo. Athena was the first to try the instruments. We got to the show early and she did this before hand. Turns out she is good at trombone and trumpet and needs a little work on flute. And this germophobe mother wouldn't let her try instruments with reeds. :)

After Intermission a the Orchestra moved down to the floor and dancers took the stage to act out Sleeping Beauty. It had Puss in Boots in it and a little girl danced a solo. I am sure she was not more than 6 years old. The music became a little sinister and Athena couldn't help but yell out "Bad Kitty!" Many parents turned around and smiled at her. She really has a good ear for music!

She loved it. I loved it. Even Paul loved it. He must be getting used to it as if Athena picks the music for dinner it is almost always Josh Groban or Mozart.

And to quote Athena again, she says,

"I love classical music because the words don't get in the way."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Snow Day

As the weather man predicted, we did get that low pressure system that came out of Montana. We awoke to snow!

Not only was there snow, but it was SNOWMAN snow. And snowman snow doesn't happen very often in dry Saskatchewan.

One cannot wait until next time, one has to seize the opportunity when it arises!

So although it is almost 2pm we have only done math and spelling today.

The rest can wait until a girls nose and toes are just too cold to stay out a minute longer. We'll make some hot chocolate and warm up as we I give her today's history lesson and read from our novel.

I mean really, who can resist the first snowfall of the season? Not I!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Man and His Dog

I am a cat person. I have always loved cats. Notice I didn't say I am a kitten person. I much prefer cats, but one has to start out with a kitten in order to get a good cat. You know, a cat who doesn't jump on the cupboards and try to eat food off of your plate. This little kitten has already learned not to come into our bedroom. As much as I love cats, I don't like them in my bedroom. At all. Ever. Good little Martha.


I have tried to be a dog person. Many times. We have had dogs for different amounts of time. Our longest was 2 years. He was a Golden Retriever. Caleb. Good dog. But oh so hairy and oh so sheddy.(that's a word, isn't it?) I don't like little dogs much but hey, most of them don't shed. I love the IDEA of a dog. So much so that when my girls asked me when they were little I tried. Very hard. The smell and the dog hair all over the place got me every time. My husband indulged me/us without ever complaining. But... he is a dog person.

And now, after 29 years of marriage, it is the first time HE has initiated getting a dog. After all this time of travelling and night shifts and business trips he is finally home on a regular basis and now he wants a dog. I looked and looked and inquired and inquired at every shelter around. I knew for sure that I did not want a puppy. That is way too much work for me and way too much mess to deal with. We finally contacted a breeder who was retiring one of her females. She was a 7 year old fully obedience trained (in hunting even, although my husband doesn't hunt) Black Lab. For a very good reason on the seller's part,(their older dog was put down a week before we were supposed to pick her up) we didn't get her.

Then, Paul found a husky who was 1 year old. He was going to pick him up but my gut told me no. I told him so and I felt so bad. The very next day I found an ad for the dog of his boyhood dreams! A 1 year old female Registered Red Bone Coonhound. Think Where the Red Fern Grows. Yeah, that breed. After several phone calls and emails we were told the dog would be brought to our house on a certain day. We eagerly went to the store to get all the necessary supplies. Some of us were more eager than others. We waited for the day to come and it did. And it passed. And no dog, no phone call, no email. In fact we were dumbfounded as to what happened.

We sadly took all of the supplies back to the store. Some more sadly than others. We decided to wait until Spring when we move. Yes, we will be moving but that is a post for another day. Then the day after that the owner of the Coonhound called and said there was an accident involving her father and sister and there were apologies etc.... Paul went out to get her the next day.


We have had her for 5 short days and we love her already. Some of us more than others. She is a good girl. Very stubborn. Very food motivated. Very gentle. Very quiet. And yet very loud! She doesn't like it when she is left in her crate and we leave. Have you ever heard a coonhound howl? Check it out on YouTube. IT IS LOUD!! She is a very low shedding breed, which is fantastic for this slighlty obsessive housekeeper and fully housebroken which is a HUGE plus.


Paul is as happy as can be. I am as happy as can be that he is going on not one but two 40 minute walks a day! Athena is thrilled beyond belief. And Martha... well this 3lb kitten, in just 5 short days, has put a 60lb dog right in her place!

PS Nahla is her name.
PPS She was/is in heat when we got her. Sigh.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

On The Homefront

We are well into our 9th week of third grade.
Some things are working well.
Some things we struggle with.
Some things get left out more than I would like.
And some days... I want to run away!  Did I just write that?  Indeed I did.

I am finding it very hard these past two weeks. We don't blog much about this do we? We tend to show the great projects and the fun filled field trips. Do we often say how hard this gig is some days?  Like that days that math takes an hour and a half because, well, we forget what 8+6 equals over and over again. Or the days when the "stubborn" kicks in and neither of us knows why. Or the days when there is so much other stuff to do that all we accomplish is math and some reading. Yeah, days like that. We have been having a lot of days like that.
Some things are going really well (most days). The Teaching Textbooks are really good. I mean very very good. The lessons are short and sweet (most days) and they are clearly explained and the concepts learned are repeated over and over so the child learns mastery. I like that someone else is teaching at least one subject. We always start the morning with math for two reasons. One: she loves it. Two: it allows me to get some house work type of things started.  
Handwriting Without Tears is a good cursive writing workbook as well. She will finish this book up next week. Some of the letters are not exactly how I would write them and since I think I have nice handwriting, I have taught her otherwise. Lower case R, M and N in particular. She has lovely handwriting. Of course she does. She is an artist.
I am also LOVING her grammar/writing/dictation/memorization program. Really good stuff. We do about three lessons a week, which seems about right just now.  First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. This all in one program is just what I she needs. Simple easy to follow lessons.
Her spelling program Spelling Workout C is a good choice. There is not a test at the end of the week so I have her spell the words on the chalkboard or orally.
She has read over 45 books in these past weeks. Some short chapter books but mostly picture books. Her favorite have been The Canadian Flyer Series. Historical fiction is the best! We have read aloud Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek and several Thornton Burgess Animal books. The Adventures of Chatterer the Squirrel and The Adventures of Reddy Fox. Even I enjoy the Thornton Burgess Books. Again, he writes animal stories but so much can be learned about the animals and their habitats. That is what we both like about them. Plus, they are plain good reading. They are written in the early 1900's so the language can be different. Different but good.
Speaking of language, we are going through the English From The Roots Up cards, beginning with Greek roots. This, she likes as well. Me too. (Obviously I am doing a lot of learning right along with her!)

Now for what isn't going well. Science, History, Art and Music. I have such great resources and lots of ideas but NO TIME! By the time we have the basics covered I am finding it hard to squeeze these subjects in on a regular basis. I would like to do science and history twice a week and art and music once. Not happening. We did finish a unit on Squirrels, Chipmunks and Marmots. It was fun, it was educational and she liked it. Our next unit will be on Trees, Nuts and Berries. I am using the Knee High Nature: Fall book. The same book I used to home school my third daughter all those years ago.
History. I don't know about the History we chose. It is The Story of the World: Early Modern Times. It seems a little above her understanding and it moves very quickly. She learned at the tender age of 8 that Queen Mary was beheaded. The books are well laid out but I don't know... Something just isn't working with it. We are on to Pocahontas already and we are not too many lessons in. Maybe I am not giving it a good effort.
I bought an Art/Music program to coincide with the History book. We are learning about Diego Velasquez, whom I have never heard of. But oh my... what a great artist! His paintings look like photographs. They are really good! Check out these on Google Images. We are listening to music from Handel at the moment and Athena really has a good ear. The first piece we are studying is Music for the Royal Fireworks. Within a few bars, she said "This sounds like Castle music." Oh yes it does. This art and music program is written by Barb. Otherwise known as Harmony Art Mom. I love it. Love it. I am doing the assignments in my own book. Like I said, I am learning right along with her. But again, it is hard to fit all of this good stuff in once the basics are covered.

I feel torn between what I believe to be a good education for a child and what I believe to be an exciting well rounded education, if that makes any sense. I believe it is SO important to be able to read, write, spell and have good grammar. We work a lot on that. I believe math skills are important. (just thinking we need to add more drill). I believe in reading aloud and being read to. I think a child should know about the past in order to understand the future. I believe in children having a basic understanding about how things work, how nature works, how machines are made, the sky, the stars, biology, physics, chemistry.

And then... there is a reason we home school. Not wanting her to sit in a desk for 6 hours a day is a big one. Wanting her to love learning, lifelong learning is another. To think independently and work in her own style and at her own pace, some others. But how do we fit this all in a day? This is not a rhetorical question. How can I do it without exhausting her energies and her attention span? How can I teach her what she needs to know and keep her excited and engaged?

And this is where we are today. Trying our best to do what we believe to be the right thing for this little life. This little girl who is imaginative, smart, innocent, inquisitive, artistic and oh so easily distracted and can be oh so stubborn.

My nightly glass glasses of wine never tasted so good!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mellow October

Delicious Autumn!
My very soul is wedded to it,
and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth
seeking successive Autumns.
-George Eliot

 I cannot endure to waste  anything as precious
as Autumn sunshine by staying in the house.
So I spend almost all the daylight hours
in the open air.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne


No Spring nor Summer Beauty
hath such grace
as I have seen
in one Autumnal face.
-John Dunne






Autumn, the year's last,
loveliest smile.
-William Cullen Bryant