Thursday, September 29, 2011

On The Bookshelf

My summer read this year was Manor House   Life In An Edwardian Country House written by Juliet Gardiner. This book I picked up at a church yard sale because I, like many Americans, love all things English. It is an oversized "coffee table book"  with some very beautiful pictures, but it is really a book for reading with almost 300 pages of small print! Ms. Gardiner tells the story of a recent social experiment in which a modern, 21st Century family is transported "back in time" so to speak by living exactly as they would have during the time of 1901-1909 when Edward VII, son of Victoria, was the King of England. Twenty other modern day folks were hired to be their servants who also had to follow the norms of the period in dress, attitude and behavior and perform the duties of waiting hand and foot on the family upstairs. This was really interesting because  it was not only about the rich and famous but also about rank, peerage and royalty!

They had a hard working French cook who turned out deluxe multi-course meals three to four times a day and plucked his own pheasants etc. They could only use tools and methods that were actually available in the period. An elaborate mansion was leased by PBS and this Edwardian Experiment was filmed as a TV series. Many interviews are given in the book as to how people were feeling and dealing with their new roles. The family above stairs had to get used to entertaining and being waited on to the point of having very little privacy.The servants had to get up before dawn and work all day into the late evening doing everything from keeping fires burning to polishing silver, peeling vegetables and preparing for parties of distinguished guests. This book gave a lot of background history of England in the early 1900's and showed pictures of their elaborate dinner parties and ridiculously extravagant entertainments. The modern participants, including the folks living the privileged life of the upperclass family as well as the servants, found it most difficult to get used to the absolute, unwavering attention to rank and status. They all were very grateful for the opportunity as no expense was spared to make the experience authentic.

What is typical of my style, is that I read the entire book but I have never seen an episode of this series on TV or on the computer. I generally prefer the written version of most things. I would much rather read a review of a movie than see the movie! It took me most of the summer to read this non-fiction book and I found it to be worth my time.

These next two books I read were borrowed from the library. Becca's Story by James D. Foreman is based on a true story from a diary in the author's family. Becca is 15 years old at the start of the Civil War and is kind of sweet on two of the young men in town who enlist. By the end of the war, having written many letters to both of the young men and received their replies, she chooses the steady one over the adventurous one to marry. It was pleasant to read and gave details about some of the battles of the war that are familiar to me.

Left neglected by Lisa  Genova was a very interesting and up to the minute story of a high powered career couple and their crazy-busy family life in a fancy suburb of Boston .The Mom has a serious, life-changing car accident while texting her business associates. She spends the next four months in neuro rehab because she is no longer aware of ANYTHING to the left of the midline of her body. She cannot see the left side of anything and is not aware that it exists at all. She eats only the food on the right side of her plate and can only read the right side of the page. In fact, she doesn't know that she has a left hand, arm, foot or leg. She can't "find" them and make them move. She eventually comes home from rehab and her husband has to floss her teeth for her nightly which is in complete contrast to the 13 or more hour days she used to work in a fast paced job while raising three young kids  (with the help of a great nanny).
Although I had never heard of it, this strange condition can happen to people after a head injury. The author took great pains to describe how it felt and what it was like to have it. Not quite as busy as the Mom in the story, I could only imagine how tragic it would be to suddenly not be able to do for oneself and be this dependent on others for everything. At the end of the story, the woman is able to return to skiing downhill in a special disability snowboard and takes a job in charge of the program at the ski resort. She and her husband move to Vermont to a much slower paced and less expensive lifestyle. She connects with her son who is struggling with ADD because they do similar homework together and help each other.It was a very entertaining story and it was easy to read quickly.
Since, the school year began, I have been reading great children's literature like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic from which I get child-rearing tips, and All -of-A Kind Family about an Orthdox Jewish family of 5 daughters and their wonderful Mamma and Pappa. It has also been great to re-read Sarah, Plain and Tall.  Good Stuff! Happy Reading!

Star Wars- The Next Generation

John has been fascinated with Star Wars for a few months now. The funny thing is that he has never seen the movies. We own them, but he has never gotten around to watching them.
He has developed an interest in this topic because he has read about ten novels on this futuristic Science Fiction fantasy. Some of these books we own and were originally purchased for and read by Jeff and Greg when they were younger.
Others he has borrowed from the library which has an extensive Star Wars collection. Like Star Trek, Star Wars has a lot of fans of all ages.
The only video game he plays, when he is allowed to, is a Star Wars game set in a Lego's world. He has been introduced to many obscure characters of the series in this game, which apparently follows along the movies closely. He has a couple of Star War's Lego sets of his own with which he acts out the battle scenes he has played in the game or read about.
I appreciate that Star Wars has had the staying power to fire the imaginations of these young people across the span of many years. Their cousins also seem to enjoy these characters. Some of them have borrowed and read our aforementioned books, and others have their own collection of  Star War's costumes. I WILL encourage John to put a couple of Light Sabers on his Christmas List, so that these dangerous ski poles can be put away!

Monday, September 19, 2011


I have been noticing a lot of mushrooms around the neighborhood and more than that- all the different kinds of mushrooms and their large sizes!
Kristy noticed the same thing and provided these little ones with a wonderful nature time collecting many varieties.
I don't know what the difference between a mushroom and a toadstool is, but the shapes and colors of many of these fungi lent themselves precisely to the storybook notion of a fairy's toadstool.
We were all aware that mushrooms in the wild are often highly dangerous, at least that's  what the  legend says and what we told the kids. We made sure that no sampling was going on.

After they had a ball going all around the yard collecting them, Kristy laid them out according to type and what a wondrous variety there was. None of us have ever seen so many different kinds growing at one time before and in such profusion.

Lemon Yellow

I grabbed my camera because it just happened that my kitchen was ablaze in the color yellow all at the same time! Tori gave Natalie at least a dozen yellow roses during her recent hospitalization.This reminded me that my parents gave me a dozen yellow roses for my sixteenth birthday back when roses were not so easy to come by.I was saddened that I had forgotten to do the same for Natalie although I remembered roses for her sisters on their sixteenth.I was thrilled that Tori's gift was so timely and made up for my lapse ( I hope!).
 The roses were beautiful while blooming but now had faded. We allowed Miss J. to cut them up to play with. She happened to have my yellow shirt on.
Meanwhile, John was standing right next to her scooping yellow vanilla pudding. He was doing another experiment which called for lemon jello. Not having that, we substituted pudding. The idea was to see if one dyed lemon jello red, would people think it tasted like cherries or strawberry jello. Humans use their eyes as well as their sense of smell when eating. Unfortunately, nobody was fooled by " vanilla" pudding dyed red. They didn't think it was some kind of cherry pudding because that doesn't exist. Red jello is very common though, and we all agreed that it could have fooled someone into thinking that lemon jello, dyed red, could be thought to be"cherry jello".

Natural Selection

 We looked forward to the first science experiment of the year because it called for a large bag of m&m's, my favorite candy. John is studying Apologia's Land Creatures of the Sixth Day. The Notebooking Journal is a fantastic addition to this book and that is where he recorded his results.

 The idea was to separate the colors of m&m's  and to count them out.Whichever had the smallest number would determine which number to be used in the experiment.

Then, three colors of construction paper were gathered, seven sheets of each color, cut into 6 pieces each.
 They were put into a hamper with the sides blocked. All six colors of m&m's were poured into the hamper.
The author of this text is a "Creationist". He strongly disbelieves in the theory of evolution.He states that no matter how many millions of years one pretends to count up, a lion will NEVER turn into an elephant. He believes that God made KINDS of animals- dogs, cats etc..(as it says in Genesis). There HAVE been modifications to the characteristics of those animals all within their own kind. Dogs are still dogs no matter how big.....He is a strong believer in the process of Natural Selection, that is, that animals that have characteristics that lend well to survival in their environments will naturally do well and live to reproduce which perpetuates those specific characteristics.
The idea (and hypothesis) for this experiment was that m&m's whose colors match the three colors of construction paper would be harder to find because they are camouflaged and will elude capture.On the contrary, the m&m's that don't match, like the red, blue and brown ones would be very easy to spot and find in this hamper environment.The kids had to find them in a 2 minute period and count them after sorting by color. In the end, their results were skewed because they wound up with more m&m's  in the basket than they had put in! Their conclusion was that a certain young student wearing purple added additional m&m's to the basket! John wrote this up in his notebook and we all enjoyed a candy treat!

Color Coordinated Closet

Natalie outdid herself when asked to clean her room recently!
After bringing out two bags of unused clothing, she arranged  everything else according to the colors of the rainbow. I didn't actually check to see if it was ROYGBIV but it looks pretty close!
I got such a kick out of this creative "going beyond the call of duty" that I'm pretty sure I said yes to whatever she was asking for when she went in to clean her room!

Animal Prints

Anyone who has spent any time shopping lately can verify that this season's hottest trend is animal prints!
I am seeing it on dresses, shirts, shoes and even school supplies! I happened to look out the window and got such a kick out of seeing it all over these two! Of course Princess always wears her tortie colors.
This outfit was Meg's in first grade and the hat we've had for ten years. In other words, we've had these clothes long enough for them to be in style, go out, and come back in again!

A Trip to The Salon

 Miss J. received some money from her brother for her birthday. She decided that she wanted to go to the Salon for the first time and have her hair done.
She really enjoyed the whole experience. She got a "bob" which looks great on her and is easy for her to manage by herself.
I admired how she was able to spend her gift of money in a special way that would be fun and a treat for her. In the past, I  have definitely been known to use a gift of money (given to me) to pay a bill or to gas up the car. That isn't much fun. I liked my daughter's attitude and I will try to emulate that in the future.

Hurricane in the Forecast

 We had heard about Hurricane Irene coming up the coast and we wanted to be prepared.
On the morning that the brunt of the storm was to be over us, these three guys put on their hurrricane uniforms.
I washed out this big water cooler and filled it and many old juice bottles with water. I probably  had 12-15 gallons of water saved in containers. My biggest fear is to have the power go out and then be unable to use our well. I felt a responsibility to my whole family to be ready. That is why I also went to Walmart and bought six of everything they had in the store so we would have plenty of food to feed not only ourselves but also the neighbors if the worst happened!
Tall, blessed candles were set up in case we lost power.
We neatened up the yard and secured the lawn chairs so they wouldn't become missiles in gale-force winds. Then we spent the entire dark and gently windy, lightly raining day waiting for something big to happen.The whole day felt like we were waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. It was somewhat disappointing, like when they forecast 12 inches of snow and you get only a dusting.
 The next morning, the weather could not have been more beautiful!!!!
The air was as fresh as it could be and it was sunny and cooler!
Perfect for laundry, I hung 27 of Jeff's white t-shirts out to dry. Like any good bachelor, he has a month's worth of clothing to tide him over in between laundry days.
 We took advantage of the spectacular freshness of the atmosphere to watch fireworks out front.
Everyone came over throughout the day, so we were able to visit with nine of the ten children in this family with their spouses and friends.
The main lesson that I learned from preparing for this hurricane was that you never know. The poor folks in Vermont had a terrible time and There But for the Grace of God go we. You cannot prepare for everything nor in the exact way that it will be needed. Make reasonable preparations as able, and Trust in God.
By the way, I hated to have to throw out all the water I had stored away. A friend mentioned that it could be used to fill up the washing machine and that is what I did!!!

Off To School

These two boys are about to be separated from each other for the first time during the school day. I was well aware of the sadness of that while escorting Sam to the bus stop. It was the first day of school and he was be picked up by the bus for the first time in his life.
Sam is going into the eighth grade, the oldest class in the school. Grandpa told him to continue to always start at the top, and to forget beginning in the mail room!

15 minutes later, we drove Lady Jayne to her bus stop for tenth grade!
Then we began our first day of homeschooling for this year! John is  in sixth grade.
Juby  is in second. I have high hopes for a wonderful year. These two students are both terrific readers. They both also love to play. I love to spend my time homeschooling, which is probably why nothing much else is getting done around here!!!
Tori-Dori is off to Community College.She took all her classes on-line over the summer and loved it. For the fall, I suggested that she attend classes to see the people and to experience something different, since she was homeschooled through high school. She found that she excels in writing papers at home, but does need practice in taking tests at school, so this will add to her skill set.

Our youngest pupil is with us three days per week so that his mother can also attend college. I ordered for him some wonderful preschool workbooks, primarily cutting and pasting but we have not yet found the time to do them. He is a good boy who can play well so that is what he is doing. He listens to all of our discussions.
I am amazed at how busy we are, like every other family, no doubt, since the school year has begun. We work all day at schoolwork, have a modest number of activities and then study, read and do homework until 11pm  at night. Then we begin again in the morning. That is why I took an "In-service Day" today to write eleven blog posts. There is no other time. I really enjoy seeing so many students studying daily here, from college age down, because that is the primary occupation of young people.
May God bless all students, teachers and parents and those who support their work this year and help us all to realize that To God Be The Glory as we study and marvel at his Handiwork.