28 February 2010

Almond sandwich bread success

It tastes good and it's not crumbly, so we have hopes that it will make a good sandwich. This is Elana's Sandwich Bread 2.0 -- thanks, Elana!

Gluten-Free Bread 2.0 - Gluten Free Recipes | Elana's Pantry

gluten free sandwich bread

Gluten Free Sandwich Bread
1 ½ cups blanched almond flour
¾ cup
arrowroot powder
¼ cup flax seed meal
½ teaspoon
celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 eggs
1 teaspoon
agave nectar
1 teaspoon
apple cider vinegar

  1. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, arrowroot, flax meal, salt and baking soda
  2. In a larger bowl, blend eggs 3-5 minutes until frothy
  3. Stir agave and vinegar into eggs
  4. Mix dry ingredients into wet
  5. Pour batter into a well greased 7.5" x 3.5" loaf pan
  6. Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean
  7. Cool and serve

I don't have a daughter of my own ...

But I think most of this applies to my boys as well...

Just beautiful.

27 February 2010

A quote from Crones Don't Whine by Jean Bolen

"Life has taught me that I don't know what best outcome is for anyone
really. Tough times may lie ahead for someone we care deeply about if
he or she continues in a particular direction, as we, with our
experience, can see."

"But a change in direction will have unforeseen consequences, as well.
Either choice may lead to a make or break crisis. Knowing that each
person has his or her own fate and destiny, particular lessons to learn,
and personal myth to live out, and that we cannot control or even know
the full potential of what lies ahead."

"I've come to the conclusion that in such circumstances <i>Speak Your
Truth</i> and <i>Pray for the best Outcome</i> is the very best we can do."

26 February 2010

Why Classical Education?

One thing that working closely with people on different educational paths than our own does for me is that it helps me to crystallize why we have made the choices we have.

I feel strongly that we are on the right path for Jack, though I'm sure that what we're doing when he's 16 will look very different than what I would imagine now. Still, working with unschoolers and Waldorf proponents and people with still other priorities has me pondering *why* I feel that we're on the right path for Jack. What we're doing could best be described as a Charlotte Mason inspired 'Classical but eclectic' education.
It's certainly not that I disagree with the objectives of my unschooling friends. Cultivating Jack's curiosity is very important, and nourishing his belief in his own ability to learn and find out what he wants to to know is critical.
I don't disagree with the objectives of my Waldorf-loving friends, either. Nourishing Jack's spiritual nature and helping him to remain a whole, healthy person is also important.
My friends who are leaning toward "school at home" have some valid points, too. Knowing what he will need to know to make his way in the world and support himself and to share a common knowledge base with his peers will be important, too.
So, why do I think that studying art history and technique is just as important as gluing cotton balls to paper to make a snow man? Why do I feel that studying world music and classical music is just as important as singing "I'm a little tea pot"? Why do I feel that studying classical literature and reading living books is so important? Why does an in-depth study of history seem like the absolute best thing on which to base everything else? I have been pondering these questions fpr months -- even years.
Part of it, of course, is just who we are as people. Rod and I are both people who love to think and explore ideas, who are thirsty to know how the world works, what makes people tick, and all that has come before. Jack has inherited that love and is a pretty cerebral little guy. His mind is as thirsty for these things as Rod's and mine are. This method would absolutely not work for some of the children we know, and it wouldn't be the best fit for many of the children we know.
For example, after a visit to the DIA, Jack spend a lot of time pondering Jesus' death. He wanted to know who killed him, of course. And he wanted to know why. Then, he became curious about how it was that a god could die. We talked about the dual nature of Jesus, being a son of a god, while also being a human. Then we discussed that Jesus was not the first god to die -- we talked about Osiris and the oak King and the Holly King. We talked about how gods who die are always reborn. We noted that it seems to be that gods die and are reborn, while goddesses seem more eternal, as far as we could remember, and that perhaps goddesses represent life itself, while gods represent living things. That lead to Persephone and Pluto -- Persephone didn't actually die - -but she does spend time every year in the underworld. Far from being bored by our stories of the gods, Jack's eager response was "And what else?"

Rod and I have discussed how we both felt frustrated by our 'loosey-goosey' "make it up as you go" education of the 60s and 70s. Education in those days was all about "relevance" to the child's experience and we both felt, even at the time, like there was so much we were hoping and expecting to learn at school that was never addressed or even acknowledged.
We have both noticed our lack of fluency in the elements that make up 'the great cultural conversation". We encounter references constantly, in our reading and in life, to things that we don't really understand. One can follow along well enough without understanding those references, and one can even reach the point of becoming so familiar with them as to no longer notice that we don't actually know what they mean, but every so often, not knowing the story, we misinterpret the meaning and come away with a very different understanding of the conversation than was intended. When we have made the effort to seek out the information we are missing, we have been astonished at the sudden depth and richness that can be revealed by a simple phrase.
In making the collection of those references a part of Jack's education, we not only make him better able to participate in the greater cultural conversation, we also help ourselves!
Our goal for Jack's education, then, is to help him to get a thorough understanding of the world he lives in. Not just the 21st century, western society, but where humans started and all that we have accomplished over time. We want to help him see what extraordinary creatures we humans really are!
Given the example of humanity's development--from a hunter-gatherer whose lifestyle wouldn't look too unfamiliar to a bear or a wolf--to a creature that can escape the bonds of gravity to go exploring our celestial neighborhood, how can he not learn to believe in his own potential?
To help him to see how we have developed so many forms of musical expression over our existence -- to help him delve to the depths and soar to the heights with a broad variety of expression from simple drumming to the ornate symphonies -- can't help but give him a better appreciation of his own talent and to understand that beauty doesn't look or sound just one way.
Seeing and hearing the best of what humanity has developed, in all of its multitude of guises, will also help him set his sights for his own achievements higher. He may never paint like Millais, compose like Bizet, or write like Shakespeare -- but knowing that such heights are possible can help him to set his own sights higher than he would if his own scribblings were his only measure. What he is good at, he can stretch to be great at. What doesn't come to him easily, he can see what more there is to learn.
To set him loose to figure it out for himself would seem akin to asking him to plan and prepare his own meals without teaching him to hunt, gather, shop, and cook, with no knowledge of nutrition or kitchen chemistry. He would probably find something to eat and be quite happy with his choices, but he wouldn't eat as richly and as well as he would if we spread a banquet before him and offered him abundance to choose from. He won't find everything on our intellectual banquet table equally appealing, but he may well develop a taste for some of it as he matures. At least, he will be aware that it's out there.
Classical education, approached correctly, can also help to nurture the spiritual side of a child. Nature study, while it prepares us to explore science, can also help us to find the stillness at our center as we sit with nature and observe. Reading beautiful literature and poetry can bring us to a deeper understanding of the human condition, and what all people have in common and how we differ. Listening to beautiful music can stir the spirit or bring tranquility by turns.
There's far more to say, I know...but I found this unpublished from two years ago because there was just so much more to say -- so I'll press send now and return to the ideas if I get a chance.

Then and now...

Jack's lost tooth has me reminiscing ...it doesn't seem so long ago that he was a warm, damp bundle of cuddles...

But I guess it has been a while.

25 February 2010

Houston, the tooth has landed!

It's not a great photo, but Jack's not goit much of a toothy grin, and this is the one that showed it best.
Jack's firth tooth fell out today!

I'm so proud!
Posted by Picasa

24 February 2010


I mentioned a while back that I had read Crones Don't Whine and Gluten Free Girl recently. I was completely enthralled with both of them, and yet it's taken me this long to figure out why.
Come to figure it out, it was about mindfulness. Both authors were talking about mindfulness -- Shauna in relation to food and Jean more generally.

Mindfulness is something that I used to be very careful of, but somehow, what with work and a baby and all...well, it's not something that I have made a lot of time for in the last few years. Perhaps that's why gardening and and crafting have been so important to me ... time for stillness.

Now that I am basically grain free, though, my sense of smell and my hearing are returning. So is my mental clarity. I am starting to be able to "notice" better... and I have become aware of how much "not noticing" leads to feeling harried.

Time to spend more attention mindfully, I think. ;)

Oh, my current reads are Going Against the Grain by Melissa Diane Smith. Not nearly as captivating as my previous reads, but very interesting. If I weren't experiencing these things for myself, I doubt I'd have believed it. I went off wheat, and my aches and pains started to fade and my mental clarity started to return. Because of my diabetes, we mostly started replacing wheat flour with nut flours rather than other grains. We have also been trying to make one or two meals per day SCD compliant as we move toward trying that out for a while. But every now and again, I would feel as tough I'd had eaten wheat or oats again...when I knew I hadn't. But I had always eaten some grain or other! Thus my decision to go "grass free" for a while.

Oddly enough, even after being up all night with a sick boy, I am now able to function all day. I was barely able to function after a full night's sleep before. Not to say I feel great on no sleep...but hey, functioning is good. :p

The other book I am reading is "I'm Just Here for the Food" by Alton Brown. Fun read and very informative. If anything it's *more* informative than the show. One day I am going to play the shows very slowly and write down the names of all the books on Alton's book shelf. (I recognize many of them, because I've got them...and they're good ones. Makes me wonder who I may have missed.)

21 February 2010

The crafting draught...

I was wondering whether my unhappiness with my recent creations was "all in my head.
When I started crafting, I was almost never happy with my creations until after they'd "aged" a few days...
But, no. They've aged weeks or months. I still don't like the ones I made during the draught-- represented by these top two yellow ones. They're not horrible -- but I can't bring myself to send them to anyone who knows my work. I can't even put into words why I don't like them.

Oh well, the draught is over and I have made some I really like in the last few days.

But these I can send. Life is better.

20 February 2010

I do believe that I have perfected my carrot muffins

Almond Carrot muffins -- dairy and grain free

3 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh ground nutmeg
5 eggs
½ cup maple syrup (use 1/2 cup of honey for a sweeter muffin)
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
3 cups organic carrots (or butternut squash) grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts

Combine the almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.

Whisk the eggs, syrup, and oil in a separate medium bowl until the eggs and oil create an emulsion.

Fold the carrots, raisins and walnuts into wet ingredients

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry

Put two tablespoons of batter into each paper lined cupcake tin

Bake at 325° for 35-45 minutes

Cool to room temperature -- they taste even better next morning.

With thanks to Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry. We've changed it up to suite our tastes, but Elana gave us our start -- her food is amazing!

17 February 2010

Confessions of a Do-It-Yourselfer

My friend, Sue, with whom a I share a peculiar fascination with seeing how things actually work, has found words for why. Rather than try to recreate the wheel, I figured I'd just send you over to have a read of her excellent article.

Global Warming...

Everywhere you turn these days, you can't help but hear the arguments about "global warming".

Are the concerns real? I have no idea. I'm no scientist, and I've heard pretty convincing arguments on both sides -- and some pretty convincing refutations, too.

I wish I could laugh at it all, because it strikes me as so ridiculous.

I keep hearing in all this debate, a family living in level two squalour, arguing about the mess.

On the one hand, you have the Chicken Little's running around yelling that the floor is going to cave in. And on the other, you have the Ostriches arguing "No, the floor is fine!" -- as though if the floor is OK, that's all that matters.

What if it's true that the creaking we hear is just the normal settling of the house and there is actually no danger of the house collapsing into the basement?

Does that make it OK to live in filth and squalor? What about the effects of that filth on our health? More important, on our children's health?!?!?

So, never mind global warming, let's clean up because it's the right way to live!

I wish I could laugh, but I can't it's too sad to see what we are becoming.

The Little Red Hen Comes Home to Roost ...

Tuesday evening: "Jack do you want to help me make cookies or do you want to play chess?"

(absentmindedly) "I want to play Chess Kids, thank you."

Twenty minutes later: "What are you doing in there, Mamma?

"Making cupcakes"


Five minutes later, a young man appears at the kitchen door:

"Mamma, I know the story of the Little Red Hen. But, you know, you're not a hen. And I'm not any kind of barnyard animal...right?"

"Would you like to help?"

"YES!" and here he comes with a chair.

Funny boy. :)

If you cook every meal

your kitchen isn't always (ever?) going to look like a magazine cover....and that's OK.

Thanks to Shauna James Ahern, of Gluten Free Girl for that freeing reminder.

11 February 2010

Frustrated again ...

Frustrated again ...

I am behind by nine cards already.  *sigh* 
It's not that I'm not trying; I have made a half dozen cards that I can't use.  Even old standbys aren't working.

Not sure what the problem is.  Have I lost my touch?  need to spend more time with it?  Need to give up?
Not sure.

10 February 2010

Winter sowing

Winter sowing

I just sent this note...

From: Misti
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:07 AM
To: Valerie
Subject: winter sowing


Hey, Valerie!


I finally found time to check into winter sowing…this Is *brilliant*!  Thank you!!!!

(I am now digging through my seed catalogs and preparing to have a blast!!!)  :D



I may get the hang of this gardening thing yet! 





This *is* brilliant!  I read up on winter sowing at a site called, oddly enough, http://www.wintersown.org/
Winter sowing is, it turns out, entirely in keeping with my world view--go back to the basics and life simplifies itself! 
Rod has offered to get me a small seed starter setup as my Valentines gift, and since only seeds that originate in temperate climates can thrive with the winter sowing method, the combination will put me "back in business". 
I am *so* excited! 


Many years ago, when I cohabited with a television for a while (and lost four entire months to The Home and Garden Nework!) I once came across a few minutes of an energetic young chef talking about catsup, of all things. He wasn't decrying it's plasticine nature nor extolling the virtues of a particular brand ... he was explaining its history and how to make your own...woah, how cool!! My kind of guy! (I had mulled the idea of attending chef school since junior high when a strange evaluation they gave me told me that I was best suited to being a chef on a cruise ship...it sounded fun! But since I had untreated thyroid until I was thirty, I lacked the stamina to be on my feet eight to ten hours per day, so I never tried it.)

I don't remember why, but in spite of my interest, I never saw more than that few minutes of that show.

Over time, that enthusiastic young man became so famous that even I, out in luddite land, heard about him. He was Alton Brown, culinary cartographer and host of a show called Good Eats. One day a couple of years ago, I was browsing the library non-fiction DVD shelved for homeschooling fodder when I came across a lonely Good Eats DVD sitting alone on the shelf. I got it out, to see if it was as interesting as I remembered.

Jack watched with me, and he became obsessed! Every time we go to the library, he checks to see whether there are any new "AB" shows. (Turns out out first one was lonely because that is one of THE most popular DVD sets in the library!) He had always liked to help me cook, but he took a renewed interest in cooking and started to explain to me about why to use the muffin method rather than my old "throw it all in a bowl and whip it to death". (My baking *did* improve.) He prompted me to get Dad a cooking scale and an electronic oven thermometer for Yule -- and believe it or not, they were a big hit.

A few years ago I started hearing about another energetic young chef who seems to share my approach to food and cooking - - at least from the press. Recently I go around to looking for DVD's of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef at the library, but I was only able to find Jamie's Kitchen.

YUCK! That was so not what I was looking for. It was scene after scene of our young hero dashing about with uncombed hair, young people's self involved, over entitled whinging, and a lot of berating and shouting.

We gave up after three episodes, because it wasn't getting any better.

I did learn one thing though. I had never entirely given up the idea of chef school. It's clear that being a working chef isn't likely to be feasible for me, but I thought it might be something fun to do after I retire, just for my own knowledge. From what I saw of chef school, it's a lot like teacher school. You love to teach children (or cook) so you decide to be a teacher (or a chef). You go to school and you're not not how to teach (or cook) but how to manage a classroom (or a commercial kitchen). In both cases, while it startled me, it does make a lot of sense...but it explains why I never went on with my teacher training and why I guess I'm not going to chef school. So, it's back to the library with me, to get some more Shirley Corriher, Harold McGee, and Julia Child books.

Oh well.

09 February 2010

The thrill of systematic education

The thrill of systematic education

Our view of classical education convinces us that a systematic approach to education  -- approaching things from the fundamentals, the beginning -- is the best way to put knowledge into perspective.  There are plenty of other theories out there, and sometimes when jack is browsing the school shelves wistfully, eager to get to the Romans or impatient to learn about knights, I sometimes wonder whether it would be better to indulge his interests as they appear.
The problem with indulging him too much is that either we make new units less interesting, because he "already knows that" and so doesn't want to study the topic in its appointed time and place, or we start to present history all out of order, losing many of the benefits of the classic sequential presentation.  So far I have compromised by keeping him out of the materials we have set aside, but not interfering with what he finds on his own at the library.  So far so good.
Then, last night, Jack got a glimpse of the connections we're presenting to him.  We were reading a book about Ancient Egypt (God kind by Joanne Williamson) and this edition has a map that includes not only the Nile, but also the Tigres and Euphrates.  Jack spotted his old friends the T&E and got very excited when he realized that they were so (relatively) near and that characters from his Mesopotamian stories could (and maybe did) probably travel to Egypt.
He enjoys his stories, but he is also beginning to sense the thrill of "putting it all together".  That's a lot harder to do with a scattershot approach and I'm thilled to see the payoff coming so early in his career!  woo hoo! 
I have had a lot of that same thrill of putting the peices together into a coherent whole as we've studied over the last year and a half.  I never really got to study history at school-- it had been replaced by the much more 'relevent' (to what, they never explained) social studies by the time I was old enough.  (And don't get me started on my many year quest to find a geography class in public schools!) 

04 February 2010

Speaking of where has the time gone...

Would you believe that my "baby" boyhas just announced his first loose tooth?

No more fooling myself now -- he's no baby anymore. ;)

02 February 2010


I was looking back over some photos today, looking for one to use as a desktop. I was amazed that so many photos that seem "recent" were actually taken three years ago ...
I'm not sure where the time has gone. But I hope we had fun!

(This one is only a couple of months old,but I must get the camera out again!)