Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Random Christmas Thoughts Swirling Around in My Head

Thought 1 - Simplify.
This has been a truly restful Christmas season for me this year. In many years past, I have gotten stressed by procrastinating my Christmas shopping and cleaning. This year the Lord has allowed me to have peace as I have checked off my imperfectly done "to do" list. I am truly content with the abundance that He has provided! He gives me enough hours in each day to accomplish exactly what He has for me to to. The key has been to not make my burden more heavy than it needs to be by worrying about whether my house is perfectly cleaned or whether my Christmas menu is Top Chef-worthy! This year, I chose a few simple, fresh decorations, and left most of the fussy knick-knacks tucked away in storage. May I say that it feels absolutely fantastic to simplify?

Thought 2 - Spend the season meditating on the faithfulness of God: the God Who is there. He does not leave us without hope or without help. God's promises are sure. In all of his dealings with you and with me, God is faithful. Just as He was faithful to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt, He was faithful to deliver us out of sin and despair by sending us His dear Son. "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14) He has faithfully delivered me. He has been faithful to preserve me and will be faithful to raise me to eternal life in glory! Our God is uwaveringly faithful from beginning to end. Why should I waste time or energy worrying? "Let us hold fast to our confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised us faithful..." (Hebrews 10:2)

My meditation and prayer this season is that I would not only believe in God's loving faithfulness, but act on it. I pray that this Psalmist's prayer would be true of me this season -- "But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13:5-6)

Thought #3 - Take time to share the meaning Christmas with our children: through Scripture, through stories, through songs. Be intentional about this! Set aside the regular tasks and academics to meditate on the goodness of God. Let's take time to do special crafts, read traditional stories, and make some memories. Here are some resources that we have been enjoying:

Advent Family Study
Our Grace Journey's Free Inductive Advent Study

Picture Books
One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell
The Legend of the Christmas Rose by William H. Hooks and Richard Williams

Short Chapter Books
Christmas at Fairacre: Village Christmas/Christmas Mouse/No Holly for Miss Quinn (The Fairacre Christmas Omnibus) by Miss Read
An Angel's Story by Max Lucado

"O measureless might, ineffable love

While angels delight to worship above
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend."

-Robert Grant (1779-1838)

Have a blessed, and restful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Current Schedule

How is your schedule working right now? I will share this week's 6th grade schedule. Our days have been going very well, thanks to lightening the load a bit. The current schedule seems to have just the right amount of work, at least for the moment. Dropping Greek really helped free up the day. I'm trying not to feel guilty about dropping it, but dd was just not ready for it at this point. We will likely try again in the summer or fall. It is always tricky to find a balance between having academic rigor and a joyful home, as they can conflict at times. Mainly I pray about it, and discuss it with dh. So far, we have always been unified on what subjects to keep and which to discontinue, so I believe that it is God's provision! There are only so many hours in the day, and we must decide what is REALLY important each term. Speaking of what is important, I can't resist showing a current family photo page which has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this post. : )

Pic of my Mom, Grandma, husband and daughter taken on Thanksgiving

About Total Language Plus (TLP): Miss M also told me that she loves the book, Where the Red Fern Grows, which is the book the TLP is going though. There are samples from the guide's different sections (for some reason, there is no sample of the comprehension questions which are included for each chapter): Enrichment and Writing | Grammar | Spelling | VocabularyMiss M is enjoying the TLP approach to English, and it is honestly a breath of fresh air. Traditional grammar instruction is important, and yet it can get tedious. TLP is a totally different approach to Language Arts and we give it two thumbs up, with the caution that it must be supplemented with traditional grammar instruction.

When we are done with the TLP guide in 4 weeks, we will go back and do a couple of CLE English Light Units to solidify diagramming skills, punctuation, parts of speech, etc. Total Language Plus is wonderful for vocabulary, spelling, literary analysis, dictation, and creative writing. However, it does not teach parts of speech, conventions, or HOW to write. See another review HERE. Therefore, alternating a TLP guide with a traditional approach such as CLE, Rod and Staff, or BJU should ensure a well-rounded Language Arts program. Our third term TLP guide will be Words by Heart, and will correlate with our study of the modern civil rights movement.

Coming Up: I just put the finishing touches on our WW I unit study, using the WW I Thematic Unit from TCR. We will begin that after Christmas! I finished reading the literature book that the unit uses, After the Dancing Days, and it was an enjoyable book that I hope will stimulate girl-interest in WW I. This TCR unit looks like a very fine study. It balances fiction and non-fiction, as well as music, art, history, science, and literature analysis. Since many of the pages are reproducibles, the unit is low on teacher-prep. After finding so many web links and films to go with it, I can hardly wait to get started on it in January!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Cranberry Goodness

Buying a 5 pound bag of cranberries seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, they are only available seasonally, right? The Thanksgiving cranberry sauce we made barely made a dent in that bag! So, I've been trying out lots of different cranberry recipes to use up all this wonderful fruit. I thought I would share a few of them.

Cranberries are also an anti-oxidant super food, s
o I can feel good about baking and cooking up that cranberry goodness! Here are some of my favorite recipes of the week. They are kind of hard to read in this format, but you can view a pdf version HERE.

Reduced Fat Cranberry-Almond Scones

Low in fat, these semi-sweet scones are packed with the goodness of cranberries and almonds that make this a healthy sweet treat any tim
e of the day!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raw or brown sugar (or more if you like them sweeter)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped cranberries
1/2 cup almonds or walnuts - chopped
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/2-3/4 cup milk (or half buttermilk and half milk)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a pan sprayed with olive oil spray, cook cranberries on medium heat until tender and reduced by about half. Let cool.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. You can even do this with your fingertips. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts, then slowly add the milk, just until the dough is moistened. Make a tough dough like cookies.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently, 5 to 10 times. Pat into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut into 16 wedges with a buttered knife; place on a baking sheet, 2 inches apart.

Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, at 425 degrees. Let cool on a wire rack before trying to remove them.

Nutrition per serving: Calories 121; fat 3.2 mg; fiber 1.8 g; protein 2.9 mg

Broiled Tilapia with Cranberrry-Tarragon Sauce

Broiled Tilapia

4 4-oz boneless fish fillets (Tilapia, Flounder, etc)
1 tsp fresh tarragon, minced
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lime, cut in 4 thin slices
juice from the other half of the lime

ONE: Preheat broiler to high
TWO: Place fillets in shallow baking dish and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, and tarragon. Lay a slice of lime in the middle of each fillet.
THREE: Place baking dish 5-6 inches away from broler. Broil fish for 8-10 minutes, or until cooked through, but still moist. Drizzle with lime juice. Serve topped with Cranberry-Tarragon sauce.

Cranberry-Tarragon Sauce

This delicious sauce can be made ahead of time and simply reheated when you need it.


1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh onion, minced
1 1/2 cups cranberries
1 Tbsp water

1/2 tsp fresh tarragon, or to taste
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 cup maple syrup, or to taste
2 tsp fresh lime juice

In medium sauce pan over medium-high heat cook onion until onion is translucent and a bit browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Add cranberries, water, tarragon and salt and cook for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally, and cook until thickened and reduced, abut 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, whisk in maple syrup and lime juice. Serve over tilapia.

Nutrition for 4-oz fillet and 1 1/2 Tbsp sauce: Calories 210; Fat 2.5 g; Fiber 2 g; Protein 31 g; sodium 240 mg; cholesterol 75 mg

Fruited Curry Chicken

Olive oil or cooking spray
1 apple, diced
1 pear, diced (or use an extra apple if you don't have pears on hand)
1 small onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp gingerroot, chopped
1/8 cup unsalted cashews
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3 boneless chicken breast
Fresh parsley (optional)

Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Spritz a large pot with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add chicken and 1/2 of the onion and cook on both sides. Remove from pan and keep chicken warm. Next, add fruit (except cranberries), remaining onion, pepper, ginger, cashews, curry, cumin, and salt. Cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add broth and cranberries and mix well. Add chicken back in and spoon some of the mixture over the top. Simmer for 5 minutes and turn chicken over. Simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until chicken is no pink. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

This is great served on a bed of brown rice.

Nutrition info: Calories 226; Total fat 5 g, Fiber 6 g, Protein 9 g, sodium 321 mg, cholesterol 44 mg.

If you have any favorite recipes containing cranberry, I'd love to link them here.

Happy cooking!