Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Battle of the Books, Round 1

In 1994, when we moved to Michigan and Jessica was in the 5th grade, we were thrilled to hear of a new venture that the Schoolcraft librarian was beginning that year, called Battle of the Books.  Children in grades 4-6 formed teams, read books assigned by the librarian, and then took part in a sort of Quiz Bowl based on the books, with one team emerging victorious.  In the ensuing years, Jessica and Jordan both participated and I did some coaching, as well.  We added a lot of good books to our library during those years!

This year, I decided to offer something similar to the home school group at our church.  I tweaked it a bit to accommodate the families in the group, giving them two separate events: one for grades K-3 and one for grades 4-8.  Twelve children signed up for each battle, and they formed teams and began reading the books I assigned.

Last night, the Battle of the Books for the younger children took place.  I was a little nervous, mainly because I had no idea what to expect, never having done this before!  I was prepared with questions and more questions and back-up questions, just in case (oh, please, no, let it NOT happen) we ended up with a tie.  I had moral and score-keeping support from Jessica, and Terry helped with getting the microphones set up.  Allison and Terry took pictures.  (Jacob was planning to come but was sick)

I have to say, though, that it was a BLAST!  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think the kids did too, which is, of course, why it was so much fun for me.  

Here are some pictures of the participants:

After I asked each question, the teams would confer and give their response to the adult sitting with them, who would write it down on a small notepad.

Each team had to answer each question, but one child from one team would come to the microphone to give the answer out loud.  It was amusing to see how at the beginning, many of them did NOT want to do this - but after they had had a turn or two, they began to realize it was pretty cool, and after that, no prodding was necessary.

Besides the ending-with-a-tie issue, my only other concern was having the kids come up with an answer that was not what I wanted, but might still be valid.  We had one such question and my Moral Support and I (plus our runner, Cameron, responsible for collecting written answers from the teams after each question) spent some time going through the book to determine the correct response...

And congratulations to the winners!! (phew, no tie)

Battle of the Books, Round 2, will take place March 2!  I can't wait, and I'm already planning for next year, too!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Find Me Faithful

In church this morning, we sang the following song.  It is on a Steve Green CD we have had for many years, and I've always loved it, but have never sung it before.

Find Us Faithful

We're pilgrims on the journey 
of the narrow road
And those whov'e gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who've gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness
Passed on through godly lives.

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we've left behind
May the clues that they discover
And the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them
To the road we each must find.

When I listened to the song in years past, I'm sure I agreed that it was a great sentiment; that I did want this to be true of my life; that I hoped my children would see this in me.

But it hit me much harder this morning than it ever has before.  I think it's partly the fact that I'm older - growing older doesn't bother me one bit but passing the half-century mark does make a person begin to think about what has been accomplished and how many years are left with which to do anything.  I believe a significant factor is also the fact that I've become a grandmother.  When I look at little Abigail and I think about the little one that will be joining the family this summer, oh, how I want them to be able to say, at the end of my life, that they saw me being faithful.  That they knew that my faith in God was the most important thing in my life.  That they were inspired, by my life, to be faithful to God themselves.  I can think of no greater legacy.  May those who come behind me find me faithful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


We are giving our bedroom a face lift.

Our bedroom, I know now, is 12'x12' (I had to calculate how much wallpaper to buy).  It is, I believe, the second-smallest bedroom in the house.  However, we chose it for three important reasons:

1. It is on the ground floor
2. It is the only room in the house with two closets
3. It is on the ground floor.

I've been wanting to repaint and paper it for a long time, but it took me several years to gird up my loins and actually go through with it, because of the enormous hassle of moving out the furniture and emptying out my closet and moving the waterbed and sleeping in the guest room for the duration...but we finally did it.

Here is what it looked like before we started:

There were two different kinds of wallpaper on the walls.  Two had a neutral paper that peels off intact and is so sturdy it can then be used to protect the floor when you're painting.  Similar paper was used in other rooms in this house and we have a stack of it in the basement.  The other two walls have a more "normal" type of paper which is basically going to stay right where it is.  I know, you're not supposed to do that.   However, I scraped and peeled about six layers of wallpaper off the living room walls when I first renovated that room, and so I don't feel bad for leaving up one layer of paper.  Besides, the wallpaper is holding this house together, so those two walls will just have a little extra stability.

We started painting the woodwork.  Here's what it looks like now:

On the door, you can still see the original paint color.  The new color is quite a bit darker.

I'm hoping that by next week I'll be able to start wallpapering, at least in the bedroom (the closet is another story - there is almost as much work in there as in the room itself and it's NOT that big a closet).  Check back for more news on this scintillating stage in our lives....

Monday, January 18, 2010

For What Are You Thankful?

This idea comes from a friend on a home-schooling website:

Let's fight the winter post-holiday doldrums by thinking of 10 little things for which we are thankful!! NO cheating and listing big major things like husband,  family, Faith, church.... this particular poll is only for little things we are so often under-appreciated! :) 

1. BOOKS - if you know me at all, or read my blog carefully, you already knew this would be at the top.

2. KITCHENAID mixer - I really love that thing!

3. BASKETS - to contain the various piles, stacks, and messes in my house

4. DOUGH SCRAPER - my new favorite kitchen tool. I've raved about this in a previous post so I don't need to elaborate on it here.  

5. TICONDEROGA PENCILS - they just make me feel good.  Unfortunately, they make our Primary Dog, Danya, feel good, too.  She loves to chew them.  If there were eight pencils on the floor in various sizes, shapes, colors and brands, and only one was a Ticonderoga, she would choose it above all the others for her chewing pleasure.  She would only turn to the others if I had taken the Ticonderoga away from her.  I guess I should count myself fortunate that Tasha, our Back-up Auxiliary Dog, is not a pencil-chewer.

6. DVD's - I hate most tv programming and I love owning and renting DVD's that are fun to watch

7. WOOL AND KNITTING NEEDLES - in spite of the fact that I've restarted my latest sweater something like five times, I'm still thankful for the tools and ability to knit.

8. MY BED - it is SO comfortable and it is pure delight to get into it every night.

9. VICKY MORGAN - because she taught me how to wallpaper, and we are working on our bedroom right now (well, Terry  is painting the woodwork but eventually I'll be wallpapering it).

10. THE BEAUTIFUL DEPRESSION GLASS BELL THAT I BOUGHT LAST SATURDAY - I didn't know such a thing existed but I came across it at an antique store and it is in the same pattern as some of my Depression Glass dishes and I am so tickled to have found it!

So  - what ten things are making you happy this month?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Home School Mom, 1; Telemarketer, 0.

Today I got a phone call from a telemarketer.

I know, that's not so unusual.  I used to get loads of them.  But since I begged Terry to get caller-ID, I haven't actually spoken to one in a long, long time.

Lately, however, every now and then I get calls that my caller-ID lists as "unknown name" and it turns out to be someone I actually know and to whom I'd like to speak, so today when I got one of those calls, I did answer the phone. 

I had a moment of panic when the person on the other end asked for "the father or mother of Jacob Dehart".  Somehow, those words just do not inspire Happy Thoughts!  I told him I am Jacob's mother, and within seconds I knew I'd made a mistake, as he identified himself as working for a company that sells ACT/SAT study materials.  This is how the conversation went:

Mr. ACT - Jacob has requested study materials for the SAT/ACT and I just want to confirm some details with you before we send them to you.

Me - Wait, he requested WHAT? (because I'm thinking, on what planet would my son ever request such a thing? certainly not this one).

Mr. A - Study materials for the ACT/SAT.

Me - When did he do this? 

Mr. A - Well, it could have been when he took the PSAT (he didn't take it), or possibly on-line.

Me - Hey, Jacob, did you request study materials for the ACT/SAT?

Jacob - No.

Me, to Mr. A - Jacob says he didn't request anything and I'm not interested.  Besides, we already have an ACT study guide. (this is the truth)

Mr. A - Oh, ah...okay.

I've NEVER had a sales call that deflated in such a hurry.

I should mention that this call came around 2 in the afternoon, which makes me wonder if this company makes a habit of calling poor hapless, disconnected parents while their teens are at school, and convincing them that their kids really want this material.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Finishing Well

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a dear woman from my church.  I have only known her about seven or eight years and I can't say I knew her  well, but I will always appreciate the fact that our paths crossed for a period of time.  She passed away last Thursday, and in my Sunday School class, we talked about her and what it was that made her the treasured and valued person that she was.

Some things that were said about her there, at other times, and some thoughts I've had about her:

She was always interested in others.

She never complained (she had cancer and was in pain or sick very often) but was more likely to ask how YOU were doing than to talk about how she felt.

She absolutely loved her grandchildren and cared deeply about what was going on in their lives.

She wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of women and actively pursued that goal.

She was a woman of prayer.

She loved the Word of God.

On her coffin was a beautiful floral arrangement that had an open Bible in the middle of it, which was open to Proverbs 31, and this verse was highlighted:
An excellent wife, who can find?  For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

That describes my friend!  She was an excellent wife, an excellent mother and grandmother, an excellent woman of God.  It is my fervent wish that I finish well and make the world a better place for having been here, as she did.

Friday, January 8, 2010


No, that's not a bad word, it's my newest experiment from Baking with Julia.  It's an Eastern Mediterranean treat which you will probably call "mini-bagels" if you make them and give them to your kids.  And you want to make them!  They are delicious...and SO cute.

2 T sugar
2 t dry yeast
1/4 c very warm water
Combine these ingredients in a small bowl and whisk.  Let stand 4-5 minutes.

1 3/4 c warm water
3 c flour
Combine these in a bowl and stir well.  Add the yeast and again, stir well, for about a minute (whether by hand or by mixer).  Let this sponge sit for about 10 minutes.

1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t ground mahleb (optional).

Okay, about mahleb.  It is the ground kernels of a type of black cherry found in the Mediterranean region.  I swear I am not making this up.  I couldn't find it locally, so I went to the trusty ol' internet and of course you can get it from lots of places.  I ended up going with The World Spice Merchants (http://www.worldspice.com/home/home.shtml), and I figured that as long as I was paying all that money for postage, I might as well see what else was available...big mistake!  This very cool website has all kinds of spices and seasonings and it includes recipes for each one, in case you don't know what to do with it.  I ended up getting some vanilla beans and tomato powder (right) and Moroccan Spice Mixture (left).

ut I digress.
After adding the salt and mahleb, stir in more flour (probably up to another cup or two) till the dough can be kneaded, and then do so for about 8-10 minutes.  You can do this by hand or using a mixer with a dough hook.  For small batches of bread such as this, I use my treasured Kitchenaid Mixer.

Let dough rise for about 1 1/2-2 hours, till doubled in bulk.

Turn out onto floured counter and knead for a minute or so.  Then cut it into 32 pieces.  I use this handy-dandy tool, which I have only owned for about a year and I can't BELIEVE I baked bread for all those years without it.  Not only is it great for cutting dough, you can also use the inch measures on it for the next step, and when you're all done you can use it to scrape up the dough that is stuck to your counter.  You NEED this tool.

Roll each piece into a piece 6" or 7" long and then form a circle, pinching the ends together.  Place on a greased baking sheet.  Let rise for about 30 minutes. 
This is my nicest baking sheet.  I had the rest of my ka'kat on icky-looking sheets so I didn't photograph them.

Heat oven to 400.

Brush the ka'kat with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten with about 1 T of water) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for about 20 minutes, watching them to make sure they don't get too crispy.  I think I baked mine a bit less, maybe 15-16 minutes.  I also switched the baking sheets halfway through (top rack to bottom and vice versa).
Cool on racks.
These can be frozen and crisped in a hot oven before serving, if desired.

In summary:

2 T sugar
2 t yeast
1/4 c very warm water
1 3/4  c warm water
4-5 c flour
1 1/2 t salt
1/4 t mahleb (optional)

1 egg
1 T water
sesame seeds

Proof yeast, sugar and 1/4 c water.  Combine rest of water with 3 c flour and stir well.  Add yeast mixture.  Let sit 10 minutes.

Add salt, mahleb and enough flour to make a stiff dough.  Knead for 8-10 minutes and let rise till doubled.
Divide into 32 pieces; roll each into a rope 6-7" long.  Form a circle and pinch ends together.  Place on greased baking sheet and let rise 30 minutes.  Brush with egg wash  and sprinkle on sesame seeds.  Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Author Focus: M.M. Kaye

Mary Margaret Kaye was born in 1908 in India, and lived there much of her childhood and early married life.  She also spent time in Kenya, Zanzibar, Egypt, Cyprus and Germany, because of her husband's military career.

M.M. Kaye has written more books than the ones I will mention here, but these are the ones with which I'm familiar.  

Historical Novels
The Far Pavilions - my favorite novel and one I re-read about every 4-5 years.  It takes place in India about twenty or thirty years after the Indian Mutiny.  It's a long book, but rich in detail and tells a wonderful story of an English boy who spends the first eleven years of his life growing up Indian, and the impact that had on his adulthood (and that description doesn't begin to do justice to the story but I'm afraid if I go into any more detail than that, I won't be able to stop!)

Shadow of the Moon - also takes place in India but during the years leading up to, and during the Mutiny.  

Trade Wind's locale is the island of Zanzibar.  It tells the story of a naive, idealistic  English girl who goes there to visit family and the growing experiences she has there as she sees what life is really like.

All three of these novels give you a good idea of what was happening historically, while at the same time telling a gripping story.  I highly recommend them!

Suspense novels
Death in Berlin
Death in Zanzibar
Death in the Andamans
Death in Cyprus
Death in Kashmir
Death in Kenya

These are all shorter than the historical novels, and far less involved but no less entertaining.  If you enjoy mysteries, try them!

M.M.Kaye has also written a wonderful autobiography in three volumes.  I've only read the first one but it's one of my goals to find the other two and read them as well.
The Sun in the Morning
Golden Afternoon
Enchanted Evening

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Well, That Was Convicting

In his Sunday morning message, our pastor talked about the importance of knowing what is in the Word and mentioned that the average reader can read through the whole Bible in a year by spending only fourteen minutes a day reading.

In the evening, we heard about people in Uganda WALKING for two hours to get to a Bible Study and putting on their best clothes because it is such a major, important event to them.  If someone there buys a Bible, it means he will not have money to eat the next day.  Many people can only hear the Word by hearing it read out loud.  

Meanwhile, here in North America, we wonder how to fit in five or fifteen or thirty minutes of Bible reading/study, when we waste countless minutes and hours in far less worthy pursuits, and often have multiple Bibles in our homes or easy access to them in stores or on-line.

I am happy that I live in a trouble-free country, but there are times when I can really see why the Church grows more and is stronger in less privileged areas.  I've grown to love the Word dearly, over the years, and treasure my time reading and studying it each day, but I was still struck by the images of people willing to make such a priority of something I pretty much take for granted.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve, 2009

About a week ago, in my study of Deuteronomy, I came across chapter 25, verses 5-10, which contain instructions regarding the marriage duties of a surviving brother (with regard to his now-widowed sister-in-law).  The widow, it says, is allowed to remove his sandal and spit in his face if he does not carry out his duty to her.  A sidebar note in my Bible mentions that sandals were, at that time, symbolically dirty, which is why Moses was commanded to remove his sandals at the burning bush, and Joshua to remove his when the Commander of the Lord's Army visited him.

Then yesterday, New Year's Eve, I read in Matthew 3 how John declared that One greater than he was coming; One Whose sandals he, John, was not worthy to untie.  I could be stretching here, but having just read what I did about the symbolism of the dirty shoe, I thought John's statement had even more punch in telling his audience just how much greater the One to come was!  I love it when one portion of the Bible sheds light or amplifies something I read in another part of it...it always feels like a little present from God!

We had a very quiet New Year's Eve here, but I have to say, it was wonderful. I made two particularly delicious treats and they are both from my Dutch heritage.  The first, oliebollen, I have made pretty much every year since we got married.  Literally translated, oliebollen means oil balls and they are basically a version of fried dough.   The batter is slightly thick and is spooned into the hot oil with two soup spoons, and can have additions like chopped apples or raisins.  They are best when liberally dipped/rolled/coated with powdered sugar.  When Jessica and Steve arrived, I had just started frying them, and Jessica said, "I've been waiting for this for 365 days!"

The second popular item I made is called Saucijzenbroodje.  I can't really tell you what the translation is, but it's sort of a Dutch version of Pigs in a Blanket, although that doesn't really do it justice. Here is what I did:


3 c flour
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 c butter
1/2-2/3 c ice water

Combine flour and salt.  Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in ice water, 1 T at a time, till dough forms a ball.  Knead very slightly and let sit, covered, for 30 minutes.

Meat mixture:
1 pound ground beef or pork
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t maggi aroma (this is a liquid that comes in a bottle; leave it out if it is not available in your area or substitute Worcestershire sauce.  It's nothing like the same thing but it will give a nice flavor to your meat).
1 t nutmet
1 egg
1/2 c Dutch rusk crumbs; if you don't have access to Dutch rusks (beschuit), use very fine bread crumbs.

Combine all ingredients in  bowl, using your hands to get it well mixed.

Cut off a piece of dough, say about one sixth of it (I'm guessing) and make a roll about ten inches long.  Then use a rolling pin to flatten it.  You want it to be considerably longer than wide - as long as your longest cookie sheet and about 4 1/2" wide, and a little more than an 1/8" thick - about like a pie crust. Then shape some meat into a roll and place on the dough (you can do this in sections, it doesn't have to be one long piece of meat!)  

Wrap the dough around the meat  - it should overlap a bit - and pinch the edges together.  Place the roll, seam side down, on a greased cookie sheet.  You can also shape the log into a letter - your initial, say - this is very traditional in the Netherlands and it would make a great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list!  Brush with an egg that has been whisked with about a teaspoon of water and bake at 400 for about 25 minutes, till golden brown.  Cut into 2" segments and serve either hot or cold.  It's delicious both ways!

You will most likely have more dough than meat - I put two recipes from two different books together here.  If you have dough left over, it will make a really good pie!  And if you have meat left over, you could use it as the base for a great spaghetti sauce.  Or make more dough!

Happy New Year!

Abigail did not make it to midnight.

Home, sweet home

Home, sweet home