Friday, September 03, 2021

Solomon's Nature Study

At the end of 1 Kings 4, we are given a further explanation of the depth of Solomon's wisdom that he had received from God after being given one request.

God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite, wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom. ~ 1 Kings 4:29-34 

Several ideas have come to mind upon reading this interesting bit of narration from the author of 1 Kings.

1. The areas listed as examples of Solomon's wisdom go far beyond the practical and awe-inducing discernment in administering justice seen in the baby custody incident . We are told he wrote proverbs (or wise sayings) and composed songs and poetry in great numbers. He was a prolific writer and composer in what could be considered both the arts and the humanities. But the surprising inclusion of nature study topics is remarkable. Solomon was a naturalist and a lecturer who held talks covering an enormous range of topics in the plant and animal world as well as the arts. Studying nature in all its forms is not just for the scientists and birding clubs. It is an interest worth anyone's time to know the world of creation that we live in. 

In a recent post by GretchenJoanna, she shares her continuing interest and curiosity in looking for and naming wildflowers, insects and other discoveries on a return trip home. She takes photographs, but also keeps a notebook list of what she sees. Anyone can stop and look, you don't need to write a blog post about it. Anyone can look up what they see and learn its name and how it grows, you don't need to take photos for social media. But the point is, being learned in nature is a sign of attainable wisdom, not useless nerdiness. 

2. In Josef Pieper's book, Leisure: The Basis of Culture, he makes some statements about who can do philosophy and what it looks like when they are doing it. Bear with me, as I give you some extended quotes from the second part of the book, The Philosophical Act.

As a preliminary approach, however, it may be said to philosophize is to act in such a way that one steps out of the workaday world. The next thing to do is to define what is meant by the workaday world, and then what is meant by going beyond that sphere.
The workaday world is the world of work, the utilitarian world, the world of the useful, subject to ends, open to achievement and subdivided according to functions; it is the world of demand and supply, of hunger and satiety. It is dominated by a single end: the satisfaction of the "common need".
And then he goes to to speak more about what this "common need" entails. So he has given a definition of "the workaday world". And he goes at length to make sure the reader understands that he does not intend to denigrate this world, "that the world is of course essentially part of man's world, being the very ground of his physical existence, without which, obviously no one could philosophize". So then, with that clarification, let's see what he means by "going beyond that sphere" into doing philosophy.

A properly philosophical question [my note: his example used is "Why is there anything at all?" as asked by Heidegger and others] always pierces the dome that encloses the bourgeois workaday world, though it is not the only way of taking a step beyond that world. Poetry no less than philosophy is incommensurable with it.
... Nor is it otherwise with prayer. 
... Man also steps beyond the chain of ends and means, that binds the world of work, in love, or when he takes a step toward the frontier of existence, deeply moved by some existential experience, for this, too, sends a shock through the world of relationships, whatever the occasion may be, perhaps the close proximity of death.

So in Pieper's thesis, you step outside or beyond the workaday world when you ask important questions of yourself, the world, the nature of man, etc, when you partake of some form of poetry or song, when you pray or when you have an encounter that stirs your emotions on different levels.
Clearly Pieper says more than I can quote or explain on this matter, but in my readings I see how the wisdom that Solomon became famous for was not limited to intellectual musings or judicial prudence, but the very matters of human existence: life, death, poetry, song, prayer, trees, plants, birds, fish, etc. Solomon studied the world that God gave us and he was given supernatural insight into these matters that he then in turn, poured out in word and writing to those around him and for us. He used the gift of his wisdom to instruct and help his own nation and those who came to him from all over.  How much can we find help and comfort in these same areas as we live in this very real world created by God but subject to the curse?

3. And my final thought was how this list of Solomon's areas of wisdom coincides with the areas of study that we strive for in education, in particular the methods of education spelled out by Charlotte Mason who promoted all of this and more for all children and all people. Her particular attention to poetry and nature study as being as important as history and literature. To neglect these 'subjects' as extras or luxury is in Pieper's words: "to screw down the dome more firmly than ever, to close every window, and then man really is imprisoned in the world of work." If you're interested in learning more about the educational methods of Charlotte Mason or who she was, this brief introduction from The Charlotte Mason Institute and Deani Van Pelt will give you some information and resources.

There is always more than can be thought about and said on any of the ideas mentioned. I mostly write this out for my own benefit, but if it has stirred up ideas and connections for you, I am thrilled.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Educated by our views

When you see a photo, illustration or art print of something you like, it's helpful to ask yourself why do you think you like this? What is the content of the image that makes it pleasing and hopeful to you?
What about the images make you wish you could be part of that scene for a moment or forever?

Earlier this year, I was viewing some photos shared by someone I follow on Facebook who I do not know in real life but she posts about topics I enjoy or would like to understand better. She shared some photos she took from a car trip as she traveled from her home to another location.

As I enjoyed looking through her photos and was wishing I could see this same place myself, I asked myself why I liked every single one I scrolled through. I noticed the theme of her photos was landscape and buildings that showed terracing. And I immediately checked back and each photo had some level of terraceous aspect to it. What did this mean? Why was she drawn to these scenes to take photos and share them with her followers and why was I drawn to every image? A terrace is most often marked by an elevated area whether it is part of a structure or created by landscaping. Why is this design pleasing to us? Perhaps it is because humans live on the ground and our eyes are located on the highest part of our head which is the highest part of our bodies. We enjoy this view but we also enjoy looking above and beyond our regular elevation to scenes that create movement for our eyes and often then our bodies as we move up toward new views. (If you are interested in thinking more about this design idea, here is a brief explanation from Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language on Terraced Slopes.) 

I see this as an analogy what happens in education. Education comes from the Latin word for educere which means to draw out or long, to bring up. In education, we are looking at the world that is beyond us and seeking to understand how we relate to it and how it relates to everything around it. We are not content to stay with the view and understanding we have as infants and children. We seek to grow and move into new levels of wisdom, understanding and character. 

When you meet someone for the first time and you ask where they are from, you are asking for a part of their story, the history of their movement so you can learn about them. Education is the process of looking at yourself and understanding where you are in relation to everything else. Education does what prepositions provide in a sentence. It helps you relate the subject and the movement to yourself and others around you. Humility allows us to study ourselves objectively and see what is missing so we are motivated to keep learning and growing. It is the process of learning humility to look past your own view and see what other stories and views are waiting for you to learn from that we often call education.

Who we are becoming

 For the days when being a homeschooling parent seems like a double-shift without any coffee or treats.

"Teaching is a spiritual exercise. It is not a dispensing machine of facts. Teaching is a deeply emotional and intellectual exercise. You are not only helping the formation of other humans, but you are shaping your own."

That last line could be summed up in one theological word: sanctification

Our homes are the primary place where we are sanctified, but not the only place obviously. Our interactions with the rest of our family members, friends, church family, neighbors, colleagues, etc. are also where we find ourselves laying down our lives for others in order that Christ might be seen and known.
But in teaching and training our children, we are also becoming different people with different ways of thinking and caring. We are going against the current of what our culture thinks is normal and inspirational.

The brief post by Pastor Brito linked above below encourages us to think with gratitude while we are feeling the effects of sanctification. In other words, "count it all joy... when you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2)


Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Whipped shortbread cookie with lemon filling


Whipped Shortbread Cookies (my mother-in-law's recipe)

1 cup soft butter

1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter, corn starch and sugar with mixer.  Add in flour and vanilla. Whip heavily until it looks like whipped cream. Drop by balls onto baking sheet. Bake at 300° F for 15-20 minutes until very light golden, but not brown. Remove from oven and immediately press back of spoon gently into center of cookie and then let cool completely. 

Lemon filling (adapted from the Joy of Cooking cookbook)
I used my friend Vanessa's ingredient list, but used the cookbook cooking technique because I forgot her slightly different instructions for the eggs. I didn't ruin the filling though and mine tasted just like hers!

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Grated zest of  half a lemon

1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon butter (if you use unsalted butter, add 1/8 tsp of salt into sugar mixture. I used salted butter,)

Cook the sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, lemon juice and egg yolks all together in a saucepan over  medium heat and add in the butter once everything is combined. Then whisk and scrape the sides and bottom of pan constantly to prevent the mixture from scorching or sticking. Once it simmers and thickens, continue to let it cook while whisking for about another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and then using a spatula, scrape and strain the filling through a mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover the surface of the filling with a piece of wax or parchment paper, cool and then refrigerate to thicken.

To assemble the cookie:

Add a small dollop of chilled lemon filling to each cookie and keep cookies chilled until serving.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

your Father knows

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 7:25-34

I typed all those words out and as I did, each one went through my mind as the rinse cycle on my dishwasher goes through all of my silverware.  Reading aloud or copying words is allowing the words to wash over you and to bring clarity to familiar words or phrases. As much as we crave new ideas to consider and solve, it is the comfort of the familiar and known that we also need. Each day we are given opportunities to have both in our waking hours. 

I keep several notebooks serving different purposes. In one, I copy down Bible readings and thoughts, quotes from books or articles I'm reading or my own thoughts and opinions on current events or topics. Some refer to this as a commonplace notebook. I've done this as long as long as I can remember so I didn't know it had a name until a few years ago.

In another notebook, I write down projects and household responsibilities along with titles of books, music or films and names of people, groups or topics I want to investigate further whenever I make time. It's a messy record of my mind and would be of little value to anyone but me. Two years ago, I started keeping a page for each week of notes and by the end of the year, I could trace origins of things that started earlier in the year and wound their way into various ideas and recommendations found elsewhere. Sometimes I allow myself a quiet bragging moment where someone I learned about or started following in some manner later showed up as being recommended by others. Or something that captured my imagination in one area proved to be interesting in another application or experience and seeing the connection brought a warm feeling of delight and recognition.

Wherever my mind goes, so does my hope. When I am fretting, I see very little reason to truly hope. I hold back in an attempt to protect my heart from hurting with disappointment. But when I take time to soak in the words of Life and other truths I encounter, my hope is refreshed and my thinking is rinsed with the words of the Holy Spirit. As I move through my day, I can see how my mind is affected by worries and concerns, old and new. So the battle to guide and replenish the mind with comfort and truth is constant. 

I started to write a separate post about a quote from a thick novel I am slowly working through by Catholic writer, Michael O'Brien entitled The Island of the World, but I am going to end this post with it instead. I see it as a reminder of what hope looks like and why believing in the ultimate success of Christ's ever-growing Kingdom is relevant to my life and those around me.

"Well, we have enough evil right now. It looks as if they will never lose power."
"Yes," she nods, musing, "it looks that way. But we can still live as if their days are numbered."

Saturday, April 24, 2021

spring at last

This was originally written before we went under another Stay-at-Home order in Ontario after the second week of April. It's hard to describe how demoralizing this is. But I want to keep recording here even with all the gaps in my postings. 

It's the early days of April and I feel like I finally have some life stories to write about other than the same routine of housework and schoolwork mixed with reading and getting groceries. I mean, I can tell you, we've all had haircuts after they reopened the salons and teeth cleanings in late February. Riveting. 

And then there's the weather. March gave us some windy warm days and some windy cold days. Days with sunshine but chilly cold and overcast rainy days that were mild. But to have sunshine and warm breezes is what I've been dreaming of. Some of our trails and walking paths are still muddy but the snow and ice is gone so we walk carefully through the boggy parts and clean up our shoes when we get home. Just being out and then coming home is such a change after having many days in a row where there was no where to go so we didn't with the exception of Seth going to work at Tim Horton's several days a week.

In mid-February, our pastor suggested that we put together some activity kits from our church for school-age children to enjoy on their school breaks. So a few weeks later, several of us met one evening at the church office and we brainstormed ideas and hatched a plan for advertising, registration and contents and distribution. This was the perfect project for me to get me out of my winter isolation slump so I gave myself plenty of time to look for projects and printables that we could include in our Easter themed activity kit. Between emails, the small team made suggestions, shared ideas and asked questions to iron out all the details. And then on the night before Good Friday, a few of us gathered to assemble all of our offerings into a bag for each registered family. It was a great project for me to be part of and helped put the wind back into my sail. 

In addition to working on this for our church, I also volunteered to take over the homeschooling co-op that we were part of for the last couple years. Right now, it's only my girls and one other family with five children who run their own livestock farm. We keep it very informal, but I do make a list of my plans on an index card each week so I stay on pace and don't forget to do something. We start off in their living room with singing and usually a Bible reading. Then I read a picture book aloud and we discuss the story a little and sing some folk songs. Then I've been working on teaching one main component of study each week that is more enjoyable with a small group rather than one on one.

We celebrated Easter at home with Sunday breakfast and hidden eggs for the girls while Seth went to work and then an angel food cake for dessert. 

Then the next two weeks we attended our church's outdoor service even though it was a bit windy and cool. We sat together in our chairs and then visited with church family afterwards before returning home.






































Thursday, February 18, 2021

soup making

When I make soup, I start with what are called the aromatics, which are the vegetables and herbs that give the dish its flavor base. I usually start with celery, onion, carrot, garlic with thyme and bay leaves for poultry or pork soups.  If I'm making a cream soup like potato or broccoli, I usually leave out the carrots. 

The garlic is pressed right into the soup pot with a garlic press and I rub the dried thyme in my hands before sprinkling it onto the vegetables. I add the bay leaves later with the broth.
Once I have all my vegetables sliced and diced, I put some tablespoons of fat into the bottom of my soup pot (often called a Dutch oven).
(I'll explain a little bit more about starting with fat. Anytime I cook a meat like a ham, bacon or chicken, I save the fat unless I need it to make gravy which I explain in this post
Using a rubber spatula, I scrape my roasting pan or dish to remove the fat drippings into a container that I store in the refrigerator or freezer. In the picture below, you can see a piece of chicken thigh leftover from a previous meal. Next to that is a small amount of fat that I had saved.  It's only about two tablespoons likely, but it will be enough to help the aromatics begin to cook and release some of their good flavors.)
If I have no fat leftover, I add two tablespoons of olive oil to my soup pot and then add the aromatics to a medium heat soup pot.  Or I cook the meat in the soup pot (like bacon or sausage) and then remove the meat, but leave the fat.
In the next photo, you can see some gelatinous ham broth and white ham fat I had saved from roasting a large ham. I added water to the roasting pan and then saved the ham juices and fat for a later meal of ham and bean soup or sausage soup.

Once, my fat is warmed and starting to sizzle in the pot, I add all the vegetable aromatics and stir well to keep them from sticking to the pot. I use my garlic press to add the minced garlic and make sure it is mixed in well.

Let the aromatics soften and stir occasionally.  If you're making broth from bullion, fill your kettle with water and when it's done boiling, the vegetables will have cooked long enough on their own. The onions and celery will begin to look shiny which means you're ready to add your broth.

So after about five minutes of cooking, you can add 2-4 cups of broth made from bullion or leftover roasting juices. (When I scrape a dish or pan, some of the drippings are just flavorful juice which separates from the fat. If you refrigerate this, the juices will be come a jelly like the ham broth I showed you and the fat will become white or buttery when it solidifies as you saw with the ham. The strange jelly on the plate are the leftover juices or drippings. I didn't strain the drippings so they have some roasting bits which will blend into the soup. This OXO brand by Knorr is the type of bullion I use for making broth for soup and gravy.



Then add the bullion broth and any leftover broth or chicken gravy you may have leftover. Toss in your bay leaves, stir and let is simmer on low.


While that is simmering, I prep any cooked meat by chopping or shredding it into small pieces. If you're adding any frozen vegetables, you can add them now. I added corn and frozen yellow beans. Then I added some salt and pepper, stirred again and put the lid on and turned the soup to low. Because I'm serving this soup in a bowl over hot rice, I will cook the rice separately in my rice cooker. Rice is very absorbent so I will only combine it with my soup once we are ready to plate the food and sit down at the table.


If you want the soup to be creamy or thick, you can use an immersion stick blender right in the pot(it will scratch the bottom if it touches, but I don't care about my pot) to blend the soup together. Start by using it in one or two spots and see what you think of the consistency. Blend more if you like. If you're adding milk or cream, you can do that after all the vegetables are cooked. Keep the soup on a low heat and just heat until it's steaming, stirring frequently.

Soup leftovers can be kept for other meals in the refrigerator for a week or more and longer in the freezer. It is a good one pot dish for entertaining or to take for a potluck meal or give to someone else who needs meals.  It can also be made a head of time and often tastes better the next day or later.

Here's the basic formula for any soup, stew, or chowder:

fat + aromatics + broth + seasonings + additional vegetables + meat (optional) + milk/cream (optional) = meal

Here are some other soups that I have made this past fall and winter: sausage and potato, ham and potato.