Friday, September 30, 2011

Honey Cakes and More (A Photo Post)

Dear friends,

As if my Monday morning wasn't already busy enough getting five kids out the door for our one day of classes outside the home, I decided to add something more at the last minute.  Honey cakes.  And more.

I was innocently printing out my lesson plans for our home school co-op's middle school English class that I would be teaching that afternoon.  We were starting a literature unit on a novel called The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare.  I had already written a study guide since I've taught this book twice before, and had included a recipe for honey cakes that I had found in someone else's study guide.  Why?  Because honey cakes are mentioned in the book, which is set in Roman occupied Israel at the time of Jesus.  If Daniel and his friends ate them, I figured my students might like to try them too.  I had also added some questions to my study guide about recipe reading.  A little practical life skills along the way won't hurt, will it?  I like making a connection to literature in every way possible, and sometimes the way to a student's brain is through his stomach.  

Well, I got to thinking, rather than just include the recipe, why not make some real honey cakes and bring them to class?  On the spur of the moment, I started grabbing out the ingredients from the cupboard and the refrigerator.  I was trying to make enough for my class and my own kids for lunch, but honey is expensive so I cut back on the amount I used in the recipe.  

After the honey cakes were in the oven, I took another step toward the brink of craziness.  I started thinking about the 1st-3rd grade science class that I assist in at the co-op. They have been learning about plants we use as foods.  Wouldn't they like a sensory experience to go along with their lessons too?  I already had most of the ingredients out, the oven was already on, so why not?  (I'll tell you why not -- we were already running late!  But I'm as stubborn as can be!  So, I whipped up a batch of pumpkin apple bran muffins.)

I was literally pulling all the hot yummies from the oven as my kids were already in the van with their backpacks.  I scrambled to find a laundry basket and a thick towel to carry them, pans and all.  As it turns out, I unexpectedly had to come back home again before my classes, so then I took the time to slice up the round honey cake into wedges and arrange them neatly in a basket with a pretty cloth.  Since I was teaching about Bible times, I didn't exactly want to show up with a plastic container.  I was trying to be authentic and aesthetic at the same time.  

In fact, I even brought a shawl to cover my head so I would look like a peasant girl.  Except that Bible time peasant girls didn't wear glasses.  Oh, and I wore leather sandals instead of my normal rubber crocs.  But leather sandals hurt my feet terribly, so after showing them off to my students, I kicked them off and taught barefoot.  Yes, this is not public school, so I could get away with it.  My students were highly amused.  Anything to make the lesson more memorable!  (The week before that, one of my students brought his guitar in and sang a song he had composed when I had assigned the kids to write a psalm of their own during our Psalms literature study.  So cool!)

What?  You think I look a bit antiquated in that shawl?  Well, here is another more glamorous picture taken the same day.  My friend Donna had offered to let me borrow her evening gown for my daughter's wedding (only two weeks away now!) so she brought it over to the church building where co-op meets for me to try it on.  (A half dozen pumpkin muffins made a handy thank you gift, too.)  Nice dress!  Unfortunately, it has a train in the back, and it was too hard for me to walk in while wearing heels.  My daughter was worried about clumsy me tripping on it and falling down the steps on the way to lighting the unity candle.  Instead, I'm going to wear my cute new "little black dress" -- using the word "little" euphemistically here, since I am a rather matronly mother of 10. 

Aren't I getting random?  OK, a few more random-ish pictures from co-op. 

My cutie little grandson joined us for co-op that afternoon.  My son-in-law dropped him off, gladly accepting two hunks of honey cake.  He said he always remembered his lessons better when there was food involved.  The sweetie toddler boy managed to wolf down some of Grandma's honey cake, too.  (I confess, this is a picture from a different day that he visited us at co-op.  But it does look like honey cake, doesn't it?  Some of the classes had a visit from firemen and a firetruck, so his 10 year old aunt gave him her fire hat.)

About those sweet little 1st-3rd grade science students... The creative teacher, Sheryl, asked each student to bring in some dried foods made from plants so they could make collages with them.  (We forgot our dried foods, but at least we brought pumpkin apple muffins and peach juice, so I guess we redeemed ourselves!) The students all shared their rice, noodles, and dried beans so they could have some variety.  This is my 3rd grade son and 1st grade daughter.  Yeah, she's using lettuce on hers.  We had to remove it later so it wouldn't rot, but it was a fun art medium while it lasted!

Oh, it's a full life!  Who ever said raising kids was boring -- whether it is a home schooled first grader or a bride-to-be or even a grand-baby!

If you want to try the honey cake recipe, it's in my free study guide for The Bronze Bow on my middle school education blog.  It's a wonderful book, the 1962 Newbery medal winner.  You can see it here: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare The main character, Daniel, is a runaway apprentice who lives in the mountains with a band of Jewish zealots determined to drive out the Roman oppressors.  Along the way, he meets Jesus and wrestles with how to be courageous and forgiving at the same time.  You might also wish to read my article The Bible as Literature.  As I said, I love to make education a multi-sensory experience. If you would like to see fine art and listen to music related to our literature studies of Joseph, Esther, Daniel, and Psalms, visit my Providence English class blog.

It's time to help my littlest one with her science homework and my son with his math, so I'm signing off of this blog post!

How is your day going?

Virginia Knowles

Join us for the fun at Food on Fridays at

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mother of the Bride and Soccer Mom

Dear friends,

I'm sort of in a unique and busy season of life right now, so my blog posts here might not be very frequent for a while.  :-)

One of my roles right now is Mother of the Bride.  My daughter Julia's wedding is three weeks from today!  There is so much to do, but I thought I'd share just a few pictures from a bridal shower last week.

Julia and I

My seven daughters and I
(Yes, I'm a very blessed mama!)

Julia and I with Cindy, the mother of the groom

And six of my kids (ages 6-16) are signed up for a six week soccer season at our former church, so I'm a Soccer Mom too!  I enjoy hanging out at the field chatting with the other moms and dads.  Here are a few pictures from soccer.

I'm hoping that none of my kids -- who are all in the wedding -- will get a soccer injury before the big day.  They are not playing soccer on that day, for obvious reasons!

Later next month, I guess I'll go back to being plain old home school mom of 10 and grandma.  (My daughter Mary is expecting her second little boy!)  But I'll enjoy the extra fun while it lasts!

Say a prayer for us in the meantime!

Virginia Knowles

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Snapshots and Memories from My Birthday

Dear friends,

I was born on my dad's birthday 48 years ago today,
so that makes it my birthday, too!

My husband woke me this morning and told to come outside
and see my birthday rainbow.
 One of my daughters was already out there
with my iPod camera, snapping away.
I talked to my dad today, and when he looked out in his yard today,
he saw two deer on their hind legs, battling with their front hoofs.   

After our rainbow adventure, my husband fixed me
a scrumptious breakfast of eggs,
spicy Italian sausage, and cinnamon and orange rolls.  Yum!

He also gave me a dozen red roses with a very sweet note.
The roses may wilt in a week or so,
but the note I will keep forever!


My littlest daughter told me when I got up that
she was loaning me her Mickey Mouse for the day.
The real Mickey Mouse at Disney World autographed
the stuffed one on the bottom of his foot.
The kids also decorated our white board for me.

When I checked my e-mail on my iPod,
I was delighted to see dozens of
birthday greetings on my Facebook wall.
 After seeing her message,
I checked out my friend Tracy Klicka's blog
and find a lovely song.
Sara Groves is my favorite singer,
but I've never heard this one, "The Hiding Place." 
Tracy has set it to pictures from Scotland,
where I spent seven weeks as a teenager.
Lovely treat for the eyes and ears! 
You can find it here: My Life, This Song.
Tracy is the widow of Chris Klicka,
who was a well known attorney and speaker 
in the home schooling movement,
and the song she chose is a wonderful one for comforting
those who are grieving or who are in difficult places.
I downloaded it to my iPod as a birthday present to myself! 
(Big spender: 99 cents!)

You are my hiding place
You fill my broken heart with songs
Songs of deliverance
You sing of how the weak are strong


When I picked up my grandson this afternoon,
he had a brand new car seat waiting to go.
It was still in the box, but no problem! 
After 10 kids, I have plenty of experience getting these set up.
This one just needed its shoulder straps moved up a a few slots.
It looks like he approves!

Home school PE classes started at the YMCA today.
I took the time to work out on the weight machines
since the elipticals were all occupied by the kids
and the treadmills are too hard on my feet. 
It's been a really long time since I've lifted weights
-- and I feel it!

While working out, I listened to my "Cheerful Songs" playlist --
everything from James Taylor's "Shower the People You Love with Love"
to "Dueling Guitars" and "La Bamba" from the August Rush soundtrack
to "All Right Here" by Sara Groves to "Stained Glass" by Keith Green. 

By far the most fitting tune of the day is "Tick Tock" by Chris Rice:  

They say life is but a vapor
Just a blip on a radar screen
Not the dates on your tombstone
But the dash in between
Tick-tock, the past is locked

The future’s far away
You can’t go back, you can’t hurry it up
You gotta learn to live today
Tick-tock, it’s now o’clock
The little hand is ours
The second hand sweeps us around
And the Big Hand has the power

Celebrate a season
Now another year’s gone
Well there goes a decade, a century, millenium
And here comes eternity, eternity, eternity
Here comes eternity, eternity
What’s up with eternity?

Indeed. Good words to think about on a birthday or any day! "Not the dates on your tombstone, but the dash in between."  And my life is a dash, always.  We even forget to eat lunch before we left for the YMCA, so I picked up a a bag of 59 cent hamburgers from McDonalds for my kids (special price on Monday and Wednesday at certain stores). 

My son-in-law sent along a dish of mandarin oranges for my grandson whose dash will probably be a lot longer since they eat so healthy!

We had a delightful evening with most of the kids, as well as my 22 year old daughter's fiance.  (The wedding is in less than six weeks, so they were going to get her ring sized and ordered after my party!)  The girls all brought food -- rotisserie chicken, potato salad, rolls and green salad.
My neighbor had given us a beautiful chocolate cake earlier in the week that we decided to save for my birthday.   We put on some colorful corkscrew candles but couldn't find any matches, so I pretended to blow out the candles.  We served the cake with chocolate ice cream, of course.

One of my daughters gave me almost a pound of premium Belgian dark chocolate with almonds.  Are you picking up on the chocolate theme here?  Also a new journal, a Psalms reflection journal, pumpkin spice soap, a Brightlight Bookstore gift card, a basket, a tote bag, socks, headbands, a sleeve for my laptop, sweet notes -- am I forgetting anything?  Very thoughtful gifts from very thoughtful children!


As you can see, I had a lovely birthday and I'm so thankful to God for my family and friends who made it that way!

Virginia Knowles

fof Join the fun at Food on Fridays at

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is My Head in the Clouds? (And Notes on Beauty)

Is my head in the clouds?  Well, I don’t know, but my camera sure has been pointing at them a lot lately.  There is something about clouds – and the rest of the sky -- that absolutely fascinates me.  I always look up when I am outside, and my children know that if there is an unusual sunset going down to come and get me immediately.  (You will see this later, I promise.)

This morning, I could hear my daughter Lydia rustling around the kitchen getting ready for school.  Early this morning.  As in, before six, which I do not consider to be a daytime hour.  In my foggy wee hours brain, I remembered that she had baked a large loaf of braided artisan bread for a speech on creativity in her Acting class.  I figured she might have quite a juggle getting it to school along with her weighty backpack, full of paper knowledge.  So I got up, crept quietly while the house slept.  Yes, she would like a ride to school, thank you very much!  We left at twenty 'til seven.  Still the wee hours for me.

I noticed the wakening sky as we drove to the east.

There is a payoff to rising at dawn, before the sun, is there not?

On the way home, I stopped several times to take pictures with my iPod camera.  First, in the high school parking lot, not truly stopping, but holding my camera out the window at a slow crawl...

You do not see the pink edge at the top of the cloud, do you?
I see better with my eye than the camera does.
It is a pity.  It is there.  You shall see.

I must stop again where I can actually get out of the car!
Why waste the morning glory?
Around the corner and down the street a bit,   
just a hint of the rosy pink and gold peeking 
from behind the tree silhouettes.

And straight up, no warm sun nuances here, 
just thin white marbled clouds on blue.

 Driving west, glancing up into my rear mirror, 
I see a golden ball shimmering behind me.
 I cannot resist.  I pull over at Red Bug Lake Park. 
I do not think I have ever seen the sun 
wedged between the horizon and a cloud bank.
This is a matter of perspective, perception.  Of course.
The sun is far away, far beyond, far up and out, 
never under, never confined, even if it is out of view.

The sunrise & cloud duet's glory is obscured (or is it framed?)
by earthly protrusions: fence, electric lights, traffic.
We live in the earthly daily even while dreaming of the heavenly eternal.

 I am in the car again, preparing to pull out of the park.
I look up again.
The sun has shifted: it is sliding up behind the clouds.
I stop again, get out, walk forward.
What details the camera cannot perceive, 
I imprint on my own brain through observant eyes.
(A miracle, if you think about what they can do.)

How long may I stay here?
It is time to go homeward now, but there will be more.
The sky is bigger than me.
The clouds, the sun, will follow me home.
I can see them from anywhere.

Another stop, this one in my neighborhood...
New angle, new shift of light, new bank of white and gray.
What shapes do I see in these clouds, with sun rays sprouting out the top?

This from my own front yard, 
framed by a roof and a twin tree thrust cloudward.

This then, is what my little front yard friends see, 
who look like clouds themselves, perched atop a birdbath;
this is what they see every morning, 
facing east toward the sunrise, while I am still in bed?
They expect clouds, rain clouds, with their umbrella.
The sun, too, as it could just as easily be a parasol.
Clouds and sun.  Sky every day, rain or shine.

And what if they faced west?
Would they see the sunset if they could turn their stone faces around?
Naomi took these pictures.  She has human eyes to see, as I do.

Oh yes, the glory of the evening as well. 

Sky beauty is restorative, redemptive...

A friend who traveled west for cancer treatment notes with gratitude:
"We saw a partial rainbow on way back to Whidbey Island, 
not to mention that even though it rained
during our 45 minute wait for the ferry, 
the sky turned into a rainbow sherbet sunset over the bay."

"Rainbow sherbet sunset over the bay."  I like that imagery.  
Beauty I can see in my mind because the words travel the miles.

So is my head in the clouds?

I am more a poet than a logician.
I crave beauty even if I cannot keep my house clean.

My wise counselor asks,
"Are you taking time to read, to write?  That is important for you."
He and his wife home schooled a large family.
He knows the "much" of what I live, still teaching five each day, 
still caring for all ten, no matter where they are, living at home or not.
He understands how I need the deep to keep me going.
The deep to lift me up.

I am reading.
Namely, Breath for the Bones by Luci Shaw, a prose book by a poet, 
subtitled Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith.

And I am writing.
Namely, reflections on my reading, 
jotted down in a leather journal my daughters brought home from Italy, 
where they breathed in beauty and art.  (I am jealous. Someday.)
And on a keyboard, for you.

Note bene from Luci Shaw:

"To have a functioning cosmos would have seemed enough.  
Beauty is an added bounty, and because the benefactor is divine,
we ignore or disdain beauty at our peril, no matter where it is found."

"The role of the artist is to call attention."
"There is another calling for the artist, 
and that is one of linking earth to heaven, 
pointing the human to the divine, finding the connections."

"The Benedictines hold that beauty is 'truth shining into being,' 
a principle adopted by John Keats 
in his famous 'beauty is truth, truth beauty.'
In this sense, beauty is redemptive.
It can motivate us to turn a corner, to pursue a new objective.
It awakens us because it is often so surprising."

"We all - artists, writers, visionaries - 
find ways to live and explore metaphor in our lives."

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me...
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve...
beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
Isaiah 61:1-3

With love and hope,
Virginia Knowles

Related Posts with Thumbnails