Thursday, May 28, 2009

Out-of-Door Life

A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humor. ~Charlotte Mason, Victorian British educator

In the spirit of Charlotte Mason, I have been striving to wander through the woods with my boys at least once a week, if not more. We spend time outside daily, but these weekly wanderings are something I've tried to build up in Gabriel's mind. We bring water bottles and “provisions” for the trail, we sometimes wear hiking boots, and we try to visit a different park each week. We leave ourselves a full morning for wandering through the forest, observing. I have been doing this instinctively for a while, but it has become a decided project after delving into Charlotte Mason's original writings. Her own time was over 100 years ago, but I believe her insights into the needs of a child's early education are wise and transcend the time in which they were written. She says, “in this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone—body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus among influences which incline them to be good.” The receptivity to, and wonder about, all that nature holds, as well as the simple power of observation, are some things I hope to be cultivating in Gabriel on our little walks through the Virginia forests.

One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him. ~ Charlotte Mason

That being said, I just have to take the chance to pat myself on the back and tell the virtual world out there that today, baby in the backpack and all, I bent over and scooped up a little tadpole so that Gabriel could hold one, wondering at the little legs that were sprouting on either side of the tadpole's little wiggling tail. Certainly I have done my fair share of running through woods and creeks, being out of doors, and camping, but never once have I been inspired to plunge my hand into a creek and fish out anything. I guess it's not much, compared to other motherly acts of love and self-sacrifice, but I felt it was quite a triumph. All for the love of nature and education, and my little guy, of course. Hopefully Charlotte Mason would be proud.

Gabriel stops for a break and some "provisions" along the trail.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Holy Fermentation, Batman!

It's been a busy night in the kitchen. In the quart jars you'll see the night's big project: Cortido, a.k.a. Latin American Sauerkraut, ready for 3 days of lacto-fermentation on the countertop. Next to it is a bowl of black beans, soaking so they'll be ready to cook tomorrow night, and a bowl of oats, soaking in warm water and 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk and cinnamon so it will be ready for our muesli tomorrow morning. Finally there is a big, beautiful, and oh-so-delicious loaf of sourdough bread, a collaborative effort between Michael and me today.

The cortido is my first venture into lacto-fermentation. It's kind of like a leap of faith into the wilds of non-refridgeration, and it's honestly taken me a while to get here. After seeing the beautiful results of sourdough, with its non-refridgerated (at times) starter, I am willing to take the leap! Basically, lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits bacteria, and historically lacto-acid fermentation has been used by traditional socities to preserve vegetables for extended periods of time. In other words, leaving the cabbage mixture out on the counter for three days won't kill us, and the author of my cookbook assures me that if the batch goes bad, it will smell so awful there will be no mistaking it. We'll see! I'll let you know how it all turns out when we open the jars on Friday, to use as a condiment for our Black Bean Tostados.
Posted by Picasa

We love springtime in the country...

On living simply (Part 1 of 3)

A friend recently asked us (my husband and me) for tips on how to “live simply.” I laughed, because any life that involves children is endlessly complex, and at the moment we have two under the age of three. I also laughed because it often feels like we are so far from living up to our ideals. But it is true that we have thought long and hard about how–and why–we should keep our lives simple.

We strive for simplicity for two basic reasons: Click here to read the rest!

(I know there hasn't been much action here lately, but I've been busy working on these couple posts for Phases of Womanhood!)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Mom, New Prayer

In theory, setting the alarm to get up before anyone else in the house would be good for me. In my pre-mommy days, I would do my best prayer, meditation, and planning in the quiet, hopeful stillness of the new morning. But in this baby-and-toddler season of my life, setting an alarm would mean getting up earlier-than-early! I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it.

To remedy my alarm-setting reluctance, God has sent me my son Peter, now five months old...

(Read the rest of my e-publishing debut here, and check out this excellent new website started by some enterprising Catholic women in the DC area!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day, Mom...

...thanks for all the playing, the caring, the loving, the driving, the cooking, the worrying, the shopping, the sharing, the helping, the sewing, the cleaning, the nurturing, the teaching, the supporting, the chatting, the advising, and the loving that you've done over all these years. I love you! (Hey, and that shirt is pretty hip too! :) )
Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 08, 2009

My Sprouting Debut

One of my recent resolutions has been to incorporate more traditional, varied, and nutritious foods in our family's diet. Sprouts, anyone? :) Apparently germinating seeds, nuts, and grains turns them into nutritional powerhouses, and it's pretty exciting for a two-year-old too!

We chose lentils as our first sprouting experiment. It was actually pretty simple. (Gabriel saw the red ones in the Whole Foods bulk bins and asked if we could try them, hence the red and green combo.) Here's a quick story about how it went. If you want more in-depth info, check out Sproutpeople, the folks we got our sprouting lids from.

First, we obtained our equipment: mason jars for about $1.25 at Michael's and the lids from the abovementioned site.

Next, the lentils were soaked overnight to jump-start them out of their dormancy.

Second, I rinsed long and well, especially those red guys. They were very starchy and the starch inhibits the sprouting.

Then I drained, long and well. (8-12 hours). I repeated rinsing and draining until the sprouts were about 2.5 days old. The most important thing was to make sure there was enough air circulating in the jars, I think so they didn't get moldy or suffocate.

By about day 2.5, this is how the green lentils looked. Exciting, no? Raw they tasted a bit like an uncooked bean sprout. As well they should, because lentils are beans. :)

Finally, I steamed a mixture of the red and green lentils to use in the recipe below, an invention of my own.

Sprouted Lentil Salad
2 cups sprouted lentils (or other beans)
1 red pepper
1/2 Vidalia onion
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Homemade red wine vinaigrette (to your own
Toss everything together, and serve on top of greens, if desired. I think I actually prefer it on its own, though. And yes, for those of you who are wondering, Gabriel did eat it. And he even said "yum". Although that might have had something to do with the fact that he got to pour his own dressing on top of the two tablespoons of sprout salad he had, and he poured about a tablespoon of dressing on. Not sure he could taste anything through the vinegar, but at least he ate it!

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

"Mommy, I want to pray by myself"

...and with those words Gabriel proceeded to lead a decade of the Rosary during our little Mommy-and-me morning prayer time! It wasn't perfect, but he got the idea. And totally not something I suggested. Never would have thought he'd have the attention span or interest in it yet. Praise God! So sweet.