Monday, June 12, 2017

Lentil Spaghetti

Lentil Spaghetti
We LOVE this recipe! It's the epitome of frugal, healthy comfort food.

It was originally recommended to me by a friend who had a VERY tight budget and a family of 7 - including several teenagers! She said it got an extra meal out of the leftovers from Lentil Soup - for just the price of some Spaghetti.

But, once we tried it, we liked it for how it tasted - more than how frugal it was!

It's the ultimate Lenten Dining, too - Oil free even : )

Just make the soup, make the Spaghetti, and put them together. I particularly enjoy this dish with Salad, and Green Olives and/or Capers. Avocados are also nice. Garlic Toast is also nice on the side.

My Lentil Soup
Doubles well, but needs very large pot

There are about 20 kinds of Lentils! This recipe uses the standard
Grocery Store lentil - sometimes called "Green Lentils" despite
the Brown color.
1 (12oz) bag mirepoix mix OR 1/2 c diced onion, 1/2 c sliced celery, 1/2 cup sliced carrots
1 spoon garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 1/2 cups sorted and  rinsed lentils (1 1# bag)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 package (10 to 12oz) frozen chopped spinach
Water to cover, plus some (to equal 4 quarts total soup)
1 tsp dry mustard*
1 tsp dry ginger (or fresh)*
1/2 T salt
Boil 45 minutes, till lentils are tender
OR, cook in slow cooker on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Freezes very well. This is a great recipe to double and freeze half for later.

Tip for Dining with Omnivores: This dish is also good with Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese over the top.

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Monday, June 5, 2017

Easy Asian Noodles

Easy Asian Noodles
This is a delicious noodle dish that can be made in about 10 minutes. Cooking time for this kind of noodles is only 3 minutes - so the time includes the amount of time it takes to bring the water to a boil!

It's so easy - and delightful - and frugal - and vegan : )

It uses a kind of noodles that some people refer to as "real" Ramen - not to be confused with Instant Ramen that college students are known to live on!

I identify these noodles more by how they look in the package than by any writing outside the package - and by the ingredients. Wheat Flour. Water. Salt. (and sometimes Sodium Carbonate). That's all! When you look at the noodles, they're flat instead of curly, and are dried in a sort of "fan" shape.

These are the noodles you're looking for - notice they're not curly and have a characteristic fan shape fold.

"Instant Ramen" in contrast is often packed with chemicals and is usually deep fried before its dried and packaged. They're curly noodles. They're not what you want!

My usual brands are Wei-Chuan Guan Miao Ramen Noodles, made in Taiwan

This is a good brand

or Yih Noodles by Fu Cheng Noodle Mill/Qiao Wei Food Co. - Also from Taiwan.

This is another good brand.

So, this is how you prepare this amazing - and amazingly easy dish.

Easy Asian Noodles

Fill a pot of water

Add to the water your favorite veggies with an Asian theme (authenticity is up to you). I use what I have on hand, selecting from the following: Broccoli, Green Beans, Peas, Carrots, Baby Corn, Bok Choy, Water Chestnuts . .  . well - you get the idea.

While you're waiting for the boil, make the sauce:
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sherry or other Dry Wine (whatever you've got on hand!)
1 Tablespoon Dark Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons Ginger Paste
2 teaspoon Minced Garlic
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Pepper

When the water boils  (if you like your veggies more tender, let them boil till they're how you like them before adding the noodles), add the noodles to the water and vegetables and boil 3 minutes, till done.


Toss with sauce.

Place into bowls.

Top with Sriracha and your Choice of Peanuts or Cashews, if desired.


Tip for dining with Omnivores: This dish can also be topped with a sliced boiled egg, or with some sliced beef, pork, or chicken. If you have leftover meat from a recent Asian meal just slice it and toss it on top : )

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Purslane Salad (Glysterida Salad)

Last summer, when we were traveling, we encountered a plant growing here and there in cracks of sidewalks and in dry, rocky soil. Friends told us it was called "Glysterida" and very good to eat. They picked some and handed it to us. Which was all well and good, except that I had no idea what to do with it.

We tasted a leaf - it had a nice, mild flavor and a bit of juicy crunch. I can't think of any common grocery store vegetable that is comparable, but maybe someone reading this can suggest one in the comments : )

We discovered on the internet that English speakers called it Purslane, and it was great for salads, and was thought to have substantial health benefits.

I was mulling aloud over what to do with it, when my young daughter spontaneously volunteered, "I know, Mommy, make a salad out of it with Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Feta!" Well, our salad was born - we tossed in a basic Lemon Juice and Olive Oil dressing - and we had a hit! The next thing you knew, we were foraging for more Glysterida to make more salad, and having family offer us more! (If you forage your own - be cautious, as there is a somewhat similar looking poisonous plant - forage carefully!) Sometimes we'd add a handful of Olives, or a spoonful of Capers - but the basic method stayed the same. (This would also be good with a little minced Red Onion - if that's your preference. That is NOT my daughter's preference, and this is HER first recipe creation : )

This is not the kind of recipe that requires measuring, but I'm adding suggested amounts after each item, in case you're the measuring kind of person. 

So, this is it:

Purslane (Glysterida) Salad
Combine Equal Parts:
Coarsely Chopped Cucumbers (1 Cup) (If possible, use good Cucumbers like English Hothouse)
Coarsely Chopped Tomatoes (1 Cup)
Purslane Leaves (1 Cup)
Add as and if desired:
Optional Olives (1/4 Cup), Capers (1 Tablespoon) and/or Diced Onion (1 Tablespoon)

Make Dressing (or use my Oil Free Substitute) :
Mix equal parts of Lemon Juice (2 Tablespoons) and Olive Oil (2 Tablespoons). Add Generous Garlic Salt (1 teaspoon), and a bit of Dried Oregano (1/2 teaspoon)

Toss Salad with Dressing
Top with
Crumbled or Cubed Feta Cheese (1/4 Cup) (Feta may be served on the side if desired, so each diner can decide whether or not to indulge)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Antique Letter from Missionary John G. Paton

Missionary John G. Paton & his Family
I have in my possession two antique letters from Missionary to the New Hebrides, John G. Paton. I
have transcribed them and photographed them below, and here is a little background on them:

Missionary John G. Paton (24 May 1824 - 28 January 1907), led a truly inspiring Christian life. As a young man, in the mid-1800's, he journeyed with his young wife to the New Hebrides Islands (now known as Vanuatu) to share the Gospel with the natives there. He did not know their language, the terrain was dangerous, and the inhabitants were cannibals. On top of all of that, what little contact there had previously been between Europeans and the natives of New Hebrides had been unfriendly. So, upon reaching the islands, Mr. Paton found that he was quite unwelcome. It was not long before his wife and newborn son died of illness. Although suffering in extreme grief, Paton set out to learn the local language, and to teach the locals the love of Christ. He returned home and married a second wife, bringing her back to the mission field with him. Over the years, there were at least 50 attempts on his life - some of which involved stories of miraculous protection by Angels, tornadoes extinguishing fires, or being chased by cannibals through the woods -cannibals who had expressed their intention to have him for dinner!  But, through persevering, he learned the language of the native people, and gradually taught them the Gospel. He also taught them other practical skills that would make their lives better in a temporal sense. By the end of his life, he had made a huge impression on the Islands, bringing many thousands to Christ, and additionally ridding many of tendencies toward cannibalism and animosity toward one another, as well as bringing them education. His life is well worth reading. 

Here is a very short summary

And here is his full length autobiography

Orthodox and Catholic Children grow up reading the lives of Saints, and often develop strong a strong admiration for those Saints - an admiration that is both stronger and more beneficial than that admiration that secular children have for sports or music heroes. Protestant Children, in a similar way, grow up reading the tales of Missionaries.

When my Mother was a child, her parents observed the Lord's Day very solemnly, attending Church School and Worship in the morning, having a family dinner, then resting in the afternoon. In the event that my Mother was unable to nap when her parents did, she was permitted to read a book - as long as it was a Missionary story or some other devout reading. 

As a result of this observation of the Lord's Day when she was a child, my Mother developed a very strong love and admiration for Missionary John G. Paton. She loved reading the exciting stories of his adventures, as well as his inspiring stories of Faith & Faithfulness.

Knowing her fondness for him, one of the members of her congregation had some letters that had been handwritten by him, and passed them on to my Mother. I believe that the Miss Wilson of the letters was a distant relative of both my Mother and Mr. Paton - but I am not certain of that. Mr. Paton was of the same denomination - Scotch Covenanter - as my Mother. These letters are now more than 100 years old. They are on yellowed paper, in an older style of cursive handwriting.

In order to preserve them, I decided to type them up and offer them for anyone who wanted to access their content. In some instances, I was unable to read the script, and in those places I put a closed bracket []. My apologies for any mistakes in transcription - I did my best to read the writing accurately.

Here is the 1896 Letter:

John G. Paton 1896 Letter, Page 1

John G. Paton 1896 Letter, Page 2

Here is the text of the first letter, from 1896:

74 Princess St., Kew, Victoria

Australia 30 July 1896

Dear Miss Wilson,

Thanks for your kind letter of April the 18th which I find awaiting me here on my return from the New Hebrides Islands. Thanks also for writing of poor Roirdan who in the downward grade seems to have reached its lowest steps. He is likely at least to get prison quarters now for a longer period than at Buffalo – I do pity him & hope the Lord will have mercy on him. I would like now to hear the end of it. A letter along with yours comes to me saying the lady who befriended him at Buffalo now suffers great sorrow at having been so deceived by him. I have heard nothing before of him since his abuse of me and my work in his lecture at Pittsburg.

I am so glad to hear that your dear sisters & Miss Wiggins are able to undertake such a trip, which health permitting will no doubt be a great pleasure to them. May they enjoy it & return in health and happiness – Send them all my best wishes when you write. I suppose there is no hope of them returning to Australia. I wish they would. What a joyful welcome we would give them – also Mrs. Paton and Miriam love.

I am glad to hear that Dr. & Mrs. Alli[] and their dear children are all in good health, best wishes to all when you see them. But we are very sorry to hear of dear Dr. Johnston’s sick turn. I hope he is better long ago and able for all his usual work – I have just and an interesting letter from his brother at Geneva College.

You will all be glad to hear that our work goes on triumphantly on the islands – This last year has been the most successful we have ever had. 1120 savages renounced idolatry last year and embraced the Gospel of Jesus & have placed themselves more Christian instruction.

We will this year have 23 white missionaries on the New Hebrides. Five new missionaries placed this year. Four there & one on the way out – we have 271 native teachers now & about 10,000 attending school – 2082 church members & on one island in ten months 200 adults baptized & admitted to the Church & often 200 in a candidates Bible class preparing for baptism on the same island & many more turning to the worship of God.

My son Frank & his young wife had a far more pleasant reception from the Tanna savages the we expected, as many of them did not want a missionary. They are placed on the west side of Tanna in a new station among 4000 cannibals who are all without clothing & of whose language as yet we know nothing. Every man was armed with his rifle. A hard field to begin with, but they built on no other man’s foundation & the precious promise of “Lo I am with you always” is their sure guarantee for safety & success – We have had a letter from Frank today he is going on with the building of his house & so far all are kindly with them, but keep away on the Sabbath, from some superstitious fear we think, when he can speak to them in their own language this will pass away we trust – And then of the young missionaries[] a vacant station on the east side of Tanna, but till the natives become Christians they will not I fear be able to visit each other except once a year at the mission synod. They are by sea so far away from each other & the island savages make it too dangerous to attempt crossing the island till they are changed to enlightened of the gospel – One of the others [] Santo & the fourth Dr. Sandiland either Malikula or Santo as most open – Dr. Agnes who is on his way out is not yet appointed to any station or island.

Mrs. Paton has not been so well of late but seems to be getting better. She & Miriam write in Kindest regards & loving remembrances of you all – With best wishes & the Dr also, I remain, with thanks yours faithfully

John G. Paton

We have very cool fresh weather here just now. 

Here is the 1905 Letter:

John G. Paton 1905 Letter, Page 1

John G. Paton 1905 Letter, Page 2
John G. Paton 1905 Letter, Page 3
John G. Paton 1905 Letter, Page 4

And here is the text of the second letter, dated 1905

74 Princess St. Kew, Victoria,

Australia, 10 April 1905

Dear Miss Wilson,

We are so pleased to get your kind letter, but very sorry to hear of the suffering & death of your dear sister & also of Dr. Johnston’s, a sore trial to you all & specially to dear Miss S. Wiggins. I hope she & you two have been sustained by much of Christ’s presence & the assured consciousness that they have been called to be forever with the Lord in the glory & joys of Heaven, where we hope all to meet again at our Saviours call – I have not heard from dear Dr. & Mrs. Allis for a long time, & had not heard of the death of dear Mrs. Wiggins till to day your letter informs me of it & of the Doctors. I am glad my last note reached you before her death & I praise the Lord that you two dear aunts are with dear Miss Susie. What a help & comfort you must be to her & to her Mother to leave her in the care of Jesus & you two. May each of you enjoy his richest blessings with all the consolations of the gospel for time & for eternity till we meet again in Heaven.

I praise the Lord to hear that Miss Wiggins is able to study medicine & enjoys it. I hope & pray that God will give her health & strength & perseverance with success under his blessing to go through her course with joy & give her all needed skill & [] to make her a help & blessing to very many while he spares her.

I am also glad to hear that your dear Brother in Allegheny & his family are all well & that his eldest daughter is an M.A. & that her sister is also taking great pleasure in her education & hopes all the family will be led to follow her example and become highly educated & be more & more an honour & joy to their parents & to you all in Christ’s service.

Dear Dr. & Mrs. Sommerville wrote to me about Dr. [] George’s death in China & I am glad to hear that Drs. Kate & Jean Mc Burney are there now also in the good work. I also remember Mr. Coleman who is now preparing for mission work – the Lord bless him & them all & give them many souls for their hire.

The Dr. regularly sends me “olive leaves” which tells me much about your church’s missions work.

I am sorry to inform you that just now my dear wife is very unwell, in the care of a Dr. & a trainee nurse confined to bed with weakness, sleeplessness & inability to take & retain food, but the Dr. & Nurse say they think she is a little better today, we hope & pray that she may soon recover health again. I am about my usual. As also are all our children at present. We have now 7 grandsons, all healthy active little fellows – I am now nearly 87 years of age & yet by God’s blessing for at least two months I was able to address a meeting almost daily & thru almost every Sabbath, they gave [] for the mission of over £165, & so keep the work going.

Our mission work prospers but the French oppression & the cruelty of the natives threatened annexation of our Islands give us much concern just now, we leave all to Jesus & press on with [] in our Master’s work – With every loving good wish from us to you thru Yours J.G.Paton

P.S. If you see Dr. & Mrs Allis you tell them how we are & give them & also your brother & all his our best wishes, Yours in Jesus

John G. Paton

 And, finally, the envelope:

Front of Envelope from John G. Paton

Back of Envelope from John G. Paton

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Springtime Vegan Meals for a Week

Springtime Vegan Week's Menu
With the weather getting warmer, it's time for some lighter food that takes advantage of the greater supply of fresh vegetables. But not too light - there can still be a chill in the air!

Here are a few ideas for this week's menu.

This week's appetizer

Smoky Hummus

Day 1

Broad Beans, Greek

Day 2, for your busiest night this week

Confetti Spaghetti

Day 3, for a special feast

Hot & Sour Soup


Stir Fry Teriyaki Veggies over Rice

Day 4

Black Tie Moujendra

Day 5

Peas & Artichokes Yachni

Day 6

Asian Peanut Rice Bowl

Day 7

Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )

For the Lunchbox

Quinoa and Lime Salad

This Week's Dessert

Crispy Rice Cupcakes

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Once a Year Lesson Planning for Homeschool

Once A Year Homeschool Lesson Planning
After "The Socialization Question," the Homeschooling question I get most often is this: "But if you
teach all day and do homemaking chores and family time in the evenings, WHEN do you do your hours of lesson planning?!" And, if you know public school educators, this seems to be a logical question because, well, they usually spend an hour or more a day just "planning" - often they're given a whole hour in their day's schedule as a planning period, and spend additional time in the evenings doing more.

I have TOP SECRET Homeschool in-group bit of info for you:

I don't DO daily lesson planning!

That's right. I don't spend hours a day planning my daughter's lessons. And, although I do have a previously published "2 1/2 minute" daily planning method -(which does work great, too : ) I've even stopped using THAT this year.

You see, I've chatted with professional educators and asked them the "Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar Question"  which is, "WHY do you do so much lesson planning - what's the purpose of it?" And the reply invariably is 1) to make sure that we finish a year's education in a year's time and 2) to make sure that our students meet the prerequisites for the next class they'll take from a different teacher or professor. or 3) to make sure each class doesn't take up more or less than its allotted time.

And guess what? As a home educator who schools year-round, I don't need to worry about meeting those deadlines. In fact, by NOT scheduling, and putting in a full day's work, and a full year's work, we usually exceed the "official" schedules rather than not finishing in time. And, if Math takes 10 extra minutes today while English takes 10 minutes less - it's not a concern in a homeschool where I'm the only teacher. My child doesn't need me to release her from Math class by the time the bell rings so that she can get to her English teacher's class in a different room!

Having done my own "lesson plans" as a student in an A.C.E. school, I know that it really doesn't need to be an hours-long job.

I'm simply stunned to see how many "must-have" products are marketed for big bucks to home educators to help them do the daily scheduling that they really don't need to do!

Instead of dealing with the hassles of daily lesson planning, I made a perpetual 4-day schedule for the entire year. And, I've gotta say, it's working great.

Last summer, during our family vacation, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted this year to look like. Not working to hammer out a schedule, mind you, just mulling it over in my head while I did things like watching the waves on the beach : ) I decided that there were a few consistent elements that were needed for a successful homeschool day.

1) Religion. This has always come first in our homeschool day because God deserves our "first fruits" and our best, not what's left of our energy when we're tired at the end of our day.  Also, we need to ask God's Blessing on our day. So, God comes first in our day. Simple : )

2) Skill building Things like Typing & Math drill, Spelling and Handwriting. Those were things that require practice  EVERY DAY to build those skills. A fresh brain and body are needed for these tasks, for true mastery. This part of the day (along with our Bible Study and Prayer time - because THOSE are the most important skills she'll EVER have!) is called the "hour of skills" although it usually takes more than an hour - and it ends with lunch (we're not early risers ; )

3)  Memorization. This is the fun part of the day. It's the time to watch our favorite memorization videos while we have lunch or a snack. I'm doing a separate blog series on our fun memorization videos, so be sure to check them out : )

3) New Materials. This part of the day, usually the afternoon, is where we focus on those rigorous subjects that teach new information and grow the brain. We're all warmed up, rested, fed, and ready to think deeply. So we do our new math concept lessons. Foreign Language. Science. History. More Religion. Grammar. Creative Writing. etc.

4) Extras & Fun. Toward the end of the day, when our energy and enthusiasm are waning, we schedule things that I don't consider "academic" Phys Ed, Health, Art, Music, Home Economics. Chores. And, "Light" educational things like videos, reading, or educational video games. Most of these are also something my daughter looks forward to, which helps give her a little push to finish the day well.

If you read the above list, you might have noticed that there are about 20 things that NEED to be done! But, there aren't 20 hours in the day, and I don't believe in 5 minute "classes."

So, I decided that the first two items were every day things.

And the second three items were rotating things.

Easy-Peasy : )

Then, I made a chart of what we'd do in the hour of skills:

And, I made a perpetual rotating plan of what order we'd rotate through the other things.

And the "scheduling" that is so dreaded by so many? We just do the next lesson in whichever subject is on the schedule for the day. If it's Science, we read the next half chapter. If it's Math, we do the next Mastery Challenge on Khan academy and a few practice items, or the next pages in the workbook. If it's History, we watch the next video, or read the next book. Couldn't be simpler! 

And I put our schedule on a cute little chart from the Dollar Store.

My daughter LOVES charts, so checking things off adds an extra feeling of accomplishment to our day, and lets us see the "light at the end of the tunnel."

You KNOW as a homeschooler that EVERY week there will be at least one day that you can't "do" regular school. Either co-op  has a field trip, or someone needs to go to the doctor, or we have Liturgy in the morning (Liturgy comes with a "get out of school free" card ; ) or (blush) there's a great sale at the thrift store ; ) So, a four-day week it is : )

Notice that our chart has 5 days, but we only do 4. That's because WHICH day we skip each week is flexible.

And, if there's a day in which we don't have time to complete the whole schedule (for instance, the first day back from an illness, when she doesn't have as much energy as usual), it's easy for me to simply mark for my daughter which ones are most vital for her to do today, by putting an "x" in the box for any task she should skip that day.

Similarly, when we completely finish a task that is on the calendar, for example Cursive Writing, it's a 30-second job to erase that task and rearrange the remaining ones. So, a few times a year, I make little adjustments : )

With this method, there's simply no daily planning to do. It's all already done (and didn't take very long - I might add!)

So, relax! It's easy : )

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