Monday, November 29, 2021

Dump Dinner - Leg of Lamb

Leg of Lamb Dump Dinner - Ready to Serve
Leg of Lamb is the traditional feasting food for Greeks at both Christmas and Pascha. 

Although I am vegetarian for decades now, and have never tried this dish, I have made it many times, and friends rave about it (even those who are not given to flattery ; ) 

The best thing about this dish (besides its flavor) is that it is a dump dinner! It can be put in its marinade, then put in the freezer any time that is convenient. A day or two before preparing, thaw it in the fridge. Then, on the day of the great feast, put it in the Slow Cooker or Crock Pot 7 to 8 hours before serving time.

This dish is ideal for great feasts, because it allows the cook to attend the feast day services and not miss a minute because of cooking responsibilities! YAY! Just come home from Church & serve : )

It also allows the preparation of meat to be a hands-off part of meal preparation, allowing you to focus your energies on other dishes when preparing for guests.

I hope you enjoy it!

Leg of Lamb
for semi-boneless leg, or boneless leg, usually about 5 or 6 pounds - size flexible
For Crock Pot OR to be baked in Reynolds Oven bag in oven:

Mix Marinade:
2 cups Cabernet Sauvignon wine (red, dry)
¼ olive oil
1 T minced fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 T dry)
1 T dry oregano
¼ tsp salt
1 T fresh minced garlic
Pour in ziploc bag, (or, if cooking in oven, marinate in Reynolds Oven bag) and add lamb. Wrap tightly and close, marinate overnight. Or, at this point the sealed bag can be put in the freezer to prepare days, weeks, or even months from now.

Leg of Lamb Dump Dinner - Ready for Freezer

A day or two before serving, put bag with lamb in refrigerator to defrost.

Before roasting, drain most of marinade and discard (retain about 1/2 to 3/4 cup)

Then cook on high with remaining marinade in Crock Pot 7 Hours (8 hours if not fully defrosted before cooking)
Use reynolds oven bag
Slit bag as mfg. directs, roast lamb in bag, 3 ½ to 4 hours at 325 F, till 180 degrees (well done)
Remove bag for last hour, placing meat in pan without bag, and baste a couple of times with liquid during last hour.

I much prefer the Crock Pot method, but am including the oven bag instructions for those who do not have a Crock Pot. I have used both methods with good results, the Crock Pot is just a tad easier.

I should note, this recipe is for the "falling off the bone" school of lamb aficionados, not for those who like their lamb pink & rare.

Have a great & Blessed Feast Day!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Duolingo Review by a Homeschool Mom

  Owl is Trademark of Duolingo, used by Fair Use
Like most homeschool parents, I want my daughter to learn foreign languages.                    

But, also like most American homeschool parents, I am not fluent enough in a second language to teach her myself.

So, I really need a package that teaches without me being the teacher. 

Ideally, a package in which I can be completely "hands off"
-and my daughter can learn without me even being aware of what she's studying.

Sound familiar so far?

Additionally, I enjoy studying foreign languages myself, and find it very helpful to have an online resource that teaches both conversation and reading and writing in a large variety of target languages. So, I have gotten a chance to have a good look at how more than one language is taught, on more than one platform. 

I have tried, and liked, several online packages for foreign languages. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Duolingo has a LOT of pedagogical advantages, and in many ways is brilliantly designed:

  • Native speakers for the audio
  • Discussion boards to answer questions as they arise
  • Notes that explain some of the grammar when needed
  • Practice that slowly and gently builds from comprehending the basic idea of a word or phrase, to writing by copying, to listening without text, to writing entire sentences, then moves on to the next topic.  
  • Review of past lessons
  • A very good free version
  • Motivation with leader boards, "Friends," and rewards called "Lingots," etc

BUT - there are also some disadvantages that a parent needs to be aware of when deciding whether or not to use Duolingo, or HOW to use Duolingo:

I have consistently found that the Duoling programs which teach foreign alphabets (Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Korean etc) do a very poor job of teaching the phonics of the target language. Often they have missing audio, poor audio, incorrect results, or very glitchy results. Despite comments in the discussion boards from YEARS ago - the same mistakes persist, uncorrected. I strongly encourage taking a few days to learn to read in the target alphabet before starting Duolingo, or you are likely to be very confused and discouraged. Most languages have simple teaching videos for reading their alphabet on Youtube. Jonathan Frate offers excellent Hebrew Reading lessons free. Additionally you might find lessons at a local Church (Greek or Russian Orthodox Churches often offer lessons in their respective languages) or Synagogue (Hebrew Reading Crash Course). 

The Duolingo courses we have tried do improve greatly after these initial glitchy phonics lessons - or I would not have even bothered with this review.

But, of greater concern:

Duolingo's creators are very proud of the fact that they promote an LGBT worldview and agenda to children & adults. 

See it in their own words at these links:

This means, that the student learns to understand and say things like "My sister's girlfriend" and "My brother's husband" But, phrases like "My brother's wife" or "My sister's boyfriend" seem less prominent. 

This also means that many of the stories to enhance learning center around a homosexual theme (I have never observed any titillating or graphic content)

It also means that sometimes terms are taught as strictly sexual or romantic which are not. For instance, in one language a word is taught as meaning "girlfriend" only. While, in the target language the word actually often refers to a daughter, a friend, or a female domestic servant. When I asked them about this in the moderation boards, they replied  that they try to reflect languages NOT as they are, but as they "should be."

This mindset also is demonstrated in many gendered expressions, in which the gender of the language is not made clear to the learner. For instance, "The Mechanic is wearing a uniform" might clearly indicate a female mechanic in a language that has a more gender aware structure than English does. But the English translation will not make clear to the learner that the gender of the mechanic is female. The pictures also will not make this clear.

Female cartoon characters might be used to speak expressions that could only be spoken by a male. Or visa-versa (to analogize to English - an adult man image might be used to speak an expression like "I am a ballerina" - and never make clear to the learner that this would be strange in the target language)

Or, a young girl, or gay man cartoon character might be portrayed as saying "I work as a Rabbi" in a target culture in which only heterosexual men are Rabbi.

Or, "I like you better than anyone else" might be the translation given of a phrase that in the studied language clearly indicates "I like you better than any other females" 

These flaws in the program can lead to confusion for the learner. 

These flaws can also have potential to lead to the learner offending others when visiting a country that uses the target language. Using female terminology to refer to a man - or visa-versa -  is still insulting in many, if not most, cultures.

But, in addition to academic confusion, or giving offense to native speakers, there is a greater risk: that our children might be deceived by the active promotion of these moral choices. It is important for us to love everyone - no matter what their moral choices. But, allowing an online platform to encourage our children to follow those moral choices is a completely different matter.

Since foreign languages are often studied by homeschool students without parental involvement, the product designers at Duolingo take advantage of this parental absence to influence children to accept their ideas. 

Duolingo now advertises that they have reached the milestone of teaching foreign languages to more Americans than our Public Schools do - that is a LOT of influence over young Americans! Not to mention the many other children around the world who study on the Duolingo platform.

And, make no mistake, the increase in promotion of  LGBT ideas in recent years does influence the number of young people who elect to adopt this behavior:

In addition to these matters, you will also find other lesson topics as Ouija boards in some lessons or stories. And "Spiritual" vocabulary lessons are depicted by a Halloween-worthy ghost, not by any appropriate religious imagery for the target culture.

So, what can a homeschool parent do in light of this knowledge?

1. If you do choose to use Duolingo, contact Duolingo, and let them know your feelings on this matter. It has recently become a publicly traded company, so their board of directors may be contacted through social media.

2. If you do elect to use Duolingo (as we do), have family discussions about these representations in the platform, and use these lessons as conversation starters. Make sure you check in with your child's learning, and are aware of the ideas being presented. You might consider watching this movie as a family In His Image (it has some mature content, so be sure to preview). Discuss how you can love LGBT people - without endorsing or adopting LGBT behavior.

3.  If you wish to study a Biblical language, I'd encourage this site instead Mango Languages Biblical Greek as it is devout, reverent, and accurate. They also have Biblical Hebrew, though I have not tried that yet Mango Languages Biblical Hebrew. The monthly fee is very reasonable, and it is also free through some public library systems. Also Jonathan Frate offers excellent Hebrew Reading lessons free. He also offers additional Hebrew lessons for a fee, but I have not tried those, and cannot speak to their content.

4. Pray for those who work at Duolingo. The Bible makes very clear the danger they are currently in by seeking to have influence children in this way. "It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble." (Luke 17:2) Pray for them to come to know God and His Love.

*Duolingo Owl is a Trademark of Duolingo, used here by Fair Use for purpose of a product review.

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Monday, May 24, 2021

Powerful or Powerless?



 Powerless or Powerful? (Source*)
As the coronavirus lockdown began last year, I could feel the walls closing in around me. I watched the
news and saw stories of heroic first responders going out to save the world. Grocery store workers, postal workers, and yes, even trash collectors had an important job to do.


I, on the other hand, had orders to help by doing, well, nothing. There were even memes to the effect, “For the first time in our lives, we can save the world by lying on the couch watching TV. Let’s not mess this up!”


But, being home doing nothing doesn’t really feel good. Human beings have a basic need to be productive, to give. For all of history, the disabled, the elderly, and even prisoners have struggled with this too often thwarted desire to contribute, but it’s a fairly new experience for me, except during times of illness.


I tried to think of things I could do to help the world in this desperate situation. Every outlet seemed closed off to me, because of the risks that I might unwittingly contract and spread a virus that no one could see.


When Holy Friday came, I listened to the 12 Gospel readings from a new vantage point. Yes, listening to streaming services is different. But also, I was different, and I heard differently this time.


I had always previously dwelt on the physical sufferings of Christ – the sufferings that are so often emphasized in movies and books. I had thought of the pain of the nails, the length of the thorns, the difficulty breathing, the cut of the lash. I’ve always been a little surprised at the near silence of the Gospel about these vital details. The Gospels barely describe Christ’s physical sufferings, though they were undoubtedly severe. Instead, this sort of description is quite common in the Biblical accounts, When they had crucified him” (Matthew 27)  or  “ . .  .they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” (John 19)


But, this year, for the first time, my attention was drawn to something Gospels seemed to emphasize more than the physical sufferings. Words.


Some words are incredibly cruel:


Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:39)




“He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.””(Matt. 27:48)


Other words convey unimaginable blessing of love & care:


“Woman, here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26, 27)


After hearing many, many such words read in the course of Holy Thursday evening, I developed an opinion. That while the physical wounds of Christ are not described in nearly as much detail as I would expect, but the wounds caused by words are described in much more vivid detail that I might have expected. And, the Blessing conveyed by words is also depicted in detail. Perhaps there was a lesson there that I was missing all these years? Maybe the Scriptures are painting for us clearly the power of words – power to heal or to hurt – power that we as Christians all too often underestimate.


I’d been meditating on this theme of the extreme importance of words since Holy Week.


Here in my home, my hands were largely bound. I could offer physical help to almost no one. On the other hand, my tongue – for better or for worse – was loosed. I fouid myself communicating with distant friends by the internet, or by telephone – or even by letter – in a way I haven’t done in years. And, verbal interaction with my family is also increased from pre-pandemic times. Sometimes that was a good thing. Sometimes it is not.


I noticed that in the world around me, everyone was communicating more, but with the heightened anxiety from world events and personal stresses, the increased communication could be either a blessing and a curse.


As time moved on, I was looking to Pentecost. Reading the Biblical account this time, once again I again noticed something that I had previously not fully observed. In Acts 1, Jesus promised, “ . . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. . .” Then, in Acts 2, the Power comes – quite dramatically, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind, and with Tongues of Fire. And, what was the first fruit of coming of the Holy Spirit in Power? I realized that once again, the miraculous occurrence was words. Mere words. Miraculous words that each heard in his own language, but still, words. The amazing Power of the Holy Spirit was manifest not in spectacular deeds, but in words. Granted, physical miracles would come later, but the first manifestation was words.


It was very tempting for me in times of isolation t despair, and think, “I can do nothing important, I can only talk to people.” Or in contrast to think, “I only said a few words, I couldn’t have possibly done much harm.”


But, truly, in this season of Pentecost, we need the Power of the Holy Spirit to give us strength to use the remarkable power of words for the Glory of God - whether isolated or not.


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)


*Photo Credit: "Isolated cumulonimbus" by otrow_photography is marked with CC0 1.0 


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