Family of N

Menu Plan Monday: First Week Back

Posted in Food by Laura on January 26, 2009


School starts back for the Professor this week. Tuesdays will be pretty tiring for him this semester (four hours of teaching Calculus for Students Who Don’t Need Calculus), so from now on, those are our Easy Meal Days.

I am grateful his schedule is as condensed as it is this semester — he only goes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is going to be nice for our gas budget, as well as for my work arrangement. (I work part-time outside of the home, but I only go in when the Professor can be home with baby Savannah. So far it’s working well, but we’re kind of at the mercy of the University to give us a workable schedule.)

Here’s what we have planned for this week:

Monday: Macaroni and Cheese with frozen peas on the side
Tuesday: Rotini and Broccoli (since whole wheat bowtie pasta isn’t available in our stores). We like to serve this with chicken breasts, salted, peppered, and sauteed in a little olive oil.
Thursday: Mongolian Beef. First time trying this. We’re using top round for the beef; I’ve read it’s good for stir fry dishes if you slice it thin and against the grain. I’ll let you know how that goes. I think I’ll also drizzle with a little sesame oil.
Saturday: Spaghetti and meat sauce.

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More of the Charlotte Mason/Classical Blend with Tenniel

Posted in Homeschooling by Laura on January 21, 2009

I first started reading homeschool blogs in 2005, at the end of my junior year in college. I thought I wanted to teach grade school students, and I started digging for blogs on educational topics. I found that the typical “edublog,” while interesting, focused mostly on the politics of education (tracking, charter schools, testing, etc). What I wanted was thoughts on the process of teaching from folks in the trenches.

Somehow, I stumbled onto a homeschooling blog and realized that this was where I would find teachers talking about the everyday adventures of teaching. I made my way to Tenniel’s blog, School@Home, and followed it for a couple of years. This is where I found my earliest homeschooling inspiration. She doesn’t blog as much now, but even if she never posted again, her archives are a fantastic resource.

I think I always assumed Tenniel was a unit studies homeschooler, but apparently, she’s a blend of Charlotte Mason* and Classical. (Aside from her accidental unit studies.) As a result, her homeschool looks a lot like I envision the Family of N Homeschool looking like.

Homeschool Methods
Homeschooling or Public School at Home?
Favorite Childrens’ Books
YouTube Schooling
Useful Websites for Homeschoolers

On her sidebar, she has links to her favorite lessons from each year. They have some fun ideas up there! I couldn’t possibly link them all here, but the whole list is a great resource for lesson planning. Creativity is a big advantage with homeschooling, but sometimes, stealing other people’s ideas is just as good. 😉

*Side note so Harmony can laugh at me: Everyone’s turning out to have some CM in them these days. I used to think Cindy was exclusively Classical. It was a while before it clicked that the Common Room family did CM. (Um, I know. I’m slow.) Next thing you know, Mungo (sorry, still Mungo in my mind… now he goes by Drew) is going to go CM on us. 😉

Music Appreciation Monday: Beethoven

Posted in Music by Laura on January 19, 2009

Be sure to watch both of the youtube clips… the full chorus is not standing there for nothing. Spine-tingling stuff at the end.

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Open Letter to My Representatives

Posted in Government by Laura on January 16, 2009
Photo by Laura

I was extremely disappointed to learn that the new requirements for lead testing in children’s items do not exclude small businesses or products made from only lead-free materials. Requiring both the components and the final products to be tested imposes excessive burdens on small businesses, and the effects of this are passed on to me, the consumer. I’m not happy.

Many of my favorite vendors closing or limiting production in response to the law. I have enjoyed the variety of beautiful and unique handmade items I have been able to purchase for my daughter and for children of friends, products made with materials that anyone with common sense will recognize as lead-free (yarn, cloth, wood). The vendors who sell these products are adding wonderful options for consumers and are often a vital part of their family’s income.

Why would the US Government needlessly put these people out of business and increase the cost of the products that do remain? I would expect that in a troubled economy, our representatives would be careful not to extinguish thriving businesses without a good reason. And the fact that lead-based paints are used in some children’s toys is not enough reason to require testing for an unpainted wood rattle or a crocheted bonnet or a self-published children’s book.

The law needs to be rethought and rewritten, considering these and other consequences, or repealed altogether. It is not acceptable to provide a clarification that does not have the weight of law or that does not explicitly protect vendors of obviously lead-free products. There is no excuse for passing a law that turns woodworkers and bonnet-makers into criminals.


I followed Connie’s link and sent this to each of my representatives. I hope you will consider doing the same.

Updated to add this link to the Handmade Toy Alliance which explains the issue more eloquently than I did.

And to a Flickr album of endangered items.

And to post this video that also explains more about this silliness.

Frugal Friday: Homemade Spice Mixes

Posted in Food, Frugality by Laura on January 15, 2009


Many of us aren’t getting the full value out of our spice collections. Our pantries have everything we need to season our foods, but we instead opt to buy spice packets every week so we can just dump the spices in the pan and be done with it. After all, who has time to get out the measuring spoons on Taco night?

Okay, well, the Professor and I usually do get out the measuring spoons on Taco night, but I’m not here to tell you that you have to. What I’d like to suggest instead is that you make your own “spice mixes” — homemade versions of things like seasoned salt, taco seasoning, steak seasoning, and stew seasoning. Given how slowly most of us go through those herbs and spices, making homemade mixes will save money otherwise spent on storebought mixes while allowing us to use something that we already own.

Plus, you can cut back on salt if your family needs to, kick the heat up or down in your taco mix depending on tastes, grind whole spices for fresher flavor, and most important to me, leave out anything that contains MSG.

Here are a few that the Family of N enjoys:

Taco Seasoning
1 Tbsp. chili powder
scant 1½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. dried oregano
scant ¼ tsp. crushed red pepper

For Tacos: Brown 1 pound ground beef or turkey. Drain. Add seasoning to taste and 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2/3 cup water. Simmer until thickened.

For Chili: Add seasoning as beef is browning.

Beef Stew Seasoning
½ part oregano
1 part basil
2 parts salt
2 parts pepper
2 parts garlic powder
2 parts paprika
1 part celery seed
2 parts onion powder
2 pinches rosemary

We use 1 Tablespoon of this to season a pot of stew.

Seasoning Salt

3 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. celery seed
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
dash dill

And a new one we tried last night — we sprinkled it on chicken breasts and sauteed them in canola oil. So yummy! I got the recipe for the spice mix from Chef Michele.

Adobo Seasoning (makes 1/2 c.)
3 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Use to season your favorite Latin American dishes.

What spice mixes do you use to save time in the kitchen? Try a homemade version and let us know how it goes!

Our Little January Tradition

Posted in Government by Laura on January 15, 2009

Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven of ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon. –Genesis 49:13

Sometimes it’s easy to use Scriptures out of context unintentionally, or to settle for a single verse where a paragraph or chapter will do better, but I think you’ll agree with me that some verses are inseparable from the surrounding passage. Genesis 49:13 is pretty clearly one of these.

Imagine attending a public gathering where it was read
. Wouldn’t you be a bit confused? Would you feel like the speakers were just trying to patronize God by reading a Scripture, rather than seeking to learn from or be inspired by God’s word? What’s the point?

I’m afraid you’ll have to ask some of America’s Founding Fathers. Because that is the verse (apparently chosen at random) that was read at George Washington’s first inaugural ceremony.

I’m hearing more about tomorrow’s inauguration than I have about any other inauguration in my lifetime. Maybe it’s because I live near the nation’s capital, or maybe it’s because this is truly a historic inauguration. Or it could be that I’m just more keenly aware of politics than I was last time our country swore in a new President.

Whatever the cause, it seems like inauguration hysteria up here. Surely the whole country can’t be this obsessed. So on the chance that some of my readers are not immersed in inauguration talk, I’d like to share this tidbit that came up on our classical radio station: John Williams is commemorating the occasion with the composition of a new quartet, to immediately precede the swearing in of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

Evidently the quartet has a rather unusual instrumentation (violin, cello, clarinet, piano), which happens to be the same instrumentation as Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. This has of course prompted quips about the Obama-Messiaen or the Quartet for the End of a Bad Time; but politics aside, I am looking forward to hearing the piece, which is said to be in classic Williams style. (As if I would expect anything less.)


President Theodore Roosevelt riding in a carriage at his inauguration in Washington, D.C. Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society. Obtained from The Library Of Congress: American Memory

Hearing about that got me interested in our country’s tradition of Presidential inaugurations. I didn’t find much about the musical events of past inaugurations — although the two mezzo-sopranos who sang at George W. Bush’s inauguration are a far cry from Arethra Franklin, who will give the other musical performance at Obama’s — but I did find some cool facts about Inauguration Day over the years.

  • Franklin Pierce was the only President to affirm rather than swear when taking the Presidential Oath.
  • I love the Scripture chosen for Jimmy Carter’s inauguration: Micah 6:8. (I think all politicians should be admonished to follow this Scripture!)
  • Most Presidents these days attend a morning worship service on Inauguration Day, following a tradition started by President Roosevelt.
  • Except for Washington’s second inaugural address (a mere 135 words), all other Presidents have referenced God in their address.

I also found a fascinating article about the inaugural suppers and the first ladies’ wardrobes* for the day.

And I found this, a poem by Robert Frost which he read at JFK’s inauguration in 1961. He had written a different, longer poem specifically for the inauguration, but when the glare of the sun prevented him from seeing it well, he instead recited this one from memory.

The Gift Outright
The land was ours before we were the land’s.
She was our land more than a hundred years
Before we were her people. She was ours
In Massachusetts, in Virginia.
But we were England’s, still colonials,
Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,
Possessed by what we now no more possessed.
Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender.
Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
To the land vaguely realizing westward,
But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
Such as she was, such as she would become.

~ Robert Frost; 1874-1963

*My family will appreciate the significance of the First Lady dresses. When I was in elementary school, we visited Washington, D.C. and ventured out for a short trip to the Smithsonian. Well, there’s no such thing as a short trip to the Smithsonian, and I have never quite recovered from our leaving halfway through the First Lady dresses exhibit. I very much look forward to taking a longer visit one of these days.

I ♥ Savannah’s Face

Posted in Photography by Laura on January 12, 2009

I learned about the new weekly “I ♥ Faces” contest that’s starting today, and I’m so excited. I love taking pictures, especially pictures of people!

My first entry is a picture of Savannah that I took over the Christmas holiday. I wanted to capture the familiar sight of Savannah with the Professor’s thumb in her mouth.

Photo by Laura

Visit the I ♥ Faces contest page for more photos of lovable faces!

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Music Appreciation Monday: Tri-Lingual Edition

Posted in Music by Laura on January 12, 2009

Violin Sonata No. 2 Part 4 by Bach, performed by Hilary Hahn:

And in case her musical talents aren’t impressive enough —



and, finally, English:

Apparently she’s studying Japanese also.

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More on Vaccines Derived from Aborted Fetal Tissue

Posted in Health, Parenting by Laura on January 10, 2009

Yesterday I posted about vaccines manufactured using tissue from aborted babies. Sounds like a sick Internet myth, doesn’t it? So I did a little extra research, and here’s what I learned.

1. I don’t think it’s a myth. Because if Wikipedia says it, it’s most likely true.

“The Rubella component, Meruvax, is propagated using a human cell line (WI-38, named for the Wistar Institute) derived in 1961 from embryonic lung tissue. This cell line was originally prepared from tissues of aborted fetuses, raising religious objections.”

2. Rubella is not so dangerous to Savannah as it is to any pregnant women she encounters — or, more ironically, to the unborn babies of any pregnant women she encounters.

“Rubella is most serious because of its ability to produce defects in a developing fetus if the mother is infected during early pregnancy. Congenital rubella syndrome occurs in 25% or more of infants born to women who acquired rubella during the first trimester of pregnancy.” whereas “In children and adults, rubella is usually mild and may even go unnoticed.” (From

Not that this should change the importance of getting Savannah that vaccine. The crusade to vaccinate against Rubella is intended to prevent others from spreading the disease to pregnant women, and that’s a cause I’d like to support.

3. The vaccines do not require a continuous supply of aborted babies. They were initially created using a single cell line in 1961, and if Roe vs. Wade were reversed today, the vaccine could still be manufactured just as it is today.

4. The Catholic community in particular seems to be aware of this issue. This Catholic blogger also wondered if the aborted-babies-in-vaccines claim was a myth and did her own very thorough research.

5. A couple thoughtful articles on the ethics of using these vaccines.

Real Question: What Would Jesus Do?

Posted in Health, Parenting by Laura on January 9, 2009

Maybe this is old news, but I’m shocked. At least one of the vaccines coming up soon on Savannah’s schedule is going to contain an ingredient that I can’t imagine injecting into her body.

What am I talking about?

Not thimerosal.

Not aluminum.

I’m talking about aborted fetal tissue.

Can this world get any more depraved?

What is a Christian mom to do? If I give Savannah a Rubella vaccine, it is going to contain cells from an aborted human life. I can’t stand the thought of that.

Our pediatrician tells us they can’t get us the MMR vaccines as three separate vaccines (the supply is really low, at least for the time being). So if we avoid Rubella, it probably means avoiding MMR altogether (because the combined MMR also contains cells harvested from unborn children). Neglecting to give her any MMR vaccine seems like a bad idea, but how could I knowingly use the vaccine to benefit my baby when it was created using the body of a murdered baby?

On the other hand, the vaccine did not cause or even influence the abortion. If the abortion was going to happen anyway, should I just say a prayer for the poor child whose life was lost before it began, and use the vaccine so there won’t be a second needless death?

What on earth is the Right Thing to do?

Updated 10:47 to give hat tip to Jess at Making Home.