Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Mantel-full of Memories

One of my projects last autumn was to finally collect all the frames I've been collecting over the years and decide on which memories to fill them with. I think this is my favorite project in the entire house. It deeply warmed my heart. Then sadly, within a few weeks I had to put it all away to make room for Christmas ornaments. However before I took them down, I took a picture of how everything was placed, because it took hours to figure out an arrangement I liked and I did not want to reinvent the wheel when the decorations came down on New Year's Day.


I also finally got around to coordinating photos in some of the other rooms too, however they aren't as complicated as this one. I'll likely add photos of those to this post in due time...

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Organizing After Christmas

Many of my friends choose a word upon which to focus for the coming year. I haven't chosen any for this year, but 2016 was my year to organize. After a major move, homeschooling teenagers, figuring out state homeschool requirements, figuring out what colleges want, learning how to sew historically and filling my children's (and my own) wardrobe with the most proper attire in an expedient manner possible before they grew up and went to college consumed my time. Then they went to college and I finally had time to organize the piles that grew! During that time I got busy with exciting volunteer work and other projects and ran out of time. However I did manage to conquer quite a bit, some of which I've shared here and here. Although it was my goal to have everything conquered in a most organized style by the last day of 2016, some of my efforts need to be carried over into 2017.

One of the biggest projects ahead of me is the basement. I've never had a basement before. Although I'm not keen on basements, we have a rather nice one with large windows and a french door that overlooks the back yard from the ground level (as opposed to the tree top level that I am now used to from the main floor). Who knew I'd move into a tree house in Virginia?

Part of the basement organization that was needed was in the huge storage closet that contains all the autumn and Christmas decor, both of which my husband loves, but which has become too much for me to keep up with in my busy schedule. There was always a pile that never had a display space, mainly because we've had several homes due to military moves. I had plenty to do in the rest of the house, so I decided I'd save the closet for when I actually decorate for the seasons. After decorating for autumn, I took a left over pile of lovelies to the Salvation Army. I did the same after decorating for Christmas.

On Monday we took all the Christmas decor down and I asked that everything be put into the basement. This year I wanted to inspect each box and personally pack and label each one according to how we decorate. I also needed space (the basement) and time alone (where family members ask, "Why are you doing that? Don't you think it would be better....?") Also I wanted to get rid of the old cardboard boxes that are falling apart.

I bought a few more plastic boxes today. I completely reorganized everything. Each box is labeled. And I love it! My family helps with the tree but I usually do everything else. Now I can focus on this corner or that, because each box is organized for this corner or that.

My son moved all of the boxes in for me and neatly stacked them up in the sequence I requested. The boxes have always been neatly stacked. But now the items within the boxes are now categorized primarily by where they are displayed in the house. Usually I have every box opened up on the main floor that I peruse and grab a bit of things from here or there, then try to decide where to put things. We've been here 7 years and many display spots have been experimental. However I think I made my final decisions this year. Anyway it took me 2 weeks to do this this year, since I was so busy. This makes my husband nuts who'd prefer the boxes to either be conquered or stay in the basement until conquering time comes. I get that. Now I can easily pull only one box or two upstairs and focus on that. Much more manageable. Every time I tried to explain it to my husband he was dubious. But when he saw this when he came home from work, he gave me a thumbs up! I'm certain that it will work quite well next year!


Here's a close up of the labels:







I am thrilled that this is finally done. In years past everyone kindly conquered the "putting away" before I could inventory anything, so this year I made a point to let them know I really needed to inventory!

For one thing, because I took charge of the inventory, I found all the items that need to return to their display spots now that the holidays are over. I can't begin to count all the years I've looked in vain for the family photos, or the flower arrangement, or the books, or something that got lost in the process. Everything finally has a place. And part of the conquering came from simply buying a few more boxes. Last summer I invested in a few more boxes of hanging file folders and that made all the difference in organizing various piles of paperwork I've been moving here and there.

I still have a few more things to do in the basement. I'm really excited about finalizing all of this!  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Convention of States Blows Away my Top Hit List of 2016

'Tis the season to reflect on the past year. Never before have I shared my top posts. Because the numbers pretty much all ran together, there was nothing spectacular to report...until now! 2016 was a definitive year. Of my all time top ten posts, seven are from 2016. Most astounding are the numbers of four specific posts.

Thus I present a few representative samples from my blog's "all time hits" statistics page:

At the number eight spot is Convention of States, Keeping our Republic, and Remembering our History (lots of COS and 18th century history here). Initially posted on November 25, 2016, it now has a total of 360 hits!

COS pin

At the number four spot is The Constitution as an Action Verb, which I wrote in response to my being on the Eric Metaxas book launch team for If You Can Keep It. Initially posted on June 4, 12016, it now has a total of 670 hits!

If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

At the number two spot is A Pre-lude to Understanding Self-Government, which I also wrote in response to my being on the Eric Metaxas book launch team for If You Can Keep It. I was especially geeked out that Eric Metaxas actually shared this post (and a few others I wrote) on his facebook page. Initially posted on June 9, 2016, it now has a total of 1621 hits!

If You Can Keep It by Eric Metaxas

And the number one spot goes to...drum roll, please! Christmas, Senators, and Convention of States, which I wrote to discuss the differences between senators at the federal level v the state level, after joining other COS volunteers to meet a local senator! Originally posted on December 21, 2016, it went from a mere 180 hits on Fri night of December 30 to 5000 in the  next twenty-four hours!!! At this moment it has a total of 5373 hits!


One of the amazing things to me is the common theme of each of these posts: self-government. Obviously self-government is on the minds of many. It's definitely been on my mind for years. It's been a passion for me, so much so, that I made it the core of my homeschool curriculum. I understood the charge that Founding Fathers gave us, so I knew I was responsible to make it a priority in my teaching the future generation. I did my best when I taught public school, but when I started homeschooling, there were no limitations in my path, so I pulled out all the stops!  Even though I had so much to learn (I still do), I jumped in with what I did understand and found a connection, application or action point for most of our lessons. My kids were infused with the idea. All along the way I kept researching and studying (I still am) and I shared what I learned along the way. I think it worked, because my kids have picked up the passion. So has my husband. In fact, he has told me more than once that he has gushed (I am not exaggerating) that I have been volunteering with Convention of States. 

Some of the best parts of 2016 for me has been the opportunities to be part of the If We Can Keep It book launch team, which was closely followed by lots of volunteer work with Convention of States. I've talked to people at events, I've talked to people on the phone, I've talked to people outside of my polling station on election day, and I've written a letter to the editor. I've become part of the social media warrior team...though I'm still working on initiating on my own. So like I said, I still have more to learn! All along the way I have met hundreds of people, face-to-face, who are as impassioned as I am that we keep our republic.

America is the first country to establish self-government, but can we keep it? This theme of the Eric Metaxas book, If We Can Keep It,  is worked out through the Convention of States. That is how the Founding Fathers envisioned that the future would keep the working with Article V of the Constitution to rein in a powerful federal government and restore power to the states.

From the comfort of your home you can easily become part of the keeping (which is the "action verb" I referenced in the number four spot) by learning more at and signing the petition, which will kick an e-mail to your state legislator. They need to hear from us! However you can become even more actively involved by clicking on the volunteer option (which pops-up after signing the petition)! Looking forward to seeing you join our team!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Eve Game Night

Our traditional New Year's Eve Game Night had to be postponed until my kids came home from work. We have a tradition to play up to midnight. The winner gets to write his/her name next to the year in the box lid every New Year's Eve. Then the winner picks the next game.

Finally they came home for a somewhat limited game night which began with snacks of my family's favorites. My husband's favorite is cheese. The other day my kids and I drove to Culpepper to see if my quilt from the contest was ready for pick  up, but they wanted to keep it hanging on display. While in town I took my kids to the store that sells Magnolia (think Chip and Joanna Gaines from Waco, Texas) and then to the Culpepper Cheese Company where my husband and I had had lunch last summer. While there the kids and I had samples and chose 3 cheeses to bring home for New Year's Eve.


On the left is Smoked Gouda. In the middle is Cemdre Mom Sire Vers Morbier. The purple is wood ash, which sounds horrid but my son really wanted this. There were no samples but I went ahead and bought it. It was good! On the right is Monomacy Chipotle Aged Soft Goat Cheese. The kids enjoyed picking these out! They were all good, much better than grocery store cheese.


Cocktail shrimp, which is my favorite. I'd be good with just this and a salad.


Buttery snowflake shaped crackers, paired with the cheese.


Triple chocolate brownies...




Dark chocolate fudge with macademia nuts.


Magic Cookie Bars. I used chocolate graham cracker crumbs for the crust.


The last of the scrumptious fruitcake!


Our first game was one I had purchased for my daughter to work on her vision therapy. Operation. It's as aggravating now as it was when I was a kid. Because of that I had avoided buying it when my kids were little. However I had never considered the benefits of it for spatial reasoning, eye tracking, etc. I used to excel at this game but it was not easy getting back into it. My son won, so he wrote his name in the box lid. 


My son knew I wanted to play Scrabble, so he got that game out next. This was the best we came up with. I alter the beginning rules a bit because more important than winning (to me) is making the best puzzle possible. Therefore the person who can put down the biggest word gets to play first. The idea is that it will give us more to play off of. Also I encourage the family to play to the left of the board whenever possible. Well...that didn't quite happen in the top left corner this time! My husband started the game with "patios." My daughter went out first. My son won. I came in second. So...he got to write his name in the lid. At this point we told him that there was a new  rule, winners pick up all the pieces and put everything away! lol


My daughter wanted to play Twister, so my son conceded to that. There was no way my husband was going to play that so he worked the spinner and I played with the kids. My husband was cracking up and said we were better than tv (We had the Hallmark Channel on.) I sat out the rest of the games but now my husband jumped in. They played several rounds with me at the spinner. I died laughing when the spins brought...right foot in the air. followed by...left foot in the air. My son said the rules are that "in the air" is not permanent. Only for that spin. So they could now put down the right foot and put the left foot in the air. Oh, shucks. That would have been fun to see! My son won every round.


Then we played one round of Rummikub. (I forgot to take a photo of that.) My son won. It was New Year's Eve. I went to bed.

After church the next day the kids and I decided to play more games to make up for lost time (since my kids come home from work late.) My son asked, "The winner still gets to put his/her name in the lid?" I agreed. We played more Rummikub at  my daughter's request. My son won.

Then we played Monopoly. My husband went out first so he left for his computer in his office. My daughter and  I barely hung on, mainly because my son, unlike Mr. Potter of It's a Wonderful Life, cut us some very nice deals that allowed us to stay in the game longer. But eventually fate took its eventual course...and my son won.

I remember years ago when I used to win most of the games. We rarely ever beat my son these last few years. It's okay. I pretty much know that is going to happen. Winning is fun, but family time is more important!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

HSLDA Online Academy Discount

Do any of your students take classes through the HSLDA Online Academy? If so, you can get a discount by typing PT6PYY1 in the "coupon" field when you sign up here. In fact, this will benefit both of us. I receive a small commission whereas students "will receive a $30 discount on their total HSLDA Online Academy registration cost. Families registering two or more students should submit separate registration forms to receive a discount for each student." (Quote from HSLDA Online Academy)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Back on my 2016 Booklist and a 2017 Book Announcement!

It's that time of year where we review our life. Quite frankly I had been discouraged by how little I accomplished. One of my goals was to work through my huge stack of books waiting to be read. I could only remember a few to share about. However, once I started perusing the bookcase, I was surprised by how much I infact have read!

First and foremost for me, is the Bible which I did read through this year. The pink binder contains my Bible Study Fellowship notes from this year's study of John, although I also studied Revelation last year. Each week we receive 6 pages that detail that weeks' study, full of 30-80  citations. (By the way  Bible Study Fellowship is international, teaches Scripture with Scripture, and has classes for men, women and children. I highly recommend it!)


These are the "young adults" books that I've read. The George Mason book was well researched. I blogged about it here. The bottom 4 books are from the incredible Landmark Series which I plan to blog on soon. Though written for kids, they are perfect not only for homeschool but also for big people to read too since history textbooks are so lacking in accurate content.


This is picture 1 of 2 of the "big people" books that I read. I actually read the couture sewing book a second time, which I blogged about here.
Last spring I was in major 18th century and George Washington mode, which is when I read the next 4 books. I blogged about Martha Washington: An American Life here. I shared a bit about Washington's Gardens at Mount Vernon, here, though I didn't think much of the premise of the book. Too far fetched for me! lol I had to separate fact from opinion with this book. However the photography was stunning!
After reading Dining with the Washingtons I toured Mount Vernon, again, with my daughter (and we got our photo with Abraham Lincoln). We toured the newly restored home and were shocked that they no longer use the dining room as the dining room, but now only as the reception and dancing room. I asked where all those guests that the Washington's were famed for having, ate? I was told in the little eating room. Um, what? I challenged them on that, and asked how in the world everyone would fit there. They said they were put out into the foyer to eat. What? We've always been taught that English  Country dance fit perfectly into the foyers and the dining room was perfectly large enough to hold all the numerous guests...then they could have pushed back the tables for the dancing afterwards (in my mind...but not according to their research, they said.) Also the  ugliest brown painted chairs were on the veranda on the back porch so I asked what happened to the gorgeous green chairs. I was told the brown chairs were painted brown to look like wood. Um, what? With sloppy drip marks? That didn't sound like proper historical conservation or restoration to me. Well, I guess they are the experts, but I have a hard time believing all that. lol So now I want to reread the Dining with the Washingtons book again to see if I missed something! lol
I got the Earl Hamner book when I visited Walton's Mountain, then I blogged about the book here, with two more posts to come.

I got all the Veith books at Patrick Henry College. He was one of my son's literature professors. I've blogged about Postmodern Times here and God at Work here. I attended 2 Constitutional Literacy Seminars with Michael Farris (who founded Patrick Henry  College) and Jenna Ellis in Feb 2016 which I blogged about here. This post also shares why many  of these books were the ones I chose to read this year. I haven't blogged about it but in October 2016 I got to attend their seminar again, in person! While there I bought the book that Ellis wrote The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution. I  shared a bit about here. I was on the Eric Metaxas booklaunch team for If You Can Keep It. I wrote several posts that are catalogued here.


At the top is this great book on Political Life in Eighteenth-Century Virginia which I blogged a bit about here.


Although I took several books with me when I had to drive and sit and wait for my kids, there were usually issues with reading them. I kept forgetting where I left off, so I resorted to crossword puzzles that my daughter has bought for me in the last few years. They have become a bit addictive and I'm figuring out the pattern to even the maddening advanced ones. I hope they are improving my analytic skills.


These are the books that I started reading but haven't finished, so I will pick them up again in 2017. You might note two copies of Wide as the Waters. I bought this years ago, read, it and learned a lot at the surface letter of the people and events. Later I read about it in Michael Farris' book From Tyndale to Madison which I shared a bit about here. Turns out Wide as the Waters was one of the inspirations for the Tyndale to Madison book.  So I began rereading it and wow! I started learning a whole new layer of information on liberty and freedom that I missed the first time. A few months ago I found the hardback copy of Wide as the Waters in the used bookstore for a great price. It's such a nice copy, it's such a great book, I couldn't resist. So now I have two copies!


Which leads me to the announcement! I am on another Eric Metaxas Booklaunch Team! This one is for the reprint of his book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About  God (But Were Afraid to Ask). From what I've seen of the book, is a great primer for those who are terrified of digging into deep thinking verbose apologetic books. I will receive my fee copy in a few weeks to start reviewing. Stay tuned!

Copy Courtesy Eric Metaxas Booklaunch Team
Image courtesy of the Eric Metaxas Book Launch Team

For a catalogue of posts I've done about  Eric Metaxas and his other works, see this post.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Breakpoint, Chuck Colson, and Eric Metaxas

One of my go-to resources during homeschool years was Breakpoint, hosted by Chuck Colson. I had been heavily influenced by Colson's dramatic story, which I used in our 20th century studies. When his program began in 1991, I listened to him as often as I could. Breakpoint was a treasure chest of information packed into a few nuggets of a sound bite. As we got busy with homeschool, I read the Breakpoint daily e-mails. Colson's writings (both in books and at Breakpoint) were full of intellectual thought, encouraged us to reach out to help others, and helped us understand history better than any textbook. It was a great resource for our classical homeschool studies.

Over the years I stumbled upon the work of Eric Metaxas at Breakpoint. It took a while for me to connect the dots: Veggie Tales, Squanto, Breakpoint, Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer...but when I finally did I could only be amazed at Metaxas eclectic spread. At this link you can hear the June 18, 2012 podcast with Phil Vischer (aka Bob the Tomato from Veggie Tales who had hired Metaxas years ago to help write Veggie Tales.)The following details are from this podcast:

Around the time my kids were born, Metaxas heard that Chuck Colson would be speaking at Yale Law School. Having read all of Colson's books, Metaxas had to go! Afterwards he wrote a letter for Colson and included it with one of his children's books for Colson's grandchildren. He received a lovely note back with a promise that he'd be remembered. And he was. A couple of years later Breakpoint called him to interview, and Metaxas got a job on their editorial team for a few years.

Poignantly, Vischer brought up that Chuck Colson had recently passed away. They discussed Colson's work with Prison Fellowship (have you ever participated in Angel Tree?) and Colson's great intellectual mind that we see in his writings. Even when reading Colson's biography, Born Again, he shares that it was a CS Lewis book, Mere Christianity, that led to his turning to Christ. After the death of Chuck Colson, a new voice was needed for the radio program. Eric Metaxas was invited to be that voice. Today we hear the voices of Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet who co-host Breakpoint.