Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rescued Book #32 On the Way Home

Do you remember the early episodes of the TV series Little House on the Prairie?  They always ended with a voice over of Melissa Gilbert (who played Laura) saying “If I had a book of remembrances….”  Guess what?  She did!  I don’t know when she began keeping her journal, but by the time the Wilders moved to southwest Missouri she had a writing desk (it’s where she hid the $100 saved to buy a farm) and she kept a journal of their journey in a 5 cent Memorandum book.  Long after the Little House books were published,  after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s death in fact, that journal was discovered and published under the title On the Way Home.  I rescued my copy from a YMCA book sale.

The first chapter was written by the Wilder’s daughter Rose who was also a writer.  In it she explains about the drought and the financial crisis in South Dakota and how her parents had saved some money to start an orchard in “the Land of the Big Red Apple.”  In order to preserve their funds to buy the farm, Almanzo Wilder bought a box of asbestos fire-mats to sell or trade for food on their journey.

Laura wrote entries almost daily, beginning July 17, 1894 when they set out till August 30 of the same year when the family arrived in Mansfield, MO.  Rose Wilder Lane then takes up the narrative again to share the $100 bill so carefully hidden couldn’t be found on the day they were heading to the bank to buy the land.  Had it been discovered and stolen on the journey?  Had Rose taken it herself and lost it or destroyed it (she was 6 or 7 at the time)?

It seemed their dreams were dashed.  Rose recalls her mother saying “What can’t be cured must be endured.”  Several days passed and the family was actually packing up the covered wagon to move of and search for a means to make a living elsewhere when Laura found the money in a crack in the desk.  The land was purchased and a house was built –the same house you can visit today, the same house where the Little House books were all written.

On the Way Home contains several black and white photos of the Wilder family, their farm, and even the writing desk.  If you’re truly interested in Laura Ingalls Wilder, you’ll be please to know her original work Pioneer Girl has finally been published by the South Dakota Historical Society.  This is considered her true autobiography (the Little House books were fictionalized, with some event occurring out of sequence and some people combined into one character, etc.).   I’m currently on the waiting list at the library to read it.  Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be able to rescue my own copy.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rescued Book #31—Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies

Last year I set out to share 52 of the books (or series of books) that I’ve “rescued” from library sales and other used book sales.  The came the ABC Blogging across Missouri challenge and I fell waaayyy short of my goal of 52.  So I’m going to finish the Rescued Books series, although you’ll notice I’ve taken “weeks” out of the series title.

My “W” for Blogging Across Missouri was Walt Disney’s Hometown.  He wasn’t born in the state, but he considered Marceline, MO as his hometown—it was even the inspiration for Main Street U.S.A. at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  So naturally good ole Walt came up when we studied famous Missourians in Schnickelfritz’s study of The Show Me State.  I used all living books for our history that year and was fortunate to find an old Disney biography.

Walt Disney, Magician of the Movies. Thomas, Bob, and Leonard Vosburgh.  New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1966. 176 pp.

Before the Table of Contents is a storyboard of Disney’s life.  For those who don’t know—a story board is a series of illustrations displayed in sequence to pre-visualize the actions of a motion picture. The process was develops by Walt Disney Productions in the early 1930’s.

The biography begins with six year old Walter having too much time on his hands, a bucket of tar, and a perfectly blank canvas of whitewashed siding.  When his father saw the painting of the pig on the side of his home he gave Walt a spanking, when Walt’s aunt heard the tale she gave Walt a set of colored pencils and some pads of paper.

We learn that Walt loved English in school, even Shakespeare, but algebra seemed like a foreign language. He spent his recess and lunch hour sweeping the sweeping the candy store across the street from the school in return for a hot lunch and some treats.  Other jobs included delivering newspapers for his father (a non-paying job), selling papers and refreshments on trains, and being a mailman.  He never forgot his love of drawing and painting though.  While driving ambulances for the Red Cross after World War I, he earned some spending money by painting medals on the leather jackets of the soldiers.  He returned home having made up his mind to be an artist, more specifically a cartoonist.

We still had two chapters before The Mouse came on the scene (and he was originally going to be called Mortimer).  Fritz got to learn about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the innovative “Alice” series of shorts that combined live action with cartoons decades before Song of the South.  Then came Mickey Mouse,  Silly Symphony cartoons, Donald Duck and the first feature-length cartoon, Snow White.  I’ve got quite a collection of Walt Disney Treasure DVD’s and whenever we read about a cartoon, we’d look through the collection to see if we could watch the actual feature.

More chapters and more innovations—the True Life Adventure movies, Disneyland, television shows.  We go on a ride worthy of an E ticket (and I’m old enough to know) before the book ends with Disney’s death on Dec 15th, 1966.

Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies is one of Gross & Dunlap’s Pioneer Books. The introduction explains that these books are “designed to create unique and challenging biographies in many areas in which there has been some significant breakthrough in human achievement—a breakthrough largely engineered by a single person.”  Remember, there was a time when Disney wasn’t a worldwide corporate behemoth but simply a man with a dream, better yet a boy with a paintbrush and a blank canvas to fill. 

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

What We’re Reading—January 2015

As winter is generally the time to be cooped up indoors, we’ve been filling our time reading books.  Here’s a few of the titles we’re enjoying….

Schnickelfrtiz is reading My Side of the Mountain.  I can remember my sixth grade teacher reading it aloud to class.  Fortunately for me every student had a copy of the book to follow along, but I was actually reading ahead because I couldn’t wait to learn what would happen to Sam Gribley living in his hollowed-out tree in the Catskill Mountains.  How refreshing to read a book about survival that doesn’t involve a post-apocalyptic society where kids are killing kids.  This is just a teenage boy trying to get in touch with his family’s roots and learning self reliance, how to deal with fears, etc.  What I love best….when Sam doesn’t know what to do, he often heads to the LIBRARY to read up on a subject. 

I’m reading aloud Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers to Fritz as part of our school day.  He’s perfectly capable of reading it to himself, but I like to read it with the enthusiasm it deserves.  This week’s reading included a wild race to stay ahead of a cloudburst—when it fails, the young man and his horse are nearly drowned after tumbling in the river.  Fritz is sometimes thinking more about his piano lesson than my reading, but in this case he was riveted.  I also like to read aloud to censor some of the cowboy talk—it’s true he’s heard those words before, but why expose him to more when a “dern” works just as well. The Little Britches series is often categorized as the Little House alternative for boys.  I personally think that both boys and girls can benefit from both series. Both series deals with families that practice hard work and self-reliance while trying to eke out a living in the American West (Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 and Ralph Moody was born in 1898). I’m loving the fatherly words of wisdom Mr. Moody shares with Ralph and will miss them since SPOILER ALERT: he dies at the end of the first book.

IshmaelAs for my own reading—I’m embarrassed to say I practically have a book for every room, although I am limiting myself to only one fiction title.  That one would be Ishmael by E.D.E.N. Southworth.  It’s one of the Lamplighter Publishing titles I’d bought years ago.  I just bought its sequel, Self-Raised at their end-of-the-year seconds (the slightly less than perfect books) sale and thought I’d better re-familiarize myself with the story and characters.  Ms. Southworth takes her time to develop characters as much as Victor Hugo – it was almost 100 pages before the title character was born.  The point of the first fifth of the book was to set up his being an orphan.

The forecast includes winter weather advisories and we may even have to deal with ice accumulation and power outages…Thank goodness I don’t have to plug in my books.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sausage Chowder



The tree and decorations are down, the temperature is dropping, a cold rain may turn to ice overnight…the reality that the holidays are over and winter itself still lies ahead has hit me.  I need comfort food!  As long as the weather holds, I plan on sharing a comforting soup, stew or chowder with you on Saturdays.  And the bonus for myself—I’s going to scour through my all-too-large cookbook collection and select all new ones to try.  I’ll share first opinions and brainstorm how I might tweak the recipe in the future.  I might be using the pressure cooker, slow cooker or just a Dutch oven on the stove.  Here’s my first—Sausage Chowder.





  • 1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage
  • 1 med. onion, quartered & thinly sliced
  • 4 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 can cream-style corn
  • 1 can evaporated milk


Cut sausage in half lengthwise and then thinly slice.  Brown the sausage and onion over medium heat in a soup kettle or Dutch oven.

Add potatoes, water, parsley, basil, salt and pepper to pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add canned ingredients.  Cook another 5-10 minutes until heated through. Yield: about 3 quarts of chowder – you’ll have to judge the number of servings depending on whether you use this as a main dish or an appetizer.

Family Reaction:

You can see I already tweaked the recipe because all I had in the house was kielbasa instead of smoked sausage.  Rather than use a Dutch oven, I cooked it all in my Ninja 3-in-1, which has a stovetop setting.  Everyone loved the taste.  My husband would have liked it to be a little thicker—maybe I’ll cut down on the water.  I’m including a picture of my diced potatoes.  For their size a 15-20 minute simmer was too long, they were too mushy.  Another thought is to mash them slightly to thicken the dish before I add the corn.  A sprinkling of cheese when serving would go well too.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Goals for 2015

We've reached that time of year again...that week between Christmas and the New Year when many minds turn towards upcoming resolutions.  I personally don't make resolutions.  It's almost a joke to see how quickly they get broken.  Ask any gym member and they'll tell you how long they have to wait for machines those first 2 or 3 weeks of January, but by February it's back to the few regular exercisers who were already committed without a resolution necessary.  

Instead of  "I'll start doing this good habit or stop doing this bad habit for the rest of my life" I am choosing a set of goals.  They'll have a start and end (or be a singular event) and I'll be able to determine if the goal has been met.

1. I will post to my blog every week.  

I did manage to complete the blogging through the alphabet challenge, but didn't make my 52 weeks of Rescued Books in 2014.  I am still debating on a year long theme or just making sure I share with you regularly.  I will be part of the 2015 Review Crew so you know I'll be sharing my experiences with some great homeschooling products.

2. I will learn how to make good fried chicken

One of my husband's favorite meals is a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.  I know I won't be able to duplicate their recipe exactly because they pressure fry their birds.  Still, I'd like to be able to make an acceptable version at home.  I'll be saving gas money (our nearest KFC is a 26 mile round trip) as well as the food costs (think about it---one chicken at the store is $4-5, but $12-14 cut up in a bucket).

3. I will make Jesse Tree Ornaments

I came upon the idea of a Jesse Tree for Advent too late in the year to make one, but I've been pinning ideas for ornaments.  I've already spoken to another homeschool mom and we may organize an ornament swap.  I want to make a set for my family and give two as gifts for my mom and step-mom.

So what about you?  Do you still make resolutions?  What goals do you have for the coming year?

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

Funny how I thought I’d just have one post on Advent Conspiracy this year, and now I’m on my third one.  Earlier this week my husband received and email from his prayer partner and our pastor asking for input on what keeps you from worshipping Christmas fully—the theme for tomorrow’s message.  The Toolman emailed back his response, but I decided to write this post on what my answer would have been had I been asked.

In 1998 I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land with my father & stepmother and a group from their church.  One of the many sites we visited was the town of Bethlehem –the very place where the original Christmas occurred.  Surely one would be able to fully appreciate and worship the babe in a manger there if anywhere in the world!  FYI: I didn’t have time to dig in the basement for my own pictures—I’ve still got holiday baking to do and presents to wrap. (Hmmm, there’s a clue for attentive readers)  So these are all images I found  on Wikimedia Commons.

We were actually in Israel the week before Holy Week, so I’m guessing we were at the high end if not the very peak of tourism crowds.  While the focus was on the Easter sites in Jerusalem, anyone who’s traveled around the world to be there wasn’t going to pass up the nativity sites in Bethlehem—especially since they’re only 5-6 miles away.

Entrance to the Church of the Nativity (7703543954)




I confess my excitement was building as we got off the bus and so the sites familiar but till now seen only in books or on TV.  We walked through Manger Square and had to significantly bend over to pass through the entrance known as The Door of Humility.







And once through the doorway we beheld …..a line as long as any you’ll find waiting to see a shopping mall Santa.  It seems we weren’t  the only tour group who thought they’d be clever and leave the Jerusalem crowds behind that day.  We had plenty of time to study these columns in our hour plus wait.

Bethlehem Church of the Nativity main nave

Finally we reached the main altar area (see below).  I’ll be frank here and say there must be something about flash photography that makes the ornate lamps and decorations appear glistening and gleaming.  My impression in person was that everything was extremely dirty and dusty—like a neglected (and slightly tacky) antiques store.

Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem)

What you can’t see in this photograph were the streams of people kissing the icons in front, nor the two “kiosks” on either side where priests were selling incense.  Perhaps it was being distributed with the expectation of a donation, all I know was that money was being exchanged—apparently Jesus’s rant about “a den of thieves” had fallen of deaf ears.  You may not realize that the Church of the Nativity is administered by three different denominations:Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic.  I don’t remember which two were doling out the incense, but as most of the exchanges were done in foreign languages I imagined them saying “Buy our incense and your prayers will reach Heaven faster!”

The stand to the right seemed to have the brisker business, perhaps because that side also had the entrance to the grotto, cave-like area where Christ was born.  At this semicircle of steps leading down all semblance of order from the line dissipated.  People wriggled and squeezed toward the doorway—holding hands with the others of their group so if one made it in, the others could snake in behind them.  That old Christian belief that the last shall be first was tossed out the window—there were busses waiting and schedules to keep.


The Grotto holds two features—the first is the spot where “it is believed” Jesus was born. If you ever travel to the Holy Land you’ll get used to that phrase.  Again, flash photography make this look more gleaming and less dusty.  People stand in line to place there hand on or kiss this spot.  Lest someone become overwhelmed with awe and want to actually worship, there is a priest standing by to instruct them to “move along.”

This spot I remember wasn’t administered by the Roman Catholics.  They had their own attraction across the room:  the spot where Mary laid Jesus in the manger.  At some point in history, a pope donated the marble replica that now stands there.  As I stood nearby, the voice of Indiana Jones popped in my head, “That isn’t the manger of a carpenter’s son.”

I left the Church of the Nativity with far different emotions than I’d arrived with.  The excitement and anticipation were gone, trampled on by the crowds, the commercialism, the constant urging to move forward and not linger, the gaudy decorations and the people seeming to worship them rather than the real Reason for the Season.  I left with disappointment that the day wasn’t living up to expectations.

The story isn’t over though – we got back on our tour bus and our next stop was…the middle of nowhere.  There were no crowds, nor any buildings to be seen.   I don’t know if we were in the spot actually designated “Shepherd’s Field” or not, but while we stopped to read the Bible passage about the angels bringing the good news a Bedouin boy came over the hill leading a flock of goats.  We stopped to help him draw water from a well.  We watched the kids frolic and butt heads.  It was simple and natural and the closest I’ve ever felt to the Christmas story.

Before I close I want to say, I’m not anti-religion or anti-catholic and I’m not saying you shouldn’t go see the Church of the Nativity if you have the chance.  What I am saying is that if you’re struggling to get that Christmas spirit this year maybe you need to lay aside the trappings of Christmas—the decorations, the entertaining, the cooking and baking, the crowds.  Remember, God himself didn’t enter the world with great pomp and circumstance. He chose a very simple story: a young girl, a humble manger, and some shepherds as witnesses.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent Conspiracy & Living Water

My last post focused on our church’s annual participation with the Advent Conspiracy.  For those of you unfamiliar, there are four tenets (one for each Sunday of Advent): Spend Less, Give More, Love All & Worship Fully.  I did not mention the main charity promoted by the national Advent Conspiracy organization : Living Water International.  This group drills wells to provide clean drinking water in communities around the world. Events this week have forced me to focus on what life must be like for the folks who are still waiting for Living Water to come to their town.

Sunday evening my husband, the Toolman was preparing to brush his teeth before bed, but when he turned the faucet absolutely nothing happened!  He tried to turn on the shower…again nothing.  We live with a well system and depend on a pump to bring up water from 160 feet below our house and for unknown reasons the pump wasn’t working.   We checked the circuit breakers and confirmed electricity was still running to the controls but we’d have to call for service in the morning.

Now we’re not entirely new at this no water situation…if there’s an ice storm or other emergency to knock out the power we lose our pump as well so I usually keep 5 or 6 gallon jugs of water on hand.  Unfortunately, all the jugs in our kitchen had been used to fill the dog’s water bowl and certain parties (who now understand why I harp on such things) had failed to refill those jugs when emptied.  We managed to find a partial gallon of water in the downstairs bathroom (our tornado shelter). 

In the morning, the Toolman had to heat that water on the stove to shave.  Then I used the rest  for a sponge bath.  Oops…now we were out of water and I couldn’t exactly go knocking on the neighbors’ doors at 6 am asking to borrow a cup or two.  For the next several hours it seemed everything needed water—the dog’s bowl was empty, my son had to start brushing his teeth with a dry brush and complained that he couldn’t rinse, I was planning to make real hot chocolate  to drink and getting the sugar and cocoa to mix and dissolve without that little bit of water to kick start the process was a chore.

I figured 9 am was a safe enough hour to call on neighbors, but I couldn’t find anyone at home.  There I was going up and down the road with my little wagon load of empty ice tea jugs.  I ended up going home and trying to reach folds by phone.  Of course after nine I could also call the well digging service—they were out on calls and couldn’t get to me that day.  Finally I reached a neighbor who let me fill up five jugs and knew the name of another well service, the ones who had actually drilled ours. They were also out on a call, but thought they’d be able to swing by in the afternoon.

More waiting….dishes piled up in the sink—I wasn’t going to waste our limited supply on them.  High on my priority list was being able to refill the toilet tank because some things just have to be flushed down right away.  Decisions on what to eat and what to plan for dinner all revolved around how much what it would use up – rice and pasta were definitely out.

That afternoon the serviceman arrived.  The fault lay in the control box in our basement so they didn’t even have to dig up the yard or pull up the pump itself.  It was a real pleasure to turn on all the faucets and showerheads and flush the toilets to get all the air out of the lines. 

I share all this not to make anyone feel bad for me, my water problems were brief and now a memory.  I only wish to point out that for many people, the search for clean water is a daily struggle.  How far must they walk?  How safe is it to travel to the water and back again and once the task is done how clean is the water really? 

Living Water International is one of the charities recommended by Advent Conspiracy.  For around $25, they can provide clean water to a family of five for a year!  Look through your Christmas shopping list—isn’t there one gift you could purposefully choose not to buy so you could give this life-saving gift of water to someone really in need?

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