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While61jsxanwnl-_sx258_bo1204203200_ working on my forthcoming guide Around the World with Picturebooks, I have been writing notes for Katherine Paterson’s The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks.  This delightful folk tale of Japan was new to me, having read mostly Paterson’s middle grade and YA works like The Great Gilly Hopkins, The Bridge to Terabithia, and Jacob Have I Loved.  I have enjoyed all of these and was delighted to find she had written some picturebooks also.  I had known she was raised in China, daughter to missionary parents there, but I wasn’t aware that as an adult she went to Japan for missionary work and grad school.  I also wasn’t aware that she had adopted two daughters (as have I) and that she fostered children as well.  Recently she was interviewed by Lauren Daley regarding how the story of The Great Gilly Hopkins came to her. The Great Gilly Hopkins, if you haven’t read it, concerns a very angry girl (justifiably so) who has been abandoned by her mother and bounced around foster families until she is completely unattached and out of control.   Katherine’s ability to get inside Gilly’s head and portray her so believably struck me deeply all those years ago and has stayed with me. In a recent interview Paterson talks about her inspiration for the book:

I asked Paterson how the story came to her. Turns out Paterson and her late husband — who have two sons, and adopted two daughters — were also foster parents at one point.

“My husband and I were asked to be foster parents to two kids…and I didn’t realize how different it was to be a foster parent, how hard it was to mother children who aren’t yours, [who] would only be with us a short time… And I realized, that in saying that it was difficult, I was saying that these two people were disposable. And I was so ashamed … Because no one is disposable.”

That of course, struck a chord with me since our recent time at #wildandfreetexas talking about issues of social justice.  It recalled the quote from Paul Farmer:

“The idea that some lives matter less, is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” 

And of course, Father Greg Boyle’s words:

We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”Tattoos on the Heart

imgresAll that to say, that if you haven’t read The Great Gilly Hopkins to your family, the Advent season might be a truly fine time to do so.  It is a book that will cultivate a “deep trench of empathy” in your children that will help them to see how blessed they are and how much we need to stand with those who have been thought of as disposable.  The other great news is that The Great Gilly Hopkins was made into a movie (by Katherine Paterson’s sons–which to me as a #wildandfreemama is the greatest legacy we can have as parents–when our children expand on and extend the work we’ve begun!) and it is available for Christmas giving!  You can read more about it here.  So check this out and comment here if you’ve read The Great Gilly Hopkins and if you loved it!

Dear Readers and Literature Soirée friends,

I have had a number of requests for a recipe for the soup that I’ve served at our Literature Soirées.  I apologize for the lateness of getting this posted, but as I am not often caught in the kitchen using a recipe (unless it’s for baking, which I’m not very proficient at!), I generally hesitate, because well, in might not turn out the same!  (This is the Achille’s heal of cooking off the cuff!).

So, in honor of Katie Merrick’s @wineabit patience, I decided to make this soup today after visiting the

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These will turn wonderfully golden brown by adding a 1/2 tsp of sugar and caramelizing at high heat.

Farmer’s market and getting organic leeks, onions, Japanese Red Kuri squash, celery, garlic, etc.  So, here’s the deal.  This wonderful autumnal soup can be made with either Kabocha squash or Japanese Red Kuri squash.  I have made it with either one and while I prefer the Japanese Red Kuri, it is so similar to Kabocha, that there will be little noticeable difference.  So here goes: Japanese Red Kuri or Kabocha Soup

Caramelize together in 1/4 C bacon fat plus 1/4 C butter or clarified butter (if you’re Paleo)

3 large quartered onions (nothing needs fine chopping as all ingredients will soften in broth)

2 large leeks

1 full head garlic (10-12 cloves)

4 stalks celery with leaves

4-5 carrots (I prefer the Nantes carrots from Farmer’s if you can find them–they’re wonderfully sweet-of course, a French img_3753variety!)

1 heaping teaspoon sea salt

2 heaping tsp (crushed)  Herbs de Provence

1/2 tsp. sugar to help everything caramelize until golden brown

Meanwhile . . .

Halve 2 Kabocha or Red Kuri squash and roast at 350* for 45 minutes to one hour (until tender)

When tender discard seeds (unless you’re really resourceful) peel, and set aside.

When the vegetables are all wonderfully golden brown add 6-8 cups homemade chicken broth. (this takes the soup to another level as you probably know, but store bought will suffice too.)

Add 1 C white wine

img_3755Add roasted squash to this mixture and simmer until everything is tender

Use an emersion blender or regular blender to puree everything together and then salt and pepper to taste.

If desired finish with a dollop of creme fraîche or plain yogurt or sour cream.  Sprinkle on a bit of baby chives. Serve with hot, crunchy, French sourdough!

If you do make this, please post and let me know how it turns out!

Bon Appetite!

 

Dear Readers,

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

This summer while babysitting three of my adorable grandsons, I read the oldest grandson Charlotte’s Web for the first time.  He is a bright little guy for 7 years old, who loves Simagestar Wars (he practically has all the movies memorized), action figures, Cars, Planes (both movies) and generally boyish stuff.  I had some reservations as to how much he would enjoy the story of Fern, Wilber, and Charlotte, (there being no Jedi Warriors, Luke Skywalkers, or battles with light sabers).  What will he think of this old-fashioned tale of barnyard animals, tender affection and lasting friendship?

I needn’t have worried.  Even for a tiny 7 year-old Jedi warrior, this classic still strikes a chord.  It was a joy to see him (not much of a cuddler) cuddle close and listen attentively to this sweet story.  He asked all the right questions and we had a special connection for those precious few days.  It is a memory I’ll treasure and I trust he will too.

So it was with delight that I heard about the publication today of Some Writer: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.  You can hear the full broadcast here and I think you’ll find the collage illustrations enticing and enchanting!  I’m so happy that E.B. White is getting some well-deserved attention.  The enduring nature of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan and his contributions to other children’s writers make this a wonderful homage to a writer who should have won a Newbery Medal.  The year Charlotte’s Web was published it lost the Newbery Medal to The Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark–a book seldom read today. (It did garner a Newbery Honor). In The New York Times, Eudora Welty wrote of Charlotte’s Web, “As a piece of work it is just about perfect, and just about magical in the way it is done”.  And the astounding sales (78 million copies) and the book’s translation into 23 languages proves that simple, tender, and old-fashioned stories can still capture the heart of a boy–even a Jedi warrior.

White wrote everything on a manual typewriter. The author typed up all White's poems on a manual typewrite to include them as parts of the illustrations.

E.B. White wrote everything on a manual typewriter. Melissa Sweet typed up all White’s poems on a manual typewrite to include them as parts of the illustrations.

Hello Readers!

Pictured here are just a few of the wonderful literature selections we will be exploring during my Literature Soirée on the Medieval and Renaissance era. There are a still a few places left, so you can find all the info and grab a spot at this link. I’m excited to share this time with you and all the lovely mamas that are already signed up! The Renaissance era offers such richness to explore, and the seminal texts we will cover will give you the confidence to approach this era with passion and joy!  Remember we will also be discussing Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake, so get out your copy and do a review of this important and (for me at least!) life-changing book!  And finally, we have the lovely Bernadette Speakes scheduled to share with us some of her artistry in drama!  So come expecting to be enriched, inspired, challenged and equipped for an amazing adventure of learning!  Looking forward to seeing you soon!  Rea

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Dear Readers,

How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Sampson

How to Raise a Wild Child by Scott Sampson

Today on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point, the host interviewed the author of How to Raise a Wild Child: the Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature by Scott Sampson.  (This was actually a re-broadcast of an earlier recording, but it was the first time I heard it). I have the book on my bed stand and have been reading it in fits and starts.  This has been a very humbling read, as I’ve recently been convicted about how little I’ve had my 16 year-old daughter outside enjoying nature and seeing the wonder of the created world around her.  There are a number of reasons for this (she is a ballet dancer which necessitates lots of time in ballet studios–these don’t exist outside, in addition to a very time-consuming online curriculum which stole about 7 or 8 hours a day!)  So, like Rip Van Winkle, I feel I’ve woken out of a long winter’s (technology) nap and am awake to real life again!  I’ve also been blessed and inspired by Ainsley Arment through her work at Be Wild and Free and have determined that this coming school year will be different.  So we’ve quit the demanding online academy and are taking a less stressful, more relaxed approach to our home education next year, including regularly scheduled outdoor times!  I’m so looking forward to this!

In that endeavor here are a few of the key points of Scott’s How to Raise a Wild Child book and interview:

• children today spend on average of 4-7 minutes outdoors and 7-10 hours at screens

• this phenomenon has reduced life expectancy, increased obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.

• this dramatic cultural shift has been driven by a “fear factor” wherein parents fear child abduction, when in reality the likelihood of child abduction is no greater than it was in 1950.

• the “busy factor” of “over-scheduled children”– who go directly from school to sports, music lessons, etc., with no time to play.

• finally, the “lure of technology” robs countless hours that previous generations of children spent outdoors, running, climbing trees, building forts, exploring and creating adventures.

What Scott Sampson sees in these modern trends is that we keep out children under a veritable “house arrest” where “free range children” are a dying breed!

The solution isn’t complicated or sophisticated, or only for the privileged.  It merely necessitates getting outside!  As one of the guests stated, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!”  Children can be kept warm and dry no matter the weather with thoughtful and wise preparation. This resonates so beautifully with the philosophy of Charlotte Mason who advocated that children spend a minimum of 3 hours per day outside–rain or shine.  In spring and fall she insisted on even more time outdoors!

To be wild and free boys only need some water, rocks and trees. My adorable grandsons this weekend.

To be wild and free boys only need some water, rocks and trees. Two of my adorable grandsons this weekend.

In an age of helicopter parenting, where children are habitually supervised and smothered by parental involvement, I love the words of my eldest daughter’s parenting philosophy of “benevolent neglect!” There is so much truth to the notion that children need to be left alone to muse, create, ponder and reflect.  Charlotte Mason advocated the importance of free play noting,

Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.”

Scott Sampson likened it to “hummingbird parenting” where parents stay on the periphery and only zoom in when needed and just as quickly zoom out.  And when we are outside with our children, give place for them to explore and discover on their own.  Let’s not badger them with questions or facts, or “educational moments.” Let’s let the wonder and awe of creation in all its profound intricacy and majesty, work its magic on us and our children.

9781455101269Dear Readers,

I am excited to announce our Summer Literature Soirée for Saturday, August 20th from 9:30 am -3:30 pm.  This will be a full day of friendship, luxuriating in literature, and just plain fun!  We will discuss For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay as well as cover Renaissance history with a full session on Renaissance artists.  I’m excited about this as it’s going to give me the opportunity to really revisit some beloved artists and sculptors of this period. We will, of course, talk about the best children’s books for exploring this period and I don’t doubt you will all have some wonderful additions to add to the general richness!

Lunch is included of course, and I will be delighted to share some fresh goodness from my vegetable garden, and more than likely we will enjoy a
IMG_2509Salad Nicoise–the variations on that theme being many!

Bernadette Speakes

Bernadette Speakes is a talented actor with broad experience on stage, film and television. She is also a wife and home schooling mother. Her readings will transport you!

And not to forget, the wonderful Bernadette Speakes and I will be coming up with some special reading to share for your listening pleasure!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

1306 Mill Street

San Luis Obispo, CA

Cost: $35.00 (includes lunch)

Register here.

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My porthole on the Queen Mary

To have the sense of creative activity is the great happiness and the great proof of being alive. –Matthew Arnold

Dear Readers,

Matthew Henry–a 19th century author, literary critic and cultural reformer, talked about the importance of true education being the purveyor of “sweetness and light”.  He strongly believed that the best education had the power to inculcate beauty, generosity, and virtue into the culture.  Well, I had the rare opportunity to attend a conference that I think exemplifies the best of this notion! I am so excited to share with those who might not know about a wonderful new (well, young might be more accurate) movement of home schooling mamas committed to raising wild and free children!  I was blessed by the founder, Ainsley Arment (www.bewildandfree.org ) with a ticket to attend their most recent event in Long Beach on the Queen Mary.  This historic ship was a truly appropriate venue as these ladies love history and love teaching history to their children through the power of good books! Ainsley Arment has had the brilliant vision to bring together a group of her favorite bloggers and IG mamas who exemplify her view of what education should look like when we infuse it with beauty, art, music, literature and nature!  Her efforts have culminated in an amazing community of strong, intelligent, artistic, and joy-filled women.  I felt so blessed  to spend a weekend with these precious people!

 Jodi Mockabee

Jodi Mockabee

I had the privilege of getting to hear Jodi Mockabee (jodimockabee.com) who I first met when she was a tiny baby being bounced on her daddy’s knee.  To see her speaking to this crowd of 400 ladies with such calm and humility was one of those “full circle” moments in life. Her grandfather and father were both our pastors for 15 years–in the wonderful community that was The Chapel in the Pines.  Over two decades later, Jodi is a devoted mother to her five and she shared about the power of good books and the power of the words we speak in our homes to each other.

I also had the wonderful privilege of getting to hear Sarah Mackenzie live and in person!  Sarah had kindly done a podcast

Sarah Mackenzie with the beautiful woodwork of the Queen Mary in the background.

Sarah Mackenzie with the beautiful woodwork of the Queen Mary in the background.

with me back in September (which you can access here) but to get to meet her bubbly self in person, laugh and share this sweet event together was a treat.  Her presentation focused on seeing the beauty in the small unexpected moments in life.  The beauty of Sarah is that when she speaks, you know she right there “in the trenches” of motherhood andimgres home schooling with you.  If you’re not familiar with her book, Teaching from Rest, you should check out a copy!  It is a breath of fresh air in our harried worlds!  I’ve felt a real refreshing of grace and perspective reading her book!

Finally, the other personal treat for me was hearing from my friend, Emily Waechtler, (bluecorduroy.com) who lives here in my community and who spoke alongside her

Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber

Emily Waechtler and Toni Weber

friend, Toni Weber (www.homeschoolingbyheart.com)  Both are mamas home schooling their children, and both are committed to giving their children the freedom to explore through their education the power of good books, the beauty of nature, and the rewards of self-directed learning.  Their presentations were humble, kind, and full of the gentle spirit they strive to incorporate into their homes each day.

I was amazed at the calm, cool, and collected Ainsley Arment, who not only put on this very successful event, but did so with grace, humor, and generosity, all while bouncing her little Millie on her hip! So, readers, if you ever get an opportunity to attend a Wild and Free event, don’t miss out!  You can also subscribe to their beautiful publications that will inspire you to incorporate more beauty into your days–they certainly have done that for me!  You will be blessed, encouraged, inspired and enriched however you interact with these interesting, alive, and passionate women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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