Sometimes You Lose

Today has not been a very successful day, despite all my efforts to make it so. This morning I got right to work putting together today’s Geography food—a South American chicken stew that has a really long list of ingredients, including fresh thyme, which is the only thing that has survived my neglect of my garden this year.

Jasper helped me set up, and we even got the garlands up on my teacup tree, but that is all. Maybe tomorrow I can get the lights and ornaments on!

As class time neared, Jasper made quesadillas to go with the stew. We watched a video during lunch like we always do. These boys have been very enthusiastic eaters and I thought they’d like the stew—but they did not. I really, really hate to throw food away but they barely touched it. At least we have a dog—who had a very large fancy dinner today!

The boys were more enthusiastic about the array of German goodies I put out for dessert—and the mochi ice cream too. Then we spent the rest of the class reviewing for next week’s test.

After class I finally had time to sit down and put the glitter glue on one side of my red diamond. That was another fail. That was some seven hours ago and it still isn’t dry. I may die of old age first! And this is even with using my hair dryer on it at regular intervals! I wish they had mentioned on the glue bottle that using this glue may benefit your grandchildren rather than yourself. [I just Googled it and learned that it may take 24 hours to dry. Good thing the parade isn’t until Saturday!]

Meanwhile, I picked up the poster I had ordered with the card back on it, but now I have to go out and buy more foam board because someone else volunteered to do the front and she’s using a different size of paper. So tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Hobby Lobby one more time.

I have spent all evening critiquing student papers and have finally finished doing the ones that have been turned in. It is a very slow and time-consuming process. I have no sense of victory because I have so much other grading and school work to do!

Thursday in Asia

Another Geography class has come and gone. Today we finished off Asia and had an Asian-inspired meal. I made mango bubble tea for the gentlemen to drink, and plain green tea too. I bought some Taiwanese takeaway food and made extra rice “just in case.” And Jasper helped me make some Pad Thai from a kit I’d picked up. I also offered some “Want Want” crackers for dessert and some pocky sticks. I had asked my neighbor Anna for dessert ideas, as her family has spent years in South Korea. She offered to send over some goodies—some sweet rice cakes, grapes, and an enormous Asian pear.

What a feast! The boys are enthusiastic eaters. During the course of this semester, they have developed a theory that food from pretty much anywhere else in the world is better than American food—although during today’s class they were a little taken aback to learn that some people eat raw horse meat.

After class I had time to work on planning out next semester for a little bit before getting ready to go to my mature mom’s night out. Several people had to cancel so it ended up just being my friend Susan and me. We had a nice visit while I ploughed through an enormous salad.

Jasper spent the afternoon and evening doing his laundry and packing for his trip tomorrow. Maybe I should get some rest since I’m going to be driving.

Friends in High Places

Since it’s Thursday, it must be time for a Geography class report, right? Today we were in southeast Asia. The cooking I did last night was to make a massive batch of beef curry.

In a way, I felt a little guilty serving it because this is something my students won’t be able to duplicate exactly even if I give them the recipe. The recipe came from my dear Sri Lankan friend, Anita, who has lived in Zambia for many years now. The recipe is not difficult—just a little time consuming. The issue is that the most essential ingredient is curry powder, and to make Anita’s curry you must have Anita’s curry powder. She blends it herself from the individual spices and it is simply sublime. She sends it to me via her kids who have come to the US to go to college. Janet kept me supplied when she was here, but by the time she graduated in May my supply was gone.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when Sammy brought me a new supply—but if I make curry even occasionally, it will soon be gone too. So I hoard it. I keep most of it in the freezer. Sometimes I’ll take it out and open it up just to smell that fragrant aroma. I would have been kind of sad if my students hadn’t liked it, but fortunately they all loved it. We also had naan and mango lassi, and Jasper made a coconut dessert that I hear was pretty good. The boys all had spiced chai made from my own mix as well.

So as I was thinking about today’s lesson on Monday, it occurred to me that I had a great opportunity to call in an expert to speak to our class. My neighbor Kathy and her husband spent last school year teaching at a college in eastern Bhutan. I mean, how often do you meet someone who’s been to Bhutan, let alone for nine months?

I emailed Kathy but unfortunately she didn’t see my email. I tried to call her yesterday morning but didn’t get through so I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to her until last night. By then I figured it was much too late for her to have time to organize her thoughts before today. But guess what? She and her husband recently gave a presentation on their time in Bhutan and she had a ready-made PowerPoint for it—and she was free for the last half-hour of our class today!

That was a real treat—getting to see her photos and hear her talk about what it was like to live in the mountainous kingdom of Bhutan. I think her words and photos really made it come alive for the gentlemen.

After the gentlemen left, Kathy stayed to visit for a while and we were able to get a little caught up with each other’s lives. We both have sons who got married in the last year. For friends who have lived in the same neighborhood for at least twenty-four years, we rarely see each other.

Nobody complained about having curry for supper.

Thank You for the World So Sweet

Only three more Geography classes to go for this semester! But today was a good one. As always, I was up late last night researching and preparing, and at it again as soon as I got up this morning, alternating with time spent in the kitchen. I always make things in addition to whatever my student chef brings.

Today we were in Central Asia and we had a Turkish feast. My student chef brought some roasted vegetables and a meat-stuffed pastry. I made some Turkish poached eggs (topped with a yogurt sauce and a butter/paprika sauce), some Turkish “pizza,” (flatbread with toppings) and a dubious dessert. It was dubious because I had to make it gluten free and I’m quite sure the texture was not authentic. I also had Turkish delight and some pistachios and Turkish coffee, which I helped the boys make by following a long list of instructions. It turned out well and Jasper at least really liked it!

But what I loved most was the gentlemen’s enthusiasm as we talked about and looked at photos of each country. Common comments were “I want to live there,” or “I want to go there,” or just “Wow!” This is exactly why I go to so much trouble for this class. I am well aware that they will soon forget details about flags and capitals and exports and population numbers. But I hope that, years from now, they look back on this year and this class as the year they fell in love with the world, with its beauty and variety and dazzling complexity and history and charm. Every time I have taught this class, I have added more to it and sought to both broaden and deepen the experience for my students. I want them to walk away with a bucket list that’s a mile long. I want them to care about the rest of the world just as much as they care about our neighborhood or our state. It makes me really sad that this is not a priority for the vast majority of homeschool families I know—which in turn makes me even more grateful for the few who embrace the adventure of learning more about our world.

After class I cleaned up and worked on some of my other class work before going to the gym for my walk. When I returned, I managed to toss together a pretty good skillet meal from stuff I had in the fridge.

I had hoped to do something fun in Dallas this weekend, but looking at the length of my to-do list, I realize I need to stay close to home and get as much stuff done as I can! Starting with grocery shopping tomorrow . . .

Geography & Halloween

I barely noticed it was Halloween today. I had so much to do to get ready for Geography. I got Jasper up to bake his cookies because they had to be done before 8:00—and they were. Our friend Cindy came to pick them up on her way to work and then texted to let me know that everybody loved them. They were all eaten! And Jasper earned a little money for his anvil fund.

Meanwhile, I had already made today’s dessert:

A Syrian cake with lots of coconut soaked in rose-flavored syrup.

For most of the morning I worked on the research, but then I helped Jasper get the grill fired up and showed him how to thread meat and onions onto skewers. I had been marinating the chicken overnight in a yogurt-based marinade.

It was a cold day after a cold night and Jasper had to wear a jacket even when standing right next to the hot grill.

One of the other boys brought the falafel and tabouli and we finished grilling the kebabs right on time. We cooked a LOT of meat, but it was so delicious that there wasn’t much left over. The falafel were also a big hit, as was the cake.

I dismissed the gentlemen a few minutes early as I was expecting the blond brothers in half an hour. I worked hard to get ready for them, but I admit I wasn’t too heartbroken when I found out they weren’t coming. I had a little nap!

Then I drove to the north side of town for my monthly ladies’ night out. There were four of us this month. We have never had more than four, though not always the same four. All of us had news to share so we talked for quite a while.

Now hopefully I can catch my breath a little and wade into my grading tomorrow after I do my grocery shopping. We’re supposed to have a hard freeze tonight. It’s a month early!

Shopping & Knitting

This morning, like almost every Friday morning, was grocery shopping time. I am kind of relieved that Aldi has not yet been overrun with Christmas merchandise—but I know it’s coming soon! And what a relief to know that we would have enough fridge space for everything!

Jasper helped put away the food and I attended a webinar that showed me some amazing features of Scrivener (my writing software) that I hadn’t known about. Now if only I could remember how to do all that stuff!

Then a homeschool friend came over for a knitting lesson and learned about the importance of gauge. We had to rip out a project and start over as it was just too big.

I did make it to the gym for a walk and then waited in line for close to 40 minutes just to pick up some pizza for the family. And I still had to go to Walmart to pick up some items that Aldi hadn’t had.

Lucy made some apple pastries for dessert and Tanner came over to enjoy them too. I am looking forward to a weekend at home with my toppling stack of papers waiting to be graded.

Parting Shot:

Well, this is actually a video of a game whose existence I didn’t know about until a couple of days ago. Pato is an Argentinian game that seems to be a cross between polo and basketball, with a little tug-of-war thrown in for good measure. Amazing!

About Yesterday

So sorry for last night’s silence. My computer froze up for hours and I couldn’t “unfreeze” it without losing a lot of work. After restarting it this morning (I couldn’t even do that last night) it seems to be doing better.

Yesterday, like every Thursday, was a rather frenzied “getting ready for Geography” day. Although the students take turns in making food to share, I always have plenty of cooking to do as well. Yesterday was our last day in South America, so we had quite a feast: Chilean pork empanadas, Chilean quinoa salad, fried plantains (because everybody really likes them), Brazilian cheese bread (the crack cocaine of the bread world), Brazilian lemonade, and Brazilian brigadeiros.

I had some complaints about how sweet the brigadeiros were—but a rather stunning number got eaten! The designated chef made the empanadas and salad, but I still had to make the GF empanadas and everything else. So it was a very busy morning and I was thankful for Jasper’s help! (Note: the empanadas in the photo were the very clumsy-looking GF ones. The “real” ones were much prettier!)

I had arranged for a Brazilian friend from church to share with us about her homeland, but she ended up having a schedule conflict, so we set up a Skype session instead, only to have a problem in that we could see her but not hear her! So I put her on speakerphone and as she talked we looked at the document and photos she had sent me. It actually worked pretty well!

Now everyone in the class wants to go to the Caribbean AND South America. I am doing my job!

After class ended, Walter came home and hitched the trailer to the van and he and Jasper and I drove to Kilgore. For several months now I have been hoping to find an inexpensive fridge to replace our auxiliary fridge which died. We have missed having cold water to drink but there simply hasn’t been room in the fridge for any beverage except milk. I had just been realizing that I really ought to start hanging out on Craig’s List to see if I could find anything, and then my friend Desirée contacted me saying she had a fridge she needed to get rid of, and she had remembered that I needed one. What an unexpected blessing!

So we met her at her storage unit and Walter and Jasper manhandled that big heavy fridge onto the trailer and got it all strapped down. Last night they spent quite a while getting it into the house. Two doors had to be removed from their hinges but they finally got it in! Last night I put ice cube trays in the freezer and big pitchers of water in the fridge. When I checked this morning, the ice was frozen and the water was cold. Hallelujah! I will be able to do some cooking ahead for the holidays.

The rest of the evening was pretty frustrating due to my computer issues, but I did get some reading done for next week’s classes.

Exchange between Lucy and me yesterday afternoon:

Her: “Three years ago I was in Bolivia.”

Me: “One month ago I was in Scotland.”

Both: sigh

Preparations

Today was a day in which I worked all day but don’t have a lot to show for it. I worked on school stuff. I tutored a student. I did a bunch of advance prep work and cooking for tomorrow’s geography class. It’s going to be great.

The Return of the Toe Basket

Jasper and I were very busy this morning cooking for Geography class. I started off making the dough for the dessert, as it needed to rise. Then Jasper helped me with all the cutting-up of stuff for the Colombian stew. Then we both made arepas—he the “normal” ones and I the keto ones. Somewhere in there I also got the dessert assembled and in the oven and the rice made.

We have moved on to South America now, so when the other gentlemen arrived we watched a video on Venezuela and Colombia while eating our delicious lunch. We also had a quiz over North America and the Caribbean before going on to learn more about South America. The time always seems to go so quickly!

After the other boys left, Jasper finally sat down and soaked his feet. We have a situation going on with his toe. He waited until he had a severely ingrown and infected toenail before mentioning it to me. It may already be too late to stave off medical intervention, but we are going to try. Toenail woes are all too common in our family. Many have suffered, but Flynn most of all. He endured three years of misery and many painful procedures before finally getting both big toenails removed permanently. In those days I kept a “toe basket” in the bathroom with all the supplies I needed for medicating and bandaging his toes. It was pressed into service again for Spencer and Lucy, but has languished in obscurity for several years now.

Until today, obviously. One of my jobs tomorrow is to buy all the supplies I need to replenish the toe basket. Jasper will be soaking his feet daily and keeping a medicated dressing on the toe in hopes that we will see some improvement.

In other news, my dad is spending the night in the hospital after experiencing several hours of chest pain last night and this morning. Pray that the cause of the pain will be found and that he’ll be able to go home tomorrow as planned.

Plantains

Like every Thursday, today was about Geography. I helped Jasper finish a report and worked on my own class preparation before heading into the kitchen to fry up some plantains. One of my students made the main dish but I always try to make some side dishes to supplement. One student was out sick so there were just four of us to enjoy the food and drool over the photos of the Caribbean. That’s one place I’ve never been! I show photos of each country as we discuss it, and I always try to include a couple of photos of the local food. We were kind of amused to see that virtually every photo I have of Caribbean food includes fried plantains!

Now it’s time to gear up for some house guests and a very busy weekend . . .