Monthly Archives: July 2015

Lazy Vegan Chili Recipe

Vegan Chili IngredientsA couple years ago, I posted a chili recipe that Jesse invented. Well, with much use (and laziness on my part), it has evolved over the years to become simpler and faster than ever, and here is the updated version:

3 cans of beans (for example, chili beans, red kidney beans, black beans)

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon basil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Do not drain the beans, but dump everything into a pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. And that’s it! If you want more heat, you can add a jalapeño or some hot sauce to the mix. But, hey, that’s an extra step…

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Sight-reading

PianoIt has been forever since I’ve taught voice lessons, until recently. I am enjoying them so much more than I used to, and I am not sure why. Maybe it’s because I am working outside the home as well and therefore enjoying music lessons because I get to teach them from my own house. Or maybe it’s because I just plain enjoy people and their company more than ever.

But it could also be due to the fact that sight-reading is much easier for me now that I have been our church’s pianist for two years. One of my good friends, who also happens to be my employer and former piano teacher, always told me that the best way to improve sight-reading is to play under pressure. She was totally right! Teaching voice is so much simpler when you don’t have to worry much about the accompaniment.

So, for anyone interested, here’s what I know about sight-reading:

Play new music every single day – music you’ve never seen before, or that you only see rarely. A good way to do this is to play through a hymnal, covering maybe one or two songs per day. To get some experience reading other types of music, try reading from octavos. They come in all styles and range from very simple to very difficult. I was lucky that my piano teacher had a huge collection of octavos to choose from, and about once a week, I would bring twenty or thirty new ones home and just play through them and take them back. So if you know any other musicians, you can borrow music from them for this purpose.

It’s important to play pieces that are just above the level that you already sight-read well.

Also, be sure to turn on a drum track or a metronome to create some pressure to stay in time. Also, drum tracks are just fun to play with. 🙂

Always look ahead in the music so you can see what’s coming up.

If you have to drop notes, retain at least the bass note and the melody.

And if you get really confused, just play the chord structure until you can jump back in to the accompaniment.

So that’s what I know. Not, much, but perhaps it will help someone out. If you all have any other tips, leave them in the comments!

Age or Outlook?

I wonder if I’ve just gotten older or if my outlook has changed recently. Normally, I steer clear of posting anything controversial on my FaceBook page, and here on my blog too. I guess I have always wanted to make everyone happy and comfortable and not give them any reason to dislike me. However, in the last year or so (mainly due to my re-entry in the workforce), I have come to the conclusion that it’s okay if I am not liked by everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being well-liked, but there are a few things that I have recently decided not to sacrifice on the alter of affability.

I’m not out to change anyone’s mind about anything – I pretty much know that’s a lost cause. We all believe what we want to believe, and that’s pretty much all there is to it. Just go to any conversation on social media, and you will see clearly that people don’t change their ideologies after having a nice, rational conversation (or an ugly, vehement one, for that matter).

Also, I’m not trying to make trouble. (Remember me? The lady who will generally go out of her way to get people to like her?)

So why does it matter? What’s my purpose? Am I just clouding up the Internet with my thoughts? Well, I do have a purpose, and here it is. It is three-fold:

1. There are a few people in the world who haven’t made up their minds on everything yet. I am personally acquainted with many young people and teens who may not have formed an opinion yet. Therefore, I’d like to add my voice to the collaborative “voice of reason” to help them come to a decision.

2. Some folks are truly seeking an answer about what to believe or how to feel. These folks would be best served to read both sides of an argument (rationally presented) before deciding. (Or listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, if they know Him.)

3. I think we should make our principles known to the world instead covering them up. Again, I don’t believe I will change anyone’s mind, but I am who I am, and I am tired of hiding my beliefs in the closet (so to speak). By sharing our beliefs, we rally behind those trying to make positive changes in the world, and encourage others who may feel alone in their stand against progressive humanism.

With that being said, here is a post that I put up on FaceBook today:

Why is abortion even a thing? Sure, my life would be more convenient if I didn’t have a child to take care of, but since when do we justify murder with convenience? My son’s life is precious and worth any amount of inconvenience anyhow. The other argument I’ve heard is that they are saving the underprivileged child from a life of hardship. Lets just go propose genocide to the homeless folks and see what they have to say about that. What a stupid, selfish rationalization. I cannot think of a greater evil than signing your own innocent child’s gruesome death warrant.

And here are a couple of rebuttals that I made to various comments on the post:

I don’t see how murdering her child will do anything to help the peace of mind of a mother who has been raped. If anything, having an abortion will only complicate emotional turmoil. Just because someone is a victim of a terrible crime doesn’t give them the right to commit murder. That’s absolutely ridiculous, and I think the people who know better need to speak out about it. I can’t believe we live in a “progressive” society that condones such an evil, twisted, barbaric act.

Someone suggested that having an unwanted child around may remind the mother of a rape on a daily basis. Here is my response to that:

Adoption or murder? Hmmm…let me think. I know I am taking a strong stance, but it needs to be said. I’m not asking anyone to agree with me, but I don’t have to agree with those who rationalize either.

I might add here, what if we had a child with someone who later abused us or cheated on us? What if our son or daughter was a daily reminder of our previous bad relationship? We don’t kill people to help us deal with our demons.

India Foxtrot Yankee Oscar Uniform – writing prompt

I told my son to turn off the television for a while this afternoon. He started his “break” by playing the piano for a while, but it wasn’t long before he became bored.

“What should I do?”

“How about your art journal?”

A few minutes later, he returns, showing me the prompt: hide a secret message somewhere in this book.

“Can you find it?”

I thumb through the entire journal (backward) until finally landing on the title page. In very small print, in green ink, on top of his very first assignment in the journal (Write your name using large letters), he had written I_Am_Not.

“Cool,” I remarked.

Alpha Bravo Charlie“Do you get it? It’s my name: I_Am_Not.” [Ian]

So, for fun, I sat down and wrote my own version of “If you can read this…” The first attempt was pretty poor, but Ian liked the idea.

“Well, Mom, the secret message part is cool, but the sentences are too silly.”

Ok, I can do better than that. So I labored for a while, and this is the end result. I hope you like it:

I’m frightened. You opened up, crying all night: “Remember everyone always dies.” Then had I stood, yelling “onward” until…after remembering eternity, stopped mourning and returned tearfully.

I really had a lot of fun writing this, so here’s my writing prompt for you all: Take your favorite quote, scripture, or phrase, and write a story using each letter of the phrase as the first letter of each word in your story. I think it would be particularly entertaining to combine dissimilar elements with this prompt. For example, try hiding a secret message about murder inside the description of a fairy-land. Or better yet, hide a message about your best friend’s betrayal inside a story about how you became friends in the first place.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/17261684@N00/6104388950″>I hope all the trouble with vinyl will be worth it! In progress</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

The Me I Want to Be

Ok, tomorrow I’m intend to do the following three things, and I want you all to help make me accountable:

1. Get up at 6:30am and stay up for the rest of the day.

2. Go for a run up to the high school and back.

3. Avoid sugar and food additives like The Plague.

PhilippiansThere are so many changes I’d like to make in my life, but I just can’t find the will-power. I keep thinking “I can do all things through Christ which strentheneth me (Philippians 4:13),” but I’m just so used to caving into my own desires that I never make it very far.

The me I want to be is the following woman: healthy, fully in charge of her eating habits, active, productive. I don’t want to be a slave to food, sleep, television, social media, etc. I just want to be me! Is that too much to ask of myself?

Would you all benefit from an accountability partner? If you had one, what challenges would you make yourselves?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44037580@N08/7490433460″>week five – austin m. d.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Discipling our Children

Bible ReadingWe need a mature mindset when it comes to disciplining ourselves and the little people we are responsible for (our children). Somehow, we find no problems saying, Yes, you HAVE to eat your vegetables, you HAVE to brush your teeth, you HAVE to share, HAVE to apologize. These things are non-negotiable. We parents realize that we are responsible for our children’s health and attitudes in their youth, with the goal of cultivating life-long responsibility in our kids. Why is it then, that we have such difficulty in helping our children develop habits such as daily Bible-reading, prayer, worship, and thankfulness? What about teaching them to discipline themselves through occasional but regular periods of fasting, even if it’s only for one meal? What about charitable giving? Volunteering? Reaching out to others? Shouldn’t we make these things a regular part of their lives so that they will have some clue as to how to function as real Christians?

What do I mean by real Christians? The word Christian is an old one, and originally it meant “little Christs.” It may have even been a derogatory term when it was used by the citizens of Antioch to label followers of Christ. I’d like to think that Christians earned this term because of their adherence to a lifestyle that mimicked Christ’s. Therefore, I maintain that Christianity should be more than just a belief. More than just an acceptance of the Gospel. True, our works don’t get us into heaven, and the definition of the word “Christian” has changed over time, but our belief and acceptance should be made obvious by the changes that salvation works in us.

You might argue that your children haven’t personally accepted Christ yet, and that’s okay, I get that. But the goal is to direct them to seek out the true God and develop a relationship with Him. There’s nothing wrong with running your household in a way that presupposes their eventual acceptance. Even if your children never accept Him and grow up thinking you’re a crazy fanatic, there’s certainly nothing wrong with teaching them to love people and sincerely seek the truth.

Even for parents who have no qualms with “pushing” their religion onto their kids, many still fail to instill Christian discipline in their offspring. I think one of the main reasons is this: we refuse to discipline ourselves and therefore feel like hypocrites when we require them to read their Bibles, etc. If we demand that our kids return the candy bar they stole, yet we ourselves cheat on our taxes, what does that say about us? How can we pass on traits such as sharing, self-discipline, fasting, etc. if we can’t be bothered with these things in our own lives? Well, I only have one answer for that – seek discipline in your own life and set the example. But being an example isn’t enough; we need to help our kids practice for a lifetime of Christianity.

None of us are perfect, and we’re going to fail – a lot – but that doesn’t excuse us from trying our best. You expect a good effort from your kids on all sorts of things – keeping their rooms clean, obedience, education. Expect the best from yourself while you’re at it.

Anyway, rant over.

Here are a few things I find lacking in Christian society today:

1. Sincerity

2. Discipline

3. Obedience

4. Compassion

I have a few thoughts about each, but I will save them for another post.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/20777644@N05/6185795894″>Bible Study</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Homeschooling on Faith and a Budget, by Christy Acre

Homeschooling on Faith and a Budget

By Christy Acre

Have you been homeschooling your child through preschool, but now he is approaching kindergarten and you aren’t sure that you can afford to keep him home to teach him? Or are you just considering homeschooling for the first time, but you think that the public or private schools could offer your child more because they have more resources than you have? Have you seen some of the curriculum packages and thought that there was no way that the purchase of homeschooling resources could possibly fit into your budget?

After reading this article, I hope you will be reassured you that you can keep your child home where he belongs under your loving parental guidance and still give your child a quality education without spending a fortune on materials. There are many inexpensive ways to teach and nurture your child.

Get the word out

“But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee” (Psalm 5:11).

Let everyone you know that your family will be starting this amazing journey. Let your relatives, friends, people at church, and anyone you can think of know that you are homeschooling. Then, if they are looking for gift ideas for your child or have something that they don’t need any more (but that you could use), they may be happy to share those with you.

Also, just by talking to members of your community you will identify others who are already homeschooling. Check at your local library to see if the librarian knows of any homeschool groups in the area. Even if you don’t join a group locally, just finding a few other homeschoolers to talk with and ask questions of can be a tremendous source of encouragement and knowledge. A lot of homeschooling families are living on one income, and it’s likely they know how to find good deals in your local community and can share ideas that have worked for them.

Search the Internet and the library

”The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge” (Proverbs 18:15).

I have found much information by searching the Internet and taking advantage of a variety of homeschooling websites. If you don’t have a computer or an Internet connection, your local library can probably offer computer access. I have downloaded many E-Books over the years—most of them for free or at a very low cost. I visit a number of websites on a regular basis to gain information about particular topics. Our children use the computer as part of their learning on most days, and many websites offer free, educational activities.

I can’t emphasize enough the benefits of using your local public library. Everything at the library is free for the residents of that community, which is a huge benefit when you are on a budget. Each library will have unique resources and programs, so become fully informed about all that is available at your library. Most libraries offer story times and summer reading programs. The library is a great place to check out a book about homeschooling before you make the investment of purchasing it.

Most topics that will be taught in the kindergarten and early elementary years can be covered with library books. Read biographies and check out books about animals, music,

art, etc. Use early readers to practice reading skills, and then move up to chapter books as proficiency increases.

Tap into the gold mine of community resources, family, and friends

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).

—We live in a rural area of western Pennsylvania, about 90 miles from the nearest big city. Even in our small community there are many resources to be discovered if you just keep your eyes and ears open. Be alert to community-sponsored events that could benefit your child’s education. Sometimes the local fire department will offer tours of the fire station during Fire Safety Month.

—Begin instilling in your children a sense of patriotism and respect for their country by taking them to a local patriotic program on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.

—Visit the office of your local Chamber of Commerce. They usually have all kinds of brochures and maps of the area, which are usually free. Here is another place where you can find out about upcoming community events.

—Your local Congressman or Senator’s office will also likely offer excellent free resources that can be put to good use in your homeschool, such as information about your state government presented in a brochure or activity book form suitable for early elementary aged students.

—Take your child to a local community theater play, and also check to see if the theater offers a children’s workshop.

—Find out what nearby state or national parks have to offer in the way of programs for children. Most parks hold programs year-round for children of all ages, and most are free.

—Check with your local Christian school to see if the school allows homeschoolers to participate in programs such as Fire Safety Day, field trips, or sporting events.

—The local home improvement store in your community may offer free workshops for children on Saturdays.

—If you are a member of a travel club such as AAA, be sure to make use of your membership benefits in your homeschool too. Maps and tour books for every state are available to AAA members by simply filling out a request online or stopping by the local AAA office. These resources are great for use in geography lessons or for planning field trips.

—A lot of inexpensive field trips can be taken. Ask local businesses if they would be willing to offer a behind-the-scenes look at how their companies function.

—There is a wealth of knowledge all around you among the people whom you already know. Everyone has unique experiences that could be shared with your child—just ask him or her to share those experiences with you! Most friends and family members would likely be happy to help out with your child’s education.

Step out into this homeschooling journey in faith. If God has called you to homeschool, He will also be sure to guide you to the resources you need on the budget that works for your family.

Christy and her husband, Darin, live in Pennsylvania with their children, Garrett and Hannah. Christy feels that it is an amazing privilege to be able to teach her children at home. She also has a home business that sells decorative Bible verses. Check out the “Children’s Memory Verses” collection at http://virtuesandverses.com/children/.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at http://www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at http://www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.