Saturday, January 27, 2018

Paint Your Cake...and Eat It Too

The year began with a new venture: teaching a j-term class at Covenant Christian High School. The class, called Paint Your Cake and Eat It Too, combined everything I love: food and nature sketching with watercolors, history, literature, great movies, and plenty of tea and cake. We had nine days and nine artists/authors that we covered.

I couldn't believe how much I loved teaching! Fortunately, every single student in my class wanted to be there and actively participated. I couldn't get enough of the discussion as we wrestled with the crazy childhoods of some of our subjects, the outlandish parents of others, the historic events happening during their lives, and the plot lines of their stories.

We began with Queen Victoria the quintessential Victorian whose life overlapped with all but one of the authors we studied.

We jumped back in time to explore the life and work of Jane Austen and enjoy the breakfast Jane partook of when she visited Stoneleigh Abbey. (Think hot chocolate, coffee, tea, Bath buns, plum cake, and pound cake.)

After our main teaching time we started into the movie of the day (for Jane Austen we watched Pride and Prejudice). The kids painted while we watched which doesn't sound like the best idea for painting but it really worked.

Jane Austen's final home at Chawton:

After Jane Austen we covered the Bronte sisters. That happened to be my favorite day because the discussion was so invigorating as we all tried to make sense of the Brontes' difficult life and their slightly strange stories.

We moved then to Beatrix Potter, who was my favorite author to share about. I found it so eye-opening to discover that many of the kids were unfamiliar with Beatrix Potter and quite a few of the other authors we studied. I started to think of myself as an evangelist for classic literature.

We had an Appley Dapply tea party while we watched Miss Potter and the kids painted the beautiful scenery of the English Lake District.

Of course this made us all want to jump up and fly to England for a literary and painting tour.

Everyone had their own style and I loved seeing their creativity. I was especially pleased that some newbie artists joined our class and were not put off by having to draw for 2.5 hours a day.

The second week began with Louisa May Alcott and Little Women.

There is just so much of interest to discover in learning about these famous authors. And there are so many more works they have written that we don't normally read!

Few students had read Laura Ingalls Wilder or were familiar with the Little House on the Prairie tv series. They sure enjoyed the homemade bread though!

This t-shirt was the best! Especially because this student loves art and wasn't really here just for the food.

We talked about Laura Ingalls Wilder's life in a sod house on the banks of Plum Creek.

The next day we studied L. M. Montgomery and Anne of Green Gables, and of course we had raspberry cordial with our tea!

We finally got around to our male authors when we studied C. S. Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia.

And we ended our time with J. R. R. Tolkien and a Hobbit feast.

All in all it was a wonderful two weeks. I just love this kind of learning -- where the information is experienced and assimilated through all of the senses. The more ways one can take in information the better the chance of it sticking in the brain! And with the tea party element it's almost as if we time travelled. We can't go back to the past but we can TASTE the past!! I'm still reveling in the memories of this time.

But February is nearly upon us and I'll be starting up a new session of nature journaling classes (contact me if you are nearby and are interested!). Our focus will be on winter skies and palettes, winter birds, winter trees, snow, and winter animals. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

A Few Christmas Scenes

Well, Christmas has come and gone. It always feels like the work will never be done but then the day arrives and after that it's time to pack it all away for another year.

The baking all got done and I even got the Christmas Dinner table set on Saturday night before Christmas Eve.

We were invited to friends' for Christmas Eve lunch and it was such a treat: lightly falling snow outside, seeing our friend's brand new home, eating on Friendly Village china (a shared love), enjoying good fellowship. It was a gift!

The dessert table...yum, yum!

There was time for Laura's weekly Sunday afternoon tea, which felt even more festive being Christmas Eve.

The living room was ready for Christmas morning!

After church we had our family pow-wow but it included extra special food treats: Portuguese cheese puffs sent from down the street, crispy chicken, pears, apples, fancy cheeses and nuts sent from another friend.

I had my red shoes on -- a little gift from my mom.

And then it was Christmas! And a white Christmas at that! The kids get up around 8 to do their stockings and by the time breakfast is ready it ends up being 10 am for present-opening. We started with the Queen's speech which made me almost teary-eyed this year. One never knows when it will be her last speech and she is a huge role model for me personally. We read Luke 2 and then came the presents.

Traditional morning food:

Laura looked super cheery in her new scarf!!!

My mom arrived and joined the fun as Michael handed out what was under the tree.

The older boys were pretty excited about their warms scarves and soccer balls.

There was an hour to sit and enjoy some hot tea and bask in the glow of the holiday before guests began to arrive. We had friends from church and three new friends we had never met -- international students from downtown. It was so fun to get to know them and learn about their countries of origin (India and Sri Lanka). Several people played games, there were meat pies, cheeseballs, spiced olives, and hot cider to enjoy as well.

Part way through the afternoon I started in on Christmas dinner with help from several of our guests. One guest even made an impromptu pan of Indian chicken which was SO good. Around about 6:30 it was time to eat!

We had chicken with leek sauce, ham, potatoes a la Nigel Slater, colored carrots, Sri Lankan potato and fish balls, asparagus, rolls, roasted butternut squash, mashed cauliflower, and a fancy jello I was trying out for something else.

We had fun introducing our guests to British Christmas crackers with the crowns and jokes inside.

Then we congregated in the living room for another first for most: a White Elephant game. Plenty of fun and laughter.

We ended the evening by bringing in the flaming Christmas pudding with the lights dimmed and everyone singing, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." It was so much fun!

And now today we've packed Christmas away and just this hour divided up the last mince pies: two per person. School begins tomorrow, my Paint Your Cake and Eat It Too class begins tomorrow, and Rachel leaves for Spain on Wednesday. 

A very Happy New Year to you all! May God bless you in this year ahead.