Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Homeschooling: The Book of Marvels and Reflection upon the Destruction of Cultural Heritage

If you’ve never read a Richard Halliburton book, it’s not too late to pick one up. While mainly written for a younger audience, Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels is filled with his travels around the world in two mesmerizing parts: The Occident and The Orient. Writing and traveling during the 1930s, Halliburton scoured a world that is relatively unknown or unfamiliar to modern man today. While we can easily search his locations for images and videos, the peoples of the past are most certainly changed, and along with them, the cities and customs of the time.

Our family uses Halliburton's adventures and explorations as a geographical and historical resource to glean more into our world's sites and historical past. Included in The Orient section, Halliburton has a wonderful account of the ancient wonders of the world and not only depicts his present day travels through the lands, but includes a conceptual voyage of an ancient Grecian and his son.

This morning, as I read the chapter about Halliburton’s visit to Baghdad, I caught myself pausing as tears welled knowing that Halliburton had seen and experienced a place whose essence is almost completely lost. Ravaged by modern war with antiquities destroyed, Baghdad is but a shade of its former self.

In his own words, Halliburton describes his Baghdad as a scene straight out of Arabian Nights filled with merchant shops selling Persian carpets and silks, caravans of camels and donkeys parading through the streets, glittering minarets glistening in the sun, and more.  

It is when the reader comes to this line that he knows all too well, Halliburton’s Baghdad is lost: “The ways of the western world may some day destroy the romance of Baghdad. But that unhappy day has not yet come.”  It as if Halliburton is a prophet speaking words into truth.

As a child, I watched the constant shelling of Baghdad on the nightly news. As an adult, I had the unfortunate chance to watch it all again. I remember reading articles describing the looting and destruction from the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad during the siege in the early 2000s. The museum held the tablets with Hammurabi’s Code and cuneiform texts that are the oldest known examples of writing—epic poems, mathematical treatises, historical accounts. Eighty percent of the collection were stolen or destroyed.

In Halliburton’s story, he flies the young Prince Ghazi, King Feisal’s son, over Baghdad and to the ancient city of Babylon. I imagine today, the landscape looks very different. I assume, progress and technology has increased the volume of the city and given it a more modern look than in the 1930s, but I also know it to be war marked, like the ancient ziggurat in Ur filled with shrapnel holes. Today, cultural heritage sites and historical documents are being destroyed at a rapid rate by those who would erase history: the cities of Nimrud and Hatra, the tomb of Jonah, 113,000 irreplaceable manuscripts burned at the library of Mosul, among many others.

It saddens me to know that my children and I will never know the beautiful glittering city of Baghdad from Halliburton’s day. I can only guess at how many other locations brought to life in the Book of Marvels will be gone before our time is over. 

{Please note, this book is considered out of print at this time and a copy can be quite expensive to locate. Always check used book stores first.}

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Aldi's Great Eats on the Cheap :: Chocolate Peanut Clusters

One of my sweet friends recently shared an amazing recipe with me - The Crockin' Girls Slow Cookin' Companion's Peanut Clusters. These clusters were incredibly tasty and hearkened back to my childhood days of eating Girl Scout Tagalongs, albeit, I think these might be a bit healthier. I didn't share one bit of these delectable morsels with my family. I basically snarled, "Back off, these are mine!"

Once I had this Holy Grail of recipes in my hands, I set off to my newest favorite grocery store - Aldi. If you haven't been there yet, it should be a definite to do for the holidays (just note, it does get busy from time to time). Aside from having wonderful cheeses, gourmet meats, olives, and chocolates, the store also carries a variety of goods and staples that I have found to be great quality for less money. There are countless blogs dedicated to shopping at Aldi, so I won't bore you with the details, but I have added a link to my Aldi Pinterest Board if you'd like more information.

I was on a mission to save extra money this month from groceries and Aldi definitely helped. My husband and I shaved $150 off our grocery budget and we ended up purchasing more food for less. I'm not sure how that happened, but I chalk it up to an Aldi miracle.

The Chocolate Peanut Clusters recipe has a few pricier ingredients than your average chocolate chip cookie, but I knew Aldi would be a great place to get my creative and cheap cooking (well, in this case, super easy cooking) started.

Here's my cost breakdown:

$2.19     1 (16 oz.) jar unsalted peanuts
$2.19     1 (16 oz.) jar salted peanuts
$1.49     1 (12 oz.) package of semisweet chocolate chips
$2.49     2 pounds of white almond bark (Aldi has their servings already broken apart for you)
$1.49     4 (oz.) German sweet chocolate

Total Cost: $9.85

Compare these prices to those at Wal-Mart:

$2.48 each for Great Value Peanuts peanuts
$2.48 Nestle semi sweet chocolate chips
$2.98 Plymouth white almond bark
$2.00 Baker's German chocolate

Total Cost: $12.42  
(Which is really saying something, because Wal-Mart use to be the cheapest place in town!)

This recipe made an amazing amount of clusters - plenty for me and to share with friends and family! And, I didn't have to deal with all the holiday shoppers at Wal-Mart!


Chocolate Peanut Clusters


1 (16 oz.) jar unsalted peanuts
1 (16 oz.) jar salted peanuts
1 (12 oz.) package of semisweet chocolate chips
2 pounds of white almond bark
4 (oz.) German sweet chocolate


Use a slow-cooker liner to keep the mess to a minimum. Pour the peanuts into the cooker and mix well. Place all of the chocolate on top of the peanuts. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. After that time, remove lid and blend all the ingredients well. Scoop out even portions of the mixture onto wax or baking paper. Cool until the chocolate has hardened. This will make several dozen clusters depending on your cluster sizes.


The Review Is In :: Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King - A Quirky Fantastical Children's Story

About the Book

If you’re looking for a different kind of bedtime story for your quirky child, look no further than Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King written by Claudio Sanchez and beautifully illustrated with a sci-fi meets steampunk vibe by Arthur Mask. “The idea for Kid Crazy actually started as a rock opera in the vein of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” says Sanchez, “but as it took shape, it began to feel like something that could appeal to a child’s imagination—a kind of fantastic journey with a lesson.”

The 80-page story begins with a Kid Crazy seeking out a better way of life in his world by adventuring to the City with a strange droid named Denunzio Gots. The City is ruled by the ever-grumpy King Kilowatt, a rude king who makes his subjects sing to him. The pair set sail in a car made of bread through a fantastic and beautiful landscape. When Kid eventually meets the king, he decides it’s time someone teaches him a lesson about the power of the word “please.”

Not only of the illustrations colorful in this futuristic tale, but the written words conjure the imagination to create its own images: pigeons in pearls, melting candy bar men, trees made of embers filled with dragonfly birds, and more. Sanchez, also a singer/songwriter, does a great job at captivating the reader's attention with his colorful phrases converted from his original song, "A Friend to Enemies."

My youngest son enjoyed the rhythm of the story and the details of the characters. He thought the illustrations were marvelous and overall, he enjoyed this book. I loved the opening dedication quote to the author’s son, “If ever you feel the world is on your shoulders, remember: it’s actually in the palm of your hand. “

Kid Crazy and the Kilowatt King is available from Indie Bound and on Amazon

About the Creators

Claudio Sanchez (author) is the front man for the conceptual rock band Coheed and Cambria, with over 3 million albums sold worldwide. He is also the creator of several comic books, including The New York Times best-selling series The Amory Wars.

Arthur Mask (illustrator) illustrates books, magazines, games and comics. An eclectic mix of passions

inspire him: from horror movies and music to retro video games. His mother says his first drawing was of a mosquito, but now he prefers to draw monsters. He lives in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

{A free copy of this book was provided from the publisher, One Peace Books, and by PR by the Book, for review by Texas Homemaking.}

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why I Homeschool :: A Simple Look at an Important Decision

I'm often asked this four word question, "Why do you homeschool?" And, it is delivered in a variety of tones with hidden meanings. Sometimes, I get the defiant, sneering tone of those who think homeschooling was an idea spawned from the devil; other times, I receive the question packaged in a truly caring tone filled with a want to understand my (and my husband's) rational behind such a life-changing decision.

[To see what those tones sound like out loud, simply place emphasis on only one word in the sentence each time you say it.
  • "Why do you homeschool?"
  • "Why do you homeschool?"
  • "Why do you homeschool?"
  • Why do you homeschool?"                                                                 See what I mean?]

In the past, I've given various answers while trying not to offend those who might think I homeschool because I'm in the upper echelons of the class system (which, by the way, I'm not). You would be surprised at  some of the reactions  I've received when asked about homeschooling. (More positive than negative, but still!) "I wish I could homeschool, but I don't make enough money," or "I would homeschool, but I don't have the _______." Fill in the blank - time, patience, knowledge - you name it, I've heard it!

And, to be fair, I think everyone is entitled to their own education philosophy whether they homeschool or have their children attend brick and mortar schools like public, private, charter, etc. Every family can and should decide what is best for their particular situation and educational needs. The same applies to the financial implications surrounding homeschooling. We live off of one income with me occasionally moonlighting at our local children's theatre.

Now, back to the point at hand. I use to tell people I homeschooled because I didn't agree with California's public school system requirements (when we first began homeschooling), which I won't get into here. I also told them that I truly felt capable of teaching my own child. I do hold a degree with several minors and have loved school every since I can remember. A part of me also felt like it was my duty to teach my own child. At the time, my husband was in the military and we traveled quite a bit, too, so homeschooling really made sense. I also had the unwavering support from my husband to homeschool. It was not a "me only" decision, but one we made together. {Please note, you should always have the support of your spouse while homeschooling.}

I had a few other reasons, too, but once I spewed all of that out, I sounded like an overachiever prognosticating homeschooling's effect on families and I often worried if I had upset someone with their personal choices for educating their children. I definitely didn't want either of those two things taking place. I just really loved my choice.

A few years ago, I really simplified my answer and it made things so much easier. So, why do I homeschool?

Life is short. Life with my children as children is even shorter. I want to and chose to spend time with them everyday. I don't spend every waking moment with them, but I do enjoy our daily interactions whether it's learning about the periodic table or eating lunch together in our favorite restaurant. I love that when my husband isn't working or traveling the world, we can tailor our schedule to be with him. (However, the latter has got a bit tricky with my eldest taking dual credit courses at a local university.)

I want to spend my years enjoying my children while they are young. I want to train them up to be great men whom achieve their passions in this life. I want them to be gentlemen whose name and manners proceed them when meeting new people. I want them to be well educated in an often uneducated world. And, I see homeschooling them as a means to this end.

I truly homeschool my boys for a myriad of reasons, but the most important to me, and the one that I share most often, is the simple truth - I homeschool because my time with them is numbered and I love the time the time we get to spend together.

For more information on homeschooling, please visit my previous posts:
If you are in the East Texas region, visit one of my Facebook Pages: East Texas Homeschool Resources

For all of you homeschool pros, why do you homeschool?