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My Mother’s Cookbook August 3, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Learning.
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Home made cookies
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My mother loved to cook.  She really didn’t need a cookbook, as she had many dishes that she had learned to prepare when she was young, and she was never afraid to experiment and create new dishes.

Even though she didn’t need cookbooks, she loved collecting them, and she enjoyed finding new recipes to try.

My mother, also, loved to journal.  Her journals were usually stenographers notebooks, but she also tended to use her favorite cookbooks like a journal.

I was fortunate to inherit a few of her favorite cookbooks.  They had been used frequently, and were in rather a dilapidated condition when I received them, but even with pages falling out, they are my favorite mementos from my mom.

One of her most used cookbooks was the Three B Garden Club Cook Book.  My mom was a member of the 3-B Garden Club, and she helped collect the recipes, from neighbors and friends, that fill the pages of this book.

It’s now missing its back cover, and the cover art on the front is looking faded and scratched.  That doesn’t matter to me.  What I really love about this book are the many notes that fill its pages, written in my mom’s familiar handwriting.

Next to the Banana Nut Bread recipe, is a little note that says, “Good! made 9/26/76.”  By the Raisin Cookie recipe, are two notes.  One says, “Very good. Took to Gary’s in Vermont, 9/21/86” and in the opposite margin, “Took to Ruth’s place in Pittsburgh, 11/1/86.”  I remember eating those cookies at my new apartment in Pittsburgh.

Not all the notes in this book are about the recipes.  Her cookbook was always handy, and she used it to jot down so many things that she wanted to remember.  Here are a few examples:

“‘When you can’t remove an obstacle, plow around it.’ – A. Lincoln”

“Soak gladiolus corms in 3 gal. water and 4 tbsp. Lysol a few hours before planting.”

“Elaine Heath has this motto on her wall, ‘Life is a song. Let’s sing it!'”

“Bonds of matrimony are a good investment, only if the interest is kept up.”

“Another blender goodie from the Mike Douglas Show today:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/2 c ice cream
honey to taste
1 fresh peach
Blend!”
Note: I doubt that a recipe with raw egg would be on any TV show today.

“HIckory Cane Corn – best lady ever ate.”
Note: I don’t know who the lady was, but probably someone on TV,  or mentioned in the newspaper.  Today, Hickory Cane Corn heirloom seeds are quite valuable.

Also, in the cookbook, are various newspaper clippings, including one titled, “Know Your Vermont Apples” and another about Alfalfa Tea and it’s ability to cure arthritis.

My mother added recipes to the book frequently.  She found them in the newspaper and in magazines, received them from friends and jotted them down during TV cooking shows.  I did notice that most of the recipes from TV are really only partial recipes.  Evidently she did not write fast enough to get the entire recipe.  Julia Child’s Excellent Roast Chicken recipe lists the ingredients, and half of the first line of preparation directions.

I love sharing this cookbook with my daughters.  They remember their grandmother, but by the time they met her, she was no longer doing much cooking, so this gives them an opportunity to see her sparkling personality shining through her unique cookbook journaling.

What does this cookbook have to do with learning?  Everything!  There are lessons in history, science, agriculture, cooking, humor, gardening and medicine, but the most important lesson of all is love.

Now go make some notes in your cookbook…

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Lifelong Learning… It’s Not Just For Senior Citizens July 8, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Learning.
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I have two daughters, both of whom were homeschooled.  I chose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, but one of my primary goals was to develop a love of learning within each of them, that would last throughout their lifetimes.  I wanted them to retain that childhood curiosity, that made the world and everything in it endlessly fascinating.

When we began homeschooling, we followed a very traditional approach.  My dad was a public school administrator, teacher and coach.  My mom taught in an all-Amish public school.  My brother, and most of my aunts and uncles, and even my neighbors were all teachers in the public school system.  Family gatherings were usually filled with endless conversation about the “school business.”  When I announced that I would be homeschooling my daughters, I received support from all those teachers, along with stacks of textbooks and workbooks that they had accumulated over the years.

For the first 6 weeks, my oldest daughter loved her lessons, and eagerly completed them.  My younger daughter wasn’t ready for textbooks or workbooks yet, but she liked sitting at a little desk with her paper and crayons as her older sister did her schoolwork.

Then we made the mistake of visiting the library to look for a book about dogs.  So many books… fiction, non-fiction, picture books, books about dogs, cats, trains, stars.  Books that were hilarious.  Books with amazing covers, and even more amazing pages inside.  We carried armfuls of books home with us.  In 2 days, we had finished them, and went back to get more.  We brought large tote bags with us.  The bags were filled, the books were checked out, taken home,  eagerly read and put back in the bag to be returned.  We began to visit the library daily.

My oldest worried that she would soon have read all of the books in the library, and then what would she do.  The librarian assured her that it would not be a problem, because new books were arriving each week, and no one had yet read all of the books.

As the weeks passed, they were filled with hours of reading, and field trips to see things we had read about.  We cooked foods that were mentioned in stories.  Our family visited historic sites that had been shown in the library books.  We made crafts, did science experiments, went to programs at museums and the wonderful Cleveland Metroparks (Ohio) and we completely forgot about all those textbooks and workbooks.

At the end of the year, we had boxes of photos, crafts, dissected owl pellets, dried leaves, recipes and a seemingly endless list of books we had read.  As the years passed, the girls grew up, and their interests changed, but their passion did not wane.

MLW Century 424

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My oldest daughter is now passionate about trains.  She works for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, and has read every book she has been able to find about trains and the railroad industry.  She asks the experienced train mechanics and conductors and trainmen hundreds of questions.

My youngest daughter is an artist and a musician.  She reads books about art and music, studies artists and musicians, especially guitarists.   She attends concerts, visits galleries and scours the Internet for information about favorite musicians and artists.  Her days are filled with hours of playing the guitar, and hours of sketching.

Although these are their passions, their interests are not limited to trains, art and music.  They share information with me about a wide variety of topics that they have read about or heard about, and we discuss them.  I feel confident that they are lifelong learners.

Because I am passionate about learning, I set up a Google alert for news about “lifelong learning.”   As an educator, speaker and learning consultant, I like to read what others are doing to inspire the desire for learning in children and teens.  I soon discovered that the term “lifelong learning” is nearly always used when referring to learning opportunities for senior citizens.  How sad!

I’m glad the learning opportunties are there for seniors, however, I would like to see just as many opportunities for other age groups.

Interestingly, one of the things I notice about the classes and activities for seniors, is that nearly all of them are described as “fun” and “interesting.”  And the seniors often comment that they really enjoyed these classes, and they are eager to try out the new skills they learned.

The senior citizens do not have to worry about grades or tests or making mistakes.  They are there to learn, and they help each other, and they have fun.

If our children all had the opportunity to learn, just for the joy of learning, what a difference it would make, and maybe we would become a nation of passionate, lifelong learners.

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Open Your Mind to New Ideas July 5, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Learning.
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Watermelons
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I have many blogs that I enjoy.  One of my favorites is Wise Bread.  It’s filled with ideas for business, finance and things that make life easier and more fun.

A recent post is titled 6 Unique Ways to Eat Watermelon.  I immediately thought of sliced, cubed, melon balls…  Imagine my surprise when I saw that these 6 ways included “fried” and “in sandwiches.”  First, I thought “no way!”  Then I decided that I really should try some of these ways befoe completely negating the ideas.  I do love watermelon, so maybe I’ve been missing something really good.

Now, I haven’t tried any of these ideas yet.  I didn’t want to add comments that might prevent any of you from trying them for yourselves.

When I read the Wise Bread article, it helped me to realize an important key to learning.  If you want to learn new things, you need to open your mind to new ideas.  If it’s one thing I have learned about the educational system, it is that too much emphasis is placed on accepted ideas, and not enough on experimentation and trying new things.  How did all these “accepted ideas” become accepted.  Someone experimented, tried something new, looked at things from a new perspective.

That is what I invite you to do.  Make it a point to try something new and different each day.  Step beyond your preconceived notions.  Be adventurous!

And now, I have to go buy a watermelon.

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Knitting – A Great Learning Experience! March 29, 2010

Posted by Ruth in Learning.
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So many of my friends knit.  I tried it years ago, and enjoyed it, but seemed to either add or drop stitches consistently, so that my finished piece either was triangular in shape, or filled with holes.  I still love to watch knitters at work.  It is amazing to see the rows of pattern and color as they progress.  The finished projects are wondrous examples of creativity and design!

Students who follow the Waldorf path, often learn to knit as young children.  Knitting is said to decrease hyperactivity, and increase focus and concentration, not to mention the development of small motor skills.

Knitting is multi-curricular; it is possible to use knitting to study history, math, art, literature and more.

Here are a few interesting resources related to knitting:

Discover Waldorf Education: Knitting and Intellectual Development – The Role of Handwork in the Waldorf Curriculum

Learn How to Knit with Free Knitting Videos

The Ravelry Blog

AND the associated online Ravelry community

And from CBS, a recent segment that involves NPR’s Mo Rocca learning about The Privilege of Knitting.