Tuesday, May 31, 2011
So this won't be too long of a post as I have little patience for my virtual keyboard!
I tried this pie recipe yesterday and absolutely loved it and just had to post. If you love lemons and are looking for a wonderful way to use them, boy is this recipe for you. We have a fabulous Meyer lemon tree that generously gives to us each winter, and tons of ripe lemons are still hanging from the branches. I strongly urge everyone to make this pie as soon as possible!! It's pretty much the best pie and the best lemon dessert I've ever had - and it's super easy to make! In fact, I'm going to go get a piece right now!
Friday, May 13, 2011
My baby, the graduate.
So, we were eating dinner one night this week, and Emma casually said, "I guess I'm done with high school." She had finished all her classes at home before we went on our trip, but had a science class at Master's College that had continued on a bit longer and had wrapped up that day. I had to smile as it was in true Harasick fashion that she simply stated it - there hasn't been much fanfare at the school milestones. When our kids completed elementary school, we basically patted them on the back and said "good job." No ceremony, no party, flowery card, or gift - nothing. When you're homeschooled, you don't move on to a different campus or even get a new teacher, so 6th grade and 7th grade really aren't all that different.
When Drew graduated high school, we were not part of a home school group at the time. So, his graduation consisted of no pomp nor circumstance. He borrowed a friend's cap and gown for the traditional senior photo op, and had a little celebration at Disneyland with Emma and a few friends. And then, off to college he went, no longer a homeschooler, but a business major in the real world.
We joined Lighthouse in Santa Clarita shortly after that, so Emma will actually have the first graduation ceremony of any of our children. In June, she will don cap and gown, walk down an aisle to that familiar graduation tune, receive a diploma, give a speech, and be featured in a slideshow presentation documenting her life in pictures. I am really looking forward to it, and I'm sure I'll shed a few bittersweet tears. I'm going to miss the years of homeschooling my children. They were wonderful.
I guess it is monumental now because we have just graduated our youngest child out of our home school. Years ago, when Brady was 7, we made the decision to pull him out of the private Christian school he was in, and start homeschooling. Drew started school at the same time, thus "the Master's School" of Sunland (and later Shadow Hills) was born.
So why did we decide to home school our children?
When Brady attended school, it was a unique set up. He attended school Mon-Wed-Fri, and was given assignments by his teacher to do at home on Tues-Thurs. The school was small, and I initially liked the balance. I didn't have to rush out of the house every morning, with Drew and Emma in tow (ages 4 & 2), but I didn't have to home school 100% either, which terrified me at the time. All I did was oversee Brady's work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and get him to school the other days. On the days he did have school, I carpooled with friends on the 405 freeway out to Northridge, rushing to get Brady there on time. I remember one morning in particular, that I was rushing him to class. When I dropped him off (a little late), I saw the teacher already sitting in a chair with the children huddled all around her on an area rug. She was calmly reading the bible to them. There was something ironic about her being the one to teach the bible in the morning (to my child), while I was frazzled from rushing out the door with two toddlers and driving in rush hour traffic. I was a little jealous - I wanted to be the one to read the bible to my child, and I wanted to be relaxed, too. Hmm.
A little later, when Brady was in 1st grade, Rich and I were asked to help select the bible curriculum for the school. So, one July day, the two of us headed off to the homeschool convention at the Disneyland hotel. We were amazed at all the curriculum and books! As we browsed, I think we got excited about the possibility of homeschooling our children for the first time. We talked much about what we wanted our life to look like as our children went through their school years. Did we want the morning drop off and pick up? Did we want the monthly payments (for 3 kids x 13 years)? Did we want someone else (that we may not even be able to choose) teaching our children? We knew the answer to those was no... but did we really want to take on educating our own children? It was a bit scary.
But, the next year we took the plunge. I ordered all the same curriculum that Brady had used at his school, and we embarked on our homeschooling journey.
There is a lot I could say about why we homeschooled, but Rich likes to answer "because we could." That sounds rather abstract, but there really is a lot to what he is saying. We liked the freedom to control our children's education, especially in those formative early years. We knew we wanted a Christian worldview for what was taught. We wanted to spend a lot of time with our children. We wanted to train them all day, not just after school hours. We wanted the freedom to make our own schedule. So, we decided we (or mostly I) would take on their academic education, for the sake of accomplishing our goals with them.
Looking back know, I really would do it all over again. It is not that I was a good homeschooling mother; on the contrary, I lacked in many areas. I think I always felt inadequate, that I wasn't doing enough or teaching enough. I'm sure my children can vouch for the fact that I was too lax, not capable of understanding many of their subjects, or was just too lazy to keep up on the grading. But, what kept me motivated is that I felt that homeschooling allowed me to build a relationship with my children that I couldn't accomplish had I not spent those years with them. Do I think my children could have been better educated? Indeed. Did they miss out on certain things because we homeschooled? I'm sure they did (other people's positive influence, a "normal" life in school, sports, proms, etc.). But, do I think someone else could have done a better job raising them day in and day out- most definitely not. I say this not because of my skill but because they are my children, given to me by God, and my responsibility (well, Rich's, too of course) to raise in the love and admonition of the Lord. And I felt like homeschooling was the vehicle that allowed me to do that.
When the day is done, I don't really care how smart or successful my children are, but I want to have had a gospel influence on them. I used to say that the best thing about homeschooling is that you get to influence your children. But, at the same time, the worst thing about homeschooling is that you get to influence your children! I lived with the reality that each day, my children were being schooled by an imperfect, wretched sinner! However, I was divinely appointed to be their mother, and I pray that they saw in me as a real Christian living her life, having to ask forgiveness when I sin, having to depend on the Lord for my weakness, and having to face life's trials (Brady's illness) with God's sovereignty in view. Those were the real lessons that I wanted to teach.
Do I think homeschooling is the only way (biblically mandated) or that everyone should do it? You might be surprised to find out that I truly don't. I actually respect some families' reasons for putting their children in private or even public schools. However, homeschooling was so wonderful for us, that I am very grateful that we were able to do it. We did it because we could (by God's grace). It was a lot of work, but absolutely worth it all. I truly have no regrets about our decision. We had many great years together, times I will cherish for the rest of my life. Yes, it does feel good to be done, but it's bittersweet.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I personally love cilantro. It is a staple in many cuisines. Without it, fresh salsa would be flat and flavorless, and what would a good bowl of pho be like without this fragrant herb to add a bit of freshness? While pesto is traditionally made with basil, I have seen variations that sounded good, incorporating cilantro. So I decided to give it a try.
It's hard to grow cilantro here in southern California, as it is a cool weather crop. I had some growing this past winter, and it did fairly well, but when we had a few hot days, it bolted and that was it. So, I consider it a real treat to get a bunch in the farm box or farmer's market.
If you do buy a nice bunch, or get one in your farm box, the best way to keep it fresh is to treat it as you would fresh flowers. I grab a big mason jar and fill it about halfway with water, place the stems in the water, and refrigerate. Can you tell the difference between these two bunches of cilantro below? One is a week old, and one arrived today - but both are fresh as can be. You can see how fresh it can stay with a little T.L.C. By the way, this is also a good way to store fresh asparagus.
I basically just took my regular pesto recipe (below), substituted the cilantro, and changed out the pine nuts for walnuts. Pine nuts are so stinkin' expensive these days, I hardly ever buy them. Not to say that I don't drool when I walk by the big bag of them at Costco, but when I see the $27.00 price tag, I quickly move past them and get a bag of walnuts or almonds instead. I toasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes to bring out the flavor. For the cheese, I actually used some that I brought home from Italy (*smile*) but parmigiano or pecorino would be just great.
My trusty old retro Cuisinart - still going strong after 24 years of marriage! I just dump everything in and pulverize with a little olive oil, then add more oil to desired texture.
I usually freeze my pesto in small bags or containers. If you don't have freezer containers, just tuck regular ones (like mine) into Ziploc freezer bags. That makes for easy labeling, too (you don't have to label your containers).
So, what to do with pesto, you ask? I love pesto smeared on grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp (I have some shrimp marinating in it right now for tonight's dinner- I'll skewer and grill them). It also adds amazing flavor to grilled veggies, is fantastic drizzled over caprese salad(thin with a little lemon juice), or even spread on a panini sandwich (I like rotisserie chicken, provolone and pesto). And of course, you can always stir it into pasta if you like. The possibilities are endless...a little goes a long way ... enjoy!
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil
½ tsp. salt
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
Approx. 1 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except oil. Process until smooth. Slowly add oil to desired consistency.
To store, pour into freezer containers and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.
Makes 12 ozs. pesto sauce. Recipe doubles easily.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
WE ARE HOME!!!
It. Was. Amazing.
I hope to blog soon about each individual city. I am waiting for Emma to sort through the 3500+ pictures she took, and then I will post pictures and stories from our time. It may take some time...
I'm glad I was able to blog a little bit from my iphone in Paris and Florence. Once we got to Israel, Blogger was in Hebrew, and it was a lost cause (it was in French in Paris, and Italian in Italy, but I was able to muddle through.) And in London, we had trouble connecting with wifi every place we tried. I think the UK is incompatible with our iphones. That's okay, as you know we were quite busy going to the Royal Wedding and all.
This week, I'm just laying low, easing back into life, and dealing with a little jet lag. At night, I'm sleeping like a baby - waking up every two hours!! Benadryl = my middle of the night friend. :-) Hopefully soon my body will realize I'm back on California time.
Meredith & Jonathan (our friends & house sitters) left our house *sparkling* clean and in order so I had no housework upon returning. Even the sheets and towels were washed - our bed was ready to fall into. I can't tell you what a blessing that was after our 11 hour flight and the time difference. Not only that, but Jonathan surprised us by doing all the yardwork, and Meredith left flowers in all the vases, darling cupcakes and a welcome home sign on the kitchen table, and she filled all our candy dishes full! Yah, I have some rockin' friends. :-)
Yesterday, Rich took the day off and we unpacked and hit Trader Joe's. I also got all the laundry done, and we caught up on our Tivo'ed episodes of American Idol!! I'm loving my bed and my shower and the treat of wearing clean, unworn clothes. God blessed us tremendously on our trip, but there's no place like home and living for the Lord here in Shadow Hills.