Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing With Pokeberry Ink

Since the writing is messy on the sample below, this is what it says:

"This is a sample of writing with pokeberry ink and a feather quill pen. This is how they wrote things always before fountain pens were invented, except not so messy. I suppose they wrote whole books like this.

"To make the ink, I picked berries from our pokeberry plant, put it in a jar, and shook it. It was a very simple process.

"My name is written with a quill pen and filled in with a paintbrush."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Looking at Genealogies

We had some of our old family genealogies out earlier this week. My great-aunt, who put them together, had written some old stories and legends in the margins. It's hard to say how true it all is, but it certainly makes the genealogy more interesting! One story told of an ancestor in the mid-1800's who was married (both bride and groom age 16) on horseback! The minister was on horseback, too, and they were all being pursued by the bride's brothers and uncle. As soon as the minister pronounced them man and wife, they all stopped and went home for a wedding party!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

October Newsletter

From Laura, 10 … On Tuesday morning, Mama looked out the window and saw three horses grazing in our ditch! Now, the lots are big here, and horses are allowed, so several people have them. We see people out riding them, but it is unusual to have them out alone! Some of our neighbors came to help herd them back to the place they were supposed to be. There was one young woman who seemed to have experience with horses. After a little while we got them back to the house they belonged at. Two of them went into their pasture willingly, but the other one was stubborn. While we were trying to get that one in, the other two got out again! A couple of times they started to run, and probably would have gotten enough momentum to gallop had there been much space. Finally, we got all three back into the pasture. It all took about 20 minutes. It sure gave spice to our morning! See pictures here.

From Becca, 13 … One day we noticed that some plants in our yard had berries with colored juice. They made my hands all pink. I thought that it might be useful for ink or dye or something, so I put some in a jar and shook it. I wasn’t sure if ink should be thick or thin, so I found a magazine with instructions for making pokeberry ink. I found that it needs nothing added to it. The juice alone is fine. The picture of the pokeberry plant looked just like our plants. Then I wrote a letter with Seth’s feather quill pen and the ink. Once I had done a little, it wasn’t hard. It was fun, but it would take more practice to get it neat-looking.

From Seth, 16 … Recently, I took a standardized test at our local high school, which was a pretty fascinating experience. The first interesting thing that happened was that I needed a photo ID for them to let me in the building, but the only one I had was expired and at home. At first it sounded like they wouldn’t let me take the test, but they did. I was mostly taking the test for the experience, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal if I couldn’t take it. It was nice to be able to, though, since I had prepared for it.

After it was determined that I would be admitted, a lady in charge ushered me through a maze of hallways to a little room packed with about thirty desks and about twenty-five other high-schoolers. Spending the morning in a classroom was really interesting. It was like being in another world, and I think I’m glad I’m homeschooled.

One of the funniest things that happened was a fire drill. While we were taking the test, the lights suddenly went out, and the room was pitch-black. They were only out for a few seconds, but then the fire alarm started going off! At first we just kept working amidst the blaring and flashing, but then the proctor said that we would need to take a break and evacuate. Basically we walked out of the school, waited, and walked back in.

From Anna, 19 … I’ve been keeping busy with various projects lately. Our church’s annual Family-Integrated Church conference is coming up at the end of this month, and we’re in charge of registration, so I’ve been printing and assembling name badges.

The sharing table we do at church was overwhelmed recently by several large donations. We’ve only been able to put out a small portion of what we have, so the situation is not improving like it needs to. We’re going to clean everything out and take it all to the annual meeting next week, so I’ve been sorting and packing it all up.

I’ve also found time to work on a couple of craft projects. I finished my second tatting project (an edging for a crocheted doily) and finished sewing a doll dress that I had started years ago.

From John, 25 … A few weeks ago, we went camping with several other families to Brazos Bend State Park. We have been having a lot of beautiful weather in Houston lately, but that particular weekend was rainy. We still enjoyed our time, though. We went on long walks looking at the native birds and alligators, played games, and sat around the campfire with our umbrellas. Some of the group went home on Saturday. Those of us who were left had a worship time under our giant tarp on Sunday morning. It was a good experience, but we’re still hoping the sun will shine on our spring campout. See pictures here.

About Ray and Katie … (by Judith) Katie is feeling and looking even fuller of baby these days! She’s petite and the baby is all out in front. Her due date is just a few weeks away! It’s hard for them to think of much else, especially with this being their first child. They are as prepared as they can be, yet, in a way, the fact that they are soon to be parents sometimes doesn’t feel real to them. For the rest of us, we know there’s a baby boy or girl in there, see him or her moving, and can’t wait to become acquainted!

From Judith … It is always so delightful, when fall comes, to feel coolness again here in Houston! You see, in the hot season here it doesn’t even cool down at night, like it does in Colorado and Wyoming where we came from. Joyfully, we throw open the windows and relish the cool breezes through the house. The natural coolness is so refreshing after living in air-conditioned air for so many months.

I think fall is my favorite season here, even if we rarely have much color. It marks the beginning of the more pleasant time of the year – less heat and fewer mosquitoes. Up north I favored the promise of spring after the long, cold cumbersome winters, but it’s flip-flopped down here.

Our study of Venezuela and its culminating celebration last month was all that we had hoped for with food, costumes, music, and decorations of Venezuela. It was great fun watching our friend make the authentic arepas and then hearing him share about his native country over the meal. To wrap up we prayed for the Venezuelan people. Hmm… where should we “visit” next year?

For a photo journal of our past international celebrations, please visit here.

From Gerald … For the past several weeks, we have been part of a home group studying the history of Christianity. As an overview of the past 2000 years, it can only hit the high points, but it has been interesting to see certain themes that have influenced the church. It seems that many significant events and periods of change have been related to issues of power and control. Ultimately, what is needed, and is often lacking, is a sincere desire to fully yield our own selves to God and acknowledge that He is always in complete control. We must understand that there is no good thing in us apart from that which comes from Him and we must trust Him for all things.

Our Love, Gerald, Judith, John, Anna, Seth, Becca, and Laura

Friday, October 23, 2009

Term for the Day

In the course of our research for our future kitchen, one feature that we found that we think is really neat is the self-closing drawers. When you push them shut, they stop just before making contact with the cabinet, and then they just glide shut. This has the double advantage of preventing slamming and of closing your drawers for you if you don't get them shut quite all the way.

So, Seth and I were doing dishes in our current kitchen, and Seth said, "Hey, you know those anti-slam drawers? We have one right here!" He then opened the one drawer in that little kitchenette cabinet, and slammed it shut-- only it ground to a halt some inches before shutting.

Then we coined a new term for this phenomenon: "Low-tech, high-tech", which can be defined as a low-tech way to acheive high-tech results.

If only it was self-closing, too...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stop Those Horses!

This morning, we looked out the dining room window and saw this:
The horses looked very picturesque in our yard, but that wasn't where they were supposed to be! We ended up having a neighborhood round-up! Seth, Becca, Laura, and I went out to watch the show and help if we could, and there were four other neighbors helping. Some of us herded them down the street, while one neighbor blocked the cross street with her car and a couple others blocked the street to keep the horses from going past their corral.
We got them up into the side yard between their corral and the owner's house, and two of them went through the gate pretty readily. The other one was more stubborn, and while we were trying to get him to go in, the others came out and they all tried to make a break for it. Fortunately there were enough of us to head them off. The two more obedient ones went back in, and one of the neighbors started trying to get them into their shed so he could lock them in and keep them from running away again. While he was doing that, one of the ladies, after much soft talking and patting, managed to get a rope around the stubborn horse's neck and led him into the corral.
We're new enough to this neighborhood that it's still a novelty to be living just down the street from horses, so this made for quite an exciting morning!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bathroom Counter

The countertop for Mama and Papa's bathroom vanity is coming along!

Before staining: After:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cooking Adventures: Donuts and Baklava

Seth recently decided that he wanted to try making donuts.
Mixing up the dough.
Rolling it out... the perfect thickness.

Cutting out donuts.
Time to fry!

The finished product! They were absolutely delicious! We all agreed that they were the best donuts we'd ever had.
We had used phyllo dough to make an apple strudel for Mama's birthday, so I decided to use the extra to make baklava. It wasn't that hard to make, but it was a little time-consuming, since each of the thirty-or-so layers of dough had to be brushed with butter. It was good enough to be well worth the effort, though!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Mama!

We had the pleasure of celebrating Mama's birthday on Friday. We are all very blessed to have Mama! Her passion for the Gospel, self-sacrificing spirit, and dedication to her home and family have been a great example and inspiration.

Every year for Mama's birthday we put on a concert, with all of us contributing something musical.

The audience.

Becca sings Dr. Suess.
John, Seth, and I sing Sacred Harp.
I play Greensleeves.
Laura and Seth play and sing Be Thou My Vision.
Laura plays Marche Militaire.

Katie plays Like a River Glorious, arranged with the Harmonious Blacksmith.

Becca and I play the Overture to the Hebrides, an absolutely thrilling, delightful piece to play!

We all enjoyed the evening spent together in celebration and music.

(Note: This is not a comprehensive list of everything performed.)

Monday, October 5, 2009


This past weekend found us camping at Brazos Bend State Park with several other families.

We found lots of these big spiders around the campground.
On Friday most of our group hiked a trail around a lake, with a detour to go up the observation tower.

We saw alligators...


and a snake!

See anything?

Rishona wanted to take a picture on my camera...

Whoops! You can't have your hand in front of it!

That's better.

Did you know that hammock-riding is a spectator sport?

We went on another hike Saturday morning, around a different lake. These lily pads were nearly two feet in diameter!

It was starting to drizzle just as we were setting out, so Becca came prepared. Fortunately, it pretty much stopped, instead of getting heavier while we were out!
This butterfly appeared to have just come out of its chrysalis.
These pretty blue flowers were all over this meadow.
We saw lots of birds on this trail.
Great blue heron.
A deer.
Family picture.

We had rain for most of the rest of the weekend, with occasional lulls. Some people packed up and went home early, but we decided to stick it out. We spent the afternoon playing games under our canopy, and then we sat around the campfire in the rain after dinner!
Morning worship was held under our giant tarp.
Despite the rain, and having to lay everything out to dry when we got home...
... we had a lot of fun enjoying the outdoors and spending time with family and friends.