Fine Arts Friday: There’s Nothing Like the Sun


“Autumn” by Frederic Edwin Church. More Hudson River Artists’ Autumn Art at the link.

There’s nothing like the sun as the year dies;
Kind as it can be, this world being made so,
To stones and men and beasts and birds and flies –
To all things that it touches except snow,
Whether on mountain side or street or town.
The south wall warms me: November has begun,
Yet never shone the sun as fair as now
While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough
With spangles of the morning sun drop down
Because the starling shakes it, whistling what
Once swallows sang. But I have not forgot
That there is nothing, too, like March’s sun,
Like April’s, or July’s, or June’s or May’s,
Or January’s or February’s – great days;
And August, September, October, and December
Have equal days, all different from November.
No day of any month but I have said –
Or, if I could live long enough, should say –
“There’s nothing like the sun that shines today.”
There’s nothing like the sun till we are dead.

Edward Thomas

100 word challenge: Discovery



Professor Jones was so excited about his discovery, he almost bounced out of his bow tie. His life’s work had finally been vindicated. He had long suspected – no, not suspected. Known. He’d long known that the there was a direct link between the ancient tribal peoples of the Northwest and the cultures of the Far East. Now he’d found a monolith near the new site that was identical to those found in Japan.

He would be published. He would be celebrated. He would be tenured.

“Well?” Thomas questioned Alex as they unpacked the professor’s equipment.

Alex grinned. “Best prank ever.”

Part II of this story: Graduate student found crushed by fake monolith.

This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have his story and roundup out yet. But I’ll update when he does. Jimmie’s bittersweet story and roundup. 

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Thanksgiving preparation tips

Two things to remember: 1. Take your turkey out of the freezer in ample time to defrost. 2. Pull out or order your copy of Cranberry Thanksgiving, the best Thanksgiving book ever.

cranberry thanksgiving


We’re past the stage of handprint turkeys and pilgrims, but I’m pretty sure we’ll never outgrow this book.  Well, I’ll never outgrow this book.

In addition to a perfect story and charming illustrations, the book also has the recipe for the famous bread in the story. I can attest to the fact that it’s delicious but perhaps not “commit petty larceny” delicious.

Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Yield: 1 loaf/12 slices


  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cups light raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped


  1. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice all at once; stir just until mixture is evenly moist. Fold in raisins and cranberries.
  2. Spoon into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick
  3. inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.


If you choose, you may substitute cranberries for the raisins to have an all cranberry bread.

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Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving book? Let me know in the comments.

100 word challenge: The signal



Ten years alone on this island. Ten years of struggling to survive.

His ungrateful crew had gone out of their way to maroon him on the most remote habitable rock they could find. His anger fueled his efforts to live and to return home.

After countless failures, he had finally concocted a signal strong enough to reach civilization, or at least the shipping lanes of the civilized.

With a deep breath, he flung the wheel in to motion. The beam shot into the atmosphere, penetrating deep into space. Nothing to do now but wait for a ship to pass by.


This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have his story and roundup out yet. But I’ll update when he does. It’s up! I giggled.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

100 Word Challenge: The suitors



“He seemed pleasant.”

“If you think a man who manages to be a groveling idiot and a pompous fool simultaneously is pleasant.”

“Mother is determined to get you married, Anna. I think we’ll have to endure these visits until you comply.”

“Or until I make my escape; nursing training begins in a month. How did you manage this removal, Helen?”

“Easily. I served him your ‘special cookies’ to demonstrate those housekeeping qualities he was so keen about.”

“Deftly done! Although it doesn’t match the gent who spat at Mother. That was artistry. Thank you, dear.”

“That’s what sisters are for.”


This is dedicated to my little sister, who has a new blog you should check out. She’s a holistic health coach and has much knowledge and wisdom. It’s a genetic trait.

This story is part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  Her offering is a can’t miss, true story. Seriously, make sure you check it out.

My previous stories are here.

Jimmie doesn’t have one up, yet. But I’ll update when he does. I don’t know how I missed, but Jimmie does have a story and roundup this week. He also went with sisters, with a twist. It’s really great.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Fine Arts Friday: Tweaking our process

Yesterday, I listened to the latest Circe Quiddity podcast with Professor Carol Reynolds. She speaks very quickly. What she quickly said reaffirmed some of the thoughts I’ve been having about how we experience music in our culture generally and how I’m exposing music to my children specifically. Prof. Reynolds discussed our detachment from the making and experiencing of music. Not only do most people no longer sing or play instruments, but our interaction with music is mostly digital. We seldom experience music in person. Our cultural understanding is that music is produced by professionals and consumed by the average joe. The result is that we have become a less musical culture, notwithstanding the abundance of music around us.

Despite the fact that I have a mediocre voice at best, I have been deliberate about singing with my kids since they were born. I believe it’s important to cultivate the belief that singing and music isn’t just for the professionals and the gifted to produce and the masses to enjoy, but rather it’s a gift from God to all of us, both to do and to enjoy. What that means practically is that everybody should sing whether they think they’re good at it or not. We ensure that happens in our home with the inclusion of folk songs and hymns in our curriculum.

We generally follow the Ambleside Online rotation for our fine arts studies, with occasional substitutions. In the past, our practice has been to listen and try to sing along with YouTube videos once a week and listen to the different playlists for hymns, folk songs, and our composer studies throughout the week as we attend to our work. Certainly that approach is better than nothing, but I’ve realized it’s not sufficient for my goal to give my children a treasury of music.

The once a week practice and “background noise” method gave my kids a familiarity with the music, but it certainly didn’t give them enough to own the music for themselves. I noticed that some songs they learned well and can sing without aid (“There’s a Hole in My Bucket” is a family favorite), but for many if not most songs, they can only sing along with the videos. Their knowledge is shallow, and they need more and more direct experience with the music. To that end, and to be more deliberate and thoughtful in our approach to fine arts and our day in general, I’ve introduced “morning time” this year. (More about the details of how that’s working in another post.) At least four days a week, we’re singing the hymn and folk song for the month, and they’re hearing them more frequently than that.

In addition to the increased exposure to our songs, I’m limiting the use of the videos. They’re helpful in getting the gist of the melody, but I think my overuse of them has been counterproductive. Rather than leading us in singing, it’s become a presentation that we watch. So this past week, we’ve listened to the first verse to get the melody, and then we turn off the music and sing a cappella. We’ve just started the experiment this week, and I’ve already seen in a difference in terms of their attitudes while singing — they’re becoming participants not just spectators.

This month we’re singing “When Morning Gilds the Skies” for our hymn and “Down in the Valley” for our folk song. Ambleside has “Home on the Range” for the folk song, but we already did that when we studied American history. So I just went back to that month on the Ambleside list and picked up what we skipped. Here are the videos, but as I said, we’re just using them as references to get the melody. You can find the sheet music for the hymn here and the lyrics for the folk song here.

Are you a music maker or a music consumer?



The rule is there is no rule.

This post is cross-posted at Best Foot Forward Proofreading. If you have proofreading needs, check it out!



While English has a reputation for being a lawless thug of a language, there are indeed rules that govern it. Because English is, in the phrasing of John McWhorter, our magnificent bastard tongue, they can have more exceptions that you can shake a stick at. However, there are still rules to guide English speakers and writers. Usually.

Recently, I came across optioner, which ought to be (and I changed to) optionor. That started me on a journey to try to track down a rule, trick, or scheme to show when a verbed noun takes an -er or an -or suffix. The vast majority of English words take an -er when making the verb into a noun: bake becomes baker and travel becomes traveler. But for a sizeable minority of words, the noun form takes the -or suffix: act becomes actor and guarantee becomes guarantor. Just to make things interesting, a handful of words take an -ar suffix:  scholar, liar, and bursar; although that ending is far more common when forming adjectives rather than nouns: triangular, spectacular, and linear.

So what’s the rule? How do we know which one says what one and what one says who?

There are many theories, ideas, and suggestions for figuring it out. I’m drawn to the idea that -or words have Latin roots, while -er words tend to be Germanic in origin, or at least have been filtered through Germanic languages before being adopted by English. Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary lends credence to that idea in its etymology information for the suffixes:

Middle English -or, -our, from Old French -eor, -eur & Latin -or; Old French -eor, -eur, partly from Latin -or; partly from Latin -ator, from -atus -ate + -or

Middle English -er, -ere, from Old English -ere; akin to Dutch & German -er, Old High German -āri, Old Norse -ari, Gothic -areis; all from a prehistoric Germanic suffix borrowed from Latin -arius1-ary; in sense 1, partly from Middle English -er, -ier, -ere, -iere, from Anglo-French -er, -ere & Old French -ier, -iere, from Latin -arius, -aria, -arium1-ary; in sense 2, partly from Middle English -er, -ere, from Middle French -ere, from Latin -ator (suffix denoting an agent) — more at -ary, -or

However, it’s not a perfect rule. Even in the examples above, guaranty comes to English from High German through French. How many exceptions can a rule have before it gets downgraded to a suggestion?  The Oxford  Dictionaries helpfully inform us, “There are no hard and fast rules as to when these nouns have an -or ending and when they are written -er, but what we can say is that there are fewer such words ending in -or!”

The only sure rule to ensure accuracy is to double check with a reliable dictionary. Better yet, have a proofreader check for you.

*British English is apparently far more likely to take the -er suffix, but we Americans fought a war to win the right to have more complicated noun constructions.

100 Words: Halloween story



“What a lovely road. Let’s explore it!” Alice lead the hesitant Tom off the main avenue.

He had been in a dream all evening. The beautiful girl had chosen him from all the boys at the dance and asked for an escort home. Envious eyes followed them as they walked off into the night.

Despite his enchantment, he was wary. Everyone knew to avoid this road, especially this night.

With a glance back at the safe street, Tom trailed after the mysterious girl. He didn’t hear the rustling from the hedges, but he felt the icy fingers on his neck.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  She offers a different perspective on a classic scary story.

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  I love Jimmie’s mash up of a famous Protestant’s quote with a secret Catholic monster hunting team.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

100 Word Challenge: The True Story



Pinocchio got it all wrong; that little brat Carlo mixed up everything. He was always hanging around, prying into our secrets.

Isabella was sweet on him, so we didn’t chase him off, but I knew he was up to no good. I was a young man myself, then, and too busy with my own concerns to pay to much attention to my kid sister’s boyfriend.

Anyway, like I said, he got it all wrong. Maybe that stupid story was his revenge for Isabella rejecting him. What’s so special about being human? The real reward is becoming a marionette – becoming immortal.


Part of the fascinating “100 Word Challenge” project by Darleen Click over at Protein Wisdom.  This one was delightfully creepy.

My previous stories are here.

Check out Jimmie’s story and roundup.  Lots of interesting takes on this photo, but surprisingly no creepy dummy stories yet. Interesting.

Join in! (If you don’t have a blog, leave your story in the comments.)

Yesterday’s spark



There are moments in the life of the teacher when an assignment hits a different note with your student, and the ordinary becomes magical. A spark is lit and bursts into flame.

During a routine writing assignment yesterday, I read the poem, “The Brook” by Tennyson to 8-year-old Satchmo. We read a fair amount of poetry, and he likes it okay, but I wouldn’t call him a poetry fan. But something was different yesterday. I could see it spark something in him. “I really like that, Mom!” and “Can we read it again?” And he didn’t even complain about his copywork, which was the last two lines of the poem. He did critique my handwriting, but that’s a different issue.

We also had an impromptu science discussion about the water cycle, and I had to rack my brains trying to remember the phrase “water table.”  We were really putting into practice Miss Mason’s adage, “Education is the science of relationships.” Or rather, Satchmo was. I was following that other piece of her advice and keeping out of the way of the child and the text.

Sometimes homeschoolers are tempted to portray every moment of our lives as a delight-directed fairy land where our kids are fascinated by every story, enchanted by every project, and mesmerized by every science experiment. Generally, my kids do enjoy their lessons, but it’s more like “Nice story. LEGOS!” Or more frequently now, “Nice story. KITTEN!” Our homeschool days are enjoyable more often than not, but they each have their subjects and assignments they aren’t fond of (my boys loathe handwriting, and engage in elaborate negotiations when called upon to write.) And even if they like the subject, it’s silly (and false) to pretend their every moment is a wonderland of enlightenment.

But every so often, something clicks, and a poem, story, experiment, or even (gasp!) math lesson will strike home in the heart and mind of one of my kids. A flame is kindled. It’s a privilege and a little humbling to be able to experience those moments. Here’s the poem that sparked Satchmo’s imagination and that he wants to memorizing, even though it’s not an assignment. An eight year old memorizing poetry for the love of it. Who’da thunk? The italicized stanzas are those that were in his grammar book that he’ll memorize.

The Brook
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorpes, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,

And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.


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