Mother Culturing: First Quarter 2023

What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing”… Is there, then, not need for more “Mother Culture”?

Hoarfrost on one of our aspen trees. We’ve had a lot of it this year.
Our yard pet. She comes to us almost daily (either while we’re outside or climbing our patio door screen) asking for peanuts.
My sales table at the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat!
Just a few days after his hamster died. ❤

The things that haven’t been done before,
Those are the things to try;
Columbus dreamed of an unknown shore
At the rim of the far-flung sky,
And his heart was bold and his faith was strong
As he ventured in dangers new,
And he paid no heed to the jeering throng
Or the fears of the doubting crew.

The many will follow the beaten track
With guideposts on the way.
They live and have lived for ages back
With a chart for every day.
Someone has told them it’s safe to go
On the road he has traveled o’er,
And all that they ever strive to know
Are the things that were known before.
A few strike out without map or chart,
Where never a man has been,
From the beaten path they draw apart
To see what no man has seen.
There are deeds they hunger alone to do;
Though battered and bruised and sore,
They blaze the path for the many, who
Do nothing not done before.

The things that haven’t been done before
Are the tasks worthwhile today;
Are you one of the flock that follows, or
Are you one that shall lead the way?
Are you one of the timid souls that quail
At the jeers of a doubting crew,
Or dare you, whether you win or fail,
Strike out for a goal that’s new?

~ The Things That Haven’t Been Done Before by Edgar Guest ~

The first quarter of the year is always eventful for our family, and this year was no different. C turned nine at the end of January, and we celebrated with a little family party. I’m trying not to think about the fact that my youngest is now nearly a double-digit age. Sigh. I’ve started preparing for my oldest to be in AmblesideOnline Year 7, and it’s hitting me that we’re getting up there in the school years. I don’t have many more with him.

I was at the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat a few weeks later in February. I had the privilege this year of not only having a table at which I sold some of my products (see above) but also led picture study sessions before each plenary. It’s always a good weekend that I look forward to, but I was also glad to get home, where I slept for ten hours on Sunday night. 🙂

In March, B’s 2.5-year-old hamster, Helmer, died. He had been declining for a while, but the end was still hard. It’s funny how such a tiny animal can embed itself into the family routines and how much he can be missed when he’s done. My husband also traveled most of the month (including over his birthday) for one scheduled trip and two emergency trips for his business. We’ve been doing this travel thing for so many years that we really do have it down to an art, but it’s still challenging at times to adjust, especially when it’s a very unexpected trip. We’re very glad to have him home now, at least for a little while.

There are many things to look forward to in the second quarter, including warmer weather. We’ve had kind of strange weather here in Colorado, and the colder winter temps (and snow!) have stuck around much longer than they usually do. At the end of March, we also started meeting up with a new friend I met at the retreat and her two kids for hikes, and it has made me so ready for everything to be warmer so we don’t have to plan around snow anymore and can head to the mountains for more hikes!

We’ll continue our school through the first week of June, and then we’ll have the same horse camp the kids attended last year the week after that. This year I’ll be joining them as I was volunteered to help out at the camp that week, but I’ll be there with two of my closest friends, so I am happy to have been “forced” into the role. 🙂

And now on to the first quarter!


For Me

This Beautiful Truth by Sarah Clarkson. I’ll share here what I wrote about this book on Instagram: “I had a lot of thoughts about it while I was reading it, and even more after I finished it two weeks ago. Many parts resonated so deeply with me that I felt like I was seeing my own feelings displayed on paper. The vulnerability she showed in sharing her own journey with mental illness was inspiring, to say the least, and full of hope, but it also added a deeply personal element that made everything so much more compelling and real (I especially enjoyed the story of her visit to Scotland). I also appreciated so very much what she wrote about Marilynne Robinson’s “Lila,” as it is one of my favorite books (that and Robinson’s “Home” – both were so impactful for me) for the very reasons she mentioned. I recommend this book if you have any ideas about the importance of beauty in your life and the world as a whole. It was so good.”

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I have seen this recommended by several people I highly respect, but overall it did not hold my interest. I think this will be one I need to return to at different points in my life to understand better. (Read for the Read Your Bookshelf Challenge.)

Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford. I actually started this one last year but finished it in January. Though I am definitely not a “prepper,” after 2020, I started thinking about how well our family might be prepared if some kind of short-term disaster did happen. I appreciate the advice she offers and all the lists! I love lists.

Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart. While not highly compelling, I enjoyed this little mystery book (and the little romance injected in). I may check out the other Miss Pinkerton books in the future. (Read for the Tea and Ink Society Classics Challenge.)

Simple Money, Rich Life: Achieve True Financial Freedom and Design a Life of Eternal Impact by Bob Lotich. I’ll also share what I wrote about this book on Instagram: “I have looked into other personal finance styles (I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one of them), and I appreciate the importance they put on becoming debt-free. ‘Simple Money, Rich Life’ also offers steps to do this and talks about why it’s important, but what I appreciated most about their plan is the emphasis on giving. It completely changed how I thought about giving and how much control I have (none) over our finances. When income is not always guaranteed or can be significantly lower than you thought it would be, looking at your finances can be very stressful. This book, however, came at a perfect time in my life and has given me more of a feeling of freedom about our money than I’ve had in a very long time. If you have personal finances (and you do 😊), I highly recommend it!”

Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent van Gogh: A Portrait of the Compassionate Life by Carol A. Berry. Oh, how I wanted to like this book. I think it popped up as a recommendation when I was looking at another book, and I immediately reserved it at the library. And while I did enjoy the insight it offered into Vincent van Gogh’s life, it wasn’t an attention-holder for me.

For the Kids

The Enchanted Castle by Edith Nesbit. Soooo weird. But both of the kids liked it. 🙂

A Wolf Called Wander by Rosanne Parry. This was a gift from my mother to B for Christmas, and it was very good! Written from a wolf’s perspective, but not in the Thornton Burgess-talking-animal-kind-of-way. This felt extremely well-researched and very immersive. Both kids read this one.

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds. This is recommended on the AmblesideOnline Year 3 free reading list, so I’ve had it since B was in that year (three years ago) and only got around to pre-reading it this year. It’s a good example of bravery for a young boy in a hard situation. Both kids read this one.

The Home Ranch by Ralph Moody. Loved. Just absolutely loved. I think this is my favorite of the Little Britches books (first recommended in AmblesideOnline Year 4) and is, ironically, the one book of the series that we don’t own. It helped that we live in the area in which a large portion of the book takes place. In some ways, it was a little bittersweet reading about his summer on the home ranch, knowing that he would be leaving Colorado just a few months later. This was specifically for B, but I’ll let C read it when she’s a little older.

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. This is recommended on the AmblesideOnline Year 5 free reading list. I read this aloud with B before bed each night (editing racial slurs on the fly), and I think if I understood boating jargon, I would’ve enjoyed this one more. The overall story is good, but I don’t know that I’d recommend this one to friends. I probably won’t read it with C when she gets to Year 5.

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong. This is recommended on the AmblesideOnline Year 3 free reading list. Such a great little story about perseverance with humor thrown in. All three of us liked this one.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton. I saw this one recommended on IG. It was okay. The kids enjoyed it, and it was a quick read, but I don’t think it’s one we’ll add to our permanent collection.

For School

Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill by Stephen Mansfield. (For AO Year 6.) I enjoyed this one and just learning more about Winston Churchill. The extent of my knowledge about him before this was a documentary on the Dresden bombings.

Rain, Hail, Sleet & Snow by Nancy Larrick. (For the Sabbath Mood Homeschool Weather Living Science Guide.) Ironically, I remember reading a chapter of this when B and I learned about weather when he was in Form I, but I can’t find when we actually did that. It was a nice little overview of weather.

Animal Farm by George Orwell. (For AO Year 6.) This one was such an interesting read for me. When I was in college, I took a summer semester of a class called “The History of Russia since 1917” and had to read many, many pages per week of Kremlin Rising. It’s a book I kind of wish I had kept instead of selling it at the end of the semester, as I learned a lot. Reading Animal Farm brought a lot of that back to me.

The Story of the Greeks by Hélène A. Guerber. (For AO Year 6.) I did not enjoy this as much as Peeps at Many Lands: Ancient Greece (which we read in Year 5), but it was still helpful in understanding the history of Greece more. I think I’ll still read both books with C when it’s her turn.

The Iliad for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church. (For AO Year 6.) I’ve never read The Iliad, so this was helpful in having a better understanding of the story.

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare. This was a Shakespeare play I was definitely not familiar with prior to finding AO, so I was glad to read it. We listened to the Arkangel version, and both found the story compelling and an excellent example of how not to be!

Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick. (For AO Year 6.) I knew next to nothing about Archimedes before I read this, so it was very interesting. I also liked the illustrations as they made the concepts easier to understand (especially for this right-brained girl).


I am currently reading Rooted in Wonder: Nurturing Your Family’s Faith Through God’s Creation, My Ántonia, The Wright Brothers, Whose Waves These Are, Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World, and The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God during my morning liturgy. I’m either reading with or pre-reading for my (12yo) son A Whale of the Wild and The Black Arrow, and my (9yo) daughter The Little White Horse and By the Shores of Silver Lake.


This was another food-centered quarter, and I spent some time in the kitchen. My main accomplishments were making beet kvass, as it was recommended by our family nurse practitioner, and cortido. While I was good for a few weeks about putting the kvass up regularly, I fell off the bandwagon when I forgot to get more beets at the store one week, so I need to work on that. We all ended up really liking the cortido (I used the recipe in Everything Worth Preserving, which was perfect as it left out the spicy parts 😁), so I want to get into the habit of alternating fermentation of that and sauerkraut and other things.

I also got into the habit of making stock more regularly. This was inspired by Nourishing Broth, which I’ve been reading while eating my lunch and found very inspirational for consuming more stock.

At the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat in February, I went to a workshop on embroidery and learned the prick and pounce method of transferring patterns from Lisa Hajda, which was SO helpful. And though I didn’t get any embroidery done this quarter, it’s something I was encouraged to be more intentional about going forward.

My #1 goal for the coming quarter is to can something. I bought my canner back in October and still haven’t used it. As I plan my garden for the coming year (already looking at starts!), I’m keeping in mind the Every Bit Counts Challenge from Three Rivers Homestead, and I’d love to participate in that this year with whatever my garden (hopefully) spits out. I’d like to have canning down as much as possible before that begins so I can be more efficient with it.


Glass Water Bottle. I found this at Target when I was looking for baby gifts for a friend and got one for her and me! I love the simple design, and it has been very sturdy so far.

Reusable Onion Hanging Mesh Bags. I get 10 lbs of onions from Azure Standard almost every month and wanted a way to store them so they would last longer. I put 4 to 5 of them in one of these and hang it up in our kitchen pantry and the rest (ranging from 2 to 3 for the full 10 lbs) in our food storage area in the basement until I go through the ones in the pantry. They have worked so well that I also started storing our garlic in them.

Pandemic. We picked this game up when we were still living in our old house and went through a board game phase. The last time I played it was in 2016, but now that the kids are older, they’re starting to dig through our “grown-up” games and pulled this one out. I enjoy collaborative games, so playing it with them has been fun.

Red Gorilla 1.3-Gallon Containers. I have two of these in my pantry now to organize potatoes and yams, and they work so well to keep things tidy.

Cat Crimes. We picked this game up for C’s birthday at the end of January, and I think we all have played it at least once. It’s a challenging little game you can play with others or by yourself.

Love, Mom and Me: A Mother and Daughter Keepsake Journal. This is the sort of thing I dreamed about doing with my daughter someday, and the day has arrived! I also got this for C’s birthday and look forward to filling it out with her. (I plan to get the boy version for B for his birthday in August.)

Balm of Gilead Manuka Honey Cream. I had some problems with stress-related eczema in February, but this helped with the itching while it healed. B puts it on his hands every night before bed, which helps keep the dryness away.

The Minimal Mom. Warning: this YouTube channel may be addictive for some. A friend mentioned this channel to me back in February, I watched one video, and I’ve been hooked on decluttering and purging ever since. I love how simple she makes it, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s extremely likable!

On the Blog

In case you missed them, here are posts from the blog for this quarter.

What I Read in 2022 (and my 2023 reading challenges!)

25 Artists from the 1800s to Include in Your Picture Study Time

Our Favorite Picture Books for the Lent and Easter Seasons

25 Artists from the 1700s to Include in Your Picture Study Time

Picture Study Art Prints for Co-ops and Groups

Charlotte Mason-Inspired Kindergarten Curriculum (+ a free booklist!)

25 Artists from the 1600s to Include in Your Picture Study Time

12 Things to See in Nature This Spring (+ a free download!)

2023-2024 AmblesideOnline Picture Study Art Print Files Free Download!

New In the Shop

I listed several new items in the shop this quarter!

Bird Sightings

We have two birdhouse boxes on our shed, and for the last six years, our main bird feeder pole has been located not too far from there. The second year we lived in this house, we had a tree swallow nest in one of the boxes, the following year, we had a tree swallow in one box and a house wren in the other, and the third year we had a house wren. Sadly, we’ve had no birds in either box for the last two years, so I moved the feeder stand this year to see if that helps. I also cleaned out the boxes, as we usually get wasps in both of them if no birds nest, so we’re all set for the nesting season in that regard. We’ve had a few western bluebirds and mountain chickadees check them out, but no signs of building just yet.

Besides robins appearing much earlier than usual, we haven’t had any out-of-the-norm species recently. The house finches continue to dominate the bird population, and of course, there are the regular juncos, collared doves, and occasional mountain and black-capped chickadees. I’m looking forward to more arriving in the next few months!

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