Friday, February 28, 2014

Rescued Book #9 So Dear to My Heart

Last week I shared about George Washington: Frontier Colonel by Sterling North and I thought I’d stick with the same author before we jump into a bunch of books on the American Revolution.

Usually when I’m browsing at a book sale, I’m checking the spines for that familiar logos from Landmark Books or Winston Adventure, then I’ll read the title to see if it’s one I already own.   I’m also giving it a quick once over for condition and normally I would have passed up the book I’m sharing this week.  But I recognized the title as a dearly loved Disney movie I’d once seen and wonder if it could be the same – and it was!

It turns out my copy was a special edition published for members of the Peoples Book Club as a Walt Disney Production. (The movie wasn’t released until 1948 so this might have been to help people become familiar with the story in hopes they’d head out to the theater).   So the bibliography I’m including is actually a different edition of the book.


So Dear to My Heart. North, Sterling.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1947. 255 pp.

This story,  rich in nostalgia, takes place in southern Indiana in 1903.  Fulton Corners  had a blacksmith, a general store and a railway station.  If you ordered something from the Sears and Roebuck catalog it would be shipped on Old Engine 99, but normally it chugged through town without stopping on it’s way to  or from Indianapolis.  It really was a red letter day then when the train whistled for a stop and the champion trotting horse Dan Patch was led from his private car in need of a new horseshoe.

Jeremiah Kinkaid must have had that day in mind when he took in the little black lamb abandoned by its mother and named him Danny.  Jeremiah and his Granny lived alone on the farm and raised sheep for wool and who wants black wool which can’t be dyed with beautiful colors and woven into blankets (Granny calls them “kivers” in her dialect)?  Now that you know this is a story about a boy and his pet you may be recalling other similar stories: Old Yeller, The Yearling, Where the Red Fern Grows.  Things don’t turn out so well for the pet in those books.  I won’t be spoiling anything to say that So Dear to My Heart is nothing like that.   After bottle-feeding and raising the lamb, the boy begins grooming Danny to enter in the county fair.

There are trials along the way (it wouldn’t be much of a story if there weren’t any conflict)—where Jeremiah sees greatness others see a troublemaker:  Danny is always tearing up the garden and breaking through the screen door.  Granny is always threatening to sell the sheep off and has no plans to waste money on taking the train to the fair.  Jeremiah starts selling sassafras roots to the storekeeper as a fund raiser and then lucks into finding a bee tree  laden with marketable honey. When he returns home  with money for the train he discovers Danny has bolted again, this time with a fierce storm on the way.

When Jeremiah does take Danny to the fair he discovers he only has a sheep that has been well loved and cared for up against registered rams with a long line of sires and dams.  The blue ribbon is out of reach.  If you make it this far, don’t close the book in disgust –there’s something far better in store.

My only objection to the tale is the character of Granny Kinkaid.  She’s portrayed as a Christian but one who sees devilry and witchcraft behind every bad event.  She can quote the scripture when it suits her side of the argument but hates to have it used against her.  Throughout the book she accuses Jeremiah’s mother (her daughter in law) of being a ” fiddle-playin’,  traipsin’ woman” even in front of the boy himself.  When she learns in the end that this woman was not responsible for her own son’s death (Jeremiah’s father), there’s hardly a shred of repentance—Granny just says she’ll have to change the verse of the song she wrote about the tragedy.  Still, I’m going to recommend the book or at least watch the movie.

There’s a story behind this book and I’ll share what I know but I wish I could find out more.  Sterling North originally wrote a 125-page book called Midnight and Jeremiah which was published in 1943 by the John C. Winston Company.  When Walt Disney read it, he was immediately reminded of his own childhood growing up on a farm (in my state of Missouri!)  and set about to turn it into his second live-action film (Song of the South was the first).  Apparently, when the film was in the works the author went back and expanded the story because the name of the sheep was changed from Midnight to Danny and the book was stretched to over 250 pages.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

I’m linking up with:

Every bed of Roses

Monday, February 24, 2014

Life in the Blood Co-Op Activities

It was my turn again to host our Apologia science Anatomy & Physiology Blood Activitiesco-op as we wrapped up Lesson 7 in Human Anatomy and Physiology. The experiment in the book is to type your own blood. Blood Typing kits run about $10-13 each--too rich for for everyone in our co-op to have their own. There also seemed to be sighs of relief around the table when the boys learned I wouldn’t need any volunteers (we did buy one kit, more on that later).  I needed several other activities to keep the boys busy (our one girl was recovering from surgery--Get Well Soon E.M.!). Here's what we did....


Activity #1 How much blood?

Our book says that the average human has 5 liters of blood. I set out all my kitchen bowls and had the boys guess which one held that amount. I didn't even tell them that a liter is a little bit more than a quart. Three boys picked the right bowl, one went to the largest and one went smaller.  I poured 5 liters in to show it filled it to the brim.


Anatomy Physiology Blood ProjectThen we set out to figure how much blood was in their bodies.  I kept things in the metric system so we could compare liters to liters (it also help that 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram). I made this worksheet for the boys including a step to convert from pounds to kilograms but before we started the lab I found a switch on the bottom of my scale to measure kg so we were able to skip that step.

My Vita-Mix pitcher holds two liters and has metric measurements on the side so we were able to pour & fill the bowls appropriately (there was some disappointment that the water wasn’t colored red so feel free to add this for accuracy).

Activity #2 Determine Blood Types

   I did buy one kit for my husband the Toolman to use since we don't know his type. He used the kit the night before and we let the kids compare his test to the chart. The results--well we know he's positive but there may have been a weak reaction in the A type. We're saying O+ for now but may need a real lab to be certain. Because of the iffy results I searched online for other folks' blood type tests (and yes, people have posted them). I copied and pasted six on a page for the kids to analyze--and that's really the point of the experiment, not learning what it feels like to prick your own finger.

Anatomy Physiology blood type project

I also shared statistics from the American Red Cross on  what percentage of the population has specific blood types.  Being O-  with a mother and grandmother the same, I had know idea that it’s a fairly rare type.


Activity #3 Determine compatibility

(I apologize up front for no pictures of this activity, but it’s hard to run it and document it at the same time. Next time I’ll put Schnickelfritz in charge of the camera). 

Of course the point of knowing your blood type is to know to whom you can donate blood and from whom you can receive blood without a bad reaction. I filled four plastic cups with water. The first I left plain and labeled O. The second and third were dyed blue and red and labeled A and B respectively. The final cup turned purple (both blue & red) and represented AB. I couldn't figure out a way to incorporate rh factor into the activity so we just concentrated on types.

The I place a glass bowl on the table to be our "patient." We took turns make the patient different types and “transfusing” different blood with a dropper.  Here are some tips: Make the patient liquid as pale as possible and the donor liquid dark so it will make a change when dropped in the glass jar.  If you’re using donor blood that is the same type as the patient blood it may make it darker but blue will still be blue and red will still be red.  Keep extra “patient” liquid on hand because once it’s changed you’ll need to discard it and start with pure color again.  I also rinsed our dropper between “transfusions.”

Next week’s activity will involve a real heart – saved & frozen after one of the boys shot his first deer last fall.  I’m not in charge so maybe I’ll have a chance to take pictures.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Rescued Book #8 George Washington: Frontier Colonel

He was “the Father of Our Country,” and “First in the hearts of his countrymen,”  but how much were you taught about George Washington?  As for me I recall:  cannot tell a lie ….crossing the Delaware…praying at Valley Forge … President.  Today’s students  may know even less.  There’s the ever present but never named textbook that spends more time talking about Marilyn Monroe than our first president (I did track it down to a 1973 study which would put it in my era—maybe that’s why I don’t remember much).  We seem to know one our two facts about his childhood (and just so you know that chopping down the cherry tree is most likely not true) and the jump to his leading the Continental armies in the American Revolution—jumping over nearly 40 years of his life.  So this week I’m pleased to present a book to help fill in that gap.

George Washington: Frontier Colonel

Sterling North and Lee J. Ames (illus.). New York: Random House, 1957.  184 pp.

The title is a bit misleading. This 12 chapter book begins with Washington’s birth and doesn’t get to his activities in the French & Indian War until chapter six and the last two chapters deal with his marriage and election.   Even worse,  he’s demoted from colonel to captain after his defeat and surrender at Fort Necessity.  

We did focus on those middle chapters during our study of the French & Indian War (the fighting in North America that was part of the much larger Seven Years War).  It was during this time that he earned his moniker “Bulletproof George Washington” when he had two horses shot from beneath him and found several  bullet holes in his hat and coat.  This episode appears in the book (but not the prophecy from the Chief overseeing the attack as included in David Barton’s book).  Did you know though that this was not the only time that divine protection saved Washington from being shot to death?  Several years earlier Washington had been sent into the wilderness to send a warning  to the French to leave English territory.  He was on his way back with valuable information about French forces and their locations when the native guide turned around and tried to shoot him point blank.   The bullet missed both Washington and his traveling companion.

There is no dialogue in the book – it would all be a guess as to who said exactly what anyway.  Instead you’ll find passage after passage taken from Washington’s own letters and journals—especially during the military campaigns.  Most of the spelling of these passages has been modernized but students might wonder why some words (even those in the middle of sentences) have been capitalized. 

I’ve found several reviews for this book on Amazon (it is in reprint) that claims it’s” too full of facts” and “boring.”  Perhaps the reviewers are used to books with more drama and violence to keep the readers attention.  Sterling North doesn’t overlook the warfare going on, but he doesn’t dwell on it or glorify it either.   The author also tries to stretch the reader’s skills with more difficult sentence patterns and vocabulary than what is printed for the masses today.  This passage serves as an example of the text and I believe also sums up why we still revere the man today.

Washington has often been pictured as the flawless and almost superhuman Father of his Country—an austere man both saintly and wooden who faced every disaster unflinchingly. He was a brave man, no doubt about it, but much braver than such a false image would indicate. Like all mankind he knew hours of bleak discouragement. Often he felt that his “honor” had been dimmed, but he was eager to burnish it bright once again by further public service. He suffered from moments of depression, but he rose above them. He was a greater man for having had his periods of doubt.

Sterling North is perhaps best known for his book, Rascal. We’ll be hearing from him again when I post about So Dear to My HeartGeorge Washington: Frontier Colonel was one of two titles he wrote for the famous Landmark Book series.  He must have liked what he was doing because he went on to found and edit a competitive series, North Star Books, with publishers Houghton Mifflin.

My copy of the book was truly part of a treasure trove.  Someone had donated a whole box of Landmark Books from their private collection to our local library book sale.  I snatched up all 30 of them for 50 cents each.  (I know you bibliophiles out there are wishing you’d had a chance at them, but all rejoice with you on the day you get lucky).

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

I’m linking up with:

Every bed of Roses

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Taco Pizza

Last year I wrote a post about the importance of traditions/consistency to my son called If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Pizza Night.   A year later my son hasn’t changed – sometime around 3 or 4 in the afternoon my son will remind me that it’s time to make the dough for dinner.  And he still wants pepperoni.  Mom and Dad on the other hand are ready to move on to something different.  Since we can’t change the pizza tradition, I can at least start being creative with the toppings.  So here is last night’s creation—a taco pizza.  It really wasn’t that hard once I determined it needed to be built in steps.  If you make pizza at home I’m sure you already have your favorite recipe for dough so we’ll skip ahead…

While the dough is rising brown 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef and season with a packet of taco seasoning using just enough water to incorporate the spices (most envelope directions say to add a cup but that would make for soggy pizza).

Roll out your pizza and cover with sauce.  Distribute the ground beef, sliced onion, and chopped jalapenos if you’re daring.  Sprinkle Mexican blend cheese on top.  Then bake in the oven (I use a pizza stone so it takes about 10 minutes in a 425 oven).

When the pizza comes out, add shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, crushed Fritos or tortilla chips, taco sauce or salsa, and sour cream (I actually used plain non-fat Greek yogurt last night and didn’t hear any complaints).  It was a hit!  My husband asked for some in his lunch today.   If you think you’ll have leftovers you may want to hold off on the crushed chips until after you reheat the pizza to keep them from getting soggy in the fridge.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Rescued Book #7 A Boy for a Man’s Job

First things first --- Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.  While most of the world is awash with hearts and cupids the city of St. Louis is decorating with 250 fiberglass birthday cakes.  That’s because this weekend also marks the semiquincentennial  of the city.  Auguste Chouteau's JournalOn February 14th in 1764,  a fourteen year old boy leading a group of about 30 men established a trading post just south of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  Or it could be the 15th – apparently  poor penmanship on the part of the founder will leave the actual day a mystery—is it an open 4 with one side much higher than the other or a 5 with a serious upward slant? (see boys, someday you may be documenting an important event so good handwriting does matter).  To muddy the waters even further (get it—muddy waters…Mississippi river?), someone wrote over the original February and wrote March.  Well, the city is holding the anniversary this weekend and that’s good enough for me.  My son and I read all about the original event in today’s rescued book. 

A Boy for a Man’s Job: The Story of the Founding of St. Louis

by Nina Brown Baker, Edward F. Cortese (Illus.)  Philadelphia: Winston, 1952.  179 pp.
I mentioned last week that we were trying to keep books in a somewhat historical order and by coincidence, we’ve hit just right for the founding of St. Louis.  1764 is right at the end of the French & Indian War and France has just ceded all it’s land east of the Mississippi River to England (otherwise St. Louis might be in Illinois today!).   Actually France had given the land west of the Mississippi to Spain but the Spanish took their time and didn’t arriver to the area for another six years.
In 1763, Pierre Laclede and his stepson Auguste Chouteau traveled upstream from New Orleans in search of a place to build a fur trading post.  They located  a sloping bluff high enough above the river to be safe from flooding and tied ribbons on several trees to mark the location before returning to Fort de Chartres (in Illinois) for the winter.  The following spring Laclede did not travel back up river, but  instead put Chouteau in charge of the men (the book say’s Laclede was injured by a millstone falling on his foot but I haven’t found any evidence to support this).  Even though he was barely a teenager the men accepted him as a leader due to his hard work ethic and reliability.   He had the vision to see beyond a mere trading post and had the men build a grid three blocks deep for homes and schools.
1780 Map of St. Louis
A Boy for a Man’s Job is probably best described as a fictionalized account –the author’s use of a millstone accident to explain Laclede’s absence for example.   There’s also a character called Charlie Half-and-Half (he is of mixed heritage) that I’ve found no record of in my research.  I suppose the author wanted someone for the title character to be able to talk with.  There’s also a subplot about Charlie returning to his ancestral land and learning the identity of his soldier father. 
This book from the Winston Adventure Books series is a must read if you need to study Missouri history (there are over 50 copies in the U.S. library system according to  I’m also recommending it for those families with boys just reaching puberty.  What an excellent example of a young man working hard, taking responsibility, and proving his father’s trust was well placed.
Up till now my rescued books have been ones I’ve stumbled upon at library sales.  This particular title is one I searched for, having been recommended in A Guide to Studying Missouri History Through Literature by Kelly Nahrgang.  My search was rewarded at YMCA of Greater St. Louis Bookfair and came from a private collection.   You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

 I’m linking up with:
Every bed of Roses

Friday, February 7, 2014

Rescued Book #6 The Prince in Buckskin

I’ve been trying to list our historical books by era.  We’ve seen several explorers thus far, but now in our history studies we’re moving on to the late colonial period and lead up to the American Revolution.  Of course the definitive book of the era would be James Fennimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans.  That epic of the French and Indian War is too difficult for my son to read (but I will come back someday and share about my rescued copy with its N.C. Wyeth illustrations).  Scouring through my home library, I did find a suitable substitute so this week’s rescued book is…

Prince Buckskin copyPrince in Buckskin: a Story of Joseph Brant at Lake George

Widdemer, Margaret. William Sharp (Illus.) ; Philadelphia: Winston, 1952. 184 pp.
The book is one of the Winston Adventure Books and since this is the first time I’ve mentioned the series I’d like to share a few words about it.  Few words because I can’t seem to find a lot of details other than what is included on the dust jacket.  The 30-something books were published between 1952 – 1956, I have to believe this was the J.C. Winston Company’s response to the Landmark Book series begun by Random House in 1950. Trying to develop a niche to distinguish the series, the publisher has chosen to focus on "the little-known incidents and nearly forgotten lives of unsung heroes that helped shape history.”    Maybe that’s why the series didn’t last very long—folks would rather read about Gen. George Washington than Swamp Fox Francis Marion.  They prefer Generals Grant and Lee to Andrews’ Raiders hijacking a Confederate train.  Since we’re covering the more famous folks and events in our history text, I don’t mind making my son read these highly engaging though less famous tales during his reading time.
Such is the case of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk living in upper New York.  This was his Christian name given at his baptism and how is is usually referred to in the book (thank goodness because I would trip up every time I had to read over “Thayandenegea”).  Brant’s step-father was the Sachem of the tribe and his sister had married British officer William Johnson who has just been named High Commissioner of Indian Affairs by the king.  According to the dust jacket :
…this tale traces the train of desperate events…How young Brant unmasked French and Indian spies posing as friends of [Johnson]; how he helped rally Mohawk braves to the English cause; his part in that climatic battle [at lake George] that determined American destiny fire this book with intrigue, action, and thunderous frontier adventure!
I’ll confess we haven’t finished reading this book yet.  Joseph is still running through the forests carrying belts to other Sachems and gathering forces.  He’s overheard plots between a voice he recognizes and another man speaking English, but with a Dutch accent,  they’ve received word that Gen. Braddock and his forces have been annihilated at Fort Duquesne—all except George Washington.   Although the book’s subtitle led me to believe it would be about the battle at Lake George it is really about everything leading up to the battle.  There isn’t much in the way of violence, although Brant does scalp a Huron and proudly displays his prize.
On the whole, it is really a coming of age story that happens to be set during a time of war.  Joseph is trying to prove he’s a man from the opening chapter’s hunt, to being selected to be a belt carrier, to being a warrior proven in battle.  That makes his character appealing to my also coming-of-age son.  The fact that he’s also picking up some history in this “living book” is just gravy. 
I rescued my copy of Prince in Buckskin from St. Johns High library – their loss.  You can read about all my other rescued books here. 
I’m linking up with:
Every bed of Roses
For the Display of His Splendor

Monday, February 3, 2014

Slow Cooker Pork ‘n Tater Casserole

Last Friday was one of those really good days.  My son and I had our school wrapped up by noon.  We went to a friend’s home for science co-op and then some play time.  Because I had put dinner in the slow cooker before we left, I could let Schnickelfritz play longer and (and I could spend more time with the other moms) without that nagging little voice in my head asking “What’s about dinner?” 
When we returned home, the house already smelled wonderful and I wasn’t running from fridge to pantry trying to assemble something before my husband got home.  Isn’t that one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.  This is one of my husband’s favorite dinners.  I love that there are only  5  ingredients and the instructions. are so simple I don’t need to refer to the recipe card.




Pork ‘n Tater Casserole

  • 6 boneless pork chops (1” thick)
  • 4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • 15 oz. can French cut green beans
Since I was using my Ninja 3 in 1 Cooker,  I could brown the pork chops first (nice but not necessary).  Layer the ingredients in your slow cooker in the order listed.  Cover and cook on low 6 hours.  The chops will be fall apart tender so either remove them carefully to serve whole or break apart and stir with a large spoon to make more of a goulash.

 I'm linking up this recipe at
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