Saturday, January 31, 2009

Finding Support: Homeschool Moms and Dads

Due to the huge response, Walter has scheduled another free Mom's Night Out While In for February 26th. Should be way fun!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fried Chicken for the Homeless

Last night Rob and I had a date night. Well, sort of. We went to a hockey game. The tickets were freebies from a business associate. And Sparky tagged along. But we did sit in the fancy shmancy corporate box seats.

It's funny how differently the ticket takers treat you when they see you have the hoity toity corporate box tickets.

As we were leaving, one of the corporate execs, upon hearing we have seven children, offered all of the leftover food to us. (They have all kinds of free catered food in the chi chi corporate box seats.) She loaded us up with boxes of leftover fried chicken, french fries, and chili dogs. All I could think was, "Yeah, lunch for a week!"

As we walked out of the stadium, I remembered the 3 or 4 homeless people we passed on the way in. It's hard not to see them in downtown Detroit. We had nothing to offer them on the way in. Yeah, we had the rich man tickets but zero cash. (Though I think fast food gift cards are the way to go when coming across panhandlers.)

It wasn't a minute or two when a gentleman shook his can and asked for spare change. I told him, "I don't have any money but I have leftovers. Would you like that?" His face lit up as he took one of the boxes from my hands.

As we rounded the corner we heard him shouting, "Woohoo! Fried chicken! Fried chicken! God bless you! God bless you! Yeah! Fried chicken!" We laughed so hard and smiled so big, the three of us began to keep our eyes open for others stuck out in the cold. We managed to give away all the food as we walked to our car a few blocks away.

I don't think Sparky will ever forget last night. Not because he's a hockey fanatic and got to see a great game from the best seats in the house but because he got to experience the real joy of giving. I don't think Rob and I will forget it either.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love2Learn and Shakespeare

When was the last time you visited the Love2Learn website? It's the first place I go when I find myself searching for curriculum and book reviews.

If it's been a while since you've been there or, gasp, you've never been there, now is a good time to stop by for a little visit. They've posted a good number of reviews on Shakespearean books for children. You'll find lots of great resources on the topic to peruse. Then go to your library website to put a few on hold.

For reviews with a Catholic worldview, you can't beat Love2Learn. It should be on every Catholic homeschoolers' bookmarked links.

Nice Things in the Blogosphere

Thank you Regina.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Suffering for the March for Life?

A week ago today I headed out my door for the 2009 March for Life along with nine teenagers and three other adults. We drove two vans to Pittsburgh where we picked up a bus with friends there.

Most everything went beautifully. The weather was gorgeous -- 46 and sunny. (Interestingly it was 30 and icky for the inauguration two days earlier.) We had first class accommodations. In past years, we've slept on church floors or dorm beds (aka as back killers). This year, thanks to we stayed in a Hyatt Place with a pool and everything.

Thanks to Fr. Lawler's intercession I had no problems with all the standing and walking. In the past I've always found myself exhausted before we even started marching.

Plus, to top it all off, we got to see Christian and hang out with the Steuby students.

As wonderful as all that is, I somehow feel that we didn't suffer enough. (Only a Catholic would think like that!) It was too easy.

One thing that wasn't easy was meeting up with friends. The plan was to call one another on our cell phones and connect. However, it was far too loud. The conversations went something like this:
Hi M . . .
P . . . here
I can't . . . you
I'm under the . . . banner . . . next to . . .

Half the time I wasn't even sure who I was talking to.

Even though five different friends called me, I was only able to hook up with one -- Dawn of A Helping Hand. And that was only a two-minute visit as my kids were dragging me away to find the Franciscan University banner. But at least Dawn had the foresight to take a picture of us.

Oh well, it's all about saving the babies and not socializing with friends. Even so, we'll plan a little better next year.

Cool Webinar Stuff at Homeschool Connections

Hey, have you been longing for a Ladies Night Out? Yearning for an evening of chatting with some other homeschool moms? Well, have I got a cool opportunity for you: Mom's Night Out While In on February 19th at 7:30 Central Time. This will be a free monthly get together to chat and hang out without leaving the comfort of your home. This is especially nice for moms who may be feeling isolated due to the lack of a local homeschool community.

I've already registered and I hope to see several of you there!

On another but similar note . . . being an awesome techno genius, I finally figured out how to get to the recorded webinars directly instead of sending you to the home website and then making you search for the right link. Oh, okay, I admit it, I'm not a techno genius and Walter sent the direct links to me.

Anyhoo, here they are:

Homeschool Organization 101: FREE

Caring Connections: Maximizing the Benefits of Homeschool Family Relationships with Danielle Bean: $2.oo

And while you're there, don't forget to sign up for my upcoming webinar:
How to Teach History with Real Books February 4 at 7:30 PM Central.
Should be fun as well as informational and beneficial!

UPDATE: The February Mom's Night Out While In is now full. The good news is that there are more scheduled for March and April. If all goes well, Walter may even make it a twice-a-month event. And there is still room in the teaching with real books events.

UPDATE: All webinars at Homeschool Connections are now FREE!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review: Francis of Assisi: Teaching Company

I love The Teaching Company. For Christmas I picked up several audio courses for Rob to enjoy as he drives to and from Detroit each day on his cassette player. Since cassettes are passe, I was able to buy them for a more than reasonable price.

Rob is not the only one to benefit from the gift, as I've been listening to Francis of Assisi over the past few weeks and I've got to give the audio lecture two thumbs up.

The Francis of Assisi course is given by two professors, William R. Cook and Ronald B. Herzman. The two work great together in delivering the lectures and they keep it upbeat -- not always an easy thing to do.

Most of us Catholics are used to reading a lot of hagiography. This course is not hagiography. You will instead hear the life of Francis put into a secular, historical perspective. This is a good thing. It is important for us as homeschoolers to take Church history and the lives of the Saints and learn about them in relation to the World.

The Church does not exist in a vacuum. The Saints do not live in a vacuum. In modern times we can put this idea into action by recalling the life of Mother Teresa. This holy nun did not live in her own little world but impacted the world of politics, media, and social justice. We saw her on stage with President Clinton, arm and arm with Princess Dianna, on the news caring for the poor and sick. She was shaped by our modern world and we were shaped in a way by her presence.

This is true too for St. Francis. He is a product of the middle ages. And the middle ages were in a way shaped by St. Francis. His impact on the world continues through today. The Teaching Company course Francis of Assisi gives us that perspective. We gain insight into the times of St. Francis, from the economics to the politics of the day. Professors Cook and Herzman also give us insight into how St. Francis continues to shape the world today.

I think this course would be a great addition to any high school history course, particularly for my fellow Catholic homeschoolers.

If you would like to purchase this audio series (this particular course is not available on DVD or video) you can purchase the CD set or audio download at the Teaching Company's website. Used sets can be found on E-Bay and Amazon. If you're still in the stone ages like me and in need of cassette tapes, Amazon is probably your best bet.

Keep in mind that the Teaching Company always has great sales. Every one of their courses goes on sale at least once a year for 70% off, so it's a good idea to get on their mailing list. Also make sure to check for coupons as they occasionally have free shipping or $20 off orders over $150. (Yes, that includes sales items!) One place to check for coupons if you're not on the mailing list is Retail Me Not.

Monday, January 26, 2009

PSN5: Heaven's Song

To read past library recommendations, or to join the email list, visit: Pope Saint Nicholas V.

Check to see if this title is already in your library's catalog. If it is, put a hold on it and check it out. If not, fill out a patron request form right away. This can usually be done online at your library's website.

Title: Heaven's Song: Sexual Love as It Was Meant to Be
Author: Christopher West
Publisher: Ascension Press
Date Published: September 2008
ISBN-10: 1934217468
ISBN-13: 978-1934217467
Price: $14.99

Product Description:
Journey with Christopher West into the hidden talks of John Paul II s Theology of the Body only recently discovered in the archives in Rome and find out why the Pope himself deemed them too delicate to be delivered in St. Peter s Square. What is it about music? Consider what happens when you chance upon your favorite song on the radio. What emotions does it stir? What season of your life does it zoom you back to? Now, imagine if you can hear the greatest song ever written. To what heavenly places would it lift you? The Bible actually claims to contain the song of all songs: the boldly erotic Song of Songs. Here, as countless saints attest, we discover that sexual love provides the mystical key enabling us to enter into everlasting union with God. Heaven's Song takes you there. With profound insight, Christopher West guides you through the unabridged version of John Paul II's talks on the erotic poetry of the Song of Songs and the great spiritual contest surrounding the marriage of Tobias and Sarah. If you are already familiar with the Theology of the Body, you will delight in this new material. If not, this book serves as a superb introduction to John Paul s revolutionary teaching and is certain to whet your appetite for more. In this book, intended for married, single and celibate alike, you will discover: What makes the Song of Songs the authentic soundtrack of Christianity What s at the root of the sexual chaos in our culture and how to find peace in the midst of it Why there is a violent spiritual attack on marriages today and how to be victorious over it How to live an integrated sexual life as a path to union with God The secret of Mary (according to St. Louis de Montfort) in living an embodied spirituality Real-life stories of men and women who have found hope and healing in John Paul II s teaching Practical advice, prayers, and reflection questions to help you become the man or woman God created you to be

Good Catholic Bible Study for Third Graders?

I received the following question in my inbox:
My wife and I are looking for bible study program for our daughter. She is in third grade, learning the Baltimore Cat. and has had first communion. Is there a study program that does more bible than doctrine? I think we have church tradition going well but would like to dig deeper with her into sacred scripture.

What's your opinion here? Please leave any suggestions, tips, and ideas in the comment box. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Better Choice

I'm heading out the door to head east for the March for Life. I leave you with this to ponder.

Hat Tip: Mark Shea

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will You March for Life?

Every year when I go on the March for Life I come home saying, "That was awesome but I'm not going again." I commit to helping the teens get there but swear I'll be staying home next time. It's just a lot on my auto-immune-impaired body. And, yet, here I am, once again, packing to go on the March for Life.

Today the most pro-abortion, pro-infanticide president took the oath of office. How can I stay home?

When I dropped Christian off at Franciscan University a few weeks ago one of his friends commented that he wasn't going on the March for Life this year. It was great last year but just too darn cold. This made me think of Father Ronald Lawler, God rest his soul.

Fr. Lawler never missed the March even in his old age and failing health. In fact, he didn't even miss the March for Life in his final year. His dear friend Mike Aquilina told me, "We didn't think he was going to make it. We thought he was going to die right there at the March."

If Fr. Lawler, that sweet dear old man, could endure the frigid, wet cold marching amongst hundreds of thousands of people, who am I to stay home? Who am I to stay silent?

Fr. Lawler, please pray for all of us as we stand up for Truth and March for Life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Review: Warriors: Into the Wild

I'm finally getting around to the Warriors review I promised eons ago. If you haven't yet heard of this series, you may not have tween boys in your house. It seems to be all the rage among the middle school boys in our homeschool group.

I did let Buster read it before I got to it, but I wasn't too worried as I trust the boys who recommended it to him in the first place. However, when I finally picked it up I had a big red flag go up when I read the author's bio, "Erin Hunter is inspired by a love of cats and a fascination with the ferocity of the natural world. As well as having a great respect for nature in all its forms, Erin enjoys creating rich mythical explanations for animal behavior, shaped by her interest in astrology and standing stones. " (emphasis mine)

Needless to say, the interest in astrology did not excite me about this series. In fact, it motivated me to get on the ball and read the first book myself as well as check out the Warriors website.

First, I should mention that Erin Hunter is not a real person. Erin Hunter is a pseudonym for three separate authors who work together to crank out book after book in this series. A fourth author was added to help write a new, but similar, series on bears called Seekers.

As I'm sure you've all guessed so far, these are not great literature. They're dime store paperbacks. However, they are enjoyable stories and it's easy to see why kids love them. It was also surprising to me that they do offer quite a bit for you to baptize and teach moral lessons.

The first book in the series is Warriors: Into the Wild. It is the story of a house cat, a kitten actually, who decides to join a clan of wild cats in the woods. Firepaw turns out to be our hero, not only through his physical prowess but through his honesty and forthrightness.

Let's first address the astrology issue as I think this is important for us to consider as Catholic parents. From page 161:
"All Clan leaders have to spend one night at the Moonstone when they are first chosen. There, the spirits of StarClan [cats that died] share with them."
We also read on page 45:

"Graypaw didn't take his eyes off the dead cat as he replied, 'His spirit may have left to join Star Clan, but the clan will share tongues [verbal fellowship] with Redtail one last time.'

'Star Clan?' Firepaw echoed.

'It's the tribe of heavenly warriors that watch over all the clan cats. You can see them in Silverpelt.... Silverpelt is that thick band of stars you see each night stretching across the sky. Each star is a StarClan warrior. Redtail will be among them tonight."'

These passages are clearly pagan and not reflective of Catholic teaching. As such, since my child had already read the book, I sat down and talked about it with him. I highly recommend having this discussion with your child if he reads this book. It should be made clear that the books are pure fantasy. In the make believe world of talking cats they just may speak to the stars that are made up of their ancestors. But not in real life.

However, here is an opportunity to baptize. We do believe in the Communion of the Saints and that those who have gone before us in grace are in heaven and do intercede for us. So, I pointed this out to Buster and pointed other similarities and differences. Much like I did when we read the Greek and Norse myths.

Also important to point out is that the villain takes his power through deception and murder. While his evil ways do advance his position at first, in the end they bring about his downfall. It's a simple, basic story: good triumphs over evil.

That is one of the primary attributes that makes the series popular with children. Who doesn't want a good hero who wins the day after defeating the bad guy?

Another reason for their popularity is the intrigue of the secret lives of warrior cats. The everyday "kitty pet" leaves the cushy life of a house cat to join a clan of wild cats. He gives up all his comforts to go off and fend for himself and his clan. He can no longer depend upon his human master to bring him his daily meal but must hunt for it himself each day. Yet, the hunted mouse, gained through hunting skill, is so much more delicious than the dry, drab food that comes from a box. Even if it means a less-than-filled-to-the-brim tummy each day.

Then there are also the fight scenes throughout the books. This is certainly an attraction for boys. I must admit I know of a couple of girls who abhorred the book due to the injuries and deaths incurred by the cats. But the boys tend to find the the war scenes exciting.

I also think kids appreciate that the cats are cats. Not like some books (and movies) where the animals walk on two legs and don waistcoats and what have you. They don't have technology or magical powers. "Erin Hunter" writes in a way where you find yourself easily in her fantasy world, imagining how a clan of wild cats might speak or act if it were possible.

I did find a few annoying things, in addition to the whole pagan, astrology bent. This includes a few predictable story lines and the silly names of the cats -- Firepaw, Graypaw, Sandpaw, Tigeclaw. Not exactly original. Also, and this is my own pet peeve, there is the all-to-easy plot device of the main character having a vital piece of information that will save the day, yet he keeps it to himself, looking for the right moment to spill the beans, even though he has tons of opportunity, and instead takes matters into his own hands after it's too late. Sigh.

So, what's the bottom line here? Umm, I'm going to take the easy way out and say "Read it yourself." This isn't one to just hand over without a word. In the end I let Buster pass the book onto Sparky to read making sure to discuss the good and bad found in the authors' depiction of a make believe world of warrior cats.

"As for homeschooling, I'm strictly against it."

There is an interesting conversation going on over at Sr. Mary Martha's blog regarding homeschooling. Go pay a visit and leave your two cents. Though I do ask that you please be charitable in leaving comments. Things are on the verge of getting heated and we don't want that. Better to convert through joy than strong arming. (And perhaps point out that, yes, not all public school kids go on to be doctors, perhaps some even go to community college to get their GEDs.)

NOTE: The blog title is a quote from a comment left at Sister's blog and not from Sister herself. Read the comments for more . . .

Friday, January 16, 2009

Facebook, Cats, and Straws

Facebook is a great way to keep up with friends and family. For example, I read on my kid's Facebook yesterday, "Christian resuscitated a dead cat with a STRAW."

Ahh, the life of a Franciscan University nursing student.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Prayer Update

Thank your for your prayers for Tori. Her surgery went very well. Now prayers for recovery are in order.

Famous Singers and College Towns

Did you know that a famous crooner is from Steubenville. They even have a street named after him. Leave your guess in the comments and I'll let you know if you're right.

Monday, January 12, 2009

How I Came to Spend 3 Hours in the Psych Ward

Sometimes being a good homeschooler means knowing when to look for outside help. There are times when we have to admit, "I can't do this on my own." Looking for, and finding, the right help can be tricky though.

Years ago when Rob and I set out to find help for our son Sparky we began by reading everything we could on Asperger's syndrome. The library was a great resource. I was really surprised by the number of books available on the subject. Gosh, I even found a couple of books on homeschooling on the autism spectrum!

Shortly after that I attended a 2-day seminar on Asperger's that was a huge help. It gave me the practical information I needed to help my son learn social skills and to help me deal with meltdowns.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself looking for help again. Sparky is getting older (10 1/2) and the Asperger issues seem to be getting more intense in some areas. Specifically, meltdowns and dealing with anger. So, today Rob and I spent more than 3 hours, along with Sparky, at the psyciatric clinic at U of M where they have an Asperger/autism clinic.

The clinic gave us a ton of information and options. Rob and I will be taking the route of attending sessions ourselves, sans Sparky, to learn how to deal with his emotional needs. They'll be teaching us how to teach our son. I prefer this approach over the approach of the therapist working directly with him. I'm with Sparky every day, the therapist would only see him once every week or two.

I know from the comments and my emails that this is a topic of interest to a good number of you. So, I'll post on Asperger's as I attend these sessions beginning next week.

In the meantime, please offer up prayers for Sparky and other Asperger kids. Prayers for their parents and health providers would also be great. Thanks!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

My New Grand Niece

"Dad, is she cute?"
"Well, you know newborns aren't much too look at."
"Well, it's true. But this one is a beauty. I've never seen a more beautiful baby."

When you're 72 you say what you think.

He is right about one thing -- she is a beauty! I'm so sad that she'll be months old before I can get to St. Louis to see her in person. I think I'll have my niece bottle some of that new baby smell for me and pop it in the mail.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to Teach with Real Books

Anyone out there feeling less than gung-ho about getting back to the grindstone after the Christmas break? If you're struggling with a little winter burnout then join me for the upcoming Homeschool Connection webinars. I promise to help you put the excitement back into the school year.

Here are the online seminars Walter Crawford and I have in store for you:
Feb. 4 -- How to Teach History with Real Books
Mar. 4 -- How to Teach Art and Music Appreciation with Real Books
Apr. 1 -- How to Teach Math and Science with Real Books

Literature isn't just for reading! You can teach math, science, language arts, and more using living books. This series of three talks on the topic of teaching through real books is an extension of Maureen's book For the Love of Literature.

Do you have fond memories of your high school history textbook? Of memorizing dates in grade school? Of endless history lectures in college. If not, then toss the textbooks and join us for an uplifting and fun talk on how to teach history with living literature. Bring to your children a love for learning after attending How to Teach History with Real Books.

Do you have a love for beautiful art and music? Would you like to share that love with your children? Would you like to learn about all of the beautiful books available for children and young adults? Do you yearn for uplifting books that not only teach but help to create a joy for learning? If so, How to Teach Art and Music Appreciation with Real Books is the talk for you.

Have you ever said out loud, "I hate math!" Or, "Math was my worst subject!" Was science always a tough subject for you? Do you struggle wondering how you can bring the fullness of the subject to your children? Would you like them to see God's hand in these discipline? If so, you've come to the right place.

In How to Teach Math and Science with Real Books Maureen will show you how to let go of your math and science phobia and keep from passing it onto your children. Math can be fun and interesting. Really. You just need to look at it in a new light. Science can go beyond the kitchen experiments and come alive in a child's imagination. Really.

Maureen will bring lots of books with her for show and tell. You'll leave this online seminar loaded with book titles, fresh ideas, and practical tips. You won't want to miss it!
There is a $10 fee for each live talk. The fee also allows you to watch the recorded event at a later date with no additional cost. The Thrifty Homeschooler in me has to tell you that you are more than welcome to invite a friend or two over for Mom's Night Out and split the cost of the live online seminar.

If you can't attend a live talk but would like to see a recorded version it will be available at a later date for only $4.

I hope to see several of you there -- these live online seminars are way fun to do and to attend!

Addendum: It has come to my attention that if you own a Mac you cannot see the live video of the presenter even though you can hear the live audio, participate in the live chat, and view the Power Point Presentation. However, you can see the video in the recorded session (which is free if you paid for the live event). Hopefully, this will be fixed before February but if it isn't you'll want to keep that in mind before paying for the live event. Another option is to watch it with a friend who owns a PC or wait and simply purchase the recorded version later. If you'd like to complain to Webex go to

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Tori: Prayer Request

I received this prayer request from friends of ours in our old homeschool group. This family is very special and so loving. Their daughter Tori has spina bifida and has been through a lot in her young years. She is one of the sweetest little girls you'll ever meet. I had the surgery for scoliosis when I was a child but Tori has the added problem of a tethered spinal cord. I cannot even begin to comprehend the complications of such a surgery. Could you please lift her up in prayer this week?
Please add Victoria to your prayer list for the next several weeks. She is having a major surgery on Tues, Jan 13th for scoliosis. She will have a tethered spinal cord release at the same time.

Goals: to stop progression of spine curvature, to straighten her spine as much as possible and to avoid forthcoming complications unaddressed scoliosis can bring. Her scoliosis has been monitored since birth and has now progressed to the point of having large curves in a couple of directions. Releasing the spinal cord should also assist with this.

Surgical procedure expectations: 8-10 hrs.; 4 surgeons; spinal cord release, placement of rods, coils, screws; closure by a plastic surgeon; this runs a moderately high risk of infection due to the length of the procedure.

Expected Recovery: 5 days-3 wks in hospital (avg 7-10 days); surgeon describes about 8 weeks until she starts to "feel like a human being" again.

Specific prayer requests (for those able to pray with greater specificity!):
1. for Tori to enter surgery as healthy as possible
2. for a successful procedure which accomplishes the intended goals;
3. for no infection to occur;
4. for a successful and relatively speedy recovery for Tori--without picking up anything in the hospital while there;
5. for her lungs to handle everything well--(she has a history-from younger years-of lung issues). Docs expect she may be on a ventilator for a couple of days post-op. Please pray that she is able to be either vent-free post-op, or only has to be on the vent to assist with pain/healing-not for lung complications.
6. for her to have as positive and caring an experience as possible and as few difficult memories about this as possible to avoid excessive doctor/hospital fears & anxiety.
7. grace for our family to go through this major life-rearranging event well.

Thanks so much--we so value the intercession of our brothers & sisters!

Boston Brass: We Three Kings

And this concludes our Christmas Music Video Series until next Christmas season.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Singing the Praises of A Christmas Carol

I'm currently reading A Christmas Carol. And loving it. I'd like to say, "I've forgotten how much I loved this book when I first read it way back when." But, alas, I don't remember loving it. I don't remember even kind of liking it. I only remember that back in grade school I was forced to read it along with 25 other grade school student so that I could pass the test.

But then again, I can't say that I'm reading it on my own now. I'm being forced into it. Again. Only this time not by my school teacher but by a bunch of middle school kids. It's the book chosen by our middle school reading club and I'm the leader.

I wasn't looking forward to it, remembering only less-than-love for it as a youngster. Now I'm so glad that the kids picked it for January.

If you haven't picked it since childhood you really oughta give it a consider. And don't keep it to yourself. Read it out loud. I'm amazed at how well it rolls off the tongue. Charles Dickens has a good sense of humor. I'm actually having fun reading it aloud.

But then again, I am a bit of a geek when it comes to books.

The Muppets & John Denver: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Thrifty Homeschooler and Organization

I've been attending to The Thrifty Homeschooler Blog for the New Year. Besides having a new look and being cleaned up a tad, I've put together a series of posts on Organizing Your Homeschool 101 that will run over the next few weeks. Posts will include tips from Thrifty Homeschooler members, pictures, and loads of ideas from the webinar I did on the same topic a couple of weeks ago. So, if getting the classroom organized is one of your New Year resolutions, you may want to put it on your Reader.

Bing Crosby: White Christmas

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My New Years Resolutions

I made a couple of New Year's resolutions. One I want to finish the 100 Books for Kids Who Love to Read book. Two I'll be expanding the No Question Left Behind ministry.

The second resolution isn't going to take much of my time until summer. However, if I'm going to get the new book finished I have to buckle down right now today.

What this means is that my personal blogging may be sporadic over the next several months.

Just thought I should give you all forewarning.

Roasted Navajo Soup

Here is a new recipe for you to try for the New Year. I'm willing to bet that you haven't had something like this before. I created it totally by accident and Rob immediately fell in love. Though he loves all my soups.

Recently, I made one of our favorite vegetarian dishes here -- Navajo Stew from Moosewood. The next day I threw the leftover stew into the blender, added leftover wild rice pilaf, and some vegetable broth, and a new soup was born.

Yesterday, I recreated the soup from scratch for our New Year's Eve celebration. It contains a lot of my favorite ingredients -- roasted vegetables, cumin, and chipotles. It's a hearty soup with a bit of a kick -- perfect for a cold winter night.

This recipe makes a lot for a large family or a party.

Roasted Navajo Soup

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 red, yellow, or green peppers
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 (15 oz.) can of tomatoes
1 Tbsp. canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
6 cups vegetable broth
1 (4 oz) box of wild rice prepared an hour ahead of time

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with oil.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Stem and seed the peppers and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Cut the stem and root ends of the onion, peel, and slice into wedges.
In a toss the veggies with the garlic, oil, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Spread on the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Stir well and continue to roast another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.
In a blender puree the tomatoes, chipotles, cilantro, roasted vegetables, and black beans. You may have to do this in batches.
In a soup pot, combine the puree with the broth and prepared wild rice. Simmer for 15 minutes until warm throughout.

Optional: serve with sour cream, plain yogurt, and or tortilla chips.

Variations: You could replace the wild rice with a white or brown rice. Or even skip the rice put the beans in whole instead of making them part of the puree.

John Tesh: Joy to the World