It is only appropriate for me to start this post with a sincere apology for my long and unexplained absence from blogosphere. And then to launch into a long explanation about my long and as yet unexplained silence. And the best way to explain it is to tell you about the various obsessions which have consumed the months between the last post and this.
Our family had the wonderful opportunity to go home for our mid-term home leave trip in April this year. We spent about four glorious weeks hanging out with family, friends and eating the foods we had been deprived of for 15 months. It was so good to be reunited with the people we love dearly and heartbreaking to have to leave them again at the end of the four weeks. The kids were elated to be back with their “old” friends and we scheduled as many playdates as we could. Everyone was very obliging with clearing their schedules to be with us. But we were wiped out after the trip and spent weeks recovering from over-activity and over-eating!
Waiting at the coffee shop for our first meal in Singapore. With friends who drove all the way from Choa Chu Kang to Changi to try to surprise us at the airport but were instead surprised to learn we had already left for home!
When I left off blogging, I was completely into buying food unprocessed and processing/cooking it myself. The culinary search has led me and my obliging family down many interesting paths, reading about various diets and trying a bit of this and that. I have discovered so many things about food, and cooking, and eating, and farming, and processing that I am quite embarrassed to admit I had never known before. In a nutshell I have reached a comfortable middle ground which looks something like this when I go grocery shopping: I shop the perimeter of the store. Fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, dairy, eggs. I go into the aisles only to buy canned tomatoes, canned beans, canned milk, canned fish, spices, sauces, oils, pasta, rice. I try to buy organic and antibiotic-free meats where possible. Fortunately for us, the price difference is not as great as it is in Singapore. For sweeteners I use honey and maple syrup, and something called Sucanat. We still eat white rice and pasta but sneak in some whole grains. We buy whole wheat bread and use whole wheat flour where possible but succumb often to white. I can make my own mayonnaise, ketchup and salad dressing but will reach for the store-bought bottle in the fridge when I am in a time crunch. I can make my own bread but have no qualms about buying them from the bakery. I read labels but try not to be obsessive about everything. I said “try”.
Last night’s dinner. Russian Borscht. An attempt to use some of the vegetables (like beets, leeks and red cabbage) I have been getting in our weekly organic vegetable basket.
After we came back from Singapore, Tee Chiou suggested that we explore the possibility of sending Alethea to school in Year 7. (The school year here starts end August.) We had always said that we would evaluate options every year, but I was honestly unprepared for the emotions that welled up when he brought this up. But we did go and visit two schools, met the principals, did the tours, etc. There was a lot of praying (all of us) and begging (yes, me) and reading. It was finally decided that Alethea should stay home for at least another year. The process did a lot for us. A lot of good! I had always taken it as a given that we would keep homeschooling. Each year morphed into the next and we are now nearing the end of our eighth year! But this evaluation process made me really sit up and think about what I wanted Alethea to do this year if I only had her home for one more year. My curriculum planning took on a different dimension. A sort of desperate dimension, you could say. :) But the result is the best curriculum/schedule plan we have ever had in our 8 years of homeschooling, not just for Alethea but also for Tim and Nat. I am so thankful to my dear husband for his leadership and for prodding us in this direction. I hope to share more about our school plans in a later post.
Ever since I received a jar of homemade salsa from a fellow homeschool mom last year, I had been dreaming of doing my own canning. So I did. And in true Angie style, it was total obsession! And I dragged Alethea and Tee Chiou into it as well. I am so proud of how Alethea picked it up and ran with it. She practically did a whole batch of strawberry jam herself, canning, labeling and all. This is the result of all our canning. I am still toying with whether or not to can apples. I feel less compelled because good apples are available all year round unlike the other produce.
HOMEMADE! Strawberry jam, blueberry jam, sliced peaches, pasta sauce, green tomato relish, quartered tomatoes, whole tomatoes.
We had our busiest summer ever! The kids went to circus camp, outdoor adventure camp, and two vacation Bible school sessions. We attempted to grow vegetables. And grass. :) We went strawberry, blueberry and apple picking. We had loads of picnics. Went out cycling. And spent most evenings at some soccer field or other watching Alethea and Tim play. And summer ended with relatives (an aunt, uncle and two cousins) coming over to visit! Which was fabulous. I played tour guide for ten glorious days when we went up north to the Laurentians to stay in a cottage, up to Mont Tremblant for a hike, out to the Eastern Townships for a Duck Festival, spent time in Montreal going ice skating, walking, cycling, visiting the Biodome, Old Montreal, Chinatown, and of course buying, cooking and eating all the fabulous food we are privileged to have access to here. Their visit coincided with Alethea and Tim’s birthdays, so more joy!
Tee Chiou taking the littlest out for a ride. He did A LOT of cycling in summer.
Studying the Book of Romans
I have been struggling for months with having regular Bible study time. Given that I’m home 24/7, you would think I would have figured it out by now, but alas, not so. But recently, a series of things happened that drew me to study the book of Romans with the help of John Piper’s series of sermons on the book. It all started with Romans 12.2. It reads: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Would you believe I encountered the same verse FOUR times in a single week? It was in the family devotional we are working through (Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson). It was in the book on my bedside table (Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney), and it was the book I was reading on the mornings I managed to get up before the rest of the family (Seasons of a Mother’s Heart by Sally Clarkson), and then it was preached from the pulpit that Sunday by our church’s Pastor Bryan (www.peoplesmontreal.org). No longer a coincidence, huh? So I decided to take God’s prompting seriously and started listening to Pastor John Piper’s series of sermons on the book because every time I did a search about some aspect of Romans, Google kept throwing his name up. He took EIGHT YEARS to preach through it and we have the privilege of having it all online to do at our own pace. If you are keen to join me in this, the series can be accessed here: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/series-index/romans-the-greatest-letter-ever-written
From Here On …
So I hope that brings you up to speed on the various things which have been happening in the Ng household in Montreal! I hope to be more diligent with updating this blog. I have so much to say (have you noticed?)!
In the meantime, here’s to teaching our own!