Monday, December 26, 2011

Homestead Heritage: Forge

The last workshop I will share from our homeschooling field trip to Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas is the forge.

Here the blacksmith started with a metal rod...
and while his assistant pumped air through the bellows to increase the heat,

He gradually beat the piece of the metal into a:

deceptively delicate looking leaf key chain.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Homestead Heritage: Woodworking

Another workshop we visited on our homeschooling field trip to Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas was the woodworking shop.

Both the stained glass and the doors were created by craftsmen in the community.

Inside was a spacious workplace with a wood stove to keep warm in winter.
Some of the beautiful things they have crafted in the woodworking shop include
a prize-winning violin, (among other instruments,) and really nice furniture.

One such piece of furniture is this handmade wooden bed frame...

which reminded me of a handcrafted wooden bed frame we had in Guatemala. 
Here's a photo for comparison:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Homestead Heritage: Pottery

This is a continuation of our homeschool group field trip in Waco, Texas to Homestead Heritage touring different workshops. Here we visited the pottery shop:

 At the Potter's House we watched a clump of clay turn into a vase...

 We saw how this lady used a combination of clay and weaving to create...
 this two toned basket that is still in the drying, unfinished process:

 The yellow minerals on the pottery below, after fired in the kiln, turned into...

 the beautiful brown and copper tones seen in pottery like this tea set:
There were many other beautiful pottery colors available as well, like this deep blue:

This is a class I would love to take, though I'm sure my product wouldn't look as nice as some of these!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Homestead Heritage: Gristmeal

This is a continuation of our homeschool group Homestead Heritage field trip in Waco, Texas through the different workshops. Here we visited the gristmill:

Outside of the gristmill, you will find...
this waterwheel, which powers...
these wheels and pulleys so that...
the grindstone can grind the wheat, corn or other grain.
The craftsman in charge of this workshop told us that the freshly ground flour is extremely flammable and that many gristmills in the past went up in flames. From this comes the saying: "Keep your nose to the grindstone..." because that was how the miller could sense if the flour started scorching.

The grooves in the grindstone, combined with centrifugal force, 
push the freshly ground flour off of the grindstone into a collecting place.
Unless the grindstone gets too old to use and then it can be...
turned into a flower planter!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homestead Heritage: Fiber Crafts

In October several homeschooling families went on a field trip to Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas. This is a place committed to sustainability and community that I recommend checking out if you're ever in the area. As reflected on their website:

"Our Traditional Crafts Village showcases a community of craftsmen who have returned, not to the past, but to the enduring values exemplified in handcraftsmanship. True craft requires more than skill: it expresses the craftsmen’s care and concern, their personal investment in everything they do. You can visit the shops of our crafts village, watch our craftsmen work, even attend classes to learn craft skills and, in all this, experience with our craftsmen the joy and fulfillment of returning to craft, the art of work."

Because there was so much to see that I think a single post with all of it would be picture and information overload, I'm going to separate the different stations they had into different posts for this week.

One of my favorite workshops to visit was the Fiber Crafts shop.

Here we were introduced to...
a beautiful selection of naturally dyed fibers.

The loom.
I liked the useful decoration of the wooden ceiling beam.
Just looking at the beautiful colors makes me want to make something.
Foot pedals on the loom.
 Batya measuring her weaving.

I loved all of the colorful yarn and threads displayed throughout the shop.
There were many looms for when there is a class.
For comparison, a piece of Guatemalan textile patchwork and...

 a Swedish version of a patchwork weaving.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

SagaUnscripted: The 3rd Chapter- Abu Dhabi

We now know where the next chapter in our saga will probably take place, as Ben has been hired to teach High School English in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Here's a map:

The United Arab Emirates is a federation, or group of 7 state-like smaller governments that bind together for certain things but still have their own individual governments/supreme courts etc.

November-March seem to be the spring-like temperatures, around 70*-80* and then April-October are scorching 100+ temperatures. Since Ben will get there in January, he will get to experience some of the nicer temperatures.

Something Ben's been interested in since we left Guatemala to have the baby in Texas, besides learning Arabic, is the selection of fruits available in Abu Dhabi; he really misses the variety. He asked some of the teachers who are already there and this was their response:

dragon fruit
prickly pears
lemon grass
...and about twenty fruits I have no idea what they are called. The main thing that is hard to find is berries, so I stock up on frozen when I'm in the city."

And, yes, he was very excited to hear this!

I expect to learn a lot of new things about this part of the world and plan to blog about it as I go.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Narrowing International Teaching Options as an Expat Family

Knowing that there are always trade-offs with any international teaching position, with the multitude of options that are seemingly available, it helps us to have a way to narrow options. All of the following criteria does not have to be met, of course, but it does help serve as a filter! (So, in no particular order:)

1. Do they pay for everyone's flight, not just the person who will be teaching?

2. What other benefits are offered? (Summer flights home for the family, housing, insurance, etc.)

3. Is there enough religious freedom in that country that there is a church we could attend?

4. What does the culture have that would benefit our family or that we would find interesting? Languages, useful or easy to learn? future business opportunities?

5. Are fruits and vegetables readily available? How accessible is a healthy lifestyle?

6. How large is the expat and/or Spanish-speaking community? (If it is not a Spanish-speaking country.)

7. How does that country view child-rearing? Homeschooling?

8. Is there a supported midwife community? Is home-birth available or even legal?

9. Is freedom of speech and technology available? (Are certain sites blocked on the internet in that country? If so is there a way around it?)

10. What is the teaching position available and would the person applying for it enjoy it, or simply endure it for the experience in another country.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

He's Here: Meet Little Man

Saturday: my mom knew somehow that the baby would be coming soon. She began preparing food to have on hand for afterwards. Sunday and Monday were full of irregular baby contractions until around 7 p.m. when I went into active labor with contractions 4 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute by midnight. We called the midwife at 12:40.

I labored all night. It was difficult, but more manageable than people make you think. ;) Elias was born the next morning, Tuesday, December 6 at 10:31, weighing 8 pounds 12 oz and 21 inches long. Talia is fascinated by him!

Homebirth was an incredibly difficult, but very rewarding experience. If you live in North East Texas and are interested in midwife services, I'd recommend Childbirth Services.

We are all doing well and are happy that our little man is here!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Economical Milk Options in Guatemala

Growing up in a family of 5, we went through at least 3 gallons of milk every week, sometimes 4. This milk always came in a big plastic jug bought at the local WalMart with a 2% label and a not-quite-authentic, but familiar flavor.

In Guatemala, one of the first things that was different were the lack of rows of plastic gallons of milk in the refrigerated section. There were a few, but then those seemed to go bad very quickly. Most people didn't buy that version, so if you visited anywhere, it wasn't available. What they used I had never, ever seen or heard of in my life: shelf stable boxed milk:
The flavor, while milk-like, was stronger and though 2% still seemed more concentrated. Visitors from the U.S. never quite got used to it, so they always requested purchasing the plastic jug version. Since it was cheaper and lasted so long, we did acclimate eventually. It seemed to make no difference in baking.

Another economical option for milk in Guatemala is usually done by a young boy who herds goats delivering house to house. The goats are usually in a group of 4-6 with a rope leash and the boy has a whip and sometimes a bell to announce his presence. If you want fresh goat's milk, you either provide the container or he usually brings a disposable cup and squeezes fresh milk for you right there. Many workers buy a cup of goat's milk to go with their breakfast on the way to work and some families are regular customers, buying their milk fresh every day. Here's a YouTube example where a guy buys a cup of warm goat milk for 5Q: (The milk part is in the first third of the video... the views of the guys in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog... blah, blah, blah ;)

Photo found here:

Of course, many people who live in the city use these options, but those who have their own fincas, or farms, sometimes have their own goats or cows. Many times we were stopped suddenly on a narrow, one-lane road at night to avoid hitting cows who had either gotten out or whose owners had let out so that they could eat the grass on the side of the road.

While I've tried goat's milk and our daughter likes it, we never tried this version in Guatemala. Have you tried milk in Guatemala? Were you surprised by the difference or was it what you expected?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homeschooling Field Trip: Visiting the Zoo

Above: Talia with a silverback gorilla.

Talia loves animals, so the zoo is an amazing place to her. In Guatemala City, La Aurora Zoo in the capital is a small zoo with mostly little cages for their animals, but it was the first zoo she was old enough to appreciate- being old enough to know what the animals were.

Above: Watching the penguins.

When we had the opportunity to visit the DFW zoo while on a trip to the States, she couldn't wait! This time, she knew their names and if they were herbivores, omnivores or carnivores and she could make more detailed observations. It was a great science extension for what we had been studying in home school.

Above: Snakes, something we'd rather experience in the zoo than in the wild!

She especially enjoyed the water species where she could get a good view up close because of the glass. This turtle (below) was a particular favorite!

Something I like about the zoo is that it is something she can appreciate at many ages and still learn something new every time! How do you use the zoo as a teaching tool?