Thursday, January 26, 2012

Self Portrait, Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake and Friday Favorites

Self Portrait by Virginia Knowles in January 2012

Dear friends,

The theme of the P52 photo project this week is Self-Portrait.  The picture above isn't exactly a photo, unless you count that the scanner is a camera of sorts.  But it is an original self-portrait, a quick sketch, plain pencil on plain paper, from a photo on my iPod. I had to twiddle with it a bit, because I wasn't measuring for proportions.  So I had to move the mouth up and the dimple over, shorten the eyes, try to make the glasses symmetrical, add in more hair. As a final touch, I used my finger to smudge and smooth the shading.  I had recently assigned a written comparison of two self-portraits by Reformation artist Albrecht Dürer for my home school co-op English class, so I figured I would give it a decent shot. (See The Art of Albrecht Dürer.)  My attempt wasn't perfect, but it was fun.

Self Portrait by Virginia Knowles in 1979
See more of My Artwork 
I haven't sketched (other than my constant doodling) in what seems like forever, and I drawn myself since high school art class around 1979, wearing a hat I had bought on a trip to Scotland with Teen Missions that summer.

Drawing a self-portrait forces you to think about how you see yourself and how you want to convey to others who you are.  Am I confident?  Friendly?  Pensive?  Enigmatic?

For many of us, self image is tied up in what we do and who our friends are.  It could be related to what church we attend, or how many children we have, or how we educate them.  That has certainly been true for me.  It has taken me a long time to shake that off and realize that while those things certainly affect my life and say something about what I value, they do not define me.  And the expectations should not crush me when they no longer apply to where I am in life.  

I think that especially rings true this week, since I just enrolled two more children (girls in 1st and 5th grade) in the neighborhood public school where their 3rd grade brother started in November. (Here they are on their first day of public school with our next door neighbor in the middle.)  Now I don't have any elementary age kids at home, and the four in public school outnumber the two (boys in middle school and high school) still at home. Since I have written (books, articles in international magazines, my own e-magazine, blogs) and spoken (conferences and support groups) so much about home schooling for the past 14 years, I gained a reputation as a home school guru.  I know many of my friends and cyber acquaintances will not understand our choices and even question my sanity and my morality.  This will not be the first time.  Oh well!  My husband and I are the ones responsible for making decisions about what is best for our family at each season of life.  Right now this is what we can do with what we have.  I think this will prove to be a good move, at least for the rest of this school year.  Then we will reevaluate for next year.  (See Do It Well, But Keep It Humble.)  Anyway, this week has been a flurry of filling out papers, taking kids for medical checkups, picking up immunization records, and buying school uniforms (solid red, navy blue or dark green t-shirts or polo shirts, and khaki or navy bottoms, no denim, no basketball shorts).

With some of my newfound extra time, one of my goals in the next few months is to get the house in order and keep it that way consistently. (No small task with 10 people living here!)  This morning I had to rewrite our family chore chart to accommodate the change in schedule.  I think I made it a bit more simple to follow.  Instead of switching chores every day (for variety), I have assigned chores to be done every day (for simplicity) -- at least for the five younger kids. Let's just see if this helps people remember what to do -- and then do it!

Also, I want to be a little more intentional in the kitchen, focusing on nutrition and variety.  I think we're all getting tired of the same old same old!  Sometimes we have to mix it up a bit, taking inspiration wherever we find it: friends, restaurants, blogs, on-line recipe sites...  This week I tried baked chicken thighs covered with bread crumbs seasoned with rotisserie chicken seasoning and garlic pepper.

Last Saturday, our church organized several Dinner with Friends parties.  Once you sign up, you are assigned to a group of eight. The point is to get to know other folks whom you might not know as well.  My husband and I had met everyone before, but had only had regular interactions with the host couple.  We had a great time chatting, especially when we pulled out some conversation starter questions that the dinner organizers had provided to each group. Oh the stories these peeps can tell!

Our hosts Cathy and Bill,
business people who lived in the Virgin Islands for a long time
and who have a real heart for serving the poor
(see her collection bear for the hungry here)

Mike and Vicki,
seminary professor and Christian school teacher
Candice and Ed,
on staff for nearly three decades with Campus Crusade (now known as CRU),
most of it in Poland and England

Each couple contributed to the meal.  One made delicious beef stroganoff (I'm going to try this out and blog about it later), another brought a lovely gourmet salad (complete with hearts of palm), and another brought grapes, cheese & crackers, and scrumptious hot roll appetizers with cheese, ham and onions baked in. I am making myself hungry just typing this.  We brought the dessert: lemon raspberry cheesecake and blueberry cheesecake.  Yes, I could have made it all from scratch with fresh cream cheese to prove myself as a capable homemaker, since I haven't yet attained the status of Kitchen Guru.  Instead, I chose to go semi-homemade,  starting with a boxed mix.  I'd enjoyed some lemon raspberry cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory (thanks to a gift card from my sister-in-law) and decided to try to replicate it.  I mixed a little lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to sweeten it, then added three tablespoons to the cheesecake mix that my daughter Naomi prepared.  Since this would increase the amount of liquid, we substituted a can of evaporated milk for some of the regular milk to make it thicker.  I'm not sure that helped any since it was still a bit softer than I would have liked. In hindsight, I realized I could have just reduced the amount of milk.  All told, I made two lemon cheescakes and two plain cheescakes, leaving one of each at home for the kids.  At serving time, we set out a tub of whipped topping, a bowl of blueberry pie filling, and a bowl of raspberry sauce (a bag of frozen berries, thawed and smushed to a thick sauce with a little sugar added).  Everyone enjoyed it, so score one for the Kitchen Wannabee!

I am thankful for the Dinner with Friends. Good fellowship, good fun, good food!  Have you ever done anything like this?  Why not try it?

I haven't written any other blog posts this week, but here are three links and short excerpts for Friday Favorites. You won't mind that I'm posting these on a Thursday, will you?  Just a little early!

by Sarah Clarkson at Thoroughly Alive 
"I have always known that beauty had the power to drive me to holiness. For me, the ache for what is transcendent, the hunger spurred in me by art, literature, music, nature, has always been a guide that turned me back from distraction, from hurry, even from sin, to the grace of my ever-present God." 
(Sarah's post reminds me of a quote from one of my own posts here: A Sacred Romance in the Deeper Places of Our Hearts. Sarah is cur at Oxford University in England for a special program.  It is interesting to find that my new friend Candice knows Sarah's mom Sally since they both worked for CCC in Poland a long time ago, though at different times -- small world!)

Last Week I Was Wide-Eyed Innocence 
by Tonia at

Some addictions sneak up on you sly.  Last week I was wide-eyed innocence:  I don't spend that much time on the computer.  I barely read blogs.  I hardly ever post on facebook.  I've been doing this for 7 years, I'm an old hat at this. Second day of changing the tally marks, bowing my head before a prayer bench and not a screen, I feel the itch.  10 AM and I'm jumpy, wondering who emailed, wondering what they said.  I fidget and pass the darkened computer once, twice, three times.  I snap the lid shut and carry it to my room, close the door.  At least I have the presence of mind to roll my eyes at myself... 
I smile broad when the answer comes, because it's so simple, so exactly, perfectly simple. Ora et labora: the motto of the Benedictines. Pray and work.  Pray and work.  Pray and work.  And that's exactly what I do.

by Karen Campbell at

"We woke up one day last week to the first snowfall of the season, gentle white flakes touching down, slowly covering the muddy front lawn. It continued all day, the wind picking up, forming small drifts here and there.  I was happy for the snow as it made it a little more bearable to take down my Christmas tree and tuck away the family traditions along with it for another year. White and pristine was my world, reminding me of the Lord’s promise that He will make our scarlet sins as white as snow. He is the great Purifier, the Cleanser of my Soul.  Such a comfort that is to me! I have been thinking so much about the concept of purity in the past couple weeks, first as I have enjoyed the sweet innocence of a house full of little ones. They look at everything in wonder, their bright little eyes reflect their own worlds, yet untouched by those things that threaten to darken all of us. How do we protect our precious girls from those things? How do we protect our dear boys, our sons and grandsons? But more accurately, how do each of us, men, women, boys and girls, keep our hearts and minds pure in a world that ignores and even devalues the concept of purity? And how do we do this when modern evangelicalism tells us that it has to do primarily with sexuality and then spends so much time talking about it? ... I believe this is truly at the core of the current discussion on sexuality in evangelicalism: in seeking to promote sexual purity, whether through endless discussions of modesty in dress or in defining their roles ad nauseum, women and girls are, in fact, sexualized and, in the process, demeaned. Under the guise of “purity” the messages are mixed and confusing. In reality, true moral purity comes from a life focused on Jesus Christ and serving others. Why don’t we hear this? Probably because it isn’t sexy enough."

You may also wish to read a related post from last summer:
On Mommy Blogging: Image, Identity, Authenticity and Freedom

You can find more food ideas here: Recipe Box

This blog post is linked to memes on other blogs:

Click here to see Ann Kroeker's Food on Fridays


Click here to see Project 52!

project 52 p52

I'd love to see your comments!  Please leave one!

Virginia Knowles


  1. love the self portrait! and your 5th grader looks so much like you (and EXACTLY how i looked then. I should find a picture and post to compare!)

    I hope many people will be encouraged and encourage you as you take the steps God leads you to for your children. People thought we were odd to take our kid out of private school and start homeschooling. And it was scary. But obeying felt SO good!

    I love the book Going Public: Your Child Can Thrive In Public School, By the Pritchards, It gives a good perspective/vision. (and Tim Challies endorsed it when he reviewed it) Here's the link to the book:

  2. Ginny, I am reading that book! I mentioned it here:

    There is so much in it for any parent, no matter where they educate their children. I love their priorities of teaching children a love for the Lord, obedience to parents, and self-control -- all things we need to work on!

  3. They have a parenting seninar coming to summit church feb. 4th-5th!

  4. I can barely draw a circle. I love that you shared your self-portrait drawing. It's fantastic!


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