52 Weeks of Mail :: Weeks One & Two

We started the 52 Weeks of Mail Project this week – a week behind because we were on a family vacation and sadly we forgot.  We thereby made certain to mail two letters each this week in an effort to make up for my absent mindedness.  The project, going on its second year, is organized by the Etsy Greetings Team and begins this time of year to commemorate World Post Day

The idea is very simple. Every week, write and send a letter to whomever you want, family and friends. A regular “old fashioned” letter, handwritten is such a nice surprise in the mailbox!  I think it’s a great opportunity to stay connected with friends and relatives particularly since we moved to another state a year ago.  I also hope to encourage the kids to make new friends by setting up a pen pal or two.  Interested?

I love writing and receiving letters.  As a child, I had pen pals all over the world (Germany, England, and the Philippines).  Sadly, we’ve lost touch.  I’ve tried to locate them via Facebook but haven’t yet had any success.  

Some of the many cards and letters I have saved over the years

I have been wanting to resume old-fashioned letter writing for some time.  In fact, I have been meaning to write my relatives in Norway for over a year!!  Yet, I never seem to do more than think about writing.  Life can be busy and often I don’t take the time to write – email makes it so much quicker but I find it much less personal and heartfelt. [Does anyone even save old emails?]  I figured this project will be a great reminder to keep writing.  

If you are interested, you can do your own project. There is no formal sign up and you don’t have to let anyone know if you are writing or not. It’s personal. I am choosing to blog about it to keep myself accountable.   If you wish, you can visit the Facebook page for the project and interact with others that are participating. Here is the link: 52 Weeks of Mail Project

52 Weeks of Mail :: Getting Started

As avid philatelists, I was excited when I learned about the 52 Weeks of Mail Challenge on the USPS Stamp of Approval blog.  I have been wanting to incorporate letter writing as a more regular part of our writing curriculum for some time now, and while the kids have been doing a fair amount, I needed a little motivation.  This is the perfect challenge! 

 Each week, our goal is to write a letter, postcard, small package, or greeting card to a friend, family member, or perhaps even a business letter.  We’ll then use an actual postage stamp – rather than a metered sticker – and drop them in the mailbox.  It will be fun to see who writes us back … to see the stamps and learn geography with the postmark. 

 The 2012-13 challenge kicks off the week of October 8th because October 9th is International Post Day. I would like to encourage everyone to share this with all of their friends by way of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, your blog, or by mail. You may even want to send a card to Grandma (or whomever), enclosing a second card with a stamped envelope, so that she can send a card to someone else! 

We would LOVE to see another THOUSAND people join us!!!  Are you in???

Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food

One of the biggest worries I had prior to our relocation last year was in finding a native speaker of Mandarin to continue my daughter’s lessons.  I posted an inquiry on the local homeschool board hoping another family could recommend someone.  My query resulted in only one option – can you feel my anxiety?

I gave him a call shortly after we moved and made arrangements to meet.  Both Patrick and I were very impressed and agreed to continue our studies with him.  Phew!  In addition, not only would Geneva be continuing her lessons (two 1 hour sessions each week) but Jeffrey would begin as well (two 30 min sessions each week).Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food @EvaVarga.net

The other major difference was that the lessons would take place in his home.  One of the greatest advantages of this is that it enabled us to take part in regular cultural lessons, specifically cooking.   Over the past few months, we have had three cooking lessons – each very different:   饺子(jiaozi),  热干面 (règānmiàn),  and  毛豆 (máodòu).

“For me, cooking is an expression of the land where you are and the culture of that place.” ~ Wolfgang Puck

Each dish has been wonderful and the kids and I have been able to recreate each a few days later to share with Dad.  It has been a delight … and a bit of surprise.  When we were reflecting upon 2011 and discussing our goals for 2012,  Jeffrey stated that his favorite food was Chinese Food (I hadn’t realized this before) and that he wants to get better at cooking.

Exploring Chinese Culture: Cooking Chinese Food @EvaVarga.net

As we have continued to learn how to prepare a variety of Chinese dishes, I have compiled the links to the recipes and lessons below for your convenience. I will continue to add to this list as we progress.


Job Skills for the Future

Over the past few months, I have been giving a lot of thought to what the job market may look like when my children are young adults.  They have been asking me a lot of questions and have even written inquiry letters to friends and/or companies in their fields of interest.  Granted, they are young yet … but I strongly believe it is never to early to begin thinking of college and the possibilities of their career options.  

Every few years it seems the job market changes and the educational market changes along with it. As the new hot career comes up, there is always a degree or program to go with it.  However, there are essential skills that every student, graduate, and job candidate needs to have to give him or her the best chance at landing a job.  This is true of homeschoolers as much as it is for those who attend traditional schools.  I have thereby gathered a list of ten must-haves every student should be thinking about during their studies.

  1. Job Experience – It doesn’t matter what sort of job you have, just have one.  Students with shining academic careers can make a good impression, but your future boss probably doesn’t want to be your first.  Even if is a minimum wage job, it can still teach you valuable skills you will need in a professional setting.  Which brings us to:
  2. Relevant Experience – If you can get a job in the industry you would like to work in while studying, do it.  Even unpaid internships can give you valuable experience as well as demonstrate how committed you are to your career.
  3. Writing – You don’t have to be an English major to need to learn how to write.  Everything from your resume to inter-office memos will be closely scrutinized for errors, so be sure you know how to communicate in written form, as well as:
  4. Verbal Communications – As a student, you enjoy the freedom to tell someone that something “sucks.”  In the world of the professional, that statement can be a land mine.  Learning to say that something “needs improvement” or has “opportunity for growth” and other white collar lingo can keep you from looking like an amateur.
  5. Public Speaking – Almost everyone hates it, but almost everyone will have to do it eventually.  Whether giving a huge presentation at work or being interviewed by a number of people, public speaking comes up more than you think it does, so grab this class or a related, such as debate or acting, to get the most out of your electives.
  6. Technology – It goes without saying that this generation of students is the most tech savvy ever.  Be sure and utilize all the technology you can while you can.  While the basics like Microsoft Office are required just about everywhere, having a knowledge of computer security, HTML, and other tech practices can truly help you stand out.
  7. Finance – You don’t necessarily have to know how to pick stocks, but you do have to know how to manage money.  Even entry level positions have to make requests to the higher ups for things like office supplies, new equipment, etc.  Having a knowledge of how much these items cost, if they are feasible, and anything related to the budget can help in any career.
  8. Criticism – Why not take a workshop type class such as creative writing to help you learn the valuable lesson of criticism?  Whether it is being heaped on you or from you, learning how to effectively criticize and be criticized can help you not only advance in a career but keep you from losing your temper if it is ever leveled at you at work.
  9. Networking – It can be a huge pain, but making the time to socialize – and not just through Facebook – can really pay off.  Not only can it introduce you to future contacts, but it can also help you make friends, connect you to people with the same interests, and prepare you for the professional world.
  10. Research – Don’t know how to do something?  You’ve probably spent lots of time on Google and other sites looking up tons of stuff.  These principles can help you in any job and/or problem within the job.  Even if it is just how to fix a broken printer, having the right research at the right time can help you stand out.

Lefse Day

Every year, we gather with our lodge family to make lefse.  It is an all-day affair.  It is a great social time, allowing everyone to chit chat as we work collaboratively.  This year, the lodge here in Northern California used 140 lbs of potatoes and we yielded 75 dozen lefse!

Lefse is a traditional soft, Norwegian flatbread. Lefse is essentially made from riced potatoes, flour, and milk or cream, and cooked on a griddle – however, the recipes vary with each family.


Growing up, lefse was prepared as a special treat for the holidays. We still make it every holiday season and prefer to eat ours with butter and cinnamon sugar. You can also spread them with jam and peanut butter, cream cheese, or nutella, or you can go the savory route and roll up your Thanksgiving Day leftovers.

Every year, Sons of Norway lodges around the country gather to make lefse for their members or for annual bake sales. My kids have always loved to help in the kitchen and have thereby made lefse since they were toddlers. My daughter has become quite adept at rolling and my son prefers to man the grilling stations.

Historically, the first lefse in Norway didn’t contain potatoes, it was made only from flour. Women would travel from house to house, village to village to make lefse to last the winter months. The flour lefse would cook up like a cracker and be able to last through the season.Many households stored their lefse is wooden boxes covered in cloth or just stacked on shelves. When you were ready to enjoy some lefse it was dipped in water and soaked between damp cloth until softened.

Potatoes were introduced some 250 years ago which were easy to grow and soon abundant. The potato was thereby  incorporated into many Norwegian foods, even lefse!

Like Ireland, Norway suffered from the effects of the potato famine in the mid-1800′s, which is about the time that many Norwegians came to the United States. They brought their knowledge and rolling pins. The result is a Norwegian potato bread delicacy that’s part of a special tradition replicated in many Norwegian-American homes for more than 150 years.

A tradition that you can be part of once again. For everything you need to know about making lefse, visit my Squidoo lens, How to Make Lefse.