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    Seven Quick Takes on 60th Anniversaries, Free Audio, New Couches, and More!

    May 1, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    Seven Quick Takes

    :: 1 ::

    Happy Couple

    the happy couple shortly before they married

    Saturday was my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary party. It was so much fun, looking at old photos of them from across the years. My father made the astounding revelation that he had known them for 45 years, and been their son-in-law for 43 of them, and my mind almost couldn’t fathom that he met them when they were my age. It reminded me of that moment in Understood Betsy when Betsy realizes the desks in her schoolroom were once occupied by the aged people in her life.

    Wasn’t my grandmother gorgeous?


    :: 2 ::

    60th anniversary cake 1I was privileged to make their cake for the party. This was possibly the most fun I’ve ever had making a cake. To be honest, I really like making cakes for adults so that I can focus on gorgeous rather than fun. I’ll give a quick tutorial, for those of you who relish that sort of thing.

    It’s a simple cake, really. I smoothed the sides and then piled the rosettes high on top — layering the rosettes to give it more of a bouquet feel than the standard look of even coverage.

    After that, I added all the goodies to really make it pop. First, before the frosting was dry, I added a rhinestone belt around the bottom. I loved the sleek look when compared with my usual approach of a flowery frosting border.

    Of course a 60th anniversary cake isn’t complete without sparkly numbers on top, and I loved the unobtrusive size of this particular one I chose. I always decorate my cakes the day before the event. Among other things, the frosting has time to set. Once it hardened up, I was able to add the finishing touch: sugar diamonds. I put two or three into each rosette and it just added that little bit of sparkle that seemed important for a diamond anniversary. You have to be careful with these; if they touch moisture, they can turn white. On top of hardened frosting, they were just perfect!


    :: 3 ::

    Pam’s been doing an audio series on homeschool methods. I was able to represent the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and the recording just went live today. Head on over and check it out!



    :: 4 ::

    This week’s links collection:


    :: 5 ::

    old couch

    my threadbare couch

    Next week is our fourteenth anniversary. Yes, it’s marriage’s acne-ridden awkward stage. 😉 To celebrate, we purchased a couch set. For those of you who already have a couch set, this might seem like nothing, but to us, this is huge. When we first married, Siah’s father gave us his couches, because he was buying new ones. Possibly, they were already ten years old. I liked them a lot, but sometime after our tenth anniversary, they started coming apart at the seams. Literally. I saved for a while, and when I had $500, I bought a couch set on Craigslist because it was all I could afford, I liked the look, and our current couch was almost unfit for a college dorm room {which, incidentally, is where it went to live when it left us}. Purchasing these was probably a mistake. They were microfiber, and quickly became no-fiber, which is something I don’t generally recommend in a couch. They did not hold up at all to four children. Do you see the gray areas? That is where there is no fiber left and we were sitting on something that seemed like plastic that was what the microfiber was supposed to hold onto.


    I scrimped and saved for a long time. I was doing pretty well at this until last fall when the Suburban’s brakes caught on fire in the mountains and our Emergency Fund hadn’t yet recovered from the spring’s obligatory transmission replacement and so I had to use a portion of my couch money to help pay for the brakes.

    That was depressing.

    But enough of my sob story. My extended family knew I wanted a couch, and so for my birthday and Christmas, people kept giving me cash. I saved up every single fifty dollar bill. This was serious business.

    new couch

    my new couch!

    In March, I had enough to go shopping and figure out what I wanted to buy {a Chesterfield, of course, but which one was the question}. It wasn’t enough to purchase, but it was enough to make a decision and find out how much more I needed to save. That was when Siah surprised me by telling me that he had saved a little money himself and was going to pay the difference.


    So we ordered a couch. Friend R. had to help me pick the colors because I am incompetent like that. I paid her in Starbucks, and we made a fun morning of it.

    And this week, just days before our actual anniversary, it arrived!

    It looked like this photo on the right for approximately thirty seconds, and then the children covered it in books.


    :: 6 ::

    Here’s a new feature for Seven Quick Takes that I plan to do off and on.  I call it “This Month in [year whatever].” So, for example, this one would be called “This Month in 2008” and I’ll link to a post I wrote in April of that year. It’s been fun for me to look back and see how far we’ve come in the almost ten years I’ve been writing this blog. In 2008, I was pregnant with Son O., Daughter Q. was just a baby, Daughter A. was newly three, and E-Age-Twelve was finishing up his kindergarten year.

    This particular post, interestingly enough, is still true. We still try not to travel, and I have even more stories I could tell than were included in that post {please see “brakes fire” above}.

    So here it is…

    This month in 2008: We Don’t Travel


    :: 7 ::

    Answering Your Questions:

    • Question:  I am really interested in what you’ll do with science. I am confused as to whether to follow AO’s science suggestions or to use Apologia’s General Science.
      • Answer: I will try to blog about this sometime in the future when I do planning posts, but I just wanted to briefly say that we began AmblesideOnline’s new living science this year for Year Seven and I am very, very pleased with it. The books cultivated a whole new level of interest in science for my son, and he has spent a lot of his own time thinking and researching a number of the topics that were covered this year. That alone is reason enough for me to continue it. I do have some questions in regard to using it for high school credit, but I think it is very possible. I am not very good at doing labs, so my current plan for high school involves buying a local lab class to supplement the AO curriculum, rather than planning to do them myself.


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  • Reply Heather May 13, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for answering my question about AO’s science curriculum! I didn’t realize your eldest has been in Year 7 this past year, and so your answer was even more helpful since you’ve actually tried Year 7’s science curriculum. I, too, struggle with getting experiments done with him and am looking for an outside class or perhaps even an online course to help us follow through more on those. I’m grateful, Brandy, for your insight!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 13, 2015 at 11:08 am

      I have heard of some people doing labs through YouTube? I would probably have checked more into that had I not found a local lab that I could buy from…

      • Reply Heather May 15, 2015 at 3:02 am

        That’s a great idea! I will be sure to check that out. It would certainly be a cheaper alternative to a class. Thanks!

  • Reply Heather May 2, 2015 at 4:02 am

    Your cakes always look amazing, but this one looks elegant too.
    And may I say, Yay!!!!! on finally finding a new couch for you.
    Canadians, older ones, often call any sofa or couch a Chesterfield.
    I didn’t realize it was an actually brand or type.

    We need a new couch too, we just haven’t made it a priority, but we have gone looking a couple of times.
    Please post a real photo of it covered in books, the way a properly loved couch should look. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 2, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Really? Language is so interesting! Here, Chesterfield is a the type of couch/sofa that has the tufting and the rolled, lower top. I think the maker called the style Monte Carlo…

      I will try to post a photo. I don’t really have an efficient way to do photos; that is one my mother took and sent to me, I think… 🙂

  • Reply Julie Z May 1, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    Do you have any idea when they may have revised plans for Year 8 Science done? I am so hoping it is by this year! Any word?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 6:51 pm

      It should be ready, yes! It is being reviewed by the Advisory now, so I am hoping it’ll be soon. 🙂

  • Reply Chrissy May 1, 2015 at 9:29 am

    In regards to #7 I feel that the new AO science is fantastic! The adventures with a microscope will be more then enough lab work. I wondered the same thing being from a science background (BSC in biology and former science teacher in ps). They are get further away from experiments in schools as well.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Okay, this makes me feel good, to hear this from a biology major and former science teacher! I took labs in high school, but I don’t really remember them beyond the social part of having a lab partner! So I really couldn’t mentally compare it! So thank you SO MUCH for saying this. On the one hand, this is my ideal way to do science. It would have been way more effective for me to study this way than to do what I did in school. BUT I don’t want to accidentally close doors for his future, especially if he wants a job that requires a college degree, if that makes sense. So to hear you say that it is equivalent in your opinion is immensely encouraging!

  • Reply May 1, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Hi Brandy,
    I agree with the article you linked to regarding fantasy films. From personal experience I know that the visual has so much power. Once you see a screen version of a book, how hard it is to forget those images and return to your own mind’s eye pictures! And how sad to lose those! I am not anti-movie, but as far as a book adaptations go I think they need to be chosen carefully. It would be a shame to have all of our kids’ pictures of Narnia be exactly the same! I guess I am feeling very protective of my own ideas and my own mind these days; with all of the changes around us in our culture, it seems everyone wants to tell us what to believe and think and I guess I see this as an attempted theft of my creative mind.

    Take care,

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 10:37 am

      This makes perfect sense, Kelly! I was thinking about this in regard to The Lord of the Rings movies. I’m reading The Two Towers aloud to the children right now, and all the voices in my head are now from the movie. Last time I read it aloud, I hadn’t seen the movie yet, and it was different. It makes me hesitant to let them ever seen them! 🙁

      • Reply May 1, 2015 at 11:39 am

        If it makes you feel less alone, I plan to keep my kids from seeing Narnia or LOTR movies and perhaps some other book adaptations, if I can. Not because they are bad, but to help them hang on to their own ideas!

        God bless you, Brandy!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 12:15 pm

          ♥ 🙂

  • Reply Lauren May 1, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Brandy, can you please tell me more about your couch? What colors did you choose? We are in the market for a new couch and I have been overwhelmed with all the choices. I would like a pretty one that will hold up to all these kids! 🙂 We have never purchased a new couch before either. Our first couch was given to us since the previous owners were redecorating. And, our current couch I purchased at a ghetto Salvation Army for $35. Score! Except after seven years it is getting holes.

    Anyway, how did you choose the one you purchased?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

      Okay, $35 at Salvation Army?? That is incredible!!

      My love affair with this particular couch began last February. My husband took me to Ventura Beach for Valentine’s Day, and I saw it in one of the furniture shops downtown. I adored it, but when I asked what it would cost to ship to where we live, it was $400. That was just so much, and I think they only meant one couch, when really I needed a set. I had snapped a photo of it, though, and someone — my dad, I think — told me they had seen something similar at a local furniture. Lo and behold! It was the same couch, made by Alexander out of LA. Now Alexander is amazing because when you go in they hand you piles and piles of fabric because they don’t make the couch until you order it. You get to choose everything from the nailhead to the pillow fabric — the works!

      It was fun, but I was overwhelmed, hence bringing Friend R., who has a much better eye for color than I do anyhow. What I tried to keep in mind was {1} not too light and {2} not a solid color. These two things seem to hide dirt on a couch they way they do on carpet. With the pillows, then, we chose what we thought matched the upholstery fabric best, as well as not clashing with a giant painting I have hanging over the fireplace.

      My personal opinion is to take a talented friend with you! It was the best decision I made. 🙂

  • Reply dawn May 1, 2015 at 3:50 am

    The cake is just stunning. I was wondering when you’d post the “after” … I like the subtlety of the diamond anniversary 🙂

    Congrats on the couch 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Thank you and thank you. 🙂

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 1, 2015 at 3:42 am

    A 60 year anniversary…that is awesome! And the cake is absolutely beautiful! Remind me to call you when we celebrate our 20th anniversary so you can make our cake. 😉

    We bought our first couch several years ago and I know what you mean about that being a big thing. We’d always had hand me downs or bought used and so to actually buy our first brand new couch was a big deal. 🙂 I’m not for sure what type of couch it is, but I was thinking it’s something like microfiber. It’s held up well overall; but it’s harder to clean. We’re getting ready to buy either a new couch set or a love seat and we are NOT buying the same kind. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 10:47 am

      Hard to clean…that sounds like microfiber! It is hard to say no to microfiber at the store because it is so soft and pretty in the beginning, hm? 🙂

      • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 1, 2015 at 10:57 am

        Right. Then you get it home and find that even trying to dust crumbs off the cushions isn’t easy! LOL

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 1, 2015 at 11:14 am

          Sadly, I know exactly what you mean. 🙂

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