So far, on this week’s math kick, we’ve looked at Algebra, variables, and constants. Today, we continue with an operation.

Turning, once again to MathIsFun.com, we find that an operation is defined as “a mathematical process,” with the most common being to multiply, divide, add, and subtract.

In our example, Y – 5 = 10, the operation is to subtract 5 from the value of Y.

The “-“, or minus sign, is an operator, which MathIsFun.com explains as “a symbol (such as +, −, ×, etc) that shows an operation.”

In our example, Y – 5 = 10, “-” is the operator, telling us that 5 is to be subtracted from the value of 5 Y.


Earlier this week, we considered tinder and kindling, stepping up the scale of combustible campfire material categories. Today, we look at the largest-sized component: fuelwood.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary quite simply defines fuelwood as “wood grown or used for fuel.” This compound word is thought to have come into use in the 14th Century.

Whereas with kindling, you are looking for twigs no larger than a pencil, with fuel wood, there isn’t an actual limit to how large a piece might be, but there are certainly practical limits. A general rule of thumb that we use in our outings is that a good size for fuel wood is about the thickness of your wrist, or, perhaps, your forearm if you’re building a larger fire. If you have pieces larger than this, they should probably be split down to a smaller size before being used to feed the fire. You’ll want your initial pieces of fuel wood to be smaller.

Where the tinder is used to alight the kindling, the kindling is used to start fuel wood on fire. Once a campfire is established, additional pieces of fuelwood can be used to sustain it.


Our math kick this week started on Monday, with Algebra, and continued yesterday, with variable. Today, we look at the constant.

MathIsFun.com informs us that, with respect to Algebra, “a constant is a number on its own, or sometimes a letter such as a, b or c to stand for a fixed number.”

In other words, it is a number whose value is known.

In our example from our post on Algebra, Y – 5 = 10, 5 and 10 are constants.

In our next post, we will finish looking at the different components of our example.


In our last outdoors post, we looked at tinder, one of a handful of components to successfully build a fire. Today, we consider kindling.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines kindling as “dry twigs, pieces of paper, etc., that burn easily and are used to start a fire.According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word came into use in the 1510s as a present participle from of “kindle,” which is said to have likely originated from Old Norse “kynda.”

From the definition is sounds like a synonym for tinder, but among those who practice the skill of fire building, it is considered one size up from tinder. Tinder is the first material to be ignited. The tinder then sets afire the kindling. Where examples of tinder might be dried grass or leaves, kindling is generally thought of as twigs – sticks no bigger around than pencil.

Going one step up the size scale of combustible materials, we find fuel wood, the subject of our next post on fire building.


Continuing on our math kick from yesterday, we’ll move on to the variable.

At MathIsFun.com, a variable is defined as “A symbol for a number we don’t know yet. It is usually a letter like x or y.”

In yesterdays example, Y – 5 = 10, Y is a variable.

In our next post, we will continue looking at the different components of our example.


This coming weekend, some members of the Family Trivium household will be going camping with a youth group, with the primary focus of the outing being to teach basic outdoor skills to the younger members of the organization. Among the skills being covered will be fire building. What’s a fall campout without a campfire?

There are a handful of components necessary to successfully build a fire. One, of them is tinder, which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “dry material (such as wood or grass) that burns easily and can be used to start a fire.” Middle English in origin, it comes from Old English “tynder,” and first known to have been used in the 12th Century.

Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite tinder is dryer lint from loads of cotton. It isn’t something found in nature, but it’s very reliable, and makes a practical use of something which would otherwise be thrown away.

For starting charcoal, Mr. Family Trivium uses newspaper. He loosely stuffs wadded-up newspaper into the bottom of a charcoal chimney before loading the top with lump charcoal for grilling, or charcoal briquettes for dutch oven cooking.

If you’re testing out your wilderness survival skills, you’ll need to scrounge up whatever you can find, Dry grass or pine needles tend to work fairly well. We’d love to hear about your favorite tinder in the comments.


Lately, we regret the marked decrease in posting at FamilyTrivium.com. A new school year is in full swing and to say that we are busy is a definite understatement.

One of the many things keeping us busy is a marked increase in homework. In particular, Algebra has been consuming what used to be abundant free time.  However, one of the Family Trivium kids hopes to be a scientist and math is must for them.

According to MathIsFun.com, Algebra is a branch of math which “uses letters (like x or y) or other symbols in place of unknown values.”

For Example:

Y – 5 = 10

If we add 5 to both sides of the eauation we can determine the value of Y:

Y – 5 + 5 = 10 + 5
Y = 15

Put simply, in Algebra, we use what we do know to help us determine what we don’t know.

Going back to how to how Family Trivium started, at the spur of the moment, future posts will likely be shorter, like this one. We do this with the hope of actually making regular posts.


Recent weather with overnight lows in the 40s signals the coming end of Summer. However, with 90s still in the forecast, we’re not quite there yet, so sweet frozen treats are still on the menu. One of out favorites is frozen custard. In our town, there have been a few places that have offered this desert, though only two, to our knowledge, still exist. Both are chains. Still, we like the stuff, but what is it?

Dictionary.com defines custard as “a dessert made of eggs, sugar, and milk, either baked, boiled, or frozen.” The word originates between 1400 and 1450 from late Middle English “crustade,” a kind of pie; from Prevencal “croustado.”

When it comes to frozen custard, Dictionary.com defines it as “a smooth-textured, soft, frozen-food product of whole milk, and sometimes cream, egg yolk, etc., sweetened and variously flavored, often served in an ice-cream cone.” We think of it as rich-tasting ice cream. Perhaps it’s the egg yolk that gives it character.

Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium prefer plain vanilla or chocolate, while the kids prefer a topping. Most recently, the favorites were M&M’s over chocolate and Nestlé Crunch over vanilla. We’d love to hear about your favorite flavors and toppings in the comments.


School is back in session, but it’s still summer and it’s still grilling season. In the Family Trivium household, this means that we’ll have hot dogs about once per week until the grill gets put away for the winter. One or twice a month, Mr. Family Trivium will be in the mood for chili dogs (hot dogs garnished with chili). Admittedly, the chili usually comes from a can as he doesn’t usually whip up homemade batches until the cold weather has arrived.

We’ve already looked at common hot dog condiments, such as ketchup and mustard, but what is chili? According to Dictionary.com, chili, referring to a chili pepper, is defined as “the pungent pod of any of several species of Capsicum, especially C. annuum longum: used in cooking for its pungent flavor.” The first known usage of the word came between 1655 and 1665, coming from Spanish “chile” and Nahuatl “chīlli.”

When we think of chili as a meal, we are really referring to what Dictionary.com calls chili con carne (Spanish for chili with meat), which is defined as “a Mexican-style dish made with chilies or chili powder, ground or diced beef, chopped onion and pepper, and usually kidney beans and tomatoes.”

In its definition for chili, Dictionary.com also indicates that the word could refer to a meatless version of chili con carne. To meat eaters, such as our family, this doesn’t sound overly appealing, unless you also take away the beans and don’t cook it – that leaves you with chopped onion, pepper, tomatoes. That sounds like salsa, which we’ll consider in a separate post.

The International Chili Society is a non-profit  organization whose rules are commonly used for chili cookoffs. They specify four types of competition chili:

  1. Tradional Red Chili
    • Defined as “any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with red chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden. No garnish is allowed.”
  2. Chili Verde
    • Defined as “any kind of meat or combination of meats, cooked with green chili peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden. No garnish is allowed.”
  3. Salsa
    • A definition is not given, but the rules state that salsa “must be homemade by the contestant whose name and ICS # appear on the Contestant Application. It may be brought to the site that day or it may be prepared at the Cookoff.”
  4. Homestyle Chili
    • Defined as “the cook’s favorite combination of ingredients resulting in a dish seasoned with chili peppers and spices.”

When it comes to chili, Mr. Family Trivium likes them all. Mrs. Family Trivium does not like any. Half of the Family Trivium kids will eat eat salsa or homestyle chili.

Mr. Family Trivium’s favorite chili dish, aside from his own homemade homestyle chili, is a traditional red or a mean green smothering a beef burrito at a good Mexican restaurant. We would love to hear about your favorite chili in the comments.

Road Trip

Recently, we had a couple of days where Mr. and Mrs. Family Trivium took turns taking a day off from work to spend with the kids before the start of another school year. It seems that we’ve all been yearning for a road trip – due to various factors, we haven’t had a real one for a couple of years.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “road trip,” coined in 1953, as “a long trip in a car, truck, etc.”

Our most recent road trip was a week-long-plus journey to, through, and from Yellowstone National Park. So far, hands-down, it has been our best family vacation. If magic is real, it certainly exists in Yellowstone. Perhaps it was this wonderful experience that has us wanting to hop in the family car and head for the mountains.

Not only can a trip through a place like Yellowstone be soul stirring, it can also be quite a learning experience as the Family Trivium kids found while completing the Junior Ranger program. This trip changed us in ways that can’t be put into words. To know it, it must be experienced.

Since Yellowstone, we’ve certainly had other, shorter drives of a few hours to visit family and to accomplish tasks not possible to do at home, but none of these were particularly life-changing (no offense Aunt Jane). We’ve had our share of out-of-town weddings where our budget ruled out four plane tickets, so we packed up the family car and took an extra day or two to take in diversions while on the road. Watching good friends take the vows and celebrate,  these trips ended up being quite fun, but a vacation with firm appointments and formal clothes is no where near as relaxing as one spent taking in the beauty of nature at your own pace in a fleece, wool socks and hiking boots or, perhaps later the same day, shorts and sandals.

On our recent days off, we had no grand adventures, but we did get out to local parks and nature preserves to take in some beautiful weather, reconnect with nature, and learn a thing or two.

Please let us know about your favorite road trip in the comments.