Wednesday, August 15, 2018

In Honour of National Thrift Shop Day: This fall's clothes page

August 17th is National Thrift Shop Day!

I felt like I was planning in circles this time around. I like "dressing up" clothes, but my lifestyle is casual, and often dusty-sweaty (like unloading donated boxes of books). Those realit ies don't always blend so well in a small wardrobe. I tried making a capsule-within-a-capsule of jeans and t-shirts, but in the end it was easier to list everything together. Some things cross back and forth anyway. I tried a few other approaches, but they were all making me unhappy about what wasn't going to make the cut. Besides that, my half of the shared closet was very messy, and I couldn't figure out why. I don't have forgotten clothes from years ago, or impulse buys with tags still on them. But I pulled everything out just the same, and started re-hanging the definite keepers.

The answer to the second problem turned out to be the same as the first. I needed more hangers. Not for the closet, because, it turned out, I had just enough space and just enough hangers to hang up everything that didn't fit in the dresser (see below), minus a few also-rans that are heading back to the thrift store. The real roadblock to my sartorial serenity was a laundry issue.

I do a lot of air-drying over the bathroom shower rod. On hangers, which have to be filched from the closet, which causes shortages and therefore clothes doubled up and hard to see. A-ha moment there: I need to buy some extra hangers just for laundry use, and I also need to not stuff the now-dry tops into the closet where they cause traffic jams.
As for the first problem: I renewed my vows to KonMari, and folded all my t-shirts into one drawer, from tanks to pullovers. I  folded heavy winter things into another drawer, along with the jeans I wear the most. 
Second a-ha moment: what did fit into those spaces is now my working wardrobe until whenever. I suddenly did not have to choose between this thing and that thing just because it wasn't in the plan. I could keep my dressy pants, my worn-but-comfortable sweatshirt dress, and all my purple t-shirts. I stopped being unhappy. 

See?

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Fall greys and Gathie Falk

I'm trying to use what I have to put together a fall wardrobe; but sometimes you need to buy things to fill in gaps. I do have a very warm grey cardigan from last winter, but this acrylic one isn't quite as heavy, and it has interesting side cutouts (less material to bunch up).
Another good basic: a grey cotton pullover.
Some recent book finds. Gathie Falk is a Canadian artist, and this is a nice coffee-table-type book about her and her work. Patches of Godlight is a Jan Karon Mitford go-with that I rarely see. The third book, The Violence of Organized Forgetting, got mixed reviews from readers, but I am going to check it out anyway.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

From the archives: "Ask me, ask me": Teaching in the C.M. Classroom

First posted February 2013

"Conference Lessons, Class II," by K.M. Claxton, Parents' Review Volume 26, no. 8, August 1915, pgs. 569-573

Charlotte Mason's form of education is often seen, in fact promoted, as simple, natural, and relaxed.  At one time it was misunderstood by many homeschoolers to be just one step short of unschooling.  In some ways, the "simple and relaxed" idea is quite true.  It definitely takes the pressure off a teacher to understand that the act of learning has to happen in the child's mind; that education is not all about detailed lesson plans and clever activities.  It takes some pressure off the children to realize that they're not expected to complete pages of busywork, and that they're being asked to tell back what they understood from a reading, not answer a slew of questions.

However, there's another side to CM-style lessons that we, being mostly limited to hundred-year-old written descriptions of the curriculum and classes, can sometimes miss.  I haven't yet seen the DVDs of CM teacher Eve Anderson, and the link to the Perimeter Schools site that was offering them seems to be non-functional, so I guess I won't be seeing them anytime soon either.  But from what I've heard, her presentation, for instance, of a Picture Study lesson on Vermeer, was something of a surprise:  CM homeschoolers have commented on how much she talked before she let the children look at the picture. [2018 Update: I have watched the DVD series now, and they did stretch my understanding of how a class session could work.]

This lines up quite well with K.M. Claxton's description of what she called a "Picture Talk" lesson, given in 1915 to a demonstration class of 17 (!) children ages 8 to 11 (see the link at the top of this post).  The term's painter was Raphael, and the painting was "The Miraculous Draught of Fishes."

First off, she asked what the children already knew about Raphael (they had already started their term's work so would have done at least a couple of art lessons.)
Second, she told them a story about the history of the painting.  (The story as told in this online book may be closer to the way that Miss Claxton told it.)
Third, she read them the story about the fishes, from the Gospel of St. Luke.
THEN, only then, the children studied the painting and described it.
Miss Claxton gave "a few appreciative words" about the painting.
Finally, the children drew "the chief lines of the composition."

This pattern of asking, and then presenting a bit of something to get the students interested in the lesson, seems a lot to ask of a homeschool parent who might have several children doing different lessons, who might not have read all the books ahead of time, and who and might or might not have any idea herself about the history of any particular Raphael painting; but it seems also to be, unfortunately, the way the Parents' Union School did things.  We can't cross it out just because it is more work for us or because we don't like it.  The original Programmes don't specify or explain much about this, they just give book titles and page counts; but considering that we have seen both a "live" example (Eve Anderson) and written examples (e.g. Miss Claxton), it seems that if we don't present at least some of our lessons in this way, our students will be missing out.  Note the difference here, though, between what Charlotte Mason called "getting up a lesson," meaning that the teacher was the lecturer for the whole lesson, and these outlines, which do require some preparation or a bit of research ahead of time, but which are still book-centered.

Here are more examples from the morning that Miss Claxton spent with these 17 youngsters, none of whom she had ever seen or taught before:

In Natural History, the term's book was Life and Her Children, by Arabella Buckley(Full text available here.)  
The asking: The children told her what insects they were studying, gave her some examples, and told her the four stages in the life cycle of these insects.  She told them that today they would be learning about different kinds of Two-Winged Insects or "Flies," and asked the children to name the kinds of flies that they knew.
The hook:  Miss Claxton had (bravely, we think) toted along two daddy-long-legs in a jar, and had the children look at some details of their anatomy.
The reading, starting on page 262 (sounds like the children read):  

These "balancers" tell us that the two-winged flies, the gnats, mosquitoes, midges, bluebottles, house-flies, and cattle-flies, are not made on a different plan from the four-winged insects, but are merely flies whose hind wings have lost their size and power, while the front ones have become stronger and larger. This has evidently been no disadvantage in their case, for they have flourished well in the world, and myriads are to be found in every town and country, while their different ways of living are almost as various as there are kinds of fly. Some, such as the daddy-long-legs, suck the juices of plants, some suck animal blood, some live on decaying matter ; while in not a few cases, as among the gadflies, the father is a peaceable sucker of honey while the mother is bloodthirsty.

Among the gnats and mosquitoes the father dies so soon that he does not feed at all, while the mother has a mouth made of sharp lancets, with which she pierces the skin of her victim and then sucks up the juices through the lips. Among the botflies, however, which are so much dreaded by horses and cattle, it is not with the mouth in feeding that the wound is made. In this case the mother has a scaly pointed instrument in the tail,"" which she thrusts into the flesh of the animal so as to lay her eggs beneath its skin, where the young grub feeds and undergoes its change into a fly.

For we must remember that every fly we see has had its young maggot life and its time of rest. Our common house-fly was hatched in a dust heap or a dung heap, or among decaying vegetables, and fed in early life on far less tasty food than it finds in our houses. The bluebottle was hatched in a piece of meat, and fed there as a grub ; and the gadfly began its life inside a horse, its careful mother having placed her eggs on some part of the horse's body which he was sure to lick and so to carry the young grub to its natural warm home. 
 At this point they narrated what had been read so far.  Miss Claxton showed them drawings of the life cycle of the gnat.  They were allowed to examine these and discuss them.

Then two children read this section out loud:  

But of all early lives that of the gnat is probably the most romantic, and certainly more pleasant than those of most flies. When the mother is ready to lay her eggs she flies to the nearest quiet water, and there, collecting the eggs together with her long hind legs, glues them into a little boat-shaped mass and leaves them to float. In a very short time the eggs are hatched and the young grubs swim briskly about, whirling round some tufts of hair which grow on their mouths, and so driving microscopic animals and plants down their throats. Curiously enough they all swim head downwards and tail upwards (g, Fig. 90), and the secret of this is that they are air-breathing animals and have a small tube at the end of their tail, which they thrust above water to take in air.

This goes on for about a fortnight, when, after they have changed their skins three times, they are ready to remodel their bodies. Then on casting their skin for the fourth time they come out shorter and bent and swathed up, but still able to swim about though not to eat. Meanwhile a most curious change has taken place. The tail tube has gone, and two little tubes (p t, Fig. 90) have grown on the top of the back, and through them the tiny pupa now draws in its breath as it wanders along. At last the time comes for the gnat to come forth, and the pupa stretches itself out near the top of the water, with its shoulders a little raised out of it. Then the skin begins to split, and the true head of the gnat appears and gradually rises, drawing up the body out of its case. This is a moment of extreme danger, for if the boat-like skin were to tip over it would carry the gnat with it, and in this way hundreds are drowned but if the gnat can draw out its legs in safety the danger is over. Leaning down to the water he rests his tiny feet upon it, unfolds and dries his beautiful scale-covered wings, and flies away in safety.
Finally Miss Claxton showed them some empty pupa cases, and asked them to narrate the life-history of the gnat, which they did.  They all promised to go out and look for gnat eggs and larvae.

The world history lesson that Miss Claxton taught was based on two chapters of The Awakening of Europe, one of the Story of the World volumes by M.B. Synge.  I won't go over all the things she asked them (you can read the article yourself), but she did have a few questions about what they already knew.  She described one of the main characters and showed them a portrait.  I think because it was a one-shot class, she decided to read to them first from Chapter 1, and had them narrate.  Then she showed them a map (drawn on the blackboard) with certain towns marked, and as well as pointing them out, she mentioned which ones had been in the news recently (this was during World War I).  Then she read them the later chapter on "The Siege of Leyden" and possibly a bit from the next chapter (it's not quite clear where she stopped.)  The lesson finished with another narration.

The pattern begins to appear, and you know, it's something that's not all that hard for us in the 21st century to copy--easier, in some ways.  I don't have to fill up boxes of clipped pictures, or spend that time hand-drawing a map. At the click of the keyboard, I can access the portrait of a king, the map of a battle site, or the photograph (if I can't find the real thing) of a gnat pupa.  Do you notice how relatively short the readings are, too?  This is not onerous study.  And we all know that a lesson should be narrated, right?  However, it does seem also to be expected that the children are going to be able to tell you the what's and who's of what they've learned previously, and I think sometimes we, the parent-teachers, might slip back in that area.  It's okay to ask them.  Miss Claxton said so.

(It's also interesting to compare Miss Claxton's notes with those of another teacher using different chapters, same books.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Laugh for the day: How did she get them rings?

Daisy Moses (Granny): Them red diamonds are purty.
Jewelry Salesman: These are rubies.
Daisy Moses: Well, ask her if she wants to sell one.
Jewelry Salesman: Madam, the ruby I'm referring to is not a lady.
Daisy Moses: How she got them rings is her own business.

Beverly Hillbillies, "The Girl From Home," 1964

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Quote for the day: When insight is the harder task

"There is nothing abstract, or even subtle, about what happens when the writer attempts to apply a prejudice where only an insight will do.

"Proceeding blindly toward his preconceived conclusions, he asks his character (whether real or imaginary) the wrong questions: compounding the error, he twists the answer to make it match what he would prefer to hear. His goal immutably fixed in his mind, he ignores clues that would lead him to the unacceptable truth.

"The stories the young writer produces in such ecstasies of self-assurance are as unpalatable as green persimmons."  ~~ Jon Franklin, Writing for Story

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter goes back-to-school shopping

I don't shop at the uptown consignment store very often, mostly because I'm not often in that part of town. But every August they have a half-price sale, and that's when I do go and see if I can match up anything on my fall wish/needs list. Half-price on consignment-store prices makes things just a bit more than they would be at the thrift store, and I can live with that.

Actually there isn't much I'm looking for right now. I would like a t-shirt-style dress, but haven't been able to find one that isn't too small, or too big, or that doesn't have cutout shoulders, or that isn't camo-print. I was thinking about replacing my blue jeans (thrifted two years ago), and/or about finding some non-jean pants that are a bit dressier but not too much so. I also want to replace a worn-out grey t-shirt.

Results of the consignment store trip:

One grey t-shirt, which I ended up giving to Lydia. I'll find another one.

One pair of "dressy sweat pants," exactly what I was looking for. They are polyester, not  a trendier fabric like modal or bamboo, but they have the same nice feel.
One taupe sweater, knit from ribbon yarn, so it's very lightweight. This (obviously) wasn't on my list, but it was a good find anyway, and it even goes with the navy pants. The wide waistband looks it would be like a bad choice for short people, but I like it anyway.
It's also a good match for this scarf, which came from the antiques market but which I'm pretty sure isn't an antique.
I didn't find a dress, but I am still a happy shopper.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Quote for the day: There is no magic pill

"People who are anxious, confused, and looking for answers are quick to search for solutions in the pages of books or on the Internet, looking for that 'killer app' that will make everything right again. The Rule [of St. Benedict] tells us: No, it's not like that. You can achieve the peace and order you seek only by making a place within your heart and within your daily life for the grace of God to take root. Divine grace is freely given, but God will not force us to receive it. It takes constant effort on our part to get out of God's way and let His grace heal us and change us. To this end, what we think does not matter as much as what we do--and how faithfully we do it." ~~ Rod Dreher, The Benedict Option

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Quote for the day: What trees really want

"They wait.
They have no fear. Their fate
Is faith. Birdsong
Is all they've wanted, all along."  
~~ from 1991 #8 in This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, by Wendell Berry

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Comings and goings

The packing-travelling-unpacking process this month stirred up my less-is-more instincts, and I wound up taking a bunch of stuff to the thrift store. It's kind of weird shopping there and walking past your own clothes. (I didn't buy any back this time, though.) I think that this fall my closet is going to be leaner/meaner than in the past couple of years. Space is good.

Between a Salvation Army stop last night, and my volunteering morning today,  I did add a couple of new things that were calling my name.
Viscose top in my favourite shade of purple
Blue unlined blazer...it feels like linen, but the fabric tag was snipped out, so maybe it's a cotton blend.
And something to read.

An Infrequent Traveller: Musings on getting around

I have made exactly four sets of airplane trips in my adult life: that is, four trips somewhere and four trips back. Across that decade, several things have changed, and maybe they're more noticeable to an Infrequent Traveller.

Strangely enough, I think airport lineups are getting better. Maybe it was a fluke, but it seemed to me that even the dreaded security and customs lines at Pearson (Toronto) moved quicker and smoother than they did in the past. Is it because passengers are now so familiar with taking shoes off and showing liquids, that things flow better? Or are the agents just moving them through better?

Where I did notice a hangup, more than once, was with the greater number of people bringing carry-on bags, some of those possibly over the size limit, aboard relatively small airplanes. These planes have three seats on the left and two seats on the right, and the overhead compartments are correspondingly deeper on the left. Passengers were having a terrible time finding places for their bags, especially on the smaller side. The airline is obviously aware of this problem, because they were asking for volunteers to check their bags (for free). On the return trip, I took them up on it, because I had a connecting flight with little extra time, and I was happy to have one less thing to trundle through the airport and fight for space with on the plane. (And my carry-on did get to Toronto with no problems.)

Airport food is horrendously expensive, even at the grab-and-go booths. Sometimes you are just stuck with it, so be prepared. But even short flights usually offer free drinks and snacks, so it's not worth paying for airport coffee or pop or bottled water if you're boarding soon anyway. I did buy a sandwich during one stopover, and a fruit salad while running through the Atlanta airport, see above.

It is definitely an advantage these days to have a computer, phone, or other device to keep you current on check-ins and changes. It's also a good idea to have a plan for accessing airport Wifi, if (like me) your life doesn't run with a phone. I put a shortcut to a site called Boingo on my home screen, which helps access public Wifi that doesn't just pop up automatically.

The biggest change, I think though, was not in the physical or digital navigation of things, but in my own perceptions, and the fact that (even being very Infrequent) I don't get mixed up as much anymore. The first time I ever came back through Toronto, I got hopelessly lost trying to find the shuttle van home. Turned out I was on the wrong floor of the terminal. Now I'm not even sure how I could have done that, because the van counter isn't that hard to find. But I was the kid who got lost coming back from the bathroom on the first day of school, so anything's possible. Moral of the story here: you're not stupid if you get mixed up in a new place; and after two or three times, you are going to feel, if not exactly at home, at least a little more in control.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: reading writing before writing

My spring-term course has wound up, and I now have the rest of the summer to work on writing projects.

But I need help and inspiration, so I brought some home.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne and Dave King
The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time, by David L. Ulin
Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by a Two-Time Pulitzer Prize Winner, by Jon Franklin

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Quote for the day: Perhaps this is the answer to everything.

"Captain Sisko (voiceover): Captain's log, stardate 50929.4. Two days ago, this station felt like a tomb. I'd never seen so many of my crew depressed at the same time. But for some reason, it now seems as though a new spirit has swept through the station, as if someone had opened a door and let a gust of fresh air blow through a musty old house. Why this is happening, frankly, is a mystery to me. After all, nothing has really changed. The Dominion is still a threat, the Cardassians are still threatening to retake the station, and I can still see the clouds of war gathering on the horizon. So why do I sense a newfound sense of optimism in the air? But maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe the real explanation is as simple as something my father taught me a long time ago: even in the darkest moments, you can always find something that'll make you smile."
(Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "In the Cards")

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quote for the day: Just human beings

"By thinking of myself as just another human being, my perspective of others has also changed...I can now meet people who own a lot of things or are blessed with enormous talent without feeling embarrassed about myself...Rich or poor, famous or ordinary, we're all just human beings who come into contact with one another." ~~ Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye, Things

Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Six: In the end

I tried the backpack, etc., and settled for the good old tote bag. I don't know why I was having such a hard time making it work before. Case of nerves?

All set to go and spend time with friends I haven't seen in much too long.

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Five: Sort of a 10 x 10 Challenge

In a 10 x 10 Challenge, you're supposed to have only ten clothing items for ten days. But The Vivienne Files website sometimes does a mini-wardrobe called Whatever's Clean 13. That's what this is, except that I have only twelve items. If I could fit in a thirteenth, and if it was going to be cold at all, I'd take a lightweight pullover sweater. But it is not likely to be cold on this trip, unless I get into arctic-level air conditioning. Well, maybe the pullover's not such a bad idea.

(Almost all the clothes came from the thrift store.)

Clothing items:

Grey cardigan (for cold airplanes)
Raspberry button--up shirt

Blue linen t-shirt
Violet cotton t-shirt
White t-shirt with silver dots
White lace top (the two white tops can be worn together)
Long navy t-shirt
Long pink tank top

Grey jeans
Navy cropped pants
Navy shorts
Navy print maxi dress, worn as skirt

(Pullover)

Outfits:

1. Grey cardigan, grey jeans, blue t-shirt
2. Navy shorts, blue t-shirt, scarf
3. Navy shorts (or cropped pants), violet t-shirt, necklace, hat
4. Navy print dress/skirt, violet t-shirt, necklaces
5. Navy print dress/skirt, white tops, necklaces
6. Navy cropped pants, white tops, hat, scarf
7. Navy cropped pants, navy t-shirt, raspberry shirt
8. Navy shorts, navy t-shirt, raspberry shirt
9. Navy cropped pants (or shorts), white t-shirt, circle scarf worn as shawl

10. (No photo) Navy pants, blue t-shirt
11. (No photo) Bonus outfits: any top plus grey jeans

(That's more outfits than days than I'm gone, but that's fine.)

Is decluttering only for the wealthy? (How to be a better materialist)

Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker recently linked to a Wall Street Journal article about Baby Boomers downsizing. The story seemed to be aimed at upscale readers whose biggest downsizing headache is selling off their art collections.

On the other end of the scale is this blog post at This Simple Balance8 Tips for Decluttering on a Low Income (from a mom who's been there). This writer points out the difficulty of asking "Does this bring joy?" when the bigger concerns are "Is this still functional?" and "What if we can't afford another one?"

Our family lived on one income for a long time, and then on even less as we moved to self-employment. We did go through tight-budget, don't-say-no-to-anything times, especially when the kids were young and seemed to need different-sized shoes and clothes every time we turned around.

And even that, compared to serious poverty in this country and overseas, was really nothing. We still had lots of clutter and overload, partly because we got too good at scrounging, and partly because we figured we would eventually find uses for stored stuff. (Often we did.) We were also holding on to many childhood and family items.

So are minimalism and decluttering only options for those who don't have to get anxious about living with less, or about giving away possibly useful things?

I agree with This Simple Balance that some minimalist maxims and strategies work better for those who have more choices. But everybody needs a little of what Amy Dacyczyn calls "margin": clear spaces around things and events, so that we appreciate them properly.  And we may actually benefit when we use our imaginations to repurpose things, or our generosity to share them.

Many of us have stories of our children, or ourselves as children, cherishing one toy, or improvising playthings. When our oldest was a toddler, she used a kitchen chair as her toy stove, with a few yard-saled toy pots. A few years later, we found a large plastic "play kitchen" on Kijiji for her younger sister. Yes, they played with it, but it was an eyesore in the room, and it was always a mess. Then there was even more stress when they outgrew the thing and we suggested passing it on. That would never have happened with a kitchen chair, right?

We also need to claim the right to say "enough," no matter what our income. Someday, sooner or later, the whole economy could change so that we can no longer easily access consumer goods. We might be trading chicken eggs for plumbing work, and making over old clothes because we can't get new ones.  But even then, we have the right to live with, use, and enjoy just enough, and to say no to whatever multiplicity we're stepping on and tripping over. We should feel free to be That Family or That Person, the ones who always sing the same songs, play the same card game after meals, or stop at the same deli on weekends. Maybe your grandchildren will remember your one and only cookie recipe, or your beat-up hat. Call those things quirks, call them traditions, call them your signature item; but don't call them bad things. The author of Affluenza says that if we were a truly materialist (vs. consumerist) culture, we would resist buying new old couches and coats, because we're so fond of the ones we have.

For a few of us, choosing to live with less may start with trimming down the artwork. For others, it's cleaning out the basement once and for all. But the key seems to be, not idolizing, but learning to cherish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

An Infrequent Traveller, Part Four: I bought a suitcase

Things turned out totally different from the way I expected, so this is a totally different post than the one I first planned. 

I messed around a bit yesterday, stuffing things in and pulling them out of backpacks and shoulder bags. The circumstances of this holiday are such that I will probably be living out of those bags (vs. unpacking).  I have made a similar trip with just a shoulder bag and a purse, but that time I was counting on drawer and closet space, so I could cram everything supertight. So my problem amounted to this: I could get everything in, but could I get it all comfortably out, and in and out and in and out?

I went with Mr. Fixit to the usual Monday night Cruise Night, which (if you don't know) is also my chance to check out the Salvation Army thrift store. I headed for the luggage corner, and they had two nice carry-on bags for the equivalent of US$10. The bags were the same except for colour, so I picked the red one.
I feel like I have finally joined this century. I too can now pull out a handle and wheel my bag around.

And everything fits.
As a personal item, I am going back and forth between the satchel and backpack (see previous posts). Or the freebie law bag, because, pretty as the satchel is, it doesn't have a shoulder strap. The backpack...I'm worried that it might not be counted as an okay personal item (vs. baggage). Well, I still have a couple of days to figure it out.