Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Home Away from Home

Note from Mama Squirrel: I will be away from the Treehouse and will have limited computer access for the next few days. If I don't respond to a comment or visit you back, that's why.
Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "First things first...there will not be a Hodgepodge next week because whoohoo! I'm moving! It's only been 13+ months since we got started, but it looks like moving day is finally here. I will do my best to post a Hodgepodge the week after, but that may be dependent on the Internet fairies. I will post something so you'll know, but for now plan on no Hodgepodge Wednesday Nov 2nd, hopefully a Hodgepodge on Nov. 9th, and definitely a Hodgepodge on Nov. 16th. This week though, there is a Hodgepodge and here are the questions. Answer on your own blog, then hop back here tomorrow to share answers with all your friends and neighbors."

1. Besides your very own house, describe a place where you feel most 'at home'? 

I had a strange experience years ago (maybe harking back to last week's question about the sixth sense). One summer during university, I took a job at a camp just outside of the town where I grew up. I had actually started the summer working at a different job, but left it to take the camp job. I got up early on one of the first mornings I was there, and was just enjoying being outdoors wearing shorts, and not in an office wearing pantyhose, and I had a sense of being where I was supposed to be, of feeling at home. Soon afterwards I was talking to my grandmother, and she said that the land now owned by the camp was part of the farm where she lived as a young child. Maybe it was just a coincidence, and anyone would have felt equally happy to be out there in the country on a summer morning. But I've always thought there was something more to it than that.

2. When did you last 'hit a home run' with something? Explain. 

Big things, small things? I think the last big thing was the conference talk I gave in Texas, that seemed to just grow until it was done. Right now I am finishing up the final wording of a shorter talk, on a topic that I know more about, that should have been easier to put together; but with this one it's felt more like a few pop flies and then a very slow trot, one base at a time. 

3. Tell us about something you love in your house or kitchen that is 'homemade'. 

That's almost too big a question, because we have a lot of homemade things here. Our house itself was built fifty-plus years ago by Mr. Fixit's grandfather, along with friends and family who were in different trades like bricklaying and masonry. The fake wood graining on all the inside doors was done by hand, with a special tool. (Grandpa might have enjoyed some of the decorating DIY that goes on these days.)

We also have furniture that Grandpa built, since that was also one of his skills along with building cupboards and putting in floors. The hall console that holds our holiday decorations was one of his projects.

4. 'A man's home is his castle'...which of the world's ten most captivating castles (according to The Travel Channel) would you most like to visit and why-
Mont Saint-Michel (France), Edinburgh Castle (Scotland), Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), Glamis Castle (Scotland), Windsor Castle (England), Chateu de Chambord (France), Hampton Court Palace (England), Prague Castle (Prague), St. Michael's Mount (England), Leeds Castle (England), and Swallow's Nest (Ukraine)

You had me at the word "castle." I have made it my personal mission in life to get everyone to give Ivanhoe a try. So, Scottish castles first, and then English if there's time.

5. What's a recent or upcoming plan or project that's required you do a little homework before getting started? Did the homework cause you to abandon your plan or adjust it in some way?

Yes, there have been lots of them, but my brain must be fuzzy this morning because I can't come up with one specific one.

6. In your opinion, is homework an unnecessary evil or a valuable practice? Should schools be done with homework? Why or why not? 

Tough question, and I'm somewhere in the middle. I do have a different perspective on this because we homeschooled through elementary, and if I gave someone an independent assignment, like reading a book, I wasn't always sure if that would qualify as "homework," especially if they decided to work on it in the off-hours. Let's just say I am in favour of giving some independent work, but not of making students work for hours and hours, especially if the material hasn't actually been covered in class. But I do think the opposite approach is interesting, too, if it's used right: having students watch a teaching video online, at home, and then use the class time for what would have been "homework," with easy access to the teacher.

7. Share a favorite memory of your childhood hometown. 

Scooting down Main Street Hill on my vintage (no handbrakes) bike. Very dangerous, but fun all the same.
I'm up here, you're down there.

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

Like being at the top of Main Street Hill, I'm up in the air this morning, ready to jump on and scoot (I almost wrote Scott), but this time it will be on a VIA train instead of an old bicycle. This weekend is L'Harmas, an annual gathering of Charlotte Mason educators, readers, and thinkers, and I am leaving early to meet up with some friends at a "home away from home" (not a castle, though). Hopefully it will all be a home run.

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Doesn't everyone want books?

Helene Hanff, 1916-1997 (photo from GoodReads)

And maybe the question should be, does anyone?

I recently commented on a book-related blog post, and out of approximately 27 comments, I think mine was the only one that did not say "love my e-reader, love the library, do not want books around the house unless they're cookbooks or something with an obvious purpose."

I understand the freedom of decluttering, the value of empty or near-empty spaces, especially in this often-overwhelming culture of much and more. In the novel In This House of Brede, the Benedictine nuns lived under a rule of simplicity, and the number of books each one could have in her own room depended on her needs
“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned, and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road
I do love my e-reader, Kindle app, and Overdrive. ( is what's giving me access to the vintage book that Afterthoughts is blogging through right now.) And the actual, physical library. I love books that have an obvious purpose. I also love books that do not have an obvious purpose.
“I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to "I hate to read new books," and I hollered "Comrade!" to whoever owned it before me.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road
One of the first times I ever got in real trouble as a preschooler was by disobeying a parental command not to take a certain book outside. But I wanted it with me...

I haven't come up with a one-line answer to this yet, but I do think the answer is a personal one (like the nuns), and it depends largely on what books do in your life, and what you do with them. I'll go so far as to agree that, for 26 out of 27 people (or maybe more like 20 out of 27), physical books are clutter. For whatever reason, they are just more weight to move, more things to dust, more stuff that people don't know how they acquired and why they're holding on to them. If that's the case, I agree wholeheartedly that it's time to move to library books and e-books. And if it comes down, as at least one commenter said, to having to move overseas or something where you do not have a choice, I agree also that books do weigh you down and that they should not hold you back from adventures. There will always be more books.

But for the other seven or so of the group...we are the spiritual grandchildren of Helene Hanff.
“I'll have mine [The Book-Lovers' Anthology] till the day I die - and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn.” ― Helene Hanff84, Charing Cross Road

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A little autumn atmosphere (photos)

I like to move holiday decorations around in the house, sometimes even during the same holiday. We use a lot of the same things every year, but they end up in different places. At Thanksgiving I had a few dollar-store pinecone-leaf-ribbon things in a bowl and on the table. I don't usually go out of my way to buy things like that, but I was planning on using them later for something quite different. Which turned out to be impractical, but I still did find another use for them (see below).
The Thanksgiving decoration in the entryway was our two scarecrows, fake leaves someone gave us, and wooden canisters from a yard sale. (Real leaves are nice too, but they get crumbly.)
Today I changed it around for an end-of-October mood. We still have the scarecrows, but I added an oil lamp and the pinecone decorations in a flat basket, along with a (real) green and orange gourd.  What do you think?

(The rust-coloured doily was made by an awesome thread-crocheter that some of you know. You should consider this a hint.)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Something to read today: Ten Thousand Villages on turning seventy

When a Mennonite Self-Help Crafts store opened in our town back in the 1980's (I think it was), we thought it was a new thing. Not that we teenagers were too excited by a store full of baskets and pillow covers, but we figured since our mothers and grandmothers liked that stuff, it was a safe place to buy them birthday presents. After a few years, my mother had so many soapstone and carved boxes that you could hardly see her dresser, but she said she liked them.

But Self-Help, later renamed Ten Thousand Villages, had gotten started years before in the U.S., and this year it is celebrating its seventieth anniversary. This article talks about its commitment to craftspeople around the world (LINK CORRECTED!), and how sales (and therefore the ability to order more items from the makers) have increased over the last couple of years, after a slump not so long ago. I've noticed myself how the local store seems to be changing; it's less crowded, and (oh, here comes that word) almost more curated in what's on the floor. When you walk in, you're more likely to notice all the scarves and earrings, the fair trade cinnamon, and the quirky cushions with elephants and bicycles embroidered on them (not to mention the free coffee), than you are the usual rugs and baskets. I've also noticed that they do a lot of very professional promotions through email and on the website, and for some reason I don't find their appeals as irritating as those I get from some other companies. I think it's because it shows how seriously they take their work, that what they have is so good that they could become someone's "new favourite store." Years ago, it was enough to fly in some baskets and boxes, and sell them to grandmothers and people who cared less about the dishtowels than they did about making a donation. Now Ten Thousand Villages' harvest of crafts, and the way it's treated, speaks for itself.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Something to read today: "Words fail, but hearts understand"

A post on the Circe Institute Blog by Adam Andrews : "The Limitations of Language."
"What if [Jesus] isn’t underusing the language at all? What if He’s overusing it, stretching it to its absolute limit – all the way to the edge of simile and metaphor?"

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

My curated, artisanal, serendipitous closet, and a revolutionary thought

No, not really, about the curated, artisanal part. But it seems like a long way from a midlife closet crisis, not so long ago, to finding a happy-place with clothes.

We hadn't been to the thrift store in weeks. There wasn't much to clean out, and nothing urgent to look for. But we had slowly accumulated a boxful of things to drop off, so we did that, and I had a few minutes to shop. What I had in mind was either a heavy sweater, or a light-coloured pullover, things that had been on my list for awhile. I looked through the sweaters quickly, but found nothing that worked. There was also nothing interesting on the dollar racks. No shoes that looked like they'd fit, no interesting belts, the only dress possibility was black (just, no), and the only purse I liked was too expensive. Then Mr. Fixit ran into a friend and stopped to chat, so I had a second look at the sweaters. Wait--that sort-of green-mixed-with-grey one there. Would that fit? It did. Was it the right colour? It was. It was an unusual feeling to be that sure of one thing, in a whole store full of other things I didn't want or need. "Nice colour," the cashier said.

This is the sweater plus the GREEN Chrysalis Cardi (as a scarf).
This is what it looks like using the belt from the Chrysalis Cardi as a skinny scarf. (Also GREEN. I tried hard to get the colours right, but looks like the camera on my tablet missed the boat again.)  The sweater isn't a cardigan; that line down the front is a somewhat-diagonal decorative seam.

So I now have two fall sweaters. They're both my favourites. That feels like a good place to be in.
I recently read and reviewed The Curated Closet, and as I said, fashion books are sometimes hard to use if you don't already have a good idea of what you like to wear. Often they are like cookbooks written for chefs. My reluctant-shopper mind (to use the cooking analogy) functions more like Peg Bracken's "I just want a couple of recipes I can swear by instead of at."

But here's my revolutionary thought. I don't go to the grocery store and expect to pick out all the wrong food that we'll hate and that I'll throw away (not usually, anyway). I don't expect that 90% of the time I'll burn the cookies. Is it because clothes are so tied to our personal selves that we feel slightly blasphemous about thinking that we have gotten acceptably competent at choosing them? (A new phone is one thing, a pair of shoes is another.) I almost wonder if it's like the "I can't do math" thing, one of those things that it's almost more acceptable to agree you're bad at too, rather than to raise eyebrows by answering, "Gee, I dunno, I always thought trig was sort of fun." There is a place for genuine humility, and for acknowledging that there are certain things we are never going to be very good at. It's also okay to know that some of us are not going to look like airbrushed celebrities even if we wanted to. But the simple idea that it's okay to say, "Hey! Look what I found!"--even if it's just to ourselves--and to take some pleasure in that, even if we're always going to be kind of middle-of-the-road shoppers and dressers; that has to be acknowledged too. To quote the Winter Warlock, "I'm not such a loser after all."

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Sense and Sensibility

Notes from  our Hodgepodge hostess:  "On the literal home stretch here with the house build, so not a lot of time to blog. I am determined though, to at least post the weekly Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then fly back here tomorrow to share answers with the universe. See you there!"

1. What would you say is your strongest sense?

I've been told common sense, but nobody seems to be quite sure what that is.

2. Do you believe in the idea of a 'sixth sense'? Why or why not?

If you say the sixth sense doesn't exist, you'll hear stories from everyone about why it does; and if you say it does exist, it sounds like you are approving ESP and the occult and divination, all of which are not places Christians should be going (sorry Eleven). I do believe there are spiritual realms, and stuff much bigger than we are happening all around us, so it stands to reason that there is sometimes a kind of communication or knowledge that we can't account for. And there is also a "sixth sense" that is more scientifically explainable, such as just knowing (by long experience) that the cookies are about to burn or that the person ahead of you who has been driving erratically is going to turn without a signal. Some of the Christians I grew up with used the phrase "a word of knowledge" for something that they knew without being told, but maybe something slightly less stupendous than "prophecy."  They also used phrases like "obeying the urging of the Holy Spirit" to describe an action that might not seem logical but that was the right thing at the right time, like phoning someone who turned out to need help, or giving money or other material help that turned out to be exactly what was needed. That still makes sense to me. There may be some people who pay more attention than others to the patterns of what's out there, or who have better "hearing." 

3. When do you most feel like a slave to time? Explain.

I had to look up an explanation for this, and came up with this page. The suggestion to "get rid of excess clocks" is not going to happen in this clock collector's house (although he doesn't keep them all running at the same time, we'd go crazy). We are probably medium-time-centric here; working from home does give us flexibility, but there are still things like school bus times to keep us in line.

4. Have you ever worked in a restaurant? How would you rate the experience? If you could own a restaurant what kind would it be?

Not a restaurant, but a nursing home kitchen, briefly and part time during my last year of high school. It was definitely what you'd call a "slave to time" job, as every single thing we did was timed out on a mimeographed sheet. Something like: 4:15, fill twenty tiny paper cups with jam, 4:20, pour juice cups, 4:25, take trays upstairs, and so on. Lots of work, sore feet, an apron that never stayed clean. The one indelible lesson I got out of it was that if you have only five or ten minutes, you can probably squeeze in a small job  (like folding a basket of laundry), and then you don't have to do it later.

5. Ever traced your family tree? Share something interesting you learned there.

Both my husband's family-of-ancestry and mine did a lot of migrating around Europe, then around North America. If we were going to map out a family-hunting tour some day, I think it would take a year to hit all the places they lived.

6. What did your childhood bedroom look like?

I had several bedrooms, because we moved a few times. About the only thing that stayed the same was my bed: a vintage spool bed that someone had refinished for my parents as a wedding present (like the one in the photo). About the only other thing I can say is that my room was usually messy. Having such a big bed meant that a lot of things went under the bed.

7. Anyone who knows me knows I love_______________________?

Now what am I supposed to put in there? I love a lot of things. As Jan Karon's Father Tim says to his wife, "Cynthia, what don't you love?" And she usually gives him a list of a few things back.

I love it when garden vegetables actually grow (they didn't this year, much). I love it when my "sixth sense" tells me there's something good in a corner of the thrift store. I love the Saturday NYT crossword (which is actually the Sunday NYT crossword, we just get it a week late), because it doesn't contain words that don't exist like LIRAS (which was in yesterday's daily crossword). I love the moment on Christmas Eve when I put things into stockings (sorry, small children). I love it when Mr. Fixit picks me out a raisin doughnut or a fritter at Tim Horton's (not the usual) because he knows they're my favourites. I love hymns with four-part harmony. I love getting to see people I have been missing.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

We watched the first two episodes of Kiefer Sutherland's show Touch last night. Mr. Fixit liked the quantum aspects of it, but I thought it was just a different way to say something theological: that humans are all linked together somehow by our humanness, and that sometimes our stories overlap if we let them.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Quote for the day: Stop reading, start engaging

From an article in Psychology Today by Erin Clabough, Ph.D.:
"This is perhaps a start, but books can be far more useful tools. We just have to learn to stop simply reading to our children, and start engaging them...Educational studies have repeatedly shown that it’s the reflection process where the deep learning happens. The most powerful part of reading often happens when you put down the book. The value of the story is found percolating in our children’s heads afterwards—in the thoughts banging up against their assumptions and their carefully constructed worlds. Does the book make them think after the cover is closed?"
Charlotte Mason would surely agree.

(Thanks to The Common Room for linking to that article.)

Monday, October 17, 2016

What were the keepers? Looking back on a library sale

I've never done this before, exactly.

In October, 2008, our family went to a giant book sale at the downtown library. We brought home about forty books, picked out by various members of the family. At that time, we had one Squirreling in high school, one who was spending a year in public school, and one doing second grade at home. Now we have two Big-Squirrels moved out, and one Teenage Squirrel who is no longer homeschooling. We've also been through several bookshelf purges.

So this is the question: out of such a random list, what did we love? And what do we still have? The titles are in bold; my comments follow each one.

A Story of the Group of Seven (Hunkin--about a well-known group of Canadian artists): I still have this, I think; I don't think I can ever escape the Group of Seven.

Cornelius Krieghoff (Hugues de Jouvancourt) (one of our term's artists): something we used and then passed on.

Adventures of Richard Wagner (Opal Wheeler) and
Young Brahms (Sybil Deucher--same series as the Wheeler music bios): we probably used these at some point, but they've been passed on to other homeschoolers. We kept the first one in the series that we ever used, Grieg.

Elisabeth & the Water Troll (Wangerin): I didn't keep this because the same story appears in Swallowing the Golden Stone.

Meet the Malones (Weber) and
Beany Malone (Weber): These have stayed on the shelf, partly out of sentiment (they're identical to the ones I used to borrow from the library) and partly because they're good books.

The Glass Slipper (Eleanor Farjeon--her version of Cinderella): we haven't managed to get rid of this one yet. Like, it's Eleanor Farjeon.

Go With the Poem (Lillian Moore): this was an anthology of 20th-century children's poems, but I don't remember it at all; we must not have kept it long.

The Unbroken Web (Richard Adams), a.k.a. The Iron Wolf and Other Stories: we probably picked this up because of reading Watership Down, but I don't remember anyone being that interested; it got kind of "meh" reviews on Goodreads too.

The Cuckoo Clock (Mary Stolz): I think we still have this with the fairy tale books. It's one of the ones that gets pulled during cleanouts and then put back.

The Story of Holly and Ivy (Christmas story by Rumer Godden; we already have a copy of this, but this edition has illustrations by Barbara Cooney): we kept this one. It was a favourite of Lydia's when she was younger.

The Coat-Hanger Christmas Tree (Eleanor Estes): I like Eleanor Estes, and I thought I would really like this, but I think we read it once and then passed it on. I get it mixed up with Elizabeth Enright's "A Christmas Tree for Lydia," which we also had a copy of and gave away.

'Round the Christmas Tree (Corrin): a collection of stories; it wasn't one we kept

The Alley (Eleanor Estes): I don't remember reading this with the girls (or in my own childhood), but according to the Goodreads reviews, we seem to have missed something worthwhile. Maybe it was the slow start.

Doctor on an Elephant (Kroll): we must not have read this much because I barely remember it

Diamond in the Window (Langton): this one comes up all the time on lost-books boards, but it was too creepy for my readaloud taste.

Harry's Mad (Dick King-Smith--about a parrot): a favourite. I think we must have borrowed this from the library before finding it at the book sale, because I'm sure we read it with The Apprentice, um, much earlier than eleventh grade.

Ben and Me: we used this when we learned about Benjamin Franklin.

Backyard Vacation: Outdoor Fun: this is by Carolyn Haas, and looks like it would have been fun, but maybe the activities were just things we couldn't do.

Mountain Bluebird (Hirschi): I don't remember this one.

Thanksgiving Fun: there are several books with this title, and I don't remember which this one was--must not have been one we used much

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving (Alcott): we must have skipped over this one too; maybe it was just that particular time in our lives.

Cat's Cradles, Owl's Eyes: I think this was an extra copy, because it was already one of the girls' favourite cats-cradle books

Winners! Super Champions of Ice Hockey (don't ask): Lydia wanted this because her best friend loved hockey.

Not Much News: Ruby's Letters from Home (Edna Staebler): I was looking forward to reading this, but for some reason I never got into it. I think I felt too nosy, reading someone else's personal letters.

These High Green Hills (Jan Karon): this was around the time I was first reading the Mitford novels

Crystals and Crystal Gardens: do not remember this
Sugar Free Kids' Cookery: do not remember this either

Make Clothes Fun!: this was published in 1992 and was already pretty dated by 2008. How to make your clothes funkier.

Miss Patch's Learn to Sew Book: this was one I had seen listed in Books Children Love, and it did turn out to be a good introduction to simple sewing projects

Dancing Is (Ancona): I think that was also listed in Books Children Love, but it wasn't one the girls liked much.

Ballet Company: I know this was by Kate Castle, but it wasn't one we kept.

Some others I've forgotten:
Have Fun with Magnifying
The Past of Pastimes (Bartlett)
World of Swans
Music for Very Little People.

So, maybe half a dozen keepers after eight years. Was it worth the trouble? Of course.
"'A parrot,' the man said carefully. 'Shpeaking on the telephone. Time I shtopped,' and he emptied the bottle onto the pavement." ~~ Harry's Mad

Thought for a Monday: Shorter is better.

"The mind concerns itself only with thoughts, imaginations, reasoned arguments; it declines to assimilate the facts unless in combination with its proper pabulum; it, being active, is wearied in the passive attitude of a listener, it is as much bored in the case of a child by the discursive twaddle of the talking teacher as in that of a grown-up by conversational twaddle; it has a natural preference for literary form; given a more or less literary presentation, the curiosity of the mind is enormous and embraces a vast variety of subjects." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education
Need I say more?

But you might want to check out The Science Behind TED's 18-Minute Rule.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

From the archives: Leisure, the Beehive, and Plato

First posted November 1, 2009. I liked this so much that I reposted it last year, but I didn't include the Beehive link.

In tribute to The Beehive's very important post On Leisure, Learning, and Large Rooms:
"You are, in short, blind, and should take a week or a month of delightful leisure during which you set aside all these lowly values that have enslaved you, open your eyes to honor and virtue, engage in a pleasant humanizing conversation with some truly wise people, and, well, repent of your miserable miserliness. Because the more actively you inflict your vision on education, the more damage you are doing.
"There is no education without leisure for the simple reason that education is a leisure activity. It requires all of the other values: controls, freedom, money, and honor. But it’s only true end is virtue for the simple reason that only virtue is big enough to rightly order the other goods. The wise man knows where and how to get honor, money, freedom, and controls, and he knows how to use them. Because he is not driven by them as by an unruly mob. Instead he governs them."
--from Leisure, Plato’s Republic, and American Education
Posted on Quiddity, December 9, 2008 by Andrew Kern

Friday, October 14, 2016

From the archives: Drawing the wind (a pep talk on homeschooling)

First posted October 2009. Ponytails had just turned twelve and was in Grade Seven. Crayons (Lydia) was eight and in Grade Three. (Edited slightly)

It's now October. Do you know where your homeschooling plans are?

Did you lay them so thick that you can't stuff anything else in?

Are you wondering why you're only up to what you planned for Week Three and now it's Week Five or Six? Why you've skipped the last few days of French lessons? ("It's okay, kids, we'll make it up later.") Why the composer-study schedule has gotten buried under math and history?

Maybe it hasn't and everything is going along swimmingly. Everybody's still getting up early, the school room or wherever you work looks pretty good, your schooltime snacks are still nutritious, you remembered to change the calendar to October even if your "decor" is still Welcome Back To School, and nobody's begging for extra computer game time.

Maybe it's not going quite so well. You've all had nasty colds and the DVDs took over temporarily. The exercise plans lasted through the nice weather, but it's too cold out there now. All the new hymns are sounding strangely alike. The kids memorized their first poem happily, but now want to know why they have to learn another one. The one making the lapbook has only two mini-books glued in and says she doesn't want to do any more reptiles now, thank you.

And oops--you really were going to do more poetry with them this year, weren't you?

OK. This is your pep talk. You laid down all these plans, and now it's up to you to be persistent, with both yourself and the kids.

You bought that art curriculum, so make time for them to use it at least once a week.

You set them up with the history-journalling project, so encourage them to keep at it (it's going to look amazing when it's done).

You know which readaloud books you want to get through this year, so don't let them cajole you into reading only Book A when you had planned to alternate it with Books B and C. We really like this fall's Book A, and it's easier reading than Book B, but B has its own rewards.

The vocabulary chart you started is looking a bit lonely up there on the wall with only three roots filled in, so decide that tomorrow you all are going to add three more AND you're going to play one of the games from the program.

And it's NOT too cold to get out there and do some backyard nature study. The trees this morning looked like someone was blowing them with a hair dryer, but Ponytails went out and found a ladybug to draw in her nature journal. Crayons just wanted to draw the wind.

If you need to add a little pep to the same-through-the-year lessons, do it. We alternate Bible stories with Mr. Pipes, but even so the cycle of just reading, narrating can get a bit routine. Occasionally add little things in to keep the lessons interesting. This week I photocopied a kings-and-prophets timeline strip from What The Bible Is All About For Young Explorers and printed copies out on coloured cardstock; then during one of our lessons the girls cut them out, taped the two parts of them together, and made Old Testament bookmarks for their Bibles. It wasn't a major project, but it kept hands busy while we read about Elijah. Another day I gave them a colouring page about the story we were reading. We don't do that often--even colouring can get monotonous--but once in awhile it's nice to have a little extra.

Before the school year started, I put all my third-grade math ideas into a file box, and while we haven't stuck exactly to the cards as written, I'm still trying to get as much crossed off as I can before we go on to new things. This week I had noted "practice math vocabulary" (something I'd noticed on a worksheet). All I meant by that was knowing the words sum, product, and difference; not a big thing, but it's easy to overlook teaching them. I wrote each word a couple of times on slips of paper, and had Crayons pull pairs of numerals out of a bag. (We used rubber tiles from a math game, but you could use any cards.) I had her choose a slip at random, or I chose one for her. "Find the sum of your two numbers." "Find the difference between them." "Find the product." Sometimes I had her pull three numbers instead.

It's October. Switch around a little. Ponytails has been using math software during her computer time, and Crayons has been using a science CD-Rom; but it's time for a change, so now Ponytails will be using the CD-Rom and Crayons will be doing online math games. (She's also asked me if we can start using Calculadder sheets again.)

Play with time. We are doing a combination of workboxes and group activities, and sometimes the group things get dropped if the workboxes are going slow. So some days I fill only a few workboxes, and catch up on the French and nature and singing and anything else that we might get into a bad habit of missing.

And one other thing--now that everybody's back to school, are your kids getting to see their homeschooled (and other) friends? We've been slightly sidetracked on this due to colds and such that we didn't want to pass around; but I think everyone's healthy enough now that we really need to work on some of that Socialization. (Mom needs to see friends too!)

Trust in what you have laid out. Don't worry about what you think you have left out for this year--just keep on with what's already on the table. Learn new things a little at a time. Enjoy small things. Have a
wonderful fall.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

From the archives: Wendell Berry on the complexity of simplifying

First posted October, 2009. From this interview with Jeff Fearnside in The Sun Magazine
Berry: They didn’t have electricity. All their technology was nineteenth century. But they were satisfied, and they lived a great life — they made a great life. It was a work of art.

Fearnside: So their answer was to simplify their lives so that they required less income and could do the things they were passionate about.

Berry: They reduced costs, but when you do that, you make your life more complex. It’s much simpler to live by shopping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A little grey dress (Review of the Revolve Dress from Encircled)

Website of Encircled (Canada)
The Revolve Dress (Canadian site)
The Revolve Dress (U.S. and International)

Darrin: "I went to a great deal of trouble to find a present that would express exactly how I feel about our marriage..."
Sam: "And you bought me a PRISON GOWN!"
(Bewitched, "I'd Rather Twitch than Fight," 1966)
No, Samantha didn't like her ugly grey bathrobe. Grey carries along all kinds of boring baggage, doesn't it? Almost as much as black, and without the chic. So if I said that I wanted a plain grey dress with long sleeves (and was prepared to spend more on it than Sam's bathrobe and Darrin's new jacket put together), you might think I needed my head read. Why not buy something brighter and prettier? Why not save a lot of money and buy a dress at the thrift store? (I looked many times, but didn't find anything that fit this particular gap.) Even the Encircled website photographs of the Revolve Dress gave me a few misgivings. They seem a bit severe, and none of the photos make the dress look much longer than tunic length (although the model is a lot taller than I am. Well, most people are taller than I am).

Even so, I kept circling back to the Revolve Dress. When the opportunity to order one came a little sooner than I'd planned, I decided to at least try it out; if it looked all wrong, I could return it.

The dress arrived very quickly, in a no-frills mailer pack. But this is no "prison gown." It's made of a soft, very luxe-feeling fabric called micromodal, which is knit and dyed right in Toronto. Worn frontways, the fabric drapes from the shoulders, down the front.
Reversed, you have a boatneck neckline, with the drape in the back. Generally I avoid boatnecks (a case of Post-Traumatic Stripe Disorder from the '80's), but this one works, especially with a necklace adding some vertical.

The skirt, to create three different lengths, has ruching on one side; it's just enough to keep the hemline from being too plain. The deep grey fabric is nice enough for a party, but it can also be toned down and serious. And when the dress is tucked up to form a top or a tunic, it can play dress-down equally well.
Paired with an Encircled Chrysalis Cardi (my review)

The Smoke dress mixes well with my other clothes, and accepts my problematic penchant for mismatched teal greens. You know you've made the right choice on something (clothes or anything else) when, after owning it even briefly, you can see how big a hole there would be without it. The hard-to-match jacket I bought last winter:
my favourite navy-grey-green striped scarf:
the grey pants I found for a dollar at the thrift store:
they each have a new friend.
It can even work as a skirt, if you like to layer.

The colour choices for a Revolve Dress right now are Black, Smoke, and Plum. Sizes run from XS to XL, and there's a measuring chart on the Encircled website. The dress is made to last, but you have to be prepared to give it a bit of care: it can't go in the dryer, and handwashing is also recommended although it can be machine washed.

Moral of the story: nice things may come in no-frills mailer packs, especially if they're from Encircled.

(So what happened to Samantha's ugly bathrobe? You can watch the episode on You-tube and find out.)

This is an unsolicited review of the Encircled Revolve Dress. I received no compensation for writing it. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Moving right along (updated)

A note from our Hodgepodge hostess:  "I intended to blog yesterday but had to deal with window treatments instead. By deal with I mean talk hubs down from the ceiling when he saw the proposed cost. We've never done an entire house all at once before, but it sure makes me wish I were an expert seamstress. I'm generalizing here, but I feel like the cost of window treatments is always more than a little shocking to men. Same is true of wedding particulars, highlights in my hair, and decorative pillows. Anyway, I may put up two posts today because while I'm not a gifted seamstress (drat!) I am a blogger and bloggers blog. In the meantime here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then hop back here Wednesday to share answers with the rest of the world. See you there-"

1. What would you say is the best and worst thing about moving house?

Finding one.

2. What's moved you recently?

Stories from friends, and even from people I don't know as well. These were some of my favourites.

3. Do you feel your life is moving forward, backward, or is on hold? How so?

Always forward. Because, like the seasons or those moving walkways at airports, it is going ahead whether you think so or not. And like this one at the Detroit airport, most of us are in too much of a hurry to enjoy it properly at the time.

4. On the move, move mountainsget a move onit's your move, or bust a move...which phrase best applies to some aspect of your life right now? Explain.

We have been watching a lot of Star Trek and Star Trek: Enterprise, so flying through outer space at warp speed would definitely be moving (even if it's imaginary).
5. What song makes you want to get up and move?

Any tune that we had to do the Health Hustle to at school in the 1970's: and the list isn't a pretty one. 

6. Your favorite snack to grab when you're 'on the move'?

On the move, as in walking along, or stopping somewhere with the car? Because, to coin that phrase, I'm one who literally can't walk and chew gum at the same time. I'd rather sit down somewhere and drink a coffee or a lemonade.

7. What one accessory makes your house feel like home?

What qualifies as an accessory? Smaller than furniture? I think this bunny, that I've had my whole life. But I showed some other favourite things here.
8. Insert your own random thought here.

Random Thought #1: We just had Canadian Thanksgiving, and the weather is perfectly Octoberish: wandering between sunny warm and (occasionally) threatening to be cold, and with the blue-skies-red-leaves that make this time of year beautiful. I think October is one month I would miss most if we lived somewhere without such distinct seasons.

Random Thought #2: This popped up on Pinterest today: "I didn't come this far to only come this far." 

Linked from the Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Curated Closet (book review)

The Curated Closet: A simple system for discovering your personal style and building your dream wardrobe; by Anuschka Rees. Ten Speed Press, 2016.

"Curated" is to 2016 what "artisanal" was a few years ago. It means approximately the same thing, and that thing isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just an overused thing. The positive side of "curated"  is that it implies something carefully chosen,  involving individualized perception and taste; and it also assumes some kind of a "less is more" approach. All of this applies to the advice given in The Curated Closet and on the blog that preceded it, Into Mind. It is a non-multiple-choice way of clothing yourself smarter and better. You don't have to fit into any particular box of physique, season, or blood type, says the book; you can combine elements of this and that, create a style that is your very own.

Unfortunately, assuming that we all have enough fashion sense, say to be able to discern "menswear-inspired French chic" from "Grace Kelly goes to college," is where a book like this leaves some of us in the dust. Some of us don't know our Boho colours from our "contemporary mod," or who Carrie Bradshaw was or what she dressed like (I had to look that up). The open-ended advice of "do what's right for you" can be either empowering or just frustrating. It doesn't matter whether we're told to cut up fashion magazines (which many of us don't have around the house, other than freebie mags from Walmart); or to look at Pinterest for inspiration: the problem, for the average person who doesn't normally spend  time perusing these things, is that we still don't know what we're looking for or at.

But if you take this book slowly, in the right order, and don't let it overwhelm you, there is more help included than may first appear. Simply making a list of things you like can get you halfway there, whether you can come up with a name-in-quotation-marks for it or not. If you're happy with the majority of what's in your closet, and it functions well in your current lifestyle, then you probably have an idea of what you need to buy next or what small changes you want to make. I appreciate Rees' advice to to buy new clothes slowly, both for budget reasons and because it's easy to overdo any sudden change.

If you're confused by the personalized colour-palette approach, as Rees points out, that's.only one way of grouping clothes, and she offers at least two other methods that might work better for you. If you can't tell your key pieces from your statements (another irritating word that should disappear soon) or your basics, that's still okay; you might be better off writing down what your usual pattern, uniform, or formula for an outfit is. Do you usually wear jeans, t-shirts, and cardigans? That's fine: just make sure you have enough of everything to get you through to the next laundry day.  Obviously the point of a curated wardrobe, for Rees, is not to hang it in a museum but to let it be worn and enjoyed.

If you have a great sense of your personal style, you probably know most of what Rees has to say already. But if you find shopping frustrating, and kind of wish you could get yourself a little more together, this book might be what you need.

I borrowed a copy of The Curated Closet from the library to write this review. All opinions are my own.

Was or were? Don't you wonder?

Five minutes ago I was typing an e-mail, and looked twice at the last sentence I'd written.

"If I wasn't using this particular browser email (that doesn't let me get fancy)..."

My mental grammar-checker started making a clunking noise over it, because I am using that browser email, and anything else is contrary to fact.

I looked it up just to be sure, and found this entertaining blog post about wasn't and weren't.

So I wasn't wrong. (About being wrong.)