Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Isness? (Quote for the day)

The course I'm taking has us talking about ontology, which reminded me of something that Madeleine L'Engle wrote in A Circle of Quiet.
"...[Alan] reads me a quotation from Sartre about the isness of an oak tree; but Sartre felt depressed and threatened by this; the idea that the oak tree simply is seemed to diminish him. I suppose the perfect isness of anything would be frightening without the hope of God. An oak tree is, and it doesn't matter to it--at least Sartre thinks it doesn't; it is not a thinking oak. Man is; it matters to him; this is terrifying unless it matters to God, too, because this is the only possible reason we can matter to ourselves: not because we are sufficient unto  ourselves--I am not: my husband, my family, my friends give me my meaning and, in a sense, my being, so that I know that I, like the burning bush, or the oak tree, am ontological: essential: real."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Frugal Finds and Fixes: To Top That Off

We've been in our new place for several weeks, and it's starting to feel more like home. While we unpacked pretty quickly, there were still some unfinished bits and temporary messes...well, there are still things to work on, but the big needs are taken care of and the messes are fewer. I find Dana K. White's two cleaning-out questions very helpful, especially when it comes to large, strange assortments of stuff. Her first is "where would I look first for this?" Someone's bleeding--we don't have an obvious medicine cabinet in any of the bathrooms--so where's the first, easiest place I'd look for bandages? I think the cupboard right over the stove would make the most sense. But that still isn't where they are, so I need to fix that.

The second question is, "If I suddenly needed one of these, would it even occur to me that I already had one?" And, obviously, that I'd then know where to look for it. This is where White's Decluttering at the Speed of Life meets Marie Kondo: everything needs to have a home. It can be a weird home, but if that's where you'd most easily put it away (Kondo) and where you'd instinctively look for it (White), that's fine. I'm not sure which question or which voice I was following when I shredded some thirty-year-old work contracts (don't ask me why I still had them): just call it a Greek chorus of "no, it would probably never occur to you that you had those buried in the bottom drawer. Even if the chance in a million happened that somebody actually wanted to know what you got paid for two weeks' temp work in 1991."

I already posted about the amazing bedroom closet. I'm still full of awe and gratitude for that space. I attached plastic shower curtain  rings on the end of the bottom rack, and looped scarves through them. (I do better when I can see things than when they're hidden away.)
We re-purposed a metal decoration that had been hanging outside, for the kitchen wall.
The plumbers finally came, fixed a few things, and replaced one bathroom sink. Mr. Fixit asked if I could make the boring brown bathroom more interesting, so I tacked a travel clothesline to the wall and pinned up some favourite postcards (I had mini clothespins from a long-ago craft project).
We found a ceiling fan for half price, for the upstairs bonus space. This is the best time of year to find deals on barbecues, fans, and patio furniture.

Mr. Fixit did a bunch of fixing, pulling out, and cleaning up in our little backyard space.

In cheap entertainment, we've been watching a library DVD of Stargate Atlantis Season Four. We're also watching Stephen Fry's lawyer-in-a-small-village-surrounded-by-crazy-people series Kingdom, and the first season of The Saint.

We've used some two-for-one hamburger coupons when we wanted fine dining with no cooking. We also improvised a pot of vegetable soup one night. The freezer compartment here seems to work much better than the one in the apartment, so we're planning to make freezer meals soon.

We've also been to a couple of early-fall yard sales. I didn't find much more than a box of stationery, but Mr. Fixit found a small vintage record cabinet to hold things in his not-in-the-dining-room-anymore workspace.

Speaking of workspace, I used mine to finish off a new study guide. (Just throwing that in.)
On to clothes: I'm happy with my fall #Project333, but I did find a couple of nice extra things on thrifting trips. The first was from the store where I volunteer. No, I did not strictly need an animal-print tunic dress, but for a couple of dollars I thought it would be fun to try out being a person who wears an animal-print tunic dress.
Later, I happened to be in the Mission Thrift store with Ponytails (not a usual thing, but it worked out that way); and I came across a blue cotton t-shirt. I would have bought it anyway, but I was a bit blown away by the label. If that name means anything to you, you'll know why. My very lucky day.
Finally, I got in a quick visit to the Salvation Army store last night while Mr. Fixit and Grandpa Squirrel were looking at Cruise Night vintage cars. This is what I found: a red leather vest with an embossed floral design.  
And that's hard to top.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

It's September: new capsule wardrobe

Fall 2019 Project 333: Stand Fast

Tom Thomson's The West Wind has the usual dark shades of water and hills, but it also includes bits of bright blue and dark red. To paraphrase this reviewer, there is nothing wussy about this tree: it's ready to take on the cold winds.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Intentional Thrifter (and Yardsaler): Baskets and Brooches

Yesterday we stopped at one yard sale. I found two lidded baskets for a couple of dollars.
I cleaned them up a bit, and Mr. Fixit wrangled the bigger one back into shape (it was just warped enough not to close nicely).

The little one is keeping our fake-fall-flowers company.
And the big one is holding bread.

I found the brooch on the left at the same sale, for a dollar. The one on the right was thrifted awhile ago. I don't often pin a brooch on clothes, but I like stringing one on a chain as a necklace.
Consignment store find: one of those sweaters that doesn't look too exciting on the hanger, but which immediately makes itself at home in the closet like it's always been there.
It's already made friends with my flannel shirt and a necklace. (Still too hot for that here, but I'll put it on hold.)
Also this one, from the thrift store. Neither of the sweaters are lifetime-quality materials, but I'm hoping that if I treat them kindly they'll last for awhile.
(Thrifted scarf.)
Fall is coming!

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Forgot to post these when we found them! Two chairs for the dinette, found during a thrift shift.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

It's National Thrift Shop Day. Help them go out of business.

I'm not going to mark National Thrift Shop Day by suggesting that everybody out there should go and buy something at a thrift shop (although you know that's one of my favourite things to do).

I'm not even going to mark it by suggesting that everybody should donate something today (although you know how much fun I have unpacking books at the MCC store. It's Christmas every week).

I'm going to suggest something far more radical.

Non-profit thrift spite of all the good they do by raising money for the ministries and charities that run them and by giving lots of stuff a potential second life...reflect something about our world, our culture, our attitude towards buying and un-buying stuff, that isn't a good thing. In a perfect world, ministries that run thrift stores would have to find another way to raise money, because people would be buying just what they need, using things longer, fixing what's broken, trading what's outgrown, borrowing what they can, re-purposing things themselves. And those organizations wouldn't totally mind that, I think, because any one of them accepting donations of Stuff must deal with an Increasingly Big Headache of Responsible Disposal.

So keep the thrift store of your favourite charity in mind today by not buying one particular new thing (besides food or other consumables). That way, when that one unbought thing doesn't arrive at the hypothetical end of its usefulness to you, you won't have to drive it to the thrift store. Nobody will have to unpack it; nobody will have to price it and hang it on a rack; nobody will have to pay the cost of the computerized cash register system and the credit card fees; or (if it sits unsold) nobody will have to bale it up and figure out where to send it next. By not buying something new today, you've created one less future thing-in-thing-out decision for a crew of staff and volunteers. Wasn't that easy?

(But you could also send the charity a financial contribution.)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Frugal Finds and Fixes: We Moved Again Edition

Moving house can feel like the ultimate creative chance to re-use and re-purpose, because everything goes into a new spot. But it can also feel very costly when the decorating fun-money gets re-purposed for a garage-door-opener replacement, a dryer-vent overhaul, and an anticipated visit from the plumber. Just saying. We also had to buy a stepladder, a garbage can, a recycling bin, and a bunch of bits and pieces from the hardware store to make things work better.  But we are happy about the things we didn't have to fix or replace, like the appliances and flooring.
Our townhouse isn't officially much bigger in square footage than the apartment. But since it's two stories plus a basement, it feels roomier. There are more empty spots, like the breakfast nook (or dinette, whatever you want to call it) between the galley kitchen and the back deck. We have been using  a very old card table in there, but today we replaced it with a vintage Formica-topped table. It's not very big, but it is prettier and less wobbly than the card table. Now we just need to scout out some chairs.
Mr. Fixit thrifted a putting-on-shoes stool for the front hall.
More on the house as we go along!

In other frugal news: 

Sometimes you have to wait awhile for things to come a good-quality t-shirt dress from the thrift store.  
I found this really bright scarf to wear with it.
Lydia says it's my Sarah Saw a Blue Macaw scarf.
These capiz-shell earrings were a case of when it really pays to wait. I saw them months ago on the Ten Thousand Villages website, but they were not that high on my priority list. Then I thought they had sold out forever; but they suddenly reappeared for two dollars during a clearance event. (The makers get paid in full no matter what.)
Mitford books and life-simplifying books from a yard sale, all free for the taking:
A very useful pair of navy pants from the thrift store. The photo is pretty bad (the light was terrible), but they look better in  real life. I also found a pair of beige pants at a consignment store that has an annual half-price sale in August. (Almost everything I've ever bought there has been during August.)
Finally, in the nice but not necessary department: while we were searching for tables at the antique market, I found a "bundle" of three sugar bowls and creamers, all three for five dollars. I put down the beautiful book about William Morris textiles that I had intended to buy, and took the not-matching-but-very-pretty pieces instead. (The first teapot shown was from a yard sale. The second came from a very out-of-the-way antiques place right after we moved to the apartment. History repeats.)

Friday, August 02, 2019

Quote for the Day Number Two: Don't be too true to yourself

This may be one of the most interesting one-liners ever from Charlotte Mason!

"Loyalty is to be expected of him who is not true to himself." ~~ Ourselves 

Update: See comments, Phyllis added a text correction. It turns out all the words are there, but a stray period changed the meaning of the online text.  Am I disappointed that CM wasn't being quite so ironic? No, I think she did say more or less the same thing elsewhere.

Quote for the day: Charlotte Mason says we can but do what we are able for

Eliminating schedule clutter and online overload  is a popular theme these days for minimalist media people (for instance, the book Digital Minimalism). In this quote from a chapter on Loyalty, Charlotte Mason points out that we may have to risk being thought "unamiable" if we say "no" to certain requests.
"Thoroughness and unstinted effort belong to this manner of Loyalty; and, therefore, we have at times to figure as unamiable persons because we are unable to throw ourselves into every new cause that is brought before us. We can but do what we are able for; and Loyalty to that which we are doing will often forbid efforts in new directions." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Out of the Clouds: Moving-Week Wardrobe Challenge

Emily Carr, Loggers' Culls (1935)

10-Day Weather Forecast: Quite hot, likely showers on some days

10-Day Activity Forecast: Up and down, in and out, back and forth. 

10 Days, 12 Items, Things to Wear

Blue striped t-shirt
Mint green tank top
Teal tank top 

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

The Intentional thrifter: not so commonplace

I took a big bagful of stuff to the thrift store, but I also picked up three books and a top.

I think this wrap top is an awesome find. It's mostly lyocell, which is a nice-feeling fabric (and biodegradable). It's one of my favourite shades of purple. It has dolman sleeves, which don't show up so well here. It's even reversible.
Frontwards, which leaves the back sort of open and looks more like you've turned it backwards.
Backwards, with the bottom knotted.  Unknotted leaves it hanging a bit open, but that would be okay over a tank top.
Books to pack and read at the new place: Wendell Berry's The Art of the Commonplace, Mortimer J. Adler's The Great Ideas, and A Novelist's Commonplace Book, which is more of a mini-dictionary of writing terms, as defined by Michael Crawley.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The Intentional Thrifter: Goings, comings, and a big change of plans

See the stack of empty paper boxes? We just acquired those. They are not for storage. They are not for Mr. Fixit's Ebay selling (well, maybe later). Their intended purpose is to help the three of us move out of this fifteenth-floor aerie (as one of my friends calls it), and into a more longterm (and ground-level) home.
All this will (God willing) be taking place over the next month.

We did our major downsize when we moved here two years ago, so cleaning out and packing shouldn't be too agonizing. Plus a lot of things have been "KonMaried" into containers anyway, so we'll just be putting the boxes into bigger boxes.

But I still took a very hard look at some of the thrifted books and clothes that were easier to donate than to move. One advantage of volunteering in books is that I'm pretty sure of the ones that will show up again. So I've already cleared a few things out. I've also started un-making our pantry box system, which will be quite different at the new place. (As in, no pantry. BUT we should have room for a chest freezer. Because we'll have a basement.)

In the meantime, even though I gave some things away, I've still picked up a few other things, here and there, that I don't mind moving.
A book about decorating odd spaces, and a small-slow-cooker book.
Mary Oliver on writing poetry
Two photography books for Mr. Fixit
A very drapey, shawl-like summer cardigan
A pink lacy top and a grey denim  skirt
A small paisley scarf
And a sleeveless dress which is more like a top with an attached skirt.
What it looks like with a jean shirt.
I almost forgot to include this teapot book from the antiques market. 

In some ways it feels like we just got done moving in, and now we're moving on. (No more balcony photos!) But it was the right time, and we're looking forward to new things.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Quote for the day: Sometimes it's cherries

"All I have to do in order to begin again is to love mercy, if I am to believe nutty old Micah. Then creation begins to float by, each new day. Sometimes it's beauty, cherries, calm, or hawks; sometimes it's forbearance, stamina, eyeglass wipes, apricots, aspirin, second winds." ~~ Anne Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

From the archives: When Lydia was almost six

First posted April 2007

1. "You know what I like to do? I like to bake cookies and then even after I wash my hands my hands smell cookie-ish."

2.  Mama Squirrel: Now it's time for memory work. We're going to say the Ten Commandments.

Crayons/Lydia: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick...

From the archives: Ponytails' really good narration about Theseus

First posted June 2006. Ponytails was almost nine.

(Note from Mama Squirrel: Ponytails dictated this to me recently. It's from the middle of the story of Theseus in Charles Kingsley's The Heroes. Some background: Theseus has been on a quest to find his father, King Aegeus (who doesn't know him), and on the way he has had to kill various monsters and so has gained a reputation for himself; one of these slayings turned out to be some kind of a kinsman, so he had to go and get purified for that (forgiven, as Ponytails says here). When he finally arrives at the palace, he finds it has been taken over by his partying cousins.)

Theseus went and got forgiven, and then he went on to the palace. He looked around for his father, but he wasn't there. He said, "Where is the master Aegeus?" "We are all masters here! You can ask one of us instead. Come and eat and drink with us (hic!)! Heh heh heh!" Theseus looked around, but he did not see Aegeus. Then he said, "Go and tell him Theseus is here!" "Yes, your majesty--Mr. Theseus--I will go and summon him!"

So he went, and next to him [Aegeus] was Medea, and she was a snake woman. So Aegeus turned pale, red and then white. He went out because he knew this was going to be important.

Theseus said in his mind, "I'm going to test him first before I say I am his son." So he said, "I have come for a reward." Aegeus said, "I cannot afford it." But Theseus said, "All I want is dinner." "Okay, I can give you that."

Medea was watching. She went back into her room, and she came back out. She said, "This is a troublemaker." She saw him [Aegeus] go red and white when he heard the word Troezene. So she was going to get rid of him, Ah ha ha ha! She dressed in jewels and got a golden bottle full of magic wine and a golden cup. And she came out to Theseus and said in a soft voice, "Theseus! Please drink from this cup! It will give you strength and heal your wounds, it will give you fresh blood in your veins, so please drink." But Theseus saw the look in her eyes, the black smoky evil look with a tint of red, it turned up at the corners to make her look evil. He said, "You drink first." But she said, "I can't, I'm ill, I'm very ill. So I cannot drink." (But it's supposed to HEAL wounds!) He said, "Drink from it or you die!", swinging his club. She dropped the cup and ran. She called for her dragon carriage and went off, far away from the kingdom.

The stones bubbled from the wine she had spilled, and they just kind of disappeared.

Aegeus said, "What did you do? That was sort of my wife!"

But then he pulled out the sword and the sandals, and he said the words his mother bade him to say. And they hugged and wept until they could weep no more. The end!