Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Birdy crochets too

Oh, those talented thread crocheters--I am mostly a yarn person. But I do like seeing what other people are crocheting. And sewing. And sculpting out of food.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Mom is Teaching will be hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling--not up quite yet, but sometime today. UPDATE: it's up now, and very creative this week too.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Never lie on the floor, and other pieces of wisdom

Did I ever link to these? "Oasis of Sanity: Mrs. H's class rules" have been tacked up in the Treehouse since they were first posted earlier this year. Much wisdom there for homeschoolers as well as classroom teachers (although "Don't touch the bell" may not apply).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Carnival of the Recipes

Cehwiedel has finished putting this week's carnival together: the special diet edition.

For your Sunday musing: Hearts and Minds (repost from 2005)

"I have stood in the mist of Iguaçu Falls in Brazil as gorgeous tropical butterflies, winged bearers of abstract art, landed on my arms to lap up the moisture....I have sat under a baobab tree in Kenya as giraffes loped effortlessly [by]....Above the Arctic circle, I have watched a herd of musk oxen gather in a circle like Conestoga wagons to protect the mothers and their young....I have also sat in hot classrooms and listened to theology professors drone on about the defining qualities of the deity....Can the One who created this glorious world be reduced to such abstractions? Should we not start with the most obvious fact of existence, that whoever is responsible is a fierce and incomparable artist beside whom all human achievement and creativity dwindle as child's play?" -- Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor (chapter on G.K. Chesterton)
"The arts, cultural endeavors, enjoyment of the beauty of both God's creation and of man's creativity--these creative gifts have in our day been relegated to the bottom drawer of Christian consciousness, despised outright as unspiritual or unchristian. This deficiency has been the cause of many unnecessary guilt feelings and much bitter fruit, taking us out of touch with the world God has made, with the culture in which we live, and making us ineffectual in that culture....the arts, creativity, enjoyment of our own creativity, the creativity of those around us--in short, all the beauty that God has put into this life--comes as a direct good and gracious gift from our Heavenly Father above."--Franky Schaeffer, Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts
Chapter 25 of Charlotte Mason's book Parents and Children should be required reading for homeschoolers...especially for anyone who thinks that Christian belief is not integral to Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education. Apologies to atheists, agnostics and CM users of any other faith, but this chapter lays it out straight: Charlotte Mason puts everything in charge of the Holy Spirit, including both the moral aspects of child training (with which Christian parents would quickly agree) and the intellectual.
"The Florentine mind of the Middle Ages....believed, not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music was a *direct* inspiration from the Holy Spirit....It is truly difficult to grasp the amazing boldness of this scheme of the education of the world which Florence accepted in simple faith."--Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children
Each great idea. Sowing seed. Making a fire. Grinding corn. Writing a symphony. Where did the first great ideas come from? Miss Mason quotes from Isaiah chapter 28 where it says "His God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him." And she points out something else: God instructs him (or her), teaches him (or her). Each individual. "Because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of His infinite attention to each one of his multitudinous pupils."

She points out that our part (as parents and teachers) is to co-operate with the workings of the Spirit, especially by *not* doing things that would hinder his working in a child's life...and we often understand and get that right in the moral sense, but not so often in the intellectual sense. "The new thing to us is, that grammar, for example, may be taught in such a way as to invite and obtain the co-operation of the Divine Teacher, *or* in such a way as to exclude His illuminating presence from the schoolroom....[The right way is to teach it] by its guiding ideas and simple principles, the true, direct and humble teaching of grammar....[and] the contrary is equally true.
"Our conversation was the first of many anatomy lessons I would receive from Dr. Brand. His ability to recall what he had studied in medical school thirty years before impressed me, certainly, but something else stood out: a childlike enthusiasm, an abullient sense of wonder at God's good creation. Listening to him, my own Chestertonian sense of wonder reawakened. I had been focusing on the apparent flaws in creation: this doctor who spent all day working with those flaws had instead an attitude of appreciation, even reverence."--Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor, chapter on Dr. Paul Brand
"Our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement."--Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children
Intellect AND heart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I am sneaking up behind you

Your Superpower Should Be Invisibility

You are stealth, complex, and creative.
You never face problems head on. Instead, you rely on your craftiness to get your way.
A mystery to others, you thrive on being a little misunderstood.
You happily work behind the scenes... because there's nothing better than a sneak attack!

Why you would be a good superhero: You're so sly, no one would notice... not even your best friends

Your biggest problem as a superhero: Missing out on all of the glory that visible superheroes get

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Few Highlights

"This book of wholesome fun is dedicated to helping children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideas, and worthy ways of living--for children are the world's most important people."--Highlights Magazine
Highlights has been around since 1946. I remember it as being a staple of doctor and dentist's offices during the '70's, along with Bible storybook samples and Reader's Digests. But it can also be a helpful tool for homeschoolers.

I had a few issues that I used with our oldest when she was about five, and I picked up another pile this weekend at the thrift shop (mostly from 1999 and 2000). A sample issue I have here has the table of contents marked with symbols showing the reading level (pre-reading, easy, and advanced) and which stories/activities encourage creative thinking and moral values. I think the older copies used to have the same thing but in chart form.

We always liked the "Thinking" or "Headwork" pages and puzzles. I remember each of the old issues used to have a whole page of open-ended questions that got gradually harder, and it looks like they're still around, although some of the issues I found don't have as many questions. Samples: (a page showing kitchen utensils): "Which of these have straight sides and which ones are rounded--and why?" From another issue: "Wiggle your nose. Wiggle your toes." "Who wakes up first in your family? Who goes to bed first?" "Jim picked up the wrapped gift and said, 'I know what's in here.' How might he have known?" You can use these to start school some days.

Since marking up a magazine never seemed as heinous a crime as marking up a book, we often used to use Highlights for language scavenger hunts too. Children who can't read yet but know their letters can be asked to find all the P's or K's on a particular page; or those who know a few sight words can circle the words they know. (For a short time, The Apprentice's reading vocabulary consisted of her name, Mom, Dad, bed and no; so I used to let her mark every "no" on a page.)

Those with a bit more experience can be asked questions like these (I made these up while looking at a one-page story, "Molly Mim's Shop," in the November 2000 issue):

How many times do you see the word "cat?"
Find all the words with an "s" on the end, and circle each "s."
Find all the words that mean the same as "walked." (They are all in the same paragraph.)
Find all the words with double letters. Which one is spelled in a funny way just for this story?
Molly sold "cat hats." Can you think of something else for cats that would also rhyme?

The same issue, November 2000, has several things that could be used for copywork: a very short fable called "The Rooster and the Jewel"; a lovely short poem called "November Day" by Eleanor Averitt; a slightly shortened version of "The Whistle" by Benjamin Franklin (and my goodness, that one has some tough vocabulary in it); a Thanksgiving grace; and this one, for those who enjoy being grossed out:

"From the big red apple
I took a bite
But something wriggled
And didn't feel right
On my tongue.
I looked in the apple
But I didn't laugh
There it clung--
Only a half!"--Garry Cleveland Myers

And this fun-for-spelling joke (excuse the lack of quotation marks, I'm getting lazy):

Said a boy to his teacher one day,
"Wright has not written write right, I say."
And the teacher replied,
As the blunder she eyed,
"Right! Wright, write write right, right away!"

And of course there are easy and harder stories to practice reading with, and non-fiction articles, and hidden pictures and crafts and riddles and all the rest.

Highlights has never had the flashy appeal of some of the other childrens' magazines. I have to admit that my kids don't dance up and down much when I bring old issues home; they tend to treat Highlights with that slightly wary "stuck in a waiting room" attitude we used to bring to it. (Is this going to be good for me?) However...its lack of glitz is what makes it such a gold mine for homeschoolers, for parents of gifted children, and for those who are just tired of the new-and-trendy. I just about fell off my chair when I read an editor's response to a reader's question, saying that her parents' decision about whatever it was should be final. Maybe at Highlights it's still 1946...but that's okay with me. (And the Squirrelings do like Highlights, really. I caught one of them reading a copy before breakfast this morning.)

Finishing school

No, not as in finishing off--as in the art of gracious living. Meredith at Like Merchant Ships is this week's guest contributor to Online Finishing School. She's already posted about dressing up the breakfast table and some other small home touches. I won't link to all the posts, so you'll just have to mosey elegantly waltz over there and see what else she decides to share.

Next week's Carnival of the Recipes

This is the information I got from the official upcoming themes page for the Carnival of the Recipes:

Deadline to submit recipes: July 28, 12 p.m.
CSTHost: cehweidel
Theme: Just Say No (Recipes for restricted diets...low-carb, vegetarian, etc.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thriftschooling

Yesterday was one of those infrequent trips downtown to the thrift shop with the great book corner. I brought home two plastic bagfuls of books--32 in all, plus several Highlights magazines, for a total of $11.55. Most of them were kids' books, and most of them had some kind of school value. I wasn't trying to create a whole curriculum this time, but I did have two rules to play by: nothing we already had, and no outright junk. Most of the books were 25 or 50 cents each.

Here's the list of what I found, and some comments.

Kristli's Trees, by Mabel Dunham. This is the only thing I sold right away, at the used bookstore around the corner; it netted me $4 off another book that we needed for school. (I knew there was a copy sort of hidden at the back, which is why I hauled my two heavy-enough-already bags in there after the thrift shop. And no, I didn't hide it.) (Oh, and if you've never heard of Kristli's Trees, it's a children's story with local interest, and it's been out of print for twenty-five years, so any copies are sought after.)

Something else vintage but likely without much real value since it's ex-library and not in great shape: Becky's Birthday, by Tasha Tudor. (Peach ice cream?)

Two books for us older ones: Under the Tuscan Sun, and a Jan Karon Mitford book. (We don't have any of them.)

Prayer for a Child: that one's a gift for someone else.

Something for French: Tous les tutus doivent être roses, an easy-reader book I used with The Apprentice. I still have the vocabulary cards we made for it around here somewhere.

Something schoolish: Winter Activities, a book of reproducible winter-and-holiday-themed busywork pages

Books for science this year or anytime: a kids' introduction to electronics, David Suzuki's book about the five senses (I used that with The Apprentice when she was younger), Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Cornell.

A few easy books for Crayons to read: The Fire Cat, The Jungle Joke Book, How St. Francis Tamed the Wolf, Come Back Amelia Bedelia, and James Marshall's version of Red Riding Hood.

A couple of things for Crayons' language arts and other schoolwork next year: More Surprises (easy-reader poems) and several issues of Highlights magazines; also a different edition of A Child's Garden of Verses (okay, I broke the rule with that one but it's not exactly what we had, right?). (I'll do a post later about things you can do with Highlights and other magazines--I used to use them a lot when the Apprentice was Crayons' age.)

Chapter books I still need to check out: Jingo Django (a novel about gypsies), Aunt Vinnie's Invasion by Karin Anckarsvard,The Mystery of the Auction Trunk, The Family Under the Bridge, and The Wombles (the book that inspired the TV series).

Just for fun: How to Draw Bugs, a Precious Moments colouring book, a dolls-of-the-world colouring book, a book about juggling, a Dr. Who Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (that was for Mr. Fixit), three Highlights Magazine Hidden Pictures activity books, and a book about making your own hairbows. And a photo book about The Muppet Movie, to add to our small collection of Muppet books. (I didn't say everything had to be practical.)

Fa la la la

It's Christmas in July at the Carnival of the Recipes. We snuck in there with a plateful of Christmas Day Lunch.

Too hot to bake?

You can always try Chocolate Microwave Cake. (No dairy, no egg.)

We baked ours in a casserole that was a bit smaller around and a bit deeper than the suggested 8-inch square pan; and (probably because of that), the baking took 11 minutes instead of their 6 to 8. But still.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

They are putting us to work

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is hosted by Principled Discovery, and it's a "Teacher In Service" edition. Bring a big mug of Tim's, it looks like there's going to be a lot to cover today.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Betty Crocker got it right (The Brownie Recipe)

We have tried brownie recipes that require melting chocolate squares (they turned out dry). We have tried cookie brownies and no-bake brownies (both of which are good in their own ways). But we always come back to the Cocoa Brownies recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook (red paperback edition from the '80's). The Squirrelings like them. My brother-in-law likes them. Mr. Fixit, who does not like sweets much, has been known to enlarge his "little sliver" into a decent-size piece. He even got creative on the weekend and made "Googly Men" (otherwise known as happy faces in a bowl) with two squares of brownie for eyes, a scoop of ice cream for a nose, and a piece of banana for a mouth.

So this is the recipe, for no reason in particular except that my mamma taught me that sharing's nice.

Cocoa Brownies

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter (softened if necessary. I just use the tub kind)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs (or just 1 if you want them fudgier or are short on eggs)
2/3 cup all-purpose or unbleached flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, we leave them out)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Chocolate chips for topping (optional--our addition)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix sugar, margarine, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan. Top with a handful of chocolate chips if you want. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (don't overbake), 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut in squares.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The BBQ Sauce carnival is up--and check out next week's

The Carnival of the Recipes: Saucy Edition is up at Coming to a Nursery near You. Tacos, barbecue sauce, and more.

And next week's carnival sounds like fun:

Next week’s Carnival will feature Christmas in July! Those who wish to participate should get their recipe submissions in by Noon of next Saturday (the 21st).

Hotscakes and...hotscakes

If you think your cooking needs improvement...check out this list of Lisa's dishes from Green Acres.

It starts like this:

BREAKFAST
Hotscakes!
Vaffles (Hotscakes pressed in a waffle iron)
Veatcakes (Hotscakes with stalks of veat [wheat] mixed in) ....

and goes on through

LUNCH
Hotscakes!
Hot water soup
Peanut butter and sardine sandwich....
Tortillas (Made out of paper plates)....

and

DINNER
Hotscakes!
Hotscakes Hash (Made from hotscakes Oliver didn't eat for breakfast)
Hotscakes Stew....

and

BEVERAGES
Coffee cooked without using water
THICK coffee that we never knew HOW she cooked it
Hot water (Lisa couldn't get the coffee can open)....

Detective Mom

From Birdy's Blog, where Birdy has been dealing with bedtime issues and Morning Cartoon Addiction:

"Last night [the children] were informed that since they have not done all their chores every day this week that if they didn’t do all the steps this morning, there would be no more t.v. in the mornings.

"I noticed last night both children were sleeping with their clothes on. But I had put them to bed in pajamas.

"This morning they made their beds. They took cereal bowls from the cupboard and spoons. They poured a few drops of milk into the bowls and then… put them on the counter top in the kitchen.

"They will not be watching t.v. in the mornings any more."

(Why does this remind me of the DHM's post Wead Your Book?)

Oops--I guess she did too good a job

From a local newspaper article that mentioned the public school board's decision to cut the position of homeschool liaison officer (along with other budget cuts):
"[The trustee] said the home school liaison position, which kept lines open with home schooling families in hopes students would enrol in the district, didn't prove fruitful.
"'There are more kids being home schooled than ever.'"
If that weren't so dumb, I'd be laughing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007

They focht and they focht

You've never heard the Nutcracker told like this. This dad should have a showdown with Mr. Fixit. (Hat tip to the Queen of Carrots, who bestowed a Thinking Blogger award on the blog, Focht Tales.)

A Treehouse for the Kids

It's not what you think.

(Found through the Carnival of Homeschooling, and linked just because I can't resist treehouse posts.)

Channelling Sally Field

It's kind of ironic...in the past couple of weeks we've been nominated for two Thinking Blogger awards plus another back-at-you one...plus this pretty pink thing from Coffeemamma.


The irony is that I feel like I've hardly been here during that time--first we had holidays and this week we've all been at Vacation Bible Camp every morning. VBS, for some reason I've never been able to explain, seems to suck you out of your normal space-time vortex. Besides causing everybody to come home and catch up on their emails at strange times, and not giving me much else to blog about.

Besides which, everybody's been taking extra computer time playing with Google Earth--a literal magic carpet.

But thank you all so much anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling is up

Carnival of Homeschooling #80 is up at Why Homeschool.

Upcoming Carnival of Barbecue (sauce, that is)

A message from next week's host for the Carnival of the Recipes:

"Next week's Carnival will be hosted by Dawn. The theme for next week is The Secret's in the Sauce. Send in your favorite homemade BBQ, basting or marinade recipes or just any recipe that calls for barbecue sauce to recipe.carnival@gmail.com by noon CST on Saturday."

Monday, July 09, 2007

For Javamom and Coffeemamma

MerryK at Beth Spera in Domino treats you to a taste of Jasper Fforde.
“What will you have Hamlet?”
“What is there?”
“Espresso, mocha, latte,
white mocha, hot chocolate, decaf...."
You'll have to read the rest yourself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Frugal but fattening

A bits-and-pieces dessert: you need vanilla ice cream, hot fudge sauce, and a lot of broken bits of brownie.

No, I didn't have a kitchen disaster, although that could get you there as well. But recently I made a large pan of regular-old-brownies for company, and I had a lot of little bits and ends that didn't cut well. I broke them all up--not into crumbs, but into small pieces--froze them in a plastic container, and then thawed them just before making dessert. I made the fudge sauce while I was making dinner too.

And you can figure out the rest: a small helping of brownie bits in the bottom of the bowl, a scoop of ice cream on top, and sauce on top of that. We felt completely decadent.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Thinking bloggers

"There's Pooh," he thought to himself. "Pooh hasn't much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right. There's Owl. Owl hasn't exactly got Brain, but he Knows Things. He would know the Right Thing to Do when Surrounded by Water. There's Rabbit. He hasn't Learnt in Books, but he can always Think of a Clever Plan. There's Kanga. She isn't Clever, Kanga isn't, but she would be so anxious about Roo that she would do a Good Thing to Do without thinking about it. And then there's Eeyore And Eeyore is so miserable anyhow that he wouldn't mind about this. But I wonder what Christopher Robin would do?"

I came back from our holiday to find that Tim's Mom had very kindly bestowed a Thinking Blogger award on us.


Thank you!

"Here is the information on The Thinking Blogger Award.The participation rules are simple: 1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think, 2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme, 3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog). "

I'm going to send this award in the direction of Birdy's Blog, for the sheer bravado of starting a new homeschool year while simultaneously moving into a new house (in a new town) and getting the bills paid as well. And managing to blog about it all.

And also to another Canadian blogger who's been on since 2003 but whose blog is new to me: Rambling Rose, also known as Willena. This lady has a way with a pen, an eye for nature, and even passes on interesting new words.

Two good ones are enough, don't you think?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Oh, what a wonderful idea

Hat tip to Meredith for these matchless fireworks (fun but not scary) posted at The Pleasant Times. Lots of photos too, so you can't go wrong.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back from the beach

If you took the hint from the dolphins and sand on my avatar, you might have figured out that we have been having a family holiday over the last couple of days. Nothing turned out exactly as expected, but we just went with the flow and it all turned out fine anyway.

Most of our family trips have not been overnighters, but this time we decided to find a place to stay. We did the normal 2007 thing you do when you need to find a B&B: perused the Internet. We booked a family suite at what looked like a reasonably priced place, just outside of the town we wanted to visit (which, since we've been watching a lot of Green Acres lately, we'll call Pixley--the bigger town with the movie theatre).

So we drove all morning, had lunch at the Pixley A&W, visited a terrific local museum AND a homeschool supply store, and then headed for...Hooterville.

Hooterville turned out to be just that: Drucker's store and the Shady Rest Hotel. Unfortunately, Uncle Joe turned out to be slightly inebriated, the rooms weren't ready, and the downstairs appeared to function as the Hooterville pub. When we got a look at the kitchen we decided it might be a good idea to see if there was any alternative accommodation in Pixley.

Which there was. A very nice motel with two rooms next to each other, an indoor pool and a hot tub. We considered the etiquette of the situation: backing out of a verbal arrangement (no deposit on the room), vs. the risks of staying at the Shady Rest. We phoned Uncle Joe and said that we'd had a change of plans, then checked into the motel with no little relief.

The place we had in mind for dinner was closed, and Pizza Hut couldn't squeeze us in, but we found a Harvey's that served Swiss Chalet chicken, and that was fine. One thing we notice about small-town fast-food restaurants is that they're way cleaner and friendlier than the urban ones we usually avoid. I've never before had someone wiping tables at A&W ask how I liked my meal.

And the rest--it may not sound too exciting, but a morning in the pool and an afternoon walk on the beach was just what everyone needed. We're home, and we're tired, but it was worth it. We'd happily go back to Pixley again...just not Hooterville.

Carnival of Homeschooling

The Independence Edition is up now at the Homeschool Cafe.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Trust and Okay

One blog leads to another: the always-thoughtworthy Wittingshire posted a quote from George Wiegel, and Wittingshire was linked to by The Paragraph Farmer, which I got to by following the Deputy Headmistress's Sunday Hymn Post. Okay, those are the credits: this is the bit of the quote I liked:

"A thoroughly secularized world is a world without windows, doors, or skylights: a claustrophobic, ultimately suffocating world."

Imagine never hearing the soaring words of Holy, Holy, Holy--Reginald Heber's words, or Nolene Prince's chorus from Isaiah 6:3, I don't care which--I always hear both of them flying out the windows, through the skylights, up past our small selves here. It's the poetry of the words as well as their literal meaning that opens those windows, though. Otherwise we might as well just have "What a mighty God we serve, what a mighty God we serve." Not the same at all.

Again from one blog to another: Lawrence Henry wrote this in the American Spectator, the JunkYardBlog commented on it, and the Deputy Headmistress picked that up as well.

"IT IS AN INTERESTING PARADOX. Churches devoted to rigorous, difficult theology -- real Christianity, in short -- have largely adopted praise music, mainly to get people in the doors. In doing so, they have denied their parishioners an intimate connection with the art, the music, the poetry, and the history of the faith of our fathers, embodied in hymns.

"Mainstream churches, which have left Christianity behind for liberation theology, "peace and justice" theory, deconstruction, and modernism, still cling to the hymnbook, to the hard work of teaching choirs to sing in harmony, and to the expense of maintaining pipe organs.

"If only they took as good care of the faith."

I won't get into the issue of who's practicing "real Christianity." But I do know exactly what they're talking about. Church-wise and music-wise, I have been almost everywhere. I grew up in the most mainstream of mainstream, heavy on Isaac Watts and the Wesleys, with a midweek helping of holy roller on the side. Since we've been married our places of worship have varied from strictly-pipe-organ (did you know Lutheran hymns are older and harder than "the norm?") to have-to-audition praise team.

The congregation we've been part of for the last while was actually formed partly out of this same question of worship style and content: those who rebelled against "My All in All"/overheads/praise bands, among other things. Since we meet in a rented assembly room, singing is accompanied by a piano and led by a song leader (there isn't usually a choir). Ironically, "My All in All" is included in the hymnal they chose; I think we sang it a couple of weeks ago. That hymnal is full of other little surprises, too: every so often I get hit with a chorus I haven't sung since the '80's and never really wanted to hear again. But generally we're on the same track: the hymns we sing at home often get sung at church as well.

Occasionally I've thought that I should make a list of my favourite hymns. Just in case, you know? But I think the list would be too long--so almost anything in The Mennonite Hymnal would be fine, with a couple of exceptions. With apologies to The DHM, I'd have to request that if this particular squirrel ever goes paws-up, the rest of the fur-bearers would please refrain from singing Be Still My Soul. I like Sibelius and I used to like that hymn until they started using it at every single funeral. Blech. Every time I sing it now I get depressed.

But I have one more thing to throw in here about hymns, in case you think I've gone too far off the original point. And it has a lot to do with that last paragraph: I wasn't kidding about wanting hymns--real hymns--at my funeral, whenever I eventually get to shed this mortal coil. I don't care if every person there has to stumble through the words and doesn't know the music, I want some songs with meat on them. How can you get through any kind of a crisis without knowing that "on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand?" This is something we've lost as a culture, especially during the worst times: being able to cling not only to the words of Scripture we know, but the poetry of the Psalms and hymns that has been written over and over on our hearts. How many families are there who hang up the phone after good or bad news and reach for the hymn book? Crayons once goofted on the name of the hymn "Trust and Obey." She called it "Trust and Okay," but I think that's closer to the truth of what I'm saying.

When I sing, "With ever joyful hearts, and blessed peace to cheer us," I think of the pastor who wrote those words during a plague. When I hear about "sorrow and love flow mingled down," I know something of Christ's love for us during our worst times. When I hear some of the "get people in the doors" stuff--I don't hear anything. It's not that older hymns are just macaroni and cheese to me, a matter of emotion and familiarity and comfort; it's not just style and taste. It's what they are filled with that goes flying away from me myself, past what I know, to something bigger than I am.

God is here within us,
Soul, in silence fear Him,
Humbly, fervently draw near Him.
Now His own
Who have known
God, in worship lowly,
Yield their spirits wholly.
--Gerhard Tersteegen, 1729

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Red, white and blue

Don't forget the Freedom and Independence Carnival of Homeschooling at The Homeschool Cafe. Still not up quite yet, but promised by late this evening.

Just for Mr. Fixit

"Well, there was that thing with the Cheez Whiz, but I'm feeling MUCH better now."

Virtual crackers and Cheez Whiz if you can identify this...

Food for thought

Meredith pointed out this frugal post: To Slay a Beast, at One Money Dummy Getting Smarter. Mr. and Mrs. MoneyDummy decided not to eat out any more, but realized they would have to make some changes to their grocery buying habits. [2012 update: this blog no longer exists.]

We've often done many of the same things, especially trying to have a little more fun at the grocery store (figuring that it's cheaper than eating out). We hadn't eaten ribs for years, but Mr. Fixit found some and barbecued them, and everyone was in...well, hog heaven. Sometimes we'll buy a gourmet-style deep dish pizza in some flavour we've never tried before--spinach or chicken or whatever. Or a bottle of good barbecue sauce, or frozen eggrolls to go along with the vegetable stirfry and rice.

The other point that Mrs. MoneyDummy makes is that, unless you want to be totally bored with your own cooking and thus succumb to eating out, you need to get imaginative with the raw ingredients too. I always think of that very sad scene in Ramona and her Father where Ramona's mother looks in the fridge after work and has to make something last-minute out of cauliflower and leftover meat. She's not particularly successful--they eat cauliflower and leftover meat. We often have bits and pieces as well, but I try to be a bit more creative than Mrs. Quimby, so that things will actually get eaten. I think that's easier in the summer, when things like lettuce can be served very simply and taste good because they're fresh and summery--but in winter you can have other standbys, like putting the bits and pieces into minestrone.

For us, that carries over the most into snacks. We might buy a bag of cookies with the groceries, but they're gone by the end of the weekend, so I fill in with "homemade junk food." We do a fair amount of baking, at least when it's not too hot to turn the oven on. I will often throw a pan of garlic breadsticks or muffins in just before supper, to jazz up the meal a bit. I usually try to have something available for the Apprentice to munch when she comes home from school.

And if you still need to feel like you're eating out, you can always change locations. Our kids always think lunch tastes better on the back porch--especially if they've packed it in a paper bag or a backpack first.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A little rhubarb

That's what we had--our still-skimpy plant yielded up about a cupful of diced rhubarb this week. Enough for muffins, but it was pretty hot to turn on the oven. I flipped through rhubarb dessert recipes, and saw a photo of raspberry-rhubarb parfaits.

Well, we could do that, except we didn't have any raspberries. But we did have some leftover canned pineapple in the fridge. And homemade yogurt, and granola. And a microwave oven...

So this is what I did: combined the rhubarb, the pineapple (about a cupful of tidbits), a quarter cup of sugar, and a spoonful of water in a glass measuring cup. (You probably don't need the water, but I'm still new at microwaving and I wasn't sure if it needed a bit of liquid.) I microwaved it on High for a couple of minutes, until the rhubarb was soft.

Then the girls and I layered granola, yogurt, and the rhubarb mixture in our fanciest stemmed glasses (this amount made five small desserts with no leftovers). We also added a spoonful of raspberry jam on the top of each, mostly for colour, and chilled them until dinnertime. And they were very elegant and delicious.

Miss Maggie is back

The Hillbilly Housewife site is back up now--Miss Maggie was having some technical issues.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

O Canada, our--what?

Happy Canada Day!


From the Orangeville Citizen, March 1907:

Editor T. F. E. Claridge, in the SHELBURNE ECONOMIST, writes:

Unless we are greatly mistaken, "O Canada, Our Fathers' Land of Old," will speedily become everywhere recognized as Canada's national hymn, now that Dr. T. B. Richardson's English setting of the words is available.

Composed in 1880 - the poem by Judge Routhier and the music by Calixa Lavallee, both natives of the province of Quebec - it has certainly taken its own time to "arrive," but purely from the lack of an English version of the words, for the air itself has become familiar - and loved - by the soldiers and bandsmen at Niagara Camp during the last few years. It is played by the massed bands there at the annual "tattoo," and is used as an official salute.

It has a very happy combination of musical beauty and dignity, both of which, unfortunately, are features we cannot claim for our loved "Maple Leaf," however admirable the poem.

The words of Dr. Richardson's version, brought into prominence by its performance at recent Mendelssohn Choir concerts, appear below:

O Canada, our fathers' land of old,
Thy brow is crown'd with leaves of red and gold;
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross, Thy children own their birth,
No stains thy glorious annals gloss, Since valour shields thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call.
Defend our rights, forefend this nation's thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall.

Altar and throne command our sacred love,
And mankind to us shall ever brothers prove.
O King of Kings, with thy mighty breath
All our sons do Thou inspire.
May no craven terror of life or death,
E'er damp the patriot's fire.
Our mighty call, loudly shall ring,
As in days of old, "For Christ and the King!"
As in days of old, "For Christ and the King!"

[Note from Mama Squirrel: we discovered this version of O Canada a few years ago, and made a slight alteration to the last verse. We sing it, "With one voice we sing; proudly we stand; as in the days of old, "For Christ and Our Land."]

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