Monday, December 31, 2007

Yay yay

Mama Squirrel has asked me to make a final post so Glitter Graphics

Year of Abundance 2007

Did you notice that this Year of Abundance 2007 is about to end?

At the beginning of the year, Sallie wrote:
"This saying is already a part of my life in many ways, but I know I can do a much better job. And I would also enjoy the feeling of being a good steward of using the things I already have in my home rather than bringing more home to add to the stash. I also want to focus on the spiritual and relational abundance I have and how that comes into play with the material abundance."
How did we do with our "make it do?" Remember, this wasn't a year without was a year of appreciating, thanking, and thinking outside the buying box.

Well...I think we did all right! It was probably the most interesting grocery-shopping year we've had in awhile, since our favourite price-chop supermarket went through a terrible mess of renovations and we were forced to check out alternatives (including a discount store known better for its glitzy sweaters and cheap flip-flops than for its groceries). I don't think our grocery bills went down any this year, but at least they didn't go up much, and that's saying something considering that there are now five regular-portioned eaters here. (I don't have an exact figure on that yet--Mr. Fixit hasn't finished his year-end accounting.)

Yard saling, thrift shopping this year...well, back last winter I did a lot of thrift shopping relating to homeschooling, and a bit more in the summer. And there were the things like craft supplies and yarn which kept popping up--requiring us to find ways to use them creatively! Outside of that...clothes have been a bit more difficult to find this year, although the above-mentioned discount store has helped in that area (we find it amusing to buy a hundred dollars' worth of groceries plus a coat for about the same price as we'd normally bring the groceries without the coat). Mr. Fixit did pretty well this year with his gadgets and gizmos, although most of his great finds this year were on E-bay rather than bought in someone's driveway. But there were a couple of good yard sales for him as well.

I was most impressed by everyone's Christmas creativity this year--proving that there's more than one way to think abundantly! (By everyone I mean both those inside and outside the Treehouse--you all are included.)

But there was one other thing that became more important this year than material abundance, frugal or otherwise; we saw it particularly through the lives of several people we know both online and in real life: abundance of the heart.

"...for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." (Matthew 12:34)
It's been a long and difficult year for many of our friends, and yet they've blessed us continually with the abundance of their hearts, their faith and their courage. Some of the stories did not end as we would have wished. Some will continue to struggle. Not all the stories are life and death; there are also the daily struggles, small steps and big leaps that inspire us as well.
So yes...this has, indeed, been a Year of Abundance. We thank you all for sharing it with us so abundantly.
P.S. And the daily dose of good laughs, as well. Here's one from the Carrot Duchy.

Silly snowmen, ready to serve

(Reposted from 2005)

The educational activities of the Treehouse don't include a lot of worksheets. Some of our materials (like Miquon Math) do include workbooks, but in general we don't use many of the classroom-oriented printables--and I know there are many of them out there.

However, this month I did print out some worksheets for Ponytails from, and also a really silly bunch of reading and math activities about Ralph and Sammy Snowman. [2007 reassurance: the link still works!] I don't think we'd want a steady diet of snowmen, dragons and aliens, but I have to admit, sometimes just filling in the blanks can be fun for a change. And the math activities were pretty good too (on the whole; it was also a good opportunity to point out that even grownups who write worksheets can ask questions in a confusing way, or sometimes even make mistakes like "$3 dollars." (We also skipped the social-studies part about Alaska, not because we have anything against Alaska but because we were more interested in the math pages.)

Carnival of Homeschooling Contest

A message from the Cates at the Carnival of Homeschooling: they're having a contest! Check it out if you're good with graphics.

Also, this week's carnival (deadline tonight, a couple of hours before the ball falls) will be hosted by the Cates at Why Homeschool. It's the second anniversary edition, so consider a last-minute contribution to help them celebrate!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ponytails' Annual Winter Quiz

What is your favourite winter drink?

1. Hot chocolate
2. Vanilla coffee
3. Tea
4. All of the above

(I like them all!)

Which is your favourite season?

1. Spring
2. Summer
3. Fall
4. Winter

(I like fall because it's warm and my birthday is in fall!)

Do you like to put tinsel on your tree?

(I think tinsel is pretty but we don't have any.)

What is your favourite cold sport?

1. Snowboarding
2. Sledding
3. Hockey
4. Just skating

(I like to sled and skate.)

Have you ever read any of these snow books?

1. The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett
2. Snowbound with Betsy, by Carolyn Haywood
3. Brave Irene, by William Steig

(I've read them all!)

You can answer these questions by putting a comment on our blog!

~~Ponytails (HAPPY HOLIDAYS!)

Since we were talking about Mitford

Or I was, anyway...Circle of Quiet has a post about Patches of Godlight and some of "Father Tim's" favourite quotations.

Year of the Red Ribbon

What's in your hand...this year it was a spool of lovely red ribbon that we found at a rummage sale in the summer, and two spools of wide white lace. We used them both to tie up packages...tied bows with the red ribbon on the dining room mirror...decorated just about everything except ourselves with it.

And then the Apprentice topped every other use for it by hot-gluing it into a Barbie dress (the two dresses were her gift to Crayons). Nice, yes?

The blue print dress and the other parts of the ribbon dress are made from silk neckties. The Apprentice learned how to make those a few years ago from a library book, and she came up with some gorgeous designer duds. (All cutting and hot-gluing, closures made from sticky-back Velcro.)

(Photo credit: Ponytails)

The little clothespin kits that grew

Or, if you give a mom a Ziploc...

To read the rest of this post, come on over here and I'll whisper the rest while the Squirrelings are busy gluing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bucking The Christmas Thing...foodwise

Not Christmas, you understand...just The Thing That Christmas Is Supposed to Be, or in other words, Life Within A Women's Magazine.

I committed several heresies against The Thing this season. I'll line up against the mantelpiece with them and you can fire away at all of us. But you probably won't, because like me you are Not Living in a Women's Magazine.

There...deep breath...

I never did get my two big poinsettias for the mantelpiece. (Okay, that's not food.) Although there were some available at Mr. Fixit's office, he took pity on my black thumb and remembered how hard it's been keeping just one of those ungrateful things alive over Christmases past. So our fireplace stayed slightly boring but at least we didn't have any shedding plants. I did try to snip a bit of fresh piney green stuff to dress up a bowlful of candles, but within a few minutes even Ponytails was complaining about the odor, so back outside it went. Thanks to those who made suggestions, though. I'll keep my eyes open for ways we can vary the up and down.

Christmas Eve we went out for burgers...that turned out to be very sensible considering we had to be at church at 5:45 (the Squirrelings had to get their costumes on for a play) and we didn't want to come home afterwards to a lot of dishes. And the kids were so excited they couldn't manage more food than that anyway.

I didn't bake or cook one hot thing for Christmas day breakfast. We made two kinds of muffins the day before and we had those with other regular breakfast things. Whatever makes everybody happy, right?

I didn't decide on what we were going to have for Christmas day dessert until about two days before. We were going to make a cheesecake recipe but then realized that there just weren't going to be enough cake-eaters around to do justice to something made with three packages of cream cheese. Finally I settled on a small-sized banana cake with maple icing. When we were about to ice it, I suddenly remembered that I forgot to put sugar in the cake. I never almost never don't often do things like that! But luckily it was a muffin recipe and wasn't supposed to have much sweetener anyway besides the with lots of icing it was still pretty good. Ponytails helped decorate it with Christmas-coloured candy corn running around the rim, and we found a few other red and green candies for the middle.

I had a last-minute can't-find-the-apricots while I was making the crockpot stuffing and everybody else was watching Arnie hunt for Turbo-Man. But I did have a bag of dried apples and they worked out great...I think I liked them even better than apricots.

I didn't decide on The Vegetable until I was making the vegetables. We had baby carrots dressed up with frozen Oriental-style vegetables (the pieces of green bean and red pepper looked pretty). (I boiled the carrots until they were almost done, then added the frozen vegetables.) We also committed the Ultimate Potato Heresy. For those who don't like it: you all can come next year and help us do the dishes afterwards.

On the plus side: Mr. Fixit's chicken turned out great. The Squirrelings ate up an entire can of cranberry jelly. And we made something pretty to go along with the cake, dried fruit, and two kinds of freshly-made Christmas cookies: a white plate with a small white bowl in the middle; the bowl was full of fresh raspberries, and surrounding the bowl was a wreath of green kiwi fruit slices, decorated with little clusters of the raspberries. (Like holly berries, get it?) Mama Squirrel thought that one up herself after Mr. Fixit put a small box of raspberries in the shopping cart...proving that, once in a long while, a last-minute-planned Christmas dinner can TOO look as pretty as a magazine photo.

Sign this woman up to teach parenting

Elisheva at Ragamuffin Studies had a tricky situation to deal with, and says a lot as well about how we can make snap judgments about each others' kids...or each other. Read carefully what she said to her own son about what happened...there's a good example there for anyone who gets into something similar and wants to parent wisely but without destroying a child's spirit.

(Yes, I used "parent" as a verb. Yes, I know people frown on that. But would you really have wanted that sentence any longer?)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frugal Hacks celebrate

If you haven't had time to visit at Frugal Hacks lately, you have missed out on some wonderful posts--real keepers. Just going back over the last few:

Meredith's post about receiving gifts graciously--and how her grandmother modelled that so wonderfully.

A whole catalogue of printables from the Deputy Headmistress--many of which can get creatively included in gifts, or even make good gifts themselves (like a collection of sheet music, or dollhouse printables). I like the play on the DHM's favourite phrase "what's in my hand?"--in this case, the Internet!

An interview with the Lords of the Manor

And Janel's post about taking food along on trips--something we always struggle with ourselves since even the cost of burgers out can set us back quite a bit.

Stay tuned--there's always more coming along over there.

Merry Christmas 1969

Yes, we have Christmas stories

But just not a lotta time to post about them...check back later on.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

He is the Lord
Forever His truth shall reign
Heaven and Earth
Rejoice in His holy name
He is exalted, the King is exalted on high
--Twila Paris

Monday, December 24, 2007


I have a perpetual flip-the-day calendar* in my bedroom, but I sometimes forget to change the date on it. While looking for a pencil to write down the long list of things I think I have to do today, I noticed that I hadn't changed the calendar since December 3rd. And this is what it said for that date:

"Our object in life should not be so much to get through a great deal of work, as to give perfect satisfaction to Him for whom we are doing the work.--Aitken"

Brought up short again!

*The calendar is "Bless Your Heart" and it's copyright Heartland Samplers, Inc., 1994. I got it at a rummage sale earlier in the year.

P.S. Ann at Holy Experience posted a quote today that touched on the same thing--part of it says, ""The intensity and strain that many of us bring to Christmas must suggest to some onlookers that, on the whole, Christians do not seem to have gotten the point of it."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread

Birdie was asking for shortbread recipes, and that reminded me that I've never posted our recipe for Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread. This is one that came from Canadian Living Magazine (Dec 1/92) and we make some every year; it freezes well.

[2008 Update: I baked an 8-inch square pan of this and, for the first time ever, had it turn out underdone; when I cut the pan into squares, the bottoms of the pieces were very damp. I remedied it as best I could by turning the squares upside down on a cookie sheet and baking them a little while longer at 275 degrees; they're not perfect but at least I didn't have to dump the whole batch. So--a reminder to give the pans as long as they seem to need, even if they're turning a bit brown--better that than underdone.]

Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread

"This recipe can be baked as invidiual cookies or in a square pan." My note: I doubled the recipe this year and baked it in a large pan, cutting it afterwards.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
2 tbsp. poppy seeds
2 tbsp. grated lemon rind
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 2 tbsp. granulated sugar for sprinkling (or as desired)

In bowl, cream together butter and icing sugar until fluffy; stir in poppy seeds and lemon rind. Gradually blend in flour. Gather dough into ball; chill for 30 minutes if sticky.

If you're rolling and cutting them: On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness; cut into 2-inch rounds and place on ungreased baking sheets.

If you're baking them in a pan: Press dough into 8- or 9-inch square pan; prick surface all over with fork. My note: I always find a fork really massacres the top of the bars, so I don't do that anymore; but I do prick the surface gently with a toothpick. Sprinkle with a little sugar if you like.

Bake in 300 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes for cookies, or about 35 minutes for square pan, or until set and very faintly browned. Let cookies cool on rack, or let large square cool in the pan before cutting into bars.

Shortbread can be stored in an airtight containers for up to 5 days or frozen for up to a month. Makes about 40 cookies or 24 bars.


I finished Shepherds Abiding. It didn't matter that it was the eighth in the series and that I didn't know all the characters...the story was exactly what I needed this week.

I've been thinking a lot about things and people that I miss (especially around the holidays), things that have changed, things I'm unhappy about (yes, there are some even though I don't blog about them), the fact that the living room won't stay cleaned (it's a living room), and the general imperfection that always seems to interfere and mess up the perfect life I always thought I was somehow entitled to.

Shepherds Abiding is full of imagery of things imperfect, broken, less than ideal. One-winged angels, families with missing siblings, lost letters, and, central to it all, an antique Nativity set that Father Tim is restoring as a Christmas present for his wife.

In a nice touch of irony, as Father Tim is consulting Botticelli paintings to choose the perfect colours for angels' robes, the ailing and rather simple-minded old man down the street is also making a present for his own wife: a wooden tray for her jewelery, with handles swiped from the kitchen cabinets. Both gifts are welcomed and loved.

The book is about restoring, repairing, finding what has been lost, and reconciling the past and the present. And even about extending grace from unexpected quarters: another couple sit "in their twin recliners" in front of a fake fireplace that "featured a forty-watt bulb that flowed through a revolving sheet of red cellophane." The wife opens a gift from a neighbour and recognizes something that she herself donated to a rummage sale "a hundred years ago."

"And to think I gave her a two-layer marmalade [cake]" [she said.]

"Th' poor woman has a gimp leg, Esther, which don't leave much room for shoppin'. Besides, why did you put it in th' Bane an' Blessin'? It looks perfectly good to me."

"Well, yes," said Esther, examining it more carefully. "After I put it in, I wished I hadn't."

"See?" said her husband, hammering down on a couple of cashews. "What goes around comes around."
It's about finding peace, mystery and wonder at Christmas in whatever place in the story you happen to be...understanding that God is allowing you to be a part of it all...whether your life is about Renaissance angels, or recliners, or somewhere in between.

It's about allowing some living room.

A matter of vocabulary

"He went to the coat rack by the back door and put on his fleece jacket, zipped it up, and popped a toboggan on his head."--Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding

What on earth, I thought. Visions of Mr. Canoehead?

OK, no, obviously that must mean something different in North Carolina.


Noun 1. toboggan cap - a close-fitting woolen cap; often has a tapering tail with a tassel
ski cap, stocking cap

Oh--a toque!


An Advent Read

Found at the thrift shop: Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon. I am one of those outcasts who's never yet read more than a few pages of a Mitford book (sorry, Donna-Jean), but I'm about two-thirds of the way through this one. Something to put in a grownup's box of Christmas books!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Share the love

Mosquito nets for Christmas? Rabbits?


Holy Experience shares links and thoughts on giving outside of our own circle of friends and family. And the best gift I can give my friend Ann there is to pass on the message.

Friday, December 21, 2007

What's in my closet...keep out, all squirrels

Everybody knows that Mama Squirrel keeps the Christmas presents in the bedroom closet. Well covered up, and she KNOWS that nobody would ever peek. I mean, really, what's the point? But still, yes, year after year that's where they get put.

So if you're not a Squirrel, and you want a tour of what's in there (and there are some fascinating things), you are invited to take your life in your hands open the closet door and see what's up. Blog-reading Squirrels, young or old, are strictly forbidden from clicking on that link or even waving the mousie near it. Fair's fair. And all the rest of you, just hush; do not leave comments about said closet contents here or over there.

Better than chocolate

Chocolate Advent calendars have nothing on this beautiful cabin.

When men were men and books had words

Found at the thrift shop: an oversized hardcover copy of Animal Babies, by Margaret Jean Bauer. The date inside says MCMXLIX, 1949, but there's another date of 1972 so it looks like a reprint.

The mostly-coloured illustrations are by Jacob Bates Abbott; they remind me a bit of Holling Clancy Holling's pictures (they're the same vintage, anyway). However, the cute pouncing lion cubs and back-stroking sea otters shouldn't fool you: this book, only 90 or so pages long, nevertheless has Words. A random sampling:
"One of the most elaborate and well-protected of desert homes is built by the softly furred and gentle white-throated wood rat. It makes a mound of all the available material it finds, branches of prickly pear and cholla, sticks, and other similar material. It will laboriously pull and tug a prickly cactus pad, sometimes larger than itself, to the top of its mound, which may reach a height of five feet. How it avoids being impaled by the sharp spines is a mystery. No animal would dare to try entering or tearing apart one of these fortresses. But, just to be on the safe side, the wood rat will surround its rodent skyscraper with a circle of prickly pear growth--a regular barbed wire fence."
There are 11 chapters, each dealing with a variety of parents and babies, from koalas to chipmunks to prongbuck antelope.

Would kids today like this book? Well, probably not your "average kid," although he might get drawn into the text while looking at the pictures. But those who do like nature writing...something like the Rainbow Book of Nature...would probably be able to make good use of this one, and its illustrations give it extra appeal.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This and that around the blogosphere

Mere Comments posted about why many of us write as badly as we do (and why it's so hard to write a good school essay) in The Reasons for Pudder.
Barb has a lesson (with photos) about how to use pastels.
Meredith decorates with pineapples.

Melissa is longing for a dull moment. (Oh. My.)

Glorious Coming--Almost Here

Want to help us decorate?

I am not a visual person. My "design principles" sense is not the greatest. I am the person that the Messies lady wrote about, who could look at a stray sock sitting somewhere and think it was part of the decor. The most exciting thing I do with my Christmas wrapping is get the tape on straight and (this year) add a crocheted ornament.

So when I rearranged the Treehouse mantelpiece, I had visions of...I don't know, something with a little more oomph than this. I was trying to decorate with books, and you can only stack those so high before things get dangerous. The dolls seem a bit lost, if you know what I mean. Those red and white jugs have been temporarily replaced with two ceramic Christmas trees about the same size, but otherwise this is the way things look right now. Any ideas for where things should be bigger, taller or otherwise added to or rearranged, for the holidays or in general?

P.S. If you want to know why the love seat is facing AWAY from the fireplace, the only good reason is that if it goes the other way around, then you can't see the people sitting on the couch, or the TV, or anything else that's going on the rest of the room. We've never figured out just how to handle that problem.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Play it again, Eric

Heard on CBC's Studio Sparks, in a somewhat Chestertonian moment:

"That was a short version of Carol of the Bells. It's probably the shortest one out there. In fact, it was so short, let's play it again."

And he did, much to Mr. Fixit's disgust and the little Squirrelings' delight.

Want some Christmas?

Head over to The Common Room. More posts there today that I can shake a peppermint stick at, so you'll just have to scroll down through them. Music, Christmas villages, and thoughts on why you do not want to start any tradition with your kids that you do not hope to do over and over and over again. (Been there, done that.)

Me, me, me, me, me

Found through the Carnival of Homeschooling: No, Jayden, You're Not the Center of the Universe.
"I’m just enough of a conspiracy theorist to wonder whether or not there’s some kind of big plot to keep our children ignorant of their place in the world’s history, to keep the little Jaydens and Haileys out there blissfully numb to the idea that there might have been ten thousand and more years of recorded history (and ten times ten thousand and more years of unrecorded history) in which they play their part, but not the most important one…at least for now. Maybe later."

It's not only about reading to them

(Edward Ardizzone's drawing of young Eleanor Farjeon reading, in The Little Bookroom)

Ragamuffin studies has a post about Becoming a Reader: The Politics and the Reality. Read it, read the comments. It's very eye-opening. Then go read something else; read something to yourself, read something to your kids that's ranked above a grade 4 reading level. Just to be subversive.

Or go do something completely different with them--because you are the parent. See? I get it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Your Christmas is Most Like: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.
Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.

Birds in their little nests

Even Birdies can feel like their nests are a bit too little...but this Birdy has a nice way of turning her life's lemons chocolate.

The Common Room's JennyAnyDots posted the same thought in a quote from Victor Hugo:

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

How to make a mama squirrel crazy

I bought three packs of Mary Engelbreit Christmas note cards at Michael's (in the inexpensive bins where they always have a lot of Mary Engelbreit cards, magnets and so on). I thought they'd work well as Christmas cards this year.

We wrote in them. We signed them. We put in photos. We addressed them and put return labels on them. We did everything except seal them.

Mr. Fixit was going to take them with him to work this morning and get them mailed. So just minutes before he left, Mama Squirrel started applying her furry little tongue to those envelopes. And it was then that she realized--not one of them had enough sticky on the flap to stay closed. These were dud envelopes. They had shuffled off their mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible. (That's for the DHM.)

And Mama Squirrel didn't even have any pretty stickers, at least not that she could lay her paws on that quickly.

So if you get a card from the Treehouse, closed with Scotch know why.

And a very big HUMPH to whatever person (chuckling evilly) let those envelopes through.

Thank you all so very much

Yes, we won. I don't have the fancy button yet to dress up this post, but the votes are in and the Treehouse somehow scuttled up to the top of the Cyberbuddy category. As the Deputy Headmistress (and the Common Room is a double winner!) pointed out, the winner for Funniest Blog--as you'd expect--wrote a very funny announcement thanking all and sundry for their support. So what's a Cyberbuddy supposed to write?

Just thank you. Thank you to all 56.8 of you (or whatever it was) who voted for us. Thank you all for coming along with us over the last couple of years--because a Cyberbuddy is nothing without some buddies. We will strive to be worthy of your visitiness. (Thank you, Apprentice, I couldn't find the word there.)

And thank you very much to the team at Homeschool Blog Awards, and the sponsors of the contest.

Tofu Fudge Chews

Dairy and egg free! We don't make these every Christmas, but since we had a package of soft tofu and it is my tofu-eating brother-in-law's birthday, Crayons and I made a batch in his honour.

Tofu Fudge Chews

from Tofu Cookery, by Louise Hagler

Blend in a blender (or food processor, or use a blender stick) until smooth:

1/2 lb. tofu (or a 300 g package)
1/2 cup oil

Pour into a medium mixing bowl, and add:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp. vanilla (optional; we add it)
1 tbsp. water, milk or soymilk if needed (it wasn't needed)

Stir well. Mix separately (or just dump in):

3 cups unbleached white flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Add to wet ingredients, mix well. The dough should be fairly stiff, although you may still find it sticks to your hands a bit while you're making the balls.

Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls (average cookie size). Put some more white sugar into a cereal bowl and roll the balls in the sugar. (We only roll about half the balls and leave the rest plain for those that object to crunching through sugar.)

Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet about an inch apart. They will puff up and then spread somewhat, but they won't come out flat unless you squish them.

Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool on a wire rack.

Of Squirrelings and snow clothes

"James worked away frantically on the Centipede's boots. Each one had laces that had to be untied and loosened before it could be pulled off, and to make matters worse, all the laces were tied up in the most complicated knots that had to be unpicked with fingernails. It was just awful. It took about two hours. And by the time James had pulled off the last boot of all and had lined them up in a row on the floor--twenty-one pairs altogether--the Centipede was fast asleep."--Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

And sometimes it does feel exactly like that.

Tree trims

All the patterns for these came from "Seven Wonders Tree Trims," in Crochet World December 2005. The red decoration (in our kitchen window) is Speed-Cro-Sheen plus metallic red thread; the cream-coloured trims are Knit-Cro-Sheen; and the white star is made with an old ball of crochet cotton about the same weight.

And no, they're not all perfect. One of those diamond shapes is particularly wobbly. But I'm getting better at it. I've made a few more as well since we took the pictures, and they're much improved.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lacking a snowblower...

(What is it with this particular winter and Sunday Mornings? One of those weather makers seems to have a thing against people going to church.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Most fun two Squirrelings can have with a Nativity scene

"Cough cough cough."




I knew I shouldn't have let them watch Mr. Bean...

One of those early-morning emergencies

"Mommy, I want to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and I can't find the note to start on."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A link to Spanish carols

For JavaMom and anyone else out there looking for Spanish translations of familiar carols: I found this PDF file and thought it looked useful.

"Del alto cielo bajo yo,
La buena nueva os vengo a dar;
Oíd la paz que en grato son,
Anuncia el célico cantar."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Just a couple of days left

If you haven't voted yet at the Homeschool Blog Awards, remember you have just until Friday. And you can check on the current status of your favourite blogs by clicking on their categories.

Details work wonders

Check out Meredith's gift basket. Her posts are classes in doin' it with class, and the details she gives make it sound like even the rest of us could come up with...well, something close.

Let all mortal flesh, plus an addition to the Very Bad Nativities

I wasn't looking for more Bad Nativities--I've had all I can stomach--but I was looking for versions of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence that those-who-know have recommended, and I got more than I bargained for on You-Tube.

John Michael Talbot plus a choir is awesome, but what's with the Mary and Joseph as astronauts? I do kind of like the Native scene with the snowflakes--must be the Canadian in me.

The church-style video to Fernando Ortega's version skips most of the Christmas scenes, majoring on tall trees and floating boats. That one's not so bad.

But if you just want to listen, you can always minimize the pictures. Sometimes that's the best way to go. My Squirrelings and I have discovered a great combination for songs on You-Tube where the lyrics aren't given: minimize the video and bring up another site that does have the lyrics. We've done this with Twila Paris's We Will Glorify (video, lyrics). (Her We Bow Down has the lyrics right there with the video.) When we're not singing hymns, we've also combined video/lyrics (scroll down) for Anne Murray's version of The Maple Leaf Forever (the lyrics are updated from the old Wolfe-the-dauntless-hero version); and Stompin' Tom Connors' The Ketchup Song (video, lyrics--best I can find for those, but please pardon the spelling. Warning also that there are one or two iffy images in that video). (Want to see that one live? And that's why they call him Stompin' Tom.)

There--this post gets the award for Most Eclectic.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Games and stuff with Melissa

Links! More links! Wander over to Here in the Bonny Glen if you have enough time to kill browsing the online games and more. Certain squirrels in this Treehouse admit a mild addiction to Eight Letters in Search of a Word; our record (and patience limit) is about level 20, how about you?

Monday, December 10, 2007

You wouldn't believe it if you couldn't see it

Tim's Mom sent me this link to the Cavalcade of Bad Nativities. All I can say is, some of these are scarier than Halloween decorations, and the rest make the Wormwoods' house look like a Pottery Barn catalogue.

Great books nobody reads (Plutarch)

And bad books everybody reads.

Kathryn at Suitable for Mixed Company pointed me to this article by Anthony Esolen, The Top Twenty Books That Nobody Reads. Top of the list: Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans.

To be honest, I'm surprised that it even made it to the list--I mean, to make it to the list of famous books that nobody reads, it would have to be famous, if not read, right? Everybody's heard of The Grapes of Wrath and The Odyssey and Paradise Lost, even if they don't read them. But it seems to me that more people just haven't heard of Plutarch than have heard of him but don't read him. Part of that reason--I think--is that he's kind of hard to find unless you're looking on purpose. Easy to find online or probably in a library (say if they have the Harvard Classics), but you're not going to see multiple copies of Plutarch come up at book sales like you are the hundreds of school editions of Shakespeare's plays, or the multiple copies of Lord of the Flies. (I think there were school editions of Plutarch produced years ago--as well as the retellings for children that are available online--but I haven't yet seen one myself, I mean a "real" Plutarch but just with some of the content edited out, see below, or maybe some vocabulary notes.)

Also, he was a "moral biographer," and that's gone out of style. That's good for us, in some ways, because you don't have to know all the history that's included to make sense of one of Plutarch's Lives. Some background helps, but it isn't just the battles and the rulers that matter; it's what makes a great leader, or a poor one; what good choices were made, and what bad ones.

If you're talking to homeschoolers who are even aware of Plutarch's existence, they're most likely either of a classical or CM bent, since Charlotte Mason enthused about his biographies in her own books. She classed Plutarch as "Citizenship Study" rather than as history lessons. To the rest of the world (maybe outside of the Classics departments), he's more obscure even than Sir Walter Scott. (How many people can name more than about two Scott books?) Even the author Penelope Lively (in Oleander Jacaranda), who studied through the Parents' Union correspondence school, says she can't understand what a child would have gotten out of Plutarch.

And then there's the problem of whose translation you're looking for, and which Lives are included in the volume you have. And the problem of some of the nasty stuff--Plutarch is neither squeamish nor prudish. Lacking an edited version, you have to read him aloud rather than turning your kids loose.

However: the Ambleside Online curriculum, among other things, has quietly been turning all this ignorance of Plutarch on its ear. All Ambleside students over about the age of ten are encouraged to become familiar with Plutarch, to study one of his Lives every term--beginning with the retellings if they want, but eventually moving on to the grownup version. Lacking a SparkNotes for Plutarch, we created our own notes (which get added to the website at regular or sometimes irregular intervals). And we've started to hear from families for whom Plutarch is no longer a stranger. We start to hear that his Lives are even inspiring enjoyable discussions.

This, from a book at the top of the list of the Books That Nobody Reads.

Not bad.

Different Christmas Stories

I saved this link a long time ago--sorry it's one of those Tripod sites with pop-ups. It mentions, among other stories, the poem "The Innkeeper", by John Piper, which is available on the Desiring God website--in both print and audio! A warning though--this poem is not about the sweetness of Jesus' birth, but of Herod's actions afterwards.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

New recipes from Miss Maggie

Miss Maggie may not be the Hillbilly Housewife now, but that hasn't stopped her from coming up with more recipes to share. Check out her new blog for Creamy White Bean and Vegetables Soup, Maple Nut Bars, and more.

How very nice

I could send this on to every single person in our sidebar and then some--it amazes me how many truly Nice bloggers there are out there. ("I guess they're all pretty nice."--Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
Here are a few who I'd love to tell they're "nice":

Marsha at the Abarbablog
Mom to Cherubs at Adventures on Beck's Bounty
Queen Shenaynay at Beehive 5
Becky at Farm School
Gena at Food = Love
Donna-Jean at Liberty and Lily (your posts always warm me up)

Friday, December 07, 2007

She wants it painted black

Do you see Meredith's mailbox, she wants it painted black
No colors anymore she wants them to turn black
Then I see her walking by dressed in her Persian lamb
I have to turn my head because she looks so glam.

(I'm sorry. I've had a hard day. I couldn't resist.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Kitbashing, a way of life

(Relax, this hasn't anything to do with blog bashing or HBA bashing.)

Kitbashing. Do you know what that is? I used to get dollhouse magazines with examples of kitbashing, and I know car modellers who do the same thing. You want to build something, if you'll pardon the example, a haunted you buy a regular dollhouse kit FOR THE COMPONENTS...or two or three kits...and change, combine or otherwise customize them to suit your purposes. Roof from here, walls from here and so on.

I was thinking through a whole blog post about kitbashing as a kind of frugal philosophy...a variation of what's in my hand...but this essay beat me to it.

"Sure, what I call "kitbashing life" has been stated before in a multitude of forms, from the impressive "Adopt, Adapt, Improve" of the Knights of the Round Table to the cliched "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But I've found that since I started kitbashing toys, I've really taken this sort of attitude to's more than just words of advice, it's something I live by."

The inverse of this philosophy is missing out by not being able to see the parts, just the whole. I wrote once here about going to a yard sale and buying, for $2, some bits and pieces of craft supplies packed in a $14.98 plastic container--that several people had passed over because they didn't like those particular bits and pieces, or they ONLY wanted the bits and pieces and didn't notice the container. Sometimes you get a better deal buying a whole junker whatsit with a good part you need, than you do trying to get a new part alone. (Or sometimes, in that case, it's the package that's the best find of all.)

I was thinking about that this week when I noticed that a local fabric-plus-more outlet store has reduced its prices on several educational-type kits for kids. You might have seen them: they are large boxes, six kits (each marked with a school grade), and each one has a different theme and project booklets. The sixth grade one, I think, is called Flying (it contains things to make kites and gliders); the fourth grade one is a Top Secret Spy kit with fingerprinting dust and so on; the first grade one is just art and craft supplies. The outlet store had them for $5.99 for quite awhile, now they're $3.99. Somebody told me their dollar store had the same kits--incredibly--for $1 apiece.

And they're sitting there. How come? Maybe because of the grading thing: what sixth grader wants to be given a box marked "Grade Two?" Or maybe because of the whole-parts thing: maybe you don't want to be a top secret spy, but you sure could use a magnifying glass; who couldn't use a big boxful of craft supplies? How much paint and glue can you get even at the dollar store for that price?

I guess the company boxed themselves in (pun intended).

Of course the most frugal--I mean, the only sensible way to do the kind of kitbashing I'm talking about--is when you can get the pieces-in-the-whole for less than you'd pay for them separately. But even better is when you find a poor old forgotten whole--maybe in a dusty or dented or otherwise bedraggled package--for almost nothing, and it turns out to have one or two pieces of gold in it. A bag of tangled yarn with leftover knitting needles thrown in. A bag of weary-looking stuffed Santas and snowmen with, somehow, one very cute Dora the Explorer doll in there too; and the thrift shop was not going to parole Dora without her cellmates. (We bought the bagful--it was worth it for the doll, and the Santas found new homes too--they turned out not to be as awful as they'd first appeared.) A set of books for almost nothing, in which one volume turns out to be exactly what you need. Would you pass up the set and pay more than that for a different book?

Maybe that's not kitbashing exactly, but you know what I mean. Look at parts as well as wholes--and never mind the holes. Instead of buying all new embroidery floss and tapestry yarn, consider using what you find in the half-used kits at rummage sales--I see those all the time. Half-used latchhook kits, too. Obviously this only makes sense if you like latchhook pictures of old mills and things, and I don't, especially, so for me this is not a good kind of kitbashing. But I'd pick up a partly-used package of floss or yarn, if it wasn't cut into little latchhook pieces. I've found partly-used party kits (usually with some leftover paper hats and unused noisemakers)--even the slightly Boy ones are fun for Mr. Fixit's family-only birthdays. (He doesn't mind Ninja Turtles or robot warriors, even if we have to combine a couple of themes to give everybody a hat and a napkin.)

Recently some Squirrelings and I were talking about doing fabric painting, and we realized that, between two or three paint-a-something kits they had been given, we could put together enough colours to do the project we had in mind. As Meredith says, better than a trip to the Big M (not McDonalds).

Keep an open mind, and kitbash when you can.

The HBA's side of things

There has been a tempest this season at the HBA tea party. Some of you will know what I'm talking about. If you don't, never mind and go vote for your favourite blogs anyway. Today or tomorrow, because time's running out! [Oops--I guess you have a little more time than that. Voting is open until Dec 15th.]

If you want a thoughtful consideration of things from the HBA side (including the fact that, legally, they are NOT running a lottery because the HBA is not a company, just a few interested people (hmm, DHM and others, does this sound familiar?))--check out Dawn's post and the comments that follow.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Worth reading

In Like Merchant Ships' post So Little Stuff I found this essay mentioned at O Night Divine.

"My mother patiently mentioned that when her ten children were young she could remember about twenty things we had for toys. That was it. Stuff was not a problem for her because we didn’t have Stuff."

Please go read the whole thing, because this is not a we-slept-in-a-rolled-up-newspaper post either. This one does cut to the heart of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling #101: Snowed-In Edition

Welcome to the 101st Carnival of Homeschooling: Snowed-In Edition. This comes with a bonus: eleven cold and snowy excerpts from children's books--without authors or titles. Can you name the books? Answers are posted here. (The quotations are written in Arial and have numbers following them so you can check the answers.) Hint: there is not even one quote from any Little House book.

Here we go:

"O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever," sang Will, reflecting that Mr Beaumont had shown a certain wry humour in choosing the canticle. "O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever." (1)


“Hush now, lad,” said Aunt Nan.
“You will have to wait until spring.
Nothing can get over
the mountains now, not even the mail.”
“No mail all winter?”
John asked.
“That’s right,”
Old Joe said.

Ragamuffin Studies presents A FAT City Moment: Auditory Processing and Wait Time. "Sometimes even the most dedicated mother needs one of those 'walk-a-mile-in-LD-shoes' moments. The other day I had one of those experiences that reminded me, once again, what kids with APD go through every day of their lives."

Barbara Frank presents His Proudest Achievement: "A British dad proudly shares that he did what schools apparently cannot do anymore: he taught his children to read."


It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. He kept slipping into deep drifts of snow, and skidding on frozen puddles, and tripping over fallen tree-trunks, and sliding down steep banks, and barking his shins against rocks, till he was wet and cold and bruised all over. The silence and the loneliness were dreadful…..[He said] to himself, “When I’m the King of XX the first thing I shall do will be to make some decent roads.” (3)

Little Homeschool on the Prairie presents a bittersweet look at The Homeschooling Mystique.

Alasandra presents Voiceless Homeschoolers: "homeschoolers are a diverse group and no one group of homeschoolers can presume to speak for all homeschoolers."

Homeschool 2.0 presents Should We Tell Kids They Are Smart? "What’s your philosophy about intelligence? Does each person have a fixed intelligence or is our intellectual capacity malleable and growable?"


By the middle of the pasture, the flakes were falling thicker. Now the wind drove Irene along so rudely she had to hop, skip, and go helter-skeltering over the knobby ground. Cold snow sifted into her boots and chilled her feet. She pushed out her lip and hurried on. This was an important errand….[The wind] swept up and scattered the fallen snow, got in front of Irene to keep her from moving ahead. Irene turned around and pressed on backwards. (4)

April presents Too creeped out by my Nature Walk Suggestions? posted at "This post has some affirming tips for folks who feel a bit uncomfortable or bored when they are out in nature."

The Joyful Journey presents Defending Homeschooling.

Dana presents
Homeschool support where it matters most, posted at Principled Discovery. (There's an interesting twist to this one!)

Consent Of The Governed presents Homeschooler Question Of The Day. "Do you really have homeschooling freedom if others are able to make important judgments about your homeschooling?"

The Deputyheadmistress agrees with the importance of Parental Influence, posted at The Common Room.

Christine also discusses the benefits of being educationally proactive in your child's life in Is Homeschooling Right For Your Family?, posted at Me, My Kid and Life: An American Single Mom Living in France.


“On the little that could be seen of his face behind some unusually white-looking whiskers there was a mixture of surprise and excitement as he took in the sight which met his eyes. Overnight a great change had come over the weather. Whereas the day before had been mild, almost spring-like for early January, now everything was covered by a thick white blanket of snow which reached almost to the top of his Wellington boots.” (5)

Summer presents
Loving Nature posted at Wired For Noise.

Cognitive Fitness Blog presents Robert Emmons on the Positive Psychology of Gratitude.


[She] stood at the little window looking out in wonderment, for the snow was beginning again, and the thick flakes kept falling till the snow was up to the window; and still they continued to fall, and the snow grew higher, so that at last the window could not be opened, and [they] were shut up fast within the hut. (6)

(Here's a hint for this quote: Goat Milk Soap, posted at Lothlorien.)

The Life Without School Blog presents So Do You Get Bored With Me? "Linda worries that her daughter does not have enough social interaction after she moves to a new town. Her daughter has a surprising response to her worries!"

NerdMom presents
Nerds, High School, and Socialization posted at Nerd Family.


In most places the snow was still hardly lying at all, for the wind kept catching it up off the ground in sheets and clouds, and hurling it in their faces. And round their feet little eddies of snow ran about as you sometimes see them doing over ice. And, indeed, in many places, the surface was almost as smooth as ice….Fighting her way forward with hood up and head down and numb hands inside her cloak....the only things she thought about were her cold hands (and nose and chin and ears) and hot baths and beds at Harfang. (7)

PalmTree Pundit (one homeschooler who will probably not be getting snowed in) presents Getting My Groove Back. "I've been homeschooling long enough now (we're in our sixth year) to know that periods of panic and discouragement will come -- and they will go. After a break, I recently made some adjustments in our schooling, and I'm enjoying renewed energy and joy."


Tonya Power presents How school is going lately posted at Domestic Entropy. "This is an update on the education of our five-year-old, describing our methods, successes, and challenges."


At Home, On Fire presents Why I Dumped Language.

Sometimes I'm Actually Coherent presents My Beef With Social Studies posted. "I gripe about how the topics of history, geography, economics, government, philosophy, and other miscellany often get short-changed when they are lumped together as one subject."

(But if you don't know where else to about Plunging into History with Home Spun Juggling, or as they put it, "How our history studies ended up down the drain.")

JacciM presents The Workbook: Tool or Tyrant? posted at The Educational Life. "How much freedom should we, as home educating parents, give ourselves to tailor lesson schedules to the specific needs of our children? And what if that "tailoring" means we won't finish the book by the end of the school year?"

Homeschooling High School presents Got Margins?

School Is Hell presents One Way to Raise a Child: Unschooling.


ChristineMM presents Thoughts on Housecleaning and Tidyness posted at The Thinking Mother.


SeaBird Chronicles presents Art and How to Hang It: "an easy and economical way to display the art you and/or your kids create (perfect for holiday decorations as well!)."

Conscious Play presents Using an Easel Builds Strength.

"Here's a little something to help families that may be visiting some art museums this winter break." Barb presents
Need Help with Modern Art? at The Heart of Harmony.

SOME LIKE TO READ Reviews presents The Water Horse: Homeschool Review.

Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths reviews a Great High School Planning Resource.


The ladder was his only hope, and yet there was so much more work to do….It was not much later when the wind began howling through the dark woods and fine flakes of snow whipped through the branches of the oak. Indoors it was warm and cozy, and to take his mind off his misery Warton decided to play a game of solitaire. (8)

Let's play math! presents Fraction models, and a card game .


The rest of the fieldmice, perched in a row on the settle, their small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire, and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while [their host], failing to draw them into easy conversation, plunged into family history and made each of them recite the names of his numerous brothers, who were too young, it appeared, to be allowed to go out a-carolling this year, but looked forward very shortly to winning the parental consent. (9)

Tea Party Girl presents How To Be an Unanxious Hostess.

My Domestic Church presents
Baking of the Bannocks! "Baking bannocks to celebrate St. Andrew's Day and to correlate with our study of Laura Ingalls' great-grandmother who grew up in Scotland."


The Daily Planet presents The 14 Days of Homeschooling: "A homeschool twist to a little jingle for you to enjoy."


Mandy presents Teaching Math Using Exercise posted at Building Blocks Blog.

The Homeschool Math Blog presents Pan Balance Problems to Teach Algebraic Reasoning."This post includes a FREE gift: download a whole lesson from my upcoming book of some pan balance (or scales) problems where children solve for the unknown."

Wild About Math! presents Mathcast #2: Quick multiplication of two 2-digit numbers.

SOME MAKE SNOWFLAKES (like we don't have enough already?)

I'm not crazy, I'm homeschooling presents Snowflakes and Chemistry.... Kindergarten Crafting! "An easy craft, with little clean up, that offered a unique opportunity to teach a little chemistry."


"We'll be lucky if we each get one present," said Susan. "Maybe we won't get any present at all," said Neddie. "Maybe Santa Claus won't be able to come, because it's snowing so hard...." "That doesn't make any difference to Santa Claus," said Betsy. "He always comes. Come on, let's help Santa Claus. Let's make presents." (10)

HowToMe presents How to Make Natural Christmas Ornaments. "Making one's own Christmas ornaments is a frugal and memorable way to deck the halls and enjoy the season."

Ramblings presents O Christmas Tree .

HappyCampers presents
Reese Is An Elf! posted at Reese's View Of The World. "This is the cutest thing I've ever found on the internet. You can turn your family into dancing elves."

AboutHomeschooling provides some Christmas Printables.

Little Acorns Treehouse presents Our Advent Tradition: Learning about Christmas Traditions and Symbols.

Day by Day Homeschooling.presents Day by Day Advent Calender!


Summer presents Sleep - Another Reason to Homeschool posted at Mom Is Teaching.


“You can fly in storms,” said Aunt Lily. “You’ve flown in storms before.” “That’s different—I was alone.” “I don’t see the difference,” said Aunt Lily. “If you can fly in a storm, we can fly in this storm if we have to. And that is that.” (11)

At Why Homeschool, Henry writes about what factors contribute to success.

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, and to the Cates for their shovelling! Next week's Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted by Seeking Rest in the Ancient Paths. You can submit your posts to the next edition of Carnival of Homeschooling using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

Monday, December 03, 2007

More quiet, more rhythms

Make the time to visit unhurriedness with Ann.

Blog voting and Carnival Reminder

Don't forget...

--that this is the week to vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards. [Update: sorry, I was wrong about that--you have until December 15th.]

--that you need to get submissions in for Sketch Tuesday by tonight (this week's challenge is to draw a chess piece or other board game piece).

--and that Dewey's Treehouse is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling this week. Deadline for submissions is 9 p.m. tonight (EST).

Saturday, December 01, 2007

White and empty

The sky over our neighbourhood is a solid grey-white colour, hanging heavy, anticipating a heavy snowfall tonight.

On the buffet in our dining room there is a small, still-empty artificial Christmas tree, ready to be hung with symbols of His Glorious Coming.

The dining table--not much used except for celebration meals and family devotions--is empty except for a lace tablecloth and a large, empty crystal bowl. Some years during Advent we have had a table busy with boxes of crayons, many colouring pages and song sheets, the candle wreath, and other busyness. When we began our season of devotions around the table last night, I said:

"The emptiness here represents two things, two kinds of emptiness. The emptiness of the world that was longing for the Messiah. And a good kind of emptiness: emptying ourselves, making room for Christ, pushing away things that don't matter."

I know the crayons will come out soon. The tree will get covered, piece by piece. The wreath will be brought out tomorrow night, and we'll make room for that. The whole room will begin to fill up again. Our pantry shelves are also full and overflowing (and as they empty, the cookie containers and freezer bags will get filled).

And most likely, the empty sky will soon be filled with falling snow, as will our driveway. (Mr. Fixit is, at this moment, filling the snowblower with gasoline.)

But for now--this moment--I am savouring the emptiness.
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