Saturday, October 31, 2009

Repost from 2006: October 31st

The Treehouse Squirrels have taken a middle ground on October 31st celebrations. We have never gone all out with decorations, but the Squirrelings do dress up and visit a few neighbours and Grandpa Squirrel's house, and we have been known to screen a slightly-scary movie or two during this week. October 31st is the Baptism Birthday of two of the Squirrelings, and also Reformation Day in parts of the Christian world, and we have been as likely to stick up pictures of Martin Luther on the door as we have had pumpkin pictures. (What's on the door is mostly for our own entertainment anyway, since we get very few trick-or-treaters where we live. Last year we had one kid come to the door, besides the Squirrelings.)

But since the serious stuff sometimes gets forgotten in the fun of putting on makeup, we usually have a kind of double celebration: fun pumpkin stuff on October 31st, and an All Saint's Day dinner (the kind with a tablecloth) on November 1st....with an "honoured guest" drawn from Christian history.

But for today, I have a puzzle for Treehouse readers who enjoy this sort of thing (and apologies to the rest of you, because it's not meant to offend anybody). This is tonight's dinner menu, which we will eat by the light of an oil lamp flanked by two large pumpkins. Can you figure out what we're really going to eat?

(2006)
Intestines with Sour Cabbage
Ears Stuffed With Mashed Potatoes
Green Warts
Dessert: Mooshy orange stuff baked until congealed in an old crusty pan

(2009)
Blood-encrusted slab garnished with shredded white stuff and pepperoni (Ponytails helped think that one up)
Peak Freans Assorted Spookies

Friday, October 30, 2009

Really BIG Recipes

Kimberly at Raising Olives has posted some of her favourite bulk cooking recipes. Those of you with lots of mouths to feed will be especially interested...but be prepared--we're talking 20 pounds of pork chops at a time! Maybe we can reduce the amounts a little for our small Squirrel family.

Random Dozen #9



I pulled these questions from Random Dozen #9. The feedback post about it is here. Want to play too?

1. Tell me something about your favorite teacher.

When I was in the fourth grade, Mrs. Webster gave me a blank composition book and asked if I thought I'd like to write a novel in it.

I'm still thinking about it.

2. Tell me about one pivotal moment in your life.

That would probably be the day I decided I'd had it with Toronto, twenty years ago. It started with a bus ticket out of town, and ended up two years later with our wedding.

3. About favorite colors--a lot of people will ask you what it is, but I want to know why it is. What feeling or memory does it evoke?

Brownie-uniform brown with a sprinkle of orange maple leaves. Reminds me of fall and childhood.

4. What's a sure sign that you're getting older?

You no longer think that fudge is God's second-greatest gift to mankind.

5. Please don't sermonize, but Halloween--is it a yes or no for you?

I am neutral. No pumpkin lights here, but the kids do dress up. But we also celebrate Reformation Day and have an All Saint's Day dinner the next day.

6. What's your favorite musical?

The Muppet Movie.

7. Are you more of a city mouse or country mouse?

College-town mouse.

8. Did you know that it is possible, for a small fee, to name a real star after someone? (It's true! Google it!)

Sure, I watch The Magic School Bus.

This question comes from Paula at His Ways Are Not Our Ways.
9. What's the craziest thing you've ever been doing and texted during it? I only thought of this b/c I was about to try to text during my walking video but I didn't.

I have never texted anybody.

10. "It's not a party unless _______."

I don't know...unless you have somebody else there with you to make it a party?

"Carlin: This is the pits! You know you're at a bad party when Elliot Carlin is the happiest man in the room."

11. When you're stuck in traffic or a waiting room, what do you do to pass the time? PS: There are no magazines available.

You actually think I'd get stuck in a waiting room without bringing something to read or scribble on? OK, if I was that desperate...and I was with the kids...we'd play Geography. "Africa." "Albany." "Yellowknife." "England." "Denmark." "Korea." "Africa."

12. If you weren't yourself, would you be friends with you?

Yikes. I'll let Mr. Carlin answer that one.

Carlin: I don't know, Doctor Hartley, I just hate the holidays.

Bob: Halloween was rough, huh?

Carlin: Really the dregs. No one came to trick or treat all night. And I had special treats made up, too. Here, have a butter dish. (He hands a plastic butter dish to Bob)

Bob: I wish Emily and I had thought of that. We just gave out candy.

Carlin: A butter dish is forever. Why don't you read it?

Bob: (Opens the lid of the butter dish and reads the inscription.) 'Happy Halloween, kid. From Elliot Carlin. Boo.'"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last two days to nominate

(Bumped to the top today!)

Click on the button to nominate your favourite blogs in 25 categories--nominations are open until the end of October 30th (Friday).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Are we doing any regular school?

Besides being guinea pigs for Review Crew items? Oh, yes. I just haven't been blogging about it lately--too busy doing school. We're in the eighth week of our fall term, which is supposed to go twelve weeks but I'm allowing the extra couple of weeks before Christmas in case things take longer than they do.

We are still doing workboxes, although our way of using them is still evolving for our family. Lately I've been putting all of Crayons' "work with Mom" boxes first, so we spend the hour or so of morning workbox time on those; then her independent ones come after, and she does those while I work with Ponytails in the afternoon. Vice versa for Ponytails. We also have three group times during the day--first thing in the morning, at the end of the morning, and at 2:00 in the afternoon on the days that we don't have dance or co-op.

Most things are working out pretty well. Ponytails says she likes Key to Geometry, and Apologia General Science with Mr. Fixit is going fine too. We are continuing with Write with the Best for composition, and with some of the other books we do together like The Book of Think, Ocean of Truth (Newton biography), Analogies, and Larry Burkett's money workbook. She does history mostly on her own, from Genevieve Foster's Abraham Lincoln's World. When we have some extra time we play Perquackey.

Crayons' history alternates between several books: H.E. Marshall's Canada's Story with Cartier Discovers the St. Lawrence as a supplement, and Marshall's An Island Story for British history, though right now we're reading Good Queen Bess instead of those chapters from AIS. We also read from Kingsley's The Heroes and Lassie-Come-Home. Crayons reads her tall-tales book to herself, and also listens in on readings from Pyle's King Arthur and Swiss Family Robinson. And Mr. Pipes and Bible stories first thing in the morning.

For math, Crayons is doing a mixture most days, things from Miquon Math, Childcraft's Mathemagic book, Calculadder, and time-telling review. We also just learned a different game to play with dominoes, Muggins, and we've been doing that during math time. These are the rules we're using, but I know there are variations. We've also started All About Spelling, a hands-on curriculum that uses magnetic letter tiles.

We're continuing with some of the other group materials that we bought or were given to use this year: Nutrition 101 for health, Roots and Fruits vocabulary, and Artistic Pursuits. This week I made the decision that we'll drop French until after Christmas--there's just too much else to do right now. The girls enjoy listening to the Easy French dialogues, but I don't think a lot of learning has happened with them yet this year; they're a bit too basic for Ponytails, but I don't want to do them just with Crayons. I'll have to figure out a different way to work with everybody's needs.

I've probably forgotten some things we do (like memory work), but those are the basics most days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Better than a can of spray paint

Well, not as much fun as a can of spray paint. But what a cool toy for grammar nerds--pre-printed APOSTROPHE NOT NEEDED stickers! And other handy phrases to avert grammatical road rage.

(Linked from the In Our Write Minds blog.)

How about creative dishwashing?

We don't read For Better Or For Worse as much as we used to...but I've been sort of following Elly's enrolling in creative writing classes.

I liked this one--sorry I can't copy it here, you'll just have to go look.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pumpkin Playset--and more about Frugal Family Fun

(I'm posting this especially for our friends at the Blue Castle--thinking of all your Calico Critters!)

Valerie Frugal Family Fun sprouts some homemade fun--if you don't have Calico Critters, maybe this idea would suit your knitty gnomes or other little beings.

(A Journey to a Simple, Happy Life just posted an interview with Valerie.)

Wendell Berry on the cost of simplifying

From this interview with Jeff Fearnside in The Sun Magazine. Thanks to Holy Experience for the link.
Berry: They didn’t have electricity. All their technology was nineteenth century. But they were satisfied, and they lived a great life — they made a great life. It was a work of art.

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Special Offer from Sarah Books (TOS Crew)

Jim Baumgardner of Sarah Books is now offering a special deal for blog readers:

"Sarah’s Wish – 126 pages, $8.50
Sarah’s Promise – 245 pages, $10.50
Sarah’s Escape – 304 pages, $15.50

Extra special offer: Purchase all of the items above and add an extra copy of Sarah’s Wish for $4.00. You can give it to a friend. They will think you are great!"

You have to order on a special form, which you can get by emailing Mr. Baumgardner.

[UPDATE AND DISCLAIMER: I've been reminded that I should point out the fact that if a certain number of people order the books and mention this blog, we get a free book. That's not why I posted it, though--I just wanted to pass on the current special price if anyone was interested.]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fireworks and Frugality Carnival

The 200th Edition of the Festival of Frugality is up--with the theme of Guy Fawkes, fireworks, and bonfires.

Frankenpops at Little Birdie Secrets

If you don't mind a bit of monster fun at this time of year...these are just cute.

Unbelievable...from unmentionables

Dollar Store Crafts posted the link to Good Old Days, Good Old Ways' clothes for an 18-inch doll. (Crayons usually plays with smaller dolls, but she found one new friend that size at a yard sale last summer.)

What makes them unusual is the choice of fabric.

ABCTeach.com (TOS Review)

Abcteach.com Homepage

Membership Prices: $40 per user per year / $70 two years, for individuals or groups of 2-9
Discounts available for larger groups--see the website for details.


Abcteach.com isn't a site strictly by or for homeschoolers, and if you've ever Googled a free math worksheet, you've probably been there and know that. (If you're not familiar with the wonderful world of public-school-ese, it's an education in itself to browse through "word walls," and see "reading comprehensions" used as a plural noun. I also avoid anything involving "prediction skills.") It's partly free, and you probably know that as well--there's lots to explore there even without paying for a membership. But over the past month I've had the chance to check out the members-only part of the website (thousands of extra pages), and I'm pretty impressed, particularly with the make-your-own tools for things like math, handwriting, and word puzzles. (Even CM homeschoolers and other non-worksheet types can appreciate custom page generators.)

Some files on the site are so basic that you'd wonder why people bothered writing them out, such as instructions for making a dollhouse out of a cardboard box and carpet scraps. Classroom-oriented busywork may be most helpful as a reminder of one reason we're homeschooling--so that our kids don't have to spend time on it. But I found things that did come in handy for our family. Middle-schooler Ponytails and I spent several English lessons working through "How to Write Without Flab." I found diagrams to go with our health unit on the digestive system; a page of puns and double meanings from Alice in Wonderland; something called Literature Circle Ideas (creative narration suggestions); a grammar lesson we haven't used yet called "Case Closed...or Confusing? A Quick Guide to the Three Cases"; and a bunch of pages to help third-grader Crayons review time-telling. Some of these items (like the literature circle ideas) are available on the free section of the website; others require a membership to read or print.

One thing you might not know is that abcteach offers pages in French, Spanish and German (as well as ESL materials)--and some of them are useful for second-language lessons. Here's a free page using the fable La cigale et la fourmi.

If you search for a particular topic or school subject or concept (like puns, or Alice in Wonderland), you can see what's available to members as well as for free (or you can limit your search to free documents); you just can't click on the member pages unless you're signed in. The search function on the site is not bad, but sometimes it doesn't find what you know should be there; however, there's a Google search-this-site button, and that usually uncovers more items.

The website provides an article called 10 Reasons ABCTeach is Great for Homeschool, and these include the "abctools" I've already mentioned (which include tutorials to show you how to use them), and the general range of printables (including unit studies, book report pages, craft activities, tangram pages, word puzzles, language worksheets, and file-folder games). To quote the article: "Homeschoolers often have limited access to or funds for those little things that make teaching easier. Here are just a few of the little extras you will find at abcteach: forms, lesson planners, maps, field trip report forms, border paper, certificates, flashcards, word walls, word strips, posters, incentive charts, graphic organizers, holiday materials, and much more." (Whew.) They've set up a homeschool-start-here page with links to the materials they think will most interest homeschoolers, such as these birdwatching journal pages.

Creative homeschoolers can also take an item labelled A and use it for an B, C or D. Clip art can become colouring pages. Small "posters" and "mini-office" pages (the basics of things like spelling rules and long division) can be printed out and put in a binder, or posted individually on the wall as reminders. The "word walls" (really just word lists printed out in a large font, like flash cards) might be used in a way similar to what Harmony Art Mom does with literary terms--as a reminder of the terms and names that we want to make sure we cover in a particular study.

And the last thing I'm going to say as a plug for this website is that a lot of the printable pages offer a choice of colour or black and white, which I really appreciate.

Check out the free pages, and if you like those, or want to try the worksheet-making tools, you might want to consider a membership.

For more reviews of abcteach.com, see the Review Crew website.

Dewey's Disclaimer: This membership was received free for purposes of review. No other payment was made. The opinions expressed in this review are our own.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What's for supper? Crockpot Cabbage Chicken

Tonight's dinner--a variation on Cabbage Roll Casserole--wasn't a complete leave-it-in-the-Crockpot recipe. Maybe you could figure out a way to do it all in one dish, but I liked the way ours turned out even if it was a little more complicated than dumping it all in and forgetting it. I wanted to be sure that both the rice and chicken were done properly, and I figured that baking them separately was the best way to do that.

P.S. For having cabbage cooking all day, this was surprisingly non-stinky. It smelled like cabbage rolls, not like CABBAGE, and there is a difference.

Crockpot Cabbage Chicken

In a 3 1/2 quart slow cooker I combined:

1 cup chicken broth (you could use water)
1 can tomato paste (you could use a small can of sauce)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced (I was out so I used some garlic powder)
2 tbsp. prepared mustard
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 cup liquid honey

On top of that, I added as much chopped Savoy cabbage as I could fit in the pot. Actually I didn't bother chopping it--I just tore it apart like lettuce for a salad. I cooked it on high until after lunch, then turned it down to low for awhile.

I let a package of chicken breasts partly thaw, and in the afternoon I put them in a casserole with a cup of brown rice (rinsed) and 2 cups water. I baked this at 350 degrees until the chicken and rice were both cooked through--about an hour and a half.

By this time it was about 4:00. The cabbage had cooked down quite a bit in the slow cooker, and I mixed the cooked rice into the cabbage and sauce. I cut the chicken into large chunks and put it on top of the cabbage-rice mixture, then turned the slow cooker back to high and cooked it for another hour.

Back to the Library Sale

We did go back to the library sale, and brought home another boxful. The Apprentice also filled up a bag with CDs, audio books and books of her own (including some Biochemistry software).

Still it was kind of sad leaving all the rest of those boxes behind to be euthanized recycled.

Books we didn't have:

Give the Dog a Bone, by Steven Kellogg

April's Kittens, by Clare Turlay Newberry (I got this to replace another copy which I was scolded for selling)

What Do You Do, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin, pictures by Maurice Sendak

Exploring Nature Around the Year: Fall, by David Webster (we have the Winter book in this series)

Hurry Home, Candy, by Meindert DeJong (to replace that copy that we couldn't use for school because it was missing a section)

Puppy Summer, by Meindert DeJong

Circus Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild (we do have The Circus is Coming, which is the same book, but there are a number of changes between the two, and it's uncertain whether Streatfeild herself revised it or whether someone else had a hand in it.)

The Fearless Treasure, by Noel Streatfeild

Missee Lee, by Arthur Ransome

Kaleidoscope, by Eleanor Farjeon, illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

Minnow on the Say, by A. Philippa Pearce

David Balfour, by Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth (really nice hardcover)

Saints: Adventures in Courage, by Mary O'Neill (rough shape, but interesting)

God's Troubadour: The Story of St. Francis of Assisi, by Sophie Jewett

Miss Bianca and the Bridesmaid, by Margery Sharp

My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett

Companion to Narnia, by Paul E. Ford

The Swans of Ballycastle, by Walter Hackett

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, by Rumer Godden

The Fairy Ring, edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora Archibad Smith, revised by Ethna Sheehan

Pegeen, by Hilda van Stockum

The Carved Lions, by Mrs. Molesworth

The House of Arden, by E. Nesbit

The Wonderful Garden, by E. Nesbit

The Second Mrs. Giaconda, by E.L. Konigsburg

Emily's Runaway Imagination, by Beverly Cleary

Otto of the Silver Hand, by Howard Pyle

Underground to Canada, by Barbara Smucker

Chemistry For Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work



Books we already have but these are nicer copies or particular editions:

The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, hardcover illustrated by Graham Percy (I like Shepard's illustrations, but these are nice too)

Rufus M., by Eleanor Estes

Little Plum, by Rumer Godden, hardcover to replace our paperback

Pilgrim's Progress (Mary Godolphin's version), illustrated by Robert Lawson


Books we already have but I got them anyway to swap or sell:

The Young Brahms, by Sybil Deucher

The Happy Orpheline, by Natalie Savage Carlson

Homeschool Blog Awards: Nominations Start Today

All categories, rules and details are here, and the actual nominations post is here.

I found this rule amusing:

"3. Do not nominate one blog for MORE than one category. Sorry, but no more nominating your mom’s blog for all 25 categories."

Okay, Squirrelings, you heard that.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Library sale!

I can't believe it's been a year since the last big library sale here. Seems just last week I was grousing about Crayons' predilection for pink books.

This year's sale worried me a bit--there were just too many books in the children's section. Now, granted, I don't always get there during the first few hours, so maybe it's always like that--but it seemed to me that they were getting rid of a few too many good books this year. Nice for us, but not a good sign of the times.

I bought one boxful, and wished I had time to go through more of the boxes--maybe I'll get back sometime later in the weekend.

This is what we found:

Books we didn't have:

Open the Door: Stories Collected and Arranged by Margery Fisher (with a nice jacket by Edward Ardizzone)
Stories for Nine-Year-Olds and other younger readers, edited by Sara and Stephen Corrin
Favorite Fairy Tales Told in India, retold by Virginia Haviland
Sir Gibbie, by George MacDonald
The Golden Key, by George MacDonald, pictures by Maurice Sendak
The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye
The Children of Odin, by Padraic Colum
Theras and His Town, by Caroline Dale Snedeker
With Wolfe in Canada, by G.A. Henty
The Siege and Fall of Troy, retold for young people by Robert Graves
The Light Beyond the Forest: The Quest for the Holy Grail, by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Big Six, by Arthur Ransome
Fu-Dog, by Rumer Godden
The Wandering Wombles, by Elisabeth Beresford
Tingleberries, Tuckertubs and Telephones, by Margaret Mahy (a book The Apprentice used to like)
The Five Sisters, by Margaret Mahy (this one has some wizard stuff in it)
Warton and the Contest, by Russell E. Erickson (one of the Warton and Morton Toad series)
Betsy's Busy Summer, by Carolyn Haywood
The Middle Moffat, by Eleanor Estes
The Most Wonderful Doll in the World, by Phyllis McGinley
River Winding: Poems by Charlotte Zolotow
Looking at Architecture, by Roberta M. Paine
The Young Author's Do-it-Yourself Book
The Golden Book of Fun and Nonsense: Lightly Comic, Highly Humorous, and Largely Nonsensical Verse, selected and edited by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
Birds, Beasts and the Third Thing: Poems by D.H. Lawrence, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen
Clever Cooks: A Concoction of Stories, Charms, Recipes & Riddles, Compiled by Ellin Greene
The Pooh Song Book
The Pooh Cook Book

Books we have but these are different editions or special:

The Worker in Sandalwood, by Marjorie Pickthall
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow & Rip Van Winkle, by Washington Irving, illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher
The Rainbow Fairy Book, edited by Andrew Lang, illustrations by Michael Hague (not in very good shape, but I brought it home anyway)

Books we have but I picked them up to swap or sell:

The Gammage Cup, by Carol Kendall
The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
Seabird, by Holling Clancy Holling
The Light Princess, by George MacDonald, pictures by Maurice Sendak

Videos and misc. stuff: an audio book of Ramona the Pest, and some videos including Runaway Ralph, the puppet opera version of Hansel and Gretel, and The Love Bug.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Got your aquascutum?

This column isn't new, but it answers a question that I had this month while reading a John Buchan spy novel.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's for supper? Last of the Swiss chard

I adapted tonight's dinner from a recipe in the November 2009 Canadian Living Magazine. They used sausage--I used meatballs. They used diced tomatoes and seasonings--I opened a can of spaghetti sauce. They used rigatoni--I used penne. Does it even resemble the original? I think we got the general idea of it. And it did use up some of the Swiss chard that's still very, very healthy in our garden--even with frost on the grass this morning. I liked the way the chard turned out in this--it had a different, less overcooked texture from the way we use it in lasagna (pre-steamed and mashed up with cottage cheese).

We ate it with baked sweet potatoes--orange is always good with green. I made lots on purpose so that we'd have leftovers. You could cut these amounts in half.

Pasta, Meatballs and Swiss Chard

8 to 10 cups washed and chopped Swiss chard, as fresh as possible

A few fresh mushrooms

1 680-ml can pasta sauce (I used Primo Original Recipe)

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or a combination)

Meatballs prepared from whatever recipe you like (I used about 1 1/3 lb. ground beef, and added lots of parsley but not too much extra seasoning)

1 lb. penne (tubes) or other similar pasta

A spoonful of butter, margarine or oil (optional)


Prepare your meatballs and bake or brown them, whatever you usually do to them. (I baked them on foil at 400 degrees.)

Cook the pasta until pretty much done, still slightly firm. Drain off most of the water, leaving a bit behind. Put the pasta back into the pot and combine with the can of sauce, the chopped (uncooked) chard and mushrooms, and the cooked meatballs, OR leave the meatballs out at this point. Spoon everything into a large greased pan or two; I used two large lidded casseroles, spooned the mixture in, and then added the meatballs on top. Cover with grated cheese. Bake, covered, for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and then 10 minutes uncovered, till everything is heated through; or longer if you are starting with cold ingredients or you have it all in one pan. When I took the casseroles out, I spread a spoonful of butter over the top of each one, just because the beef was very lean, I didn't use a lot of sauce, and some of the chard around the edges looked a bit dry. It probably wasn't necessary but I thought it looked better with a bit of moistening. If you used sausage as originally recommended, or used a bit more sauce, you probably wouldn't need to do that.

The five of us finished off one of the casseroles, so I would guess that this amount should serve 8 to 10 people. You could increase the amount of pasta sauce, even double it if you like things very tomatoey; some of the Squirrels here are sensitive to tomatoes, so we preferred it with less, and I think it allowed the flavour of the chard to come out well (it didn't get drowned in tomatoes).

You could make this in a slow cooker, although if you have only a 3 1/2 quart pot as we do, you'd probably only be able to fit half the recipe in it.

Thrift and thanksgiving

This is a response to The Common Room post Thrift, Parsimony and Freegan Living, which the DHM wrote after reading the NY Times review of Lauren Weber's book In Cheap We Trust. As the DHM mentioned, you can read an excerpt from the book here.

While making a day-after-Thanksgiving leftover casserole, I thought of a definition for sensible frugality: frugality (vs. miserliness) means cutting the meat off the bones, but not so close that you cut yourself with the knife. (Don't go spoiling my metaphor by telling me I should have been boiling it instead. It really was a very little turkey to start with, and I doubt I would have gotten much broth from what was left.)

Re-dipping your teabag so many times that you poison yourself is miserly. (Some will argue about that but I'm sticking by what my auntie told me.) Depriving people of what would make their lives pleasanter, healthier or safer, if whatever it is really does take money and if you can afford it, is miserly. Spending half an hour looking for a free parking spot (as an acquaintance of Weber's does) is just silly, especially if you have other people in the car who will never get that time back that you wasted. There are definitely ways to be too much of a tightwad.

On the other hand, those who slam Amy Dacyczyn, for example, seldom bother to bring up some of the most sensible and thoughtful articles from her Tightwad Gazette. She once described a frugal meal that her family served to guests: it included chicken, potatoes, and fresh vegetables from their garden. There was nothing miserly-sounding about it at all; in fact, some people would think that all that fresh, homecooked food was a treat. A Family Fun article about the Dacyczyn family focused on the cool and creative toys and other amusements that their children--those poor, deprived children of tightwads--spent their time with. And the point she was trying to make by using things like metal strips from waxed paper boxes (see Weber's excerpt) was that if you have it, then use it, instead of wasting your time and gas and money going out to buy something else while the metal strip goes into the landfill. She wasn't suggesting that you spend your life stockpiling metal strips in case you might someday need one to hang a picture. (I might also point out that some of the ideas such as jump ropes were actually sent in by TG readers.) It's not crazy to re-use things, and to keep using them until they wear out or smell bad. Sometimes it's not worth the fuss over what something costs; other times it just makes more sense to look for a tightwad solution. As Amy pointed out more than once, frugal living, including used stuff, can be better than its equivalent in new things, and it can help you achieve other goals that are important to you (like staying home with young children, or buying a house).

Lauren Weber is right about the fact that when we think we can afford to "live better," we usually do--although we sometimes confuse "living better" with "living more expensively." In the Treehouse we have a 1929 floor radio that originally sold for $275. Quite a chunk of change in those days, but someone must have thought it worth the money. (Mr. Fixit bought it at an estate sale before we were married.)


I knew an elderly woman whose husband refused to update the worn linoleum in their kitchen. For forty years she waxed that linoleum and hated it. One of the first things she did after he died--and she told me this with a chortle--was put in a no-wax floor. (Was she justified in wanting this? Did she deserve it after fighting the linoleum all those years? Is that just small potatoes compared with people who want bigger cars and fancier furniture?)

Some of Mr. Fixit's relatives survived very lean times during the Depression, when opportunities for immigrants on the Prairies were scarce. But they worked hard, saved all they could, and eventually built themselves a house with an oil furnace and--an amazing luxury--a thermostat to control it. They had no desire to return to methods of home heating that involved chopping or shovelling. It reminds me of another article I once read about a woman who grew up through tough times, and never could get over her amazement over simply "standing in the warm."

I'm not sure I relate to Ms. Weber's interest in fancy shoes marked down to ninety-nine dollars, or to her enthusiasm for the latest in televisions. We ourselves have made do just fine with our '70's and '80's TVs, and there's always the most radical idea of all--doing without one. To each her own, but I'm not sure how much I trust that kind of "frugal" advice. It's not wrong to enjoy good times, to look forward to a special meal, even to splurge on a bit of candy corn; but I do question large amounts of money spent on something that doesn't pay you back. (A chest freezer is an investment. A pair of high heels are probably not, unless they're sending you home from Oz.) I guess I just slice my turkey a little closer to the bone than she does.

Can you be "too frugal?" Opinions?

Thanksgiving photos by Mr. Fixit. The centerpiece was made from a vintage Native basket (free from Grandpa Squirrel's basement); dollar-store fake leaves that we bought for a craft class; a glass thingy from a cousin's wedding; a few horse chestnuts; and a spray from our lilac bush, which looks quite different in autumn. The turkey salt and pepper shakers belonged to Mr. Fixit's grandma. Most of the furniture in the photo also came from the Squirrel grandparents.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chris Klicka

An update to Saturday's post:

HSLDA lawyer Chris Klicka passed away today after a long battle with MS. More details are on the Klickas' Caring Bridge page.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

(Photo credit: Mr. Fixit)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Prayers requested for a crossbearer



You can follow the Klicka family's Caring Bridge journal here. Please pray for this man who has been a longtime faithful pillar of Christian homeschooling in North America.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Crockpot Apple Butter

Cents to Get Debt-Free shows us how.

Gift of a book (Great Books Week)

"Friday: When I want to give someone a special gift, I give them [name of book] because…"

I give books as gifts. (Ask my kids.) One reason is because I'm much better at shopping for books than I am at picking out clothes or jewellery or knick-knacks. And they come my way more often than clothes, jewellery etc.

But as far as giving everybody the same book? Nah. Even if I wanted to, I don't usually run across multiple copies of the most interesting books I see.

If I could give every new parent the same book, though, I'd supply them with a copy of Dorothy Butler's Babies Need Books--I don't know anything about the revised edition, but I do like the original. And maybe add a thrift-shopped bag of books from her book--boy, did I spend a lot of time hunting for some of those when the Apprentice was small, and "hunting" did not mean doing an online search. And then one child or another loved "But Where is the Green Parrot?" and "Sam Who Never Forgets" into oblivion, so I'll have to round up more copies when there are Squirrel grandchildren to want them.

Because you're here to see it happen

Did you know this weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving?

Especially Heather provides some very good reasons to be thankful.

The ultimate Mr. Fixit

A New Brunswick man recently replaced his own finger with assorted spare parts.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

You all are so amazing

So many good posts out there in the Blogworld:

A homeschool day at Holy Experience

A fall update from Beck's Bounty, and one from Tootle.

This week's CM Carnival

Math Teachers at Play Carnival #16

Frugal Upstate shares her standby cookbooks, and Brenda wants to know which books (or movies) make you warm and cozy.

Lizzie counts blessings and makes some true confessions.

And Kim at The Upward Call passes on a sad newspaper item about the death of nursery rhymes in our culture.

The HSBA Post You've Been Waiting For

Yes, it's that time of year!

The details and rules for the 2009 Homeschool Blog Awards have been posted.

I hated it in high school but liked it later? (Great Books Week)

Okay...what did our class read in high school? Somehow we skipped both Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye (the Apprentice wasn't so lucky). We did read a lot of short stories and poems, several Shakespeare and Shaw plays, A Man For All Seasons, Death of a Salesman, and a bunch of novels:

To Kill a Mockingbird
Huckleberry Finn
Brave New World
Heart of Darkness
The Sun Also Rises
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck (you want it, you find it, but you can't keep it)
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (don't remind me how many coming-of-age symbols there are in this one)
On the Beach, by Nevil Shute (people getting sick after a nuclear blast)
The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham (people repenting after a nuclear blast)

Very depressing, most of it. The ones I liked, I still like. The rest I'm still trying to forget.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Just keep schooling, just keep schooling

If you started your school year in September, the first few giddy weeks have passed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My life and welcome to it (Great Books Week)

"Wednesday: I’d write my autobiography, but I don’t need to, because my story has already been told in… [what classic book?]"

I don't think anybody's written a novel yet about a wanna-be writer squirrel who decided there were too many bad books in the world already and thought she'd settle for office work, but then met Prince Forever-in-blue-jeans Charming driving a '66 Galaxy, and found her niche homeschooling three squirrelings, cooking schmecksy food, and being Cyberbuddy to assorted bloggers.

Or you could say that I've been Christian, I've been Bilbo, I've been Rabbit (and sometimes Piglet and Eeyore), I've been Anne, I've been Valancy, I've been King David and Mary Lennox and some of Anne Tyler's people. All those book places I've been, I've been those people too.
Right about then, I read The Lord of the Rings. I'd never liked books about elves and stuff but Hobbits are something else. I went around for weeks feeling that people were too big. --Jean Little, Kate (1971)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

What's for supper? (Old favourite)

It's comfort food night, on a day that's gone back and forth from almost-Indian-summer to dark and gloomy:

Kitchener Special, made with ground beef instead of sausage (and I left the onion out)
White bread hot out of the breadmaker
Baked sweet potatoes
Reheated broccoli
Hot Fudge Pudding from More Food That Really Schmecks

HOT FUDGE PUDDING (with Mama Squirrel's notes)

1 cup sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar, or slightly less
6 tablespoons cocoa, divided

1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp. melted shortening or oil
1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)

1 3/4 cups hot water

Sift the dry ingredients and 2 tablespoons of cocoa. Stir together the milk, vanilla and melted shortening or oil; add to the dry ingredients, mix well, then stir in the nuts if using. Pour (or push if it's thick) into a greased 9" square pan (I prefer a deeper casserole in case of bubble-overs). Now mix the brown sugar and 4 remaining tablespoons cocoa; sprinkle the mixture over the batter in the pan. Pour on the melted butter (or leave it out), then carefully pour on the hot water. Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes or until the cake part seems done. Serve warm with milk or yogurt.

Favourite childhood books? (Great Books Week)

I was the little kid that my mother had to push outside to play.

I liked to play dolls in the bedroom, play school in the basement, listen to my '78's in the dining room, and watch Mr. Rogers in the living room.

I also liked to read a lot, so singling out a favourite book is hard. In addition to the magazines we got (Children's Playmate and Humpty Dumpty to start with, along with Once Upon a Time, an English weekly story paper my dad brought home. ("Launched on 15 February 1969, Once Upon a Time was one of the finest-illustrated nursery comics to appear in this country. Written almost entirely by Barbara Matthews, the title ran for 167 issues (the last dated 22 April 1972) and Mendoza provided a full-page illustration to accompany the Matthews-written text adventures of Winifred and Stephanie. With a full page to play with, Mendoza provided a stunning array of animal antics; the stories often played with the contrast between Winifred, the down-to-earth country mouse, and her cousin, Stephanie, who had airs and graces, and allowed Mendoza to indulge his sense of humour in a way that his strip work did not allow...." From this blog) (A bit more here.)

There were the books we got through the mail from Parent's Magazine Press, and the other books (the Golden Books and Wonder Books and Elf Books) we'd picked up at the supermarket, or the ones we'd been given as Sunday School or Christmas gifts, or the ones we bought one year from Scholastic Books, or the ones that just mysteriously appeared...we also went to the public library regularly.

I had one much-loved copy of Fifty Famous Fairy Tales. I had a nursery rhyme book that I've never been able to track down. We had Raggedy Ann books, the Better Homes and Gardens Storybook, and the Family Treasury of Children's Stories. We had a copy of Winnie-the-Pooh, although I preferred listening to Jimmy Stewart reading the stories on an LP we had.

If I had to choose one? How about Rosa-too-Little, by Sue Felt?

It's a story about a little girl who wants...a library card.

:-)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Nature Friend Magazine (TOS Review)

Nature Friend Magazine home page
Click here for $3 off new subscription (good until November 30, 2009)


Nature Friend, ca. 1991

In case you think that all my TOS reviews are going to be curmudgeonly...you're wrong.

I was sure I would have blogged at least once about Nature Friend, but I've searched the archives and somehow I never have.

About a decade ago, we came across a pile of Nature Friends from 1990 and 1991. They were 36-page magazines with colour covers, but just line drawings and black and white photos inside. (The line drawings made good colouring pages!) We made those issues a part of our homeschool, including the drawing lessons, the easy-to-read nature stories (Ponytails used a lot of those for reading practice and copywork), and articles for older children.


Nature Friend, 2009
Recently we received two current issues of Nature Friend to review. Some things have changed in twenty years, some haven't. The magazine is now full colour, slightly larger, and runs 24 to 28 pages. The old "James and Mary Explore God's World" stories are gone, but there are other easy-to-read stories like "Backyard Discovery" in the August issue.
"'Stop!' said Judy. 'Do you hear that? Is it a big bee?'
"Judy sidled closer to Tim. She had not forgotten her bee sting from several days ago.
"'It doesn't sound like a bee, does it? It sounds like Mother's sewing machine when she's sewing fast,' said Tim.
"'Or Dad's power saw,' added Judy.
"'Let's see if we can find it.'"
The drawing lessons, the "Invisibles" hidden-picture puzzles, reader-contributed issues, and other favourite features are still there. The names of young readers still include a higher-than-average proportion of Stahls, Martins, Masts, and Stoltzfuses, reflecting the magazine's origins and its continuing popularity with conservative families (although it has maintained a good reputation with readers of other backgrounds, including homeschoolers). (Note to homeschoolers: you can now get bound-in, optional Study Guide sections for $2 extra per issue.)
I found a strong hint that the magazine isn't written to your typical post-millennium frantic-lifestyled young reader in the online writer's guidelines: "A good book for study might be Marguerite Henry’s Birds at Home, © 1972 by Rand McNally & Co. " I also appreciate this advice to would-be contributors: "The overall mood we desire for Nature Friend is one that is cheerful, sunny, almost merry, but not irresponsible or silly. We will hardly ever use something that is spooky or scary, except as a contrast to another dominant mood. Libraries abound with children’s magazines emphasizing (in subtlety, at least) venomous creatures, man-eating beasts, and other monster-type animals." (We found this to be an ongoing issue with a secular science-and-geography magazine that our children received.)
In other words, fall issues of Nature Friend are going to have harvest and getting-ready-for-winter themes--not Hallowe'en ones. (There are also no talking animals.)
I really do like Nature Friend Magazine, even though at $49 a year for Canadian subscriptions (plus another $24 for the additional Study Guides), it's not exactly cheap. (U.S. subscriptions are $36/year plus the same for the Study Guides.) But consider what you're getting: no advertisements, (and in a children's magazine that's unusual and very welcome); full-colour wildlife photographs; a Christian (but not heavy-handed) approach to God's creation; photography lessons and critiques (if you get the study guides, and in the issues I saw, this feature seemed to be extremely well done, if a tiny bit gory (i.e. how the editor got photos of an owl snatching a mouse)); extra word puzzles and quizzes (in the study guides); writing and nature journalling encouragement (in the study guides); and a place for children to have their own drawings, poems and questions published.
"Children deserve to know the truth about our amazing world. As television, drugs, videos, and electronic games compete for children’s time and approval, it becomes all the more important to give them material that is true, exciting, and upbuilding to their character."--Writer's Guidelines, "Nature Friend"
For other reviews of this product, see the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew website.

Dewey's Disclaimer: These products were received free for review purposes. No other payment was made.

Seven books, one island? (Great Books Week)

Seven books I'd spend my exile reading? Me and Burgess Meredith...I'd make sure I took a glasses repair kit along as well.

Hm...books I've always wanted to read, or favourite re-reads?

Books to read out loud?

It's pretty hard to say...and I suppose it's cheating to recommend a great big anthology of some kind? I'm also avoiding the "Boat Building for Dummies" suggestion.

Okay, a Bible. And Pilgrim's Progress. Two easy ones. And a hymn book for entertainment and edification. That's three. Collected Shakespeare's Play's; if it was good enough for the Noble Savage, it's good enough for me. That's four.

A book of James Thurber's mildly disturbing cartoons, because it will take me that long to understand some of them. Five.

A dictionary so we can play definition games. Six.

And I can't decide on the seventh...maybe Kipling's Just So Stories, maybe Plutarch, maybe The Handbook of Nature Study just to give us something else to do.

Boy, this one was hard. But the island game always is. (And my answers change every time.)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

There's a perfect job for everyone (funny from Sir Walter Scott)

From The Heart of Mid-Lothian, Mama Squirrel's current favourite Scott novel. The setting is a courtroom in Edinburgh in the 1700's. The judge is interrogating a prisoner who thinks he should be rewarded because he stayed put during a riot when most of the others escaped.


"Your name is James Ratcliffe?" said the magistrate.

"Ay—always wi' your honour's leave."

"That is to say, you could find me another name if I did not like that one?"

"Twenty to pick and choose upon, always with your honour's leave," resumed the respondent.

"But James Ratcliffe is your present name?—what is your trade?"

"I canna just say, distinctly, that I have what ye wad ca' preceesely a trade."

"But," repeated the magistrate, "what are your means of living—your occupation?....To cut the matter short, Ratcliffe, you have been a most notorious thief," said the examinant.

[The judge and Ratcliffe go back and forth for a few minutes, and then the judge asks Ratcliffe why he didn't try to escape with everyone else.]

"I would never have thought for a moment of staying in that auld gousty toom house," answered Ratcliffe, "but that use and wont had just gien me a fancy to the place, and I'm just expecting a bit post in't."

"A post!" exclaimed the magistrate; "a whipping-post, I suppose, you mean?"

"Na, na, sir, I had nae thoughts o' a whuppin-post. After having been four times doomed to hang by the neck till I was dead, I think I am far beyond being whuppit."

"Then, in Heaven's name, what did you expect?"

"Just the post of under-turnkey, for I understand there's a vacancy," said the prisoner; "I wadna think of asking the lockman's [hangman's] place ower his head; it wadna suit me sae weel as ither folk, for I never could put a beast out o' the way, much less deal wi' a man."

"That's something in your favour," said the magistrate, making exactly the inference to which Ratcliffe was desirous to lead him, though he mantled his art with an affectation of oddity.

"But," continued the magistrate, "how do you think you can be trusted with a charge in the prison, when you have broken at your own hand half the jails in Scotland?"

"Wi' your honour's leave," said Ratcliffe, "if I kend sae weel how to wun out mysell, it's like I wad be a' the better a hand to keep other folk in. I think they wad ken their business weel that held me in when I wanted to be out, or wan out when I wanted to hand them in."

The remark seemed to strike the magistrate, but he made no further immediate observation, only desired Ratcliffe to be removed.

When this daring and yet sly freebooter was out of hearing, the magistrate asked the city clerk, "what he thought of the fellow's assurance?"

"It's no for me to say, sir," replied the clerk; "but if James Ratcliffe be inclined to turn to good, there is not a man e'er came within the ports of the burgh could be of sae muckle use to the Good Town in the thief and lock-up line of business. I'll speak to Mr. Sharpitlaw about him."

Join in on Great Books Week

This is a post passed on from a message board; the links to the original post are at the bottom. Want to join in?

--------------------------------------
Great Books Week

I'd like to invite you to participate in a Blog Tour in honor of Great Books Week which is October 4-10, 2009. There are special blog topics for each day, and you're invited to write a post and link back to the NAIWE NewsWire blog so that others can find your post. This holiday is jointly sponsored by Excellence in Literature and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors.

Here’s the schedule of topics:

Monday: If I were stranded alone on a deserted island with only seven books to read over the next few years, I would like to have…

Tuesday: When I was a child, my favorite book was… because….

Wednesday: I’d write my autobiography, but I don’t need to, because my story has already been told in… [what classic book?]

Thursday: I hated … when I had to read it in high school, but when I read it on my own later, I loved it because….

Friday: When I want to give someone a special gift, I give them [name of book] because…

Here's the introductory post.

Here's the Facebook Event page.

There will be a daily post with each topic so that you can leave your name and link in the comment section for the appropriate topic. I encourage you to share this invitation with other book lovers, and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Let's make it a big celebration!

Blessings,

Janice Campbell
www.Everyday-Education.com

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Keep it simple, sisters: a pre-holidays post

Last night I downloaded a free e-book of craft ideas, hoping to get some ideas for the holidays.

Not that I was looking for Styrofoam balls and recycled can ideas. But I was a little nonplussed to find that the majority of the crafts seemed to require a full scrapbooking setup, or a full rubberstamping setup, or the equivalent for several other hobbies. And lists of supplies as long as a roll of wired ribbon.

That's one way to make people feel both all-thumbs and poverty-stricken. Not that we resent those who have gone all-out on whichever hobby, and who would truly appreciate those suggestions for making beautiful use of their supplies and equipment. And again, it's not like I'm only looking for patterns for fuzzy toilet seat covers or Christmas-bulbs-in-a-jar. It's fun to browse through the photos and appreciate the designers' creativity.

But there's no way I would ever be making those things. Am I just out of it?

Why does everything handmade seem like it has to be more perfect than perfect now? And require the crafting equivalent of 16 different spices? If we buck the trend, do we risk our homemade gifts ending up, as in Meredith's experience a couple of years ago, at the back of someone's closet?

I remember one Christmas when The Apprentice was still pretty small, and we (the two of us) filled cheesecloth bags with teabags, cloves, dried orange rinds, and smashed cinnamon sticks, for people to use for "spiced tea". That same year (I think it was) we filled jars with sliced ginger root and honey, and garlic and honey. (We must have had a good source of honey that year.) We made homemade mustard, and coffee mixes, and other things like that, and packed our own "gourmet baskets" for people we knew. I think we made labels with coloured paper, markers, and packing tape, or maybe it was clear sticky plastic. Jars got covered with a circle of fabric and yarn or ribbon. I don't remember what all we used for baskets--probably whatever we could find.

No labelmaker, no laminator. And no more points to make about that, except that I hope nobody still has the garlic at the back of a closet.

You can keep it simple. Use what's in your hand, and let the rest go. Have fun making things, and let other people (even little ones) help. Check out craft blogs and websites that emphasize frugal, natural, or otherwise minimal required ingredients. Use up your stash of whatever. Enjoy crafting, but don't let it eat you alive.

And the hits just keep on coming

The Common Room reports on even more mind-bogglingness.

Free vintage bugs and birds

Catch them as they fly by: Today's Homeschool Freebie is First Book of Birds, by Margaret Williamson; and as a bonus, you can still click on Tuesday's Freebie, First Book of Bugs. These are full-colour scans of books published in 1949 and 1951, so they're a bit different from the typical Anna Comstock-era e-books that often come up. They're not hard to read:
A BIRD IS ITSELF A bird could never be mistaken for a dog or a lizard or a butterfly. A bird is simply a bird. Although there are many kinds of birds, they look and behave so much alike you can always tel lthem from other animals.
But they're very informative:
VANE. Looks like thin silky material lined with fine grooves. Really, it is made of two fringes of barbs, one growing out from each side of the shaft. Each barb branches into two rows of tiny branchlets. Hooks and notches on the branchlets fit together and lock each barb to its neighbors. It is as if the barbs were all zippered together to make a covering without holes.
I'm not sure how you'd print these out frugally, but they're fun to look at on the computer.
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