Monday, November 30, 2009

Support the local Kringles this Christmas (CPSIA)


"Buy Handmade for the Holidays," posted on i-Newswire, says that the Handmade Toy Alliance "urges parents and grandparents to give handmade gifts to the children in their lives this holiday season. This year more than any other, small batch makers of toys, clothes, and accessories need their customers' support."

Photo found here.

You think you had a rough day?

Sorry to laugh...but it is kind of funny.

All About Spelling (TOS Review)

All About Spelling is my favourite so far of the review items that we've gotten as in-the-mail products (that is, not websites, e-books, or other online material). When I first checked out what the Review Crew had done last year, this program was mentioned frequently as one that got all thumbs up; so I was pleased to hear that this year's Crew was going to try it out as well. I was also amused to see a review from Ann Voskamp on the book's back cover--small world.

We haven't tried many other commercial spelling programs: we've used more "natural methods" of teaching spelling, such as copywork and dictation, reading, word games, and third grader Crayons has used online spelling activities as well. But, without trying to embarrass anybody, only one of our Squirrelings seems to be an intuitive speller. Crayons can read very hard books, but lacks confidence in spelling, which makes her sometimes reluctant to write.

Enter All About Spelling, Level One, and its accompanying Materials Packet. It's not a workbook or textbook program. What you do get: a lesson-by-lesson teacher's manual; a lot of coloured index-sized cards to pop apart (some are words, some are phonograms, some are rules to memorize); a sheet of laminated "tiles" to cut apart and stick magnets on the back of; and a few miscellaneous things like bingo chips and progress charts. Oh, and a CD-Rom of phonogram sounds. Pencil-and-paper or whiteboard work can be included as appropriate, but with the alphabet tiles it's workable even for those whose fine motor skills are weak.

If you have a large magnetic board, you can stick all the tiles-- lower-case alphabet letters and combinations of letters like CK and TH--on that and save yourself (or your Squirreling) the trouble of setting up the letters every day. I thought our old Coleco Magnetic Playboard (the kind with a chalkboard on the back) would be big enough, but it's only half as big as the recommended 2 x 3 foot surface. The fridge could have served, but the kitchen table turned out to work better for us, even though it's not magnetic. The magnets on the back of the tiles make them slide around the table better anyway than if we had left them plain.

Crayons completed the 24 "steps" (lessons) of Level One in under a month. If you have a young child just learning to read, you will of course go slower than we did. Crayons did not need to spend time working on single consonants or learn why we add "s" to make a plural. What she did find challenging was one of the first exercises: saying the sounds of words slowly (like "p-a-t" and "s-t-e-p") while pulling a plastic chip towards herself for each sound. We also needed to work on sounding out and spelling some of the vowel sounds and "consonant teams" that are taught in the first level. There are words that are covered at each level (170 in Level One), and several of them are added in each lesson, but this is not an approach that requires that every word be pre-tested, memorized, and final-tested: rather, it allows the student to spell ANY words that fit the spelling rules that have been taught.

This approach seemed to be exactly what Crayons needed this year. She enjoyed...as much as any third grader enjoys...the hands-on approach of spelling with tiles. (Sometimes I had her spell words out loud instead.) When we got to the end of each lesson, I skipped having her spell individual words on paper, but had her write the suggested phrases and short sentences instead, usually four or five a day. A younger child could do single words. She liked the humour of the phrases: "sniff and smell," "sink in quicksand," "six sad clams," "swam in jam." We had quite an interesting discussion about "rub his chin" and whether "he" might turn out to be a cat or a dog. I even learned something new myself: that there are no English words containing the letters "enk." (If you find one, let me know.)

The proof of success, for me, was that the same day we finished Level One, Crayons decided to entertain herself during Ponytails' dance class by writing a 246-word story. (I counted.) It wasn't perfectly spelled. But she asked for help with spelling only a couple of times, and it's the longest thing she's ever written (plus it was a great story). Coincidence? Maybe she's just growing up...but I will credit the month of All About Spelling she just completed with giving her renewed confidence and interest in writing.

We have just started Level Two, which we were also sent for review. This level includes eleven new phonograms and introduces more complicated words, as well as "jail words" that don't fit the spelling rules. I don't expect Crayons to take too long to get through it.

Will we continue on with the four other levels of the program?

Well, that was the point at which I went back to the website and checked the prices. The materials packet, which covers all the levels, is US$26.95. Level One is $29.95, and the other levels are $39.95. Extra student materials packets, which include the cards, bingo chips, and progress charts, are available for $19.95 apiece ($14.95 for Level One). You can also buy the CD-Rom, and the tiles separately, as well as additional items from the same publisher including a reader and a book about homophones. (I forgot to say that you can see sample lessons, and also a scope and sequence, here.)

While I was a bit floored by the generosity of the publisher in sending a hundred dollars' worth of spelling materials, I also had a few second thoughts about whether I would have purchased these materials at full price for a third grader, considering the speed at which we go through them; and whether or not I will be able to afford further levels. I do think that All About Spelling offers very good value overall (as Paddington would say), since the materials [in the first two levels; there are some write-in materials in higher levels] are all non-consumable except for the progress sheets and certificates; the laminated tiles are very sturdy, and the whole thing should last you through several children, assuming you have them. And considering how happy I am with Crayons' improved spelling, a hundred dollars for the materials and the first two levels could be thought of as money well spent. We will see how it goes with this second level, and if Crayons appears to need more of the same kind of work, I will consider getting the next one. If this "booster" is enough, she may do fine after this on her own.

For more reviews of this product, see the Review Crew Website.

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

School things to do this week

We have just this week and next week to finish the term's work; then some exams before a holiday break. We're ahead on some things but behind on others; but you can only go so fast reading books like Swiss Family Robinson out loud. If it takes us longer in the school year than I'd planned, that's fine too.

Anyway, this is what's planned:

Everybody:

Nature Challenge #8
Artistic Pursuits Unit 6
crafts, other pre-holiday things
outdoor time
singing
Mr. Pipes book and Bible stories
101 Famous Poems
Hymns
King Arthur, trying to finish Book One by Christmas
Swiss Family Robinson, trying to get to page 121 in our copy
Nutrition 101, Unit 2 Chapter 3: Enzymes, raw food (yes, it's taken us this long to get this far)
Take everybody to the dentist on Thursday.

Ponytails:

Reading one of Leon Garfield's Shakespeare stories
Abraham Lincoln's World
The Ocean of Truth (Newton biography), chapters 15, 16
math and science and photography with Mr. Fixit
Book of Think--the very end of the book
Analogies--continue, see if we can get section D done
Larry Burkett's money book, chapter 11
Write with the Best, start Unit 7 (Personal Letters) if done the Short Story assignment

Crayons:

Canada's Story chapters 7 and 8 (about Champlain)
Lassie-Come-Home chapters 18 and 19
Miquon Math and Mathemagic book
All About Spelling Level 2 (starting a new book--watch for review soon)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent I: Promises and Peacemaking

In honour of C.S. Lewis's 101st birthday today, I'm posting some quotes instead of a Sunday hymn.

"To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled, by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable....We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms."--The Problem of Pain

"Lest we should think this a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son."--The Problem of Pain

"Indignation at others' sufferings, though a generous passion, needs to be well managed lest it steal away patience and humanity from those who suffer and plant anger and cynicism in their stead."--The Problem of Pain

"I think the best results are obtained by people who work quietly away at limited objectives, such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace. I think the art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as well as we can....the dentist who can stop one toothache has deserved better of humanity than all the men who think they have some scheme for producing and perfectly healthy race."--from "Why I Am Not a Pacifist" (The Weight of Glory)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday on CurrClick

You DID know that CurrClick.com is having the annual Black Friday free download extravaganza?

Well, now you do.

The most beautiful doll from the dollar store

Was made from a pair of tights. What talented hands can do with simple materials...

(Seen on Dollar Store Crafts)

It reminded me of this, from 101 Famous Poems:

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

THIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:--
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince's banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle's edge,
And thought, "Had I a sword of keener steel--
That blue blade that the king's son bears, -- but this
Blunt thing--!" he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king's son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent Calendar 2009: Instruments of Peace (Version 2)

This is a work in progress...this is the first full version I've posted, but I'm going to be working out the rough places over the next couple of days, so it will probably change. I'm also not sure how much I can refer to Alan Paton's book Instrument of Thy Peace without violating any copyrights...or how specific I will be able to get with "practical-type" activities. Anyway, this is a draft: it's here for you to use as you can.

This year’s Advent focus is Peace.

Words from an MCC peace project:

Peace is a choice . . .
1) pray for each other
. . . remember that we are all children of God
2) imagine a peaceful world
. . . change begins with a dream
3) listen with care
. . . let your listening change you
4) learn forgiveness
. . . remember the past, turn to the future
5) speak truth
. . . using passion and compassion
6) value diversity
. . . celebrate differences and things shared
7) build fairness
. . . give a voice to those who have none
8) care for the earth
. . . buy wisely, use less
9) live gratefully
. . . be content with just enough
10) teach nonviolence
. . . oppose violence wherever you see it
Live peace . . . as Jesus did.

We will be using two main resources: Instrument of Thy Peace, by Alan Paton (the 1968 edition, since that’s what we have), and the current issue of Rejoice!, a quarterly devotional magazine published jointly by Kindred Productions and Faith & Life Resources, publishers serving Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite Church congregations. There are many other peace-related resources online and available from Christian publishers, as well as books on the life of St. Francis, so please make use of whatever is available to you.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.


“….as Paton shows, even in these drastic circumstances St. Francis’s prayer remains valid, if only as a focus for the doubts and questioning to which history’s overbearing ways give rise. There is a world beyond history, as there is a hope beyond both victory and defeat and a love beyond justice.”—Malcom Muggeridge, in his Foreword to Instrument of Thy Peace

“I write this book….for those who seek not so much to learn upon God as to be the active instruments of his peace.”—Alan Paton, Prologue to Instrument of Thy Peace

Preparation Activities:

Prepare an Advent wreath or other symbols for your devotional times. (Don’t forget to buy new candles!)

Prepare any special containers you like for Advent giving. This year we have a bag of blue and white beads and other decorations to glue on blue craft-foam boxes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009: Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Light the first candle on the Advent wreath.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 11:1-2

SING: Wonderful, by Sister Miram Therese Winter, found in Gold, Incense and Myrrh

Now the emptiness of ages proclaims the promised birth.
Hope to help unhappy hearts.
Love to light the earth.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace....


READ: Instrument of Thy Peace, Chapter 1, and/or the opening Editorial from the December/January/February issue of Rejoice!

From Paton’s text: “We are not passive recipients but active instruments. The right relationship between man and God is instantly restored.”

SING: Hark the Herald Angels Sing (God and sinners reconciled)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

TO DO: Alan Paton challenges us to be “active in compassion.” What are some specific ways we can actively show compassion during this season?


Monday, November 30, 2009: “No one is too weak, too vile….’”

SING: More songs from Gold, Incense, and Myrrh; or traditional Advent songs such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Hark the Glad Sound.”

READ: Continue to study Chapter 1. Read the poem on page 6 of Rejoice!

From Paton’s text:

“God moves in his own mysterious ways, but a great deal of the time he moves through us. And it is because we are not there that so many do not believe in God’s love.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: We are asking God to show us where love and hope and faith are needed, and to use us to bring them to those places. What can we do this week to act as God’s instruments?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009: To Be God’s Instrument

SING: Favourite Advent songs, e.g. Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

READ: Parts of Exodus chapters 3 and 4, the verses where Moses is trying to persuade God that he isn’t fit for the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

Also read pages 19-21 in the text (chapter 2), or read today OR yesterday’s devotion from Rejoice! (The reading for November 30th relates more to the theme of conflict and peace.)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SING: The Advent of Our God; read or sing Psalm 24.

READ the story on page 21: One day as St. Francis was returning from his prayers in the wood, Brother Masseo met him, and wishing to test how humble he was…. [This, along with other stories used in Paton’s book, is from The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, which is available online here. The story told here is from Chapter X, found here.]

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: Paton writes, “may the need of others always be remembered by me.” What needs are around you right now?

Thursday, December 3, 2009: Where there is hatred

READ: Paton chapter 3, pages 23, 24; and/or one of the devotional readings from Rejoice!

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:2-7

SING: Glory to God (Gold, Incense and Myrrh)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: Read and discuss Choice #10 from “Peace is a choice.”

Friday, December 4, 2009: Where there is injury

SING: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

READ: "It came to the ears of Francis that a bitter quarrel had arisen…" (p. 25) and/or the Rejoice! Reading for December 6 (adapt as needed), and/or another story about a quarrel.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: “Imagine a peaceful world.” (Choice #2) Show your vision in writing, art, crafts, or…?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

SING: The Huron Carol

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:7-8

READ: from Paton’s text, chapter 4

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!



Sunday, December 6, 2009: Where there is doubt

Light the second candle on the Advent wreath.

SING: One Small Child (David Meece)

READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 2 (Daily Grace for Family Ways), and/or pages 32-34 (chapter 5) in Paton.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 9:14-24; John 14:8-10; John 13:34-35

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 7, 2009: It is in pardoning

SING: Any favourite Advent songs.

SCRIPTURES: choose passages dealing with forgiveness.

READ: Paton chapter 6. In this chapter Paton discusses how the sequence “offence-punishment” differs from the Christian idea of “offence-forgiveness-restoration.” “We must even eschew the use of that fascinating statement, I forgive but I do not forget.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009: Hope


READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 1 (Home Security), and/or page 41 and the rest of chapter 7.

“When I am tempted to despair….I pray or speak or read this prayer of St. Francis….and I decide to act on it, or I should rather say, I am moved to act on it. From that moment the temptation to despair is ended. Therefore I am in this unrepayable debt.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SING: God Himself Is With Us

READ: Chapter 8, to partway down page 49.

“There is no point in believing in the Christian God at all if we do not believe that we are in his care.”

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 6:25-29

DO: Discuss Choice 7: Build fairness, give a voice to those who have none. The Old Testament prophets came down very hard on people who neglected to do this! How can we make our voices heard on behalf of those who suffer?

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Thursday, December 10, 2009: Despair

SING: Any favourite Advent songs, or maybe Bunyan’s Pilgrim Hymn.

READ: the passage on page 49, from The Three Sillies, about the girl who saw the axe hanging from the cellar ceiling and worried that if she someday had a son, it might someday fall on his head.

READ: the passage from Pilgrim’s Progress, also starting on p. 49:

“Looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two Lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by….Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him: But the Porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, Is thy strength so small? Fear not the Lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none. Keep in the midst of the Path, and no hurt shall come unto thee. “

READ: the rest of chapter 8 (it’s short).

“To commit oneself to God is to make oneself an instrument of his peace.”

DO: Discuss Choice 3: Let your listening change you. Try some fun listening games.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Friday, December 11, 2009:

SING: Sing of Birth (Gold, Incense and Myrrh)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:39-46 (the story of Gethsemane)

READ: Rejoice! for Dec. 7 (“One is Coming”), and/or read Paton chapter 9, including the story about St. Francis, “The Leper on the Umbrian Plain.”

“So there it all is, an agony of grief and fear, a rousing of oneself to face the ultimate ordeal, an act of peace to repair an act of violence….No wonder that Francis of Assisi so loved this man, and followed him as his Lord and Brother.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

SING: The Christ-child Lay on Mary’s Lap (G.K. Chesterton)

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:18

READ: Rejoice for Dec. 8 (“What You See”), and/or the rest of chapter 10.

“Francis….[ran into some robbers who] rushed out at him and demanded to know who he was, and what was his business. Full of joy he replied to them, ‘I am the herald of the Great King.’ So with loud laughter they stripped off the cloak that Bishop Guido had given him, and threw him into a snowdrift. He crawled out of the snow, and dressed now only in his hairshirt, went singing on his way.”

POEM TO READ: “New Prince, New Pomp”, by Robert Southwell
Behold a silly tender Babe, in freezing winter night;
In homely manger trembling lies, alas a piteous sight:
The inns are full, no man will yield this little Pilgrim bed,
But forced He is with silly beasts, in crib to shroud His head.
Despise Him not for lying there, first what He is enquire:
An orient pearl is often found, in depth of dirty mire;
Weigh not His crib, His wooden dish, nor beasts that by Him feed:
Weigh not His mother's poor attire, nor Joseph's simple weed.
This stable is a Prince's court, the crib His chair of state:
The beasts are parcel of His pomp, the wooden dish His plate.
The persons in that poor attire, His royal liveries wear,
The Prince Himself is come from heaven, this pomp is prized there.
With joy approach, O Christian wight, do homage to thy King,
And highly prize this humble pomp, which He from heaven doth bring.

DO: Discuss Choice 8: Care for the earth, buy wisely, use less. How do we make this a part of our celebrations?

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Light the third Advent candle.

SING: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 1:10-18, Matthew 25:34-40

READ: Paton chapter 11, pages 66-67.

“It is not reserve but indifference, it is not shyness but coldness, that is the offence against love….To love means to bring one’s whole life under discipline….the offering of oneself to be made an instrument of God’s peace.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 14, 2009:

SING: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

READ: Finish p. 67. Read the passage from The Brothers Karamazov on page 68. Finish the chapter.

“It is the time of the Inquisition, and suddenly Christ is seen in the streets. He is recognized and brought to the Grand Inquisitor, who throws Him into prison, intending to kill Him also. The Grand Inquisitor speaks to Him:

“I too prized the freedom with which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among Thy elect….But I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work….I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us. For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou….”

When the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: 'Go, and come no more... come not at all, never, never!' And he let Him out into the dark alleys of the town.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009: In the world, but not of it

MUSIC TO LISTEN TO: “Welcome to Our World” (search YouTube for this)

SCRIPTURE: Read the quotes (mostly from John) that begin Chapter 12, e.g. John 12:47, 15:19, 17:15, 3:16; also 1 John 2:15

READ: Chapter 12. This chapter has some tough theological questions in it, and you may or may not agree with Alan Paton’s conclusions here. Paton discusses possible contradiction in the Scriptures quoted: is the world a place “to be lived in, to be redeemed, to be illumined?” Or is it “irredeemable, the natural enemy of goodness and faith, a place not to be loved?” He discusses the problem of emphasizing outward morality over love: “Today the worst sins to me are cruelty and coldness. Cowardice is no doubt contemptible, but cruelty is horrible.”

DO: Discuss the choice to live gratefully and be content with just enough.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009: Respectability

SING: All Poor Men & Humble

SCRIPTURE: Luke 7:36-50; Philippians 2:5-11

READ: Chapter 13

“These young [hippies]….reject war and violence….They in their way are also in the world, but not of it….Do they perhaps refuse to turn to us because of our respectability, because we are too much conformed to the world?....”

DO: Discuss Choice 6: Value diversity, celebrate differences & things shared.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

SING: O Come All Ye Faithful

READ: Chapter 14: Story about St. Francis beginning the Third Order
Living in a secular world

“[Lord Orlando] wanted to know not how to joint the Order, but how to live the Christian life in the world. And….Francis said he would help him….Thus was born at Montefeltro the Third Order, for those who had lives to live and duties to do in the world….without conforming to the accepted pattern of things.”

SCRIPTURE: Romans 12:2, 13:1-6

DO: Discuss Choice 10: Teach nonviolence.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Friday, December 18, 2009:

READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 10 (thanks for encouragement), and/or Chapter 15
Sorry, joy, darkness, light
Joy in a tough place

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 121

DO: Discuss Choice 5: Speak truth using passion and compassion.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Saturday, December 19, 2009:

SING: O Little Town of Bethlehem; In the Bleak Midwinter; Servant Song

READ: Chapter 16
Consoling, understanding, loving
Teach us also to receive

SCRIPTURE: John 13

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Sunday, December 20, 2009: A hurting world

Light the fourth Advent candle.

SING: Be Still My Soul; From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

SCRIPTURE: Habakkuk 2:1, 3:16-19

READ: Paton Chapter 17, which deals with a hurting world, race riots, wars; calm in the midst of violence; and working for peace.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 21, 2009

SING: Infant Holy Infant Lowly; Good King Wenceslas

POEM TO READ: Christmas (II) by George Herbert

Christmas (II) by George Herbert (1593-1633)
All after pleasures as I rode one day,
My horse and I both tired, body and mind,
With full cry of affections quite astray,
I took up in the next inn I could find.
There, when I come, whom found I but my dear--
My dearest Lord; expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to Him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?
O Thou, whose glorious yet contracted light
Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is Thy right,
To man, of all beasts be not Thou a stranger;
Furnish and deck my soul, that Thou mayst have
A better lodging than a rack or grave.
The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts and words and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word, the streams Thy grace,
Enriching every place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then we will chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore He should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching till I find a sun
Shall stay till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly
As frost-nipt suns look sadly.
Then we will sing and shine all our own day,
And one another pay.
His beams shall cheer my heart, and both so twine,
Till e'en his beams sing and my music shine.

READ: Paton Chapter 18, on giving, receiving; giving of yourself.

“It is in that moment that we receive; it is in that moment that God is; it is in that place that God is.”

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 1:18-25

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009:

SING: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Father Make Us One

READ: Paton Chapter 19, on pardoning; loving your enemy. (This chapter needs to be previewed and read aloud by an adult, as it contains some content unsuitable for young children.)

“Now it seems to me that God may well forgive us while we are still a great way off, and perhaps not even on the way home at all. But for us ourselves it is essential that we ask forgiveness; otherwise we shall not recognize or experience it.”

DO: Discuss Choice 4: Remember the past, turn to the future.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SING: It’s Your Blood; The First Noel

READ: Paton Chapter 20, on dying and life.

“There are some diffident Christians who cannot believe that they are now in eternal life, not only because they continue to think of eternal life as a reward for this one, but because they think it is fr too grand a way to describe the prosaic way in which they live….Yet the gospel is a gospel for us, it is good news for us.”

This chapter includes a description of the death of St. Francis from St. Francis of Assisi by Elizabeth Goudge, and also the story of Christoph Probst, who wrote farewell letters to his mother and sister before his death during WWII. (Adapt as needed.)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SING: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; What Child Is This; Silent Night

READ: Paton Chapter 21, “Conclusion,” on slavery vs. freedom, freedom in obedience. Paton also includes these lines from “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.

Paton ends with his own poem, “The Prison House.”

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 7:17-23

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

Thanksgiving and Cranberries

For anyone still looking for this recipe: Canadian Living has posted last year's recipe for Cherry Cranberry Sauce to the website.

It still seems very popular! (Here's my version.)

Thankful Alphabet: Z

Z is for Zephaniah 3:17

"The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: Y

This one is easy.

I'm thankful for You! And thank You again especially if You were one of the people who nominated or voted for us in the Homeschool Blog Awards. And even if You didn't--thank You for coming by and for letting us get to know You as well.

(Due to some glitches, the HSBA winners haven't yet been announced--but it was pretty obvious that we weren't that close anyway.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: X

(I'm thankful that there are only three letters left!)

X is for Christ, as in letter Chi, as in Xmas.

X is also for a lot more words than you'd expect, including Xyris operculata, which means "of Australia." Really. So greetings to Jeanne.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some holiday homemades I'm eyeing

These may actually get sampled here this year. (Some were found through Cents to Get Debt-Free's post Packaging Ideas for Edible Gifts.)

Hot Chocolate Pods at Big Red Kitchen

Heaven on a Stick at Cents to Get Debt-Free (dipped pretzels)

Cider Beetles at Elfster. I like her Reindeer variation too, as well as the "Mulling Minnows" at Big Red Kitchen. And I was really happy to see that you can get LITTLE cinnamon sticks at the bulk baking store--I really don't like smashing up the big ones.

Malted Milk Buttons and Crispy Rice Shortbread, two variations on a Master Dough recipe that I found in a (thrifted) December 15, 1998 Woman's Day magazine and which were adapted (with others in the same food article) from One Dough, Fifty Cookies by Leslie Glover Pendleton. We have a list of our own favourite Christmas cookies, but these might get worked in too...we Squirrels don't tend to go for the very fancy cookies, we prefer taste over glamour.

Snowflake Crayons...or is that Crayon Snowflakes

Mad in Crafts gives a whole new look to "scribble cookies."

And, as she points out, her version is Way More Frugal than the commercial kit. Even if you buy new crayons to break into pieces.

Gorgeous Glassware

And inexpensive too. 320 Sycamore has a photo tutorial for a dollar-store version of the popular big hurricane candle holders. (Seen on Dollar Store Crafts.)

Those would look wonderful on our always-hard-to-decorate mantelpiece.

Now to find out if our dollar store carries those candles in glass tubes...

Thankful Alphabet: W

W is for Worthwhile Writing.

(Reposted and slightly edited from 2007)


I think almost every Ambleside Online user customizes the curriculum to some extent--well, at least we do. Besides adding in some Canadian content, there are books that I add in because they fit so well or they're just longtime favourites. A lot of those are out-of-print books that aren't yet in the public domain--just old enough to be hard to find, not old enough to read online, but still worth looking for.

This list doesn't include the picture books we've been collecting like the Little Tim books, the Church Mice books, or Shirley Hughes' Alfie series--I'm trying to stick mostly to school-type books or literature for the AO years.

The order is...random.

1. Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild. (Check out that link--there are photos of places from the story.) For girls around Year 3 age...and how many books (besides Roller Skates) include not only Shakespeare references but children who are more or less homeschooled? (Roller Skates--which includes Shakespeare, not homeschooling--is a book in which many parents will need to proceed with caution--there are very scary and very sad parts, enough to unsettle some children unless you do some judicious skipping.)

2. Margery Sharp's Miss Bianca/Rescuers mouse adventure books. Some are better than others, but the first two at least are must-reads...but not too young, maybe Year 3 or 4. Adventure, courage, and poetry.

3. More mice and furry/feathered heroes: William Steig's Abel's Island and The Real Thief. For around the same age, because Steig never stints on vocabulary.

"Without waiting to catch breath after his heroic skirmish, he began uttering, over these detested feathers, the most horrible imprecations imaginable. Heaven forfend that the owl should have suffered a fraction of what Abel wished it. Abel wished that its feathers would turn to lead so it could fall on its head from the world's tallest tree, that its beak would rot and become useless even for eating mush, that it should be blind as a bat and fly into a dragon's flaming mouth, that it should sink in quicksand mixed with broken bottles, very slowly, to prolong its suffering, and much more of the same sort."

4. A Toad for Tuesday, by Russell E. Erickson. I guess the owl in #3 reminded me of this one--for Year 1 or 2, and most children at that level could probably read it for themselves. No offense, but people who avoid "talking animal stories" don't know what they're missing with this one. Warton the Toad is kidnapped by a Really Mean Owl who plans to eat him--next week--for a birthday snack. But he attempts to remain calm.

"The toad dug into his pack and pulled out two beeswax candles. As soon as they were lit and began casting their warm glow about the room, he felt much better. He began to straighten his corner. And, being of a cheerful nature, he began to hum a little tune.

"The owl couldn't believe his ears.

"'Warty, you did hear me say that I was going to eat you next Tuesday, didn't you?'

"'Yes, ' said the toad.

"The owl shook his head."

5. Armed with Courage. (I had to include a serious book.) I've written about this before: it's a book of short biographies of courageous people: Florence Nightingale, Father Damien, George Washington Carver, Jane Addams, Wilfred Grenfell, Mahatma Gandhi, and Albert Schweitzer. Something like Hero Tales, not specifically Christian, but inspirational and well written. We've just finished reading this (in our Year 3 1/2).

"Nothing on earth was wasted. That was the belief of this man who seemed to have magic in his fingers. Every day he had a whole handful of new ideas, too. He searched the woods and fields and brought home plants, leaves, and roots. Then he took them to his laboratory and made them into useful products, or medicines, or food. He told his students that they must learn to "see." They must always see something good in nature. They must always look for something that would benefit mankind.

"Not even a few handfuls of dirt were too humble to interest Dr. Carver. Yet he wanted almost nothing for himself...."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fragrance-free sachets? A Treehouse reader challenge

I have a holiday-crafting question for all you smart and crafty blog readers out there.

I have some lace, hankies, ribbon, muslin and things like that that would make great bedroom sachets. The kind you usually fill with potpourri or lavender.

However, certain Squirrels are very sensitive to anything piney, or flowery, or generally perfumey...even a walk through the craft store can make some of us go...er, a little nutty.

And sachets without any smell seem a bit pointless, don't they?

Do you have any suggestions for alternative uses, fillings, or variations that won't make anybody jump out of the tree? Pincushion stuffing is one that came to mind, although I'm not sure how many pincushions actually see much use these days...

What has Mama Squirrel read this year?

Besides purely school books?

Mama Squirrel made up a reading list last December of 20 Library Books to read in 2009. In some cases I never did locate the book and ended up reading something else by the same author or another book on the same topic. Here they are, with the ones I finished in bold and the ones I at least started in italics:

1. Our Culture, What's Left of it: The Mandarins and the Masses
2. Story of French
3. Freakonomics
4. Half in the Sun: an anthology of Mennonite Writing
5. Bumblebee Economics
6. Of This Earth (Rudy Wiebe) (it's usually out)
7. King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the man who saved geometry
8. The Bone Sharps: a novel
9. Rough Crossings: Britain, the slaves, and the American Revolution
10. De Niro's Game
11. The Skystone (some heavy-duty adult content)
12. Black Swan Green
13. Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
14. Three-Day Road
15. A Most Damnable Invention: dynamite, nitrates, and the making of the modern world
16. On Chesil Beach
17. Divisadero (I got halfway through and couldn't handle any more)
18. The Library at Night
19. The Man Who Forgot How to Read (Engel) (I keep looking for it and it's always out)
20. The Writing Life (Annie Dillard)


I did finish several of them--and started a few others but didn't get all the way through due either to lack of interest or, in a couple of cases, getting very grossed out at what currently passes for acceptable content in mainstream books. I'm not sure whether to start a new library list for this year or just keep working on this one--I think I might keep working on this one, since I haven't yet got to that tantalizing book about dynamite.

So along with those library books that I did locate and read, and some favourite re-reads (noted), here is my Yes I Read It list for 2009, so far. At the minute I've dropped everything else so that I can work on Dawn to Decadence (and read Steph's slow cooker book).

A good chunk of the Bible
Plutarch: Life of Theseus, Life of Romulus
Marva Collins' Way

Books on writing:

How to Grow a Novel
Reading like a Writer (Prose)
Turning Life into Fiction (Hemley)

Books on Real Life:

Fast Food Nation
Discover Your Inner Economist


Books on homing:

Tightwad Gazette books (re-read)
Two "Lasagna Gardening" books
Introducing Whole Foods Cooking (Gregg)

Welcome Home, by Emilie Barnes

Books on books:

84, Charing Cross Road / The Duchess of Bloomsbury
Inside Prince Caspian (Brown)

Books about people:

The Small Woman
King of Infinite Space

Fiction:

Most of the Mitford books (re-read)
Daughter of Time (re-read)
Kingfishers Catch Fire (Godden) (re-read)
Oh What a Paradise It Seems (Cheever)
The Moonstone
The Scarlet Pimpernel
Goldengrove (Prose) (did not like this one at all)
Burglar on the Prowl (Block) (sometimes Mama Squirrel likes a good scary mystery)
The Heart of Midlothian (Scott)
The Silence (Endo)
Deep River (Endo)
Rebels of the Heavenly Kingdom (Paterson)
The Storm (Buechner)
Jeanne, fille du roy (Martel)
Some of Tolstoy's stories
Some of Chekhov's stories
Peace Shall Destroy Many (Wiebe)
The Living (Dillard)
The Stone Diaries (Shields)
Jayber Crow
Four of John Buchan's Richard Hannay spy novels (very racist but fun)

Books partly read:

Future Grace, by John Piper
Begin Here (Barzun)
Soul Survivor (re-read) (Yancey)
The Brothers K, by David James Duncan (I'm still working on this)
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O'Dea (ditto)
From Dawn to Decadence, by Jacques Barzun (ditto)

Thankful Alphabet: U

U is for Up. As in, time's almost Up to vote in the HSBA awards. Saturday at midnight is it!

U is also for The Uncommonly Good Weather we've had this month.

U is for an Upbeat Update from A Dusty Frame.

And for all the amazing things that Unfold in our lives.

Friday, November 20, 2009

More Wodent Cwafts

This chipmunk-from-a-glove pattern isn't new, but I'd never seen it before and it made me smile. (Seen on Dollar Store Crafts.)

Thankful Alphabet: T

T is for Tollbooths (phantom ones).
T is for Time to Think
T is for Tall Tales
T is for Teaching
T is for Tea (thanks, Coffeemamma)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's a post-CPSIA Christmas

Scrooge: Please, let me go! Don't eat me!

Ghost of Christmas Present: Why would the Ghost of Christmas Present - that's me - want to eat a distasteful little miser like you?... Especially when there are so many good things to enjoy in life? (Mickey's Christmas Carol)

Overlawyered posts updates on what's happening with the CPSIA. And have you heard that BRIO trains will be pulling out of the U.S.?

Thankful Alphabet: One Very Cute S

Run, run, run and check out these awesome squirrels at That Artist Woman. Toilet paper tubes never looked so good. (Seen at Crafty Crow.)

Food Salvage (What's in the cupboard?)

I've been trying hard to use up some bits and pieces in the cupboard and the fridge, and work with what we had since we didn't do a full grocery trip last weekend. I cooked up a couple of bags of dried beans and froze them. I froze some yogurt in ice cube trays so that I'd have it for starter. I made a batch of Brannies (a brownie recipe including bran cereal), which are much better than they sound. I made extra loaves of pumpkin bread and froze them.

This morning I made Apple Raisin Baked 10-Grain Cereal, but without the apples, raisins, or nuts. Just one of those things I bought that never seemed to get used the ordinary way--but I did like the baked version. I let it sit in the fridge overnight in a bowl, poured it into a 9 x 13 pan this morning and baked it for half an hour. The recipe recommends an 8 inch pan and calls for baking it for 50 minutes, but I preferred it being a little flatter and getting done sooner.

Last night we had farmer's sausage baked on a bit of sauerkraut (add half a cup of water, bake for about an hour and a half depending on how frozen it is), with a can of no-salt green beans stirred in at the end, and served with baked potatoes. Tonight's dinner is a casserole made up of black beans (from the freezer), chopped celery (the end of the bunch), sliced sausage, a couple of sliced leftover potatoes, and a can of tomato paste-plus-milk poured on top. The tomato part is optional; broth would have given it a different taste. There are cheese perogies in the freezer, so I'll cook those as well; but if I hadn't had those, I would have cooked rice to have with it. And I'll cut up the last of the carrots and have those raw.

Dessert could have been a cranberry crisp, since I had a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce and enough oatmeal and other things to make a quick topping. However, I know that the people who will be eating it aren't always as fond of warm cranberries as I am, so I decided on something different. I combined oatmeal cookie crumbs, oatmeal and oil to make crumbles, and layered those in a bowl with the cranberry sauce (mixed with homemade raspberry jam) and the frozen yogurt cubes. Like a family-size parfait, right? The two important parts of this kind of dessert are putting in something you can see through--it's much prettier that way--and letting the cubes thaw enough to eat but still keep things chilled. I made the dessert after lunch and put it in the fridge, but I'll probably move it back to the counter for the last while before dinner: don't want anybody crunching on yogurt ice cubes.

And tonight Mr. Fixit will be stopping at the grocery store to pick up more Squirrel Feed.

Thankful Alphabet: More S Words

Squirrelings (and their dad)--of course!

Real squirrels

Funny squirrels

Snowball

Sunshine--which we've had all week except for today

Sheets on the beds

Shoes on the feet

Soup from the Crockpot.

Thankful Alphabet: S

S is for sprouts: something you can crunch even when the garden is gone. Last week we sprouted some lentils, which we hadn't done for a very long time, and I had forgotten how easy they are to do.

One jar, quart-sized is good but it doesn't have to have a lid; one piece of cheesecloth or something similar, and a rubber band or something to hold it on the jar; a quarter-cup or so of uncooked lentils; water. And a waterproof box or tray to hold the jar is good too.

Put the lentils in the jar and cover with water. Leave overnight or for several hours. Cover the jar with cheesecloth and pour out the water through the cloth; then pour more water in and pour it off again (rinsing the sprouts). Put the jar full of damp lentils into a dark place, like the kitchen cupboard, on its side if possible. Rinse the sprouts a couple of times a day; don't let the lentils stay too wet, but don't let them dry out either. Within a day or so you should see little white tails appearing, and a couple of days later the cheesecloth will look terrible but the sprouts will be long enough to eat.

That's it! (If you're planning on sprouting anything different like alfalfa, please check the various current pieces of advice about which sprouts you shouldn't eat raw or which ones you shouldn't eat too much of, period. But the method is about the same. Here's one recent blog post about sprouting alfalfa seeds from Under $1000 Per Month.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just don't make it look too good?

I've been thinking about those posts and comments about perceptions of people who receive public assistance. While I'm uncertain whether the government (yours or mine) should be in that business at all, I think the point is worth discussing. If we've never been in a position of needing public or private financial assistance, do we hang on to certain stereotypes about those who do--for instance, how "grateful" they should be, or how they should or shouldn't dress? And how uncomfortable does it make us when those ideas are challenged?

Ironically, this same attitude has been common towards pastors' families and missionaries. Wasn't it Edith Schaeffer who said that her mother's fantastic sewing and alteration skills drew criticism that their family dressed too well for missionaries? It's always been a fine line for a pastor to choose a car...it can't be too nice, or his parishioners will somehow think he's mis-spending their money. But it's okay for the same church members to buy good cars, right? After all, they earned it...

It can be annoying if those we feel entitled to feel a bit superior to decide to step out of the roles we assign them. I had a brief encounter with this last winter at a rummage sale, held at a church that was part of the Out of the Cold overnight shelter program. Because the gym was full of men, the rummage sale was set up in a hallway outside. As I checked out the books and sweaters, I noticed that one of the Out of the Cold guests had also come out to look through the sale stuff. This man seemed to be getting a few cautious and perhaps slightly hairy eyeballs from the rummage sale ladies, and I guess he was aware of that too, because he commented loudly, "Is this sale for everybody or just for regular people?"

On another note: you know the real reason the stepsisters ripped Cinderella's dress was that it looked better than theirs did, even though she made it out of their scraps. The risk of beautifying or refurbishing something unwanted is that somebody might try to take it from you. Like that guy I can't remember the name of who created the rooftop oasis...or another person Mary Pride once wrote about who bought and cleaned up a polluted, unwanted piece of land, and was then told that he couldn't use it because it was now a protected wetland. (I can't verify that one either, so if it's an urban legend, I apologize for bringing it up.)

Moral of the story: maybe that if you're fixing up a donated beater car, you'd better not fix it too shiny.

And obviously I've gotten away from the point, if there ever was one here. Something like: don't try and fit people too tightly into what you've already decided they should be? Not everything (or everyone) fits into the holes we carve out.

Snowball


Snowball was my sister Crayons' hamster. Yesterday sadly he died from old age.
We will remember him.



~~~Ponytails :(

Thankful Alphabet: R

R is for Recipes.

A couple of weeks ago The Apprentice was in our kitchen with one of her friends, and they wanted to bake something. I offered the use of my recipe binder, and The Apprentice explained to her friend with what sounded like a bit of awe, "My mom's had this binder forever. This book has everything I grew up eating."

Well, it hasn't been exactly the same binder all this time (my first big one fell apart and I was forced to decant the recipes into two smaller books), and not everything I make is in the binder--we do have some other cookbooks. (I just managed to get Stephanie O'Dea's new book, Make It Fast Cook It Slow, from the library. I had to wait impatiently while somebody else brought it back.) But The Apprentice's appreciation is noted.

So in her honour, I am reposting the recipe that I think has gotten the most Google hits here over the past few years: A Small Chocolate Cake That's Not So Wacky.

When I was young, my mom used to make that chocolate "wacky cake" recipe where you make the three holes in the top and pour different things in the holes. This is even faster (no need to dig holes), makes a cake just the right size for a small celebration, can be made dairy-free, and is so idiot-proof that it would make history out of all those jokes about inept newlyweds and other kitchen-phobes baking burned and fallen cakes. Somebody should have given a copy to Arthur too when he was trying to make a cake for his grandma. ("It says put in 1 lb. flour. What's a lub?")

Small Chocolate Cake, from The Kissing Bridge Cookbook by Marcella Wittig Calarco

Ingredients

1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup flour [You might need a little more flour, as much as 1/2 cup more]
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla

Method

In a large bowl, beat the egg, and beat in the sugar, cocoa and butter until smooth. Add the flour, soda and baking powder and mix well. Pour in the boiling water and vanilla and mix. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8 inch square pan. Bake at 350°F, 20 to 25 minutes or until it tests done. Leave it in the pan and frost with your favorite frosting.

This cake has had many incarnations at the Treehouse. It was used for Mr. Fixit's Brown Dirt Birthday Cake, frosted with chocolate icing and covered with chocolate cookie crumbs for dirt. I think it was his Turntable Cake too (the tone arm was a breadstick covered with frosting). One year it was our Dance Recital and Starting Advent Cake. I was making chocolate chip icing for it (on the stove) but it was kind of thin, so I stirred in some mini marshmallows, thinking they'd melt, but they didn't really. I spread the icing on the cake with all the marshmallows sticking out of it, and it got oohs and ahs from the Squirrelings. ("Like a hot chocolate cake!")

And now you have the recipe too, so there's no reason to go wacky if you have to make a cake.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: Q

Q is for "Q." (This is a repost from February 2009.)


"Q Rocks."--Queen Shenaynay, sometime during the last decade

"Q (Quiller-Couch) was all by himself my college education. I went down to the public library one day when I was seventeen looking for books on the art of writing, and found five books of lectures which Q had delivered to his students of writing at Cambridge.

"'Just what I need!' I congratulated myself. I hurried home with the first volume and started reading and got to page 3 and hit a snag:

"Q....assumed that his students--including me--had read Paradise Lost as a matter of course and would understand his analysis of the 'Invocation to Light' in Book 9. So I said, 'Wait here,' and went down the library and got Paradise Lost and took it home and started reading it and got to page 3, when I hit a snag:

"Milton assumed I'd read the Christian version of Isaiah and the New Testament and had learned all about Lucifer and the War in Heaven, and since I'd been reared in Judaism I hadn't. So I said, 'Wait here,' and borrowed a Christian Bible and read about Lucifer and so forth, and then went back to Milton and read Paradise Lost, and then finally got back to Q, page 3.....[I] discovered he assumed I not only knew all the plays of Shakespeare, and Boswell's Johnson, but also the Second Book of Esdras....So what with one thing and another and an average of three 'Wait here's' a week, it took me eleven years to get through Q's five books of lectures."

--Helene Hanff, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, 1974

(Here's a bonus quote from "Q": "The novelist—well, even the novelist has his uses; and I would warn you against despising any form of art which is alive and pliant in the hands of men. For my part, I believe, bearing in mind Mr. Barrie’s Peter Pan and the old bottles he renovated to hold that joyous wine, that even Musical Comedy, in the hands of a master, might become a thing of beauty.")

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: P

P is for today's schooltime Poem: "The Chambered Nautilus," by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair...."


Linked from Poetry Ceilidh at The Beehive.

Ring out wild bells

Inexpensive, too, if you use the Mad In Crafts version of a bell door decoration.

The homeschool bloggers that got away

Don't forget to vote for the HSBA winners this week (you have five days left). In some of the categories it's already pretty obvious who the winners are going to be, unless there's a major earthquake or a whole town votes for somebody.

Also, you can help Kim at Raising Olives to maybe win a prize for her Rain Gutter Book Shelves tutorial. This project is featured on Design Dazzle. As part of Design Dazzle's birthday celebration, they will be posting other ideas (they'll all be up by noon today), and you get to vote for your favourite by leaving a comment on the relevant Design Dazzle post (here's the one for the bookshelves). The favourite project gets a prize, and three of the voters will also be selected to win a prize. I think more details about this will be posted on the Design Dazzle site.

But there are other good blogs out there that for some reason didn't get enough nominations this year, or just do their blogging more quietly...so I'm having my own Don't Miss This recognition awards today.

The Abarbablog They were blogging back before blogging was cool--all of them--and they've homeschooling about as long as we have. They're also good friends of Dewey Squirrel. And if they'd quit posting about things like Zombie Attacks and poker games in between the mission trips to Uganda, then Mama Squirrel wouldn't be so nervous about nominating them for the Family Blog and Nitty Gritty and Best Variety awards...but then they wouldn't be the Abarbablog. So don't change, we like you all the way you are even if we've come to look forward to a certain amount of blood and destruction in your posts.

The blogger formerly known as Queen Shenaynay, now going by Lynn B., has resumed posting at The Beehive, and she gets the Loveliness is Everywhere award. (There isn't one in the HSBA category, I just made it up.) Some people blog loveliness with photos; Lynn does it with words. And sometimes pictures too.

The Country Cottage gets a Week's Best CM Post award today for "Understanding Growth."

And Javamom continues to post about homeschooling her teens (as does Tootle's Time), and generally living life...she gets the Best Variety of Interesting Interests award.

From big to littles--did the Queen of Carrots get nominated this year? In any case, she gets the Treehouse's Most Miles Logged Running After Little Ones award.

And don't forget some of the others: CM, Children and Lots of Grace; Birdy's Blog; Adventures on Beck's Bounty; Liberty and Lily; A Peaceful Day. A few of our old favourites haven't updated in awhile so I'll leave them for another day.

Congratulations to you all--you're all appreciated here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The comments are interesting too

If you haven't yet clicked over to the post on how you're "supposed" to look or act if you're receiving social assistance, have a look at it; then read some of the comments, particularly the ones by "Sonrisa." Sounds like she had a mom to be really proud of.

I have some thoughts perking on these issues too, and will post about them tomorrow or when I can get them together.

Thankful Alphabet: And yet another O

O is for Ouch.

Casaubon's Book (which has moved since the last time we linked to it) posted "Just Don't Be Poor," with a link to "Just shut up and obey" at Adapting in Place.

Some very good points, especially about making snap judgments based on the state of somebody's manicure.

Thankful Alphabet: O, for the third time

O is for origami, and there are good kid-friendly patterns at ActivityVillage.co.uk. Mama Squirrel used some of these patterns for a co-op class last Friday, and the mostly-eight-and-nine-year-olds were able to follow most of them without trouble. We started with this printable puppy, moved on to a paper cup and then a basket (very similar); then we tried boxes and booklets.

On a frugal note, Mama Squirrel found packs of coloured "craft paper" at the dollar store--not construction paper, these were sheets ranging from origami-paper thickness to something a bit stiffer. Ponytails helped cut a bunch of them into squares, and that easily gave us enough paper for our class. We also had some sheets of Roylco's animal print and camouflage paper, left over from a long-ago craft, and the boys all wanted the camouflage paper. Just an idea in case anyone thinks paper folding is a girl thing...and some of Roylco's ethnic-print papers would also make great origami paper. (I don't work for Roylco, I'm just a happy customer.)

Thankful Alphabet: Another O

O is for out, out, out at Domestic Fashionista. I can't think of a better reason to declutter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: N


N is for Nutmeg. One of food history's greatest discoveries, and the secret ingredient that raises Snickerdoodle Blondies from just a cinnamon bar into a new family favourite.
(No, I'm not just being silly. I can be thankful for nutmeg if I want to be. Of course I'm also thankful for neighbours, newspapers, and my nervous system. Also nominations. Don't forget to vote.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: M

M is for Marriage and My Mechanical Mate who Messes with Meters

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A nominated blog to visit: Jam Side Up

Nominated in the Funniest category: Jam Side Up. They're funny. They use Ambleside Online. They're Canadian. What more could you want?

Thankful Alphabet: L


L is for Literature.

What would we do without books?

And expect to be rewarded when you climb to the top. Who goes on a quest without hoping to bring back treasure? Without even specially looking for them, we can expect to make discoveries that lead to wisdom, teach discernment and critical thinking, inspire us with courage, and build character; what Terry Glaspey calls the Moral Imagination. Charlotte Mason said that “stories make the child’s life intelligible to himself; Gladys Hunt wrote in Honey for a Child’s Heart that “books help children know what to look for in life.” --Notes from a Book Talk

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yeah, we're frugal...we're trying, anyway

It's kind of fun to be nominated for Best Thrifty Homeschooler, even if we don't always feel like we've got it all together frugal-wise.

Here are some frugal-stuff posts from the past year to look back on...besides the posts that were just links to other peoples' good ideas.


Thrift and Thanksgiving

Baby Shower...and no chocolate on the diapers

The Surplus Store

What do you mean, you won't go in there with me?

What to do at a horse party

The advantages of limitations

Non-existent packages with silver linings

Is frugality just a fad?

How scratchy are we?

What's in your hand? Extreme Edition

In Remembrance: not poppies, but meadow-flowers

I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
--from "I have a rendezvous with Death," by Alan Seeger, 1888-1916
While we appreciate the everlastingly-popular "In Flanders Fields," the Squirrelings are a bit tired of it...so they were interested to read Alan Seeger's poem, which appears just before John McCrae's in our copy of One Hundred and One Famous Poems.

Which is inscribed "To Mother, with love from Jack, Margy and Sally, Mother's Day 1946."

Which, for a mother in 1946, might have been extra meaningful...since many Jacks (and Margys and Sallys) would no longer have been there to write that. I don't know who Jack was, whether he was old enough then to have been in the war or not. I assume he was one of our relatives. Maybe I'll ask Grandpa Squirrel about it.

9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

10 Is there anything of which one can say,
"Look! This is something new"?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.

11 There is no remembrance of men of old,
and even those who are yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow.--Ecclesiastes 1:9-11, NIV



We do remember the Alans who kept the rendezvous, and the Jacks who (perhaps) served and returned home.

We also remember the 133 Canadian soldiers who have died in the past seven years.

And those who have served and returned.

Thankful Alphabet: K

Keith Green: my favourite singer during the '80's. For some reason this song has been stuck in my head this week, especially the line "For so many times my mind has deceived me, that I really don't have to carry the cross..."

...So today I'm thankful for Keith.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another nominated blog: Frugal Family Fun

Nominated for Best Thrifty Homeschooler: Frugal Family Fun. I've linked to this blog before, but it's one of those places that has something so cool every time I look at it--currently felt ravioli, denim handwarmers, and Calico Critter carriers--that I don't mind mentioning it again (heh, even though we're nominated in the same category. I don't care. Honestly. Vote for any of them, they're all good!).

A Nominated Blog to Visit

In the Best Homeschool Mom category, go check out Books and Bairns. It's been a couple of years since we last linked to B&B, but it's still a worthwhile blog to visit if you haven't been there lately. In the past week's posts alone we have musings on the Duggars, Advanced Meal Planning, adoption holdups, and moving to Kathmandu. Eclectic and very interesting.

Big Thank Yous! (HSBA Nominations)


Just to be nominated this year (in the Thrifty and Cyber-buddy categories) is awesome--there are so many good blogs to vote for! (I'm happy that some of the blogs I nominated made it to voting status too.)

All the details are in this post.

(This is the fun part, because you can click on "results" in each category and see how things are shaping up.)

Thankful Alphabet: Joy in the Journey

Monday, November 09, 2009

What's up with the Homeschool Blog Awards?

Voting was to begin today, but things have been delayed by Life.

So stay tuned there--the nominees will be announced by tomorrow.

Thankful Alphabet: Ideas

I is for Ideas

"The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum."--Charlotte Mason

What ideas are we going to take in today? Where are we going to get them? Which ones will take root?

What idea food will we put on the table? Swiss Family Robinson, the stories of Elisha, the life of Abraham Lincoln, a poem by John McCrae, math problems, and the wonders of our digestive system. For a start.

And we are so very thankful.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Some Bible humor for Sunday

The scene: an Edinburgh courtroom in the 1700's. Effie Deans, the daughter of a strict Presbyterian elder, is on trial, and her sister Jeanie has been called to the witness stand.

The usual questions were then put to her:—Whether any one had instructed her what evidence she had to deliver? Whether any one had given or promised her any good deed, hire, or reward, for her testimony? Whether she had any malice or ill-will at his Majesty's Advocate, being the party against whom she was cited as a witness? To which questions she successively answered by a quiet negative. But their tenor gave great scandal and offence to her father, who was not aware that they are put to every witness as a matter of form.

"Na, na," he exclaimed, loud enough to be heard, "my bairn is no like the Widow of Tekoah—nae man has putten words into her mouth."

One of the judges, better acquainted, perhaps, with the Books of Adjournal than with the Book of Samuel, was disposed to make some instant inquiry after this Widow of Tekoah, who, as he construed the matter, had been tampering with the evidence. But the presiding Judge, better versed in Scripture history, whispered to his learned brother the necessary explanation; and the pause occasioned by this mistake had the good effect of giving Jeanie Deans time to collect her spirits for the painful task she had to perform.

--Sir Walter Scott, The Heart of Midlothian

Poetry Ceilidh at the Beehive

Bring your poems and join in.

Meet Cheapy Cheaperson

A frugal and creative blog to bookmark: Mad in Crafts. (Thanks, Dollar Store Crafts.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: G

G is for garden, the one that's just now all finished for the season. Stuff sticking out of the ground that you can eat never stops amazing me.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thankful Alphabet: F

Sorry for copycatting the DHM's "E is for Eggs"--she did a better job on it anyway.

F: Furnace.

Do I need to say more?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

ABCs of thankfulness

The Deputy Headmistress is counting through the days of November by naming something to be thankful for every day--starting with each letter of the alphabet.

I like that idea, too. So here are some to start with:

A: All About Spelling. One of the TOS Review products that I'm very happy we got to try out. (Look for a review in December.)

B: Blue skies. In between the bursts of snow and grayness we got today.

C: Cider vinegar. I'm drinking it in warm water as per Lynn's anti-flu suggestions.

D: Daughters.

E: Eggs. Our daughters' Sunday School teacher just got more chickens and they're laying. So we had German Oven Pancake for lunch yesterday.

"F" tomorrow.

Trust and Okay (Slightly Edited Repost from 2007)

(I'm having trouble reposting the hyperlinks, so the original post is here if you want to check back.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Gerhard Tersteegen, 1729

Barb's sad squirrel story

"Farmer Flint dashed for the closet. 'When I went to bed,' he cried, 'this heap of nuts was high as my head. It has shrunk to my shoulders. Now it has shrunk to my waist. Now to my knees! Madam, this heap of nuts is shrinking before my very eyes, or I am growing rapidly taller.' 'You have not grown rapidly taller,' shrilled Madam Flint. ''Tis the squirrels! There goes one, with his face full of our nuts.'"--A Nutty Business, by Ida Chittum
Barb and family had a similar experience recently.

Dewey Squirrel sends his apologies.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Forty Years of Sesame Street



Today's Google Doodle celebrates the almost-fortieth anniversary of the first Sesame Street broadcast, on November 10, 1969.

Unless you were THERE, it's hard to realize what an impact not only Jim Henson but also Joe Raposo and the other contributors had on the past forty years of kids' thinking (and on some of the "earworms" that surface out of Mama Squirrel's subconscious).

I was THERE. I think I watched the first episode. I had the 1970 album. I had the little paperback books that came out around the same time (The Sesame Street Book of Numbers and so on). We got Sesame Street Magazine. I don't remember having any particular Sesame Street or Muppet toys, but lots of kids we knew did. We watched the show faithfully...as Alan Sherman used to say, four, five, six times a day...well, to Mom's distraction anyway. We didn't have a clue who those super-cool guests and people in the film clips were (like Paul Benedict and Stockard Channing) but we thought they were funny anyway.

In 1986 I took a children's music and movement class with Katherine Smithrim, who had recently done The Baby Record with Bob McGrath. (That is, how to teach it.) How close can you get to The Source of Sesame Power?

Did my own kids watch Sesame Street? No. None of us much liked Zoe or Elmo. The Apprentice, as a toddler, didn't get the idea of the "commercials" being part of the show. She thought I was changing the channel when the non-live parts came on, and got upset. So we stuck to Mr. Rogers and Romper Room, where the grown-ups warned you ahead of time if they were going to show a how-people-make-crayons movie or a Paddington cartoon. I don't think there was any great loss to her education there.
Big striped feetnote: the Squirrelings didn't watch the show, but they did have a pummel-Big-Bird baby gym toy, a Sesame Street bath toy, Bert and Grover hand puppets, a couple of SS-inspired books, and Sing Along With Bob. (Besides later-era Muppet movies and Fraggle Rock episodes.) And they have watched some of the best SS stuff on You-tube. Some things you just can't get away from.

Still, the vintage Sesame Street clips do bring back an awful lot of memories, in the same way that opening a can of evaporated milk does. (If that doesn't mean anything to you, you've never smelled late-1960's baby formula.)

Strictly for the initiated: Grover meets a very bad end. (Warning, this isn't for little ones.)
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