Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quote for the day: whose psyche?

"....modern criticism is obliged to distinguish between the universal myth (or archetype) of almost all art and literature created before the nineteenth century and the personal symbolism of most modern creativity.  Curiously, this signal fact is assumed by the modern teacher to render three thousand years of art and literature inaccessible to the student.  Instead, students are encouraged to kick around in the private symbolic universes of Yeats, Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence.  Can anyone wonder why psychological survival seems so much more difficult in the modern era?"--David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility

Monday, August 29, 2011

Analyze that

"In our eagerness to solve the material deficiencies of the old civilization, we imported into our schools a method as humble as the English sparrow--simple analysis--but now, the immensity of our success threatens with Toynbeean predictability to overwhelm us.  Like the thinker whose brilliance we universally acclaim, Alfred North Whitehead, we have cultivated a perverse form of modesty and self-deception that, in the absence of dogma (the working yet scientifically undemonstrable hypotheses of the old civilization), has allowed us to forget who we are and what our purposes are, as well as to neglect to teach these lessons to our children."--David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility (1981)

"Now you must remember, whenever you have to do with him, that Analysis, like fire, is a very good servant, but a very bad master. For, having got his freedom only of late years or so, he is, like young men when they come suddenly to be their own masters, apt to be conceited, and to fancy that he knows everything, when really he knows nothing, and can never know anything, but only knows about things, which is a very different matter. Indeed, nowadays he pretends that he can teach his old grandmother, Madam How, not only how to suck eggs, but to make eggs into the bargain; while the good old lady just laughs at him kindly, and lets him run on, because she knows he will grow wiser in time, and learn humility by his mistakes and failures, as I hope you will from yours."--Charles Kingsley, Madam How and Lady Why (1869)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Where we went yesterday

Photo of the Kincardine Lighthouse found here, along with the story of the Phantom Piper.

SOME of the Squirrels made it all the way to the top.

And some of us wussed out.  I guess we wouldn't have made good lighthouse keepers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Moosewood Restaurant's Sweet Potato Salad

My new favourite (thrifted) cookbook is Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective (1994).

This is fast-and-family-friendly vegetarian cooking, but with a bit of international flair; a good book for summertime or early fall cooking, when the gardens and markets are full of things we bring home and then need to eat up. The lists of ingredients are of reasonable length, and don't include too many things we never buy.  There are lots of menu ideas (even with the dessert recipes), and sample meals with do-this-first, then-this to get it all on the plates at the same time.  I also appreciate the listing of which recipes are particularly "Kid-Pleasers."  I haven't had this book very long, so haven't tried much out of it yet, but I can see quite a few recipes in it that sound like they'd go over well here.  I made Pasta Tutto Giardino earlier this week and thought it was a bit bland, but that's probably because I left the white wine out, and didn't season it very strongly; we also didn't have any Parmesan to top it with.  So I can't blame the recipe for that.

Today I made a double batch of Sweet Potato Salad, to take to a homeschool picnic tonight.  Mr. Fixit, who admits he does not like new things, tried some and liked it.  The recipe says it makes two servings (without doubling it), but the doubled recipe filled a ten-cup plastic container.  So use your own judgment.

Sweet Potato Salad, from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home  (original amount--can double)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 3 cups) (Note: 1/4 inch cubes are really small.  Basically, diced to the same size you'd dice celery.)
1 1/2 tbsp. wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive)
1 cup diced celery
3/4 to 1 cup diced red bell peppers (I used green)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 scallion, thinly sliced (I left this out because Mr. Fixit can't eat raw onion, but I think it would add a nice bite)
Salad greens and ricotta cheese for serving (optional)

Steam the diced sweet potatoes for 6 to 8 minutes, until just tender--take care not to overcook them.  While the potatoes steam, whisk the vinegar, mustard and honey in a small bowl (I used a 4-cup measuring cup).  Slowly add the oil in a thin stream, whisking until the dressing emulsifies.  Placed the diced celery and peppers in a serving bowl.  Add the steamed potatoes and the dressing.  Stir gently, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside for a few minutes.  When the salad has cooled a little, toss in the parsley and scallions.  For home serving:  serve on salad greens, topped with ricotta cheese (optional). 

Hit the Northrop Frye motherlode...or, The calm before the storm

Yesterday was our thrift store volunteer afternoon.  The wind was blowing a bit and there was a tornado warning when we arrived after lunch...but not much seemed to be happening, at least outside.

Inside, there was an absolute wall--we're talking room-divider size--of cardboard cartons of books.  Yow!  Even the book-happy among us quailed a bit at that.  And there were already quite a few books on the sorting shelves needing to be priced and move out to the store. 

But we dug in.  There really was some good stuff in there, all kinds of books...sometimes when there's a big load like that, they're all one kind of thing.  Like somebody's entire self-help library from the 1980's.  This was more of a mix.  Of course there were some many books that hit the recycle box, but there were some neat things too.  A boxed set of the Borrowers books.  Hardcover biographies of Joseph Conrad and Alec Guinness.  A vintage copy of Through Gates of Splendour.  Lots of classics.  One Mitford book.

But the only things that Mama Squirrel actually ended up buying were three Northrop Frye books, ones we didn't have:  Words with Power, Spiritus Mundi, and Northrop Frye on ShakespeareYeah! 

Did the book mountain shrink at all?  Just a bit.  Mama Squirrel estimates that she cleared out between six to eight cartons in three hours, which does not sound like a lot, but we had to spend time pricing and shelving what was already there plus what came out of the boxes.  And then the receiving guys brought more in...

Ponytails helped Mama Squirrel some with the books, and then helped another volunteer price VHS movies...lots and lots of them.  Crayons tidied toys and did some miscellaneous jobs.  I think she helped with the movies too.

The Apprentice (who had been working all day at the hair salon) picked us up after four, Mama Squirrel slid some fish sticks in the oven to go with Crockpot vegetables and salad, Mr. Fixit came home, and we all went out to look at a potential new Treehouse (don't get too excited, it was just a look) and to pick up bananas and milk.  The wind was starting to blow and it was just spattering rain when we got home.  Mr. Fixit and The Apprentice started putting together a new bookcase for her room that arrived yesterday morning (the bookcase, not the room).  (Mama Squirrel is getting the old bookcase, and she's happy about that.)  Mama Squirrel found some funky jazz to listen to on the CBC.

And then our real evening entertainment?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goderich tornado

Goderich is one of our favourite places to visit on Lake Huron. It's beautiful and historic, and the home of The Learning House homeschool store. Much of the town was damaged by a tornado Sunday afternoon.

Thinking of our friends, people who were hurt, people who lost their homes...


Photo:  SmartCanucks website, more photos here, also here (CTV).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Leftover cereal...leftover cereal boxes

Yes, we buy cold cereal. It may not be frugal but it's part of our life. We do try to stick to the healthier/cheaper varieties, and there are certain sugar limits beyond which Mama Squirrel will not budge.

What do you do with the end-of-the-box crumbles and bits? I save them in a plastic container and use them for baking...usually pulverized in the food processor. Works very well in dried-fruit balls and chocolate-raisin balls, but you can also use them in muffins or oatmeal cookies. I figure we paid for that shredded and puffed stuff, so we may as well use every bit of it up.

What do you do with the boxes? You can use the cardboard for gluing patterns to. You can cut them down a bit to make magazine holders. But if you really want to see how good cereal boxes can look, check out this link at Frugal Family Fun. Wow!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What's for supper? Roast Beef Ratatouille

Tonight I invented a skillet pasta casserole, and since the major ingredients were leftover roast beef and zucchini, I'm calling it Roast Beef Ratatouille.  Dessert was Crockpot Snack Mix, yogurt and fruit.  (Not all in the same bowl, just on the table.)

This is an approximation of the main dish:

Roast Beef Ratatouille

Small amount olive oil
Small amount (2 cups?) chopped cooked beef
Half a dozen fresh mushrooms
2 garden zucchini, cut in fairly large chunks (so they didn't overcook)
A handful of garden cherry tomatoes
A third to half a cup of zucchini relish  (I don't think regular pickle relish would be a good substitute)
A big spoonful of sour cream
Grated cheddar cheese
Hot pasta (rotini is good)

In a non-stick skillet, heat the oil and add the cooked meat and mushrooms.  When the mushrooms start to release some juice, add the other vegetables and zucchini relish.  Let cook gently until the vegetables are done but not mush, the tomatoes are popped, and the meat is heated through.  Stir in a bit of sour cream (optional) and top with cheddar cheese (put the lid on and keep cooking until it's melted).  Either serve with hot pasta, or (what I did) stir the cooked, drained pasta into the meat and vegetables to soak up some of the liquid.

Friday, August 05, 2011

What's for supper? Bits, pieces, and barbecued chicken

Last night's dinner menu:

Barbecued chicken
Vietnamese Fried Rice (from the More-with-Less Cookbook)
Chocolate-Raspberry Cake, grapes


I hardly ever make fried rice, and it doesn't always turn out that well for me, but I was happy with this batch, and it went well with the chicken.  I used part frozen Oriental vegetable mix, part fresh zucchini, green pepper, garlic, and mushrooms.  Instead of mixing in the egg at the end, which I've never liked much and which isn't good for Mr. Fixit's egg sensitivity, I beat up two eggs and cooked them in the frying pan first, omelet-style.  I rolled up the omelet, cut it in small strips, and served it along with the rice.

The cake?  That was an experiment. We had exactly a cup and a half of bulk-purchased gluten-free chocolate cake mix in the cupboard; I wanted to use it up, but it didn't have to be used in a GF way.  So I mixed it with half a cup of all-purpose flour, half a cup of brown sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder (there was some in the mix, also some sweetener, but just in case), a cup of milk, a third cup of oil, an egg, and a teaspoonful of vanilla.  This is more or less a standard muffin recipe, except that it's chocolate. 

I spread half the batter in an 8-inch square pan, dribbled the end of a jar of thin berry jam over top, sprinkled that with frozen raspberries, topped that with the rest of the batter, and sprinkled the whole thing with a small handful of chocolate chips.  I baked it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for about forty minutes, when it tested done.  It worked! Good with plain yogurt.  Probably best stored in the fridge, because of the fruit.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ouch quote for the day

"She glanced at her watch.  It was a little after eleven o'clock.  An hour ago she and Rusty had set out.  Pity Robert wasn't here.  He was the one who loved history.  Robert had brought Plutarch along on their honeymoon.  And worse, had found time to read it."--from Abraham Lincoln: a novel life, by Tony Wolk