Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Found at the thrift store


Spirit of Canada, edited by Barbara Hehner.  This is a lovely big book of stories, poems and songs that came out a few years ago.  It has been very popular with homeschoolers, and I don't think Crayons is too old for it.


The Brothers Karamazov, translated and annotated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.



Red Heart Yarns One-Skein Bazaar.  Just a short booklet, but useful.

Strangest title seen today:

'
How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers.

'Nuff said, right?

Monday, November 28, 2011

In which I make a monkey of myself a ball of yarn

Today I tried out the Red Heart monkey pattern.

It went pretty smoothly and came out about the right size--7 inches.  That's 17.78 cm for the Canadians.

I got to the end and suddenly realized--this monkey doesn't have a tail.

Since that wouldn't do, I added one.  Make a chain the length of desired tail, then single crochet one row into the chains.  It will curl a bit, as single crochet into chains does even when you don't want it to.  Sew to the monkey's...um...tail-hitching place.

What's for supper? Stovetop lasagna

Tonight's menu:

Skillet Lasagna (I'd forgotten how much I like this recipe, especially when there are only seven lasagna noodles left in the box)
Europe's Best Nature's Balance frozen vegetables (Food Basics doesn't carry this anymore, but Walmart does--yeah!)
Grapes, cookies.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

For your amusement: Two Squirrelings play Seven of Seven (six years ago)

Originally posted in December, 2005. A popular meme at the time was "Seven of Seven," telling about your seven favourite things in seven categories. First up: The Apprentice, early in her teenagerdom.

I accept mamasquirrel's open challenge.

Things to do before I die.

 1. See some famous paintings: "The Mona Lisa"

2. "The Last Supper"

3. "Creation"

4. See some movies: The latest "Doctor Who" movie,

5. The new "Pride and Predjudice",

6. The new "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe".

7. Change someone's life.

Things I cannot do:

1. Wear mamasquirrel's shoes (She'd let me but they don't fit).

2. Wear skinny shoes.

3. Have a lemonade stand (We live on a no-parking street).

4. Touch my toes (The reason for this being that I am tall).

5. Do a cartwheel.

6. Stand on my head.

7. Do a somersault.

Things that attract me to my spouse:
I'm MARRIED?

Seven things I say most often:
 1. "In a minute."

2. "Ponytails, can I borrow some of your earrings?"

3. "Can I use the computer?"

4. "Snack-snack!" (I say this to my hamster when I bring her her treats)

5. "Where did Crayons get that vocabulary?"

6. "I'm going to go paint my nails."

7. "Yes, you may, but don't hurt it." (If a sibling borrows something)

Seven books (or series) I love:

1. Bruchko

2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

3. Oliver and Amanda's Christmas

4. Crafty Girl: Beauty Things to make and do

5. The Stevie Diamond Detective Series

6. Great Expectations

7. Oliver Twist

Seven movies I watch over and over again (or would watch over and over if I had the time):

1. The Five Doctors

2. The Secret Garden

3. A Little Princess

4. Pete's Dragon

5. The Muppet Movie

6. The Phantom Tollbooth

7. The Wizard of Oz (These are but to name a few)


And here are Seven Sevens by Ponytails, who was not much more than Seven.

Seven Sevens, by Ponytails

Things to Do Before I Turn 10


1. Learn how to spin a baton on my finger. That would be really fun.

2. Learn how to turn a cartwheel.

3. Read Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze (with Mama Squirrel)

4. Learn to do a double or triple pirouette.

5. See the Narnia movie.

6. Meet someone famous. But the problem is, they're probably dead. (Ponytails' list includes Mary Cassatt, Judy Garland, Elton John and Lynda Carter.)

7. See the painting "Girl in a Blue Armchair" by Mary Cassatt. (Mama Squirrel's note: That's in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.)

Seven of My Favourite Movies That I Like

1. Daddy Daycare

2. The Muppets Wizard of Oz

3. The five minutes of Anger Management that Daddy let me watch when the man sings "I'm so pretty"

4. The Elton John episode of The Muppet Show

5. The Lynda Carter episode of The Muppet Show

6. The wizard of oz (the other one)

7. Arthur's Perfect Christmas

Things You Can Say on a CB Radio

1. Breaker 11, Come in Enterprise.

2. What's your 10-20? (It means where are you?)

3. How am I hitting you?

4. Want to go to another channel? There's a lot of skip on this one. (Skip is other people talking.)

5. Can you give me a five count? (I want to see how many bars you're coming in on. That means how strong you're coming in.)

6. I didn't copy that. (I didn't hear that.)

7. Over and out.

For the first Sunday of Advent (repost from 2010)

On the radio yesterday we heard a commercial giving holiday decorating advice.
"Gold and silver this year--lots of gold and silver. For me, the holidays are all about richness and luxury."

Does that make you want to laugh? Or maybe cry?
We decided to laugh. We could afford to. We were sitting in Country Style, warming up after a cold few minutes of stuffing groceries, including a small turkey, into the trunk of the Civic. We had also been to the thrift shop, where Mama Squirrel had picked out a couple of bags' worth of "gold and silver." Actually, we felt pretty blessed, and not at all in need of rushing out to the Home Place to stock up on Holiday Bling.

Richness and luxury. Silver and gold, as Yukon Cornelius said. And what will next year's hot colours be?
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[ is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)
I'm thinking of the DHM's daughter, who hasn't left the hospital since her baby was born, two days before American Thanksgiving. I'm thinking that silver, gold, orange or puce, the colour of the decorations is pretty low priority for her this year.

I'm thinking of another family, waiting to hear the final decision on a foster grandchild's permanent placement, and waiting to bring their own adopted child home.

Of someone at our church who just lost a parent. Another family whose income has dried up. And of other friends who are facing illness with courage, changes with faith.

In the face of all this, how dare we trivialize "what it's all about?" The "true light shining" is more beautiful than any bowlful of gold balls or any silver tree that we could put up.

As someone said in the comments to last week's Advent post, Advent is not a countdown; it's a preparation. When you prepare to get married, you expect it to last at least longer than the wedding day (and I do not mean to be flippant about that--I know that lasting marriages do not always happen) . When we prepare our hearts to receive the gift of God's Son, we look forward to something that will last forever.
As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life. (1 John 2:24-25 NIV)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stuff-mart comes through. Just don't make me go there too often.

We have had W--t stores in Canada for a few years.  They aren't usually my favourite place to shop--too big, too busy.  But there's a newish one near us, and we decided to do our Saturday shopping there for a change.

Luckily, it wasn't very busy.

But wow, that is one overwhelming grocery section, especially when you're used to shopping at a discount supermarket with less choice.  (The Apprentice found it particularly funny that there was one whole side of an aisle devoted to beef jerky, peanuts, and Little Debbies.)  How can there be that much culture shock between stores only a few blocks apart?  It actually felt like we had crossed the border into a U.S. supermarket....or into the Stuff-mart on Veggie Tales. 
"They're in stock! And if you need refrigerators. To keep extra mashed potatoes. Or a giant air compressor. To blow fruit flies off your dresser ..."
And speaking of mashed potatoes, guess what we found there?

We haven't been able to find original, plain, just-potatoes, in-the-box Idahoan mashed potato flakes for quite awhile, ever since Giant Tiger stopped carrying anything except the flavoured pouch varieties.  But there you go--we bought two boxes.

We also found the doll-head-sized beads that Crayons/Dollygirl has been wanting, the exact yarn Mama Squirrel needed for mini monkeys, and a rainbow assortment of tissue paper for crafts and gift wrapping.  Also Sally's Cereals, which were new to us but which seemed like a good deal, $3 for a big bag of plain spoon-sized shredded wheat.  And Habitant soup on sale for a dollar.

Oh--and a package of red candles for our Advent wreath.  (Hoping for pink and purple would have been too much.)

What more could you ask?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Quote for the day: When books were long...I mean, REALLY long...

"A GREAT historian, as he insisted on calling himself, who had the happiness to be dead a hundred and twenty years ago, and so to take his place among the colossi whose huge legs our living pettiness is observed to walk under, glories in his copious remarks and digressions as the least imitable part of his work, and especially in those initial chapters to the successive books of his history, where he seems to bring his arm-chair to the proscenium and chat with us in all the lusty ease of his fine English. But Fielding lived when the days were longer (for time, like money, is measured by our needs), when summer afternoons were spacious, and the clock ticked slowly in the winter evenings. We belated historians must not linger after his example; and if we did so, it is probably that our chat would be thin and eager, as if delivered from a camp-stool in a parrothouse. I at least have so much to do in unravelling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe."--George Eliot, Middlemarch

(Obviously George Eliot considered her own books to be just novelettes in comparison with Fielding's.)

Happy Thanksgiving: Party like it's 1964 with the Macy's Parade

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What did you do at school today?

Crayons/Dollygirl:  "We finished Great Expectations."

Ponytails:  Still waiting for an official response.  But she did bring home an excellent first-term report card yesterday.

The Apprentice:  "We fed caffeine to daphnia so we could watch their heart rate increase."

Doo doo doo doo doo doo, it's just another day.

Found at the thrift store


My Book House, Volume 6--the only volume missing from our set. I didn't break up a set to get it: several volumes came into the thrift store today, but not a complete set (we did look in all the boxes).


Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ, by Michael Card.


If this book about William Kurelek's faith and art looks familiar, that's because I mentioned it last week but didn't buy it then.  But it was still on the shelf today, so I brought it home.

Plus two vintage Scholastic mysteries for the collection, and a couple of items that I can't divulge before Christmas.

Strangest title that came up today:

Birthdays today

1.  Mr. Fixit's grandma


2. Harpo Marx



3.Boris Karloff




4.  The Striderling.  Best wishes and lots of prayers on your first birthday.

Quote for the day: Step right up, get yer history while it's hot

"There was a time, as you know, when the poet and the historian had no less than the orator, and in the most literal sense, to ‘get a hearing.’ Nay, he got it with more pains: for the orator had his senate-house or his law-court provided, whereas Thespis jogged to fairs in a cart, and the Muse of History, like any street acrobat, had to collect her own crowd. Herodotus in search of a public packed his history in a portmanteau, carted it to Olympia, found a favourable ‘pitch,’ as we should say, and wooed an audience to him much as on a racecourse nowadays do those philanthropic gentlemen who ply a dubious trade with three half-crowns and a gold chain**. It would cost us an effort to imagine the late Bishop Stubbs thus trying his fortune with a bag full of select Charters at Queen’s Club or at Kempton Park, and exerting his lungs to retrieve a crowd that showed some disposition to edge off towards the ring or the rails.

"The historian’s conditions have improved; and like any other sensible man he has advanced his claim with them, and revised his method. He writes nowadays with his eye on the printed book. He may or may not be a dull fellow: being a dull fellow, he may or may not be aware of it; but at least he knows that, if you lay him upside down on your knee, you can on awaking pick him up, resume your absorption, and even turn back some pages to discover just where or why your interest flagged: whereas a Hellene who deserted Herodotus, having a bet on the Pentathlon, not only missed what he missed but missed it for life."--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, "III. On the Difference between Verse and Prose" in On the Art of Writing

**I found this on Google Books:

"Impostors in a London Crowd.—The Scottish Guardian correspondent gives a lively picture of the scenes in the city streets, among the crowds which gather to see the Lord Mayor's procession: —" Let us faintly sketch the locality of St. Paul's church-yard. The first claimant for public regard, and pence, is the man who always sells 'gold(?) rings for a penny each,' on Lord Mayor's day. Listen to him. 'Look here,' he cries, ' this is not a small country village, where gaping rustics can be so easily gulled; no, my friends, it is the great city of London, where a jeweller's shop may be seen at every second step. I am here, gentlemen, in consequence of a wager between two sporting gentlemen, as to the possibility of selling one hundred gold rings in St. Paul's church-yard, in this nineteenth century.' The rings are quickly sold, and when his tray is empty, he disappears. But who comes next? A man who mounts a blacking-bos, in order to make himself conspicuous, and addresses the crowd in this fashion—' Gentlemen, you are surrounded by impostors, fellows who profess to sell so many things for a wager. I have come here to-day, for the purpose of rewarding the public, by giving away some spare money. Now, then, gentlemen speculators, who'll give me two-and fourpence for half-a-crown?' Immediately a halfcrown is held up, and he gets two or three offers. He then descends to smaller sums—with each offering a premium—such as a shilling for tenpence, sixpence for fivepence, twopence or three halfpence, and (O, what a rush upon him of the small boys!) a penny for a halfpenny. However, on the 'whole, he does not lose more than a shilling; and accomplishing his object—that of gaining popular attention—immediately flow in his gaius. Glittering 'gold' chains appear—O, how dazzling, and how cheap!—to be, in fact, as he says, 'given away for the paltry sum of one shilling!' He sells dozens of them, and when trade begins to slacken, produces brooches, which he calls ' precious' stones surrouuded with gold, to be sold for the same sum. Two confederates in the crowd are the first customers for the brooches; he puts their money in little boxes along with the brooches, and says— 'There, take back your money, as well as the brooches, and go and have something to drink.' At this the crowd rush forward, hoping to have their clay moistened after the same fashion. How vain the hope! a mirage in the desert, instead of the cooling fountain of 'Bass's Pale Ale,' at the neighbouring public house. The saucy rogue coolly pockets all the shillings, but still there are plenty of buyers. At last they begin to flag, aud he, stepping off his box, absquatulates. Shortly after, he may be seen dividing his gains with his two confederates."--The Friend: Religious and Literary Journal, Volume XXXV, 1862

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What's for supper? Baked potato soup, and a toaster-oven tip

It's Benjamin Britten's birthday. Also Hoagy Carmichael's. I doubt they ever collaborated on anything, so I'm giving them both equal space.





Tonight's menu:

We are trying Baked Potato Soup from A Year of Slow Cooking (halving the recipe and cooking it in the 3 1/2 quart slow cooker--cream cheese was on sale this week!) [Update: Wow, I think we have a new favourite soup.  I did cut back on the cayenne pepper, though.]

with Beer Bread (sorry about the popup there),
Oranges,
and some banana cake/bread that went in the toaster oven after the beer bread was done.

(A tip for toaster-oven bakers:  the biggest dish our current toaster oven can handle is a large casserole dish.  When I'm baking anything too big for an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan, such as a banana bread recipe that normally goes in a 9 x 13-inch pan, I put it in one of the large casseroles and just let it bake longer than normal.  One caution with this: with the pan being so close to the bottom element, the bottom of the cake or bread may get a bit dark before the top gets brown, so check towards the end of baking.)

Carnivals This Week: CM, Holidays, Frugal and more

MomSchool.net hosts this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Piney Woods Homeschool hosts a holiday-themed Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.

The Festival of Frugality will be hosted at Frugal Family Life, but it's not up quite yet.

Monday, November 21, 2011

'I am affronted,' said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit (on toddler book apps)

"At the age of 2, Calvin Wang’s son seems to have learned a truism that is already ricocheting around the Internet: A book is an iPad that doesn’t work.

"Wang designs interactive storybooks for the iPad. He was inspired, he says, by watching his daughter interact with a movable cardboard book. Since then, Loud Crow, his Vancouver-based firm, has turned an array of children’s picture books that take the pop-up concept into the digital age. Books such as Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit now respond to touch by moving, twirling, speaking and noise-making.

"Having experienced the app, he says, his son is puzzled by the fact that creatures in the original cardboard books don’t move. “When he opens the book, the first thing he does is start tapping the creature in the book.”"--"For some kids, a book is just an iPad that doesn’t work," by Ivor Tossell, Globe and Mail
I just hope that this generation can eventually forgive us for what we're doing to them.

Reality check: "Girls just want to go to school"

Also read in the weekend papers: "Girls just want to go to school," by Nicholas D. Kristof, in the New York Times opinion and commentary section.  Kristof writes more about this in a blog post.

From the column:
"Yet if Phung is achingly fragile, she’s also breathtakingly strong. You appreciate the challenges that America faces in global competitiveness when you learn that Phung is so obsessed with schoolwork that she sets her alarm for 3 a.m. each day.
"She rises quietly so as not to wake her younger brother and sister, who both share her bed, and she then cooks rice for breakfast while reviewing her books.
"The children’s mother died of cancer a year ago, leaving the family with $1,500 in debts. Their father, a carpenter named Dao Van Hiep, loves his children and is desperate for them to get an education, but he has taken city jobs so that he can pay down the debt. Therefore, during the week, Phung is like a single mother who happens to be in the ninth grade."
 Like the other children (and parents) that Ann wrote about over the past weeks--we admire their courage, are inspired by their ability to survive--but are grieved as well that the world can be such a hard, hard place.
WONDERFUL

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.
For to us a Son has been given,
to us the Lord is born.
He will govern with justice and joy, consoling those who mourn,
And He shall be called Comforter,
He shall be called Peace.


(Copyright 1971 by Medical Mission Sisters from the collection "19 Scripture Songs." All Rights Reserved.)

A toast to hard times

From the stack of weekend papers that Grandpa Squirrel brought over:  "Let them eat toast," by Mary Ormsby in the Toronto Star.

Isabella Beeton thought of it first:  the "toast sandwich."  Filling:  a piece of cold toast.  Outside:  two pieces of bread and butter.  Plus salt and pepper for a balanced meal.
"To recognize the tome of tasty temptations [Mrs Beeton's 1861 cookbook], the Royal Society of Chemistry is highlighting the toast sandwich as a meal to help Britain through the rough economic times."
Here's to you.

There's more info and lots of comments here.  My favourite of the comments:  "Could I have a slightly more luxurious version, two slices of buttered toast with a piece of bread in between?"

Linked from Festival of Frugality #307.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mary Fred's feet and Brother's spots: a grammar lesson for Crayons

It's always more interesting to correct run-on sentences and comma splices if you like the story to start with.  The following sentences have been lifted and butchered from Meet the Malones, by Lenora Mattingly Weber.

The very way he said it chilled Mary Fred’s ardour momentarily they’d have to watch that Johnny didn’t do the marketing.

“We don’t want a slipshod home, we want one that’s a pleasure for folks to come to, and we want to keep it open to soldiers and all who don’t have one of their own.”

When Mary Fred reached home that evening she found Hattie taking care of the baby, Nonna had taken Elizabeth to a tea.

Nonna and Elizabeth returned a little later they had that dressed-up and flushed prettiness that goes with partying.

“We all lean on you and depend on you, I never would have thought I could do this room over if you hadn’t told me I could.”

Mary Fred’s feet felt cold at the foot of the bed, she crooked her knees and pulled them into the warmer area.

“They couldn’t go to a Home anyway because of Brother’s spots, he’s in your bed.”

In which the chambered nautilus flunks the test (a math lesson for Crayons)

Fifth grader Crayons/Dollygirl has been learning a bit of math history from John Tiner's Exploring the World of Mathematics.  In this week's lesson I had just intended to finish up the chapter on Number Patterns, but the Fibonacci business got away from me a bit.  But that's a good thing.

Here's the lesson as I plan to present it tomorrow, making use of online resources (including one with an unexpected surprise).

1.  Review what we have learned so far about Fibonacci numbers:  that they run in the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and so on, with each pair of numbers adding up to the number following right after.

2.  Construct squares following the sequence from graph paper--that is, two with sides 1 unit long, one with sides 2 units long, and so on.  Colour them and cut them out.

3.  Arrange them as if you were packing them in a box, starting with the smallest ones in the centre.  See diagram in the book if you're not sure. Then watch this online animation.  At the end of the animation, watch the drawing of the spiral.  Can you see how that works?  This is called a Fibonacci spiral.

4.  Places in nature where Fibonacci spirals occur:  in spiral galaxies, in your inner ear, in pine cones, in cauliflower.  (I'm thinking maybe also in fiddleheads? I'm not sure about those.)  But not, according to this blog post and its accompanying slide show, in that classic example (cited in Tiner's book), the chambered nautilus.  So much for that. (Maybe it works for some people?)

5.  Another use of Fibonacci spirals:  in art, what is referred to as the Golden Mean or Golden Ratio.  Apparently our eyes just like to follow things that move around in those proportions. Here's a neat blog post showing photographic examples.  (According to the post, the photos were not deliberately planned to match up with the spiral: they just do because they're good photos.  Or they're good photos because they just do.)

6.  So a fun followup might be to find other examples of paintings or photographs that follow these proportions.  Or to deliberately create a drawing--or maybe just a colour pattern--that follows it, and see how that works.  Do you like the way it turned out--why or why not?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oatmeal Freezer Pucks (very helpful link!)

The New Nostalgia blog has a great idea for freezing cooked oatmeal in muffin tins--creating a frugal microwavable breakfast! (You pop the "pucks" out of the tins and keep them frozen until wanted.)

I found this through Meredith's Tumblr page--always a good source of creative frugality.

I am not an anomaly, I just make dinner

If you live in Canada, this is the time of year that the Milk Calendar comes out--many people get it free with the newspaper.

It's not like I depend on it for recipes (remember when Cardamom Addict posted her recipe reviews?), but it does tend to reflect what is going on in the "typical" Canadian kitchen of the time. (Fun bonus: if you go to the website and hover over "Recipes," you can read all the calendars going back to 1974.)

Note I said "typical."

Well, somebody's idea of typical. The media's idea of typical.

Here's the 2012 idea of typical:
The 2012 version of the venerable Milk Calendar looks a lot different than the first instalment launched by Dairy Farmers of Canada.

In the mid-’70s, Canadian families cooked at home almost every day. The calendar — featuring recipes for entrees, side dishes, desserts and baked goods — has kept pace with the times as more and more families juggle busy lifestyles and embrace new trends, says its recipe developer, Jennifer MacKenzie.

“So we streamlined many of the methods to modernize some of the traditional recipes that once took longer to prepare because we definitely know people aren’t doing that any longer,” she says.

MacKenzie adds that through the years, as new ingredients came on to the market such as chipotle and sweet potatoes to name a few, the Milk Calendar changed to include these newcomers.  (Hamilton Spectator, other newspapers)

Sweet potatoes are new ingredients??

But that aside...

Yes, I do cook every day, unless I'm sick or we're at the beach or something. Cook, not as in very time-consuming or expensive meals, but as in putting a few ingredients in the slow cooker, or mixing something up in a skillet and putting out a salad or vegetable, and a homemade dessert some days.

Is that now so strange? I KNOW I'm not alone; otherwise there wouldn't be so many homemaking blogs and frugal food websites. If you want to eat potatoes, meat, beans, stir fry, whatever, you do have to cook them. Or somebody does.

I'm not saying we should all revert to the 1979 Milk Calendar--after all, tastes HAVE changed.

But I just wonder when it was that yesterday's normal cook became today's freak of nature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hot and cold: it works out in the end (pudding recipe)

Wednesday seems to be the one day that the Apprentice manages to get home from university at our normal supper hour.  (It's a long commute and most nights she gets back later.)

So Mama Squirrel decided to add some extras to the small package of sausage that was waiting for us in the slow cooker.  Along with the sausage and a few reheated sweet potatoes, we had hot corn bread and a can of baked beans.

Also some last-minute homemade vanilla pudding, which went into small bowls, still pretty hot.  Solution:  topping each bowl with a quarter-cup of frozen blueberries, and refrigerating for about twenty minutes.  Guess what?  It worked.  Quicker than you would think, the blueberries were thawed and the pudding had cooled off. 

Here's the recipe, in case you don't have one.

Vanilla Pudding, from Betty Crocker's Cookbook

1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups milk (I used a can of 2% evaporated milk, thinned with water to make 2 cups)
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tbsp. margarine or butter (I used less--I don't like it greasy)
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix sugar, cornstarch and salt in 2-quart saucepan.  Gradually stir in milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir at least half of the hot mixture gradually into egg yorks; stir into hot mixture in saucepan.  Boil and stir 1 minute; remove from heat.  Stir in margarine/butter and vanilla.  Pour into dessert dishes, refrigerate (and top with frozen berries if you're in a hurry).  Makes 4 servings (or 5 if you stretch it).

My note:  if you're out of eggs or in a huge hurry, you can skip the egg yolks.  But they do give a better flavour to vanilla or butterscotch pudding.

Found at the thrift store

Today there were lots of books coming in, and lots of empty shelves to fill, so it was a busy afternoon in the thrift store.

Crayons brought home a dress, a Christmas stocking, and a video.

Mama Squirrel found these books (among the ones she didn't chuck):

Just what I was hoping for!  I had finished Eliot's Scenes of Clerical Life and Silas Marner, and wanted to start one of her big fat ones.

The Story of Mary McLeod Bethune: She Wanted to Read.  We had a copy of this before, but some of the pages were missing.
Milo Winter's Aesop for Children, in hardcover (nicer than our paperback copy).

The Manger is Empty, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

One Hundred Years of Poetry for Children, published by Oxford University Press.  It followed me home and I'm keeping it.

The most interesting one I didn't buy?


Earth Hell and Heaven: in the Art of William Kurelek, by Ilse Friesen.  From Amazon.com:  "William Kurelek is one of the most important and original painters of Canada. Many of his works now are housed in the major galleries of Canada and internationally. Kurelek's work is also an important exploration of the interface between the artist's religious and critical interpretations of modern technological and humanist culture."

Strangest item today:  an unopened package of do-it-yourself divorce forms.  I guess that means there was a happy ending?

Quote for the day: Hardcover, schmardcover

"I houseclean my books every spring and throw out those I'm never going to read again like I throw out clothes I'm never going to wear again. It shocks everybody. My friends are peculiar about books. They read all the best sellers, they get through them as fast as possible, I think they skip a lot. And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don't remember a word of it a year later....The way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on the shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON'T THROW IT OUT! NOT IF IT HAS A HARD COVER ON IT! Why not? I personally can't think of anything less sancrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book."--Helene Hanff, "September 18, 1952," 84, Charing Cross Road
(I'll remember this one when I'm chucking books in the recycle bin at the thrift store.)

Decorating soap--even little ones can do this

The Deputy Headmistress just posted about a neat way to decorate candles, that even little kids could handle.

It reminded me of something we did a couple of times when our Squirrelings were small--and I mean REALLY small: custom-decorated bars of soap, the same way as Polly's Pointers recommends here. (Shows you how old I am that I remember Polly's Pointers?)

Short version: you need bars of soap, tissue paper/markers/or some other kind of thin pictures, paraffin, and something to melt it in. How to: cut a piece of tissue paper almost as big as the bar of soap, and have the child decorate it (colourful scribbles are fine). Dampen the top of the bar of soap (no, DHM, we didn't spit on it) and press the picture onto it. Then either dip the top of the soap into melted paraffin (parent's job) or brush it on. Let it harden and give to delighted grandparent. The decoration will last a very long time, even if you actually use the soap--the paraffin layer protects the picture.

Or you could use stickers, tiny dried flowers, or something like that instead of making your own picture. But honestly, nothing beats a toddler-drawn portrait of Grandma.

And just saying--paraffin is hot, dangerous, flammable, and everything else, so be careful and keep small kids away from it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On every branch there sat a monkey*

Canadian Living Magazine's holiday issue features lots of gift ideas, including a commercially-produced set of sock monkey tree ornaments. 

We have sock monkey fans in our extended family, so I thought that was a very cute idea.  But maybe a homemade version?


Red Heart came through with a crocheted version.

My holiday-making-quotient just jumped up a couple of notches.

Now I just have to hunt through the yarn box and see what we have that would work.


*Don't recognize that line?  Try this:

Quote for the day: Listen first, knit later?

Some advice to mothers of young ladies:
"Some people like to live as if they were catching a train. They are really only running after their own tails; they cannot select what must be done this minute, and what can be put off to the next day. Put them where you like; they will still have no leisure. If you want to teach the methodical use of time and orderly habits of mind, you must first learn to show a calm front and have a heart "at leisure from itself." I heard a woman who had many friends spoken of as one "who when you want her advice does not jump up to fetch her knitting before she will listen to you.""--"Girls from Twelve to Sixteen," by Mrs. Hart Davis, in The Parent's Review, Volume 13, no. 2, February 1902, pgs. 81-93

Monday, November 14, 2011

When packaging (and love) make gifts special

Sometimes it's not so much what's in the gift as the concept behind it, and the way you present it.  Remember the Dollar Store Santa Dollies at Old Days Old Ways?  Even small, frugal or miscellaneous gifts become something special when the creative-giving muse is allowed to run free.

Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog has a perfect example of this: "Doll Bath Sets."  Anyone can hand a kid some soap, an empty shampoo bottle, and a washcloth, and say "here, go wash your doll."  But it takes imagination to put it together into more of a package deal.  Valerie is very, very good at this.


Another example: Family Fun Magazine's Hot Chocolate Cones.  Mostly hot chocolate mix with a few marshmallows and chocolate chips, but it's the shape of the package (cone-shaped clear bags) that turns it into something fun.

We've had a few successes along that line too:  last year's custom Sculpey repackaging, and the clothespin doll kits the girls got a few years ago.  Mama Squirrel has also posted gift basket ideas and other thoughts on gift-giving.  And don't forget our squirrel's tips on giving "thwifted" books.

Quote for the Day: Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch on Writing

"By all means let us study the great writers of the past for their own sakes; but let us study them for our guidance; that we, in our turn, having (it is to be hoped) something to say in our span of time, say it worthily, not dwindling out the large utterance of Shakespeare or of Burke. Portraits of other great ones look down on you in your college halls: but while you are young and sit at the brief feast, what avails their serene gaze if it do not lift up your hearts and movingly persuade you to match your manhood to its inheritance? 

"I protest, Gentlemen, that if our eyes had not been sealed, as with wax, by the pedagogues of whom I spoke a fortnight ago, this one habit of regarding our own literature as a hortus siccus, this our neglect to practise good writing as the constant auxiliary of an Englishman’s liberal education, would be amazing to you seated here to-day as it will be starkly incredible to the future historian of our times."--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Lecture 2: The Practice of Writing, from On the Art of Writing

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's the end of the world--pay up.

You thought predicting the end times was a new idea?  In perusing a 1937 history of our local area, Mama Squirrel noticed this item:

"The __ newspaper said early in 1844: 'Inasmuch as the end of the world is to come on the 22nd of March, according to Miller's prophecy, we respectfully request all our readers who are in arrears with their subscriptions to call and settle at once, otherwise it will go hard with them on Judgment Day.'"

It's been a quiet blogging week...how about you?

I find it ironic that in the two weeks of HSBA voting, being nominated in both the Thrifty and Encourager categories, I've managed to post very little of either.  It's been a pretty quiet week here, and feels even quieter compared to the lives of those who have been paddling through rainforests or battling evil raccoons.  Or writing fifty-plus-page plans for a mission to Mars (the Apprentice).  My most exciting thrifty activity this weekend was bagging two trays of clearance tomatoes and cooking them down all afternoon to make puree.  (Mr. Fixit helped me put it all through the applesauce mill.)  I've been working on some ideas for the holidays, but to be honest, it all feels like it's coming at us a bit too fast this year...same as last year, when we didn't even get the Nativity scene up until New Year's.  Last year I had a lot of yarn, a lot of fabric, so I did a lot of crocheting and sewing. This year my stockpile of those things is depleted, and the gray skies and harsh winds are not exactly encouraging my pre-holiday creativity.  On the other hand, a trip yesterday to the discount department store (think Christmas Muzak and all that) was enough to make me want to wait a bit longer. [Creativity Boost Update:  Check out this November's annual gift-making tutorials at Sew Mama Sew, starting with this post.  New ideas every day this month.]

Now if the HSBA had a Tonstant Weader category, maybe I'd have more to say.  This week I've been working on  lectures by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch ("Q") that I've been trying to finish for way too long (the footer on my printout of the first few confesses a date of two years ago).  Like Helene Hanff, I find Q's writing forces me to go slowly, but  I'm determined to finish, eventually.  I also re-read an essay by Gene Veith, and one of my favourite posts I had printed out from Coffee, Tea, Books and Me.  They all tie in together somewhat.

So what have you all been doing in November?  Writing a novel in one month?  Growing a moustache? Planning Advent observances?  Planning an awesome first birthday party?  Sending family members off on a very important mission?

"C.S. Lewis in his classic essay "On the Reading of Old Books" recommends reading at least one old book for very three new books. This is not because old books are necessarily superior but because every age has its blind spots: "We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.  And that means the old books." To break out of the narrowness of our own time, in which it is assumed that the way people today think is the only way that is possible, we must enter the thought-forms of other ages.  These, of course, have errors and narrowness of their own, to which we are less likely to succumb. But in order to transcend the limits of our own day, we must "keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.""--Gene Edward Veith, "Flex the Brain"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Ten-plus million digits? The ever-changing world of facts

What would we do without the Internet...

I mentioned recently that a quick check on the current population of Burundi--the subject of a French lesson--showed that there were way more people there than even the (fairly recent) teacher's guide suggested.  That lined up with the fact that we were heading for 7 billion people on Earth by the end of last month.

Today's math history lesson was about the Sieve of Eratosthenes, and the hunt for very large prime numbers.  John Tiner's 2001 book Exploring the World of Mathematics mentioned that the largest one discovered to date was over 4 million digits long, which would take about a thousand pages to print out.

On a hunch that that fact too might have been updated, I looked up "Largest Known Prime Number."

Yes, the 4-million-digits longest prime was correct in 2001. 

But as of 2008, we are up to a number that is 12,978,189 digits long.

And you thought your ID numbers were hard to learn.

Some don't wear poppies.

"While Remembrance Day acknowledges the suffering that happens during war, it also affirms that wars are necessary," says Esther Epp-Tiessen, MCC Canada's peace program coordinator. "Our faith teaches us to love our enemies, to seek the well-being of our neighbours, and to do so through peaceful, non-violent means."-- "After two decades, a modest message of peace endures", MCC website

Plastic poppies, homemade poppies (links)

Around here, war veterans still distribute red plastic poppies, to be worn on Remembrance Day.

If you can't get those (and we seem to be short on them this year), teachers' sites have construction-paper poppy patterns.  Okay if you're in the first grade, but after that, a bit makeshift.

I Could Make That has a photo post showing how to make a much nicer felt poppy. (photo above)

Here is a crocheted version at Lucy 'in the sky.'

And if you need more help:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's for supper?

Perogy Lasagna
Two leftover cabbage rolls plus a bit of sausage and sweet potato
Leftover coleslaw
Carrot and celery sticks
Blackberry-apple crisp

(Giant Tiger had packages of frozen blackberries this week--something I hardly ever see.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Found at the thrift store

Just one book today:


Mapping Mars, by Oliver Morton. That was for the Apprentice.

There were a few more books coming in this week than there were earlier in the month.  It's always fun to put some cool nonfiction out and see how fast it gets picked up.

Crayons/Dollygirl was helping price shoes again this week.  She found a pair of slippers shaped like husky dogs.

What's for supper when everyone's here?

Tonight's dinner was going to be a quick pizza and soup, after thrift shop volunteering.  But Mr. Fixit had to stay late at the office, and the Apprentice, unusually for mid-week, phoned and said that she'd be home for supper too.  So: a gift of time and a gift of people, especially people who could use some cheering after a wet and somewhat discouraging day.

The menu:

Frozen cabbage rolls, baked in the toaster oven
Two sliced-up smoked sausages, sauerkraut, and sliced sweet potatoes, cooked together on the stovetop
Fresh-made applesauce
Fresh-made coleslaw
Reheated peas
Cheddar cheese
Cookies

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Looking up from our tree: What is YU55?


"On November 8th, 2011 at 23:28 UT, the asteroid will safely pass within 0.85 lunar distances of the Earth.[3] A lunar distance of 0.85 is also 0.00217 AU (325,000 km; 202,000 mi).[3] On November 9th, 2011 at 07:13 UT, the asteroid will pass 0.00160 AU (239,000 km; 149,000 mi) from the moon.[3] During the close approach, the asteroid should reach about apparent magnitude 11,[3][8] and may be visible to expert observers using high-end binoculars with an objective lens of 80mm or larger. Since the gibbous moon will interfere with the viewing,[5] amateur observers trying to visually locate the asteroid will require a telescope with an aperture of 6 inches (15 centimeters) or larger.[5][6]

"Approximate trajectory: The next time a known asteroid this large will come this close to Earth will be in 2028[5] when (153814) 2001 WN5 passes 0.00166 AU (248,000 km; 154,000 mi) from the Earth.[9]"--Wikipedia entry for "YU55"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Off and running (Homeschool Blog Awards)


The nominees have been announced at the Homeschool Blog Awards.    Some years you have had to have more than one nomination to appear on the lists.  This year, I think if you nominated a blog, it got nominated, if you know what I mean.  So there are lots of blogs to vote for! 

Thank you very much to those who nominated us in the Thrifty and Best Encourager categories!  And thank you to the team that puts all this together (you can see their pictures on the HSBA blog).

Votes are open until November 18th.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Thrift store Wednesdays: Garfield, crafts

Crayons/Dollygirl spent yesterday afternoon helping sort shoes at the thrift store, and she ended up choosing a pair of like-new winter boots.

Mama Squirrel brought home two books:


There were several Garfield-in-French cartoon books, so I just picked one and put the rest out to sell.
Mothers and Daughters at Home: 35 Projects to Make Together, by Charlotte Lyons.  This was on our school list for this year anyway!  It was the first thing I saw when I started working on the books, and it made my day.

Favourite customer seen yesterday:  the man who filled a bundle-buggy with all kinds of home-supply stuff (like curtain rods and light-switch plates) and then topped it off with this:


Big ambitions for the weekend?  Or maybe it was one of those "honey do" stories.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

From the archives: Strange trends in children's books

First posted September 2009, and reposted just because it still makes me laugh.

Warning: serious weirdness follows, not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

Back in 2006 we posted Some books we're not ordering. As in, blurbs from the sold-to-schools book club that we access through our homeschool group.

Well, the books (and/or the descriptions) have gotten worse since then. Or funnier, depending on your perspective. Some choice synopses from this month's catalogue:

"Jack Frost's goblins have stolen the magical Halloween candy. Will Halloween be ruined forever?"

"Juliet's having a Pink Princess party with pink balloons and a pink castle cake! Will any boys from class show up?"

"Uh-oh...if silent letters don't prove how important they are, they might disappear forever! Learn about the importance of silent letters."

The Boy Who Wouldn't Share. "Edward keeps his pile of toys all to himself--until he gets trapped underneath!"

"Enjoy the heartwarming story of a Junior Wilderness Explorer and his best friend--a huge, flightless bird named Kevin." (I was okay with this until I got to Kevin.)

I Like Myself. "This silly rhyme has a serious message about appreciating yourself inside and out!"

"Join Percy as he battles demon cheerleaders...." (Search me, I have no idea.)

"The bossy new girl, Cheyenne, thinks she can rule the school...."

"....Allie's theatrical hopes are crushed when she gets cast as the evil queen not the princess."

"Long-lost twins Olivia and Ivy are about to be separated again! Can Ivy use her vampire powers to keep them together?"

From the teen section: "What's the worst fashion mistake you've ever made? Find out EVERYTHING about your friends and yourself!" "Sixteen-year-old social outscast X has had an accident. One month later she wakes up--in a supermodel's body!" "This year, life is good for Vlad; he survived a stake through the heart and is dating his dream girl. But after his uncle disappears and Vlad's thirst grows, will he make a decision he regrets?" (I am NOT making this up.) Then there's the Hip Hop History of the World....

Of course there's Gordon Korman's Schooled. "Can a hippie homeschooler who's never watched TV or eaten pizza get elected class president at his new school? Funny!"

And on an equally intellectual note: "Holling's teacher is out to get him! Why else would she make him read Shakespeare outside of class? Hilarious Newbery Honor book!"
Yeah, why else?

All Saint's Day dinner menu, 2011

Chicken Adobo
Perogies
Peas

Apple Cake  (adapted from the muffin recipe)
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