Saturday, December 31, 2011

Around the blog world, the week after Christmas

Jeanne shares her continuing Christmas celebrations.

But at Bread and Honey it's Post-Christmas with the Crank.

The Apprentice updates everyone with Still Alive and Cutting, and adds two illuminating posts on science-and-hair.

Krakovianka shares her favourite books from this past yearCindy too, but you'll just have to go over there and search because it's more than one post.

And the Common Room has a very big Guess What.  But you can probably guess what.

A PSA from the Carnival of Homeschooling

Henry Cate at The Carnival of Homeschooling asked me to pass on this message re this week's carnival:

"Almost six years ago we published the first edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. It became a tradition that my wife and I also published the anniversary editions.

"As one of the hosts for the carnival I am asking you if you could help by doing two things:

"1) Send in a submission. Note, Blog Carnival is currently broken, so could you send the entry to: CarnivalOfHomeschooling@gmail.com

"2) Encourage your readers to also send in a submission.

"Entries are due January 2nd at 6:00 PM PST."

Thanks!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Finished Middlemarch today

"All who have cared for Fred Vincy and Mary Garth will like to know that these two made no such failure, but achieved a solid mutual happiness. Fred surprised his neighbors in various ways. He became rather distinguished in his side of the county as a theoretic and practical farmer, and produced a work on the "Cultivation of Green Crops and the Economy of Cattle-Feeding" which won him high congratulations at agricultural meetings. In Middlemarch admiration was more reserved:  most persons there were inclined to believe that the merit of Fred's authorship was due to his wife, since they had never expected Fred Vincy to write on turnips and mangel-wurzel.

"But when Mary wrote a little book for her boys, called "Stories of Great Men, taken from Plutarch," and had it printed and published by Gripp & Co., Middlemarch, every one in the town was willing to give the credit of this work to Fred, observing that he had been to the University, "where the ancients were studied," and might have been a clergyman if he had chosen.

"In this way it was made clear that Middlemarch had never been deceived, and that there was no need to praise anybody for writing a book, since it was always done by somebody else."

I've been looking for this French joke for years

This is a story based entirely on number puns.  I remember reading it years ago in a French class, but I've never been able to find it online until now.  Our story had someone phoning the police, and having the police clerk hang up in terror after misunderstanding the number of robbers.  Here is a similar but older version, from Le Briard almanach républicain: contenant tous les renseignements administratifs, politiques et commerciaux les plus nouveaux concernant le Département de Seine-et-Marne.



A rough translation:

A hunter was attacked by robbers at the edge of a wood.
"Where have you been?" asked a friend, seeing him rush in trembling.
"I just came from the forest of Bondy."
"And you were scared crossing the woods?"
"Yow! [hard to translate that] I was attacked by robbers."
"Really? How many were there?"
"Seven."
"How many are you saying?"
"I'm saying, seven."
"Seventeen?"  ["saying seven" sounds just like "seventeen"]
"No, without the ten." ["without ten" sounds like "a hundred and ten"]
"A hundred and ten?"
"No, seven without ten."
"Seven hundred and ten?"
"No, good heavens!  Seven without ten! Seven!"
"Seven hundred and seventeen?"
"Don't you understand? I'm saying seven, without ten!"
"Seventeen hundred and ten?"
"No, confound it, no!  I'm saying, seven, without ten, seven!"
"Seventeen hundred and seventeen?  Well, that's different.  I forgive you for being afraid."

Quote for the Day: That's some choice

"I am persuaded that many excellent persons, if they were confronted with the alternatives of reading "Paradise Lost" and going round Trafalgar Square at noonday on their knees in sack-cloth, would choose the ordeal of public ridicule. Still, I will never cease advising my friends and enemies to read poetry before anything."--Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Found at the thrift store this week


The Painted Horse, by Peter Etril Snyder


Exuberance: The Passion for Life, by Kay Redfield Jamison


The Country Child, by Alison Uttley

Most interesting book that came in:  a mid-1800's copy of "Brown's Bible."  A lot like this:

It's amazing what people will send to a thrift store.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Ruminations

Everybody here said it was a very good Christmas.

We ate lots of chocolate hazelnut cookies and cut-out shortbreads.  We found a quick and easy way to turn a can of refrigerated crescent rolls into mini cinnamon buns (drop butter/marg into muffin tins, sprinkle with cinnamon, and add a slice of roll dough (slice across the roll instead of unrolling it first)--bake ten minutes).

We went out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve.  About the only Christmas Eve we haven't gone to the same restaurant is the year that Mr. Fixit absolutely wasn't supposed to have any soy sauce.  (And even then we only held out until New Year's...he stuck to lemon chicken.)  This year he is down to minimal meds and up to hot and sour soup.  Much thankfulness.

We had a Christmas Eve service with our church family, and a worship time / one present each time at home afterwards.


There wasn't much snow on Christmas Day. A bit in the evening, but even that didn't amount to much.  No tobogganing this year.

Crayons got all excited over her mini Kit and Molly.  Mama Squirrel gave her a book.



Ponytails got a watch and some other things she liked.  Mama Squirrel gave her books.


The Apprentice got geeky stuff.  And some grownup presents too.  Mama Squirrel...


There were funny presents.

(That's just one mini bottle, not 300 of them.)

And useful ones.

We ate turkey and trifle with Grandpa Squirrel and the Squirrelings' uncle and aunt.

We thought of our Far-Away-Nephew Number 2, celebrating his first birthday.  And others that we would have liked to have closer to us.

We prayed for a nearby family who lost two children this year, one of them on Christmas Eve.

We found ourselves wanting to hug each other a special amount...and to say thank you.  For everything.

What does our culture expect of us at Christmas?
What do our traditions offer us?
What does our faith in Christ require of us?
What does Christmas mean when our holidays are especially joyful
or especially sad?

On Christmas Eve we read from Colossians 3
and put the symbols of our faith on a small tree
as our gifts to the Lord.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

A Christmas table with Victorian leanings








China:  Grandma's.

Tablecloth:  Wedding-present lace cloth, over rummage-saled giant piece of red knit fabric.  (It looks pink in the photo, but really it's red.)

Floral decorations:  Thrifted. (Large arrangement same one as here.)

Battery-operated tealight candles in salt-filled canning jars:  seen on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me

Cornucopias:  Paper Christmas napkins, stapled into cone shapes, paper doily section stapled on, decorated with pretty 3-D stickers (dollar store).  Filled with candy canes, chocolate sticks, and lebkuchen.

Photos by Crayons. Copyright 2011 Dewey's Treehouse.

Bob and Larry's wild ride: something for Boxing Day

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"A star is dancing on the snow": Merry Christmas from the Squirrels

CHRISTMAS SONG

by Bliss Carman

Above the weary waiting world,
Asleep in chill despair,
There breaks a sound of joyous bells
Upon the frosted air.
And o’er the humblest rooftree, lo,
A star is dancing on the snow.

What makes the yellow star to dance
Upon the brink of night?
What makes the breaking dawn to glow
So magically bright,—
And all the earth to be renewed
With infinite beatitude?

The singing bells, the throbbing star,
The sunbeams on the snow,
And the awakening heart that leaps
New ecstasy to know,—
They all are dancing in the morn
Because a little child is born.

Photograph:  Mr. Fixit, January 2011.

Treehouse, Christmas Eve




Transoceanic radio courtesy of Mr. Fixit. All photos, Mr. Fixit.

Slumber My Darling

Friday, December 23, 2011

Crocheting Red Things, or, when life hands you potholders...

I posted pictures of Crystal's red popcorn hat (made from a potholder pattern) a few days ago, although in these photos I notice it's slid a bit south.  Crayons made the red jumper at her Saturday sewing class, and the white stockings/black boots are made from this go-go boots pattern.

The potholder is made from the same yarn and same popcorn pattern as Crystal's hat, just with a larger hook and with a green border. 
The red purse was an early Christmas present for Crayons.  It's made with the same cherry red Red Heart SuperSaver, but in a thick front-post-back-post crochet stitch which makes the purse good and solid.  (Okay, this started out to be two potholders too, but I wasn't using a big enough hook and they turned out a little too solid for potholders.  Good for a purse, though.)
Crystal's other holiday outfit this year is a long vest with a fleecy collar.  It was cut down from a thrifted baby jacket; we cut out the sleeves and restitched the side seams, but kept the collar and buttons intact.  When I get a few minutes, we're going to blanket-stitch around the armholes with navy embroidery floss, to match the other stitching.


Photos: Mr. Fixit. Copyright 2011 Dewey's Treehouse.

366 Items Lighter? Declutter Challenge

I just read on Penny Pinching Professional about a Declutter Challenge hosted by Single Saver.

Here are the rules, as posted by SS.
1.) Declutter 366 (or more) items from your home.
2.) Items may be donated, sold, or given away to count towards the 366 item total.
3.) Trash does not count towards the 366 item total... but you are encouraged to get rid of it, too!
4.) Items don't count towards the 366 total until they actually leave your house... we all know how easy it is to set aside something to sell or donate, only to forget it about it and have it contribute to clutter in anther room of the house. Our goal is to get rid of clutter, not just move it around. :)
5.) Tell me you are participating in the Challenge and I will add your name to the official list of challengers, below!
I'm not sure yet about officially joining up, but I'll think about it.  Like PPP, I think the "no garbage" limitation is a bit of a stumper here; I'd rather just chuck a "white elephant" rather than put the thrift shop to the trouble of sorting and disposing of it (says one who knows); but I guess if you don't KNOW if they are going to chuck it, it still counts, right?

Actually yesterday I did something that falls within the parameters of the contest:  I sold my long-loved-but-getting-neglected guitar to someone who wanted one for a Christmas gift.  But the purchaser brought us a book of Christmas carols (library discard, but I love it!) along with the payment, so, hm, if we're counting actual numbers of things, that was one thing out, one thing in.  But still.
Are you supposed to actually list the stuff that goes out?  That could get slightly embarrassing, no?  Or long-winded, in the case of every book I decide to give away.

But okay, we'll start here.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Newspaper gift bags--make your own!

I saw this gift bag tutorial featured on Dollar Store Crafts this week, and couldn't pass up passing it on.  Wouldn't this be a great week to make a few with all the December holiday headlines, seasonal comic strips and so on?  Or maybe the travel section, or Wheels, or Entertainment (if you're giving a movie or music), or the NYT Book Review section...

Too bad most of my presents are already wrapped!

Del alto cielo bajo yo: in whatever language you like


(Illustration: "Singing 'Vom Himmel Hoch' From A Church Tower At Christmas," by Ludwig Richter, from "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition, Christian and Pagan," by Clement A. Miles (1912).  Found here.)
"The hymn has enjoyed great popularity in Germany since it was written. It is said that "Vom Himmel Hoch" was one of the hymns sung during the Christmas Truces of the Frank-Prussian War (1870-1871), and World War I, 1914."--Hymns and Carols of Christmas.com
I don't speak Spanish, but I liked this video, especially "From Heaven Above" (the angel's song). Here are the Spanish words. Here are the German ones.  (Lots of notes and links below the lyrics.) Here's one English translation (we don't usually sing all the verses).  The French title, according to Wikipedia, would be "Du ciel là-haut, ô vient ange," but I can't find lyrics for it online.

2011 Christmas Book Quiz: Answers

Here's the quiz.

1. We went early to bed on this holiday night. For Christmas morning was to be unlike any we had ever known. It began with a blue mirage. We were away at sunrise, driving south, then west to Yaqui Well. Looking east toward the Salton Sea, across the California Painted Desert, we became aware of what appeared to be a range of distant mountains, bluish and banded. As we watched, they altered shape. The higher peaks became lower. The skyline changed. At times, we seemed to see trees and buildiings, all vague and wavering, as though glimpsed through blue water. By the time we turned away, the long mirage had begun to dissolve into vertical bands of lighter and darker blue.

Answer: Edwin Way Teale, Wandering Through Winter

2. On the night of Christmas Eve the Abbey was so still it might have been thought to be empty, or the nuns asleep, but when the bell sounded at ten o'clock, from all corners, especially from the church, silent figures made their way to their station in the long cloister....Voice succeeded voice through two hours until the priests, vested in white and gold, with their servers came in procession from the sacristy for the tenderness and triumph of the midnight Mass. Lauds of Christmas followed straight after, and at two o'clock the community went to the refectory for hot soup, always called "cock soup" because it was the first taste of meat or chicken they had had since Advent began; the soup was served with rice--"beautifully filling," said Hilary in content--and after it came two biscuits and four squares of chocolate. "Chocolate!" "We need to keep our strength up," said Dame Ursula.

Answer: Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede

3. Mother used to send a box of candy every Christmas to the people the Airedale bit. The list finally contained forty or more names. Nobody could understand why we didn't get rid of the dog. I didn't understand it very well myself, but we didn't get rid of him....Muggs lived to be almost eleven years old and even when he could hardly get around he bit a Congressman who had called to see my father on business. My mother had never liked the Congressman....but she sent him a box of candy that Christmas. He sent it right back, probably because he suspected it was trick candy. Mother persuaded herself it was all for the best....

Answer: James Thurber, "The Dog That Bit People"

 


4. "I wish I had a pink Angora sweater," Anne said. "Marilyn has two. A pale blue one and a pale pink one."

"Two?" Joan said. "Are you sure? They're twenty-five dollars, you know."

"Marilyn's rich," Anne said. "She gets thirty-five dollars a month just to spend on clothes."

Don said, "I can't understand why we let the Russians into Berlin."

Anne said, "Marilyn's going to spend Christmas in Palm Springs."

I said, "Palm Springs is the last place I would want to spend Christmas. Who wants hot weather and palm trees for Christmas?"

"I do," Anne said wistfully. "I'm so sick of rain I could die."

"Me too," Joan said. "Marilyn's going to get her own car when she's sixteen."

Don said, "Of course Russia had the world bluffed and our policy of appeasement, uncertainty and double-talk isn't fooling anybody but ourselves."

I said, "Possessions don't bring happiness. Happiness is something you must find in your own self."

"Well, it would be a lot easier to find if I had a car of my own," Anne said.

Answer: Betty MacDonald, Onions in the Stew

5. But in Raveloe village the bells rang merrily, and the church was fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the abundant dark-green boughs--faces prepared for a longer service than usual by an odourous breakfast of toast and ale. Those green boughs, the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas....brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men could as little have found words as the children, that something great and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above and in earth below, which they were appropriating by their presence. And then the red faces made their way through the black biting frost to their own homes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christmas freedom without diffidence.

Answer: George Eliot, Silas Marner

6. December is the first winter month. The ground is often covered with snow. The days are dark and cold and night falls early. Now is the time to be in the barn. There is hay and grain to eat. There are places to play or hide or dream. There are warm straw beds. December is the last month of the year. Now is the time to catch up on sleep. Everyone goes to bed earlier in wintertime.

Answer: Alice and Martin Provensen, The Year at Maple Hill Farm

7. "Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens. I did it in a good old middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree. Enough, you know the species. I really think my imitation of Dickens's style was dexterous and literary. It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."

Answer: G.K. Chesterton, "The Flying Stars" in The Innocence of Father Brown

8. For all of our twenty-eight years in Switzerland we have had the five-o'clock Christmas Eve Service in Champéry, with over a hundred candles to be put in wooden candleholders made of rough logs, and also fastened on fresh green trees....The Christmas tree has been trimmed the night before, during a traditional time of drinking iced ginger ale and eating homemade Christmas cookies spread out in lovely rows on a tray. The Christmas stockings, filled with all sorts of interesting but inexpensive things, are the old hand-knitted stockings our girls wore the first years in Switzerland. Full of holes, but still usable, they add much in the way of memories as they are pulled out one night and filled and then found on Christmas morning.

Answer: Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

9. It didn't matter any more that she had once chased me through the Glen with a codfish--it didn't matter that she had smeared goose-grease all over my dreams of romance....I would never dislike Mary Vance again. I went over to her and kissed her....She got Susan and me a tip-top breakfast and made us eat it, and 'bossed the life out of us,' as Susan says, for two days, until the roads were opened so that she could get home. [The baby] was almost well by that time and father turned up. He heard our tale without saying much. Father is rather scornful generally about what he calls 'old wives' remedies.' He laughed a little and said, 'After this, Mary Vance will expect me to call her in for consultation in all my serious cases.' So Christmas was not so hard as I expected it to be; and now the New Year is coming--and we are still hoping for the 'Big Push' that will end the war....

Answer: Lucy Maud Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

10. I do think it's a very uneven exchange of Christmas presents. You'll eat yours up in a week and have nothing left to show for it by New Year's Day. I'll have mine till the day I die--and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn. Thank you all. Happy New Year.

Answer: Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Found at the thrift store

Today was actually the first time since mid-October that the thrift store wasn't filled with Christmas decorations, books, and everything else.  Most of the Christmas stuff was moved out this week to another location for a special "warehouse sale."  So, other than the silly songs playing over the radio, and a few last-minute holiday things that came in, it was a surprisingly non-Christmas-overkill kind of afternoon.  (Good thing we bought all those ornaments and things last week before they disappeared.)

Mama Squirrel did find a few books and videos to bring home.  A couple are for particular people, but I'll list them anyway.
Today's best find:  a complete VHS boxed set of Narnia videos.  Not the more recent theatre films; the BBC version.  We've seen several of them before, from the library; our favourite is probably The Silver Chair, with Tom Baker as Puddleglum.  Also we found a couple of Christmas videos that we had been wanting to watch. 
Everything Origami:  cool oversized book with a pack of paper included.

Dante, The Divine Comedy, III: Paradise, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers and Barbara Reynolds. 

Light from Heaven, by Jan Karon.  The one Mitford book from the original series that I didn't have.

A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton, by Steven Kellogg.  We are big Pinkerton fans.

Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene.  One of my favourite Alec Guinness movies.

Was there a "strangest book seen" today?  Can't think of one in particular...

But hold your breath and it's Christmas...



This is the time when the days have shortn'd and the nights grow steadily more important,
And in mid-afternoon, across the park, the towers start to twinkle in the thickn'ing dark.
It's the solstice, the solstice, the time when the sun stands still.
Outside you, and inside you, you feel a bitter chill.
It's the solstice, the solstice, when the cold north wind could kill;
But hold your breath and it's Christmas,
Peace on earth, and to men good will.
Peace on earth, and to men good will.

--Randall Thompson, "Solstice"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Carnivals this week Homeschooling, Frugality, and Father Time

The photo post of our thrifty decorations is included in the Festively Frugal Edition of the Festival of Frugality, hosted at Help Me to Save.

The 312th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Holy Spirit-led Homeschooling.

And don't forget the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: It's About Time Edition, hosted right here.

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: the It's About Time Edition

Welcome to this week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival!  It's still a couple of weeks until New Year's, but with this week's theme of Timelines and Books of the Centuries, a tribute to Father Time seems appropriate.

Timelines
Introducing the World presents Our Timeline, As It Now Stands, saying, "A simple, not-too-expensive, reusable timeline for early elementary students."
Harmony Art Mom presents History Timeline with Notebook Pages in High School, saying, "Our high school version of a timeline using notebooking pages, narration, and then working it into a formal essay."
PracticalPages presents Taking Time to do Timelines, saying, "Our timeline is full and crowded at the end of each year -clusters of events, inventions, major changes and important people …"
The Tiger Chronicle presents A new dynasty. "Here we are, at the start of the Plantagenets."
Book of Centuries 
Fisher Academy International presents Our Book of Centuries: A Pictoral Update.  "Previously, we only kept a communal timeline notebook (the littles still add to this one), but this year my boys have been keeping their own; adding entries on a weekly sometimes daily basis."
Ambling presents The Evolution of Our Book of Centuries, saying, "I’ve learned a lot from creating our Book of Centuries – The people and events which were contemporaneous (up through the 1800’s anyway), how Charlotte Mason used the BOC in her schools, and most importantly the simple fact that the less I talk, the more Georgianna learns!"


All Things Charlotte Mason

All That's Goood presents Glorified Map Drill, saying, "Last week we skipped doing map drill due to important interruptions. However that led us to something even better this week. In an attempt to save the map drill lesson I ended up incorporating it into a project we were doing with some info from our reading this week."
Changing Times
 ~ a teaching heart ~ presents Beethoven helps us be thankful, saying, "At 14 his father’s voice, the chief source of income for the family was gone. The responsibility now fell to Beethoven to earn a living for his family.  At 14? Times are so different now, any given 14 year old now, in affluent western culture, would be hard pressed to earn a living for their family."
Time for Poetry
Sage Parnassus presents Love All Lovely, a favourite Christina Rossetti poem.
Time to Listen
A peaceful day presents On audiobooks.  "When she is grown, I hope Jemimah remembers these days with pleasure. I hope she will be able to hear her old friends speaking aloud to her, each in her own special voice. And behind it all, I hope she hears the love in her mother's voice as she says, Try. Tri. Triantiwonti. Triantiwontigongolope."
Time for Art
Blah, Blah, Blog presents Awesome Art History.  "The funny thing was, when it was time for Art History, no one wanted to leave. Every single kid stayed. I'm pretty sure they initially stayed just to continue hanging out and having fun with their friends, but by the end of the first workshop, I think I had most of them actually interested. Even the boys....in art....Renaissance paintings no less."

Hodgepodge presents Christmas Ornament: A Pastels Tutorial, saying, "A simple lesson you can enjoy this week before Christmas!"
Outdoor Time

Dewey's Treehouse presents Our nature find of the year (book review). "Imagine that you have a groovy grandma who loves to spend long rambling afternoons with you, who tells you equally rambling stories about stuff that happened fifty years ago, who can show you how to make everything from a wooden spoon to a pine needle basket to a rope swing, and who knows the names of just about everything that wiggles, flies or grows around you."

Handbook of Nature Study presents Outdoor Hour Challenge - Preparation for Winter #2 Animals, saying, "Hoping some families will want to join in our winter challenges. This one is to get us thinking about how animals prepare for winter."

Time for What's Important

Holistic Homeschooler presents The Face of Homeschooling: Interview with Blossom.  "Q. What’s been the most rewarding part of your homeschooling experience?  A. The chance to get to know my kids more. To spend time in the middle of the day with them. And the time we get to spend as a family that we wouldn't if they were still in public school."
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival using our carnival submission form.  And stay tuned for more CMBC in the New Year.

P.S.  We have been having some trouble with the carnival submission page.  So if you submitted a post before the deadline and do not see it here, please leave a comment and we'll check into it.

Father Time clip art found at Webweaver's Free Clipart.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A all-new Treehouse Christmas book quiz, Now With Hints

Answers are posted here.

If you've ever tried one of our Treehouse Christmas Quizzes before, you know that we like to play hard.  But we hope you have fun too.  (2009 Quiz2007 Snowed-in Quiz, mixed with a Carnival of Homeschooling2006 Quiz.  2006 Quiz with helpful hints.)

UPDATE:  No guesses yet?  Okay, Round Two:   I've added hints.

As always:  your "mission Impossible, played on jingle bells" (to quote Amy Dacyczyn) is to identify the book or story to which the passage belongs. 

Ready?

1.  We went early to bed on this holiday night.  For Christmas morning was to be unlike any we had ever known.  It began with a blue mirage.  We were away at sunrise, driving south, then west to Yaqui Well.  Looking east toward the Salton Sea, across the California Painted Desert, we became aware of what appeared to be a range of distant mountains, bluish and banded.  As we watched, they altered shape.  The higher peaks became lower.  The skyline changed.  At times, we seemed to see trees and buildiings, all vague and wavering, as though glimpsed through blue water.  By the time we turned away, the long mirage had begun to dissolve into vertical bands of lighter and darker blue.

Hints:  Ambleside Online.  Natural History.  Seasons.

2.  On the night of Christmas Eve the Abbey was so still it might have been thought to be empty, or the nuns asleep, but when the bell sounded at ten o'clock, from all corners, especially from the church, silent figures made their way to their station in the long cloister....Voice succeeded voice through two hours until the priests, vested in white and gold, with their servers came in procession from the sacristy for the tenderness and triumph of the midnight Mass. Lauds of Christmas followed straight after, and at two o'clock the community went to the refectory for hot soup, always called "cock soup" because it was the first taste of meat or chicken they had had since Advent began; the soup was served with rice--"beautifully filling," said Hilary in content--and after it came two biscuits and four squares of chocolate. "Chocolate!" "We need to keep our strength up," said Dame Ursula.

Hints:  Author better known for children's books.  Nuns.  Film with Diana Rigg.

3.  Mother used to send a box of candy every Christmas to the people the Airedale bit.  The list finally contained forty or more names.  Nobody could understand why we didn't get rid of the dog.  I didn't understand it very well myself, but we didn't get rid of him....Muggs lived to be almost eleven years old and even when he could hardly get around he bit a Congressman who had called to see my father on business.  My mother had never liked the Congressman....but she sent him a box of candy that Christmas.  He sent it right back, probably because he suspected it was trick candy.  Mother persuaded herself it was all for the best....

Hints:  American humorist who liked to draw odd cartoons.

4.  "I wish I had a pink Angora sweater," Anne said.  "Marilyn has two.  A pale blue one and a pale pink one."
  "Two?" Joan said.  "Are you sure? They're twenty-five dollars, you know."
  "Marilyn's rich," Anne said.  "She gets thirty-five dollars a month just to spend on clothes."
  Don said, "I can't understand why we let the Russians into Berlin."
  Anne said, "Marilyn's going to spend Christmas in Palm Springs."
  I said, "Palm Springs is the last place I would want to spend Christmas.  Who wants hot weather and palm trees for Christmas?"
  "I do," Anne said wistfully.  "I'm so sick of rain I could die."
  "Me too," Joan said.  "Marilyn's going to get her own car when she's sixteen."
  Don said, "Of course Russia had the world bluffed and our policy of appeasement, uncertainty and double-talk isn't fooling anybody but ourselves."
  I said, "Possessions don't bring happiness.  Happiness is something you must find in your own self."
  "Well, it would be a lot easier to find if I had a car of my own," Anne said.

Hint:  Author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

5.  But in XXX village the bells rang merrily, and the church was fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the abundant dark-green boughs--faces prepared for a longer service than usual by an odourous breakfast of toast and ale.  Those green boughs, the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas....brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men could as little have found words as the children, that something great and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above and in earth below, which they were appropriating by their presence.  And then the red faces made their way through the black biting frost to their own homes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christmas freedom without diffidence.

Hint:  Classic English novel, NOT Dickens.  Missing gold.

6.  December is the first winter month.  The ground is often covered with snow.  The days are dark and cold and night falls early.  Now is the time to be in the barn.  There is hay and grain to eat.  There are places to play or hide or dream.  There are warm straw beds.  December is the last month of the year.  Now is the time to catch up on sleep. Everyone goes to bed earlier in wintertime.

Hint:  Children's book.  Lots of animals.

7.  "Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens.  I did it in a good old middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree.  Enough, you know the species.  I really think my imitation of Dickens's style was dexterous and literary.  It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."

Hint:  English detective stories, NOT Agatha Christie.

8.  For all of our twenty-eight years in Switzerland we have had the five-o'clock Christmas Eve Service in Champéry, with over a hundred candles to be put in wooden candleholders made of rough logs, and also fastened on fresh green trees....The Christmas tree has been trimmed the night before, during a traditional time of drinking iced ginger ale and eating homemade Christmas cookies spread out in lovely rows on a tray.  The Christmas stockings, filled with all sorts of interesting but inexpensive things, are the old hand-knitted stockings our girls wore the first years in Switzerland.  Full of holes, but still usable, they add much in the way of memories as they are pulled out one night and filled and then found on Christmas morning. 

Hint:  Wife of well-known 20th century theologian.

9.  It didn't matter any more that she had once chased me through the Glen with a codfish--it didn't matter that she had smeared goose-grease all over my dreams of romance....I would never dislike Mary Vance again.  I went over to her and kissed her....She got Susan and me a tip-top breakfast and made us eat it, and 'bossed the life out of us,' as Susan says, for two days, until the roads were opened so that she could get home.  [The baby] was almost well by that time and father turned up.  He heard our tale without saying much.  Father is rather scornful generally about what he calls 'old wives' remedies.'  He laughed a little and said, 'After this, Mary Vance will expect me to call her in for consultation in all my serious cases.'  So Christmas was not so hard as I expected it to be; and  now the New Year is coming--and we are still hoping for the 'Big Push' that will end the war....

Hint:  Last book in famous Canadian fiction series.

10.  I do think it's a very uneven exchange of Christmas presents. You'll eat yours up in a week and have nothing left to show for it by New Year's Day. I'll have mine till the day I die--and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn. Thank you all. Happy New Year.

Hint:  Film with Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft.  Lots and lots of books.

Poem for today: "In the Week When Christmas Comes"


In the Week When Christmas Comes
by Eleanor Farjeon

This is the week when Christmas comes.

Let every pudding burst with plums,
And every tree bear dolls and drums,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every hall have boughs of green,
With berries glowing in between,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every doorstep have a song
Sounding the dark street along,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every steeple ring a bell
With a joyful tale to tell,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every night put forth a star
To show us where the heavens are,
In the week when Christmas comes.

Let every stable have a lamb,
Sleeping warm beside its dam,
In the week when Christmas comes.

This is the week when Christmas comes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Václav Havel has died: quotes for your pondering

"Anyone who takes himself too seriously always runs the risk of looking ridiculous; anyone who can consistently laugh at himself does not.."

"Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace."

"Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
More quotes here.
CNN news report here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank you for the Liebster Award!

Karen at Wisdom and Righteousness has given us a blog award:  the Liebster Award.

"The Liebster Award is for small blogs (fewer than 200 followers) that can be described as dearest, sweet, beloved, kind, or favorite.”

Thank you so much!  I am delighted to be a "liebster."

Which "small bloggers" to pass it on to?  It's hard to pick, but here are five from my Google Reader. (To misquote The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, there are no small bloggers, just small blogs.)

1.  Wings and Prayers:  Birdie doesn't post all the time, but her thoughts are always worth hearing.
"I look up to see my baby staggering toward me on unsteady little legs that cannot yet support him without help. He can see me across the room. I’m the help he needs, the thing he longs for. He’s not hungry, or in need of a change. In fact, he is doing quite well, but he suddenly realizes that he has strayed from me, that he is not as close to me as he thought he was and feels that sudden desperate need to get back to that safe place again. Yeah, I know that feeling, and just like my Father in Heaven, I run to meet that little one who needs me and wants to return."
2.  The Duchy of Burgundy Carrots:  Like Wings and Prayers, this blog doesn't show a follower list, so I'm assuming it fits the 200-or-less criteria.  Queen of Carrots is a homeschooled, homeschooling mama who will tackle anything, even taking out blackberries:
"Even better, it's a job that the kids prefer to observe from a respectful distance. When I'm whipping about a forty-foot length of vine with inch-long spikes, I never find myself suddenly tackled at the knees. And since it involves clearing new play places among the underbrush, they are happy to occupy themselves.

"And it even seems rather Christmassy. At least, the third verse of Joy to the World sounds appropriate."
3.  A New Day:  A former AO mama who could probably use some extra lieb.
"I am very excited about graduating from Mercy, and I am looking forward to starting my PhD program at the University of Phoenix. I worry a bit about how I will do it, but I consider the One who is behind all of this, and I rest in the knowledge that He is God, and that as such, He is more than able to help me to accomplish this goal."
4.  Tea Time with Annie Kate:  homeschooling, health, theology, and more.
"When you can’t see the forest for the trees, just keep on going, step by step. Just because you temporarily lost the map doesn’t mean that the path you laid out earlier is no good."
5.  Home Joys:  life on the farm, life with a family.
"I've been reading through some of the Christ's healings in the Gospels. I have faith to believe that an overwrought mom can be a recipient of the Master's healing touch. Not just from back pain (which is much improved) but in wrong thinking.
"Maybe the first thing I need to do is dig out my neglected gratitude journal and start looking for blessings.
"Because God IS good. I have just been too distracted to notice."
Thank you all for sharing your lives, families, and faith with us. Merry Christmas.

Recycling pretty book pictures: what's in your hand?


I bought this hardcover quotes/journal book at the thrift store, thinking that it was in nice enough shape to slip in with other gifts for a Treehouse Anne fan.  Unfortunately, it turned out to have several written-on-in-ink pages that I hadn't noticed--which wiped out its gift possibilities.

Dump the whole thing then?

No way.  There were several full-page illustrations of events from the Anne books, and a few of those made nice gift tags, trimmed down and pasted onto card stock.  I particularly liked the one of her in her bedroom with her brand-new brown Christmas dress hanging nearby.  (Yes, it's supposed to be brown, not blue, if you've only ever seen the movie.)  And the non-Christmasy ones will keep for other occasions.

There are also quite a few small illustrations in the book--pictures of baking, sewing baskets, flowers and so on.  Good for clipping and pasting here and there.

It may sound awful to rip apart a book like that, but as somebody said, even a hardcover book (not considering its intellectual content) is really just paper between cardboard covers, and this one had no other real use.  So I'm good with that.

What are the Squirrelings doing today?

The Apprentice is at the university for a pre-exam review class.  She's already written most of her exams but there are still a couple left.

Ponytails is at high school--she's not done until the 23rd of December.  But she told me yesterday that there only about twenty school days left in the semester, so that's kind of motivating!

Crayons/Dollygirl has just finished a Plutarch lesson and is now transforming herself and Crystal into big and little Josefinas.  She's also re-doing her homemade fashion-doll snow cabin "dupe" that she put together last year.  Small wonder that math has little attraction this week.  But we are almost done A Midsummer Night's Dream, and we're re-reading Prince Caspian.  Re-reading because I'm sure that Crayons has heard it somewhere along the line, but I don't think she remembers it very well.

What are you all doing today?

Gift baskets and Christmas cheer at the Treehouse: photo post

Crocheted bells hung on the wall; Crayons added the angel.

Gift baskets for extended family members (who I hope aren't reading this before Christmas).  The baskets were picked up this week at the thrift store, along with most of the picks, pinecones, and other doodads.  The monkeys are handmade.





A bowlful of Christmas, to put on a table in the living room. The crystal bowl was a wedding gift. Mama Squirrel made the origami boxes from an old (thrifted) book of Christmas photos.  The ornaments and picks were all picked out of this week's thrift store boxful of stuff.


The four wooden apples on the stove came inside that red and green bucket that we used for one of the gift baskets. The brown angel box also came from the thrift store. The squirrel and acorn salt-and-peppers came from another thrift store several years ago--a gift for Mr. Fixit.


The dining room buffet, improved this week by finds from the thrift store--gold garland and ornaments, candle rings. The candle rings don't match but they're the same colours, so I'll live with that unless I can find something else.  Good Mousekeeping isn't keeping tabs here.



All photos by Mr. Fixit. Copyright 2011, Dewey's Treehouse.
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