Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday yardsaling: guess who found what today

Mix and match:  what yard sale finds go with Mr. Fixit, Mama Squirrel, Ponytails, and Dollygirl?  (The Apprentice was at her summer job.)


Speaker stands

Big book about collecting Barbies

Lucy and Ethel "Friends" tin sign

Three books: Sarah's Cottage, by D.E. Stevenson; The End of Education, by Neil Postman; Hilda Boswell's Treasury (illustrated stories and nursery rhymes)

Four unfinished wooden magazine holders, to paint or decoupage

Answers will be posted at the end of the weekend.  Which is Monday, because this is a long weekend.  Happy Canada Day!

Answers: Mama Squirrel bought the magazine holders and the three books. Mr. Fixit bought the speaker stands. Ponytails bought the sign. Dolly girl bought the Barbie book. But you already figured all that out, didn't you?

Mama Squirrel's Reading List, first half of 2012

Just the stuff I've finished (besides school books with Dollygirl), so that I can clean out our overstuffed sidebar.

Favourite Five I hadn't read before:

The Mind of the Maker, by Dorothy L. Sayers §
On the Art of Writing, by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch §
Crossing Unmarked Snow: Further Views on the Writer's Vocation, by William Stafford §
The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles, by Carol Barnier (Recommended!) §
Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene §

On books and writing:
Howard's End is on the Landing, by Susan Hill §
The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner (R) §
Q's Legacy, by Helene Hanff §
84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff (R) §
Bookless in Baghdad, by Shashi Tharoor §

Crafts, frugality, and homemaking:
Mothers and Daughters at Home: 35 Projects to Make, by Charlotte Lyons (R) §
Sucking Eggs: What Your Wartime Granny Could Teach You about Diet, Thrift and Going Green, by Patricia Nicol §
1/2 Price Living, by Ellie Kay (R) §
Your Money or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin §
It's All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff, by Peter Walsh §
The Tightwad Gazette Volume 3 (R) §

Education:

The Myth of Ability: Nurturing Mathematical Talent in Every Child, by John Mighton (R) §

Mysteries and Romance (yes, I've read too many already this year)

Rumpole and the Age of Miracles, by John Mortimer §
Rumpole and the Golden Thread, by John Mortimer §
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, by John Mortimer §
Dumb Witness, by Agatha Christie §
Remembered Death, by Agatha Christie §
The ABC Murders, by Agatha Christie §
The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie §
An Expert in Murder, by Nicola Upson (not recommended) §
The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes, but not for weak stomachs) §
The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers §
Strong Poison, by Dorothy L. Sayers §
Busman's Honeymoon, by Dorothy L. Sayers (R) §
The Complete Stories, by Dorothy L. Sayers §
The Enchanted Barn, by Grace Livingston Hill §
The Search, by Grace Livingston Hill §
Cloudy Jewel, by Grace Livingston Hill §
Crimson Mountain, by Grace Livingston Hill §
Where Two Ways Met, by Grace Livingston Hill §

All the rest:

Sesame and Lilies, by John Ruskin (R)
The Ringmaster's Daughter, by Jostein Gaarder § (strong adult content) §
J.B., by Archibald MacLeish §
On the Beach, by Nevil Shute (R) §
Parts of Pilgrim's Progress (RRR)
Lorna Doone (abridged), by R.D. Blackmore §
Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery §
Emily of New Moon (R) §
In the Company of Others, by Jan Karon §
Things as They Are, by Paul Horgan (adult content) §
Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips §
I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was, by Barbara Sher §
QuickBooks 2011 for Dummies §

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge, Part 1

Here's what I've made so far from last Saturday's yard-saled bag of scraps.
A new hat for Abby, made from a pair of Dollygirl's old jeans and some lace from the yardsale bag
Inside detail of the hat
A tote bag with pockets, made from a large piece of decorator-weight cotton print fabric
One scrunchie, made from sparkly yarn/thread; six pincushions, made from denim, felt, and some fancy purple material with sequins and beads.  The one by itself is stuffed and has pins in it; the others are waiting to be finished.  I found some online help in this pincushion cuff tutorial.
Four butterfly bookmarks.  The yellow crochet cotton was in the yardsale bag; the green is from the end of another ball.  The little pattern is here (although it's called Big Butterfly Bookmark); the big one is here.

The whole thing.

Stay tuned for Part 2--we have big plans for some pink lacy fabric.

Photos:  Mr. Fixit.  Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooking Small and Eating Large

As you may have followed through MamaSquirrel's updates, this summer I had an awfully hard time finding a a job. As I happened to have a house lined up for the fall with a twelve month lease, I resorted to moving in there and working in a different city. This of course means that I've been doing all my own cooking and housewifery.

While I no longer have to deal with the Treehouse dietary needs (I made brownies with nuts in them for the first time in my life! I cook with salt!), I do have a few of my own challenges to work around. I tend to work a lot of evening shifts and have night classes the nights I don't work, so I have a rather odd meal and sleep schedule. I also don't have a huge range of kitchen equipment to work with. Additionally, I don't have a ton of freezer space so while I do occasionally cook larger meals and save some, I primarily cook enough for one or two people which means I have to adjust most recipes.

The solution:




One of the first things I bought when setting up my kitchen was a baby slow cooker: only 1.5 quarts which was quite the scale down from the family-size I've been used to using. It's the perfect size for one or two portions and can hold a surprising amount of food. My meal is ready right when I come home from work and it makes incredibly tender meat. I don't think I need to sing the praises of a slow cooker too much, MamaSquirrel does that already.

My second student-friendly cooking tip is that Google is your friend. While I have a decent set of "normal" cooking skills, when you have a limited set of resources to work with you will discover that almost anything is possible...and if it's impossible, someone else will have tried it first and will tell you so. I don't have any pots, but I do have several different sized skillets. Through careful searching I have uncovered the secrets to making pasta in a skillet, mashed potatoes in a skillet, and vegetables in the microwave. After the friendly students at the campus farm stand convinced me that I should buy a bunch of garlic scapes, Google explained what exactly garlic scapes are and what the heck I should do with them.

Technology in general has changed cooking so much for me since I first started as a child. Being able to search and print out a recipe was pretty much mindblowing once the internet gained momentum. But now? I just prop up my tablet on the kitchen counter...blow up the zoom to display the ingredient list so I can see it from across the kitchen, scroll through comments to see who tried what, instantly pull up suggested substitutions, and the list goes on. No more painstakingly copying out recipes from Chatelaine or the back of the cereal box: I just snap a picture with my phone and pull it up in the kitchen.

Last but certainly not least, I have cooking buddies. Several of my friends from school are also taking summer courses, and live in the same blocks-from-campus neighbourhood that I do. Sometimes we take turns cooking or band together on a recipe. It also makes grocery shopping a lot easier since I can still buy more economical family-size packages and then split them up with a friend or two without worrying about eating nothing but that one thing for the next month.

I've actually managed to make some really delightful meals over the past month or so, and hopefully I will remember to post again and share some of them.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Treehouse happenings: catching some up

As opposed to some down...I've been pretty much out of things with a virus (human, not computer) for a few days.  But the worst seems to be over.  I'm back to working on my craft challenge.

Dollygirl is finishing her term three exams--then she's done for the summer.  She has a temporary job every day watering a vacationing neighbour's flowers (a lot of flowers).  And her swimming lessons start up again in July.

Ponytails wrote her grade nine science exam yesterday--so she's done too.  She's getting together with some homeschooled/used to be homeschooled friends for a movie (Brave) and end-of-school celebration later today.

Our zucchini has pretty much lost its fight, and the marigolds are similarly terrible--both those in the regular flowerbed, and those we added to the lasagna garden.  So we can't blame the peat moss.  The two apple trees and the magnolia blossomed too soon because of the mild winter, then got hit by frost (i.e. no apples this year).  It just seems to be an all-round terrible year for gardening (not including the neighbour with the flowers?).  Anybody else?

(One thing that has done almost too well: our hostas by the side pathway are so big you almost can't get by them.  Go figure--I don't think you can eat hostas, though.  --You're kidding.  You can?)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Yard sales are picking up: an "Aunt Sarah" challenge (with photos)

I recently posted about an old book that told about how "Aunt Sarah" took her niece's trunkful of worn clothes and explained how they could all be re-used.

How about something on a smaller scale?

We stopped at a yard sale this morning, and at first it didn't look like there was much of interest. I rummaged through a box of stuff and found a sandwich bag full of vintage packages of rickrack, and a couple of interesting-looking bits of fabric. "I have more!" the lady said. Sure enough, she did. She said that she used to be part of a church group "sewing for bazaars. But now I am too old, and nobody wants to help."

For ten dollars, I got a whole bagful of fabric pieces (mostly spangly and/or shiny, plus some lining material), several rolls of ribbon from stores that closed ten or fifteen years ago, all those packages of rickrack, a package of bias tape, a ball of yellow crochet cotton, a couple balls of something thin and shiny that you could crochet with, and a few other things. I left lots behind too.

So that's what's in our hands. Stay tuned.


Photos: Dollygirl.  Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

That's one REALLY thrifty lady (Vintage e-book)

Project Gutenberg has a free book that all wanna-be thrifties should check out: Mary at the Farm and Book of Recipes Compiled during Her Visit Among the "Pennsylvania Germans", by Edith Thomas, published in 1915. It's available in different formats for downloading or reading online; some of the formats don't have images, so you might want to go directly to the HTML version online if you want to see them.

The book isn't a novel, although it's written in story format. It's about a young woman's stay at a Bucks County farm, early in the last century. "Aunt Sarah" gives her niece lots of cooking and homemaking advice, which is interesting; but the part I found more instructive was Chapter VIII, "Uses of an Old-Fashioned Wardrobe," a lesson on recycling clothes, mostly for household uses. Allowing for the fact that Mary's clothes probably had more fabric in them than ours do, and also for the fact that they're all wool, linen and muslin etc., there are still things we can learn from this expert on "what's in your hand." Actually one of the moms in our girls' sewing group was just showing us a crocheted rag-rug-in-progress; some things don't change.
"Aunt Sarah," ecstatically exclaimed Mary, "you are a wizard to plan so many useful things from a trunk of apparently useless rags. What a treasure Uncle has in you. I was fretting about having so little to make my home attractive, but I feel quite elated at the thought of having a carpet and rugs already planned, besides the numerous other things evolved from your fertile brain."

Aunt Sarah loved a joke. She held up an old broadcloth cape. "Here is a fine patch for Ralph Jackson's breeches, should he ever become sedentary and need one."

Mary reddened and looked almost offended and was at a loss for a reply.
(I'm not so sure about the rag rugs with swastikas on them, but maybe that's just me.)

What's for supper? Using up leftovers

Want to play "The Supper Game?"

Tonight's dinner ingredients:

Two slices of Upside-Down Meatloaf
A bit of cooked rice
Leftover Reuben Chicken from last night (chicken cooked with sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing)
Red peppers (they were on sale last week)
Mushrooms
Half a cucumber, some lettuce
A bit of this and that

Tonight's dinner decision:

Chicken-and-rice-stuffed peppers. I didn't incorporate the meatloaf; we can eat that tomorrow. But I did add some mayonnaise and shredded cheese.
Lettuce and mushroom salad, with cucumber on the side.

Muffin cake, made with leftover spaghetti squash.  I made sure the squash would disappear into the cake by blending it in the food processor along with the liquid ingredients. Spaghetti squash is pretty bland, so if you try this, make sure you add enough spices, or some raisins or something.

Thrift Store Wednesdays: Three good finds, and a golden thread

Three books from yesterday's thrift store book-sorting:

Everything You Need to Know About French Homework, from Scholastic Books.  We have the Canadian Social Studies book from this series, and while it's not great reading, it's at least useful for keeping track of some of the topics that kids Crayons' age are learning.  The same with this one: just the basics, but sometimes that's what you need; and the bonus is that it's Canadian.  The book wasn't in great shape, but I didn't care too much about that.

Fix-It and Enjoy-It Cookbook, by Phyllis Pellman Good.  I have never had much luck using the slow-cooker books from this series, because they seem to have so many similar recipes, many of them just named after the contributor, and I like a bit of commentary, notes, and/or afterthoughts with recipes.  I thought I would check out this (non-slow-cooker) book, if only because I can usually imagine better what oven-baked foods and skillet dishes are going to taste like.  (I want to try Mary Puskar's Chicken Taco Soup on page 60.)  There are also some dessert and cookie recipes that sound interesting.

Most interesting of the three (and I think I've found a real gem here):  The Golden Thread: A Reader's Journey Through the Great Books, by Bruce Meyer, published in 2000.  The author is an Ontario university professor and CBC broadcaster, who believes that the old dusty books are not only still relevant, but necessary.
"...there is a movement among many contemporary critics and educators to dismiss the great books as works that have lost their relevance....Surely those critics and educators will reconsider their position, if only for the sake of future generations that will need to tell the story of a journey or a tale about how life might be restored to a parched kingdom.  I believe that Homer, Dante, Virgil, and all the other great authors are still with us, and that they continue to mean the world to readers who eat, dream, make love, travel, despair, hope, fear, challenge, and persist in their pursuits of goals that always seem unattainable just before they are won.  I believe that humanity will never lose its heroic ability to celebrate life, not only because that is what the great books have taught us, but also because that is the way human beings are.  To recognize this truth is to grasp the first fine strands of the golden thread that can make a hero of anyone who is willing to follow his or her imagination."--Preface to The Golden Thread

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Quote for the day: We are all on pilgrimage here

"We are all on pilgrimage here: and though to beguile the road I have sung a song or two, and told perhaps too many stories, there has also been time to make a notebook of a few good thoughts I met on the way and pondered and sometimes took to rest with me.

"Perhaps the best of all, for all weathers and for every business, is the following of Fenelon's, which I have kept for my preface:—
'Do everything without excitement, simply in the spirit
of grace. So soon as you perceive natural activity gliding in, recall yourself quietly into the presence of God...'
"You will find yourself infinitely more quiet, your words will be fewer and more effectual, and, while doing less, what you do will be more profitable. It is not a question of a hopeless mental activity, but a question of acquiring a quietude and peace in which you readily advise with your beloved as to all you have to do."--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Preface to The Pilgrims' Way

Found at a yard sale: vintage books

Yes, after all this time, a yard sale post. I haven't found anything worth mentioning at yard sales for a really long time.

This sale was at a seniors' apartment building, and you wouldn't expect that people who had already downsized into small apartments would have a lot to get rid of, but there were some interesting things for sale. I brought home four small, school-type vintage books: Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, a 1948 British printing; Aristotle's Politics, a 1908 printing; Select Essays: Addison, published by Allyn and Bacon, 1946 printing (it looks older, but it says 1946 on the first page); and A Shorter Pepys, also 1946. The copy of Pepys has a brown-paper book protector attached to it, compliments of The Royal Bank of Canada: Today is a Good Time to Start Your Savings Account! I think Mr. Pepys might have appreciated that:
March 2nd (Lord's day).--Talking long in bed with my wife, about our frugal life for the time to come, proposing to her what I could and would do, if I were worth £2,000, that is, be a knight, and keep my coach, which pleased her. To church in the morning: none in the pew but myself.--A Shorter Pepys

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's for supper? Upside-Down Meatloaf

Tonight's dinner menu:

Upside-Down Meatloaf, from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. The recipe is almost the same as this one, except that Leanne uses rolled oats instead of breadcrumb, just 1 tsp. of salt, no pepper, and buttermilk instead of milk (I used thinned yogurt). I didn't bother inverting it--we just ate it out of the pan. Our regular meatloaf, the Apprentice's favourite, is from the Betty Crocker Cookbook; but this one got good comments from Mr. Fixit and Ponytails--and Ponytails doesn't usually like meatloaf.

Spaghetti Squash, Peas
Watermelon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Year-end status: Crayons' Grade Five

We have one week of classes left to go for this school year--then exams.

The obvious highlight for us has been readalouds. It's one of Crayons/Dollygirl's favourite school activities, we've had good books, and it's probably the way that she has learned the most this year. Crayons knows that she can often get out of a less-desirable school activity by talking me into reading another chapter of something. Some books we read:

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Father's Big Improvements
The Trail of the Conestoga
Parts of Story of the World, Volume 4: The Modern Age
Parts of Story of Canada
Part of The Book of Marvels
Part of A Passion for the Impossible (it seemed to get too long for us towards the end of the year)
Part of The Loghouse Nest
Some miscellaneous science and invention books
The second half of Madam How and Lady Why
Tennyson's poems including "Lancelot and Elaine"
Evangeline
The Adventures of Robin Hood--we're almost done this
Stories of Alexander the Great--almost done this
Great Expectations
Silas Marner
Caddie Woodlawn
Prince Caspian
Ballet Shoes
Alvin Fernald books
Underground to Canada, and other books about the Underground Railroad
Meet the Malones and Beany Malone
The Book of Think
Brothers Far from Home: The World War I Diary of Eliza Bates (Dear Canada series)
Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope (Dear Canada series)
Roller Skates
Makers of the English Bible
Canada: The New Nation, by Edith Deyell
Several sets of American Girl books
The Secret of NIMH

Shakespeare (two plays) and Plutarch (two lives) went well, and so did Great Expectations and Silas Marner. Watching online episodes of Wishbone helped round out literature.

For picture study, we did Fragonard (that seems about a thousand years ago now) and Mary Cassatt. Artistic Pursuits pretty much fizzled.

We did French for part of the year, then it got dropped. I still like the Mission Monde curriculum, but the lesson plans in Level 3 weren't working for us; that is, I was not happy with the small amount of French that Crayons seemed to be able to understand or use, and I think it was the way the course bounced around a lot (both in topics and in grammar points). I have the next level waiting to go for next year, but we will be using it slightly differently.

Crayons got halfway through Pet Store Math, finished Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade Four, and did a set of Grade Five worksheets. She is now writing the Grade Five end-of-year test (it's long and is meant to be done over a few days), and the plan is to use Grade Six for next year. I thought about making up my own program for a change, using books like How Math Works, but the Grade Six book covers most of what I'd want to include anyway, so we'll download that. [Update]

Science was not a big subject area this year--none of the books we used seemed to arouse a lot of interest, and some of them we just left aside this term. Next year we get into Archimedes, Einstein, and Rachel Carson, so I think there will be more to work with.

And Crayons' favourite new skill was learning to swim.

From the archives: Thinking in Colours

From a June 2005 post about the movie Pleasantville:

Is the "ivory tower" of the study of the humanities reality or unreality?

Are our everyday lives ("the trivial round, the common task") just black and white?

Northrop Frye said that an arts degree was useless; and that if it wasn't, then it wasn't worth much. Is reality just when we write about the books we're reading, or when we post pictures of our cats or our family trips? This is one place where I think Frye forgot something: although our conversations about the "real stuff" (like literature) may bring the colours into our everyday existence, it doesn't necessarily follow that everything else is black and white or unreal. I prefer to think that because we have these opportunities to think and talk in living colour, the colour finds its way into the rest of our lives rather than being something separate.

And for those who are always trying to define what a living book is, here is a suggestion: "a book that makes you think in colours."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Here's a manga version (Stan Freberg again)



I'm not a manga fan, but this update of animated-Banana-Boat-Song is very creative too. Dollygirl and I especially liked the tarantulas.

This is the funniest thing I've seen ALL YEAR.

No fooling.

And don't miss the Big Finish.



P.S.  As noted in the comments on the You-tube page, Paul Glickman, the creator of the 1967 cartoon (which was made to go with Stan Freberg's 1957 recording) is hoping to put up a better online version sometime in the near future.

From the archives: "Year of the Burnouts" (Frugality and Contentment)

First posted January 2008.

After posting our mantra about frugal contentment, I've been noticing that some other longtime Frugalistas and stay-at-home-moms have been feeling a little less than content lately.

Lindsey writes: (sorry, this blog is no longer up)
Cheerful frugality. Meredith talks about this quite often. I've lost my knack for it. Being cheerful about being frugal. In some ways, I'm just tired of struggling paycheck to paycheck. (I know, I know, you spend all you make no matter what you make does apply to most people...so working may not be better) I'm tired of barely getting by. I'm tired of being a few paychecks from disaster. I'm tired of always searching for the best deal or bargain. Maybe I could describe this as frugal burnout? Is that real? This is a very big factor in my thinking of going back to work in some capacity. Sigh. Is frugal burnout real? This I would love some comments and input on...
Meredith herself posted about "When You Don't Feel Frugal," and linked to a post about seeing perfect mommies at the YMCA and wondering why your hair doesn't look like that.

Anything I can say runs the risk of sounding smug (and that's not my intention)...but here are some thoughts for anyone feeling like it would just be more fun to do it the way it seems like everyone else does.

1. Read Janel's post at Frugal Hacks: "When Your Want-To Is Broken." Very good advice there, including getting enough sleep and "keeping the frugal life enjoyable." (All work and no play...)

2. Get hold of Mary Ann Cahill's old book The Heart Has Its Own Reasons, especially if you're questioning your decision to stay home with young children. As I've said elsewhere: good book, bad title. Lots of personal stories reminding you of why you are doing what you're doing--and practical advice as well from families whose situations ranged from middle to low income and even out of work.

3. If you can't find that book, read some literature that makes you appreciate how good we really do have it, even if we're not YMCA mommies. If Little House in the Big Woods is too shopworn for you, you could try Robinson Crusoe. (Too extreme? Maybe The Moffats, or Margot Benary-Isbert's The Ark, or the first book from the Caroline series where Caroline's widowed mother is struggling to take care of her children.) Peter Menzel's photo book Material World is good too. (Borrow it from the library, of course.)

I'm short on time this morning but I'm planning on coming back later to add a few more thoughts. More Here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thrift Store Wednesdays: Eclectic is always good

All the books at our thrift store are still a dollar this week, but most of the ones I brought home today would have been priced at a dollar anyway.
Language Maven Strikes Again, by William Safire
The Return of Martin Guerre, by Natalie Zemon Davis
Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
Aku-Aku, by Thor Heyerdahl
For the Time Being, by Annie Dillard
Little Clothes for Little People, by Lia van Steenderen (a sewing book)

Monday, June 11, 2012

A summer wardrobe for Abby (18-inch doll clothes)

Abby is Crayons/Dollygirl's Springfield Doll. Dollygirl is going to do a post on her own blog about Abby's camping adventures; but here's a preview with her new duds. All photos are by Dollygirl.






Pattern notes: The green sun hat, shorts, and top are from Joan Hinds' book Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-inch Dolls [link fixed].  We made them from the leftover fabric from one of Dollygirl's sewing class projects. The blue flowered dress is just the top made longer; the fabric is a toddler dress that Dollygirl outgrew a long time ago. The red striped pajamas (and the sleeping bag) are improvised from an old sweatshirt, and the crocheted slippers were made from a pattern I found online. The swimsuit was made from a Cabbage Patch Kid crochet pattern. We also made an African-print shirt which is very cute, but that didn't make it into the photos.

Raspberrry Cheesecake Tarts, for the Apprentice

This week our Apprentice turns two decades old.

She had to work all weekend, but made it home just in time for Sunday dinner.  In her honour, we had turkey and mashed potatoes.  Dessert, instead of a regular birthday cake, was watermelon and mini cheesecakes, the ones Momma's Corner showed us how to make.  I made them with regular-sized muffin papers rather than mini ones, and used half Momma's filling (one package of cream cheese); that made sixteen small cheesecakes, two apiece and a few over in case of accidents.

Instead of jam on top, I made a thick sauce from frozen raspberries, and spooned that on top after the cakes had cooled a bit.  Raspberry-rhubarb might have been nice too.

Happy Birthday, Apprentice!  (And enjoy your day off.)

Friday, June 08, 2012

What's up in the Treehouse?

The Apprentice is working pretty much full-time hours this summer at a hair salon.  The hair salon is in the city where she goes to university, so she's staying at her off-campus house during the week while she works and takes night courses.  At least that makes it easier for her to get to class, but it means she's not going to be here for much of the rest of the summer, even on weekends.  Her weekends are going to consist of something like "Tuesday."

I had summer jobs like that too.

Ponytails is in the home stretch--grade nine exams start soon.  This week's big project was to make a board game for her business class.  Which she did, very thoroughly--bar-coded box and all.  Today is the high school's annual lunchtime carnival, featuring a reverse dunk tank.  I thought that might mean that the people throwing the ball get wet, but no, it means the victim/teacher gets a bucket of water dumped on him/her.



Mama Squirrel and Crayons have been skipping school to sew a summer wardrobe for AbbyAbby is a Springfield doll who joined Crayons' family this year. Yesterday we made Abby a tent (a bed ruffle draped over a folding chair), a sleeping bag from a fleece sweatshirt, red striped pajamas from the rest of the sweatshirt, red slippers to go with the pajamas, two pairs of shorts, a sun dress, a sun top, and a sun hat.  Crayons also made her a tote bag, a camping lantern, a campfire, and I'm not sure what else.  Now Abby can go off to camp.  I think Crayons is going to post some photos later.

Mr. Fixit is still scouting for used radios and suchlike.

We are still fighting rabbits in our garden.  They ate all the peppers off a young plant that we put in.  I don't think they are eating the zucchini--some slugs beat them to it, and they (the slugs) didn't seem to care about the dish of beer I put down to entice them away.  (Maybe the rabbits beat them to that.)  At least the zucchini plants are still there, minus some of their foliage, and I'm keeping an eye on them for anything crawly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: One lesson, one book

Today was pay-bills-on-the-computer day upstairs at the thrift store. So in spite of the fact that all the books in the store are on sale this week for a dollar (we really did need to clear out the overload), I was too much otherwise occupied to do much bargain-hunting. I brought home only one book:

Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt. It comes well recommended by both Ambleside Online and The Common Room, and you can read it online at the HACER website, in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

I also found a VHS copy of Emma, the version with Gwyneth Paltrow.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

From the archives: Can I Get Offensive?

First posted June 2007.

This has a double meaning that I didn't intend...I seem to be getting a lot of that lately. I started writing a post on something that I found very exciting--Gordon MacDonald's idea of "Offensive Study"--and ended up reading a lot of online things about organizations and people that I would really rather not have gotten into. According to one such website, not only is almost every church and parachurch group I've ever belonged to or donated money to heretical, but so are most of the books and writers in my life, including (surprisingly) John Bunyan; and MacDonald is definitely in that out-group as well, for more than one reason. Some of what I read made sense...there have always been certain things about certain evangelists, certain groups (especially those I am looking back on after many years) that made me itch. But some of it...I'm shaking my head and wondering, again, who or what will be left when everyone who DOES meet such "Biblical criteria" has been eradicated. [Update/correction: oops, that wasn't exactly what I meant to say...I think that should have been "doesn't meet."]
Anne Shirley: I don't think Mrs. Barry is a well-bred woman. I don't believe God himself would entirely meet with her approval.

Marilla Cuthbert: Anne, you mustn't say things like that... especially in front of the minister's wife. But, if you left God out of it, you'd have it just about right.--Anne of Green Gables (1985 movie script)
OK, so can I just tell you about offensive study without offending anybody?

Offensive study, according to Gordon MacDonald's book Ordering Your Private World (a book I have only in an older edition than the one currently available), is taking a time period, a season, a summer to deliberately extend your mind; to zero in on a topic or author or idea, but not because you're trying to pass an exam or look for specific information; it is a little like what many homeschoolers call  Mother Culture. It's taking scheduled time, maybe during your "off season," to learn, grow and explore. It's gathering raw material. If you are a pastor or a teacher or a writer, much of what you learn during that time may get incorporated into your teaching, writing or work later on. Or just into your life.

Something like that happened for me last summer. I was charging through Charlotte Mason's books--not for the first time, but trying to get a bigger overall picture of some of her ideas--and got sidetracked for awhile by Norman Brosterman's book Inventing Kindergarten, about the Froebelian Kindergarten movement in the late 1800s, and the life of Froebel himself. I ended up taking more books on Froebel and education out of the library, and learned a bit about Pestalozzi (a big influence on Froebel). A real rabbit trail, but it was fascinating. I re-read Ruth Beechick's book about Biblical educational philosophy, Heart and Mind, as well.

I didn't read any of these books so much because I wanted to know how to teach reading CM-style or stop a child from lying, or because I was planning on taking education courses; I read them because I was finding all kinds of interesting ideas there that seemed to connect with each other and that made my own feeble brain feel like it was doing some stretching. Please note that I do not think any of those people--particularly Froebel--had every detail right on everything; but they all had things that I could take away from spending some extra time with them, and, in the case of Froebel, it was important to see how far his influence affected not only Western culture but, seemingly, the Far East as well (his kindergartens became very popular in Japan). And at the end of the summer, I felt ready to go back to the business/busyness of teaching again.

I haven't decided yet what, if anything, will become a topic of offensive study for me this summer. Maybe it should be the Bible itself--to try and make some sense out of that everybody's-heretical business.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

From the archives: A day in June

Originally posted June 2, 2006

Javamom invited me to play along with her meme, and since this one doesn't have 40 questions I managed to finish it, more or less.

Where were you, what were you doing...

20 Years Ago: June 1986

1. I was living in a cockroachy summer sublet on Spadina Avenue in Toronto, after my first year of university.



2. My parents were planning a trip to England in July for Prince Andrew's wedding. (No, they weren't invited, but they got to stand outside with the rest of the crowds and cheer.)

3. I was about to start a summer job teaching kids' music programs in the Toronto library system.

15 years ago: June 1991

1. That's easy: I was getting ready for our wedding at the end of the month.

2. I was working full time in a university office.

3. I was signed up to take a 3-week crash credit right after we came back from our honeymoon, so I could graduate. (And I did. The course was called Marriage and the Family, which seemed appropriate.)

10 Years Ago: June 1996
1. We had only one squirreling, who was about to have her fourth birthday and who had just had her one-and-only-ever-real-costumes-required ballet recital. (The tutu still gets worn for dressup--not by the Apprentice, though.)

5 Years Ago June 2001

1. We had just had our third squirreling, and we were planning The Apprentice's hat-decorating birthday party on the patio.

3 Years Ago June 2003

1. The Ambleside Online Advisory was working overtime trying to finish Year 9.

2. The elderly next-door neighbour kept asking me to come over and cut more of his rhubarb. We ate more rhubarb than we knew what to do with that year.


1 Year Ago June 2005

1. "Mama Squirrel has discovered this scientific truth: The fastest way to get young squirrels interested in reading is to start packing or opening boxes intended for a homeschoolers' book sale."

2. We were looking for rhubarb since the elderly neighbour was gone and the new people had taken his plants out. We found two little plants that stayed puny all summer, so we ate no rhubarb at all.

3. Crayons was just starting to learn to read.

4. We were planning The Apprentice's Grade 8 graduation celebration.

So Far This Year (2006)

1. We've been nest-hunting but haven't found anything.


2. We've read all the Narnia books except The Last Battle; Ponytails isn't sure she wants me to read it because then we'd be done.

3. Our garden is coming up and the rhubarb is recovering from my earlier over-enthusiasm.

Yesterday (2006)

1. Mr. Fixit and our neighbour (not the rhubarb one) started a petition to keep a sidewalk from being built in front of our houses. We like sidewalks fine, but this one is going to be too close to the busy road, and it means that some good trees have to come down.

2. Ponytails and I read about Governor Frontenac and watched his Canadian Heritage Minute online. (Click on Governor Frontenac on the sidebar.)

Today (June 2006)

1. We finished off the school week, and now I have to try to figure out how we're going to fit what we haven't finished into the next three weeks before exams. Ponytails and I read about Marconi and watched his Canadian Heritage Minute (those are handy!).

Tomorrow (2006)

1. Yard sale and grocery day.

2. The Apprentice is going to Canada's Wonderland with a church group. (She won a free admission pass.)

Next Week (June 2006)

1. We're going to the African Lion Safari with our homeschool group. We haven't been there for about seven years, and they're supposed to have some new elephants.

In the Next Year

1. ???

In the Next Minute

1. I'm going to take Crayons upstairs for a snack.

Friday, June 01, 2012

What's for supper? (A bit of recycling)

Salmon patties
Fusilli reheated with a mixture of milk, broth, and cheese, plus leftover peas
Sweet potatoes

Brannies (I made a double batch for a potluck this weekend)
Thawed blueberries
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