Thursday, November 29, 2012

Answers to Christmas Books Quiz 2012

This year's Christmas Books Quiz is here.

1. Anyway by midwinter Gandalf and Bilbo had come all the way back, along both edges of the Forest, to the doors of Beorn's house; and there for a while they both stayed. Yuletide was warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at Beorn's bidding.

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

2. She had suggested they open their gifts on Christmas evening in front of the fire, dressed in their favorite robes. Thank heaven her gift had arrived--and already wrapped, into the bargain. He'd had it delivered to Dora Pugh at the hardware, in case he couldn't be found at his office to sign for it. It was all too easy, he thought. Just call toll-free and talk to someone solicitous and give them a credit card number. It seemed a man should suffer a bit over what to give his beloved. Next year, he would do better.

These High, Green Hillsby Jan Karon (1996)

3. There were several parcels wrapped in white tissue paper, and one very large box with the inscription: "For Fräulein Maria for Distribution." Surrounded by the children I unpacked it, and out came eight pairs of woolen mittens, eight beautiful, soft, gray Wetterflecks, and eight pairs of heavy boots. This was a great surprise, and with a guilty heart, I hardly dared look at Baroness Matilda. But tonight was Christmas, and, shaking a finger at me, she only laughed.

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp (1949)

4. "Just suppose Mrs. Beck had had to bring him up! What would he have been like?" "She wouldn't!" said Rand. "She'd have put him out on the doorstep...We must take great care to bring him up to know the Lord. Dale, I'm going to start in this Christmas Day telling him all about it! I'll tell him the story of the angels and the shepherds and the wise men, and the Christ who came and lived and died for him! I'll begin right away and I'll keep it up day after day. He's not going to able to say he never heard the truth." "George, how perfectly absurd! As if a baby like that could understand words!" said Dale with a tender smile. "Well, he may not be able to understand words," said Rand stubbornly, "but he's learning them all the time, and somehow he finds out what things mean."

Partners, by Grace Livingston Hill  (1940)

5. The window looked into the courtyard and all there was to see was the windows, storey above story, of the rooms opposite. On the gray Christmas morning it looked incredibly cheerless....While the maid was getting the logs he dressed himself, and then, when she got busy setting things to rights, he sat down and looked at the grim courtyard. He thought disconsolately of the jolly party at the Terry-Masons'. They would be having a glass of sherry now before sitting down to their Christmas dinner of turkey and plum pudding, and they would all be very gay, pleased with their Christmas presents, noisy and jolly.

Christmas Holiday, by Somerset Maugham (1939)

6. "A tree should have tinsel," said Mrs. Jones. She bought some tinsel. "And candles," she said. "Candles are prettier than electric light." She bought twelve red candles....And a tree should have some balls, thought Mrs. Jones, glass balls in jewel colors, ruby-red, emerald-green, and gold. She bought some balls and a box of tiny silver crackers and a tinsel star. When she got home she stood the tree in the window and dressed it, putting the star on top. "Who is to look at it?" asked Mr. Jones. Mrs. Jones thought for a moment and said, "Christmas needs children, Albert." Albert was Mr. Jones's name. "I wonder," said Mrs. Jones. "Couldn't we find a little girl?"

The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden (1958)

7. Imogene had the baby doll but she wasn't carrying it the way she was supposed to, cradled in her arms. She had it slung up over her shoulder, and before she put it in the manger she thumped it twice on the back. I heard Alice gasp and she poked me. "I don't think it's very nice to burp the baby Jesus," she whispered, "as if he had colic." Then she poked me again. "Do you suppose he could have had colic?"

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson (1972)

8. "Greetings, greetings, greetings," said the three children. "What's that about?" said Mrs. Rogers. "You said to greet Aunt Myra with Carols," said Amelia Bedelia. "Here's Carol Lee, Carol Green, and Carol Lake." "What lovely Carols," said Aunt Myra. "Thank you."

Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish (1986)

9. Santa Claus appeared to be rather doubtful. But Harold confidently went to work lining up the reindeer. Soon Prancer and Dancer were pawing at the snow, eager to be off around the world. Harold wasn't quite certain of the names of the other reindeer. But he made sure there were eight of them. They were all handsome and spirited animals.

Harold at the North Pole, by Crockett Johnson (1958)

10. It was past Vespers on Christmas Eve before Cadfael had time to make a brief visit to the town, to spend at least an hour with Aline, and take a gift to his two-year-old godson, a little wooden horse that Martin Bellecote the master-carpenter had made for him, with gaily coloured harness and trappings fit for a knight, made out of scraps of felt and cloth and leather by Cadfael himself...."I can stay no more than an hour," said Cadfael, as the boy scrambled down again to play with his new toy. "I must be back for Compline, and very soon after that begins Matins, and we shall be up all the night until Prime and the dawn Mass...." When he noted the sand in the glass and rose to take his leave, he went out from the hall into the bright glitter of frost, and a vault of stars now three times larger than when first they appeared, and crackling with brilliance....This night, the eve of the Nativity, hung about the town utterly still and silent, not a breath to temper the bite of the frost. Even the movements of such men as were abroad seemed hushed and almost stealthy, afraid to shake the wonder.

The Raven in the Foregate (Brother Cadfael Mysteries), by Ellis Peters (1986)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Any more guesses on the Christmas books quiz?

I'm going to post the answers very soon.

But you still have time to guess!

Thrift store Wednesdays: the books keep piling up

Piling up in the store, that is.  I unpiled a lot of them, and brought a few home:  two Brother Cadfael mysteries, and a couple of other books that I can't name.  (You'll have to check out the Christmas Secrets page for more details.  Unless you're a Squirrel or a Squirrelling--then it's hands off.)

I also found a set of six Christmas-green placemats, which we really needed...I love my blue patchwork ones that I found at the thrift store awhile back, but I was hoping for something different for the holidays.

Oh...we also picked up a video of The Hobbit--the Rankin-Bass animated one--for fifty cents.  Dollygirl has seen the trailer for the new Hobbit movie that's coming out next month, and she thinks it might be a little too intense.  So we'll watch this one instead (ignoring the groans from the Tolkien purists).

Most mis-shelved book today:  Doonesbury's Greatest Hits, sorted with the music books.

Strangest donation:  a picture book with big teeth bites out of it.  My guess is a dog, although I suppose it could be a paper-loving rabbit.  Really, you have to wonder what's in some people's minds.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Making the most of December

Don't be misled by the subject line:  we are not dropping everything to do a Christmas unit study or make cookies.  Although cookies will probably sneak in there somewhere.

December is, in fact, the start of our second term; and for Ambleside Online Year Six, it starts the study of the ancient world.  Mostly Greece and Rome, but other cultures work their way in as well.

Since the first two weeks of our term, plus one "pre-Christmas week," are separated from the rest of the term by the Christmas holidays...and because we are still finishing up some non-history Term One readings... we're going to start things out a bit differently from the AO schedule. 

Next week's plans look like this:

Continue reading Basic Bible Studies, Albert Einstein, Pericles, Cymbeline, God's Smuggler.

Read "Uncle Eric" chapter 14 (it's short), "How to Stop Learning."  Also called "Beware of Certainty."

For math, we are going to try reading some of The Number Devil, which I found at the thrift store.  This is more of an experiment than anything else, especially because the reviews on Amazon are kind of mixed.

Poetry, art, and music:  I'm still working on those.
Read Motel of the MysteriesYes, the "ancient urn" stuff is extremely silly, and some people will not like the skeletons.  But it does make good points about making assumptions.


(I like the banana part near the beginning!  Obviously some kind of weapon...)
Start reading Usborne World History: Ancient World. It's the usual Usborne style, double-page spreads full of this and that. The goal is to go over the ancient cultures (pre-Greek).  We've talked about many of them before, so it should be mostly review.

And some time for Christmasy stuff too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What's up in the Treehouse?

It is a pretty quiet day here.  There is a brushing of snow on the ground.  We've started our Advent devotional book even though it isn't Advent, because Advent this year is only about three weeks long, and the book is written for four.

Dollygirl has been writing first-term exams and working on her term project, which is to design a new historical 18-inch doll for any decade of the 20th century that American Girl skipped.  She chose the 1950's.

Mama Squirrel has been making things, cleaning things, and working on Term Two.  We have a church dinner on Saturday, which I'm helping with, but someone else is doing the planning for that.

The Apprentice has had an insane amount of project work, but the university term is almost over now except for exams.  So she'll be around more next month.

Ponytails is at school, which is going okay this fall.  (Ponytails, you can add to or correct that at your pleasure.)

Mr. Fixit is doing his usual fixiting.  And chauffeuring--today it's dentist appointments for the Squirrelings, after Ponytails gets home from school. Also he's putting the finishing touches on his annual comedy monologue for the church dinner.

There's Reuben Chicken in the slow cooker, and pumpkin bread thawing on the counter.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Some really delightful giftmaking posts

The Prudent Homemaker has a series of tutorial posts on her blog (not the main website) about the extremely creative and beautiful and low-cost Christmas gifts that she is sewing for her children. I think the fact that these are specific gifts for specific people makes them more real and more interesting, but at the same time they're still useful to the rest of us. Good job.

The November 24th post at Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays is Gifts for Book Lovers. There are some fun sewing ideas there--I especially like the pillow with a big pocket for books (a pillow with a couple of picture books would make a great kid gift).

And you are just not going to believe how cute one of the ornaments in the November 23rd post is. Or two of them, since two are shown. I'll give you one guess which pattern. Here's the original post with a tutorial.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How much fun can you have with a colour printer?

1.  For people who store things in Folgers' coffee cans:  printable labels at Heart of Wisdom.

2.  Round labels at Just Something I Made.

3.  A cardstock Eiffel Tower at Iffer's Little Nest

4.  Milk & Cookie Favor Printables, at The Sweetest Occasion.

 
5.  You've probably seen this already, but if you haven't:  Joy-in-a-Box, at A Holy Experience.

Enjoy!

This is my kind of sewing blog

If you like recycling, making clothes for 18-inch dolls, and using whatever's in your hand, you will appreciate this blog:   A Doll For All Seasons.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas Books Quiz, 2012

Here is an early Christmas present for Treehouse readers.  This year's quiz just may be the hardest yet...or it may be the easiest, depending on what books you've read!  Answers are here.

1.  Anyway by midwinter [they] had come all the way back, along both edges of the Forest, to the doors of B----'s house; and there for a while they both stayed.  Yuletide was warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at B----'s bidding.

2.  She had suggested they open their gifts on Christmas evening in front of the fire, dressed in their favorite robes.  Thank heaven her gift had arrived--and already wrapped, into the bargain.  He'd had it delivered to Dora Pugh at the hardware, in case he couldn't be found at his office to sign for it.  It was all too easy, he thought.  Just call toll-free and talk to someone solicitous and give them a credit card number.  It seemed a man should suffer a bit over what to give his beloved.  Next year, he would do better.

3.  There were several parcels wrapped in white tissue paper, and one very large box with the inscription: "For Fräulein M----- for Distribution."  Surrounded by the children I unpacked it, and out came eight pairs of woolen mittens, eight beautiful, soft, gray Wetterflecks, and eight pairs of heavy boots.  This was a great surprise, and with a guilty heart, I hardly dared look at Baroness Matilda.  But tonight was Christmas, and, shaking a finger at me, she only laughed.

4. "Just suppose Mrs. Beck had had to bring him up!  What would he have been like?"  "She wouldn't!" said Rand.  "She'd have put him out on the doorstep...We must take great care to bring him up to know the Lord.  Dale, I'm going to start in this Christmas Day telling him all about it!  I'll tell him the story of the angels and the shepherds and the wise men, and the Christ who came and lived and died for him!  I'll begin right away and I'll keep it up day after day.  He's not going to able to say he never heard the truth."  "George, how perfectly absurd!  As if a baby like that could understand words!" said Dale with a tender smile.  "Well, he may not be able to understand words," said Rand stubbornly, "but he's learning them all the time, and somehow he finds out what things mean."

5.   The window looked into the courtyard and all there was to see was the windows, storey above story, of the rooms opposite.  On the gray Christmas morning it looked incredibly cheerless....While the maid was getting the logs he dressed himself, and then, when she got busy setting things to rights, he sat down and looked at the grim courtyard.  He thought disconsolately of the jolly party at the Terry-Masons'.  They would be having a glass of sherry now before sitting down to their Christmas dinner of turkey and plum pudding, and they would all be very gay, pleased with their Christmas presents, noisy and jolly.

(Good gracious, we definitely need something more cheerful after that one.)

6.  "A tree should have tinsel," said Mrs. Jones.  She bought some tinsel.  "And candles," she said.  "Candles are prettier than electric light."  She bought twelve red candles....And a tree should have some balls, thought Mrs. Jones, glass balls in jewel colors, ruby-red, emerald-green, and gold.  She bought some balls and a box of tiny silver crackers and a tinsel star.  When she got home she stood the tree in the window and dressed it, putting the star on top.  "Who is to look at it?" asked Mr. Jones.  Mrs. Jones thought for a moment and said, "Christmas needs children, Albert."  Albert was Mr. Jones's name.  "I wonder," said Mrs. Jones.  "Couldn't we find a little girl?"

7.  Imogene had the baby doll but she wasn't carrying it the way she was supposed to, cradled in her arms.  She had it slung up over her shoulder, and before she put it in the manger she thumped it twice on the back.  I heard Alice gasp and she poked me.  "I don't think it's very nice to burp the baby Jesus," she whispered, "as if he had colic."  Then she poked me again.  "Do you suppose he could have had colic?"

8.  "Greetings, greetings, greetings," said the three children.  "What's that about?" said Mrs. Rogers.  "You said to greet Aunt Myra with Carols," said ---.  "Here's Carol Lee, Carol Green, and Carol Lake."  "What lovely Carols," said Aunt Myra.  "Thank you."

9.  Santa Claus appeared to be rather doubtful.  But Harold confidently went to work lining up the reindeer.  Soon Prancer and Dancer were pawing at the snow, eager to be off around the world.  Harold wasn't quite certain of the names of the other reindeer.  But he made sure there were eight of them.  They were all handsome and spirited animals.

10.  It was past Vespers on Christmas Eve before C------ had time to make a brief visit to the town, to spend at least an hour with Aline, and take a gift to his two-year-old godson, a little wooden horse that Martin Bellecote the master-carpenter had made for him, with gaily coloured harness and trappings fit for a knight, made out of scraps of felt and cloth and leather by C------ himself...."I can stay no more than an hour," said C------, as the boy scrambled down again to play with his new toy.  "I must be back for Compline, and very soon after that begins Matins, and we shall be up all the night until Prime and the dawn Mass...."  When he noted the sand in the glass and rose to take his leave, he went out from the hall into the bright glitter of frost, and a vault of stars now three times larger than when first they appeared, and crackling with brilliance....This night, the eve of the Nativity, hung about the town utterly still and silent, not a breath to temper the bite of the frost.  Even the movements of such men as were abroad seemed hushed and almost stealthy, afraid to shake the wonder.

Answers will be posted when we get a good snowfall.  UPDATE:  I didn't mean that quite so literally...it started snowing the evening after I posted this, and we woke up with enough snow to shovel.  But you'll still have to wait for the answers.

A hidden crochet treasure at Cobbler's Cabin

Awhile back, Dollygirl and I tried crocheting 18-inch doll vests together--I would get a row done, then show her what to do next on hers.  We got partway through the pattern and then gave up--the way the pattern was written just didn't make sense.

Cobbler's Cabin has a free doll crochet pattern called "Western Gear," which includes a vest, and this one does work.  It's not for absolute beginners, but anyone who's okay with counting stitches should be able to handle it.  I added a couple of rows of single and double crochet and turned it into a short-sleeved sweater.

Not sure if we have a photo going yet of that; I'll post one when we do.  But I thought it was worth passing on anyway.

(If anyone tries the hat, I'd like to hear how that went!)

Funny shelfmates

I forgot to mention this from Wednesday's thrift store afternoon:  I was stacking some fiction books, and the first one I pulled out was Yann Martel's Life of Pi.  The next one was The Solitude of Prime Numbers, by Paolo Giordano.

Coincidence?  Or maybe they just belonged to the same person.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Thursday

Today's school plans:

Basic Bible Studies: "Christ as King" (we are skimming this a bit, but I don't feel like we have to go through Every Single Bible Reference to get the point of each topic)

Plutarch's Life of Pericles

Grammar and Composition; finish "How to Write Without Flab."

French: we need to get as much done as possible this week.
Shakespeare's Cymbeline

Work on term project

Readaloud: we are reading Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas, by Ruth Sawyer

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays

Dollygirl didn't come to the store with me today...things in the back room were pretty quiet (not only because she wasn't there).  We priced the last baskets of holiday books to go out, and I somehow came home with a one-dollar price tag stuck to my jeans.

At least it wasn't fifty cents.

What I brought home:  Refuse to Choose, by Barbara Sher; an Ellis Peters mystery (A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs); and a book about enjoying poetry.  Also a small painted bench for Dollygirl; not the park bench she'd had her eye on, that was gone; but a cute little thing for the dolls anyway.

Laugh for the day: Babe, the Dog Bunny?

Roscommon Acres is home to some unusual animals.

From the archives: Paradise Lost and other books to enjoy

First posted November 2006.

The Deputy Headmistress quoted today from The Delight of Great Books, by John Erskine, published in 1928. "He says in his first chapter that too often, 'a book is famous enough to scare off some people who, if they had the courage to open the pages, would find there delight and profit.' The remaining chapters hold his proofs of that statement as applied to specific books- Canterbury Tales, The Faerie Queene, Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, Candide, Modern Irish Poetry and The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, for example." Mortimer J. Adler says in How to Read a Book that "most of us are not aware of the loss we suffer by not making that effort [to read epic poetry]," although "any of these major epics exerts enormous demands on the reader--demands of attention, of involvement, and of imagination."

Katherine Paterson once wrote that she had just finished reading The Odyssey, and she couldn't figure out why nobody had ever told her before what a great book it was! Not a Great Book in the Great Books sense, but just a great book.

I've been thinking the same thing lately, especially since I started into Paradise Lost. (I've been temporarily distracted by re-reading Breathing Lessons, which is less ambitious but which was calling out for another read.) I keep running into all these marvellous quotes and images, and some of it is really funny--even the parts about Satan.

The fallen angels in Hell have a big council about whether or not they have any chance of getting revenge on God, and whether if they storm heaven's gates God might punish them. One of them says something like, "Well, what's He going to do? Send us to hell?" Eventually they decide that they don't have any chance of taking over Heaven, so the best thing they can do is get revenge through this new thing God is making-- "some new race, called Man, about this time To be created like to us, though less In power and excellence, but favoured more Of Him who rules above." So Satan volunteers to try to blast through the frontiers of Hell, and he runs into a particularly monstrous, ugly fiend blocking the way. He says, "Whence, and what art thou, execrable shape, That dares, though grim and terrible, advance Thy miscreated front athwart my way To yonder gates?...." The monster snaps back, "....Back to thy punishment, False fugitive; and to thy speed add wings, Lest with a whip of scorpions I pursue Thy lingering...."

This is real storytelling, even if you don't think you like stories about foul fiends and such things. And yes, Milton does do all kinds of rabbit trails not only into Biblical imagery but into classical mythology; and some of them, if you've read enough of the stories, you recognize with delight. Other references you could look up if you wanted to, but you don't have to--I just keep reading if I don't recognize whatever analogy he's making. (That's partly why I said in an earlier post that I think I enjoy this more now than I did in university.)

And this is the other thing I've found about enjoying books like Paradise Lost and The Odyssey--find an edition (and, for everything except Paradise Lost) a translation that you enjoy. We were given some Harvard Classics recently, including the volume of Milton, but I don't like reading it out of the HCs: the pages are too crispy and the print's too small. I like my big illustrated hardcover with the nice big print. (Like a little kid with a big book.) That doesn't apply just to epic poetry, by the way. One of the two books I brought home from the thrift shop last weekend was a very nice edition of Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. As in, the illustrator of The Wind in the Willows and other childrens' books. We have an Everyman paperback of The Vicar too, which isn't too exciting to look at; but this one almost yells to be read. But I digress. The point is that the greatest books of the Western world were never meant to be slow torture by boredom. If you can get beyond being scared off by the foul fiends of English classes past, they make good reading too.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's for supper? Sort of Chinese

Tonight's dinner menu:

Honey-garlic chicken
Rice noodles (free from neighbour)
Frozen stir-fry vegetable mix

Lemon poppyseed muffins, made to use up half a cup of lemon sauce in the fridge

The Festival of Frugality is up, plus a delicious-looking link

The Festival of Frugality, Thanksgiving Edition, is hosted this week at the FoF home page.

My favourite post:  Fun, Inexpensive Christmas Gifts You Can Make at Home, at Tackling Our Debt.  The Christmas Cookie Mix in a Jar looks nicely put together, and the baking instructions don't sound too difficult (although I'm wondering how the candies etc. hold up with the electric mixer?).  I think I might even try a batch for the holidays, not in a jar..

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cheap and Classic Cardboard Tutorial: 18-inch Doll Table and Chairs


Dollygirl's dolls have been needing a table, and chairs to go with it. Doll furniture is not something we see a lot of in local stores, and the online options (new and used) are generally expensive; nice, but expensive.  So Mama Squirrel came up with some almost-free alternatives.  We used what we had; you can adapt our plans for whatever dolls (or boxes) you have.

The table
The table base was made from the insert to a two-piece cardboard file box; that is, a corrugated cardboard box 12 inches long by 9 1/2 inches high, and 4 inches deep. 

You'll notice a small cutout on each side, which I used for the legs; that's optional.  I cut the 9 1/2 inches down slightly, to about 8 3/4 inches; otherwise it would have been just a bit too high for the dolls to sit at.  I realize that not everybody is going to have the insert to a file box; but I think you could find a cereal box or other cardboard food box that would be about the right size; go for the sturdiest you can find, and reinforce it with extra cardboard or a second box shoved inside, if you think it needs it (especially if your box is not corrugated cardboard).  Whatever box you use has to be both deep enough to be able to sit firmly on its edge, and strong enough to support the tabletop and whatever you want to put on the table.
I stuffed the box with crumpled newspaper, and glued a piece of scrap cardboard into the open space to hold the newspaper in (not shown in the photos).

I glued some decorative file-folder cardboard (we found several packages of fancy folders at a yard sale) to the top and sides. 

You could use scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or whatever else you have, and possibly add a coating of something like decoupage medium if it seems to need extra protection.  For our purposes, the folders were enough.

That's it for the base!

The tabletop is purposely not glued on, both for storage reasons and because I wanted to make it reversible.  I glued two of the decorative file folders (cutting off the tabs) to a piece of cereal-box cardboard, and then added clear sticky plastic on each side for protection (leaving a bit of overhang).  For the size of table base we had, a tabletop the size of a file folder was just right.  If your base is narrower, a smaller tabletop might work better.

Again, you could use any kind of decorative paper or even coloured sticky vinyl; something in woodgrain might be nice.  If I were doing it again, I think I might use stronger cardboard in the middle; because what we ended up with was not much heavier than a laminated placemat.  It does work all right (the dolls have been using it now for a few days), but a more solid core wouldn't hurt.

The chairs

Each chair was made from two pieces of a Dr. Oetker baking-mix carton; we picked up two for free at the supermarket.  They're made like thrones, both for sturdiness and to accommodate the sitting difficulties of dolls who don't have joints in all the normal human places. 

I cut a main piece from each carton, 10 1/2 inches high, 7 1/2 inches wide (although it spreads out to more like 8 inches at the open end), 5 inches deep, in the shape of a flat back with three sides; and a seat piece, same shape, 7 inches high, 7 1/2 inches wide, 5 inches deep. There were some flaps at the top of the carton, which I folded down inside the back and sides.  I slid the two parts together (didn't glue them), with the closed part of the bigger piece at the bottom, and the open part at the top.  The seat piece juts out a bit from the main piece, but I wanted it that way to give the dolls a good deep seat.  It's fine if the two pieces come from different boxes or otherwise don't match; you're going to slipcover them anyway.

I used part of a vintage white cotton bedsheet to make fitted slipcovers.  (Any medium-weight fabric would work fine.) This is MUCH easier than it sounds.  Once you have the cardboard pieces made, you use those to make the patterns, either on a large piece of paper or right on the backside of the fabric.  Trace around the back of the large piece; then flip it up and trace around it again for the matching front piece--leaving just a bit of space between the two to allow for the thickness of the cardboard.  Turn the cardboard on its side and trace each side twice, again allowing a small gap between pieces.  An optional bit I added on:  add a small amount to the very front, to make a flap that will go under the seat piece.  Add a quarter inch to the pattern edges and bottom for seam allowances.  Your pattern piece will look about like this:

The pattern piece I made for the smaller seat section was very similar:  I traced the top, then the front, then the sides.  I really should have traced the back as well, or at least a flap going partway down the back, because if you don't, you will end up with a bit of a loose edge at the back of the seat, when you put it together.  Add seam allowances and hem allowances (unless you're using a finished edge of the sheet, which is what I did here).  The pattern piece for the seat will look like this, without the back:

Here's what the fabric pieces look like, cut out, with the flap added to the large piece and the fourth side added to the seat piece.  You can tell the sheet was a bit wrinkled--I did iron it afterwards.


The sewing is what Adrian Mole would call dead easy.  Don't forget to turn the fabric inside out first.  On the seat piece, just sew up the side seams, then turn up the hem and zigzag that if you need to.  On the main piece, you will have two small seams that will end up on the very front edges of the chair.  If you're not sure where they go, try the slipcover on the chair, inside out, and pin the two seams closed before you sew.  Plus a hem--turn up a quarter inch and zigzag.  Don't hem the extra flap, if you made one; just start hemming at one side of it, work around, and stop when you get to the other side of the flap.

Slip the slipcovers on...

...put the two parts together...

...and that's it.  Oh--you might want to add some padding on the seat, between the slipcover and the cardboard.  You could glue some foam or batting onto the cardboard seat, but I just slipped a folded washcloth between the two.  One note: I did add a bit of tape to the back edges of the seat slipcover to help it stay put.  If you add the fourth side when you cut out the fabric, you won't need to do that.

The dolls are enjoying their new dining room!  (Dollygirl is going to take a photo of the whole thing plus dolls.)

All photos by Mr. Fixit.  Copyright 2012, Dewey's Treehouse.

Linked from Mad in Crafts Link Party #131.  Also linked from Festival of Frugality #366.

The HSBA winners are up



Here are the winners of the 2012 Homeschool Blog Awards.

Hint: they're not us!  But thank you to any of you who did send votes our way.  Here's the winner of the Thrifty category:  Gricefully Homeschooling.  Congratulations!

How was YOUR afternoon?

This turned out to be a strange sort of day.  Two of Dollygirl's friends are sisters; they go to a private school, which had no school today for some reason, and they invited her to come over for the afternoon.

Mr. Fixit got an email notification that we had missed a package delivery last Friday; that was impossible, since at the time they supposedly tried to deliver it, we would have been sitting in the kitchen eating supper, a few feet from the door.  But our address is similar to another one at the other end of town, and we've noticed that if you try to find our house on a GPS, the other place often comes up.  Anyway, the package got sent to a postal outlet at the other end of town (reason two to think that they probably just went to the wrong house). 

So we went and got the package.  And then we came back to our end of town and did a bank errand, which took two installments and a trip to the Starbucks next door while we waited for some paperwork.

And we went to one of the only stores in town that still sells Advent candles.  I haven't even been able to find generic purple and pink candles anywhere this year, so we went for the "official" kind.

We also bought a new book of Advent devotions,  while we were there, called Illuminate.  This one came out last year, and the same author has a newer book this year, Anticipate; but we liked the look of the first one better. 

Besides, it's our favourite Advent colour: blue.

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Last week of the term

We are on Week 12 of the 12-week term; next week is exams.  We do have a couple of "grace weeks" after that--the first two weeks of Term 2, before Christmas, can be used to finish off a few things that didn't get quite done.

Basic Bible Studies:  "Christ as Priest" (we will do "Christ as King" before Christmas as well)

God's Smuggler--continue, no hurry on this.  (Will Corrie accept Andrew's marriage proposal?)

Virgil's Aeneid, by N.B. Taylor--continue, no hurry.

The Hobbit:  done.

Robert Frost's poems:  winding this up.

Uncle Eric, chapter 13: "Cognitive Dissonance."

Grammar and Composition;  finish "How to Write Without Flab."

Math:  I think we will use this week to keep working on the distance-speed-time problems that we started last week.  There is a bonus page called "How fast does an astronaut travel?"

French:  we need to get as much done as possible this week.

Einstein biography:  ditto.  Although we're not going to get through it before exams...probably by Christmas, though.

Plutarch's Life of Pericles:  ditto, and ditto.

Shakespeare's Cymbeline:  ditto.

Canadian history:  this week's lesson is an easy one:  the Centennial in 1967.



Work on term project

Crafts, swimming lessons, drama club, and trying to get outside as long as this warmish weather lasts.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making it Christmas

This post is not about the spiritual side of Christmas, because that part of Christmas...the real, Joy-to-the-World Christmas... is there no matter what.

This is more about the fun stuff:  the gifts, the food, the trimmings.  The things that take time, take money, or just take thought. 
For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home. --W. J. Tucker
These are not necessarily--in fact they're almost never--the same as the things that are advertised.  They're certainly not along the lines of "buy her a diamond for Christmas."

For some people, Christmas trimmings are  new window blinds and ginger beer.
Marjorie Gibson is another Guyanese who believes that Christmas in the USA cannot even come near those she experienced in Guyana.
“In Guyana you would get up in the morning and look over at your neighbour to see what type of blinds (curtains) they put up, if they have new ones. Here the blinds could be up for the whole year and it does not matter,” Gibson stated....“We do have all the traditional Christmas food," [said Marilyn Harper.] "I try to make Christmas the way I remember it in Guyana. I have everything, my ginger beer, sorrel, the black cake as usual and everything.”--"U.S.-based Guyanese Dream of Christmas in the Motherland"
What has inspired your ideas about how to make Christmas?  Or what a really good Christmas would be...realistic or not?

For years, people said "Dickens' Christmas stories."  Plum pudding, holly and all that.  But I think in more recent years a more common answer has been the Little House on the Prairie books, slightly ad nauseum. Tin cups, mittens, and a stick of candy, and they were so happy!  For those who didn't bother to read the books, there was always that oh-so-sweet first-season T.V. episode.  And it is a classic, I admit.
Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts.--Lenora Mattingly Weber
However, much of Mama Squirrel's holiday inspiration has come from a smaller, stranger assortment of books and even magazine articles.  One was a Focus on the Family Magazine article, saved from a time before the Squirrellings were even thought of; it was an adaptation of the Advent and Christmas chapters in Together at Home, by Dean and Grace Merrill.  One was a book about Christmas in a lighthouse.  Another was Carolyn Haywood's Snowbound with Betsy.

Okay, okay, Mama Squirrel has never quite grown up?  But apparently I'm not the only one who fondly recalls the part where Betsy and the other snowbound children rummage through the storeroom for anything that might make good Christmas gifts.  They come up with all kinds of kid-made crafts, and then have a sort of bazaar and do their "shopping."


In The Light at Tern Rock, those who end up using a trunkful of stored-up holiday plunder aren't there by choice, but because of a trick by the man who filled up the trunk in the first place.  But never mind about the deceitful lighthouse keeper for now...it's the trunk that interests me, and it's an image that often comes to mind when I'm storing away things like the cans of cranberry sauce I bought on sale today, or a package of candles, or a crocheted bookmark.  Who's the bookmark for?  Sometimes I don't even know...I just keep filling the pantry shelf, and the box under the bed (or wherever it is), here and there.  Then it's just as much fun pulling everything out again and figuring out:  yes, there's enough chocolate for Quick Fruit and Nut Fudge...I still have lots of that Spa Blue Fleck, enough to make a quick pair of slippers (yes, I do know who those are for)....I saw some cool plaid ornaments in the Chapters Christmas flyer, and I bet I could make something like that with the felt and Wonder-Under in the craft stash...then the slippers and ornaments themselves become part of the box.

Everyone's "box" is different.  For one family, it's filled with MCC and World Vision catalogues, the ones where a donation pays for goats, soccer balls, clean water.  Their children spend days figuring out what they can give this year.  (Definitely beats the big gimme catalogue.)

And if you get to December and the box is still too empty to look like Christmas?

Then you read, or re-read, Little House in Brookfield (not the abridged version, please) and give thanks for Christmas bread.  Sing a few choruses of "Christmas Day is in our grasp, So long as we have hands to clasp." And maybe read this practical post by the Prudent Homemaker: Christmas on a Zero Budget.


As a postscript to this, there's one other magazine article I saved from several years back.  It also appeared in the Chicken Soup books, and I found a version of it online.  It's about a mother and two little girls who were given a Christmas food box during a difficult year--but the girls, not understanding how "poor" they were, decided to give the whole thing away to a neighbor who was even worse off. ("Even her dog was sick.")  The mother's immediate reaction was "Stop! You're giving away our Christmas!"  Then she thought again: no, that is how you make it Christmas.

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. - Peg Bracken.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Thursday and Friday

What did we do yesterday?

Math questions about travelling on a high-speed elevator; read  "Uncle Eric" chapter 12, "How to Control People"; finished The Hobbit; read some of the Einstein chapter about relativity.  Went to the craft store and walked home together.



Dollygirl made the connection between God's Smuggler and this quote from Uncle Eric:
"I have noticed a pattern among tyrants.  When they come to power, they first seize people's guns, then news organizations, and then schools.  Schools seem to be the most important prize because once a tyrant controls schools, he does not need to control much because he controls the models."
Never say that homeschoolers don't learn anything.

And what are we doing today?

Opening time:  singing a hymn and "The Maple Leaf Forever" (because it's Friday and we sing patriotic songs on Fridays).


("The Maple Leaf Forever" doesn't start until about 1:15, after "Land of Hope and Glory.")

Plutarch's Life of Pericles, Lesson 6 (yes, we are still behind on this).  "Pericles was also something like the manager of a multi-national corporation, in this case the Athenian empire. His city-state had gained power over more and more of the cities around the Mediterranean; he managed one of the biggest naval powers around; Athens had become kind of a supreme-court center where cases from other parts of the empire were judged; and he was responsible for a great deal of public money. How did he cope with his increasing responsibilities? What were the strategies that created his "winning season?""

Playing the beam-of-light board game one more time (from a kit), because Dollygirl requested it.

A French lesson.

A history lesson: the death of John F. Kennedy.

Continuing to work through "How to Write Without Flab."

A couple more math questions about elevators and other things that go fast.

In the afternoon: Drama Club.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What's for supper? A mishmash

Tonight's dinner menu:

Pasta shells with cream cheese and spinach
Baked sweet potatoes
Frozen chicken pies (for those who prefer some meat with a meal)

Banana muffins
Pears and oranges

Tips to keep your frugal food gifts from bombing

As you can see from one of last year's gift baskets, when we give food, we often give packaged treats rather than homemade: tea, coffee, apple butter, popcorn, chocolate, and things like pickled beets canned at a small vegetable market that only opens from spring through fall--so by Christmas, it's impossible to buy them. We like to be able to give an assortment of things, especially to family members who live alone and wouldn't really appreciate, say, a whole box of fudge.

But we have often given small homemade food gifts to friends, Sunday School teachers, and neighbors.  Some ideas we've tried (besides the obvious plates of cookies) are salad topper mixes (like trail mix except you sprinkle it on salads); Cider Beetles; homemade mixes for coffee and hot chocolate; peeled garlic cloves in a jar of honey; peeled and sliced ginger root in a jar of honey; herb mixes for salad dressing.  One year I made up bags of the dry ingredients for Beer Bread.  (I didn't include the beer.) We've given away jars of things we've canned ourselves: jam, apple butter, and, one year, pumpkin butter.  We have given (and received) special health-food items...those expensive natural sweeteners, organic nut butters, and other healthy-but-gourmet ingredients can make good (and still relatively frugal) gifts.  Ethnic groceries often have interesting possibilities too.

But not every food gift is a felicitous choice.  Here are a few tips, especially for giving homemade mixes, that may save time, embarrassment, and/or food waste.

1.  This should go without saying, but check carefully for allergies or other dietary requirements, especially if the gift is for someone you don't know well.  You don't want to be like Muffy's father, cheerfully bringing a ham to the (Jewish) Frenskys.

Even personal tastes and preferences can change from time to time. Several friends who used to be coffee drinkers now ask for herbal tea (one of those midlife things?), so I'm less likely to be making coffee mixes.

2.  Put best-before dates and storage instructions on mixes and baked goods.  Baking mixes that contain baking powder are said to lose quality after a certain time; brown sugar can also go lumpy and hard after awhile.  Also, please list the ingredients, if it's a mix:  see #1.  Surprises are not always welcome.

3.  Some homemade mixes come with baking or cooking directions that are too difficult for the recipients, require them to buy too many extra ingredients, or just make too much at once, like a salad dressing recipe that makes more than one person could eat in a month.  Look for instructions that give alternate amounts, or that suggest variations.  I have one soup mix recipe that calls for mixing the dry ingredients with sausage, onion, carrots, etc.; but I've made it up just with water or broth, and it's still pretty good.

4.  Some layers-in-a-jar ideas, like soup mixes, call for layering need-to-be-washed ingredients like beans, lentils, or brown rice directly with other ingredients.  If it's something that should be rinsed before cooking, then figure out an alternative, like putting the spices in a sandwich bag.

5.  Try not to give people things they already make themselves.  Somebody who makes a lot of jam may not appreciate a jar of yours--unless she gave all hers away as gifts.  So you never know.

BONUS UPDATE:  It's not Christmas yet, but I can post this here because my oldest won't see it--I'm pretty sure she's too busy studying for exams to be browsing through month-old blog posts.  So anyway...she asked me for a muffin pan to fill out some of her off-campus kitchen gear, and that was easy enough.  But I added some other things to make it a Coffee-and-a-Muffin Kit, and now it takes up the whole lid of a paper carton.  I made up four Ziploc bags full of dry ingredients for family-favourite muffins, plus cards with instructions for what else to add.  I added in a few sandwich-sized bags of chocolate chips, walnuts, cinnamon-plus-brown-sugar, and raisins.  There's also a small coffee can full of the Hillbilly Housewife's Vanilla Coffee Mix (figures, my university student is one of the few people left I can give coffee mix to), and a mug.  I'm not a fancy scrapbooker, but I managed to print out a label for the coffee, tags for the mixes, and a full-size label for the whole thing, using a photo I found online.  I tried to colour-co-ordinate the whole thing--mostly blues, blue for the tags, a blue coffee mug, and so on; and I found a big piece of clear basket wrap in our stash of recycled giftwrap.  In spite of the fact that it's sitting in the lid of a paper carton, I think it all looks pretty good.

P.S.  After I got the whole thing put together and then wrapped in a dollar-store plastic tablecloth (the only thing I could find that was big enough), I realized that I left out the package of walnuts.  So I'm going to wrap that up separately with a tag that says "oh, nuts."

Linked from Four Moms discuss Food for Gift Giving

Thrift store Wednesdays: of customers and books

As the little girl on Noddy used to say, "It was a busy day in Toyland..."  I had people asking for home renovation books, A.A. books, Ideals books (we made some guy very happy with a pile of those)...about the only person I didn't see was the man who asks for books about cathedrals.  (No, we didn't get any of those in.)

What I didn't find:  any of the small things on my Christmas brainstorming list.

What I did bring home:  Martha Stewart's Good Things for Organizing; John Buchan's John Macnab (just a Wordsworth Classics paperback); A History of Chesley Lake Camp (gift for a family member, probably); and a really interesting book called 'Twas Seeding Time: A Mennonite View of the American Revolution, by John L. Ruth, published in 1976 (oh, I get it--the Bicentennial).

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Wednesday

Plans for today:

Opening time and CD of the Week (a combination of Pictures at an Exhibition, La Mer, and Pavane pour une infante defunte)

Albert Einstein biography:  wow, this one is a bit of a tough go in the middle!  I mean, obviously, it's a biography of Einstein, so what do you expect...but there's quite a lot of science to chew on, around Chapter Seven.

Minds on Math 8:  Read through the sample problems on page 120.  On page 121,  work through problems 4 and 5 together.  On page 122, do problems 8 and 9 on your own.  For more help with speed problems, refer to page 73 in The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Maths.

Canadian History:  the 1950's, "Home in the Suburbs," "New Canadians"

French

The Aeneid

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What's for supper? Meatballs

Tonight's dinner menu:

Meatballs with cranberry-chili sauce, a classic recipe that I've never actually tried here, but I did have a partly-used jar of chili sauce and a can of cranberry sauce, so why not?

Basmati rice in the slow cooker

Canned green beans

Brownies, because I had to make some for church anyway

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Tuesday

Oh, those best-laid plans...I had everything laid out for yesterday's school, and then we got waylaid by a box...a big box of Dollygirl's old, stashed stuff that needed to be cleaned out (and mostly dumped), and that kept her busy on the floor while I read out loud what could be read out loud, plus an extra chapter of God's Smuggler

When the box was almost at its end, I happened to mention something about Hansel and Gretel: an Opera Fantasy, and Dollygirl said that she couldn't remember ever watching it.  The older girls saw it more than once, but I guess she was too young to remember it.  We put the video in and spent 72 minutes watching Hansel and Gretel, while Dollygirl finished emptying the box.

So there were a few things yesterday that we didn't get to, mostly the ones (like Shakespeare, and browsing the birdwatching guide) that would have required Dollygirl to lose cleaning momentum.

Today's plans do not include a box.

They do include:

Bible study

Cymbeline

French

Browsing through Peter Menzel's Material World, which we borrowed from a friend since our library system no longer has a copy  (counts as geography)

Minds on Math 8:  continue the chapter on proportion and scaling

Einstein biography

Composition and Grammar:  continue "How to Write Without Flab."

The Aeneid of Virgil.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What's for supper? Quick and easy

Tonight's dinner menu:

Slow-cooker split pea soup
Pepperoni Pizza Muffins

Bananas, yogurt, or whatever comes to hand for dessert

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Plans for Monday

Opening time:  hymn, prayer.  Pick "CD of the week" (preferably something instrumental) that we can listen to and get familiar with during work times.

Basic Bible Studies, "Christ the Mediator--His Work: Prophet", page 35.   What is a prophet? Look at Luke 13:33 (Christ says he is a prophet), Deut. 18:15, 18, (the Messiah would be a prophet), John 1:18 (Christ was not just a prophet, he is a unique prophet).

Shakespeare:  continue Cymbeline.  Act III, Scene III:  we are introduced to Imogen's long-lost brothers...but they don't know their true identities.  Scene IV:  Imogen finds out that Pisanio has brought her to a lonely place with orders to kill her--but he doesn't want to do that, and he has a plan to get them both off the hook.

French:  Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon, Act II, Scene V.  Armand has saved the life of M. Perrichon, putting him several points ahead in the race to win the attention of Perrichon's daughter.  Daniel decides that he has to do something to catch up.

Minds on Math 8:  pages 114-115,  "On an Average Day."  Try doing a Google search for "On an average day in Canada."  WARNING ABOUT THIS VIDEO:  I had put this up as a bit of a joke for Dollygirl, since she had seen it before and knew that it wasn't exactly about an "average day."  As Jeanne pointed out, some people will find it offensive.  Please be warned.



Lorimer Pocket Guide to local birds:  browse through it together

Composition and Grammar:  start working through "How to Write Without Flab."  (This is a good writing unit, but only subscribers to ABCTeach can print it out.  I downloaded it a couple of years ago when we had a trial membership.)

History Pack of Tricks

Story of the World Volume 4, chapter 35b, "Thirteen Days in October."

Work on history term project.

Doll clothes, sleeping bags, and a neat armoire

Miss Maggie at Springfield Collection Dolls recently did a roundup post of places to find free doll clothes patterns online.  There's also a great list of projects and patterns here.

Yesterday's Handmade Holidays post at SewMamaSew linked to two more patterns:   a ruffled skirt and top, and a doll sleeping bag and pillow tutorial at PolkaDotChairOld Days Old Ways also has a sleeping bag project, inspired by one for littler toys on Obsessively Stitching.

And here's one I bet even Dollygirl hasn't seen:  Gold Shoe Girl shows how she converted a thrifted jewelry box (the kind with doors and drawers) into a funky purple doll armoire for her eight-year-old.  For $11.  Smart and frugal.

Is that enough to keep all the doll people happy?

Friday, November 09, 2012

From the archives: Great Holiday Expectations

First posted November 2007

Meredith posted on Frugal Hacks about the disappointing discovery that many of her creative-but-frugal gifts had been shoved into someone's back closet or were on their way to the thrift shop. She took this as a learning experience for herself and says she has therefore decided to focus more on what people say they really want or need.

I say rats. (To them.)

Now if Meredith was a stingy person or lacked taste; if she was in the habit of giving "jars filled with potpourri and Christmas lights," as one of the commenters said; or of regifting something awful or of giving made-in-you-know-where ornaments from the dollar store, then that would make sense.

But those of us who read Like Merchant Ships regularly know what a talented, thoughtful and creative person Meredith is. This is a lady who actually notices what her back porch looks like before company comes, and someone who can put a cake-and-flowers gift together on short notice as easily as she caters an office party. If I were within Meredith's gift-giving circle and she made me a gift such as she described, I hope I'd be smart enough to appreciate it.

In other words, Meredith, I don't think the problem is all on your end.

However, I have noticed the same issue here more than once. There is an agenda to a lot of peoples' expectations of gift giving and gift getting, and it revolves around this: not that you took the time to knit them something, or found them one of those super-cool frugal-friend presents like a 25-cent used book they've always wanted, but that you Showed It With Cash. And with an exchangeable receipt, preferably.

And then there are the people whose "wants and/or needs" will never be met in this lifetime because whatever it is, it isn't the right thing.
Debbie Jellinsky: All I ever wanted was a Ballerina Barbie. In her pretty pink tutu. [Here's] my Birthday, I was 10, and do you know what they got me? MALIBU. Barbie.
Morticia: Malibu Barbie.
Gomez: The nightmare.
Morticia: The nerve.
You cannot make up for all the Malibu Barbie post-traumatic stress disorder out there, and it's not up to you to try.

Like the homeschooling or gentle parenting or green sub-cultures (which often cross over with this one), the dollar-Christmas or simple-holiday movements can become our norm, and we sometimes forget what else is out there. We may think we're focusing nicely on the spiritual aspects of a holiday, chatting it up on the simplicity/crafty/SAHM blogs, and not realize that people outside this mindset can actually feel insulted by a handmade or inexpensive gift. I've notice that same thing at wedding and baby showers, those parties that used to be for-the-fun-of-it and where you got pickled eggs, potholders, receiving blankets, booties that wouldn't stay on, from your mother's old friends who came because they remember you when you were a little girl...now the shower presents are bigger than the wedding presents used to be. And you sit there with your little homemade potholder and feel like a schmuck.

Call me cynical, but again, whose problem is that? Does that mean that you are, from now on, obligated to bring shower gifts only from big-box stores, and that each and every holiday on the calendar shall be represented not only by a card-store card (definitely not the dollar store kind) but also an appropriate Thing from a store flyer?

I agree with Meredith that, if you're in a position to ask what someone would really prefer, then go for it, and that's between you and them, even if they want something strange. You never know, maybe they do like your cookie-mix-in-a-jar. Or maybe, as somebody pointed out, the most appreciated gift would be drive-through gift certificates, or a roll of stamps. Sometimes, though, it's not possible to ask, and you're in the position of juggling your budget, your principles, and your desire to make someone happy or at least not make them resent you for giving them another Thing that they will now have to display or store or that their kids will use to destroy the house.

We don't live in a Fraggle Pebble society. But emotion-charged holidays aren't the time to attempt to re-educate people either. My sole piece of advice to anyone facing this holiday disconnect is to live as honestly as you can the rest of the year (within sight of your gift-givees); and even (if possible) to give them other small things through the year, on other occasions or just because you're thinking of them. Like something you saw at a yard sale that you KNOW they would like. Then, even if they don't fully appreciate your version of holiday gifts, they'll just figure it's another well-meant attempt from their crackpot cousin.

Making holiday gifts: forwards or backwards

I've already mentioned the Sixth Annual Handmade Holidays posts at Sew Mama Sew.  These posts run all during this month, so today's post is November 9: Deck the Halls.  Most of the crafts they feature are sewing projects:  ornaments, cushions, kitchen stuff, tote bags, toys and so on.  But each post also has a link to printables (like gift tags), and links to other stuff like new craft books.

Getting Freedom is also posting a Homemade Christmas series, but she's doing it backwards (starting at 50).  Today's post (46) is a recipe for Bath Salts.  I liked her Framed Family Recipe too (#47, yesterday's post).

Count up, count down--it's all good.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

What's for supper? Good for what ails you

Or me, as the case may be.

Chicken thighs Adobo, in the slow cooker
Rice
Frozen mixed veg with peppers, asparagus, spinach, and things like that

Fancy-glass desserts made of the last bits of banana bread, a sliced banana, and a little dollop of fudge sauce made of some chocolate chips microwaved with a bit of cream.

Thrift Store Wednesdays: Dumpsters and more

Guess what I priced today?  A copy of John Hoffman's The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving, the book reviewed in The Tightwad Gazette II.  I had never seen a copy before.  It had a big crease in the cover, and that would normally mean recycle, but in this case I thought it was worth making an exception.  Actually, Dollygirl noticed it already sorted into a basket of kids' books.  Um, no.  The cover does look a bit cartoonish, but the language and subject matter are definitely adult, as in, frequently offensive.  But I'm sure someone will snap it up.

What I brought home:

Clouds of Witness & The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers: a bind up of two Lord Peter mysteries

The Decorative Gift Boxes, by Jane Thomson: a book of punch-out paper boxes

The Nothing Album: an oversize hardcover book of blank paper, with its 1970's dust jacket still intact.  Seriously.  I can think of at least ten things to use it for.  Or it would make a fun gift.

This is the regular-sized version:

Up in the Treehouse

Making:  a Christmas stocking, this pattern

Watching:  Dorothy L. Sayers' Gaudy Night, the 1987 TV version.  Shows like that take us a few nights.

Fighting:  a cold.  Or something.  "My eyes are juicy," as Amanda Pig says.

Eating:  Wheat-Free Banana Oatmeal Bread, from a recipe posted on The Common Room.  I baked it this time in a 9 x 13 pan, but I've also done it in muffin tins and it works fine that way.

Planning:  chicken in the slow cooker, for when we get home from the thrift store tonight.  If I get there.

Writing:  a new Charlotte Mason column for a Canadian homeschool magazine.  Glad that's done.

Frustrated:  Trying to put the right HTML code for an HSBA Nominee button into our sidebar.  It's not working.

Thankful:  that one of Mr. Fixit's friends gave him a tip on fixing our cranky, rapidly-aging furnace, and now it's happy again.  (One small part needed replacing, and it was not even specially a furnace part.)

Monday, November 05, 2012

Dollygirl's Grade Six: Where We're At

We are in the tenth week of our twelve-week term, so time is starting to feel a little tight, especially because many of the Term One books for Year Six don't cross over into the next term.  Year Six is divided into a study of the twentieth century (Term One) and ancient history (Terms Two and Three).  So there's a more-than-usual sense that we had better get moving.

How have we been doing on the real, actual, Ambleside Online Year Six books? (Note: please see the AO Year Six page for the official version, with all terms and options included.)

Bible Study

No specific study guide or curriculum is given, but we are using Francis Schaeffer's Basic Bible Studies.

World History

Story of Mankind or Child's History of the World:  we aren't doing either of these, because Story of the World was enough along with Canadian history

Story of the World, Vol 4: The Modern Age by Susan Wise Bauer pgs 244-474:  we are up to page 385, so we'll have to pick and choose from the last decades of the 20th century.

History Tales and/or Biography

"Select a book from the Free Reading selections":  we chose God's Smuggler, and it probably won't be finished this term, but we'll just continue with it.

Science

AO Year 6 suggestions:  It Couldn't Just Happen by Lawrence Richards; Secrets of the Universe: Discovering the Universal Laws of Science by Paul Fleisher, or his newer books, etc.  We substituted The Great Motion Mission for this term (we had already read It Couldn't Just Happen), and we're done reading the main story although there is much more you could do with the book.  For the remaining three weeks, we'll focus on the Einstein biography (below), and do a few hands-on activities relating to the light and sound concepts we've read about.  Dollygirl also went to a program at the local airport, about the science of flight.

Science Biography

Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by Robert Cwiklik:  we're about halfway through this, but if we push a bit, we can finish it.

Natural History / Nature Study

School of the Woods by William J. Long:  this has not been a great success with Dollygirl, for various reasons.  It's supposed to extend into Term Two, but I think that would be prolonging the misery, so we'll move on.

As far as outdoor exploration goes...the weather has been pretty rotten this fall, and that's all I have to say about it.

Plutarch's Lives

We have finished only four of the twelve lessons from the Life of Pericles, but if we keep going until the Christmas break, we can probably get done.

Shakespeare Play

We are partway through Cymbeline.

Mythology

Instead of Bulfinch's Age of Fable, we are reading N.B. Taylor's retelling of The Aeneid.  It's good reading, but you can't go too fast--we will probably continue this into next term.

Geography

The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding:  We substituted some more general geography material for this term.

Poetry

Term One: Robert Frost :  We have been reading Frost's book of poems You Come Too, along with Robert Frost: America's Poet.

Literature (Novels)
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien:  The AO schedule actually allows 16 weeks for this book, but we're ahead on it.

Picture Study and Composer Study

The trip to the Emily Carr exhibit was pretty much the end of our term's artist study.  We focused on art this term and let music go, except for singing.

Additional Books for Free Reading

Out of the "official" suggested extra reading list, Dollygirl has read (in this term) Number the Stars (on audiobook), and some of The Ark...that's about it. She has been re-reading some books of her own choice, such as Melissa Wiley's Martha and Charlotte books; and she read Naomi's Road, a Canadian book about Japanese internment during WWII.

Additional Subjects and Books not on the AO Schedule

French, Math, Composition and Grammar, Life Skills, Handicrafts:  Term goals for these aren't spelled out in the AO curriculum, so we are just continuing on.

Citizenship:  We are reading the first "Uncle Eric" book, and will continue with that.

Canadian history:  We are reading from Janet Lunn's Story of Canada, and have supplemented that with local references, newspaper clippings, and books such as Hana's Suitcase.

Miscellaneous Stuff:  Volunteering, drama group, swimming lessons.

Summing Up

We haven't done too badly this term; I said "we" deliberately, since Dollygirl may be the one doing schoolwork, but I am usually the one trying to keep us on track.  There are only so many school hours in the day!  I think that the next two terms will be more of a challenge to keep up with:  Greek and Roman history, plus The Sea Around Us, Animal Farm, and other new books.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Free is always nice

Amy Dacyczyn once said, "For me, it's fun to take money out of the equation."

It's even more fun when you're not expecting it.

Here are a few freebies that we've come across recently.

1.  Free admission to a large art gallery, on the last weekend of the Emily Carr exhibition.  This gallery offers free admission on particular days during the month, none of which worked for us, so we were expecting (and willing) to pay the full price.  But since they were officially "between exhibits," admission was free all weekend; we just had to pay for parking.  If you want to take the chance of waiting until near the end of something--or love an exhibit and wish you could go back--this might be worth checking out at your own local gallery or museum.

2.  Free bags of snack mix from the farm stand, when Mr. Fixit and Dollygirl went out to buy pumpkins.  The farm stand --really a small market--closes for the season on the last day of October, and they had last-minute discounts and giveaways.

3.  Free for Kindle right now:  Make Your Own Kindle Cover - VOLUME 2 - THE SLIGHTLY MORE CHALLENGING (BUT STILL SUPER-EASY) COVERS (Fun, Easy, (And Cheap) No-Sew Kindle Covers For The Frugal Do-It-Yourselfer) by Evie Grundler.

4.  Basically-free Hallowe'en costumes for Squirrelings:  Ponytails wore a pair of taped-up glasses, a necktie, and one of Mama Squirrel's sweaters, and said she was a nerd.  The Apprentice wore a hat, coat and handknitted scarf to science class, and said she was the Fourth Doctor.  (Some of her friends showed up as later Doctors.)  Dollygirl made herself a cat costume from a pair of black pants and a Hello Kitty sweater, and she made ears to match her doll's.

5.  Basically-free Hallowe'en costumes for Dollygirl's dolls.  Not something we do every year, but we had fun making small-size dressups this time.

6.  A source of free boxes for shipping Mr. Fixit's restored radios.  In the good old days, "free boxes" would have sounded like a no-brainer.  These days, they're as scarce as paper grocery bags.  One store offered to SELL him their empties, for several dollars apiece.  (No thanks.)  But he did manage to find one place where they'd rather give him the boxes than go to the trouble of taking them out behind the store and smashing them up.

7.  A free haircut for Mr. Fixit, since the Apprentice is home for the weekend.  And that's a Good Thing.  (That she's home, I mean.)

8.  (Bonus freebie)  Free radio entertainment, one of our favourite diversions...music AND stories.  (Does anyone else out there still listen to Adventures in Odyssey reruns?) We especially like AM740's Theatre of the Mind, classic radio dramas that come on at 10:00 every night.  (We get to listen to them on the vintage radios Mr. Fixit is testing.) Not for young kids (Bill Cosby wasn't the only person to have his pants scared off by radio shows), but it can be a fun way to unwind--and you can crochet or whatever while you're listening.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Time to vote! (It's Up Now!)

Thank you for nominating us for Best Thrifty Homeschooler Blog, and for Best Encourager!  Click on the link to see the list of nominees, and the rules for voting.

Join Me at The Homeschool Post!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

These. Are. Not. Toys: a rant on November the first

Another way you know it's the day after Hallowe'en: a pile of toy ads in the paper, including one from a major discount department store that is not going to be asking me anytime soon to be one of its blogging moms.

It's 32-page flyer, and almost without exception, every toy in there is junk.  J U N K.  These are not even toys.  They're a next-summer's trip to the thrift store, if they last even that long.

OK, there are a few exceptions.  The Lego Adventure Camper and Lego Friends sets look like good play value for the money.  A couple of games.  I'm trying to be fair.  But almost everything else in there reminds me of genetically modified tomatoes:  something's just not right.

I honestly think you can go to that same Large Store and find toys on the shelf that are less glitzy but more fun.  But if not, might I respectfully suggest that you consider supporting any independent retailer of your choice who stocks playground balls, dolls of normal body proportions, construction toys that don't require remotes, quality art supplies, and other toys that do not involve the words "light up," "interactive," or "autopsy?"

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