Thursday, November 15, 2018

From the archives: What violence kills

From a post in November 2015

I read an interesting blog post recently: Simone Weil and Homer, by David Beardsley, on the Circe Institute blog. This is the part that struck me:
"By not making the clear connection to the one war, however, she made a clear connection to all War; to the eternal process that is inevitable when one country, one sect, one person, seeks domination.

"She also describes those moments of love that do break through the 'monotonous desolation:' hospitable, filial, brotherly, conjugal, even the friendship that can occur between mortal enemies such as Achilles and Priam.  'These moments of grace,' she says, 'are rare in the Iliad, but they are enough to make us feel with sharp regret what it is that violence has killed and will kill again.'”

The Intentional Thrifter: What is it? Shrug.

I bought something just for fun at the thrift store. It's a beige-ish knit cocoon shrug, about the same colour as our carpet. 

I'm not quite sure about that shade of beige--it's a bit tricky for me to wear, somewhere between cool and warm territories.

The fun part, though, is that a cocoon shrug is designed as a flat rectangle with two gaps for the armholes. If you fold it flat, you have an infinity scarf.
I think I like it better that way!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Six Weeks Till Christmas: Stop, Look, and Listen

In just under six weeks, those of us who observe Christmas will find it upon us again. The season of Advent begins on December 2nd.

I chose that word "observe" deliberately. Its roots mean "to watch." Sometimes it means to comment, sometimes it means to watch silently. Sometimes it also means to follow a rite, or respond to a rule. There's a distinction between being an observant child and an observant Christian.

The subway warning "Mind the Gap" implies both observing a physical reality and heeding the cautions of those who are concerned with our safety. It includes a verb, something we're supposed to do, even if that's only keeping our eyes open.  As that other childhood rule said, "Stop, Look, and Listen." We passively observe the days, months, years flying past, and there's nothing we can do about that. Even if we watch attentively, it doesn't slow them down. But we also observe by doing something to mark the seasons. To say that we've noticed, whether it's by marking a Calendar of Firsts or by addressing a stack of Christmas cards.

The Jewish world has just celebrated its New Year; and in the church year, the long season of post-Pentecost, post-everything-else is drawing to a close. In our part of the world, the days are getting shorter and the sky is often grey with threats of snow.  Of course the stores have jumped ahead with Christmas, but in our private (or communal) calendars, we can choose not to turn the page just yet.
What do you do in these last pre-Advent days? How do you observe them? Do you try to catch up, make up for lost time? Or are you preparing madly for December? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Hard question for the day

"Human beings perceive life in its physical, social, and political dimensions as having evolved in steps and stages, not as being assembled and constructed from distinct pieces according to a specific design or blueprint. Sequence and consequence are intimately connected in the human mind; can one let go of sequence and maintain the notion of consequence, let alone accountability?" ~~ Ursula M. Franklin, The Real World of Technology (revised edition, 1999)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

For Peace Sunday


Now the emptiness of ages proclaims the promised birth.
Hope to help unhappy hearts.
Love to light the earth.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace.
For to us a Son has been given,
to us the Lord is born.
He will govern with justice and joy, consoling those who mourn,
And He shall be called Comforter,
He shall be called Peace.

Streams will wash away the desert as He goes passing by
Those in need will turn to Him
He will hear their cry.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace.
He will lead His flock like a shepherd and call us each by name.
He will walk in the favor of God,
and we shall do the same.
And He shall be called Comforter,
He shall be called Peace.

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

The Treehouse Gift Giving Guide, 2018

All my favourite bloggers and websites seem to be doing gift guides right now, so I thought I'd share some blog love and also post my own ideas.

What sorts of things do your people want and need? If you're trying to be practical, think about measuring tools, living-with-snow tools (especially if they have houses or vehicles), or tools that help you reach things up or down (like stepladders and long pincher-things). Think about home things that get worn out, like towels and sheets and scissors. Think about dark places that need more light, or messy places that need hooks, or faded places that need paint. Think about pets that need vacation-sitting or supplies (a gift card?), or closets that need organizing. (Only if they really want you to!)

The Zero Waste Bulk store is one Canadian source of alternative sustainable items, like bamboo toothbrushes, which could make good stocking stuffers. They include an interesting article on their site about frugal handmade alternatives to the alternatives.  (There used to be a Canadian baby-gear vendor that generously included readers' tips for ways to not need their products.) Putting a sock over a Mason jar as a substitute travel mug might not be something you would give as a gift, but it is a good reminder that even a sustainably-made new thing is still a new thing, and maybe you could find an already-existing thing that works just as well.

Handmade Holidays is back this year on Sew Mama Sew! I like the link they included to a no-sew plaid blanket scarf, on their post Gifts for Girlfriends. More details on the Alice and Lois website.

How about giving someone a Pursuit of Ideas poster from Circe Institute? [Oh no--they're out of stock--sorry. Maybe a subscription to their journal Forma instead?] Or paying for them to take an online course, or to register for a virtual educational event (or a real one)?

The Vivienne Files posted an accessories gift guide with a reminder that you can often find unique jewelry (and other gift items) at museum and gallery gift shops. Plus you are supporting those places and/or the artists who create the gifts. That's a win. (Where else are you going to find Lawren Harris coffee mugs?)

The 2018 Green Gift Guide at My Green Closet includes a variety of things, including (like The Vivienne Files) gifts from The Met Store, and one item from Ten Thousand Villages (Canadian site, American site). If you're browsing TTV, look especially at products made by Noah's Ark in India. One of the Noah's Ark specialties is recycled metal, and we have several pieces from them ourselves including a table, a recycled-iron owl (no longer available), and a nativity silhouette. Canadian Ten Thousand Village stores also sell tiny fair-trade chocolate bars from Divine Chocolate. (Treehouse-tested and approved.)

Canadian songwriter Steve Bell has a new set of devotional books, The Pilgrim Year, based on the seasons of the church year. You can also buy them individually, and there's an accompanying CD with music selected from previous albums. Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker has a new book coming out in December. Jan Karon has a brand new book too, and it's also available as an audiobook. Or maybe your giftee would like Karen Swallow Prior's On Reading Well, which is getting positive reviews all over the place.
(Where do you buy your books these days? I used to post links to deals from Hampstead House Books, but they have closed shop after forty years in business. If you have a local indie store, consider supporting them. And don't forget to thrift.)
If your friend or loved one prefers e-books or listening-with-earbuds books, there are all kinds of choices. Here's one that you can currently only get for Kindle: Hallelujah, an Advent devotional by Cindy Rollins and friends. CM educators, have you heard about the Common Place Quarterly? Or how about giving a subscription to one of the two e-zines published by Becoming MinimalistSimplify Magazine and Simple Money? Or sending for a hard copy of one of Fashion Revolution's fanzines?

And for the person who has's a variation on buying in-your-name farm or rescue animals or just making a donation to a local charity. How about a promise to log some extra volunteer hours at an organization you both support, as your gift to them?

Happy holiday planning!

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Winter is coming

Last week I shuffled a few things out of my closet and back to the thrift store. The had-pity-on-it-for-$2.50 purple suede skirt: it was just too heavy, literally. Last winter's grey cardigan: also too heavy for the places I find myself, and I've discovered I like sweaters a bit shorter and with more shape. A top that was too tight, a couple of other things that weren't working...back where they came from.

In return I picked out a grey wool midi skirt (all my other skirts are short). Wool skirts don't come my way often, so I'm happy about that. It makes me feel Charlotte-Mason-approved.
I also found a cardigan and a sort-of-houndstooth blazer, after my most recent thrift shift. The cardigan was sorted with the "outerwear," but it's just medium-heavy. It buttons only at the bottom, giving it some drape and shape.
 I added a extra hook and eye to close it near the top.
There are no labels in it at all, so its story is a mystery.

I noticed the blazer earlier, but was going to give it a pass because I thought it was too long. Then I ran into a friend who happened to be shopping, and she said, "Hey! I saw a jacket over there that you should try on." (I have helpful friends.) So I did, and it came home. I snipped out its yucky bare-foam shoulder pads, and it's good otherwise.
Here it is with a top and leggings.
With a grey dress and scarf:
And with a sweater dress.
So: six out, three in. Ready for winter.

Monday, November 05, 2018

A Quick Book Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff, by Dana K. White (Amazon link)

If you want to hear an original and practical voice in the clutter of decluttering books, check this one out. One reason it resonated with me is that Mr. Fixit and I followed very similar methods when we downsized, so we know they can work!

One example: think of your house (or apartment), clothes closet, purse shelf, and dinner-knife compartment as a collection of big and small containers. Each one is designed to hold just so much stuff, no more; so we should keep no more than the container allows. Sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times do we try to keep it all, or to bring in more, rather than working with the space we have? Most of us recognize this reality when we pack a suitcase: it's only so big, we can't take all those shoes plus a hairdryer plus presents for the relatives. But we're often not as careful when it comes to home spaces.

In the past year, for example, I have turned down free drinking glasses, because I knew all our designated drinking glass space was taken, and I did not want to give something else up so that we could have more drinking glasses.  But at some point we might decide we don't need as many coffee mugs and we do want more drinking glasses. It's all about choices.

Mr. Fixit's half of our bedroom closet is mostly storage cubes and shelves for things he uses. He has very few hanging clothes, so that's fine with him; or he can hang things in the hall closet. But my side is all hangers.

I was happy to be able to fit in as many bookcases as we did into our apartment space. That is (not counting Lydia's room and Mr. Fixit's closet shelves), exactly three: two in the dining area and one in the bedroom. I do have a small space in another cupboard for university textbooks, and we often have books living on the coffee table. But that's it! There are no good places to put more bookshelves, and the ones we have are pretty full. If I started bringing home piles of books from the thrift store, I would soon have a problem. So respecting the limits of our space helps us stay with "enough" and not "too much."

Check out Decluttering at the Speed of Life for more uncluttered decluttering talk.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Quote for All Saints' Day

"With this magnificent God positioned among us, Jesus brings the assurance that our universe is a perfectly safe place for us to be." ~~ Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy (italics his)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Before and after

Remember this coat? It wasn't bad, but it needed freshening up. (I also removed the shoulder pads.)

Before photo.
After photo.
There's still a place in the world for neighbourhood dry cleaners.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Quote for the day: How'd you get so smart?

"A classic example of [Dayton] Allen's humor comes from an August 1968 appearance on The Steve Allen Show, syndicated nationally in the USA by Filmways: "Did you know your mind alone can make you smart?""

Monday, October 22, 2018

From the archives: What CM teachers really need

First posted October 2013; part of a series.
We have principles, tools, and a whole world to explore.
It means that we can stop worrying what the lady at church thinks.
It also means that we have a greater understanding and purpose when we do choose learning materials.

So what does one need for teaching?  (Also here)

One or more persons, also known as children (also here)

The principle of authority, used wisely

The principle of obedience, taught well

The respect due to the personality of children

Three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environmentthe discipline of habit (also here), and the 

presentation of living ideas (also here)

All the knowledge that is proper to children, communicated in well-chosen language

A vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books (also here), for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of "those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things."

The way of the will

The way of reason (also here)

The Divine Spirit who has constant access to their spirits; their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

~~ Charlotte Mason, "20 Principles," found in Towards a Philosophy of Education and elsewhere

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: When you find what you need

I have been looking for a white shirt for awhile. I was being picky: it couldn't be too menswear-looking, but it couldn't be frilly either. This cotton shirt fit the requirements: hidden buttons, no pockets, mostly cotton. One easy fix required: a loose button.
Same shirt with a pullover. 
Same shirt with a jacket.
The other thing I needed and found: a coat. This one has a zip-out lining, and it's a nice colour. It won't work for long hikes in freezing weather, but it should be okay for everyday ins and outs. Fix required: it needs cleaning. 
One book to use for a class project.
Thrifting: what would I do without it?

Monday, October 15, 2018

A hundred uses for that

Did you ever have to do one of those tests of creativity, like "Can you list ten uses for a flowerpot besides growing flowers?" Or paper clips, or rubber bands. Being Squirrels, with a bit of packrat wired in, we like to store things up. Being more minimalistic Squirrels in a small nest, we like things that are multifunctional. And if things don't come with extra functions, we find them some.

Fall hall decorations:
Fake flower arrangement, bought on clearance at Michael's five years ago. Wire basket, thrifted last spring. Pinecone things, from a dollar store two years ago. Paper-covered can, decorated by a Squirreling many years ago. Wooden cottage (behind the pot), from Mr. Fixit's childhood.

I thrifted a new-with-tags-but-several-years-old scarf, which came with a detachable chain necklace. There's a You-tube video still online that shows all the things you can do with it: wear the whole thing together, pop the chain off and just wear the scarf, turn the scarf into a belt, or wear the chain as a necklace or a bracelet. All that for two dollars. Fashion critic Mr. Fixit gave a "meh" to the whole-works look, but he liked the necklace by itself. (He also fixed one of the strands of chain that had somehow gotten broken.) 
And that's the point: you may own a whole-thing item you don't like, or can't use, or that doesn't work in the way you used to use it; but maybe you can use half of it, or turn it backwards or inside-out. One person's junk...but what about your own "junk?" Is there a way to re-use what you already have? Do you have to go buy an extra new whatsit, or do you already have one and just not notice? (Try searching "things to make with Lego," if you want to see real creativity.)

I sewed several of these weighted device-holders four years ago, as Christmas gifts. They are also handy to hold greeting cards, postcards, or small books. 
Recently I wanted to display a small plate, but couldn't think how to make it stand up. Device-propper to the rescue, disguised with a doily.
Side view:

Basket with wooden base, thrifted a year ago 
What we used it for last Christmas
What we used it for this month, for Thanksgiving (I lined the bottom with waxed paper and then coloured paper)

So...what are ten new ways to use a flowerpot?

Friday, October 05, 2018

From the archives: "The Planet of Bad Thinkers"

First posted October 2012. Lydia was in Grade Six, and this was one day's work.


Basic Bible Studies, by Francis Schaeffer: God’s Grace, part 2 (page 23)

After the man (Adam sinned), he tried to cover himself with the works of his own hands (how?). God took this away and gave him a covering of what? So this shows that people could not come to God by their own good works, but by what? (page 24) Look up Genesis 4:3-5. How does God ask Adam and Eve (and their children) to worship him? What picture does this give us of the promised Messiah?

The Hobbit chp 8: Flies and Spiders (continue)

FRENCH: Continue Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon

Minds on Math 8, page 76 and 77.   Application problems for fractions

Science biography: Albert Einstein, chapter 4.

Write Source 2000:  Last week we read about the "Planet of Bad Thinkers," a place where the inhabitants never set goals, never ask questions, ignore evidence, believe whatever they read, and so on.  We tried to turn those ideas around to list ways of "Becoming a Better Thinker."  Section 309 describes how your mind circles around from simple to more complex tasks while you work on a project.  Section 310 shows a chart of thinking "moves" from simple (observing, gathering) through more complex (rethinking, evaluating).  Choose a real or imaginary problem similar to the examples in section 308 (How can I...Should I...Is doing this activity worthwhile...I've got to convince my parents that...), and try to come up with a solution by tracing your way through the chart.  OR choose a picture book or children's story from our shelf, and show how the main character tries to solve a problem by using this kind of thinking process.

Put the books down and go for a walk.

Folk songs
Canadian history, using Story of Canada: World War II

Poems:  Robert Frost, You Come Too