Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What's for supper?

(Relating to this week's menu plan)

I was going to make turkey chili and have apricot meatballs later in the week...but I had a craving for regular old chili, and besides, turkey meatballs taste great with sweet-and-sour apricot sauce. So I just switched them around. Tonight we're having your standard-style chili (but made with lower-salt ingredients), no-salt tortilla chips, pasta for those who want it, and carrot sticks. And carrot-apricot-bran bars, which aren't that low-sodium, but sometimes with baking it's more about portion control than ingredients.

Where our garden's at

There's still some chard in the garden--I picked most of it, but what's still there is still green.

The bean plants are starting to dry up, which is fine because we just leave the too-big beans on the vines to dry and then use them for next year's seed.

We still have quite a few green tomatoes, and we may get a few of them turning red before the frost gets them. Our zucchini plants dried up a couple of weeks ago.

The funny thing is that a friend a few blocks away with a large garden still has zucchini plants that are trying to pop out a few last squash; but her tomato plants are finished. Figure that one out.

Wearable Krieghoff

Crayons had fun with this narration. (See previous post.) The challenge: to come up with something unique for the Cornelius Krieghoff gift shop.

She designed two Krieghoff nighties with attached slippers. If you can't make out the details (click to enlarge them), the green nightie has a horse and snowflakes, and the blue one has a pine tree with a red "K" above it.

(Mama Squirrel suggested KriegCough Drops...maple-syrup flavoured with a hint of rum.) (Or whatever it was that the habitants drank.)

Picture by Crayons, September 2008, using Paint

Picture Study: Cornelius Krieghoff

Our second painter this term is Cornelius Krieghoff, who was born in the Netherlands but became one of Canada's most famous 19th-century painters.

Some resources I've found:
The National Gallery of Canada's "preview" page from an exhibition several years ago

Another preview page, which looks at his development as an artist

A page of gift-shop items based on Krieghoff's paintings (I found this amusing)
(Hey, that would be kind of a cool idea for a picture narration, wouldn't it?--Design something else inspired by Krieghoff's work. Besides a T-shirt or a Christmas card.)

Something else fun--which of these two is the real Krieghoff painting, and which is the fake?

A book I want to get from the library: Krieghoff: Images of Canada, by Dennis Reid

And not totally helpful, but a tie-in anyway (and the library has it): a CD of folk music called À la claire fontaine: Music in Krieghoff's Quebec.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Books read in September

About the only book I can remember finishing this month (besides school books and low-sodium cookbooks) is Rumer Godden's Kingfishers Catch Fire. (Time Magazine's original 1953 review)

OK, it wasn't a great month for reading. I promise to do better in October.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why the sea is salt (dessert recipe)

That, I don't know, but sometimes it seems the whole food world is salt. A half-cup serving of commercial instant chocolate pudding mix contains 310 mg of sodium.

I have a non-dairy "chocolate dessert" recipe from Food That Really Schmecks. We've made it many times but never particularly considered the sodium content.

The ingredients, as written, are 1 heaping tbsp. cocoa, 3 heaping tbsp. flour (this is an old recipe!), 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups water, 1 tsp. vanilla, and some butter to stir in at the end (I figured 2 tbsp.).

This recipe doesn't make very large servings (I'd say it serves 3-4), but counting it as a 4-serving dessert, one serving as written would have 295.9 mg sodium. About the same as the commercial milk-based pudding, although at least it's free of all the other additives.

If you use 1/4 tsp. salt, it brings it down to 149.1 mg.

If you cut it to 1/8 tsp. salt, it brings it down to 75.609 mg.

And if you leave the salt out altogether, you end up with 2.175 mg per serving.

Obviously, almost all the sodium in this recipe comes directly from the salt. The question is just how far back to cut it! I think I might try it with just a pinch of salt.

Oh, you wanted the recipe? It's a little inexact, but goes better with experience.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and cocoa, and salt if using. Mix with a little cold water to form a paste; then add in about 2 cups boiling water (less if you had to use more cold water). Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly or at least frequently. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter or margarine. Chill before serving.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crayons' Grade Two: September Notes

Referring back to Crayons' Grade Two Outline

Favourite folk songs: "When I First Came to This Land". We also (very selectively) use some songs from Festivals, Family and Food (the ones without too much Mother Earth in them), and have also enjoyed the first volume of Michael Mitchell's Canada is For Kids. Crayons likes the video version of Mitchell's "Canada in My Pocket" (about the symbols on Canadian coins).

I also give her short follow-the-leader lessons on the keyboard.

Recent reading: A Pioneer Story (story interspersed with facts on life in the backwoods), Owls in the Family, Understood Betsy, "The Gorgon's Head" from A Wonder Book, The Old Nurse's Stocking Basket, poems from Come Hither, William the Conqueror chapters in the history book, Among the Forest People, Hiawatha's Childhood, Pilgrim's Progress (up to Mr. Worldly Wiseman), Bible stories about Samuel and the temptation of Christ, and two stories from Stories for Canada's Birthday. Today we read the "D is for dory, dinosaur, Dan McGrew, dulse" page from Canada Eh to Zed, which inspired us to watch the Historica Minute about Joseph Tyrrell (finder of dinosaur bones in Alberta), and Crayons showed me her favourite online dinosaur game.

She has been doing pages in the David Thompson activity book, which is not terribly in-depth about his work but has some fun worksheets; we borrowed a National Geographic issue with an article about his travels, and I read some of the basics from an online biography. David Thompson seems to be one of the most under-appreciated of Canadian explorers and mapmakers, but he is definitely worth studying.

Math has been fairly informal, mostly following my own Miquon notes. I don't especially like the addition worksheets that go with these lessons--they're often confusing and new-Math-ish (the worst of the '60's, breaking things apart too much); so we're using coins, rods and number tiles to practice making three-digit numbers and also to practice grouping for tens. We're also doing some hundred-chart work, working on adding and subtracting nines, tens and elevens quickly.

The Gifted and Talented workbooks are working fine for a bit of language work--mostly synonyms at this point. (It was also a good chance to talk about what a Thesaurus is; Crayons likes Mommy's big fat Synonym Finder because it has more words than the children's version.) Spelling words we practice through the week with Scrabble letters, and then have a test on Fridays. The handwriting workbooks haven't yet arrived (they're in the mail, should be here this week) so she has just been doing copywork, which isn't a favourite as there are still some issues with letter formation, remembering to use lower case, and the general effort required to print neatly. She does a little each week anyway, and I am having her start a fall poem on large paper to go on the kitchen wall.

Crayons has been making nature pictures in a sketchbook (mostly as narrations of nature stories--she is interested in owls right now), and has started a scroll for Pilgrim's Progress.

And we've done a little French--mostly colours and numbers, but it's about time to begin the felt-board people.

Monday, September 22, 2008


We're in the fourth week of school, but just getting started now on handicrafts.

I planned to do weaving with Crayons (the girl, not the Crayolas), but we hadn't had much luck with the typical flat cardboard or foam-tray looms, or even with the simple wooden frame that she was given last Christmas (a "fashion loom" kit). I think younger kids often find it tedious to fill up a whole frame with over-under-over-under, even if they have a needle or something to help it go a bit faster. Or they end up with something horribly warped. Also, the wooden frame loom came with a thick, soft, slippery yarn which seemed to be hard for her to use.

Then I noticed the weaving page in a book called Pioneer Crafts, by Barbara Greenwood; it goes with the Canadian book A Pioneer Story, which is sold in the U.S. as A Pioneer Sampler.

It suggested making a foam-tray loom but also using what the book calls a cardboard heddle, and what I've also seen called a warp separator; just a piece of cardboard, an inch wide and slightly wider than the loom, with one end cut in a point. After threading the loom, you weave the heddle in and out (rather than the yarn), stand it up on its edge, and then pull a bobbin full of yarn through the shed (the open space) that is created when you stand it up. Then the heddle goes back the other way, out and in through the strands; stands up to make the shed, and the bobbin goes back through. The heddle is also used (flat) to gently push the rows against the previous work.

I didn't bother making a foam-tray loom since we do have the wooden frame, and I was right--it worked fine. (I remember the teeth on foam-tray looms tending to break anyway, so I was happy not to have to do that.)

For some reason, this is MUCH easier for a second-grader than weaving a long strand of yarn in and out across the rows. By using a bobbin (I had a plastic knit/crochet bobbin, but you can make cardboard ones), you can also pull more yarn through at a time and do more rows without having to get Mom to add more yarn.

We also chose some cotton yarn (Bernat Handicrafter) in variegated colours, which weaves well and looks pretty with the different coloured stripes.

I'm pleased with this discovery, since it's turned the most basic loom into something a bit more sophisticated, still simple (or even simpler) to do, but that feels more like a real handicraft than just a kindergarten activity. Of course it has its limitations--the design of the loom means that you can't make anything longer than the frame itself--but I think that's about the same measure as a 7-year-old's attention span.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Saturday yard-saling

Mr. Fixit was feeling well enough for a short jaunt to a church sale this morning.

He found a walkie-talkie. Crayons found a Barbie. Ponytails found a couple of things.

Mama Squirrel found books, because this particular church sale almost always has a wonderful book corner. Also a brand-new set of Christmas-coloured table runner/napkins/placemats which Mama Squirrel would have no intention of putting on her Christmas table but which might work very well for gift bags or other Christmas-fabric crafts. Also a brand-new set of two cocoa mugs plus cocoa mix, final destination still unknown. Also a couple of part-sets of nice stationery.

The books are:

Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur
Jacob Two-Two's First Spy Case
(Mama Squirrel and Crayons just finished Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang) (Review comments: These are fairly amusing but contain a bit too much grade-school potty humour for MS's taste. The Hooded Fang is probably the best of the three.)

The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler (M.S.'s copy disappeared awhile back)
Hymns for Primary Worship
Freedom and Beyond
, by John Holt
Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner
Making Men Whole, by J.B. Phillips
Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook, by Joetta Handrich Schlabach (the 1991 followup to The More-with-Less Cookbook)

And my favourites out of the pile:

Selected Burns for Young Readers, published by Geddes and Grosset. Amblesiders and Martha fans, check this one out! Nice big print! Glossary of Scottish words in the back! An introductory biography of Burns, and introductions to each of the poems! Lovely.

Songs of the Saviour, and Out of Doors Nature Songs, both by Annie Johnson Flint. Paper-covered, tied-with-cord booklets of her poems, published I-don't-know-when by Evangelical Publishers in Toronto--I'm guessing the early twentieth century, though.

Mr. Fixit is on the mend, and another dietary excursion

Our dearest Mr. Fixit is home after a ten-day stay in the hospital. The longest any of us has ever been away from home...God is good and Mr. Fixit is much better than he has been since earlier this summer.

For reasons relating to his recent illness, he has been prescribed a low-sodium diet. Mama Squirrel, while happy to accommodate, hears a tiny inner groan saying "Oh no, not another different food code." (Regular Treehouse visitors will know that this year already we've been through experiments with high protein/no sugar and gluten-free foods.)

Happily, we've found a couple of low-sodium cookbooks at the library that not only sound like they have food we could manage to cook and eat, they also encourage the use of bread machines (yes, we can do that!). If you've never looked at low-sodium diets and think of them mainly in terms of table salt, that may sound surprising. But if you're on a 2000 mg a day of sodium and a slice of commercial bread has about 200 mg, there goes a tenth of your allowance just on a piece of bread. If you can find or make lower-sodium baked goods, then you have that much more to use on more interesting things.

Works like frugality, doesn't it?

If any of you have great websites or books to recommend, I'd be happy to hear your comments.