Thursday, December 31, 2009

Crissy on Christmas

She walked a few steps to the toyshop. She did not know how it came to be there and she thought she was in her St. Agnes's bedroom and it was filled with toys. Then: "Not toys," said Ivy, "a toy," and she was wide awake. She did not even see Abracadabra glaring at her with his green eyes; she looked straight at Holly.
She saw Holly's dress and socks and shoes. She is red and green too, thought Ivy. She saw Holly's hair, brown eyes, little teeth, and beautiful joints. They were just what Ivy liked, and, "My Christmas doll!" said Ivy. --The Story of Holly and Ivy, by Rumer Godden. More here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

What's in your hand? Post-Christmas thoughts, and memories

As I was saying in a previous post, everyone's idea of Christmas is different. And there are also so many combinations of people, houses and events that your ideas of what you DO on Christmas can also be very different--and can change rapidly from one year to the next. I never "spent" Christmas (as in "slept over") at someone else's house, but we spent most of our young-years Christmases being trotted from one relative's house to another, joining in with one aunt and uncle's plum pudding and gifts here, with another person's holiday-in-a-glass there (we didn't get any of that, if you're wondering), and with my grandparents' potluck-and-turkey to end off the day: think Whoville for that last one. Think noise noise noise noise, Dah Hoo Dor-Aze (can't spell that) and roast beast. I totally related to those scenes from The Grinch.

For years there was even a brunch at another aunt's house, although that eventually got moved to Boxing Day. My grandparents had a New Year's Eve card party for their friends (and usually kept us there overnight so that my parents could go out). And the country cousins had a big family dinner on New Year's. So although I remember my mother making all kinds of holiday preparations (baking like crazy), and my dad doing most of the decorating, I don't remember them ever actually hosting The Dinner on one of the actual holidays. In other words, I didn't get much practice at it.

And now it's up to us most years--not a very big dinner, only a few guests (sometimes only one, more often three), but we still want to make it special. Because it's fairly small, some of our preparations and ideas can wait until the last minute--we're not making forty napkin rings or anything. And I've found--because our Christmas Days tend to be kind of quiet anyway--that I actually enjoy leaving some of the table decorating and even crafting until the Day Of. (Did any of you ever watch a Rankin-Bass Christmas special with the song "Save a Little Christmas for Christmas?")

This year, a couple of days before Christmas, I pulled out a thrift-shopped copy of Corinne Clawson's Holiday Orna-gami, a small paperback that includes several bound-in squares of holiday-coloured paper for folding. I pulled out the yellow squares and tried the star in the book--not bad. The other sheets were a sort of dull green and red that tweaked vague memories of Christmases around 1971, in the era of lick-and-stick Christmas stickers (we used to put them all over tissue-paper-wrapped canned goods to go under a tree at church), crepe-paper-wrapped crackers with paper hats (I think they banged better than this year's dollar-store version), and mod-looking greeting cards. Maybe it was just that we'd been working on restoring the 1972 Crissy doll for Crayons, or that I knew Mr. Fixit had also bought the Squirrelings some vintage Hot Wheels tracks (we already have the cars), or maybe it was that 1973 magazine that Crayons had brought home from the thrift shop (maxi skirts, rick rack, styrofoam and metallic sunbursts)...but somehow my mind was back there with those colours from a time before laser printers, when church bulletins were hand-typed and Gestetnered, and posters were lettered with markers and stencils.

Is all that too much to fit into a few squares of paper? Or was it the other way around...anyway, I started folding those sheets into small baskets, and remembered that I'd bought tiny chocolate bars and Swedish berries to fill them. Those became our table favours.

On Christmas, when I was cleaning up used and unused gift wrap, I noticed that we still had quite a long piece of unused wrap in some of those same vintage-looking reds and greens: have you ever noticed that some of the Made-in-Wherever dollar store wrap looks like that anyway? It might be the lead paint (joking)...anyway...the paper was decorated with the word "Noel," and it gave me an idea. I covered our long table with an off-white table cloth (and the card table we use as an extension with a red plastic cloth), and rolled out the gift wrap down the table. The Apprentice fixed the paper to the cloth with some fix-your-dress-strap tape she had (it came in a vintage-looking package, which seemed appropriate), and we added our regular dinner plates (our good ones had too much pink in them), red paper napkins, the red and green baskets, and gold-and-cream party crackers. Not bad.

We still needed a centerpiece, but that wasn't hard. We put the candle jar we'd made in the middle of the table (remember we filled in between the jars with gold wire-type tinsel?), and The Apprentice took her pliers (all girls should have pliers) and twisted and hot-glued some more of that gold tinsel into a couple of groovy-looking little Christmas tree shapes, to flank the big jar.

And that was our Merry Christmas table: 1971 meets 2009.

Oh--you wanted to know what we had to eat? Turkey (and tofurkey for the vegetarians), mashed potatoes, canned cranberry sauce, frozen green and yellow beans (Europe's Best brand tastes better than fresh this time of year), crockpot stuffing, rolls, salads and pies brought by the guests, and a cookie plate. We were going to have homemade vanilla ice cream, but the cream turned out to be bad at the last minute so that was scrapped. But nobody minded much.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas Post: A Non-Stupid Christmas

The one thing I've noticed about typical Christmas celebrations is that there are very few typical Christmas celebrations...especially among those whose Christian beliefs have played a larger-than-normal part in how they celebrate. (Think about the irony of that...) Or don't. Sometimes that makes for very surprising variations--devout Christians who don't "do" Christmas at all, or those who celebrate Christmas for fun but don't pretend it's the birth of Jesus, or those who plan the whole thing as a big birthday party for Jesus, or who celebrate the Old Testament holidays in the autumn, or those whose Christmas does center around church but who also include secular customs like Santa and stockings.

And then there are the Charlie Browns who are just tired of the "whole commercial racket," wish the whole thing was over, and take everybody to the beach for Christmas.

Or maybe it's just that I hang out with the wrong people. I'm thinking about something we saw a bit of on TV once called "Christmas Confidential,", about the dreadful holiday excesses and National-Lampoon-style house decorations and inflatable nativity scenes and spangled office-party outfits (makeup to match) and Santa Claus bikinis and church performances with more cast members than a small town and people stampeding at shopping malls and food, food, food...

All that seems kind of far removed from our Crayons' excursion to the thrift shop (everybody got tiny stuffed toys, figurines, and Mama Squirrel got a bell that she's threatening to ring for school time)...or the bead bracelet that Ponytails made me...or the Voskamps' "praying to be a womb for God" around a wooden Nativity spiral...or Bread and Honey's musings on "Pretending to be Mary." Or families who give just one present apiece (because they have ten children) , or three presents (because that's what Jesus got), or no presents.

Or from the reality of those who are having very quiet holidays (or barely noticed them) because of family griefs, illnesses and other stresses. Or people who have to work on Christmas or who are exhausted from the last week behind a cash register or a shampoo chair. Did you know the mega-supermarket was still open into the evening on the 24th? I know, because we had a celery emergency. Should I be grateful because that saved my stuffing, or be annoyed (and guilty) because our perceived needs don't let these businesses just close their doors early?

The fact that we barely set foot in a shopping mall this past month doesn't make our Christmas any holier than anybody else's. It's an everybody-makes-their-own-choices kind of culture now anyway...and I guess in some ways that's good, it means that the Neighbourhood Decorating Committee isn't going to harass us about our lack of lights, and it means that it's okay to have frozen green beans with Christmas dinner instead of that thing with the french fried onions. Who's going to tell? But I will continue to plug for a non-stupid Christmas.

Whatever that means to you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Still really, really good

This is as close as we get around here to Christmas fruitcake. In the oven as we speak...jazzed up a bit with fresh cranberries and what was left of the chopped candied ginger after we made Double Ginger Cookies.

December is the Dining Room

Decorated by Living with Lindsay, and posted at Dollar Store Crafts.

Yeah, that's what I have to work on today. Our dining room table has been covered with the Advent wreath and its associated mess (song sheets, pencil crayons, Bible) for the past month, but it's time to clear that off and start thinking about putting some actual food on it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

December is A New Christmas Book Quiz

"Can such a large thing as Christmas be in a dolls' house?"--Rumer Godden

What books do the following holiday quotes appear in? (A couple of them are repeats from previous quizzes--we all have our favourites.) Answers are here.

1. 'They have been a long time getting here,' said Anne, looking at the postmark on the brown paper. 'Poor little things, spending Christmas in a parcel.' 'They don't mind about Christmas,' said Nona quickly.....[like them], Nona had come from far away, and could feel for them.

2. On Christmas morning, the Plantaganets woke to hear real carol singers in the street outside. 'Peace and good will among men,' sang the carol singers. 'And among dolls,' said Mr. Plantaganet. 'I hope among dolls.'

3. The rest of the fieldmice, perched in a row on the settle, their small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire, and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while [their host], failing to draw them into easy conversation, plunged into family history and made each of them recite the names of his numerous brothers, who were too young, it appeared, to be allowed to go out a-carolling this year, but looked forward very shortly to winning the parental consent.

4. "We'll be lucky if we each get one present," said Susan. "Maybe we won't get any present at all," said Neddie. "Maybe Santa Claus won't be able to come, because it's snowing so hard...." "That doesn't make any difference to Santa Claus," said Betsy. "He always comes. Come on, let's help Santa Claus. Let's make presents."

5. "My first fruitcake of the Christmas season, and already there are hungry [children] waiting to eat it all up. Why, I used one whole cherry and one walnut in this cake....And no one is going to get a bite until Christmas day."...."Heaven knows we'd have a skimpy Christmas around here without Aunt Lily," [mother] said. [Note: even if you can't get the exact title of the book, can you get the right series?]

6. [He] looked at his stocking.
"This stocking is not big enough
for a fire truck and a football
and a storybook and six new games,"
he said. "I think I need a new one."
He saw the warm socks
that Father wore for shoveling snow.
"That is better," he said.
He hung up one of Father's socks.

7. "Tomorrow will come Christmas," she told C., 'and we will put candles on the tree, ja, and in the windows, too, to make a light for the Christ Child." "Really and truly?" cried C. She had never heard anything so wonderful. Her family had a lovely party every New Year's Eve, which Mama and Papa called "Hogmanay" in the Scottish tradition. But they did not celebrate Christmas....All the next day, as she helped Mama scour the parlor floor with sand, C. was thinking of that star and the tree and the wonderful cookies.

8. One evening, just before Christmas, snow began falling. It covered house and barn and fields and woods. W. had never seen snow before. When morning came he went out and plowed the drifts in his yard, for the fun of it. [The children] arrived, dragging a sled. They coasted down the lane and out onto the frozen pond in the pasture.

9. At last, the presents! So many, such wonderful presents! Emily opened a puppet John had made for her, a new dress from her parents, Harriet the Spy from Mr. Bloomfield and The Long Secret from Kate's mother, a hand mirror from Sophie, a five-cent package of Kleenex tissues and some Lifesavers from James. He had given everyone the same presents. "Two each," he boasted happily, basking in their laughter.

10. [The] house was dark in front, but when they got out of the sleigh and tiptoed around the corner they saw the kitchen windows, warm and yellow, and in one of them, above the sash curtain, the old man's head, snowy as that of Santa Claus. He was working at something, wearing his spectacles....they began to sing: "God rest ye merry, Gentlemen / Let nothing you dismay..." Up came Mr. T's head, startled. He left his chair and now the kitchen door flew open. He stood there in the lighted rectangle, with Battledore rubbing herself against his ankles and Hambone wagging his old tail in the background. In his hand Mr. T. held a sock: he had been mending. "Thank you. God bless you. Merry Christmas," he said when they had finished. "And now come in, and we will have a party!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The candy that did turn out?

That wouldn't be the chocolate-pretzel clusters in the Crockpot...although a couple of the Squirrelings did like those. Mama Squirrel just made one too many substitutions in that recipe, and the salty pretzels, while interesting, were just a little too...salty.

What did turn out well--it's really almost failproof--is Canadian Living's Quick Fruit and Nut Fudge. Made just like the recipe says, except we leave out the nuts and use dried cherries for the fruit. And we use homemade sweetened-condensed-milk substitute. Cut them small, and they're incredibly good, especially with the slightly tart dried cherries. We've actually posted the recipe here before; which is why Mama Squirrel figured that these, at least, would defy her tendency to mistake-prone-ness this week. And she wasn't wrong.

Grade Three Examinations, Term One


1. Recite to Dad the Bliss Carman poem you memorized this term.

Christian History:

1. What sorts of places are Annie and Drew visiting this year with Mr. Pipes? Tell about one of their adventures. (Book: Mr. Pipes and Psalms and Hymns of the Reformation)


1. Tell what you know of Hezekiah’s tunnel, and what it was for.


1. We are almost finished the novel Lassie-Come-Home. Tell what you know of Lassie’s journey so far and of one of the people or families she has met.


1. Tell what you know about the story of the Swiss Family Robinson.

2. How did King Arthur get his Round Table? (Book: Howard Pyle's King Arthur)


1. Tell what you know about the beginnings of New France. OR Tell the whole story of “The Feast of Eat Everything.” (Book: Canada's Story)


1. Write the sentences that I will dictate to you.


1. Read aloud, passage to be chosen by me.


1. Explain why there are no vampires in the world. (Book: Mathemagic)

2. Arrange these fractions from biggest to smallest: ½, ¾, 5/6, 2/2, 1/100

Responses so far (dictated):

Christian History:

Annie and Drew visited Worms. But I'm not going to tell you that adventure today. I'm going to tell you the adventure of Lady Kitty falling in the moat. Mr. Pipes, Annie and Drew and Lady Kitty all went out for a snack one day, and they went outside to just finish up. And all of a sudden Lady Kitty jumped onto the end of a cannon. "No," squealed Annie, as Lady Kitty fell into the moat. "Oh no, no, no!" cried Annie. "Don't worry, Annie," said Mr. Pipes. But Drew had been studying the cannons. "Hey," he said. "I'm sure that Lady Kitty fell just from that cannon over there. And look," he said, jumping into the moat with a SPLOTCH. "Oh dear, I'm afraid he's jumped into the moat," said Mr. PIpes. "Drew," Annie screamed. "Over here," yelled Drew, from inside the moat. All of a sudden a sodden Drew came out of the moat with a sopping Lady Kitty. "Oh Drew," she said, and she hugged Lady Kitty. "Meow, meow," said Lady Kitty. Then she hugged her brother. "Ribbit, ribbit," echoed out of his hand. "Why Drew," said Mr. Pipes, "I see you've picked up a friend." "Yeah," said Drew, digging into his hands and brining out a spotted frog. "I'm going to name him Rinkydink." The End.


Lassie: Lassie met these old people, and they were very nice to her, but one day she scratched at the door because she had this memory, but she couldn't quite remember what it was. But then she remembered--it was time to go get the boy. She started walking up and down before the door. And the woman said, "Hey girl, what's up? I've already given ye a nice walk today." And when the man came home that evening, the soman said, "Dear, I think we ought to let the dog go." "Why?" he asked. "Because you see she's been pacing a lot up and down in front of the door like she has to get out." "Aye," he said, "You're right, she should go." So together they went and got Lassie, and they let her go. And they watched the beautiful figure walk walk walk away from the house. The End.

King Arthur: King Arthur got his Round Table for a dowry, a present from Lady Guinevere's father. Lady Guinevere was very beautiful and the wedding was very big and beautiful. Afterwards King Arthur asked Merlin to help him establish the Round Table. "The first knight I'll choose," said Merline, "will definitely be you, King Arthur. And the second one will be Sir Pellias, because I don't know which is better, you or Sir Pellias." So Merlin went on choosing until they had quite a few. But soon a new knight comes up to sit on the seat Perilous, the seat if which the wrong knight sits in, he shall die immediately, or have bad luck forever. The End.


1. The bride has a long dress.
2. Meet me at the swings.
3. Wintir [sic] frost can kill plants.
4. We have snacks on paper plates.


1. The reason there are no vampires in the world is because a vampire takes at least one person for a meal each day. So that vampire bites a person, which becomes a vampire, and that vampire bites a person, which becomes a vampire, you see? f There wouldn't be enough people to feed all those vampires, so that's why there are no vampires in the world. At least not that we know of...mwa ha ha.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December is Chocolate...and Cookies

I posted this previously:

"Malted Milk Buttons and Crispy Rice Shortbread, two variations on a Master Dough recipe that I found in a (thrifted) December 15, 1998 Woman's Day magazine and which were adapted (with others in the same food article) from One Dough, Fifty Cookies by Leslie Glover Pendleton."

But Mama Squirrel came up with a variation all our own! The problem with writing it out is that it was made from only half the Master Dough recipe, since the idea is to make a big batch and split it between two variations. (We mixed the other half of the dough with Rice Krispies.) And the Master Dough recipe, which I assume is copyrighted by the author, contains such difficult-to-halve ingredients as three egg yolks and 4 3/4 cups of flour. But here's the basic idea:

Make a shortbread-type dough containing unsalted butter, sugar, salt, egg yolks, vanilla, and flour. (No baking powder.) To a batch of dough made with about 2 1/2 cups flour, add half a package of (dry) instant chocolate pudding mix, and a cupful of small chocolate chips. Press into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, pre-cut into squares, and bake for half an hour at 350 degrees. Re-cut the squares after they have cooled slightly. Drizzle with a glaze made from powdered sugar mixed with a little milk, just enough to let it drizzle from a spoon.

For some reason (mainly because they're very tasty), these improvised squares have been everybody's favourite so far these holidays. As in, they're gone. Maybe we'll make some more.

Here are some other cookies we've made and posted about in the past:

Date-Walnut Bars
Rigglevake Cookies
No-bake Chocolate Fruit Balls
Gluten-Free Dutch Chocolate Chip Cookies
Lemon Poppyseed Shortbread
Tofu Fudge Chews
Peanut Chocolate Butterscotch Bars (link only)
Doreen Perry's Cookies
Betty Crocker's Brownie Recipe
Cappucino Thumbprints
Chocolate Hazelnut Crescents
Double Ginger Drop Cookies (LINK FIXED!)
Snickerdoodle Blondies
The Best, Bar None
Two No-Bake Candy Recipes (one of our most-visited posts)

Monday, December 14, 2009

December is Putting Together

What are we putting together?

Cider Beetles and Cider Reindeer, inspired by posts at Stonecroft Women of Katy, Elfster, and Chaos in the Kitchen. They're sitting on ice-cube trays because they wouldn't sit nicely on their backs otherwise.
Cost: Hard to estimate: a bag of oranges, brown sugar, and the spices...but you can subtract the insides of the oranges (you scoop them out before drying the peels) and the extra spices we still have on hand.

The DHM posted at Frugal Hacks with an inexpensive gift suggestion: a nutmeg grater from the thrift shop, some whole nutmegs, and a batch of something made with nutmeg plus the recipe. We were at a Salvation Army store a couple of weeks ago and I spotted a very nice cork-topped container labelled "Nutmeg." (There were a couple of jars for other seasonings but I left those there.) No graters, but I found a small one at the dollar store; and that plus a small bag of nutmegs will make a good gift for someone who likes to cook.
Cost: Grater, $1.25 (our dollar store has been raising its prices). Nutmegs, about $2. Jar, $2.

And at the same Salvation Army, we found a Large Glass Thing

and a Skinny Glass Thing

that fit nicely into each other

to make a candle holder like those we linked to previously. We decided to skip the candleholder glued to the bottom--it was big enough as it was. The dollar-store candle

was a bit tall for the inner tube, but no matter--it will burn down quickly enough. Mr. Fixit stuck the two parts together, and we added some sparkly wire trim between them, donated by a friend at our homeschool co-op.

Cost: Large jar, $2.99 (the Salvation Army is pricey sometimes). Skinny jar, .99. Candle, .50. Glue, negligible. Trim, free.

Photo Credits: Ponytails

December is Doing

We have been busy the past couple of weeks. The sewing machine has been running at a speed to rival the Grinch's; the oven and the Crockpot have been working busily; and in between that we go out and shovel the snow. Or this weekend it's been slush and freezing rain. So better to think about the warm things inside.

Frugal Family Fun Blog posted about these Pocket Hand Warmers awhile back, and Mama Squirrel was so taken with them that she decided to make some too, using rummage-saled ribbon and a pair of Mr. Fixit's jeans. (She did ask first.)

Cost: minimal for the ribbon; free for the jeans (since Mr. Fixit couldn't wear them anymore); minimal for the rice and thread.

As you can tell, the hardest thing about them is getting them all the same size (ours weren't) or always quite even (ours weren't). But that's not a big deal. Mama Squirrel is going to make some more and this time they'll be perfect.

Last month I asked your advice on sachet fillings for the scent-sensitive. The idea that appealed most was using peppermint, and Mama Squirrel just happened to find organic dried peppermint (also known as tea) at the health food store.

We had some nice crisp white fabric that came in a rummage-sale box--it might have been muslin, we're not sure. Anyway, we sewed that into 5 x 7 rectangles and stuffed them with cotton balls and a tablespoon of peppermint.

Then we got out the vintage hankies (mostly yard-saled over the years) and played around with ribbon, lace and other trims (rummage-saled and thrift-shopped earlier this year). None of the hankies had to be cut; any little stitches or gluing was done on the ribbon. Mama Squirrel was inspired mostly by the photos on the Primrose Design website, but we made our hankies cover the whole pillow, and skipped the button trim.

This one has a crocheted flower added on--we found a couple of handmade ones in with a bag of lace and trims.

This one is tied with a strip of tatting...Mama Squirrel liked that against the ribbon design of the handkerchief.

We packaged them in zipper bags with a printed-out tag (it also says "From the Squirrel Family Workshop" on the blocked-out part.
Cost: pretty much free, since we already had the hankies and the trims were bought at yard-sale prices. Two bags of dollar-store cotton balls filled six sachets.

And that white fabric inspired another sewing project, but we can't tell you about it yet because somebody might peek.

More "doing" coming up...stay tuned.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dewey's Quiz By Ponytails

Dewey did it so I will!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate

2.Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Umm, both.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Mr. Fixit, my dad doesn't put them up that often but when he does, colored.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No!

5. When do you put your decorations up? When we feel like it about this time in December though. The tree gets put up later.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Turkey and cranberry sauce.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: I still am a child but I think the best is getting togther with family and eating.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I am not sure.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With a mixture of ornaments. From birds and bells, to Rudolph's monster.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Dread it a little love it a little.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? My sled.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? The real meaning and giving and family.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? The Christmas pie, Lemon Meringue.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? The Christmas play at church, I am oldest in the children's class so I usally get a good part.

17. What tops your tree? A angel or star.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Both, I like getting other people's presents.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? The songs I play on the keyboard and The Huron Carol.

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum!


Monday, December 07, 2009

Our last full week of school before holidays


101 Famous Poems
Mr. Pipes and Bible stories
King Arthur: finish Book One
Swiss Family Robinson, up to page 141 (try to get to page 166 during exams next week)
Artistic Pursuits, continue
Nutrition, finish up the unit we're on
Mathletics website
Independent reading lists


Math, science and photography with Dad
Finish Larry Burkett's Money book
Finish The Ocean of Truth
Analogies if you have time
History--continue daily work


Lassie Come Home--finish before Christmas
Mathemagic, pages 136-143
All About Spelling, continue Level 2
Canada's Story, chapters 9 and 10

Sunday, December 06, 2009

A Quote For Sunday (Advent II)

"He found himself grinning all the way down the hall.

"Something was stirring in him, something strong and deep and definite. Suffice it to say he was beginning to know that Christmas was coming--not just on the calendar but in his very soul.

"This morning, Cynthia's reading had explained everything:

"'The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory.'"--Jan Karon, Shepherds Abiding

Two boxes: more than enough

Meredith at Like Merchant Ships recently referred to an old post of hers about how and why she keeps their holiday decorations limited to two boxes.

Consider her reasons why...and then could we consider applying the same logic to homeschool materials?

Now there are many different ways to think about that, and part of it is defining what we call "homeschool materials." The Mennonite Central Committee has an ongoing project where churches and individuals fill drawstring bags with school supplies: notebooks, pencils, a ruler and so on. It's hard to learn without having access to those most basic items. Then there are the "book basics" that most homeschoolers have, like reference books; and homeschool gadgets and gizmos, like timelines and maps, letter tiles, math rods. And beyond those, there are Books--often hundreds, sometimes even thousands of them. Some people don't even think of Books as school supplies, but for us they're basic too.

No way you're getting all that in one box.

And even if you limited the "box" to one year's worth of school for one child, you'd still probably want to store the rest for future years. Children aren't like Christmases, after all; you can use the same angel year after year, but you can't do the same math book over and over.

But the concept is still worth thinking about; and it's something I'm pondering even more during this year of being given access to extra freebies and gadgets (some of them very good and useful). It's something I have to deal with when I consider our array of well-used electric kitchen appliances--you all know how fond I am of my toaster oven, and the Crockpot is a pretty close second. What's good? What's useful? What's too much?

Many of us are blessed with a whole Treehouse to live in...but could you move your homeschooling, cooking, decorating to a tiny apartment or a trailer? What would stay, what would go? Would the kids' desire to hold on to every old toy suddenly be resolved by necessity?

What if someone came and asked you to put everything out on the front lawn for a photo? That thought's enough to make me finish this post and go clean up the living room.

Two boxes? It may not be practical in all respects...but it's worth thinking over.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December is Gingerbread (egg-and-dairy-free)

Reposted from June 2005, because it's still our favourite gingerbread

Vegan Gingerbread from The Farm Vegetarian Cookbook (the fastest you’ll ever make)

1 cup molasses; ½ cup oil; 2 tsp. ginger; 2 cups flour (whole wheat tastes best in this recipe); 1 tsp. salt; 1 tsp. baking soda in one cup of hot water. Wheat germ or oatmeal, optional.

This is the way I mix it: start the kettle boiling for the hot water, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Measure the oil in a one-cup measure, then use the greasy cup to measure the molasses. Beat them together with a whisk. In a small bowl, combine the ginger, flour and salt; and by this time the water is hot so you can put that in the same 1-cup measure and dissolve the soda in that. Add the dry ingredients to the molasses and oil, alternately with the soda water. If you're mixing in some wheat germ or oatmeal, you don't have to get that all stirred in perfectly--just mix it around a bit. Bake in a greased square pan or small casserole for 35 to 40 minutes or until it tests done.

Now, every time Mama Squirrel has mixed this up, the batter has seemed to need a little something–it seems a little thin. For awhile Mama Squirrel always added some wheat germ to the batter (sometimes sprinkled some on top as well), but lately she has been adding some rolled oats (the 5-minute kind) instead--either way works. Serve plain or with milk or yogurt. The Squirrels have been known to finish this off for breakfast.