Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Don't Get Discouraged Edition

In spite of our hosting the Festival of Frugality,  it has not been our most successful week, moneywise.  Some of that has to do with extreme winter weather, some doesn't.  We had to throw out a bunch of apples that had gone bad. We had large power and water bills to pay, we went out for burgers on the weekend, and (due to bad driving conditions) we ended up getting several days' worth of food at the Euro grocery, which is a fun place to shop but not the cheapest, especially when you need things like ketchup and have to pay extra for imported brands.
It's also a bad place for us to go when our impulse-buying resistance is running low.  (Can you say chocolate?)

Well, what did go well this week?

Somebody mentioned another free-or-cheap-ebook-finder, BookBub. You sign up, specify your interests and reader format, and they send you daily updates.  I downloaded a free cookbook.

Dollygirl sewed a pink-striped bathing suit/undies set for her Kit doll. 

I ordered some discount books from Hampstead House Books, and got further discounts by using a credit note (from a previous order) and by filling out a survey.

Dollygirl found two nice sweaters on clearance at Walmart.

I cleaned out a couple of shelves and boxes, which translated into some unused paper, folders, index cards, and other "found stuff" to add to our office-supply stash.

I baked cookies, pumpkin bars, and muffins.  I tried to stick to meals that are cheaper overall for us, such as a Sloppy Joe recipe that calls for only tomato paste and spices in addition to ground meat.  It would be even cheaper with beans added, but the Squirrels like their Sloppies straight-up.

I hung several loads of washing on the furnace-room clotheslines, instead of using the dryer.  I have gotten out of the hanging-up habit lately, especially when Mr. Fixit is working in there and doesn't need to be fighting his way through everybody's shirts and socks; but the dryer is expensive, especially when we're getting hit with time-of-use charges. (Not everybody wants to do their laundry late at night.)

Mr. Fixit found some good radio stuff to restore and sell.

I got a free expanded-translation New Testament from a church library discard pile.

Dollygirl and I played some fun free online math games.  She particularly liked the pirate game where the "teacher" walks the plank--and the more questions you get right, the closer he/she gets to the end.

I guess it wasn't that bad a week, when you think about it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

School Plans for Tuesday (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

Dollygirl's school plans for today:

Illustration from Scott's Redgauntlet

Reading from Charlotte Mason's Ourselves Book II.  More about friendships:  "Though a temperate friendship, that between Alan Fairford and Darsie Latimer was no alliance of the loose, commonplace sort.  Friendship was subordinated to duty while things went well....But when his friend is in danger, this canny Alan throws up his chances and endangers his life with uncalculating ardour." What is the difference between a "sane and generous friendship" and the unhealthy, dependent sort that was described in the last chapter?

Art and history:  The Bayeux Tapestry: The Story of the Norman Conquest 1066, by Norman Denny and Josephine Filmer-Sankey.  "The book has been designed to show the tapestry in its proper sequence with an accompanying text divided into two parts--the first explaining simply what is happening in each scene, the second describing the background more fully."

Book of Centuries

Math:  continue finishing up algebra unit

Natural History:  The Lay of the Land--finish a chapter that got postponed.

Grammar of Poetry: Dactyls

Science simulation:  activity from General Science, Module 8, involving index cards.  The parent/teacher draws six different symbols on eighteen cards; they are set up in piles according to instructions in the textbook, and the student has to "determine the order in which your parent originally laid down all 6 [original] cards."  The activity is used to illustrate several points such as the Principle of Superposition.

What's for supper? Pork and rice

Tonight's dinner menu:

One-dish bake made of:: brown rice, two Polish sausages, a couple of cut-up slices of cooked pork from the weekend, one piece of leftover chicken, and half a bag of baby-cut carrots.  Plus water for the rice.  Cover and bake as long as it takes for the rice and sausage to be done.

Miscellaneous bread and crackers.  Cottage cheese.

Butterscotch dumplings with blueberries added to the sauce.

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Can you believe it's Week 18?

At the end of this week, we'll be halfway through the school year.  Seriously.  Right now, weatherwise, it doesn't ever seem like it's going to be hot June, much less mild March or April, but we will have faith.  I think we'll call this year The Long, Long Winter.

Today's school plans:

The Accidental Voyage: Discovering Hymns of the Early Centuries, by Douglas Bond.  ages 169-178.  "'The sea may kick up her heels a trifle,' said Mr. Pipes.  He scanned the blue expanse all around them.  'A blow could follow a calm such as this....However, no sense our worrying over the future; we are in God's hands, my dear, not some storm's.'"

Read some Coleridge.  Choose memory work.

Math:  finish algebra unit this week.  We read part of a lesson on, about removing parentheses and brackets; Mama Squirrel found a similar online exercise, for practice, on the MathIsFun website.
Sigurd the Volsung:  try to finish this week so we can start Ivanhoe next week.  We finished Book II today: Sigurd and Brynhild pledge their love (while holding The Ring; yes, there's a Ring in this story too, but you probably knew know, Wagner, The Ring, all that); but you just know that it can't be that simple.

Exploring Creation Through General Science:  finish up the geological units this week if we can.

One page of The Easy Grammar Plus, on verb tenses..

French history:  start working on the Crusades.

Book of Centuries

Sewing: doll panties with elastic, for Kit. (Good job, Dollygirl!)

Tonight: swimming lesson.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Ambitious plans for another cold Wednesday (Update: what we really accomplished)

Hymn: "Christian, Dost Thou See Them?"

Basic Bible Studies, by Francis Schaeffer.  Begin #12: "Salvation—How?"  (We looked at several verses in John chapter 3.)

Algebra worksheet from

History and Composition:  Written narration for the Battle of Hastings (a.k.a. the Norman Invasion).

Quick note on Norman influences on English (a review, we've already read this book) from Word Origins by John Butterworth, a handy little reference.

The Easy Grammar Plus: one page on verb tenses.


Architecture Shown to the Children;  begin "Norman Architecture: A Sturdy Style."

Grammar of Poetry:  What is onomatopoeia?  Make up your own onomatopoeic words to describe sounds such as a pop can opening, fingernails on a blackboard (these are in the book).  (Fun review exercise in this lesson with quotes from Tolkien.)

Homework:  Read the section of General Science that got missed previously.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

One pound of meat, one big pot of soup

Yesterday I made a big potful of minestrone, which Mr. Fixit calls Hamburger Soup.  So what's in a name, right? Ponytails said it smelled like restaurant soup, which is a compliment.

This is what I did: browned a pound of ground beef, drained off most of the fat, added in some chopped onion and celery and let them cook a few minutes.  Added a can of pasta sauce and several cans of water; when it boiled, I added a cupful of what the grocery store packaged as "soup mix." That is, a mixture of lentils, grains, and small beans.  I let that simmer for a couple of hours, stirring it to keep from sticking, adding water if it needed it.  You could probably do it in the slow cooker too.

Later I added chopped zucchini, a few mushrooms, and pasta bowties, along with extra basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  That's it, and it made a lot.  Something for the freezer!

Monday, January 20, 2014

How to make a cranberry cake

Mama Squirrel's Applesauce-Cranberry Cake (adapted from this Canadian Living apple-spice muffin recipe)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat bran or rolled oats (I used quick oats)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg (I used only about 1/2 tsp.)
1 tsp allspice (I used about 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup sweetened applesauce (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1-1/2 cups diced peeled apples (I used about a cupful of chopped cranberries instead; you could use a combination)

Mix the dry and liquid ingredients separately.  Blend together and add in the cranberries (or chopped apples).  Spread into a large (greased) pie dish, or a 9 x 13 inch pan, and bake at 350 degrees as a cake, for about 30 minutes (roughly); or spoon into muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.  If you bake it as cake, test to be sure it's done in the middle; the middle of mine was done but just slightly squishy.  Eat for dessert or for breakfast.

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Term 2, Week Five

Plans for this week's school:

Christian Studies
Basic Bible Studies #12: "Salvation—How?"
Optional: The Accidental Voyage, finish chapter 9.

Ourselves Book II:  "We are not Free to give Ourselves without Reserve"; the bad example of Edward II and his close friend Gaveston. "If we choose to yield ourselves to the domination of another, so that our will is paralysed and we are unable to think or act except upon that other's initiative, are incapable of being happy and at ease except in his presence, then we too have sown disorder..."

Plutarch's Life of Demosthenes

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?--continue

Algebra, Lesson 6: Some Rules of Algebra

Heidi's Alp: finish "Of Tivoli and Travellers". Map work. (" With 4.033 million visitors in 2012, Tivoli is the second most popular seasonal theme park in the world, the most visited theme park in Scandanavia and the fourth most visited in Europe... " -- Wikipedia)

Watership Down--continue
Sigurd the Volsung--continue
Return of the King--continue
Poetry Reading and Memory Work
Grammar of Poetry: Dactyls

English History: Chapter X, The Norman Conquerors 1066
If we have time:  French History: 1098 Siege of Antioch; 1099 Capture of Jerusalem

Natural History
The Lay of the Land: finish "A Cure for Winter"
Keeping a Nature Journal
Apologia Science: Finish Module 7 (features of the fossil record; differing viewpoints on the origin of the Grand Canyon). Start Module 8 (further discussion of Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism)

Read Dinosaur Ghosts: The Mystery of Coelophysis, by Douglas Henderson.

Grammar and Composition
Grammar—Verb tenses

Fine Arts
Artist Study: contiue Oscar Kokoschka and Expressionism

Composer Study: Go hear the Madawaska String Quartet on Tuesday.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mama Squirrel's Turkey Pot Pie

How to make a turkey pot pie with this, that, and whatever else:

Start with enough cut-up cooked turkey meat to fill the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Cover with any combination of the following: leftover gravy and/or milk plus a little flour, leftover chopped vegetables, sliced mushrooms, carrots sliced or chopped small, frozen peas, salt and pepper, dried onion, garlic powder (just a bit), thyme, even a bit of cheese.  Think small pieces of everything, and just enough liquid to keep things moist.  Stir it around a bit.  Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly; time it so you reach that point about half an hour before dinner.  Turn the oven up to 375 degrees.

You can make a from-scratch biscuit crust, but a can of refrigerated crescent rolls works well too.  If you're using crescent rolls, do all your messing with the can before removing the hot turkey mixture from the oven.  Take the pan out; check to see that it has enough liquid; and cover it with the unrolled dough (or rolled, or cut in circles if you're using homemade biscuits).  It doesn't matter if it's all in one piece or not.  Leave some gaps, or vent it with a sharp knife.  Return the pan to the oven and let it bake through.

Let sit a few minutes before serving.  One pan serves about six people, depending on how much filling you put into it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Mr. Fixit continues his tightwad adventures

Well, if you've followed the blog recently, you'll know that we had assorted water problems including a wet but not disastrous basement flood due to freakish January rains, and general old-bathroom issues (replacing taps that were as old as the house).  And that Mr. Fixit partly solved the problem of leaky garage doors by fitting them with old/new weatherstripping.  I don't think I mentioned that the plumber's visit could have meant having to completely rip out a fifty-year-old bathroom vanity just to install new taps, if there was no other way to get at the pipes.  But once again we were lucky/blessed to get a creative and smart plumber with the gymnastic skills to work with his head under the counter and one leg halfway up the wall; it's a very small bathroom.  Anyway,  the replacement was accomplished without damaging anything important, including the plumber.

Although the weatherstripping Mr. Fixit found was the right fit for our old doors, the garage floor itself is a bit uneven and there are still a few gaps.  That may straighten itself out in the warmer weather, but for now the holes could still be a problem.  Mr. Fixit was talking to someone a few days ago who said he has a couple of two-by-fours wrapped in old rags that he puts against the doors when it rains or the snow melts--kind of like draft dodgers.

Oh, said Mr. Fixit, suddenly remembering something--so did his Grandpa!  That is, the Grandpa who lived in and helped build this house.  He used to put boards wrapped in rags against the doors in certain kinds of wet weather.  But Grandpa's boards disappeared years ago.  We could have just bought new two-by-fours and wrapped them in rags too, but Mr. Fixit came up with something slightly more elegant and almost as cheap. 
Dollygirl spray-painted a wooden clementine tray that's going to be a doll ottoman, and created a doll dressing table using fabric, duct tape, and an old mirror.(More ideas for reusing clementine or other wooden fruit boxes here.)  She's also been finding things to spruce up her own room, like fabric bows for a quarter apiece at Michael's. She picked up a pair of inexpensive discount-store boots for what's left of the winter--by next winter she'd have outgrown more expensive ones.  And we found her a $3 pair of Old Navy pants at a thrift store.
I used up some last bits of baking chocolate to make a cake.  I also used the rest of my Christmas-gift dried cherries and blueberries to dress up a pan of Budget101's MYO Chewy Granola Bars; I cut them smaller, more like squares this time.  I also refilled our hot-chocolate can with homemade mix, and used a stray can of pineapple to make sherbet.
This week's grocery trip was, again, expensive, even at Food Basics.  But we did score some deals on flour tortillas and frozen fruit.  Cubed round steak was a pretty good deal, turkey breast was a good deal, but chicken was out of sight.  Mr. Fixit cooked up some of the turkey for dinner tonight, and afterwards he said, "I remember sometimes how my mom would make a big turkey dinner or something, and we'd ask her what the occasion was.  She'd say, '59 cents a pound.'"

And that was our week.  How was yours?

Thrift store Saturday

The thrift stores around town have been moving, closing, changing, and we just don't seem to have found our new "destination" store. Has to be a good location, good stuff, good prices...nothing right now quite meets all that for us.

But The Apprentice is home this weekend, and she drove the other girls and me out to a couple of the thrift shops.  Besides a VHS of Always, two rolls of ribbon, and a pair of Old Navy pants for Dollygirl ($3), all I found was books, but who's complaining?
Hot Rod Rodeo, Scholastic T 827, in amazing shape for its age
The Year of the Dream, Scholastic TX 671
Mountain Pony, Scholastic T 53
Ginnie's Baby-sitting Business, a lookalike to the vintage Scholastics but with an ISBN instead
An American Girl McKenna book for Dollygirl
The Ramsay Scallop
Die Kinder- und Hausmärchen der Brüder Grimm, hardcover printed in Germany

Die Kinder-Bibel, by Anne de Vries
Mary Engelbreit's Christmas Ideas: Make Good Cheer!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday school: it's short (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

Things we did for school today:

Sang O Canada.  Finished the Book of Acts, using a Bible atlas to track Paul's voyage across Cyprus, Crete, Malta, and Sicily, to Rome.  Did a page of Gauss math questions.  Reviewed the four features of the fossil record. Read the Uniformitarian view of the loooooongdrawnout formation of the Grand Canyon.  Assigned homework to read the rest of the chapter (the Catastrophist view) and present that side of the story on Monday.  Also assigned homework to read some Of Watership Down, choose a "kindred spirit" among the rabbit characters (Dollygirl says "definitely not Bigwig"), and write about that character.

Dollygirl wants some time to sew...I almost wrote "snow." We are planning on having "Snowman Teatime" a bit later, maybe with snow poems.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Peeling back the veil: a thought on Charlotte Mason and history

In one of Ellis Peters' medieval mysteries, The Leper of St. Giles, the diseased beggars living near Shrewsbury wear cloaks and veils that allow only their eyes to show.  Sometimes this appears almost to encourage rough treatment by others passing by, as if it is easier to abuse someone you can't really see; the beggars are more like shadows or ghosts than real people, individuals, flesh and blood beings.  But Brother Cadfael, reflecting on the times he has treated some of their sores (through his work as the abbey's herbalist), says that he has found sharp minds, unique personalities behind the veils..."by a thousand infinitesimal foibles of character that pierced through the disguise, they emerged every one unique."  He has the gift of seeing what others miss.

In The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater says, "One of Mason's primary purposes for making history the 'pivot' of her curriculum is to allow the child to see the flow of history and to think of himself within it."  She points us to Philosophy of Education, page 273, where Charlotte Mason calls history "the proper corrective of intolerable individualism."  So history, as a way of seeing, cuts us down to size but also shows us where we belong; gives us a place and time but makes it clear that there are other places and times that matter just as much.

But we have to see it.  However we can make that happen, for ourselves and our children.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's snowing. Make a cake.

We had a freeze.  We had a thaw and lots of rain.  Now it's been snowing all day, big thick flakes.  Gray, cold weather seems to require something to cheer things up.

For some reason I was thinking about the "Delicious Death" cake in Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced.  Next to Esther's Orange Marmalade cakes in the Mitford books, that's probably the literary cake I've always been most curious about.  It turns out that about three years ago there was a big AC birthday celebration, and to mark the occasion they created a real, actual recipe for "Delicious Death," a rich chocolatey flourless cake with fruit and rum in the middle and sugared fruits and gold flecks and who knows what else.  Actually I never envisioned it quite as posh as that, especially if the baker in the story (Mitzi the hard-done-by maid) had to struggle just to get the post-war butter and eggs and chocolate together.  The cake in the Joan Hickson BBC version of the story looks more like a white cake with a thick chocolate glaze over the top.  So I guess you can imagine Mitzi's cake any way you like.

Besides the Small Chocolate Cake, which we still make regularly for birthdays etc., we have another 8-inch cake that I make if I have some chocolate to use up (which I did, just a bit left from Christmas baking).  It calls for two squares (ounces) of unsweetened chocolate, and I was a bit short but made up the last bit with part of a (dark, barely sweet) Polish chocolate bar.  I grated up some more of the bar for the topping.  And that is close enough to "Delicious Death" for us.

Here's the recipe. It came from a Kraft What's Cooking magazine, Fall 2001.  (You can see the whole thing here on their site, under "Mix Easy Snack Cakes."  The recipe gives three other variations, but this is really the only one we liked.)

One-Pan Chocolate Cake, Not Mitzi's But Not Bad

This is my version of the directions.  If you want to see Kraft's, click on the link above.

Preheat the oven (a toaster oven is fine, if it keeps steady heat) to 350 degrees F.  Put 1/3 cup cooking oil and 2 ounces (squares) unsweetened chocolate in an 8-inch square pan.  Kraft recommends non-stick but I don't have one, I just use Pyrex.  Put the pan in the preheated oven for about two minutes or until the chocolate is soft.  Carefully remove the pan from the oven (use mitts!) and stir with a fork until oil and chocolate are blended smoothly.

While the chocolate is getting soft in the oven, you can be assembling the other ingredients:

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda.

When the pan comes out and you have blended in the chocolate, beat in the other ingredients with a fork. Keep beating it for about two minutes.

Before baking, top the cake with any combination you like of grated chocolate, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, etc.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool before cutting.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Tuesday and Wednesday School


Opening time, section from Ourselves Book II
Study map of Denmark, answer map questions
Start next chapter in Heidi's Alp
Math: 10 Gauss questions
Natural History: Half a chapter from Lay of the Land
Grammar of Poetry: Hyperbole
Picture talk: Introduction to Oscar Kokoschka
Watership Down


Opening time, Book of Acts
Marshall's English Literature: Some Song Stories
You-tube Bonus: Ballad, Sir Patrick Spens
General Science: The Fourth Aspect of the Fossil Record
English History: continue the chapter on the Danish kings
Book of Centuries
Sewing and Handicrafts
Return of the King

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Sometimes it's there waiting for you.

One reason so much water came in the garage last weekend was that the old weatherstripping on the garage doors was past its prime.  After thing started to dry up, outside as well as inside, Mr. Fixit pulled off the old stuff and went looking for replacement stripping.  He bought some at the Large Canadian Chain, but when he got it home and examined it more closely, it did not look like it would fit well on our 1959 doors.  The Big Box place also didn't have what he wanted.  So he tried another place, a smaller chain where he's had good luck before.  This store has two parts: the main store building, and another building at the back for contractors, where you have to be invited in.  When Mr. Fixit explained what he wanted, the hardware guy showed him the regular stuff on the store shelf, and then said, "We have some heavy-duty stripping in the back building--do you want to check that out?" He got the key and took Mr. Fixit into the hardware holy place, and Mr. Fixit kind of did a double take: they had exactly the kind of real rubber stripping he had just taken off the doors.  Old stock, no bar code.  "How long has this been sitting here?" Mr. Fixit asked.  "I guess since before we were bought out by the new owners, so at least fifteen years."

AND the price was at least fifty per cent less than the not-as-good stripping he'd seen elsewhere.

So tell me that's all just a coincidence.  No? I didn't think so.

What's for supper? Pasta night

Tonight's menu:

Butterfly (bowtie) pasta with meat and mushroom sauce
Spinach salad
Bread-machine garlic bread

Pineapple-banana freeze, combining leftovers.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What we did in school today (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

We sang a hymn from the back section of The Accidental Voyage, and read the part about their yummy tofu-seaweed dinner (Abdul thinks cooking is unnatural).  Mr. Fixit sometimes joins us for opening time, but he was busy with the plumber who came bright and early to replace our bathroom taps and do something to the bathtub.

We read about the fossil record in General Science.  According to Dr. Wile, 95% of the fossils found are basically clams, and the next largest group is fish.  Doesn't leave much room for dinosaurs!

After a break (when Dollygirl finished a post for her own blog), she did ten questions from an old Gauss contest.  She got most of them right but it did show us a couple of places she needs to review.

We read from Sigurd the Volsung, how Sigurd killed the dragon/serpent/man Fafnir, and then Fafnir's brother Regin, and how Sigurd accidentally got a taste of the dragon's blood...which would not appear to be a really good thing.

The plumber left.  He said his boss told him that we are good people to do work for because our cheques don't bounce.  I suppose you could add that they like us because we give them so many things to fix...sigh.  This didn't have anything to do with the basement flood--the bathroom repairs were already set for today.

After lunch we read about King Canute, Earl Godwin, and Godwin's son Harold, who became the most powerful man in England although he was just the king's brother-in-law at the time. Seems like the king (Edward, not Canute) was a little too friendly with the Normans and that didn't win him points with his English subjects.

I tried to help Dollygirl demonstrate the story of King Canute and the Waves by letting her use her new beanbag chair as the royal seat; but when the waves came at her (me), she kind of capsized the beanbag and went over backwards.  Well, it was a diversion anyway.


Music history: how Bach's Prelude in C is a piece of music without a tune, but it's still well liked.  We listened to it once in its usual legato version, and then in Glenn Gould's staccato, more harpsichord-like interpretation.  I said that a piano teacher might smack your hand for playing it that way, and there are some negative comments on the You-tube version, but it's Glenn Gould, and he doesn't do things just like everyone else.  Maybe that's how Bach meant it to sound.

Last 20 minutes: a game of Hexxagon on a math website, which Dollygirl says is a lot like a game on Webkinz.  First Dollygirl beat the computer, then she beat me.

After supper will be swimming.

And that was our day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Parents' Review on Geometry and Synthesis (and the argument over taking flowers apart)

"Before the child has to work at geometry, see that he realizes:-- That there are in nature no lines, except the edges of solids, nor surfaces, except the sides of solids. That natural movements and growths take place usually in curves, not straight lines. That axes, diameters and co-ordinates are not part of any natural figure, but measuring rods introduced for man's convenience. Connect in the pupil's mind these devices with that earlier invention, mentioned in the former paper, of breaking big numbers into tens and hundreds; explain that man extracts no more real instruction out of such devices than a monkey gets by breaking things in bits, unless he completes the cycle of study by the transcendental (or supra-simian) act of synthesis. The parent will translate these words into such as she finds suit the child; the essential thing is for the parent herself to grasp the idea clearly. If she does not, she should get herself taught to do so by some competent person.

 "In connection with this idea of synthesis, a child should be taught that if he wants to learn anything about an object by breaking it open, he should not break it till he has taken a good look at it in its original state, so as to be able to reconstruct it in his mind as a whole.'  ~~ "Home Algebra and Geometry," by Mary Everest Boole, in The Parents' Review, Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 854-857

And check this one out (emphases mine):

 "May I make an example of flowers to illustrate the application of the science of appearances? Amongst other sciences applicable to them is horticulture, which treats of their civilization, the robustness of their constitution, their span of life, their propagation, their cultivation, the improvement of their characteristics of form and colour, the soil suitable to them, its texture, and its chemical constituents. There is also botany, a science which deals with their habits, their structure, their organs, their classification and variety. These are all concrete facts, to acquire which we examine the flowers from every point of view. We uproot them, we dissect them, we remove them from their surroundings, and consider them almost without reference to them. The facts of their appearance are different. They depend, not only upon the aspect and condition of the flowers themselves, the relation of the parts to the whole, and of the parts to each other, in different qualities and characteristics, but their aspect also depends upon their relation to surroundings, and to the aspect and condition of surroundings, and to relations, conditions, influences outside themselves and their immediate surroundings.

 "We may be able to change their surroundings and the outside influences, but we cannot disassociate them, We may take flowers from the field, or hedgerow, or garden, and bring them indoors, place them in a vase or upon a table or in a box, we may change their conditions in a countless number of different ways, but do what we may, we cannot see them without some surroundings. Any change of surroundings or change of relation of outside influences will cause change of appearance. Their appearance amongst the green grasses in the field will be different from their appearance as they grow in the garden soil against the red-brick wall, or as they lie indoors upon a polished mahogany table. They will appear different under the influence of sunshine, or gray weather or rain, at a distance from us or near at our feet. The appearance of the flowers will in every possible case have certain fixed relations to surroundings and outside conditions and influences. We cannot see or conceive flowers or any other object except under aspects influenced by outside conditions, for that is the way nature conveys to us the impression of them."  ~~ "The Fine Arts and Education, Part 1," by Francis Bate, in The Parents' Review, Volume 7, 1896, pgs. 561-571.

Do you get the feeling we're talking about a lot more than botany here?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winds, weather and water--lots of water

The temperature has gone up, and the thawing and the rain have brought all kinds of water in places where it's not welcome.  Including our basement, which is on the same level as the garage.  In the forty-some years that Mr. Fixit has known this house (it was his grandparents' before we bought it), the drains in the basement have never failed, even in wet weather.  Until last night.  Mr. Fixit is slightly insomniac anyway, and something around 2:30 in the morning told him to go and check on the status of things.

The status was several inches of water in our laundry area and basement entrance, some trying to get into the storage room, and more coming into the garage under the doors.  Mr. Fixit and Mama Squirrel spent about two hours, in boots and pajamas, bailing, sopping, wringing, pouring, and mopping.

The damage so far is not too significant.  All the floor mats in that area will have to be replaced, but some of them were old anyway.  The water that got into the storage room stayed in the middle, so it missed the shelves. The laundry appliances and vacuum cleaner (stored on the floor there) seem all right.  We had to toss part of a box of stuff being packed for the thrift store, and re-wash a few towels and things that got damp (besides all the old towels that we used to mop things up).  There is some concern about the places we couldn't reach to get clean or dry, but we are running heaters and trying to get everything dried out quickly.  It could have been a lot worse.

But we went out this morning and bought a new Shop-Vac.  Just because.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What's for supper? (Fridge clean out night)

Polish sausage baked with celery, brown rice, and the end of a bag of barley
(The grains stayed slightly underdone, so I put them in the fridge to use in a casserole or soup later, and we opened a can of baked beans instead.)
Leftover Mexican Potatoes from last night
Carrot sticks
Bread, leftover biscuits, other leftover bits and pieces

Pineapple Freeze

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Frugal Finds and Fixes: featuring Mr. Fixit

The past week has meant ultra-cold temperatures all over the place (unless maybe you're in Australia), which is not good for people, heating bills, water mains, and vehicles.  Our van had a leak in one of its tires, with the weather at least partly to blame.

We discovered this early Saturday morning, but the only tire-fixer at the nearby shop had called in sick, and they asked us to wait until Monday.  After keeping it pumped up long enough to handle Saturday groceries and Sunday church, Mr. Fixit was worried enough to take it into the Big Tire Chain on Sunday afternoon, but it turns out they're not a warranty dealer for our brand of tires, and the tire was still fairly new.  So on Monday Mr. Fixit went to the other shop and got a new tire for the van, free under the warranty but paying the service charge to put it on.  He drove away to run another errand, but when he came out to the van he noticed there was no little cap on the tire, where you pump it up.  He went back to the shop and inquired about the missing cap, and was told that Caps Are Now Extra.  No way.  He further inquired where the cap to the old tire might be.  The tire-fixer had to fish through the trash can to find it, but we got it back. So there's our automotive frugal tip for the week, which also applies, unfortunately, to other businesses these days:  don't expect even small things to come gratis.  Ask to make sure.

Mr. Fixit has a 1958 Simpson 260 analog multimeter (their photo) that he got free over thirty years ago when his high school shop class went digital.  (He says most of the digital meters got blown within a year, and the school had to re-replace them.)  He used to use it a lot with older cars, but it had been pretty much set aside for the past decade.  Recently his newer, digital meter (the second in the past few years) quit on him, and he decided to resurrect the Simpson.  After cleaning it and replacing its batteries, he used it to test the voltages in a radio he was repairing, and he says it still works well.

Mr. Fixit also negotiated a slightly better deal this week with our Internet provider.  We were considering switching, so the company offered us a please-stay incentive.  That was supposed to kick in today, so there's not much so far to say about whether what we're getting is really faster or better.

From this Treehouse it seems like food prices are going up again.  We are trying hard to make the most of what we have, use leftovers, cook up bits and pieces.  This week we had a lot of ground beef in the freezer, so we've had both lasagna and Mexican Potato Casserole, which we found in Company's Coming Kids: Lunches, but which is almost identical to the one on the Mennonite Girls Can Cook website, and they say they got it from a church cookbook.  So it seems like one of those recipes that's made the rounds.  You coat cut-up potatoes in melted margarine and taco seasoning and bake them in a casserole; then, about ten minutes before serving, you add browned ground beef mixed with salsa and chopped peppers, and cheese on top. I just used the amounts of everything that we had on hand, including homemade taco seasoning and mild Cheddar instead of Jack cheese, but we thought it was pretty good.  (The recipe says not to peel the potatoes, but we prefer them peeled.)

We also made pizza on the weekend, using bread-machine pizza dough; a batch of granola; and I turned a cupful of mashed sweet potato into two dozen half-size muffins.

Finally:  Mama Squirrel was browsing through a particular money website and blog, and came across a post about holiday spending.  The author described what their family had spent on gifts and so on, and then other people commented and shared some of their "holiday totals."  The most common comment was something like, "Yes, we have a set budget for our Christmas gifts, entertainment etc., and it can't total more than X." And that would have been fine, except that X, for our family, would be an astronomical amount. And though in general that would not surprise me at all, these are people who read and comment on a financial, money-saving blog.  

Which makes me worry a lot about the people who don't read money blogs.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

This gift means the lights stay on.

On Christmas Eve I posted a link about a pressing need at an orphanage in Nigeria.

Thanks to those who helped, they have been able to buy a generator.

If you read about it here and prayed or helped financially, thank you too!

Back to school, but it's still cold (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

School plans for Wednesday:

Opening time
Book of Acts

Discussing a point about integers, negative signs, and fractions
Short lesson, starting Reciprocals, on

Charlotte Mason had students read from various subjects and then write about them later in the week.  So Dollygirl will have the chapter on "Havelok the Dane" to read in Marshall's literature, and then do a written narration tomorrow or Friday.

Read some of the Fossils chapter in General Science.
Work at our "rock table" for awhile.  Examine the "ghost crystals" we started on Monday.

Geography: Heidi's Alp, continue the chapter on Holland and Hans Brinker.

Grammar, one page.

Return of the King.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Snow Day Books Quiz (Reposted from 2007)

The school boards got the message: today all the schools are closed.
So if you're looking for something to do, I've re-posted a snowed-in books quiz that we posted several years ago as part of a Carnival of Homeschooling.   (The photos are also from that post.)  Here are eleven cold and snowy excerpts from children's books--without authors or titles. Can you name the books? Answers are posted here.

Here we go:

"O ye Frost and Cold, bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever," sang Will, reflecting that Mr Beaumont had shown a certain wry humour in choosing the canticle. "O ye Ice and Snow, bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever." (1)

“Hush now, lad,” said Aunt Nan.
“You will have to wait until spring.
Nothing can get over
the mountains now, not even the mail.”
“No mail all winter?”
John asked.
“That’s right,”
Old Joe said. (2)

It was growing darker every minute and what with that and the snowflakes swirling all round him he could hardly see three feet ahead. And then too there was no road. He kept slipping into deep drifts of snow, and skidding on frozen puddles, and tripping over fallen tree-trunks, and sliding down steep banks, and barking his shins against rocks, till he was wet and cold and bruised all over. The silence and the loneliness were dreadful…..[He said] to himself, “When I’m the King of XX the first thing I shall do will be to make some decent roads.” (3)

By the middle of the pasture, the flakes were falling thicker. Now the wind drove Irene along so rudely she had to hop, skip, and go helter-skeltering over the knobby ground. Cold snow sifted into her boots and chilled her feet. She pushed out her lip and hurried on. This was an important errand….[The wind] swept up and scattered the fallen snow, got in front of Irene to keep her from moving ahead. Irene turned around and pressed on backwards. (4)

“On the little that could be seen of his face behind some unusually white-looking whiskers there was a mixture of surprise and excitement as he took in the sight which met his eyes. Overnight a great change had come over the weather. Whereas the day before had been mild, almost spring-like for early January, now everything was covered by a thick white blanket of snow which reached almost to the top of his Wellington boots.” (5)
[She] stood at the little window looking out in wonderment, for the snow was beginning again, and the thick flakes kept falling till the snow was up to the window; and still they continued to fall, and the snow grew higher, so that at last the window could not be opened, and [they] were shut up fast within the hut. (6)

In most places the snow was still hardly lying at all, for the wind kept catching it up off the ground in sheets and clouds, and hurling it in their faces. And round their feet little eddies of snow ran about as you sometimes see them doing over ice. And, indeed, in many places, the surface was almost as smooth as ice….Fighting her way forward with hood up and head down and numb hands inside her cloak....the only things she thought about were her cold hands (and nose and chin and ears) and hot baths and beds at Harfang. (7)

The ladder was his only hope, and yet there was so much more work to do….It was not much later when the wind began howling through the dark woods and fine flakes of snow whipped through the branches of the oak. Indoors it was warm and cozy, and to take his mind off his misery Warton decided to play a game of solitaire. (8)

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. (9)

"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." (10)

“You can fly in storms,” said Aunt Lily. “You’ve flown in storms before.” “That’s different—I was alone.” “I don’t see the difference,” said Aunt Lily. “If you can fly in a storm, we can fly in this storm if we have to. And that is that.” (11)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Epiphany, liturgy, lasagna (and Charlotte Mason)

Epiphany, January 6th, celebrates Christ made manifest--shown in His glory to the Gentiles, who are represented by the Magi.  A manifestation is when you see something, right?  And "having an epiphany" is often used, these days, to describe suddenly seeing (and understanding) something clearly.

And what is "liturgy?"  A generic definition might be "a fixed set of ceremonies."  A spiritual habit or discipline, maybe.  If you attend a liturgical church, it means that the worship time is laid out ahead of time, word for word: prescribed, observed, repeated.  As opposed to figuring it out fresh every time, or letting everything happen spontaneously.

In the Mitford books, Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest, often goes off by himself to "repeat the office."  He is not going to his office; he is saying his prayers, those that are laid out in the prayer book for different days and different times of day. An office is a service you do for someone, in the same way that we call worship time a service. That's where we get our word "officer."

On a site called The Daily Office West, I found this thought (in their FAQs: "The Office provides a framework for your thoughts, needs, concerns, thanksgivings, confessions and resolutions, so your praying becomes extremely personal. You wouldn't build a house without a foundation; once that’s down, you follow a written plan, and after it’s done, you decorate it so it suits your personality. Ideally, the Office provides a discipline; that’s why it’s best used Daily. If you wait until you’re inspired to pray spontaneously, God may be waiting a very long time to hear from you."

Framework, written plan, discipline. What does this have to do with Epiphany, or Charlotte Mason? It's coming, hold on.

Several years ago I posted "Lasagna Without Recipes," meaning that you could add a variety of ingredients, mix and match, leave out the tomato sauce or the cheese or the meat, and still have something that's recognizably lasagna.  But you still have to give it structure with noodles or something else to keep it separated in layers, or what you end up with is not lasagna.  It might be a good casserole, but it's not lasagna, because it's the structure that gives it its shape and identity.

Like lasagna, we need a framework in our worship, our life and our learning. Or at least we can say that a framework gives it more meaning.

In her preface to The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater quotes a passage from Wendell Berry's novel Jayber Crow, about seminary students who "could tell you" but "didn't see."  They could not see the beauty of the world around them, and so did not connect it with the Creator.  She also refers to Charlotte-Mason-style notebooks as things that "teach us to see" AND that are "the liturgy of the attentive life."  A framework, a discipline, a structure...and yet a place to add our individuality, our own taste.  ("Us" and "our" also meaning the students, of course.)

A big epiphany, a star in the heavens, might be experienced once in a lifetime, but we can watch for small epiphanies, glimpses of glory. And if we make use of the disciplines of learning, they may help us to keep our eyes open.

Linked from Hot Homeschool Hop: January 2014, at the HSBA Post.

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: Term Two, Week Three

Starting back to school after our holiday break--but we started Term Two before Christmas, so we have a head start.  It's a nasty day here today (unlike A Peaceful Day's first day of Year Seven).  The school buses are cancelled, the rural schools are closed, but somebody made the decision to keep the city schools open, so Ponytails is off to Grade Eleven in a taxi...that is, if the taxi ever comes.  And that's because the end of our driveway is completely plowed in.

Things to do today, besides shovel out:

Look through the term schedule, talk about special things coming up.

Read some of Ourselves Book II.

Do some of Algebra Lesson 4 on

Read some poetry.

Read Watership Down.

Do a page of grammar (verb tenses).

Science:  start a crystals kit that The Apprentice dug up.  Read some of the chapter on fossils.

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

Dollygirl will probably want some crafts time, but right now she has her own ideas for crafts and does not need any suggestions from me.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Frugal Finds and Fixes, New Year's Edition

What have we done lately that doesn't involve money?  Around the holidays that's a tough one.  Even homemades require ingredients of one kind or another.  Sometimes you just want to do special things that do cost money.  We had some meals out over Christmas, and also a theater movie (we hardly ever go to movies).  But we did put dinner in the slow cooker for after the movie.  Actually Mr. Fixit did, and I appreciated that.

We did save some having a proposed Boxing-weekend trip to Toronto knocked out from under us by the ice storm.  It just didn't seem like a really good time to be touristing there, with hundreds of people still out of power, subways not stopping at all the stations, and all kinds of other problems.  We do not get to Toronto very often (as in, hardly ever), and there are some things we'd like to do and people we'd like to see there, so we'll just call it a postponement.

On a more positive note, we got through the last week and a half with only one trip to the grocery store.  The fridge is a bit empty now, but we do have freezer and pantry food, so a medium-sized shop tomorrow should be enough.

Two of my daughters (one professional, one still learning) worked my hair over.  I pay for the supplies, but they don't charge me for their services.

The Apprentice found herself a comforter at Wal-mart, marked way down.  Possibly more than it should have been, but they honoured the price tag anyway.  She took it with her when she left to go back to school today.

I downloaded several e-books by Beth Moore that are free right now.  Not my usual kind of reading material, but I thought they were worth checking out. Details here.

Dollygirl has turned her attention, at least temporarily, from jewelery-making to sewing.  She found some purple stretchy fabric that had come from a yard sale, and has made herself a hat, a pair of fingerless gloves, a funny-faced stuffed head, and I'm not sure what else.

We stopped just long enough at the library today to drop off some DVDs and check the discarded-book rack.  Mama Squirrel found a copy of Home to Holly Springs (one of the "post-Mitford-series" books) for fifty cents, and also a short illustrated book about Dr. Gideon Mantell and the Iguanodon.  The second book is written at such a low reading level that they don't even expect children know how to pronounce "museum" without help; but for another fifty cents I still thought I'd add it to our rocks-and-fossils corner.

Mama Squirrel and Dollygirl both found some cool craft supplies and things for future holidays at a Michael's clearance sale, some at up to 80% off the original prices.  Dollygirl, especially, did really well; she found a couple of $15 craft kits marked down to $3, and spent this afternoon using one of them to make a safety-pin bracelet.

And if you really want to read some knock-your-socks-off frugal accomplishments, check out the comments on the Prudent Homemaker's post-Christmas post.  Man, those ladies make me feel like pretty small potatoes when it comes to saving money.  But every little bit helps, right?

Some things we did over the holidays

1.  The Squirrelings came up with some creative and appreciated (and unique!) Christmas presents, including a framed photograph of our lilac bush from Ponytails, a pair of earrings made by Dollygirl but commissioned and given to Mama Squirrel by Mr. Fixit, and a copy of The Apprentice's class "coffee table book"--each science student contributed one chapter.

2.  The chocolate-orange Christmas cake turned out all right, in spite of the bottom layer's threatening to collapse.  We just put extra glaze on it to kind of glue it together, and extra fruit on top.  Mama Squirrel was quite a lot worried that the cake might collapse into a pile of chocolate and oranges by dinner time, but it held up and nobody laughed too much.

3.  We've been watching the first season of The Bionic Woman, the original series.  Dollygirl got the DVDs for Christmas.

4.  We spent a Saturday morning together downtown, checking out thrift stores and eating snacks at the "hemp cafe."

5.  We clipped branches and toted part of Yet Another Backyard Tree (this has not been a good year for Backyard Trees) to a safe place across the road, after the Very Large Ice Storm.

6.  We watched a famous person muff the words to "Auld Lang Syne" at midnight on New Year's Eve.

7.  Four of us went to see Frozen, on New Year's Day.

7b.  Funniest thing besides the movie: two kids sitting beside me.  The cinema manager came in to say they had sold out the theatre and would everybody please move closer to the center to free up extra seats.  Little girl:  "What did he mean, they just sold the theater?"  Same little girl, several times during the movie, "I love this part.  I love this part."  (How many times had she seen it already?)  Same little girl: "This part is scary. Give me some more Smarties."

8.  We just about got Frozen getting back to the car.  It's gotten very, very cold.  So cold the salt on the roads won't melt the ice.

How was your holiday?

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Fancy Fruit Bars: Vegan or Not

I made some unintentionally-vegan fruit bars tonight, using the Cinnamon Raisin Bars recipe on the Hillbilly Housewife website.  The vegan part was because somebody had eaten the last egg; but as the recipe says, it works pretty well without.  The fancy part?  I got a bag of mixed dried cherries, blueberries, and cranberries as a Christmas gift, and I used those instead of raisins, along with a few chocolate chips.  The dried berries work well in this recipe because you pour a cupful of boiling water over them (or the raisins) and let them sit a few minutes while you mix the other ingredients.

Cut in bars, eat for dessert, and send some back to university with returning offspring.  And remember to buy eggs.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Anne Ortlund, 1923-2013: Someone else who stuck

When I made that list this morning of books that had an impact, I forgot to include Anne Ortlund's 1977 book Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman.  I always wanted to be organized and have a notebook and keep priorities straight like Anne.  Well, I do at least have a notebook.

And then when I went to look her up online (thinking to add a P.S. to my earlier post), I found out that Anne passed away in November. I'm not on the right lists, I don't read the right websites; I tend to miss these things.

Or is it just that our modern saints seem to pass away so quietly these days that nobody notices?

10 Books That Stuck, by Mama Squirrel

Jeanne is asking for the names of ten books that stuck with us in some way.  I don't have the pile of books to take a nice photo like she did, but here's a very incomplete list.

1. Winnie the Pooh
2. What is a Family?, by Edith Schaeffer
3.  Tears of Silence, by Jean Vanier
4.  The Pilgrim's Progress
5.  The Tightwad Gazette
6.  Who Do You Think You Are?, by Alice Munro (very Southern-Ontario-gothic)
7.  The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery
8.  The Educated Imagination, by Northrop Frye
9.  101 Famous Poems
10.  The Heart Has Its Own Reasons
11.  Brave New World.  Had to be in there somewhere.
12.  Material World, by Peter Menzel.

Which leaves no room for Charlotte Mason, David Hicks,  Jean Little, Jan Karon, Elizabeth Enright, Sir Walter Scott, Don Aslett, Narnia, Shakespeare, Rumer Godden, Ray Bradbury, Dickens, Plutarch, or Mother Goose.  But you can't have everything.