Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First day of fall: how can we not like this Google Doodle?

I've never posted a GIF here before, but there's always a first time. Today's Google Doodle seemed made for Dewey's Treehouse. Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Drying tomatoes

How do you turn this:
into this?
Sprinkle with salt and bake in a slow oven.

I am so impressed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Freezer meal reviews #4

Sweet and Sour Beef, Islander Pork Chops:  These both turned out to have the same problem, which is that other members of my family don't really like slow-cooked chunks of pineapple along with meat. They are traditionalist Squirrels, and while pineapple is okay on pizza, they would prefer their beef stew and pork chops to be carrots-and-potatoes, not something-else. So this one isn't a recipe review so much as a note to self for next time.

Freezer cooking for tonight: Chicken Chili, which we've had once before and liked.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's for supper? Soup night

Tonight's menu:

Cheese and Bacon sandwiches
Cheeseburger Soup (from the freezer meals), without the bacon or cheese because we used that for the sandwiches
Zucchini sticks

Banana Bread.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Freezer meal reviews #3

What we've eaten recently:

Chicken Tikka Masala: This was just okay, could have used more oomph. The next time I cook one of the Tikka Masala packages, I will probably try it on the stovetop (instead of the slow cooker) to see if the flavours hold up better.

Chicken Cacciatore: We had this for dinner tonight and really liked it. I added a small can of tomato paste because it seemed to need it; otherwise it was good as written.

Next up: I think one of the stew beef packages, because Lydia is trying out for basketball, and if she makes the team we may will be eating late some nights.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Date night: rummage saling

Mr. Fixit and I had some time together this afternoon and into the evening, with everyone else off doing other things. We drove to the antique market in the town where I grew up. Mr. Fixit found a radio to clean up, and I got a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers. If that sounds familiar, check out the quotations in the sidebar.
We went out for some dinner and then to a rummage sale. The Eugenia Price books are in honour of my grandma, who always had a few of them around.
Christmas stationery in a nice box
A little tray to go with the cards. The coins are just to show the size (it's hard to tell in a photo).

And then it's off to Lydia's school to pick her up from Grade Nine Night. There is a meet-and-greet for the parents as well.

Welcome, weekend!

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2009

First posted September 2009: "What Did Mama Squirrel Do Today?"

In no particular order...

1. Covered seven crochet hooks with masking tape and foam pencil grips (which we had sitting around doing nothing). Free comfort hooks!

2. Found out what lizards eat.

3. Taught fourteen homeschoolers how to make sock critters.

4. Made my Squirrelings laugh hysterically at my attempts to hop along with the Spacewalk exercise. (Video about Spacewalk)

5. Read a chapter of Lassie-Come-Home, two Blake poems, and part of a Mr. Pipes chapter. (That was a very low-reading day.)

6. Watched Ponytails inflate a marshmallow in the microwave.

7. Took two Squirrelings out for a quick and rather cold Outdoor Challenge in the backyard.

8. Watched a very beautiful sunset out the back window.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2008

First posted October, 2008. "Yes, It's Worth the Trouble (Memory Work)."

Crayons [Lydia] has memorized the 23rd Psalm this fall (she enjoyed watching a video of a cute little girl saying it), and most of Christina Rossetti's "Caterpillar, brown and furry." (For some reason she does better with Scripture than with poetry.) I've also started her working on Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the Wise Men).

The poem "Indian Summer" came to mind because the children's Sunday School teacher used it as part of a children's momet in church, and mentioned that she had memorized it (more years ago than she preferred to say) during elementary school.

And in this beautiful post, Queen Shenayay reflects 
on what her lifetime accumulation of poetry and Scriptures has meant to her.   

Freezer meal reviews, #2

Tamale Pie, minus the pie, so more or less just chili with corn: a bit bland, but it was okay with macaroni and cheese. The next package I heat up, I'll add some spices or salsa. It would be a good starter for hamburger soup.

Chinese-style Beef with Broccoli: this is one of the recipes I halved (to serve two), and when it was cooking in the little slow cooker I wondered if I should have just made the whole recipe in one bag--it looked like such a small amount.. However, once the broccoli was added near the end, it did turn out to be just enough for two (with rice and other things).  It was good, too, and the beef was very tender.

Tonight's dinner-from-the-freezer: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Quote for the Day: On not reading too much

"As we have pointed out several times, the primary aim is to read well, not widely. You should not be disappointed if you read no more than a handful of the books in a year. The not a challenge that you can meet only by finishing every item on it. Instead, it is an invitation that you can accept graciously by beginning wherever you feel at home." ~~ Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read  a Book

The Wednesday Hodgepodge: The Wednesday Hgpodeogde

I think this week's theme is a real Hgpodeogde.

1. Last thing you did on the spur of the moment?

Bought a kitchen table and chairs at the thrift store, on a day when we were just browsing.

2. How well informed do you feel about the current Syrian refugee crisis?

Somewhat, but not enough. We had a presentation at church from members of the local Syrian community, and are discussing what we can do as a congregation.

3. What have you changed your mind about? 

Boarding up Dewey's Treehouse! I figured the ten-year point would be a natural end to the blog, especially since a large part of it was about homeschooling and now we're not; but I think it will continue for awhile, just in a lower key.

4. A medium sized non-poisonous snake found it's way into the pool trap this weekend. If you'd been sitting poolside would you have fished it out? Gone running? Called for help? Pretended not to know? Continued swimming?

Called for help, because I would have no idea what to do with either a snake or a pool trap.

5. September 10th is National TV Dinner Day...what's your idea of a great TV dinner? (Or at least a pretty good one!) 

Laurie's Cabbage Rolls. Heat them and eat them.

6. Samuel Johnson  is quoted as saying, "Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other." Would you agree? Where have you seen that played out recently? What's the second greatest virtue?
Well...if the Serenity Prayer asks for "the courage to change the things I can," it also mentions "the wisdom to know the difference." Sometimes it's more about faith and the Higher Power (a.k.a. God), when we don't have courage. might say that "courage" is much like "Will," and if you don't have either of those things, you're not only not going to preserve any other virtues, you're not going to do much of anything at all. Courage to choose, courage to do, courage to say yes or no, or "I am, I can, I ought, I will"; in that case, yes, it's pretty important.

7. What are three words you have trouble remembering how to spell?

Schism. Recommend. People's.
“(Are there, or are there not, two ‘c’s’ in ‘recommend’? In spite of the fact that I am a B.A. I can never be certain. Fancy if the Pringles had discovered that before I found Andy’s diary!)” ~~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars
8. Insert your own random thought here.

Today's newspaper crossword taught me a new word: kegler, which means a bowler.  Scoring a Kegler is a perfect game, 12 consecutive strikes. I have only been ten-pin bowling once, and as Elizabeth McGovern's character said in Ordinary People"I'm not a very good bowler, what I mean is, I'm a funny bowler."

(Elizabeth McGovern? Cora on Downton Abbey. We were all a lot younger then.)

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2007

First posted September 2007.

So far most of the term's plans have been working out. Doing the JUMP Math Fractions Unit was definitely a good choice for Ponytails; in fact, now she thinks math is getting a little too easy. She's finding that doing more of her own reading and doing written narrations (especially her Bible readings and Poor Richard) is a bit tougher than she'd like, but it's only a small part of the day. Ponytails also keeps amazing me by getting all her spelling words right. We just learned about General Braddock in Canadian history (yes, it's part of Canadian history too), and we're about to do the fall of Quebec. Reading Robinson Crusoe along with an audio book has worked well too; we're just at the point now where he's getting shipwrecked. Ponytails is unimpressed by Crusoe's tendency to shoot everything that moves, though.

I changed Crayons' Bible schedule; we were going to use the readings from her Bible League Planner, but we found they jumped through too much too fast--especially because they continue over the weekends and she doesn't use the planner then. We've gone back to using Daddy's copy of the Golden Children's Bible, reading the Genesis stories. This is actually very cool, because our study of Turkey has also mentioned the Tigris and Euphrates, Mount Ararat, and Haran (in the story of Abraham). I love it when threads come together unexpectedly like that.

Crayons has been reading books to herself at an awesome speed; I'm glad we can go a little slower with her school time books. We're enjoying the Just So Stories and the rest of Year One; we've also been going through the Little House books at bedtime.

We've done less on crafts than I wanted to this month, but that's partly because the weather's been so good; in all the school days that Crayons circled the weather symbols in her planner, there was only about one day she didn't circle the sun. But there's no big hurry...Christmas is only THREE MONTHS AWAY...

We're taking a bit longer than I expected to work through two books that we're all reading together: Organized KIDZ and Ben Franklin. We're also reading Five Little Peppers together. So it's just as well that I decided to hold off on starting Astronomy and French until later this fall--we're busy enough for now.

And if you want to know how The Apprentice is doing...she's solving equations for x and y using elimination and substitution; exploring problems of ecosystems; watching videos about the early 20th century (with me); teaching the younger Squirrelings how to play chess (okay, she's just learning herself); and her second-year hairstyling class finally gets to Use Scissors. Kind of like student nurses passing their probation in all those old nurse novels...I think she's also reading Emma.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

From the archives: Homesquirreling in 2006

First posted in the fall of 2006.

Already this fall we have had leaf lessons on the back porch (with samples all around us); have acted out (more than once) a favourite story about King David; have made file-folder pictures of the characters from "As You Like It"; and listened to Leonard Bernstein's orchestra demonstrating how Haydn added humor to music. 

We've played domino concentration and Pico Fermi Bagels, looked forward to the next chapter of Peter Pan, and memorized Emily Dickinson's poems. (Crayons liked Michael Bedard's picture book Emily, and also the poem that starts "I started early, took my dog and visited the sea; The mermaids in the basement came out to look at me.") We make up new verses to songs, and try to answer Ponytails' Big Questions about everything. The girls mess around with a keyboard and a lap harp. They make up ongoing doll stories, radio shows, and hospital dramas. When the Apprentice comes home from school, she teaches them games she's learned in drama class. Mr. Fixit also lets Ponytails help (as the Apprentice did) when there's a tape recorder or some other piece of electronic stuff to be refurbished. 

Now this may not be very different from the daily experience of homeschoolers who say "stick to reading, writing and math for the first few years." Maybe when people say that, they're not including all the things they do with their children and which their children do spontaneously. (I'm typing this while listening to a Squirreling who chooses not to be identified vocalizing at the top of her lungs while playing under a card table tent. They've been opera divas singing "The Voices of Spring" all day after watching The Three Stooges'"Microphonies.") When they put together a very short list for first-grade curriculum, maybe they're not including the books already on the shelf and the games and puzzles they pull out of the closet, and all the other resources they have in their kitchens and workshops.

At the same time, it worries me that "cutting out all those extras" could also mean subjecting primary-age children to an (unnecessary) hour daily of math and the same amount of time spent on phonics AND spelling AND language. No wonder some people can't even imagine adding more to a young child's schedule.

Was it a waste of time for the kindergarten classes [mentioned in a Ruth Beechick book] to melt ice and play with magnets? According to Dr. Beechick, no; the "real stuff" stirred their imaginations and gave their minds something to work on. (Charlotte Mason would say that they were learning from Things and Ideas.)

Monday, September 07, 2015

From the archives: Magnetic Letters

First posted August 2005

The Squirrels have a pile of magnetic letters and numbers--the kind that aren't supposed to be safe for little ones because the tiny magnets in them might come out. Some of the letters are thirty-five years old and the magnets are still intact, but that's not the point. Because there are parts of about four different sets, it's hard to make one whole alphabet (we have about five capital E's but not one capital I). However, Mama Squirrel came up with some homeschool possibilities for them this week (besides just sticking them all over the fridge, which is what the squirrelings mostly did when they were toddlers).

1. Mama Squirrel and Crayons just sorted out the letters into two (more or less) capital-letter alphabets plus small piles of lower-case letters and numerals. We've done the same thing with rubber letters.

2. Preschool memory game: make a row of about four to six letters or numbers (or more if you want to make it harder). Hide your eyes and the other person hides one or two of the letters. What's missing? (Crayons played a funny trick on Mama Squirrel: she hid one of the letters behind her back and replaced it with another one the same. When Mama Squirrel said she hadn't taken anything away at all, Crayons showed her how duplicitous she had been.)

3. Preschool sorting game we haven't tried yet: take a handful of capital letters and a handful of lower-case letters (we only have a few of those anyway) and sort them into two piles, capitals and lower-case.

3. Grade Three alphabetizing game: Take a handful of letters and put them in alphabetical order, as fast as possible. It doesn't matter if there are doubles.

4. Grade Three fractions game: Take all the numerals you can find and put in them in a container. Draw a line on paper to be the dividing line in a fraction. Pull two of the numerals out and put one on top, one on the bottom. What's the fraction? What does it look like? We had some plastic fraction pieces, marbles and other things sitting around while we did this, so we tried to come up with different ways of showing. Ponytails made 3/2, so she took three of the plastic "half" pieces. Mama Squirrel made 7/9, and there are no ninths in the plastic pieces, so she took seven blue marbles and two white ones, and said that 7/9 of the marbles were blue.

5. The obvious: spell things with the letters. Spill a handful and see who can make the most words the fastest. (Of course the squirrelings may not learn any "i" words, but Mama Squirrel will come up with something else for those.)

Moral: even incomplete things can still be kind of fun and educational, right?

Covering all the bases (U.S. and Canadian spellings)

Our kitchen calendar this year shows both U.S. and Canadian holidays. In today's box, it shows "Labor Day (U.S.)." With the American spelling.

Below that, it says "Labour Day (Canada)." With the Canadian spelling.

I guess they just wanted to keep everyone happy!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Freezer meal reviews

Orange pork chops: tasty.

Chicken chili: we cut down on the liquid (used half the recommended amount),  and that was a good thing or we would have had soup. But the flavour was pretty good.

When you open our freezer, it smells amazing. But it took quite awhile for the temperature to drop again, after loading it up, and most of the food wasn't even warm. Just something to think about if you're making a lot of freezer meals.

Throwback Sunday: Dallas Holm, Here We Are

Friday, September 04, 2015

Freezer un-cooking ($5 Dinners Package)

Today Mr. Fixit and I did some freezer un-cooking, also known as "dump recipes." It's the equivalent of putting brownie ingredients into a bag and calling it a mix. The idea here is that you put meat, vegetables and other ingredients into freezer bags and then use them in the slow cooker or as casseroles. (Yes, I know some of you have been doing this for years.)

The recipes we used came from a new downloadable package at $5 Dinners: 20 Freezer to Slow Cooker Meals for $160 – 3rd Edition.  You get the shopping lists, directions, recipes, printable labels, and access to a video showing you how Erin Chase did the whole sequence. I skipped the printable labels because they're very expensive here (I used paper and tape); and I also broke down some of her 4-serving meals into 2-serving ones, because often these days it's just two or three of us eating dinner.

This morning we went to Eurofoods and brought home chicken breasts, ground beef, and a piece of pork (the directions called for pork chops, but it was less expensive to buy a large piece and cut it up ourselves). In the afternoon, we went to Bulk Barn (for a few seasonings) and Wal-mart, and got everything else that wasn't already on the shelf, including some beef that we also cut up ourselves..

At three o'clock, we put everything on the kitchen table and started to work.
Mixing up some sauce
In the home stretch.
Last round: the stew beef packages
Bags going into the freezer
Odds and ends of tomato sauce, one bag of ground beef, and two tired people. We were done like, um, dinner.

Overall reviews, based only on preparation? (We haven't actually cooked any of the packages yet.) My only real complaint is that the ground beef we bought didn't stretch far enough to make all the planned recipes, even though we weighed it out before putting it in the bags. The shortfall may have been due to shrinkage after browning  (the only actual cooking required in this packaging marathon), and we did swipe half a pound for our own dinner, but it was still a bit disappointing to have the other ingredients ready and then realize that we'd have to leave a few packages out. Next time we'll have to over-estimate.

There was also a bit of confusion around which recipes needed tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes; in some places options were given, but the grocery lists didn't always include those. I think I would say that, if you want to follow the recipes and not run short, it wouldn't hurt to buy a couple of extra cans of each type. We ended up filling in with a jar of pasta sauce from the pantry, which really isn't a problem, just something to keep in mind.

Best advice: work with a friend:. Even Erin Chase had her son opening cans for her. And make something nice for dinner at the end.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

This one should have stayed quiet

The local police have begun a crackdown on drivers using cell phones. This morning Mr. Fixit saw a guy ahead of him in a van talking, talking, talking on the phone. When he got pulled over for a ticket, he was heard to say, "Can I just finish my call first?"

Quote for the day: Not that quiet?

"You wouldn't be reading this book if I hadn't persuaded my publisher that I was enough of a pseudo-extrovert to promote it." ~~ Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Hello September Edition

1. What's on your September calendar? Anything fun? 

a) Next week I send my "baby" off for her first day of school. (She's fourteen.) Tonight we are invited to a family barbecue at the school.

b) We're going to buy a few pounds of ground beef and chicken (once again, I don't give up easy), and try some freezer cooking.

2. You might be described as a natural born _____________________?

That sounds like one of those fill-in-the-blank jokes  from Match Game

Natural born bookworm, how's that?

3. September is National Courtesy Month...what one act of courtesy would you most like to see more of in your home, town, or the world at large? 

I'm still recovering from my July trip there-and-back-again through two Canadian and U.S. airports. Can I just say that I appreciated it when I did experience courteous treatment? And we'll leave the rest be.

4. Eager beaver, chicken out, clam up, or let the cat out of the bag...of the phrases listed, which one have you related to most recently? 

All of the above. But I have tried not to chicken out or clam up when it was time to let the cat out of the bag.

5. What's your movie theatre snack protocol? Do you chow down on snacks during the previews or wait until the movie begins? Do you buy snacks or refuse to pay those kind of prices? What's the last movie you saw in a theatre? How many thumbs up would you give it?

The last movie I saw in a theatre was Frozen, in the middle of a cold snap. And on the rare occasions we do go to a movie, Mr. Fixit and I might share some popcorn.

6. Henry Ford is quoted as saying, "Nobody can think straight who does not work. Idleness warps the mind." Agree or disagree? Why?

INFP types have a natural-born need for a certain amount of "idleness," which you can think of as mushrooms growing in the dark. It's kind of like the quote that's supposed to be by R.L. Stevenson but which nobody has actually been able to find in his writings (that's a rabbit trail): "Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant."  There are some things you have to work and work at, and other things that have to start with idleness. Some days you have things to check off, other times you're just planting seeds. 

I bet Ford did his own share of idling.

7. What's the last job you completed or task you performed where you had to 'work like a dog' until it was finished?

Getting The Plutarch Project ready to publish (the last week of it was stressful).

8.  Insert your own random thought here. 

Gregory Wolfe writes in Beauty Will Save the World: “We have had a number of books casting the acid of angry rejection over the spirit of our age. They are not in error; it is only that in many cases they do not get us anywhere.” When I took university writing classes, "angry poetry" seemed to be the norm. But as Wolfe says, where did it get us? We need less anger at "them," more compassion for "us."

The Wednesday Hodgepodge is hosted at From This Side of the Pond. Add your link to the post!