Saturday, January 30, 2016

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Oil, Oxfords, Organizing

1a. I went to the thrift shop to drop off our large load of board games, and bought a sleeveless top and a nice-but-too-big summer skirt.

1b. I hemmed a pair of thrifted dress pants (photo), and took in the waistband of the nice-but-too-big summer skirt.

1c. I have never considered myself a minimalist, or at least an intentional minimalist. (Being a tightwad is not necessarily the same as being a minimalist.) Recently, though, I've been reading some of the Project 333 posts: that is, cutting down what you wear (daytime clothes, shoes and accessories) to 33 items for a 3-month period. I didn't have much more than that anyway (and in some respects not enough). But just going through the thought process of it was interesting: for instance, the idea that you might own six scarves (or whatever), but decide to wear only two of them for the next while. Then when you switch things around and pull out one that was stored, it feels more like having something "new." Much like rotating children's toys: it gives them a chance to better appreciate what they have. Or eating seasonally: we get fresh plums only in late summer and fall, so they're anticipated and enjoyed during that time.

It also gave me a better sense of what things to look for at the thrift shop (got enough x, fresh out of y).
2. Mr. Fixit found a can of 3 in 1 oil on clearance. The funny part is that he just finished off his grandpa's old can of oil. Grandpa died the year we were married, so that's what you call really making something last.

3. Lydia has a part in her school musical next month. She had to supply her own shoes, by this week, and they had to be Victorian-style Oxford shoe-boots with heels. Miraculously, a pair in her size showed up on a clearance table for $12. (Maybe next year they should put on "Barefoot in the Park.")

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Cream in the Coffee Edition

1. Share a winter memory from your childhood.

Oh--probably the blizzard of late January 1977, thirty-nine years ago.

2. What was on your blog this time last year? (Besides the Hodgepodge of course!) If you weren't blogging, what in the world were you doing with all that free time?

A lot of homeschooling and some "what's for supper." I was starting to think about writing a book.

3. Ellen Goodman is quoted as saying, 'We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential.'

Do you see more flaws or more potential in your life at the start of a new year? Have you done anything specific this month to address either one? Does the new year truly begin for you on January 1, or is there some other month of the year that feels like a fresh start and new beginning?

Hah, this is interesting because I spent this morning putting board games into "keep" and "donate" piles. Not sure if that addresses a flaw or adds potential (empty shelves in the closet). I think of it more as a natural transition, and it's something that I'm not sure perfectly-organized people think of when they're carefully labelling plastic drawers etc.: children grow up, and whether their toys are messy or super-organized, one day before you realize it, their favourite stuff will be yesterday's treasures. Unless you're running a daycare or have ongoing grandchildren, what's on the shelves won't be static. This goes for adults too: we stop wearing one style of clothes and try another, we don't eat desserts as much, we buy new curtains, we change, we move on.
Game sorting update (photo below): Everything we kept fit on one shelf of the closet, except for a large Backgammon set and one old toy of Lydia's which didn't really need to be in there anyway. I never would have thought.
4. Who's an athlete you admire or respect and why?

Glenn Cunningham.

5. Do you like cream in your coffee? Whipped cream on your pumpkin pie? Cream cheese on a bagel? Sour cream on a baked potato? Cream of wheat for breakfast? Have you ever had a scone with clotted cream? Of all the creamy foods mentioned, which one sounds most appealing to you right this very minute?

Most of the above, except for Cream of Wheat: wallpaper paste for breakfast. I like baked potato soup with cream cheese in it. If I didn't already have chicken cacciatore going in the slow cooker (from our freezer meals), that might have sent me off to make some. Maybe tomorrow.

Skipping 6 and 7 because I can't think of any answers..

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I am crocheting a scrap-busting afghan that's "scrap" in two ways: using up most of the yarn I had on hand, and also making use of a long, narrow throw I made over twenty years ago. The ends and the middle panel are new, and when I get them sewn together I'll add a border. Maybe I should call the whole thing the "random" throw.

Linked from Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2016 Scrap Challenge, Update

Upper left corner: a large piece of fabric in a leaf  print. It's pretty, but pale; not something I'd use for clothes.
But it's fine as a tablecloth! I cut the long piece in half, then cut one of the halves in half as well so that there wouldn't be one seam running up the middle. I sewed the three pieces back together, and then hemmed it. Not hard.
On the far right of those yarn balls: Bernat Softee Chunky Twists, in "Tangerine Twist." What to do with that?
Mini Gift Bag, only I used it for a springy bunch of flowers.

Why we were never meant to do it for them (Review of a book review)

I'm fascinated by Annie Kate's review of Smart but Scattered Teens by Guare, Dawson, and Guare. Books like this say a huge amount about our culture, and the healing that parents may need to initiate if their teenage children have become infected with "do it for me" syndrome.

Check out the list of "executive skills" that the authors feel teenagers may be lacking:
"working memory, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, metacognition, response inhibition, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, goal-directed persistence, flexibility."
 Do you see a connection between those skills? Every single one is something that Charlotte Mason would say we must not do for children who are capable of taking it on for themselves. And yet, so often, we do...just because we do. We try so hard and worry so much, like Aunt Frances, when we should be  letting them take the reins, like Uncle Henry.

The sad thing is that the teenage years may be almost too late to change some of those lifelong habits, although the point of the book is that there's still time. (I haven't read the book, just the review.) If you have younger children in your care, these are the things you should be doing, or rather, not doing. Letting them begin an activity and encouraging them to stick with it for a reasonable amount of time, to get some "goal-directed persistence" (see Charlotte Mason's "Inconstant Kitty"). Teaching them to be prompt and orderly (organization, time management). Using learning methods such as narration (working memory, sustained attention). Dealing with tantrums and other emotional disruptions (emotional control, response inhibition). I would add, seeing a situation from the other person's point of view and deciding to do what benefits another person, or the larger group or community, rather than yourself; developing empathy. As I've discussed here and elsewhere, I'm with those who believe that one of the best ways to gain empathy and flexibility in thinking is to have a very good store of stories.

That is what we can do for our children: give them that store, train them in habits, and allow them to develop their wills. What we can't or shouldn't do: think for them, remember for them, rob them of their initiative.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Skate on over

Some words of welcome from our Hodgepodge hostess:  "Welcome to another edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Please only link here today if you've answered the questions. And be sure to skate over and say hi to the blogger linking before you...we're all about being neighborly here in the middle of a week. Here we go-"

1. Speaking of skating...when did you last 'skate on thin ice', 'skate over the details', 'encounter a cheapskate', or just plain skate?
I was a Canadian kid...our school was a short walk from the hockey arena, and we all skated, even those of us who only sort-of skated (that would be me). We all wanted to be either Bobby Orr (later Wayne Gretzky) or Karen Magnussen (later Dorothy Hamill). When I got to my teens and going to the roller rink was popular, I was always amazed at how easy roller skating seemed. Eight little wheels felt a whole lot better holding me up than two skinny little blades.

But I haven't done either in a lot of years.

2. What would you say is the biggest problem of people your age? 

I don't know, we're all so different. Some mid-lifers still have young kids at home, some have kids in university, some are grandparents, some are all of those. Some are working and plan to be at the same job for years yet, some are changing what they do, others are thinking retirement. So maybe the biggest problem is feeling like we get lumped all together.

3. What's your favorite accessory? Is it something you wear every day, often, or only on special occasions?

Right now that would be two pashmina-type scarves: I have one in berry, from the thrift store, and one in mixed greens, from Giant Tiger.
4. January 20th is National Cheese Lover's Day. Are you a lover of cheese? What's your favorite dish made with cheese? Last thing you ate that contained some kind of cheese?
One of my grandfathers loved strong cheese, including Limburger (which we didn't like much), and Imperial Cold Pack Cheddar (which we did). Both still make me think of him. (Also Kraft Squeez-a-Snak.)

To quote Ben Gunn in Treasure Island:  "Marooned three years agone," he continued, "and lived on goats since then, and berries, and oysters. Wherever a man is, says I, a man can do for himself. But, mate, my heart is sore for Christian diet. You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese--toasted, mostly--and woke up again, and here I were."

5. What's something guaranteed to make you roll your eyes?

Weather forecasters who say we're only going to have a few light flurries. (Photos taken on Tuesday.)
This is not a snowman, it's one of our bushes.

6. Your favorite book series?
I don't read a lot of adult series books (though I did like them when I was young). Probably Jan Karon's Mitford books...or the Brother Cadfael mysteries.

7. Why did you choose your profession?

Well, that would mean first defining a profession. Other than miscellaneous office work and the general jobs of homekeeping, mothering, and wifing, most of what I have done as an adult (paid or unpaid) has involved reading, writing, teaching; and reading, writing, and talking to people about learning and books. I don't think I chose that, more like it chose me.

 8. Insert your own random thought here.

I just started reading Fathers and Sons. I am very happy that it's not hundreds of pages long.

Linked from The Peaceful Easy Hodgepodge Feeling at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A tale of two school districts

One long-running feature of Dewey's Treehouse has been Grandpa Squirrel's Sunday newspapers. The Squirrelings' Grandpa has been sharing his Toronto newspapers with us since before the blog got started, and they've been the source of many discussion-worthy stories here.

Here's the latest, from the New York Times International Weekly section of the Toronto Star: Tom Brady's piece "Nurturing Students, Naturally."

It starts out with a description of the "forest schools," the trendy kindergartens where children spend a large part of the day outdoors (while, as he notes, their parents are probably working indoors in cubicles).

But then he switches to a brief but tantalizing story about two school districts in New Jersey. Because the link above may not stay active, I'll type out the relevant part:
"Consider Union City, New Jersey, which, like its neighboring city Newark had failing schools for decades. But then Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave $100 million to Newark's schools in 2010.

"Today, Union City's schools are performing better.

"The school district there, led by Fred Carrigg, faced two challenges head on. They taught more classes in Spanish so the three quarters of their students who were learning English did not fall farther behind. They turned youngsters, many of whom came from homes without books, into capable readers...To get students excited about books, the schools assigned daily reading and writing assignments, even in subjects like art and science.
Meanwhile, Newark spent tens of millions on outside consultants.

"'The real story of Union City is that it didn't fall back,' Mr Carrigg told The Times. 'It stabilized and has continued to improve.'" 
Doesn't that just blow you away? I have no way to verify that story or any of its results...I'm trusting the NYT and Tom Brady that they got it right. But why should it be surprising? It's a very old story, one that Marva Collins would have recognized; one that Dorothy Canfield Fisher described in 1916.
"Elizabeth Ann had not understood more than one word in five of this, but just then the school-bell rang and they went back, little Molly helping Elizabeth Ann over the log and thinking she was being helped, as before.They ran along to the little building, and there I'm going to leave them, because I think I've told enough about their school for ONE while.It was only a poor, rough, little district school anyway, that no Superintendent of Schools would have looked at for a minute, except to sniff." (Understood Betsy)
Winning the grant lottery...or having a rich fairy not always an advantage, whether in education, business, or anything. Especially if the bureaucrats take the gift and spend it on more bureaucracy.

Sometimes the solution is not more money...or more consultants, more Superintendents of Schools. And it's not about making things easier or more fun. It's about actually getting students to read and write. Regularly, with purpose, with excitement; and whether that happens in a "poor, rough, llittle district school," or on the living room couch, or in the Union City schools, doesn't matter.

Monday, January 18, 2016

It's not about the stripes: Charlotte Mason and colour analysis

The background (oh, the vanity of it all):

In my early twenties, I shucked out some money I couldn't afford for a colour/style analysis. In those days, they gave you a choice of four seasons, not twelve or sixteen or a hundred, so I was classified as a Summer, with extra stars beside a swatch of deep cherry-pink. That explained why my elementary school pictures looked even worse than most: I was usually wearing gold, rust, or moss green. Then there was the wild horizontal stripes thing in high school, but we won't go there. I also found out that I looked better in V-necks than boatnecks, better in soft details than in hard lines, and so on (things you know but you don't know). I didn't need to totally understand how or why it worked; I just needed to be able to see enough to say OH YES or NO WAY.

Over the years, there were times when I owned clothes that fell in line with those colours and styles; I had a maternity sweater and skirt in raspberry, and maternity stirrup pants (yeah, those) in gray. I wished I could be pregnant forever...just for the clothes, okay? There have been other times when I was just putting on whatever went with blue jeans (which was everything), or whatever went with black (which was everything). But believing in a certain colour philosophy, and seeing the benefits when I did apply it, has hung on for all those years.

The way we live now

Life today is more individualized, more customized, more complicated than it was in the 1980's. We worry more about getting everything right. A colour analysis blogger did a post with responses to a reader's very anxious questions, things like "What is the very coolest blue?  Originally I thought it might be the blue that has an RGB value of (0, 0, 255) – an HSL hue of 240.  However, that blue is opposite yellow on the color wheel..." The colour analyst began her comments by saying, "May I suggest that this information might not be what a colour-analyzed shopper needs?" She said, "Despite being a century old, the Munsell system persists because it appears to represent human vision exceptionally well...incorporating other colour systems...make less sense to me since they span too many colours, animal, vegetable, mineral, computer, neon, textile, plastic, and so on, that have nothing to do with humans." Towards the end of her post, she said, "Questions related to application are taking us in a more constructive direction. We would love to bring the answers down to one set of criteria, If This Then That, a safely anchored set of rules. Colour analysts would love that even more but it doesn’t work that way. Colour is as fluid as any magic, now you see it, now you don’t. Try not to think in terms of how it has to be. Learn to work with what you see in front of you."

I have also noticed a few "shocking" things on this analyst's blog. She acknowledges that finding a hundred per cent of your clothing or cosmetics in the absolutely perfect colours is going to be difficult, if not it's okay, even necessary sometimes, to compromise (are you not going to wear shoes at all if you can't find any in the right shade?). She even appears in a video wearing a blouse that includes a stripe of colour from outside her own "season." She points that out, and says it's okay, really, honestly, the world isn't going to fall apart: it's the overall OH YES that you're going for, even if all the details don't match. How can a professional colour analyst dare to wear that, or say that? Well, yes, she's a human being too.

What this has to do with Charlotte Mason

If you're involved in discussions of Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy, have you noticed any parallels yet? If we called the OH YES the recognition of certain principles, would it be more apparent?

We get a lot of questions on AmblesideOnline that are just as serious and detailed as "What is the very coolest blue?"  When, exactly, should written narrations start? What is the best mathematics curriculum? What brand of notebook, of paints? And so on. I've probably written this here before, but Charlotte Mason's sidekick Elsie Kitching responded to questions about teaching reading by saying that most teachers would probably already have found some method that worked best for them, and that's what they should use. If they've got the principles right, if they're remembering that all this has to connect with human being-ness (did you notice that in the response?), then they probably are doing it right. If your children are excited about nature, making connections with books, then keep doing what you're doing. You want to hear a little "oh yes" at the end of a lesson, a medium one at the end of the day (most days), and a large happy one at the end of the term. That's what you're working towards.

What is the best way to reassure people that it's not all as hard as it might appear to be? Like the colour analyst, it might help to remind everyone that we need to allow a little room for magic, mystery, and focusing on what we really see happening, rather than starting with theory. I would also suggest that, sometimes, just seeing someone else do it can be very relaxing and reassuring. To give a completely unrelated example, when our first baby was born (after I shed the sweater and stirrup pants), we had a few nursing issues. I tried to do what the midwife said, what the books said, and ended up going to a La Leche League meeting. Just one, because what I really needed to know, I saw in about the first ten minutes, without need of words: what the other mothers were doing naturally. Aha. It worked. In the same way, about two years ago a CM learning community in Ontario put on a Saturday workshop, a show-and-tell day. I think people learned more in that one hands-on day than they did by reading hundreds of forum posts. As homeschoolers, we can be isolated, and we do get anxious. What if we miss something? What if we find out, ten years too late, that this or that nuance should have been different, that this or that book really wasn't up to the highest standard?

Even Charlotte Mason admitted that the Parents' Union School couldn't always locate the very best examples of every book for every subject. Sometimes those examples didn't exist, hadn't been written. Sometimes they found someone to create what they'd been waiting for (like a handwriting curriculum). Other times they compromised.

No, we don't want to compromise. For some of us in particular, compromising is something we don't do well at all. In our perfect world, all the stripes would be from the right palette. We'd have education down to a science. But there needs to be room for reality and also for grace.  If we can get to YES more than NO, then we're probably doing fine.

Thinking through the pantry and the freezer

I am a bit ahead with the HomeStorageSolutions decluttering calendar, which is all about kitchen cupboards right now. There are some cluttery things about our kitchen, but they're not all things I can control; so I just do my best. And yes, there are china egg cups and wine glasses and so on on the top shelf, but they're not hurting anybody. If I suddenly need a functioning top shelf that high up (hosting a team of basketballl players?), I'll do a Clean Sweep.

Looking at the next assignment, pantry food, was more workable for me this week. After I got done filling bags of dry mixes (which also let me know about any surpluses and lacks), I made a list of the canned food. I realized that we had more tomatoes and beans on hand than usual, and that was good, because we were out of freezer meals. Mr. Fixit picked up some chicken and beef on Saturday, and, along with a bag of peppers and a package of mushrooms, that was enough to make two bags each of:

Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken Chili
Chinese-style Beef and Broccoli
Sloppy Joe mix (browned meat and seasonings)
"Cheeseburger Soup" (misleading name because we use it for pasta sauce).
Plus one meal of chicken-with-chili-sauce that we ate when we were done un-cooking.

HomeStorage suggests that we eat from the food on hand over the next couple of weeks; that won't be a problem.

Friday, January 15, 2016

20 Things You Should Read (Book Review)

20 Things You Should Read (From 20 writers who challenge us to live extraordinary lives). Compiled by David Edwards, Margaret Feinberg, Janella Griggs, Matthew Paul Turner.Tyndale House Publishers, 2006.

In Dante's visit to heaven, he sees images in the form of something like candles, that turn out to be the spirits of believers. Some of them, including Thomas Aquinas and St. Benedict, speak to him and try to answer his questions about faith. Near the end, in Longfellow's translation, Dante says:

From that time forward what I saw was greater
Than our discourse, that to such vision yields,
And yields the memory unto such excess.

Even as he is who seeth in a dream,
And after dreaming the imprinted passion
Remains, and to his mind the rest returns not,

Even such am I, for almost utterly
Ceases my vision, and distilleth yet
Within my heart the sweetness born of it...

Dante admits a huge and understandable reluctance, shared with the reader, to leave this experience behind, even with faith that someday he will return. In the meantime, David Edwards et al offer a few more voices from the Christian "cloud of witnesses," which might have made up extra Cantos if Dante had been able to stay longer.

On my shelf I have a thirty-year-old Penguin paperback called Part III: The Christian Testament Since the Bible.  In spite of that heretical-sounding title, it's simply a compilation of great writings from the Christian tradition, with little or no commentary or explanation. I also have a book by Terry Glaspey about books that Christians should read, which tells you about the books, but gives only brief excerpts. 20 Things tries to hit a middle ground: each writer is given a short introduction, and then it's turned over to them for several pages apiece. The decision to include only the chosen twenty may raise a few eyebrows: G.K. Chesterton, but not C.S. Lewis? Karl Barth, but not, say, Francis Schaeffer? However, twenty it is, and every single excerpt is worthwhile, even Karl Barth. Like a conversation between the spirits in Paradiso, themes and thoughts are repeated. Ideas of faith and salvation jump out like online "word clouds." Even contradictions seem to recede in the constant emphasis on simple and pure love of God.

In fact, the writers included are so powerful that they make the additional material seem a bit lacking, almost coarse by comparison (although I think it improves throughout the book). Pop culture references and phrases like "They were undoubtedly amazing multitaskers back then" are aimed at the "twentysomethings" who are assumed to be the target audience of the book. It's a bit of a jump from Dante's "tour guides" Virgil and Beatrice. But it does help to have at least some introduction to less-familiar writers.

I can say I read the whole thing; but can I possibly say I did justice on one reading to St. Augustine, John Calvin, Frederick Douglass, and A.W. Tozer? This is a book I'll be going back to.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mama Squirrel Refashions a Sweater Dress

As I mentioned in the Frugal Finds and Fixes post, I bought a slate blue, cotton-polyester knit sweater dress at the thrift store. It was a "small," and I am more of a "medium," but it did fit--except for the length. At one time I would have been too cowardly to whack off the bottom and re-hem it, but if the blogging dress refashioners can do it, so can I.
The before shot; the colour is not really this bright.
To use the favourite phrase of Jillian the The Refashionista: Chop! I laid my other sweater dress on top and held a quilting ruler under that to add a hem allowance.
It was handy to have the extra piece to practice on.
Hemming the dress. I don't have an invisible stitch, but the navy thread was not too conspicuous.
Here is the dress, at a length which the younger set would think is still too long, but it works for me. (I saved the extra piece in case I want a cowl scarf.)

Frugal Finds and Fixes: It's Winter Now edition

Two weeks into 2016, the weather has been a string of snowfalls followed by lots of shovelling. I don't ski or sled; my idea of enjoying winter is staying warm indoors.

On a whim, I downloaded the January decluttering calendar from Home Storage Solutions 101, and I've been trying to keep up with its 15-minute cleaning missions. That isn't necessarily a frugal thing, but it's a cleaning and simplifying one. It's also kind of positive when I get a string of things to declutter that already aren't cluttery. Dish towels? We could replace a few, but otherwise they're just folded in the drawer. Plastic wrap and foil? I had to restock rather than declutter those. Kitchen table? I know what she means, I've seen quite a few that could have used decluttering, but ours is usually bare. I'm sure she'll get me on some other point, though. I did clean out the plastic lids etc. (those accumulate fast), and we sent an extra casserole dish and some knives to the thrift store.
I got a head start on next week's cleaning-out-pantry-food missions by going through what we have, getting rid of a few things that had expired, and restocking the dry baking and soup mixes. I filled twenty plastic zipper bags with homemade muffin mix, pizza dough mix, lentil soup mix, a mixture of barley and brown rice that we use for Crockpot cereal, and so on. Again, it's not necessarily more frugal, but it does save measuring and cleanup.

We are all out of freezer meals (except for leftover chili that we're going to have tonight with a frozen pizza). I am hoping to replenish those soon.

We've kept on determinedly clearing stuff out and taking it to the thrift store. Drop-off trips usually also mean go-in-and-shop trips; we had one of those today.This is what I found: a purse for $3:
A short tan-coloured skirt for $1 (that's for summer):
And a sweater dress for $5. It's a nice colour and I do like sweater dresses, but it's much too long (I couldn't even get the whole length in the photo. Here's what I did with it. On the subject of chopping and sewing, I'm still working on my Scrap Challenge. It's not going to be all clothes!
What I did to stay frugal: I did NOT buy any of the scarves they were featuring in the front of the store, and they had some really nice ones. But the purse, the skirt, and the dress were higher on the needs-list than just frou-frou. I'll do my frou another time.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Scrap Challenge #4: The other green top

Why two green tops? Well, there were two green pieces of knit fabric, one darker, one lighter, and I couldn't decide which I liked better. I made the first top with sort of cap sleeves, but this one is more of a tank style, and it's longer. The colour isn't coming through well, but (to quote Melissa Wiley's daughter), I'd call it seafoam.

And if you really want the truth, before I started messing around with the bottom of this top, trying to hem it without stretching the fabric, it was a lot longer. If at first your dress doesn't succeed...make another t-shirt.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Scrap Challenge #3: One-cut tablecloth

To make: take a large tube of pink knit fabric and cut it open to make a flat piece. Spread on table. Add another cloth to cover up the white "fault line" running across the fabric. Serve tea.

Scrap Challenge #2: Retro Hat

See the ball of denim-blue yarn hiding behind the lilac one?

The instructions are pretty easy to follow, although, judging by the comments, some crocheters had trouble catching on to the spiral pattern. You're working in clusters: one front post double crochet (that's what makes the ridge), then three double crochets in the next space, even if there are technically two or three spaces before the next place to put a front post stitch. If you just made the crown, the centre part with spokes, you could have a coffee coaster; if you kept increasing for a couple more rows instead of starting to work your way straight down, it could be a hot mat for the table.

I didn't have quite enough yarn on the ball to make as many rows as required, and I could see that coming, so I stopped the clusters a bit early and started on the edge. It still works. I also discovered that somehow, in spite of thinking that I must own one of every size crochet hook made (I bought them all years and years ago), I do not own a 9mm hook. So I started with a 10mm for the first few rows, and then switched to a 7mm (but worked loosely). Having made more than one unintentionally outsize hat in my time, I decided that bigger was not better this time around, and took my chances with the smaller hook. Crochet can be very forgiving.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Ponytails gave me a scrap challenge..and Project Number One

Part One

Ponytails recently decided to clean out her stuff, and she gave me a bunch of yarn and fabric--felt, knits, some other bits and pieces. "I want to see what you'll make out of those," she said.
Felt squares
Scraps of lining material

Knit fabrics, but the colours aren't showing up properly--the two in the front are pretty greens.

Part Two

I have medium sewing skills, but I am very hesitant about making clothes for myself. They just never seem to look right, and I'm always annoyed because I've wasted expensive fabric.The first piece of clothing I ever sewed was a green t-shirt in seventh-grade Family Studies (sewing and cooking class). It took weeks and I disliked it intensely (both the sewing and the t-shirt). Most other pieces of clothing I have sewn for myself have not been what you'd call great successes either.

This morning I sewed a green t-shirt from one of Ponytails' fabric pieces. I used these directions for a 15-Minute DIY Party Shirt, tracing around a tank top as shown there. I guess things have come full circle.

(Note on that pattern: if you look at the photos, you can see that their side seams are sewn "inside out," on purpose, so that you get that extra fabric ruffle thing. I did not want a ruffle thing, so I sewed it right-sides-together, the traditional way.)
Stay tuned for more from the 2016 Scrap Challenge.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Mama Squirrel's Want-to-Read List for 2016

My GoodReads challenge for 2016 is 40 47 books, and there are 50 on this list. Most of them are books I already own, with a few to hunt down at the library or elsewhere. Some of them I started awhile ago but didn't finish.

Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction
Anderson, Douglas A.

Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy
Anderson, Douglas A.

Northrop Frye A Biography
Ayre, John

Life and Leisure in Ancient Rome
Balsdon, J.P.V.D.
Read parts of it, didn't finish

History in English Words
Barfield, Owen

Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning
Barfield, Owen

Home Economics
Berry, Wendell

A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership
Berry, Wendell

The Theology of Dallas Willard
Jr., Gary Black

The Cost of Discipleship
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich
Purpose in Prayer
Bounds, E.M.

Telling Secrets
Buechner, Frederick

The Physicist and the Philosopher: Einstein, Bergson, and the Debate that Changed Our Understanding of Time
Canales, Jimena

The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
Carpenter, Humphrey

Chesterton, G.K.

When Children Love to Learn: A Practical Application of Charlotte Mason's Philosophy for Today
Cooper, Elaine (re-reading)

Atlas of the Roman World
Cornell, Tim J.
Finished, more or less--it's not a book you can easily read cover to cover

How We Think
Dewey, John

Twenty Things You Should Read
Edwards, David B.

Selected Prose
Eliot, T.S.
The Praise of Folly and Other Writings
Erasmus, Desiderius

Earth Hell and Heaven: In the Art of William Kurelek
Friesen, Ilse E.

Spiritus Mundi: Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society
Frye, Northrop
Started, haven't finished

The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed
Gordon, Karen Elizabeth

A Christian View of Hospitality: Expecting Surprises
Hershberger, Michele

The Singing Bowl
Guite, Malcolm

How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry
Hirsch, Edward
Started, haven't finished

Eliot and His Age: T. S. Eliot's Moral Imagination in the Twentieth Century
Kirk, Russell

Bird Lady - A Lifelong Love Affair with Birds
Le Geyt, Elizabeth
Started, haven't finished

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
Lopate, Phillip
The Golden Thread: A Reader's Journey Through The Great Books
Meyer, Bruce

Three Works: A Dream of John Ball/The Pilgrims of Hope/News from Nowhere
Morris, William

The Housekeeper and the Professor
Ogawa, Yōko

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity
Pearcey, Nancy
Started, haven't finished

The Second Coming
Percy, Walker

MFA in a Box
Rember, John

The Passionate Intellect: Dorothy L. Sayers' Encounter with Dante
Reynolds, Barbara

Emile or On Education
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques

Unto This Last and Other Writings
Ruskin, John

Our World-God's Visible Language: Visible Creation as Testimony to an Invisible Creator
Salloum, J E
The Black Dwarf
Scott, Walter

Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith
Shaw, Luci

Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson (edited by Phelps, William Lyon)

Virginibus Puerisque
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Started, haven't finished

Liberal Hearts and Coronets: The Lives and Times of Ishbel Marjoribanks Gordon and John Campbell Gordon, the Aberdeens
Strong-Boag, Veronica
Started but it had to go back to the library--I will be taking it out again

A Secular Age
Taylor, Charles

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Verne, Jules

New and Collected Poems
Wilbur, Richard
Started but didn't finish

The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives
Willard, Dallas
Started, haven't finished

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
Zaleski, Philip