Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Sale on Mere Motherhood, today only

Just passing this along from the Circe Institute: you can get 20% off Cindy Rollins' book Mere Motherhood, today (November 30th) only.

Isn't that a nice way to end the month?

Six things I have learned from Pinterest (Do-Vember #30--Last post)

Five six things I learned this year from Pinterest:
1. Guinea pigs are very photogenic. Their humans dress them up in little Christmas hats and Hallowe'en costumes. Sometimes they even go shopping.

2. If you search for one thing on Pinterest, you will probably get at least twenty more suggested posts on the same subject. You might even end up starting your own board on that subject. It's like giving a mouse a cookie.

3. If you want to travel to a place, someone has probably posted a list of ten free or cheap things to do while you're there. (Eating spicy Thai noodles at the Taj Mahal not included.)

4. Some people pay an awful lot of attention to decorating their powder rooms.

5. About a thousand ways to tie a scarf. 

6. Homeschoolers, including Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, make good use of Pinterest boards. I don't have a homeschool or C.M. board at all (I'm retired, that's my excuse), but I appreciate the people who have gone to the trouble of creating them.

Stirring up a Wednesday Hodgepodge

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Let's burn off some of those Thanksgiving calories with the Hodgepodge, shall we? Blogging definitely burns calories. I know I sweat when I write the questions-ha! Here's the drill for anyone new here today...answer on your own blog, then waddle over here tomorrow (Wednesday) to share answers with the whole wide world. Our little corner of it anyway! Here we go-"

1. Give us three rhyming words that say something about your Thanksgiving holiday (or your most recent holiday gathering if you didn't celebrate Thanksgiving). 

Spread, bread, fed.

2. When did you last say, 'the more the merrier'? Did you mean it?

Meaning...more people than you expect to squeeze in? It doesn't often happen around here, but if it did it would be fine.
"It's summertime and Beany has a plan! As the upcoming editor of Harkness High's school newspaper, Beany's dream is to emulate her predecessor, the wealthy, sophisticated Jennifer, by providing a private rumpus room for undisturbed staff meetings. In an attempt to raise money for the rumpus room, Beany takes in boarders. Beany becomes involved with the varying problems of her three boarders: overweight Lisa, cocky Ty and introverted Miss Rutledge. Will Beany be able to resolve her own problems as she manages the problems of her boarders?"

3. What's one piece of advice you'd give someone who is your same age?

Read A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle.

4. You're ordering a veggie plate, what four veggies are on it?

Let's make that a veggie pizza, it's easier: sundried tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and peppers.

5. Shop til you drop! Did you? Have you ever? Will you between now and Christmas?

No, I like to do things a bit at a time.

6. What's your favorite chair in your house, and why is it a favorite?

A toddler-sized rocking chair that belonged to my grandfather and his sister, who were born at the turn of the last century in what is now part of Toronto. The centre of the seat is tooled leather, and it's in amazingly good shape for being well over a hundred years old. My great-aunt kept it in her "workroom" (her art studio/office), with a doll sitting in it, until she passed away about thirty years ago, and I've had it since then. All our girls rocked in it when they were the right size.
7. Share an early memory of faith, religion, or spirituality.

I was raised in a mainstream church, but went to other more evangelical events such as Bible Club and VBS. The Bible Club was at the house of a boy from my class, in the neighbourhood where we lived just for the year I was in second grade. For the first part of the year, the teacher was an older lady who used a lot of flannel board things, and taught us to sing "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart Lord Jesus." I have no idea what my parents made of that, since "Jesus iinto my heart" was not a prime feature of United Church Sunday school. But they never objected to us going.
Later on in the year, a euphonium-playing man took over the class. (I remember the euphonium, but not his name.) Mr. Euphonium taught us a memory verse that we said over and over together, very loudly and with great emphasis: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Forty years later, I still hear that verse with exactly that intonation.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Yesterday's Sew Mama Sew Handmade Holidays post featured several upcycled gifts you can make. I'm particularly taken with the little woodland landscape that looks like something out of a Rumer Godden storybook. I've never tried needle felting, but it's very effective in this project.
The Fairy Doll, by Rumer Godden (illustration by Adrienne Adams)

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Go dig out your old Christian albums (Do-Vember #29)

Today's post didn't come from Pinterest, but it did come from an amazing blog post that I didn't realize at first was so recent.

I went to a yard sale, somewhere around 1984, and bought up somebody's stash of Christian contemporary records. Debby Boone. Tom Howard. A whole lot of Dallas Holm and Praise. Some of them still had their Sparrow Records "buy four, get one free" stickers on them, and I couldn't understand how anybody could not want to take advantage of something that stupendous. I think I used the stickers to buy a Don Francisco cassette. But even at that time, vinyl records were getting somewhat out of style. You couldn't play them on a Walkman, for one thing. So that's when you used your combination turntable-cassette player-radio that your parents got you from Sears for Christmas, to tape all your records and make them portable
Which is what I wished I had done with my LP of Tom Howard's View from the Bridge. Because I was really stupid and let it sit in a too-warm place in my university dorm room, and it got warped. So I never got to listen to View from the Bridge again for a really long time.

But I didn't forget it.

Neither, obviously, did the person who wrote the tribute to Solid Rock Records, Tom Howard, and the album that is linked above. Really, you should just read it, because his descriptions of the individual songs are wonderful. This was, and is, one of my favourites:

Jesus, when I meet You in the stillness of the dark
I know I’ll find the strength to carry on through another day
Jesus, I can hear You in the stillness of the night
And though it’s dark and cold, I know You’ll be my light
All along the way

So show me how each moment of my life is in Your hand
As You guide the way You help me understand
What it means to love
And teach me
It’s the knowledge of Your Truth that sets us free

From this darkened world into reality
And the light above

To learn by living
Is to live in You
To rest in Your forgiving
As You taught me to
If to live means dying to myself
It’s true
I will follow after You.

From the archives: Celebrations, one way or another

First posted December 2005, slightly edited

Tuesday nights are an online chat time for AmblesideOnline, and I was reminded this week that there are many different perspectives on Christmas, even within the North American Christian community. Some of us make a deliberate choice to "celebrate the Christian year," following the seasons of Advent, Christmas and so on with influences such as Martha Zimmerman's book of the same title. Others make just as deliberate (and often more difficult) a choice not to celebrate one particular day at all, or at least not to celebrate Christmas Day as Jesus' birthday. A few have chosen another time of year to celebrate, such as the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles in the fall (or in January if you're Ukrainian). And some are kind of in the middle, trying to figure out what fits with their convictions, what reflects their relationship with Jesus and what can or should be left aside. Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, or nothing of that sort at all? Jesse Trees, Christmas Trees, no trees? Lots of presents, three presents (to reflect the three gifts given to Jesus), no presents? Hot chocolate, wine, or carrot juice? Handel, Celtic, Christian-bookstore-pop, Bing Crosby, or even (gasp) Elvis in the CD player?

And none of this is exactly new. Christians have disagreed for centuries over how to celebrate Christmas, or whether to celebrate it at all; how much pre-Christian tradition or mythology should be included, whether trees are in fact those gold and silver idols mentioned by the prophet, or whether the ancient symbols can be or should be "Christianized." (Does or doesn't the candy cane have religious significance?)

This article by Stephen D. Greydanus gets into an interesting discussion of whether A Christmas Carol promotes a Christian or secular view of Christmas. Some have accused Dickens of actually being a major contributor towards the "happy-holidays" kind of celebration. Greydanus discusses C.S. Lewis's point that the story contains very little mention of Christ; but he also presents G.K. Chesterton's argument that, in fact, Dickens' work is "not a work of Christian imagination, but it is a work profoundly affected by Christian imagination, and the significance of the story's Christian roots becomes more marked the further contemporary culture drifts from those roots. Not only is it essentially a morality tale, and a conversion story at that, but it takes seriously the idea of consequences in the next life for our actions in this life." (That's from the article, not directly from Chesterton.)

Dickens' Christmas spirits may be, as Lewis observed, "of his own invention," yet they are still agents of grace; Chesterton considers them suggestive of "that truly exalted order of angels who are correctly called High Spirits" ("Dickens and Christmas").
I certainly don't have the last word for anyone on how or even whether to celebrate Christmas. We choose to prepare our hearts during Advent, to celebrate in every way we can think of during Christmas (that's twelve days long, by the way (grin)), and to finish off with the Three Kings on Epiphany (and yes, I do know there were probably many more than three, and they weren't necessarily kings). It's something we're still working on--choosing what music, what decorations, what traditions mean the most to us and communicate what we believe the season is about. I'm grateful for the insight of those who have shared very different perspectives on this, and I am rejoicing that our goal, in the end, is the same: to glorify Christ every day.

Best thing to read today

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Some things I'm doing (Do-Vember #26)

1. Getting candles ready for the first Sunday of Advent. We are re-using last year's jar candles (see the photo below) as this year's Advent wreath, instead of putting candles right into the wreath.
This year's version
Last year's version

2. Making up a bunch of bread and muffin mixes for the pantry. (1 whole wheat bread, 1 Country White bread, 2 pizza dough, 2 plain muffin mixes, 2 batches of potato rolls). It saves having to get out the salt and wash the measuring cups so many times. It also reminds me to use up the whole wheat flour.
3. Hand-washing things that need to be hand-washed, and hanging them on our furnace-room clotheslines. (Plural, we have three of them, strung wall to wall. The grandparents were practical that way! When they're not in use, they can be lifted up on hooks.)
(some things we do are more exciting than others!)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Quote for the day (Do-Vember #25)

A typical, unattributable, but interesting thought that popped up on my Pinterest page.

Do you like Lawren Harris?

Do you really, really like Lawren Harris?

 Do you have about eleven million dollars sitting around?

 Somebody did.
Mountain Forms, an iconic 1926 Rocky Mountain canvas by Group of Seven founder Lawren Harris, was recently part of The Idea of North, Steve Martin's show celebrating the art of Lawren Harris.
Lawren Harris, Mountain Forms

From the Archives: Written Narrations from The Age of Fable

First posted November 2010. Ponytails was in Grade 8 and Lydia (Crayons) was in Grade 4.

Story: "The Myrmidons." Book used: The Age of Fable, by Thomas Bulfinch

Crayons (Grade 4) (uncorrected--Crayons' punctuation has improved greatly this fall!)

Once upon a time there was a king called Cephalus. He was right in the middle of a war. So he went to his friend Æacus. "Can I use some of your people" he asked. "Sure sure" said Æacus "as many as you want". "Thank you" said Cephalus. "But um I noticed that there isant any of your old people." "Ah yes" said Æacus "thats a long story."

Ponytails (Grade 8) (also uncorrected)
The Myrmidons

There was a war going on between Cephalus, the king of Athens and Minos, the king of Crete. Now, Cephalus was friends with the King of Ægina, Æacus. Cephalus went to Ægina to ask Æacus if he could borrow some soldiers. When he got to Ægina, he didn't see anyone he know.

"Where are all my friends?" he asked.

"I'll tell you the story," Æacus replied.

"The godess, Juno got very mad at us. Her husband, Jupiter's girlfriend's name was Ægina, like the city. She got very mad because it reminded her of her husband's other love. She sent a plague here.

"The plague wiped out all the men and women, but my son and I survived. Now I got mad, I had no people! I went to sleep under an oak tree infested with ants. I had a dream about the ants in the tree becoming men. Then I woke up.

"My dream had come true! The ants turned into men!" finished Æacus.

"Wow! That's amazing!" said Cephalus.

"Now, my friend, take as many men as you need! Good luck and good health!" exclaimed Æacus.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Some beginner crocheting is easier than others (Do-Vember #24)

Today's Do-Vember post is inspired by a roundup article I found on Pinterest: The 5 Best Patterns for Crochet Beginners at

In my mind there's more than one kind of crochet beginner. There's the person who is in the midst of learning to crochet, and, like a beginning reader, needs practice material that is do-able, doesn't use words he hasn't learned yet, and is also short. For absolute beginning crocheters, especially children, something about the size of a bookmark or a friendship bracelet is what you should be looking for; or possibly something crocheted over an elastic ring or pipe cleaner that doesn't involve having to make stitches into other stitches. Potholders are pretty boring and sometimes not that practical unless you line them with something heatproof; dishcloths are not hard to make, but you need the right kind of yarn. As I've said before, my first crocheting experience was with a hat, crocheted in the round, which probably seemed simple to the person teaching us but which was too longwinded for ten-year-olds, and required too much stitch counting. (But I did finish mine. I did wear it. And I did keep crocheting.) Making a small project is a good idea even for advanced crocheters, if you're trying out a new technique. A dishcloth in a fancy stitch is a lot less work than a whole afghan.

The other kind of beginner is someone who knows enough simple crochet stitches to make something square or maybe round; who may have been doing those simple stitches for years, and who has no real interest in doing anything fancier. (Someone who crochets on about the same level as the way I play chess.) This person is probably an adult, or an older student, and he/she has enough stamina to stick with a scarf or an afghan.

So how do the 5 Best Patterns rank?

The first one is actually a bit misleading. It's called a Chain Stitch Ear Warmer, which I assumed would be something magically made of nothing but chain stitches (wouldn't kids who only like to chain love that?). It's not that hard to make, but it does include single crochet and half-double crochet as well. On the plus side, it would work up quickly. A headband or ear warmer would have been great for our school crochet class, for example, instead of a whole hat.

The second pattern is a Chunky Blanket, made with thick yarn and single-crochet stitches. This would be great for the adult or older child with limited crochet knowledge, but with enough patience to make a whole blanket. For advanced crocheters, making a whole afghan with only single-crochet stitches would probably become tedious, but for the right person, it would be something to be justly proud of.

Pattern #3, striped bookmarks, looks like an easy one. However, as the designer admits, all those stripes are going to make a lot of loose ends that need to be woven in. Also, the material suggested, embroidery floss, is probably not a top choice for real beginners. The upside is that, as I mentioned before, bookmarks are a small, easily-finished project. For real beginners, I would have them use lightweight yarn, in just one colour; or if they wanted stripes, I would probably have them work lengthwise so that there would be fewer colour changes. Too many messy ends aren't a fun way to finish any project.

Pattern #4, a mini basket, requires that you know how to increase and work in the round. It's at about the same level of difficulty as the doll hats we made here. Before starting something like this, I'd get beginners to make round coasters, which are similar to the shape of a basket base. Once you've made something like this basket, you can use the same techniques to make amigurumi animals...or hats.

The fifth pattern is a baby afghan, made with a large hook and Bernat Blanket Yarn, again using half-double crochet (a stitch that does have some quirks, not always the easiest for beginners). Bernat Blanket Yarn sounds like it would be ideal for a soft little baby blanket, but actually it's a very chunky chenille, and as you can see from the photo (if you click on the pattern), that's exactly what the blanket looks like. I agree that it would work up quickly, but whether this would be a good choice for a baby blanket is another question. My two cents: buy more yarn and make it one of those so-stylish regular-sized chunky afghans, instead of making it for a baby.

Sorry if I'm sounding too critical about these, but there's one lesson to take away: if you're trying to teach a new skill to someone else: see what they know, and start from there. Don't make somebody swim laps who's just learning to stay afloat. Also, think about the practicality or suitability of the project you're proposing, or the material you're making it from, or the colour of yarn you have to work with. If all you have is black or brown yarn, and you hate wearing black or brown, don't make yourself a hat out of it (besides, black is not a beginner-friendly colour to work with--too hard to see the stitches). Use it for something fun like...maybe a bat?
mini wreath ornament crochet pattern by planetjune
Image from Planet June website

Finally, here's a pattern suggestion for crocheters of any skill level: Planet June's Mini Wreath Ornament. Fun to make, and very simple. Enjoy crocheting!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thrift shop finds (Do-Vember #23)

Today's Pinterest-related post was inspired by this post with thrift shopping tips. My favourite tip: "Have a plan." Random can work, but I do better when I go thrifting with a purpose. As I said below, I was looking for cardigans today and switched gears to a vest; but I wasn't getting sidetracked by skirts or shoes.

We dropped off some books and a bag of clothes at the thrift store, and went inside to have a look around. Mr. Fixit never did get the T.V. he was bidding on, but he thought there might be something else old or cool there by now.

I was the only one who came away with anything today, though. I was looking for a cardigan sweater, but found a vest instead. I also (finally) found a plain off-white top, something also on my wish list.
Zippered vest
Off-white jersey t-shirt

Things I left in the store: a gorgeous oversized plum-coloured purse; I liked it but didn't need it. A white cardigan that looked like something my great-grandmother wore in 1969 (I'm too old to make it look funky or ironic). A grey hooded cardigan that looked warm, but wasn't as pretty as the vest. Pretty/useful won out.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Don't Overthink It

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Welcome to another week of Hodgepodging. I'm sure no one has anything else going on-ha! I'm still unpacking my house and have twelve people coming for Thanksgiving dinner, but other than that it's pretty quiet here. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and even though we're still settling in I'm glad we'll have a full house on Thursday. Okay, you know the drill...answer on your own blog then waddle back here tomorrow to share answers with the universe. "

1. What's something you might say runs in your family? 
Me, my mom, her mom, and her mom.

I am trying not to overthink this question (see #5). If we're talking about our own families-of-origin...I can think of some ways I'm like my mom or my dad, and things I may have gotten from my grandparents. The easiest one I can think of is reading and word stuff. A few years ago my dad brought over some stuff he had cleaned out of a box (yes, reader, you may well shudder), including some ephemera from when I was born. Along with a hospital menu card and some postnatal this and that, there was a crossword puzzle book, about 90 per cent filled in. I kept it because it made me laugh, thinking of my mom in the maternity ward with nothing to do but crosswords. (Back then the nurses mostly took care of the babies.)

2. I read here a list of ten things you should do before 2017 arrives (in less than six weeks!)...which tasks on the list might you do? What would you add to your own 'before the year ends' list?

visit your Dr. or dentist, deep clean your home, donate unwanted items to charity, look someone in the eye and tell them you love them, write an honest letter to yourself, clean up your inbox-desktop-photos, travel to a place you haven't been, compliment a stranger, watch the sunrise, think ahead to your goals/plans for the new year

More overthinking? I'm honestly not sure--right now my mind's more on finishing a book project and getting holiday things started.

3. What's something other generations (not your own) misunderstand about your generation?

My generation would be the Gen Xers. But Mr. Fixit and I were right at the tail end of the Baby Boom, so there's some of that as well. 

I would say that some younger people (not all) think that they're the only ones who know anything about technology. I was actually one of the first on my dorm floor to buy a (used) personal computer, and I had to run it in the common room because our own room didn't have computer-friendly electrical outlets. Raise your hand if you've ever heard of CP/M.

4. Sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread dressing-which would you miss the most if it weren't on the holiday dinner menu?

We had Thanksgiving in October, and the only one of those things on the menu was mashed potatoes; I think the others are more U.S. traditions. I'm not too hung up on traditional menus, but I do like bread stuffing and cranberry sauce.

5. What are you overthinking right now?

The answers to these questions.

6. Your favorite slang word lately?

I'm not sure!

7. Write an acrostic for the word grateful.

I am going to stick to crosswords for now.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Here are some early Christmas decorations. More to come. 

Here's my very random Pinterest post. And some thoughts about buying stuff and having stuff.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Beginning to look a bit like Christmas (Do-Vember #22)

For most of the past many years, my holiday decorating rule has been to leave it all as late as possible. There were good reasons for this. We tried to keep Advent separate from Christmas, and it didn't help if we had too many Christmas things out too early. Later on, some years, we also put out decorations just before Christmas, but that was because people were busy or partly out of town, and we had to wait for everyone who wanted to help.

Today I put out a few holiday things. I think it's the earliest I've ever done this much decorating, ever. Again, there are reasons for this. We don't have too-excited small children anymore, but we do have adult children who have flown the nest and who will be in and out at various times over the next month. It just seemed like it would be nice to have a few warming-up-for-Christmas things around the house.
Decoration we bought at Ponytails' school craft sale, a few years ago (made by one of the students)
A basket of vintage Christmas carol books
Working on decorating the front hall. I made the candle jar decoration out of scavenged odds and ends, and put some bits of fake evergreen in the white goblets. I'm going to add some mini red balls or berries to the goblets, when I find some.
A basket of old favourite Christmas books, in a basket that was formerly a six-sectioned wine basket (posted about that here). After not using the basket since finding it in August, because I couldn't think of anything to put in the six sections, I removed the divider and now have a perfectly good plain basket.
Dewey and Chippie relaxing in front of the fireplace. (They won't stay there long if it gets too warm.)

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Random Pinterest Post (Do-Vember #21)

Since I'm drawing on my Pinterest boards for Do-Vember, I decided to try something different today and go with the top "suggestions" that popped up on my Pinterest home page. The weird, the useful, the beautiful, the strange. This is what Pinterest thinks I'd like to see, unedited, top to bottom.

1. The French 5-Piece Wardrobe Starts With Art: last Thursday's post from The Vivienne Files

2. Build a Capsule Wardrobe by Starting with Art: one of the more unusual posts from The Vivienne Files, clothes based on the colours of a bird wing painted by Albrecht Durer.

3. A list called "MBTI as a friend." According to this list, Mr. Fixit's MBTI type "always knows what is wrong with your computer and/or car." Yep, nailed that one.

4. Winter City Break Packing Essentials. Their thoughts: "I'm aware that some people could look at this and not consider 2 fedora hats and 2 pairs of sunglasses as essentials, which is pretty understandable. But for me, Milan is a place where I want to dress quite nicely, but still keep warm and comfy so that i'm prepared for long days of touristy activities."

5. An advertisement for an Italian geometric jacquard belted waistcoat (no thanks)

6. "God is fixing the broken pieces of your life. Get ready for RESTORATION (caps theirs not mine).  God is preparing you for everything you prayed for!"

7. Another advertisement: "Create your free website with the XXX free website builder"

8. Another page of MBTI stuff: "The things that drain each personality type most." "Observing people with terrible morals who are constantly making decisions that harms others, will upset the INFP." Well, yes, but shouldn't that sort of apply to everyone? Is there actually a personality type that enjoys watching people with terrible morals making decisions that harm others? Maybe a few soap opera fans...

9. "From thrift store to farmhouse decor in 5 minutes." What it is, is spray painting big old brass candlesticks to make them look more funky.

10. Another advertisement: "Warm up to me waisted knitting coat" (I haven't figured out the syntax on that one yet)

11. A picture of the Taj Mahal. Really, that's all it is. No explanation, no text, just a note that it was "picked for my Travel board."

12. A recipe for Spicy Thai Noodles. To eat at the Taj Mahal, maybe.

13. A picture of vintage Bic Banana Ink Crayons (I loved those)

14. A travel guide to The Best Castles in Scotland

15. A picture of a guinea pig. Oh no, wait a minute--that's a capybara. (Why? I have no idea. Really.)

Mama Squirrel's (tentative) reading list for 2017 (Updated with links)

I had a frightenly long to-read list on GoodReads. All probably very good books, but more than I could even contemplate getting through. Some of them were books that I think I should read, or that somebody told me I should read, but that I don't really want to, at least anytime soon. So I did some major chopping.

Out of what's left, I pulled forty titles that really caught my attention, that I can imagine reading in the next year...or two.  

Getting Love Right (very short, Kindle only)
Willard, Dallas 

Whyte, David

Barfield, Owen

Stapert, Calvin R.

Reynolds, Barbara

Reid, Alastair

Pollard, Justin 

Pieper, Josef

Markos, Louis

King, James

Shaw, Luci

Shaw, Luci 

Guroian, Vigen 

Guite, Malcolm  

Guite, Malcolm  

Ford, Leighton
Fish, Stanley 

Esolen, Anthony

Endersby, Jim

Hodges, Andrew

Eliot, T.S.

Eberhard, John P.

Duckworth, Angela 

Townsend, John

Clarkson, Sally

Pohl, Christine D. 

Brown, Nancy Carpenter 

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)
Achebe, Chinua

Ishiguro, Kazuo

Rawlins, Christine

Goudge, Elizabeth

Doerr, Anthony 

O'Brien, Stacey

Dana, Mrs. William Starr

Bailey, Elisabeth Tova

Aalto, Kathryn

Thomson, Hugh  

Evans, Paul

Morton, H.V.

Woodward, William Harrison 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Toning down the trimming up (Do-Vember #20)

Popping up on Pinterest: The Holiday Decluttering Guide to Make More Room For Comfort and Joy. This is a post by minimalism advocate Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333. A few interesting links and thoughts for those feeling too busy, too bothered, or just "too." (Please note that doesn't mean I endorse every suggestion. Take what you can use and let the rest go.)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Not extinct yet, thank you (Do-Vember #19)

Some things that come up on Pinterest lead to other interesting links, and often those are the ones that make me scratch my head.

Like this list of things that supposedly are on the almost-extinct or quite-endangered list in the "typical" 21st century home.

The list starts with:
  • pianos (they obviously haven't met many homeschoolers)
  • fax machines
  • answering machines
  • phone books
and goes on through some-people still have-them such as:
  • alarm clocks
  • desktop computers
  • incandescent light bulbs
  • landline phones
  • memo pads
  • bar soap
  • sewing machines (they obviously don't know about Sew Mama Sew)

I suppose it just depends where you live and what you do, and who your friends are and what they have in their houses. Having grown up in the '60's through the '80''s, there are things that I remember being in "everybody's" house back then but don't see now: ash trays (large and small) in the living room, cable T.V. boxes wired to the (usually floor-model) T.V., floor lamps with three bulbs, step-stools, chord organs, and spring-loaded phone directories.
Also certain kinds of baby gear you don't see now (usually involving bouncing, rocking, swinging, or bottle-heating). And plastic seat covers on some people's living room furniture (yes, that was a thing).

However, I know plenty of people who own and use landline phones, sewing machines, and bar soap, among other things. If you climb up to our Treehouse, you will find a number of other curiosities such as vintage radios (including CB's) and an electric coffee percolator. And paper newspapers, magazines, and books.

Yes, the world is changing. But very little of that list has entirely disappeared from North American homes. Except maybe for phone books. Do you still get one where you live?

Another kind of fall

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fried rice: do it your own way (Do-Vember #18)

In the freezer: cooked rice, spinach, diced onion. In the fridge: leftover beef, jarred garlic, mushrooms. Dinner: Fried Rice, from The More-With-Less Cookbook.

How did we do it our way?

1. No added eggs; Mr. Fixit can't eat them scrambled.

2. No leftover vegetables. We did have last night's carrots and beans to reheat on the side, but they wouldn't have added much to the rice. I added spinach and mushrooms instead.

3. I  cut the amount of sugar, salt and pepper in half, because I knew our leftovers weren't going to make a full recipe.

Still good!

"Harsh reality and bleak forecast": on stuff and shaming

The Newsweek website has a feature (from earlier this fall) on the high environmental and human cost of clothes production and consumption practices.

The outlook is not good. In fact, it's really bad and really depressing. Especially at this time of year when, more than anything, it's all buy-buy-buy. Reading a story like this that focuses on just one area of consumer craziness makes you not only feel bad about needing to buy winter boots, it raises the same questions about the rest of the stuff: cars, couches, Christmas gifts, postage stamps. When every choice seems to cause some kind of ethical turmoil, it's easy to give up even trying to make sense of it. You can get yourself to the point where every tissue is an issue.
But knowing that something is difficult doesn't absolve us from being aware, and doing what we can to be part of a solution rather than contribute more to the problem.

That was not a hypothetical list, by the way. We do have a car that has recently developed a safety issue. No two ways around it, our family needs a vehicle, and the days of us choosing a twenty-year-old used car are long gone. In choosing a replacement, our biggest limitation is cost. The most realistic choice is a small, easy-on-gas leased car, which we try to take good care of and use responsibly. 

As some of you know, our living room couch had its last spring last spring, and we've been sitting on the just-as-old love seat instead. In the realm of furniture, we have more options than we do with cars. We've previously bought several large furniture items from the thrift store, so that was one option. We also looked at couches at a family-run furniture store; that might not be recycling or saving the planet, but it's a locally-based business that deals fairly and stands behind what they sell. Finally we decided that we will move our downstairs couch upstairs, and the love seat downstairs, for the next while; it's the least expensive choice, and makes the most sense, especially considering that we just found out about the problem with our car.

Christmas gifts? I'm focusing on fair-trade items this year; not because I want to force my giftees to share my ideas on that, or to give them only baskets and coffee beans, but just because I found some things that I thought would make good gifts for those on my list. 

And there's not too much we can do about postage stamps. Except not buy too many of them.

When the whole world of stuff (and human rights and carcinogenic dyes and the environment and shopaholism and finding anything that's made to last) seems like a never-ending problem, it's easy to get overwhelmed by even small choices. But maybe those are the best places to start making the world a little better. We may not have much control over what our houses or cars are made of, or (these days) whether vehicles are overloaded with electronic stuff. But going down the line, some of us can make choices like "we don't really need a couch at all" or "we need something flexible like a futon couch"; if we do want a regular couch, we still have choices about where we shop, the quality we look for, and how plan to we take care of it. 

We can buy decent-quality new jeans so that they'll hold up longer (we hope), or get used ones from the thrift store, and  pass them on again if they're outgrown but still wearable. We can decide that we or our children need only one or two pairs of jeans at a time, so we're not buying and storing more than we or they can wear. 

We can make more radical decisions like "no plastic toys." Having lived through the past two decades with plastic trolls, Polly Pockets, and Duplo, I can say that that's not an easy decision and definitely not for everyone. But if you can make it work, I'd say that's worth a few boxes of tissues.

We can decide to grow our own tomatoes and lettuce. We can hang laundry. We can wear the same sweater for several years, instead of spending time and money on a lot of different ones. Oh...we're back to clothing now.

But maybe the issue of clothing is one area where we do have the chance to make some difference. What do you think?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Lessons from my Frugal board (Do-Vember #17)

I didn't have a Frugal board on Pinterest until just recently. Frugal, for me, isn't a separate category, it's just what is. I'm not usually posting things that are very un-Frugal on the rest of my boards.

But I did want a place to pin some ideas about things to make and do with thrifted finds, and other kinds of upcycling. Some of them are ideas I would seriously use. Others I pinned just because they were amusing. Who would ever have thought of taking old magnetic letters (the kind the kids play with on the fridge) and spray-painting them gold? How about 299 No-Sew Ways to Alter a T-Shirt?

Here are a couple of ideas that I think illustrate good principles about thrifting and upcycling:

1. From Thrifted Wine Box to Pretty Tea Box: You see a wooden box like this at a yard sale or at the thrift store, or somebody gives you one. Maybe it's a wine box, maybe it's an old jewelry box; anyway, it seems to have been made for one purpose, and at first that's all you can see; but then you decide to think (wait for it) outside the box. This is how old stereo cabinets get repurposed as children's play kitchens, and night tables find new life as end tables, or vice versa. Whatever it is, think of it not as a wine box, or as a magazine holder, but as an empty box, and start from there.

2. Turn a $3 plaid blanket into two sofa pillows. Don't get too excited about the $3, because you are still going to have to buy pillow forms (unless you have boring unused pillows), but here's the point: some people see a blanket, others see fabric. Some people see sheets that are the wrong size for their beds; others see tablecloths, or dresses for little girls, or drawstring bags for MCC school kits. Some people see tablecloths that are the wrong size for their get the point.
3. Two sock snowpeople hugging each other: Because two of something is more fun than one. Or, in this case, because you've created a little snowperson scenario. (Warning: the link goes only to a Pinterest image, but after that it doesn't go anyplace useful.)

From the archives: Charlotte Mason and the great wide road

First posted October 2011 (links updated)

This week's Charlotte Mason blog carnival combines a Parent's Review article with Chapter IV of Towards a Philosophy of Education, "The Basis of National Strength." The theme common to them both seems to be delight--delight in knowledge, and delight in life, as opposed to indifference and a constant need for others to entertain us.
"....I write as an old woman who remembers how in the [eighteen-] sixties and seventies "countenance" was much talked of; "an intelligent countenance," "a fine countenance," "a noble countenance," were matters of daily comment. The word has dropped out of use; is it because the thing signified has dropped out of existence? Countenance is a manifestation of thought, feeling, intelligence; and it is none of these, but stolid indifference combined with physical well-being, that we read in many faces to-day."--Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education
"In order that the flavour and scent of existence may not be lost, we must have within ourselves some consciousness of this impelling power that may lead us to travel deliberately through our ages, realizing that the most wonderful adventures are not those which we go forth to seek. We shall then, perhaps, have some glimmering idea of what [Robert Louis] Stevenson himself meant when he said, "whether the past day was wise or foolish, to-morrow's travel will carry me body and mind into some different parish of the infinite." The conception of ourselves and our children as citizens of the "parish of the infinite" is undoubtedly one that must give us pause."  -- "The Open Road," by Frances Blogg (also known as Mrs. G.K. Chesterton), in The Parent's Review, Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 772-774
In this chapter, which was originally published in the London Times, Charlotte Mason talks about the countenance showing our interest in or indifference to the world, and how that affects the spirit of the nation.  She points out, though, that genuinely educated people are "not brought up for the uses of society only."  We are not cogs or dogs, as Mary Pride has termed it; not bricks in the wall.  Frances Blogg talks about life that retains its flavour and scent, that is more than mere existence.  We are given thoughts from Mr. Burns (the cabinet minister, not the cartoon character) and Socrates:
"Now personal delight, joy in living, is a chief object of education; Socrates conceived that knowledge is for pleasure, in the sense, not that knowledge is one source, but is the source of pleasure.  It is for their own sakes that children should get knowledge."--Philosophy, p. 302
In other words, education is for us.  For our own selves, for the children, and any interested others.  This is why Charlotte Mason emphasizes many books, important books, living books--because studying those books gives us power to think clearly, to make good judgments (meaning, for the good of society), and finally, to give us a life that is more than just passing time.  "But to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."  She mentions, as she always does, that we don't respect or really love children by keeping their educational prospects arid, confined, shallow; we need to allow them to swim out deeper, to climb higher, and to go around more unknown corners than they have been generally allowed.
"Education, then, to [Stevenson] was a journey, full of the delights of wide landscape, fresh invigorating air, or alternate sunshine and shadow, the great wide road stretching infinitely before--leading to that heart of its own, the beat of which he so longed to hear. There can be no liberal education when the eyes are closed or the ears sealed. In this, as in everything else, the wayfarer must live to the full extent of his being. Pitfalls he must find on that journey, blind paths perhaps, but through it all the philosophy of belief in the essential goodness, the actual significance of things created, the state of being 'in love with life.'"--Frances Blogg
P.S. for Charlotte Mason trivia seekers:  who is this Mr. Burns she quotes on page 300?  My guess.

From the archives: Listen first, knit later

First posted November 2011

Some advice to mothers of young ladies:
"Some people like to live as if they were catching a train. They are really only running after their own tails; they cannot select what must be done this minute, and what can be put off to the next day. Put them where you like; they will still have no leisure. If you want to teach the methodical use of time and orderly habits of mind, you must first learn to show a calm front and have a heart "at leisure from itself." I heard a woman who had many friends spoken of as one "who when you want her advice does not jump up to fetch her knitting before she will listen to you.""--"Girls from Twelve to Sixteen," by Mrs. Hart Davis, in The Parent's Review, Volume 13, no. 2, February 1902, pgs. 81-93