Wednesday, February 28, 2018

From the archives: Paul Klee on the priorities of life

First posted March 2015
"First of all, the art of living; then as my ideal profession, poetry and philosophy, and as my real profession, plastic arts; in the last resort, for lack of income, illustrations."   —Paul Klee.
(Gualtieri Di San Lazzaro, Klee. Praeger, New York, 1957, p. 16)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Project 333, Spring 2018: Just a sample

Fashion Revolution Week is April 23-29, 2018
"We love fashion, but we don’t want our clothes to come at the cost of people or our planet." ~~

Inspiration for the Season
Image result for tom thomson nocturne
Tom Thomson, "Nocturne, Algonquin Park, 1915"

Last year I called this page "End of Winter"; but this year I'm feeling more optimistic and hoping for an actual Spring. Birds! Flowers! No March blizzards! (There's usually at least one surprise snowstorm.)

Some clothes I had expected to pull out this spring, that were on every tentative list, suddenly didn't make the cleanout cut. I had a size-six grey dress I thrifted last fall, that I finally admitted was too tight for comfort. Another print dress had had its day. A denim shirt, that I wore as a jean jacket, just felt done. A skirt that didn't have enough of a waistband to stay up properly: time to say goodbye. A blue jacket that was a good colour, but the puffed sleeves were a little much: it also went in the donation bag. At least letting go is easier if you haven't put much money into it.

But I've found good, "keeper" things, too.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

From the archives: Charlotte Mason means no write-by-numbers

First posted February 2013, part of a series on Charlotte Mason's Volume Six. This post discussed Chapter Ten.

"In few things do certain teachers labour in vain more than in the careful and methodical way in which they teach composition to young children. The drill that these undergo in forming sentences is unnecessary and stultifying, as much so perhaps as such drill would be in the acts of mastication and deglutination [sic]." --Towards a Philosophy of Education, Chapter 10 
AMANDA: Honey, don’t push with your fingers. If you have to push with something, the thing to push with is a crust of bread. And chew—chew! Animals have sections in their stomachs which enable them to digest food without mastication, but human beings are supposed to chew their food before they swallow it down. Eat food leisurely, son, and really enjoy it. A well-cooked meal has lots of delicate flavors that have to be held in the mouth for appreciation. So chew your food and give your salivary glands a chance to function! ~~Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie
Tom Wingfield doesn't need a lecture on how to chew his food.  He's an adult.  He knows how.  His mother means well, but she drives him up the wall, and, eventually, out of the house. 


Children in Charlotte Mason's primary grades narrate a little at a time, to fully develop their powers of attention and their skill in telling back.  Same literature lists as before, for the younger ones:  stories from mythology, fairy tales, Pilgrim's Progress, Bible stories, "how we know the world is round and a great deal besides; for all their work lends itself to oral composition and the power of such composition is innate in children and is not the result of instruction."

The junior grades "write their little essays themselves." I don't think "little" is meant in a pejorative way here, it's simply referring to length.  And oh my, the reading list..."We could do anything with books like those," says one headmaster quoted in a later chapter.  Charlotte scolds him for thinking that he just needs a good book list (and for missing the point that he needs to follow her other principles of education), but I think he's at least half right; the ability to narrate well, and to turn that skill into written composition, does begin with the choice of books.  I remember, and it was not so long ago, that homeschoolers using a certain series of Christian textbooks tried to have their children narrate from the textbooks, and they argued that that was just as correct a way to apply Charlotte Mason's principles as, say, narrating from a book of Greek myths...and probably safer!  And then we have the other situation, more common in schools now, where children, being "naturally creative," are expected to create lots of output without much input.  Some writers can start from a point inside their heads, without any outside reference, but for most of us, that's as hard as being handed a brush and told to paint, without having anything to look at.  "Compose something," my piano teacher once commanded, when I was about ten.  But since I knew very little about listening to music, much less creating it, all I came back with was something stupid, a waste of time.  I had never seen anyone create music. I had no musical ideas; nothing to write music about, or sing music about, or paint music about.  And she never asked me to do that again.  


According to Charlotte's theory of education, children arrive in the classroom with a dazzling array of powers of mind.  Agreed! say contemporary educators, and so children are given the paintbrush, or more often these days the keyboard, mouse, animation software, computer music program, and told to create.  But a few clicks of a "paint" program produce no more genuine art than did the "blobs" Charlotte criticized in the school art of her own time.  "Blobs" meant using the flat of the paintbrush to make a shape on the paper, which you could arrange, say, into the petals of a flower.  Charlotte said that was not true painting, but "the power of effective creation by a sort of clever trick."  In other words, on the level of rubber-stamping or potato printing, or drawing around your hand to make reindeer antlers.  Now real (adult) artists do use such techniques--blobs, stamping, layering bits of paper on the ground, whatever--to make "real" art, so we might argue her point.  

However, big however:  there are a couple of reasons why blobby artmaking does not belong in the CM educational environment.  (I thought we were talking about composition?  Bear with me.)  In Home Education, Charlotte said, "This is what we wish to do for children in teaching them to draw––to cause the eye to rest, not unconsciously, but consciously, on some object of beauty which will leave in their minds an image of delight for all their lives to come. Children of six and seven draw budding twigs of oak and ash, beech and larch, with such tender fidelity to colour, tone, and gesture, that the crude little drawings are in themselves things of beauty."  If the drawing is not created from the ground up, so to speak, and if it is not based on some real object, then the child does not learn to care about what he is seeing or the art he is making, will not remember it, will not learn anything.  Small twigs painted well, and kept in a nature notebook, are better than entire "lollipop" trees, stuck up on the fridge for a few days and then thrown away.

The other reason to be cautious of such programmed art is that the students become overpraised, too confident in their own abilities ("look, I wrote music!"), but at the same time they are demeaned by being told that they're such good artists, such good writers, when they know that all they did was just blobs, happy-faces, lollipop trees.  But if that's all the teacher thinks they're capable of...


"Knowledge is not sensation, nor is it to be derived through sensation; we feed upon the thoughts of other minds; and thought applied to thought generates thought and we become more thoughtful. No one need invite us to reason, compare, imagine; the mind, like the body, digests its proper food, and it must have the labour of digestion or it ceases to function....But let information hang upon a principle, be inspired by an idea, and it is taken with avidity and used in making whatsoever in the spiritual nature stands for tissue in the physical."--Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education (page 26) 

No paint-by-numbers, at least within the "classroom."  (What you do for fun on a rainy afternoon is your own business.)

No write-by-numbers.  No story-starter cubes.

No gimmicks.

If you look at the student responses printed in this section of the book, you will see Charlotte's version of story-starters.  There are three, more or less:  Literature.  Nature.  Current Events.  Those three are repeated over and over...that is "suggestive," as she would say.  The youngest students may just "tell back," but the oldest ones are required to turn their thoughts on spring, or Home Rule in Ireland, or the poems of Tennyson, into blank verse, or ballads, or scenes involving literary characters.  Which also, not incidentally, gives us a clear picture of the "Knowledge of Man" end of the curriculum.  The older classes obviously spent a fair amount of time reading or talking or writing about literature (especially classical mythology, if we go by the exam responses), about nature,  and about current events.  They obviously spent a lot of time reading poetry, and had some training in metre.  And without being told to use "higher levels of thinking," they were practicing synthesis and evaluation.  No blobs, no gimmicks. They were acting like real least, real writers of 1920.  

PART FIVE, in which we try not to be too cynical about the state of the world, but we do need to ask some big questions...


What do we do now?

If there is no reason for an adult today to write in the metre of Tennyson, can we expect students to find meaning in such an exercise? Or find an audience or a place for their work?

Is it harder to translate the writing of 1920 into our own time and space than it is the reading?  Because you still want an audience for your serious (or seriously hilarious) writing...but I'm guessing there is little to no market for a Shakespearian sonnet about the ups and downs of computer companies.  Or a ballad about the doings at the Vatican, about light rail transit, or the "new food."  Should we have Mr. Woodhouse chat about the latest celebrity divorce?  

There are still good poets out there, in fact, quite young ones.  Do we encourage our young writers to carry on older forms of writing, simply in tribute to literary tradition?  

Or is it not so much going backwards as simply giving them opportunity to perform the act of knowing?

Is there any contemporary way to  respectfully, insightfully, and beautifully respond to a classic book, a piano concerto, the buds on a tree, without turning it into a rap song or a LEGO animation?

In other words, we can read, receive, participate, enjoy literature spanning centuries...but how do we reproduce?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge: It's Chili Out

From this Side of the Pond

1. Where do you go when you need some inspiration?

Place, person, or thing? Pretty pictures of Hygge things, that would be Pinterest. Words of wisdom, ideas about dinner, or an opinion on whether something matches, that would be Mr. Fixit. A reminder that so many lives intertwine: online friends.

And don't forget books.

2. What's under your bed?

Storage baskets, spare bedding, and a Christmas tree.

3. Thursday, February 22nd is National Chili Day, National Margarita Day, and National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. Of the three which would you most like to celebrate? Is that likely?

I made white chicken chili on Tuesday, so I guess that counts.

Chicken Chili, adapted from "White Chili" on A Year of Slow Cooking

2 cups chicken broth
some chopped cooked chicken
1 can corn, drained
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 little can chopped green chilies (don't drain)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chopped garlic (I used jarred garlic)
a little salt, pepper, and oregano, plus a spoonful of dried onion flakes

Combine in a pot, bring to a boil, turn down to low, and cook for about an hour. Serve with sour cream.

4. What are you 'snowed under' with right now?

Not exactly snowed under, but pretty busy with course work. It means I am not finding much time for blogging right now.

5. Tell us three to five things that make you feel balanced?

An interesting question, but I'm not sure of the answer(s). One would be Sunday worship in church, as a start/end to the week. Also having a mix of things to do, between working at home and going out.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I'm halfway through the current 10 x 10 Wardrobe Challenge

And in relation to that, I did something yesterday that could be considered strange. After I finished my volunteer morning at the thrift store, I saw that the two blazers I donated recently, and that I had been feeling a bit regretful about, had been relegated to the 75% off rack. So I bought them back for $2 each. Better than sending them to be baled up and shipped off or turned into seat filling or whatever might have been their destination.

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From Across the Pond.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Quote for the day: Genuine, custom-packaged authenticity (pay with your credit card)

"In a world of proliferating choice (consumer choice, that is), we are less prone [than we used to be] to feel we are deprived of an identity we value. In fact, it is likely that someone is trying very hard to understand what we feel is authentic so that it can be packaged somehow and sold to us in the form of a rebellious T-shirt or self-help book." ~~ Donovan Plumb, "Critical Adult Education in Canada in the Time of CASAE," New Directions For Adult & Continuing Education, 2009(124), 5-14.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Karen's Doilies": An all-thrifted 10 x 10 wardrobe challenge

It's time for another 10 x10 Wardrobe Challenge, created by blogger StyleBee. You choose 10 items, and use them to create 10 days of real-life outfits. If you haven't seen any of my 10 x 10 challenges before, I do them backwards, or maybe it's forwards: make the plan and take the photos before it starts, instead of posting it as it happens. 

I was inspired by this photograph of coloured-thread doilies, crocheted by the multi-talented Karen Glass.
Lacy, loopy, intricate motifs; in plum and wine colours plus neutrals, and a few bonus flowers.

Here are the clothes

In the photo below are (top) a tapestry-fabric jacket, a cardigan which I love but which got bumped from the list in favour of a poncho (see below); (bottom) a turtleneck sweater dress which works as a sweater (it's showing as brighter blue than it really is), a knitted vest, and a cotton pullover sweater.
One openwork grey poncho, instead of the cardigan, plus its matching circle scarf. It seemed to work better with the crocheted theme, and I already had a jacket for something warm-with-sleeves.
A collarless paisley print shirt which can also be worn as a cardigan, with a pair of dark-wash jeans; and a plum jersey t-shirt with a pair of grey cords.
That makes nine items. 

I had thought about including this skirt, which goes with almost everything including the poncho.
But I added a grey t-shirt instead, because I didn't really have enough tops there for ten days. Also, the coming week is going to be busy with a couple of extra meetings, but nothing dressy enough to need an extra skirt. The sweater dress will take care of anything not-pants.
 Most of these clothes came from the MCC thrift store; the cords came from Bibles for Missions (another thrift store); and the cotton sweater and poncho are from a consignment store.

So I'm thinking about Karen's doilies. What do I have that reminds me of those shapes and colours?
Jewelry: some thrifted, some gifts
Closeup of the earrings
Two extras, found at the thrift store
Scarves and a shawl, all thrifted except for the little silk one (I've had it since I was a teenager)
An extra infinity scarf, from the thrift store
Hat made by daughter
Four purses, all thrifted
Shoes, not all thrifted (sorry)

Here's the list

Saturday, February 17 
Plan for the day: Errands (groceries), and finishing an annotated bibliography assignment

Outfit: jeans, raspberry pullover
Accessories: grey scarf with roses (or maybe the pink infinity scarf), flower-shaped earrings, grey boots, grey purse

Sunday, February 18 
Plan for the day: Church, plus leading a class this week
Outfit: Sweater dress, grey poncho (not in the photo)
Accessories: Scarf that matches the poncho. Earrings. Tights, flat shoes. Small purse.

Monday, February 19
Plan for the day: "Family Day" in Ontario, but we have no special plans, so I'll probably be doing online course work, writing a term paper on the value of reading in later life, and doing housework. Or we might go to a local art gallery.
Outfit: cords, grey t-shirt, jacket
Accessories: knitted hat, purse, boots, if we go out. 

Tuesday, February 20
Plan for the day: Thrift store in the morning, "school" in the afternoon
Outfit: jeans, plum t-shirt, paisley shirt
Accessories: Earrings, purse, socks, shoes

Wednesday, February 21 
Plan for the day: Afternoon meeting at thrift store 
Outfit: cords, grey t-shirt, jacket
Accessories: tba

Thursday, February 22 
Plan for the day: At home, doing "school" and housework

Outfit: Sweater dress, vest
Accessories: fleece-lined tights, maybe some beads

Friday February 23 
Plan for the day: Thrift store in the morning, course work in the afternoon, and evening CM study night 
Outfit: jeans, grey t-shirt, vest / swap for poncho
Accessories: tba

Saturday, February 24
Plan for the day: Errands, and finishing off the week's class work
Outfit: jeans, dress as sweater
Accessories: tba

Sunday, February 25 
Plan for the day: Church
Outfit: cords, raspberry pullover
Accessories: paisley shawl worn as large scarf; purple earrings; small purse; grey boots

Monday, February 26 
Plan for the day: At home, working on term paper
Outfit: jeans, plum t-shirt
Accessories: fuzzy socks!

One of Karen's doilies, put to use in the Treehouse

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Better than a dozen roses

Mr. Fixit and I went to the antiques market on Valentine's Day, and found just the right mirror for the blank space over this cabinet. It's also in the right spot to bounce light back from the balcony doors. You might think it's a funny Valentine, but I like it. 
For the sharp-eyed: the space to the left there was where we had the guinea-pig cage. Muffin and his hay were causing allergy problems, so he is now residing with with another family member (our family, not his).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Quote for the day: Abundance

"To believe in abundance is to believe that we have enough...This thinking is a stretch of the imagination. It envisions social relationships in a different world, in a manna-based culture. It's a sharp contrast to a culture organized around commerce, a market ideology based on scarcity and the central premise that we cannot believe in sufficiency. It declares that we can never be satisfied with what we have, with the effect that customer satisfaction is truly an oxymoron." ~~ Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann and John McKnight, An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture

Friday, February 09, 2018

Thrifting: how do you choose?

Things I've found at the thrift store lately, with their rationalizations:

Silver and purple pendant necklace. Out of a whole rack of necklaces, why did I choose this one? Size, shape, and colour. I could see it fitting in with the clothes I wear most often. 
Plum-coloured jersey top with...poppies, maybe? The photo is showing purple, but it's more reddish, the same colour as the necklace. Why this one? It took a little more thinking: I don't usually buy clothes with pictures on them, and I do have a plum-coloured top already. But I liked the springy flowers very much, I like jersey t-shirts, and it is mostly cotton, not synthetic fabric. The fact that it was a half-price deal decided it.
Teal-green trench coat with a button-in lining  The winter weather has been "stink, stank, stunk," but by March this coat should get lots of use. Why this one and not some other coat? Honestly, need (and the fact that it was four dollars on the clearance rack)! I used to have a brown trench coat (no lining), and I wore it to church and places like that for years...and years. Finally I started to feel like a relic from 1989 every time I put it on, so I let it go, and I've been long-raincoat-less ever since. I did remove the shoulder pads on this coat, an easy fix since the inner lining isn't sewed down at the hem.
Conclusions: This story seems to need an ending. Here's one: know what you need, know what you like, know when to stop.

Quote for the day: Commitment to fish

"It doesn't matter what the subject is; I want an ichthyologist to be as committed to fish as [A. Hyatt] Mayor is to prints--to make me think there's nothing more important to him...if we care about the writer we'll follow him into subjects that we could have sworn we never wanted to know about." ~~ William Zinsser, Writing to Learn

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Quote for the day: sometimes ideas are there and not there

"Ideas are everywhere, in the words and, so to speak, behind the words, present because they are literally present and present even if they appear to be absent. A writer may despise the idea of zoos and communicate that hatred by writing a book about animals in the bush, never mentioning zoos, never alluding to zoos or dropping a hint about zoos. Because of the way the mind works, we get the message...A book about the ethical nature of Christ may in fact be an argument against Christ's divinity. A book of recipes for winter soups made by cloistered monks may really be an argument against the modern world...If you picture a page of writing as three-dimensional, with the words hovering a half-inch or so above the paper, then you begin to see where the ideas are: behind the words, between the words, really everywhere." ~~ Eric Maisel, Deep Writing

Monday, February 05, 2018

Laugh for the day: faking it in fashion, 1967

Image result for crone of cawdor

es, Mr.
Oh, Miss Warbell, I'm dying to ask you a question.
- What is it? - Will boots be popular next year? I'd say that all depends on how Boots behaves herself this year.
- Well, shall we go? I'm starved.
- Yes.
I don't want to leave without my notes.
I hate to rush you through lunch, but I have a lot of notes to go through Oh, excuse me a minute.
Oh, there you are, Miss Warbell.

Read more:
Endora, pretending to be a fashion journalist: Oh, there you are, Miss Warbell. I'm Miss Krovistrod. I write the fashion copy for Tate & McMann. I've seen your picture a million times... I would like your opinion about the new polyester fabrics...

The Crone of Cawdor, masquerading as Miss Warbell the fashion expert: I think Polly Esther is as good as the next designer.

Someone else asks Miss Warbell, "Will boots be popular next season?" Her response: "I'd say that all depends on how Boots behaves herself this year."

(Bewitched, "The Crone of Cawdor")

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Quote for the day: Wolves wearing sheep suits

"Besides, sweet reasonableness, more often than not, is a clever disguise for barely concealed self-interest." ~~ David. R. Williams, Sin Boldly!: Dr. Dave's Guide to Writing the College Paper

Friday, February 02, 2018

Some frugal finds, Part Three

Yesterday's Frugal Finds post stopped with Part Two, but everything's better in threes. Here are the rest of the recent Frugal Finds.

A fun tweed skirt. The texture and colours don't show up well in the photo (my camera always puts in too much blue); there's actually a lot going on here between blue, green, grey, and beige. You can see it better in the earring photo (below).
Here's what it looks like with a green sweater, and a purple necklace I found at the thrift store. 
The tassel earrings came attached to the same bit of cardboard as the necklace, but I didn't notice them hiding underneath until later. 
I like the skirt and the jewelry, but this book was the real life-saver this week.

Quote for the day: the democratic right to grammar

"Since we live in a competitive society in which the struggle for survival is primary, power exists, and power will have its symbols. Literacy is a far better tool and symbol of empowerment than any other, even money...However much you may hate grammar, think how much better a system ours is in which even the lowest peasant can achieve literary equality by learning rules of writing, spelling, grammar, and diction that are available equally to all and that apply equally to all." ~~ David R. Williams, Sin Boldly!: Dr. Dave's Guide to Writing the College Paper

Thursday, February 01, 2018

A few frugal clothes finds: let someone else do the fixing

"'I like your clothes awfully, old chap,' [the Rat[ remarked after some half an hour or so had passed. 'I'm going to get a black velvet smoking-suit myself some day, as soon as I can afford it.'" ~~ Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Part One

I sometimes feel like the luckiest thrifter around. Many times when I've worried about needing something expensive, or finding what I need at all, something used but good pops up and reminds me not to be so anxious. There was that time I searched for pants, and finally found them on the clearance rack at the thrift store. (I'm still wearing those blue jeans.) There were the scarves, and the shoes, and the hat, and the cardigan, and the hook with a bird on it (or the bird with a hook on it)...and Lydia's bed, and the dining room table...well, you know the rest. (I probably forgot to mention the bed, it was a couple of years ago.)

Last week I was looking for pants again; but nothing grey, because almost all my pants are grey. I found a pair of dark-wash, high-waisted jeans for $1.50, plus a pair of "skinnies" to replace my worn-out jeggings. The skinny jeans are labelled "khakis," which I find funny because they're navy blue. Anyway, I came home with the two pairs of not-grey pants, and a belt, and a book we're studying at church (I was using a borrowed copy), all for about ten dollars.

The dark jeans fasten with a zipper plus three metal slide-plus-bar fasteners on the waistband. The zipper was fine, but two of the slides were missing. It looked like they'd never been added at all (maybe that's why the jeans were in such good condition). Walmart sells multi-packs of slides and bars for $5 (plus tax), but a) I wasn't quite sure how to insert them, and b) what was I going to do with the lifetime supply of extras? I decided to inquire at the same shop that took in a too-big skirt and hemmed my grey jeans, and sure enough they have promised to add two slides, for only a couple of dollars more than the Walmart package (plus tax). I'll be good for jeans (and blue khakis) for quite awhile.

Part Two

I was thinking about summery colours, and along came this slightly crazy top with a giant beaded flower and lace sleeves.
Yes, I bought it, because it was that kind of day. It really belongs with summer shorts, but it's not bad either with a purple jacket and grey jeans.

Quote for the day: keep learning

“You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.” ~~ T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Free is a nice price: use what you're signed up for

Sometimes we are entitled to more perks and benefits than we're using. Our apartment building has amenities such as an exercise room and a sauna. Your public library might have online subscriptions to databases or to language-learning tools that you thought you couldn't access. There might be something in the income tax laws where you live that allows you to (legally) deduct something you didn't know about. Or your automobile association card might offer special deals at restaurants or shoe stores (we've used both).

This week we realized that, because I'm currently registered at a university, and have an Office 365 student mailbox, we could also download a much newer version of Microsoft Word, an upgrade we badly needed. Free for subscribers, straight to the computer, just like that: one very big wow, and thank you Mr. Fixit for making that work. If you have someone in your house with a student email account, check it out.