Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mama Squirrel's Want-to-read List for 2020

I did not get to all the books on my 2019 wish-list (do I ever?), so there is some overlap. I don't have any required textbooks this year, but I do have some leftover education books I picked up, and one (Biesta) that I'd like to track down and read.

Earlier this year, Malcolm Guite published a list of five poets he recommends, and representative works for each, so I've included those even though I don't own any of those books.


Biesta, Gert J.J.
The Beautiful Risk of Education

Gardner, Howard
Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet

Glass, Karen
In Vital Harmony

Katz, Steven
Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice

Kohn, Alfie
The Schools Our Children Deserve

Mumaw, Stefan, and Wendy Lee Oldfield
Caffeine for the Creative Team: 150 Exercises to Inspire Group Innovation

Palmer, Parker J.
The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life

Words and Ideas

Greenfield, Susan A
Tomorrow's People: How 21st-Century Technology is Changing the Way We Think and Feel

Boyle, Mark
The Way Home: Tales from a Life Without Technology

Levitin, Daniel J.
The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

Adler, Mortimer J.
How to Think about the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization

Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books
Schwartz, Lynne Sharon

Piper, John
Think!: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God

Lewis, C.S.
Fern-seed and Elephants, and Other Essays on Christianity

Armstrong, Chris R.
Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis

Lindvall, Terry
Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis

Shaw, Luci
The Crime of Living Cautiously: Hearing God's Call to Adventure

O'Connor, Flannery
Spiritual Writings

O'Connor, Flannery
The Habit of Being (Letters)

Murray, Donald
Writing for your Readers

Jauss, David
Words Overflown by Stars: Creative Writing Instruction and Insight from the Vermont College Mfa Program

Guite, Malcolm
Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Oliver, Mary
A Poetry Handbook

Eagleton, Terry
How to Read a Poem

Behn, Robin
The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach

Koch, Kenneth
I Never Told Anybody: Teaching Poetry Writing in a Nursing Home


Buechner, Frederick
Lion Country

Haruf, Kent
Plainsong (Plainsong, #1)

Tolkien, J.R.R.
Tree and Leaf, Smith of Wootton Major, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth


Chesterton, G.K.
St. Thomas Aquinas / St. Francis of Assisi

Lawson, Dorie McCullough
Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to their Children


Cairns, Scott
Idiot Psalms

Di Cesare, Mario A. (ed.)
George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets

Eliot, T.S.
Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917

Heaney, Seamus
Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996

Hill, Geoffrey

Lewis, Gwyneth
Zero Gravity: A Space Requiem

Shaw, Luci
Harvesting Fog

Shaw, Luci
Polishing the Petoskey Stone: Selected Poems

Williams, William Carlos

Wordsworth, William
Selected Poems


Macfarlane, Robert
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

Aird, Paul Leet
Loon Laughter

Lawrence, Gale
The Beginning Naturalist: Weekly Encounters with the Natural World

Lochnan, Katharine A.
The Earthly Paradise: Arts and Crafts by William Morris and His Circle from Canadian Collections

Collingwood, R.G.
The Principles of Art

Cline, Elizabeth L.
The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good

Carver, Courtney
Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really Is So Much More

Minter, Adam
Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Friday, December 13, 2019

Mama Squirrel's List of Books Read in 2019

It has been an interesting year, and the books seemed to go in chunks. There were several books I really wanted to read but didn't have time or opportunity for, so they're going on next year's list.

As always, just because I read it doesn't mean I recommend it!

Maybe the book that influenced me the most this year

McKeown, Greg
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

A novel about researchers that unexpectedly helped me get through a course about research

Willis, Connie

Better in hardcover:

Karon, Jan
Patches of Godlight: Father Tim's Favorite Quotes

A book I was coerced into reading

Young, William Paul
The Shack

Another book I read quickly but didn't like as much as I wanted to

Magsamen, Sandra
Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine

Things I read for Adult Education and related term papers

Garvin, David A.
Learning in Action: A Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work

Gostick, Adrian
The Best Team Wins: The New Science of High Performance

Illeris, Knud
The Fundamentals of Workplace Learning: Understanding How People Learn in Working Life

Merriam, Sharan B.
Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation

Prior, Karen Swallow
On Reading Well

Raelin, Joseph A.
Work-Based Learning

Wolf, Maryanne
Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

Things I read for Charlotte Mason-related pursuits

Kingsley, Charles
Madam How and Lady Why (re-read)

Mason, Charlotte M.
Formation of Character (Original Homeschooling #5) (re-read)

Mason, Charlotte M.
Parents and Children (Original Homeschooling #2) (re-read)

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

Poetry and Kindred Thoughtfulness

Berry, Wendell
Our Only World: Ten Essays

Bestvater, Laurie
Studying to be Quiet: One Hundred Days of Keeping

Buechner, Frederick
A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory

Buechner, Frederick
Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation

Buechner, Frederick
Telling Secrets

Rumer Godden (translator), Carmen Bernos De Gasztold
Prayers from the Ark (re-read)

Guite, Malcolm
After Prayer: New sonnets and other poems

How to suddenly move and have to rethink your space

Bauwens, Liz
Country in the City: Relaxed Style for Modern Living

Becker, Joshua
The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life

Boyle, Erin
Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More (re-read)

Florke, Randy
Restore. Recycle. Repurpose.: Create a Beautiful Home

Michaels, Melissa
Love the Home You Have

Mitchell, Ryan
Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building & Living Well in Less than 400 Square Feet

Postel-Vinay, Danielle
Home Sweet Maison: The French Art of Making a Home

Smith, Myquillyn
Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff

White, Dana K.
Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff (re-read)

White, Dana K.
How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind: Dealing with Your House's Dirty Little Secrets

How to kill time in the midst of moving

Maffini, Mary Jane
Organize Your Corpses (A Charlotte Adams Mystery, #1)

Maffini, Mary Jane
The Cluttered Corpse (A Charlotte Adams Mystery #2)

Maffini, Mary Jane
Death Loves a Messy Desk (A Charlotte Adams Mystery #3)

Maffini, Mary Jane
Closet Confidential (A Charlotte Adams Mystery #4) (re-read)

Maffini, Mary Jane
The Busy Woman's Guide to Murder (A Charlotte Adams Mystery #5)

Books about money, clothes, and sustainability stuff

Button, Tara
A Life Less Throwaway: The Lost Art of Buying for Life

Heti, Sheila
Women in Clothes

Imhoff, Daniel
Paper or Plastic

Jackson, Carole
Color Me Beautiful: Discover Your Natural Beauty Through the Colors That Make You Look Great and Feel Fabulous! (old book, re-read)

Linett, Andrea
The Cool Factor: A Guide to Achieving Effortless Style, with Secrets from the Women Who Have It

Long, Charles K.
How to Survive Without a Salary: Living the Conserver Lifestyle (old book, re-read)

McCallum, Will
How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

Rees, Anuschka
Beyond Beautiful: A Practical Guide to Being Happy, Confident, and You in a Looks-Obsessed World

Simpson, Lee
My Year of Buying Nothing

Soukup, Ruth
Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind and Soul

White, Betz
Sewing Green: Projects and Ideas for Stitching with Organic, Repurposed, and Recycled Fabrics

Miscellaneous fiction

Aldrich, Bess Streeter
Miss Bishop

Alexander, Lloyd
The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha

Christie, Agatha
They Do It with Mirrors (Miss Marple, #6) (re-read)

Goudge, Elizabeth
Pilgrim's Inn (Eliots of Damerosehay, #2) (re-read)

Goudge, Elizabeth
The Scent of Water

Goudge, Elizabeth
The Sister of the Angels

Graham, Winston
Ross Poldark (Poldark #1)

Grimes, Martha
The Old Fox Deceiv'd (Richard Jury, #2) (I think this was a re-read. I read several from this series back in the 1990's, but I'm not sure which ones.)

Grimes, Martha
The Anodyne Necklace (Richard Jury, #3)

Grimes, Martha
The Dirty Duck (Richard Jury, #4)

Hill, Grace Livingston
Not Under the Law (re-read)

Karon, Jan
Home to Holly Springs (Mitford Years, #10) (re-read)

Karon, Jan
To Be Where You Are (Mitford Years, #14) (re-read)

Penny, Louise
Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #1)

A Miscellany

Brandeis, Madeline
Little Anne of Canada

Michael, Chester P.
Prayer and Temperament

Newport, Cal
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

Westley, Frances R.
Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed

Friday, November 22, 2019

Time for a winter wardrobe: Sonatinas and Snow

Season: November 2019 through February 2020

I was originally going to go a lot brighter this winter. More green, more purple. But somehow all that colour was more than I could take on right now.

Then I thought about the poster we bought this fall on a flea-market trip. Yes, that would work.


Short-sleeved burgundy/sort of brown top

2 Navy print long-sleeved top

Read the rest of the page here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Frugal Finds and Fixes in Fall

I haven't blogged here much this fall, for a couple of reasons. One is that I've been kind of swamped with course work and other writing projects. Another is that I have an IG account, and sometimes it's quicker to post snapshots there , even if only a few people can see them.

But here are some frugal and fixing updates. 

Our front hall closet had a heavy bi-fold door that was awkward to open. Mr. Fixit realized that it was also almost ready to fall off its hinges, and it couldn't be easily fixed. He replaced it with an accordion door from the home store.
He also got some LED shop-fixture lights for the garage (on sale). Good ceiling lights mean he can work on things out there when it's too cold to have the door open for light.

We spent an interesting morning at a flea market, and picked up a framed poster to go in a spot between the living room and dining room spaces.
One of the volunteers at the thrift store introduced me to West German vintage pottery with this jug (or vase, whatever). We're gradually adding things that make our new space feel like home.
Thrifted clothes: yes, I've added some new things. This teal faux-leather jacket lit up all my "where have you been hiding" sensors. It's a bit more green than it appears in the photo. Now I'm hoping the weather doesn't get too bad too fast, so I'll maybe get to wear it a few times before it's completely snow-coats and mittens.
I also found a navy silk shirt that I liked because it wasn't too heavy or too dark.
I got my hair cut at the walk-in place inside Walmart. They're usually pretty good, and inexpensive. I think I've only had one really bad cut there, and even that time the manager gave me a free do-what-we-can-to-fix-it job.

I don't usually wear bracelets--they clunk around and get in the way. But I had noticed some I liked online, made of multicoloured beads. Last week we went to a community "art walk," and an artist we know was selling similar handmade bracelets to support World Vision. So I got my bracelet, and everybody benefited.
Thrifted books: also more than pictured here, but you get the idea. I have wanted to read The Scent of Water for years, but never saw a copy until today.
Some frugality is about saying no...or later...or again, just no. I found a pair of black zippered boots, and looked at having them re-soled. One of them has a small hole, so they would need the full (expensive) treatment. What I've noticed, though, aside from the soles, is that they are just a bit higher than the ankle booties I usually wear, and they hit my legs at an uncomfortable spot. So, okay, lesson learned--that pair will be going back to the thrift store.

And a lot of frugality is about buying nothing new (or used) at all. Making do and using it up. Reading the books that are waiting on the shelf. We have been using the same dinner plates for the past twenty years, and our cutlery for almost thirty.  Also most of our pots and pans (wedding presents). Grandma's kitchen table was in our apartment kitchen, but now it's in Mr. Fixit's workroom. We have a blow-dryer that's years and years old, still going.

(But we do need a new Christmas tree!)

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Wear Away

What to take on a three-day weekend trip? This is what Janice at The Vivienne Files calls a six-pack. You wear three things and pack the other six.

One backpack
One tote bag
One coat
Two tops
One dress
One skirt, one pair of jeans
One flannel shirt
Two pullovers
One blazer
Two scarves
One belt
One pair of shoes

One pair of boots
And the boring bits like tights and pajamas and a hairbrush. And a re-useable coffee mug.

(Almost everything pictured, except for the boots, the backpack, and some of the jewelry, came from the MCC Thrift Store. One sweater was consignment. Oh, and the plaid shirt was from Giant Tiger.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Isness? (Quote for the day)

The course I'm taking has us talking about ontology, which reminded me of something that Madeleine L'Engle wrote in A Circle of Quiet.
"...[Alan] reads me a quotation from Sartre about the isness of an oak tree; but Sartre felt depressed and threatened by this; the idea that the oak tree simply is seemed to diminish him. I suppose the perfect isness of anything would be frightening without the hope of God. An oak tree is, and it doesn't matter to it--at least Sartre thinks it doesn't; it is not a thinking oak. Man is; it matters to him; this is terrifying unless it matters to God, too, because this is the only possible reason we can matter to ourselves: not because we are sufficient unto  ourselves--I am not: my husband, my family, my friends give me my meaning and, in a sense, my being, so that I know that I, like the burning bush, or the oak tree, am ontological: essential: real."

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Frugal Finds and Fixes: To Top That Off

We've been in our new place for several weeks, and it's starting to feel more like home. While we unpacked pretty quickly, there were still some unfinished bits and temporary messes...well, there are still things to work on, but the big needs are taken care of and the messes are fewer. I find Dana K. White's two cleaning-out questions very helpful, especially when it comes to large, strange assortments of stuff. Her first is "where would I look first for this?" Someone's bleeding--we don't have an obvious medicine cabinet in any of the bathrooms--so where's the first, easiest place I'd look for bandages? I think the cupboard right over the stove would make the most sense. But that still isn't where they are, so I need to fix that.

The second question is, "If I suddenly needed one of these, would it even occur to me that I already had one?" And, obviously, that I'd then know where to look for it. This is where White's Decluttering at the Speed of Life meets Marie Kondo: everything needs to have a home. It can be a weird home, but if that's where you'd most easily put it away (Kondo) and where you'd instinctively look for it (White), that's fine. I'm not sure which question or which voice I was following when I shredded some thirty-year-old work contracts (don't ask me why I still had them): just call it a Greek chorus of "no, it would probably never occur to you that you had those buried in the bottom drawer. Even if the chance in a million happened that somebody actually wanted to know what you got paid for two weeks' temp work in 1991."

I already posted about the amazing bedroom closet. I'm still full of awe and gratitude for that space. I attached plastic shower curtain  rings on the end of the bottom rack, and looped scarves through them. (I do better when I can see things than when they're hidden away.)
We re-purposed a metal decoration that had been hanging outside, for the kitchen wall.
The plumbers finally came, fixed a few things, and replaced one bathroom sink. Mr. Fixit asked if I could make the boring brown bathroom more interesting, so I tacked a travel clothesline to the wall and pinned up some favourite postcards (I had mini clothespins from a long-ago craft project).
We found a ceiling fan for half price, for the upstairs bonus space. This is the best time of year to find deals on barbecues, fans, and patio furniture.

Mr. Fixit did a bunch of fixing, pulling out, and cleaning up in our little backyard space.

In cheap entertainment, we've been watching a library DVD of Stargate Atlantis Season Four. We're also watching Stephen Fry's lawyer-in-a-small-village-surrounded-by-crazy-people series Kingdom, and the first season of The Saint.

We've used some two-for-one hamburger coupons when we wanted fine dining with no cooking. We also improvised a pot of vegetable soup one night. The freezer compartment here seems to work much better than the one in the apartment, so we're planning to make freezer meals soon.

We've also been to a couple of early-fall yard sales. I didn't find much more than a box of stationery, but Mr. Fixit found a small vintage record cabinet to hold things in his not-in-the-dining-room-anymore workspace.

Speaking of workspace, I used mine to finish off a new study guide. (Just throwing that in.)
On to clothes: I'm happy with my fall #Project333, but I did find a couple of nice extra things on thrifting trips. The first was from the store where I volunteer. No, I did not strictly need an animal-print tunic dress, but for a couple of dollars I thought it would be fun to try out being a person who wears an animal-print tunic dress.
Later, I happened to be in the Mission Thrift store with Ponytails (not a usual thing, but it worked out that way); and I came across a blue cotton t-shirt. I would have bought it anyway, but I was a bit blown away by the label. If that name means anything to you, you'll know why. My very lucky day.
Finally, I got in a quick visit to the Salvation Army store last night while Mr. Fixit and Grandpa Squirrel were looking at Cruise Night vintage cars. This is what I found: a red leather vest with an embossed floral design.  
And that's hard to top.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

It's September: new capsule wardrobe

Fall 2019 Project 333: Stand Fast

Tom Thomson's The West Wind has the usual dark shades of water and hills, but it also includes bits of bright blue and dark red. To paraphrase this reviewer, there is nothing wussy about this tree: it's ready to take on the cold winds.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Intentional Thrifter (and Yardsaler): Baskets and Brooches

Yesterday we stopped at one yard sale. I found two lidded baskets for a couple of dollars.
I cleaned them up a bit, and Mr. Fixit wrangled the bigger one back into shape (it was just warped enough not to close nicely).

The little one is keeping our fake-fall-flowers company.
And the big one is holding bread.

I found the brooch on the left at the same sale, for a dollar. The one on the right was thrifted awhile ago. I don't often pin a brooch on clothes, but I like stringing one on a chain as a necklace.
Consignment store find: one of those sweaters that doesn't look too exciting on the hanger, but which immediately makes itself at home in the closet like it's always been there.
It's already made friends with my flannel shirt and a necklace. (Still too hot for that here, but I'll put it on hold.)
Also this one, from the thrift store. Neither of the sweaters are lifetime-quality materials, but I'm hoping that if I treat them kindly they'll last for awhile.
(Thrifted scarf.)
Fall is coming!

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Forgot to post these when we found them! Two chairs for the dinette, found during a thrift shift.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

It's National Thrift Shop Day. Help them go out of business.

I'm not going to mark National Thrift Shop Day by suggesting that everybody out there should go and buy something at a thrift shop (although you know that's one of my favourite things to do).

I'm not even going to mark it by suggesting that everybody should donate something today (although you know how much fun I have unpacking books at the MCC store. It's Christmas every week).

I'm going to suggest something far more radical.

Non-profit thrift spite of all the good they do by raising money for the ministries and charities that run them and by giving lots of stuff a potential second life...reflect something about our world, our culture, our attitude towards buying and un-buying stuff, that isn't a good thing. In a perfect world, ministries that run thrift stores would have to find another way to raise money, because people would be buying just what they need, using things longer, fixing what's broken, trading what's outgrown, borrowing what they can, re-purposing things themselves. And those organizations wouldn't totally mind that, I think, because any one of them accepting donations of Stuff must deal with an Increasingly Big Headache of Responsible Disposal.

So keep the thrift store of your favourite charity in mind today by not buying one particular new thing (besides food or other consumables). That way, when that one unbought thing doesn't arrive at the hypothetical end of its usefulness to you, you won't have to drive it to the thrift store. Nobody will have to unpack it; nobody will have to price it and hang it on a rack; nobody will have to pay the cost of the computerized cash register system and the credit card fees; or (if it sits unsold) nobody will have to bale it up and figure out where to send it next. By not buying something new today, you've created one less future thing-in-thing-out decision for a crew of staff and volunteers. Wasn't that easy?

(But you could also send the charity a financial contribution.)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Frugal Finds and Fixes: We Moved Again Edition

Moving house can feel like the ultimate creative chance to re-use and re-purpose, because everything goes into a new spot. But it can also feel very costly when the decorating fun-money gets re-purposed for a garage-door-opener replacement, a dryer-vent overhaul, and an anticipated visit from the plumber. Just saying. We also had to buy a stepladder, a garbage can, a recycling bin, and a bunch of bits and pieces from the hardware store to make things work better.  But we are happy about the things we didn't have to fix or replace, like the appliances and flooring.
Our townhouse isn't officially much bigger in square footage than the apartment. But since it's two stories plus a basement, it feels roomier. There are more empty spots, like the breakfast nook (or dinette, whatever you want to call it) between the galley kitchen and the back deck. We have been using  a very old card table in there, but today we replaced it with a vintage Formica-topped table. It's not very big, but it is prettier and less wobbly than the card table. Now we just need to scout out some chairs.
Mr. Fixit thrifted a putting-on-shoes stool for the front hall.
More on the house as we go along!

In other frugal news: 

Sometimes you have to wait awhile for things to come a good-quality t-shirt dress from the thrift store.  
I found this really bright scarf to wear with it.
Lydia says it's my Sarah Saw a Blue Macaw scarf.
These capiz-shell earrings were a case of when it really pays to wait. I saw them months ago on the Ten Thousand Villages website, but they were not that high on my priority list. Then I thought they had sold out forever; but they suddenly reappeared for two dollars during a clearance event. (The makers get paid in full no matter what.)
Mitford books and life-simplifying books from a yard sale, all free for the taking:
A very useful pair of navy pants from the thrift store. The photo is pretty bad (the light was terrible), but they look better in  real life. I also found a pair of beige pants at a consignment store that has an annual half-price sale in August. (Almost everything I've ever bought there has been during August.)
Finally, in the nice but not necessary department: while we were searching for tables at the antique market, I found a "bundle" of three sugar bowls and creamers, all three for five dollars. I put down the beautiful book about William Morris textiles that I had intended to buy, and took the not-matching-but-very-pretty pieces instead. (The first teapot shown was from a yard sale. The second came from a very out-of-the-way antiques place right after we moved to the apartment. History repeats.)