Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Thinks to think

Answer the questions on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic)  to add your link to the party. See you there.

From this Side of the Pond
1. Tell us about your favorite moment or share one of the bright spots from the year we're leaving behind. 

Outdoor picture-taking walks with my husband.

2. What do you wish you'd known at the start of 2020? Elaborate.

That's a hard question, because it could go from the very big and serious to the more flippant (I might have bought more thin elastic before it became a unicorn item...)

I'll put it a different way: there are things I've learned about the world that I do not think I saw as clearly this time last year. But I'm not sure that being handed that awareness a year earlier would have made much difference to anything specific we did.

3. Best book you read this year? If you did not read any books this year, what's the best thing you ate all year? We've all eaten, right? 

Here's my list of books read this year, including some listed near the top as ones I found most interesting or useful. One of the more obscure but perhaps aptly titled ones was a book for teachers, Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform Professional Practice (Steven Katz). One of its central points was that adults, especially teachers (of any sort) need, often, to take time out from teaching to work on learning, especially recognizing their their own barriers and hangups about learning: because real learning, for everyone, means change, and change, even in small amounts, can be difficult. We would often rather settle for a quick fix, or copy what seems to be working for others without really thinking the problem through. But when we do allow for "intentional interruption," adding perhaps a large gulp of humility to wash it down, our own boundaries can be enlarged...and we realize that it was our own pride or fear that created the limits in the first place.

 4. The Pantone Colors of the year for 2021 are ultimate gray and illuminating yellow (a bright shade)...are you a fan? Would we find either of these colors in your home or wardrobe?

Lots of grey this winter. Not into yellow so much, although I agree the photographs of daisies and lemons are cheering.

5. If you were/are making a list of 21 things to do/accomplish in 2021 what is one thing that would be on it?

Still working on that.

On my next year's reading list: I'm waiting for a copy of Alan Jacobs' book How to Think to be delivered (Christmas gift card). From the book blurb: it's "a contrarian treatise on why we're not as good at thinking as we assume - but how recovering this lost art can rescue our inner lives from the chaos of modern life." Which sounds quite a lot like Intentional Interruption.

6. Random Things

Oops P.S.: I just realized that the book I ordered is You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, by James K.A. Smith. But I still want to read How to Think.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Winter clothes: Back to the lake

 Part One: A winter wardrobe in progress...

She's crazy about this Cashmink® scarf. When she brought it home from the thrift store, her husband thought maybe he should have it (it's unisex, right?), but when she tried it on, he agreed that those colours were quite good on her. (She said that he could still borrow it if he wanted.)
And then she noticed how close the colours are to one of her favourite Group of Seven paintings.
Standing back, it looks mostly green and light grey.
Close up, there is a mixture of teal and other blue-greens, denim blue (maybe it's grey), light grey (maybe it's off-white), and soft pink/peach. 
The teal stripe reminds her of a Vivienne Files post about Mountain Forms by Lawren Harris, from almost a year ago. 

But with a pile of new restrictions looming on top of the usual cold winter, the Vivienne Files post that seems to come closest is this November 2019 story about rushing off to care for a family member.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Here's to 400 more

Here are the questions for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge, which is #400. ☝ to Joyce! Answer on your own blog then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic) to share answers with all of Santa's elves.

1. I feel like episode 400 cannot go without comment. That's a whole lot of Hodgepodging folks. 2000 questions if my math is right. So, what's something you feel like you do 400 times a week? 

400 times a week? That would be close to sixty times a day, whatever it is, so I assume this is rhetorical.

Answer spam phone calls from the air duct cleaning company, that would be one thing.

2. Tell us where you were and something about what your life looked like in the year 2000.

We had two children (and found out that a third was on the way). Mr. Fixit was still working for the telephone company, so our family days off etc. were a little more constrained than they were later on. 

I was homeschooling the eight-year-old Apprentice, and it was the first year that we had done "serious Charlotte Mason." Late in 1999, the curriculum  launched that became AmblesideOnline, and we transitioned into that over the early months of 2000: I remember scrounging a vintage copy of Tanglewood Tales, and also Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. Another good memory of that school year was the bi-weekly "craft club" (a.k.a. play date and tea party) that we had with a few other families. Some of those connections have lasted over the decades.

Oh, that was also the spring that the Apprentice caught chicken pox from someone at church, and then regifted it to Ponytails. I still have a get-well card that my grandmother sent them--one of the last cards we got from her before she passed away.

I think that was the year the Apprentice got her first toolbox for Christmas, and Ponytails got a little sled.  Barbie dolls may also have been involved.

So, like all years, there was a mix of good and not-as-good.

3. Do you like cinnamon? What's something you make and enjoy that calls for cinnamon? Of the cinnamon 'foods' listed which is your favorite-red hot cinnamon candies, cinnamon toast, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon toast crunch cereal, apple cinnamon oatmeal, churros, an Indian curry?

I am very fond of cinnamon, especially in things like oatmeal cookies and apple crisp. We are still working through a jar of fair trade "real cinnamon" from a couple of years ago. Real cinnamon, if you haven't come across this before, is the Sri Lankan C. verum, not the more common cassia type. It apparently doesn't hold up in baking as well as cassia, but it has a more subtle flavour.

4. Does Christmas 2020 (or Hanukkah) look much like it has in years past, or is this year vastly different for you and your family? How so? How are you feeling about it all?

Vastly different, for a variety of reasons.

5. What's one thing you need or want to do before this year ends?

Finish a couple of books, plus the Gospel of John. Which is a good antidote for grumpy elves.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: All Right

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back to From This Side of the Pond (click the graphic) to share some Christmas cheer, aka link up to the party. See you there! 

From this Side of the Pond
1. What's something about Christmas that most people like, but you don't? Elaborate. 

Most of the "Christmas" music played on most commercial radio stations? Our choice for today is an "All Beethoven, All Day" program to celebrate his birthday (Schroeder would be happy about that). Yesterday it was a Stuart Townend live in Ireland CD we thrifted.

2. Tell us about one cherished tradition from your childhood and if you'll make it happen this year? 

This Santa: a gift from relatives when I was really small.

3. In 1941 FDR declared December 15th Bill of Rights Day. Citizens were encouraged to fly the flag and gather for prayers and other ceremonies as appropriate. Did you know this? Will you fly a flag? Can you name all the rights and protections guaranteed in the first ten amendments of the US Constitution? Of the ten, which two do you value most? If you need a list you'll find one here. 

Jingle bells, jingle bells.

4. Do you know someone named Bill? Tell us something about him? Is there a famous 'Bill' you'd like to meet? 

Multiple Bills in our family.

Want to meet: Bill Shakespeare, Bill Wordsworth, Bill Shatner.

5. A step in the right direction, on the right track, bragging rights, be in the right place at the right time, get off on the right foot, right as rain, right side up, give your right arm for, have one's heart in the right place...choose a 'right' that applies to your life in some way in recent days and tell us how it's so.
Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

I changed my reading list: a 2021 Challenge

Charlotte Mason labels eleven catagories of books as Some Instructors of Conscience. Here's the list:

1. Poetry, preferably spending time with one poet

2. Shakespeare’s plays

3. Novels, with characters who “become our mentors or our warnings”

4. Ever-delightful essayists

5. History, including ancient history

6. Philosophy, to allow reason to work upon knowledge

7. Theology, including the Bible

8. The things of nature

9. Science, so that “we no longer conduct ourselves in this world of wonders like a gaping rustic at a fair” (p. 101)

10. Art, approached “with the modest intention to pay a debt…”

11. Sociology and Self-Knowledge

Here's my 2021 list:

1. Poetry, preferably spending time with one poet

Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry, by Kenneth Koch (includes a mini-anthology of poetry)

Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996, by Seamus Heaney

The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels, by Adam Nicolson

 Polishing the Petoskey Stone: Selected Poems, by Luci Shaw

2. Shakespeare’s plays

Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, edited by Robert Sandler

Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream (two of the plays discussed in Frye's book)

3. Novels, with characters who “become our mentors or our warnings”

Okay. Since I have no intuition about where to go with this one, I'll take Alan Jacobs' recommendations:

"Let me mention two (relatively recent) novels that I think are so wonderful that we should have parades for their authors. The first is Anita Desai’s Clear Light of Day, a heartbreakingly beautiful about memory, loss, and the love of family...It’s generaly acknowledged, I think, that War and Peace is the greatest historical novel ever written. Well, then, the second greatest is George Garrett’s The Succession. And I totally mean that."

I haven't actually read War and Peace, either, so if I wanted to make my list a whole lot of pages longer,  that might be it.

4. Ever-delightful essayists

Would these count? 

Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, by Alan Jacobs. From the publisher's website: "In Breaking Bread with the Dead, a gifted scholar draws us into close and sympathetic engagement with texts from across the ages, including the work of Anita Desai, Henrik Ibsen, Jean Rhys, Simone Weil, Edith Wharton, Amitav Ghosh, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Italo Calvino, and many more."

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture, by Makoto Fujimura

Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life, by Madeleine L'Engle

.Heaven in Ordinary, by Malcolm Guite (this is a book of his essays)

The Givenness of Things, by Marilynne Robinson

5. History, including ancient history

The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel, by David Gange

6. Philosophy, to allow reason to work upon knowledge

Maybe this counts? Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life, by Jordan B. Peterson

Or this? On Purpose: How We Create the Meaning of Life, by Paul Froese

Introducing Plato, by Dave Robinson and Judy Groves

7. Theology, including the Bible

The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, by Dallas Willard

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

8. The things of nature

A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear when the Birds Sing, by Richard Smyth

Winter Weed Finder: A Guide to Dry Plants in Winter, by Dorcas S. Miller

Weeds: the Story of Outlaw Plants, by Richard Mabey

9. Science, so that “we no longer conduct ourselves in this world of wonders like a gaping rustic at a fair” (p. 101)

If math counts, how about All Things Being Equal: Why Math Is the Key to a Better World, by John Mighton

10. Art, approached “with the modest intention to pay a debt…”

The Principles of Art, by R.G. Colllingwood

11. Sociology and Self-Knowledge

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, by Nir Eyal

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

Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, by Howard Gardner


Angels, Barbarians, and Nincompoops, by Anthony Esolen,  "a fun yet educational romp through 98 of your soon to be favorite words."

Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise, by Katherine Rundell

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

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

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

Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace, by Gordon MacKenzie

I'm happy with that.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge Bake-Off

From this Side of the Pond
1. What do you think it means to have the holiday spirit? 

I think we have to be careful about how we do or don't define it.

My mother loved watching holiday T.V. specials as much as the kids did. She was particularly fond of the original Grinch special, and although our Christmas decorations and food often did look somewhat Who-ville-ish, we did get the point that "Christmas Day is in our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp."

But when the hands are no longer there, for whatever reason? Or in a year when you can get fined for clasping those that are? Or for doing the other simple Who things such as singing in public? The Christmas world has turned virtual and drive-by, and that leaves out an awful lot of people who don't have computers, or cars, or who just can't fathom it all. 

Is the holiday spirit only effective if we can pretend that everything is good and normal?

Actually, for Christians, I think it's the other way around (and I'm not the only person to say this). Perhaps, if our own Advent seasons have always been cheerful and "normal," we now have an opportunity to better understand the darkness, and to trust less to the things of our own making, more in God. It also puts more responsibility on us to be aware of those who are troubled or alone.

Maybe that's the holiday spirit.
"In deepest night, in darkest days,
When harps are hung, no songs we raise.
When silence must suffice as praise,
Yet sounding in us quietly, there is the song of God."
~~ Susan Palo Cherwien, "In Deepest Night"

2. What's one thing you've baked this month? Have you eaten the finished product? How much baking do you do around the holidays? What baked sweet something does your family insist is on the menu during this season of the year? 

I have not done any baking at all, and our eating of cookies has consisted of Chips Ahoy and a bag of chocolate-covered lebkuchen.

However, I've had requests for a couple of our Christmas standards like Apricot Slice (what the girls called Fairy Dust Bars) and cheater fudge. I think I might cut the recipe for Apricot Slice in half this year, though, because it makes a big panful.

3. Your most recent 'half-baked' idea?

Not sure about that one.

4. Where were you the last time you 'baked' in the sun? The top ten sunniest destinations in the world (most sun from January-December according to this site) are Dubai, Bali Indonesia, Los Angeles CA, Miami FL, Barbados, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, Mauritius, Antiqua, and the Canary Islands Spain. Have you been to any of the cities listed? Which one on the list appeals to you the most? If the world were not upside down crazy and you could lie on a beach anywhere right now where would you go?

I have not been to even one of those, but the Canary Islands sound nice. Or somewhere like Corfu. If it weren't December, Lake Huron would do fine.

5. Today I wish I had more _____________________.

I could answer that one in a lot of ways, most of them not that helpful.

How about yarn? I like to crochet, but I've let my stash get down to almost nothing. Maybe in the new year I'll work on thrifting some extra yarn and try out some things I've saved on Pinterest.

6. Random thoughts:

Family gathering about twenty-two years ago. Me, my kids, my mom, my grandma. Hands to clasp (and good bakers too).

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

Monday, December 07, 2020

Twenty-five Top Books I Want To Read in 2021

Enough with long lists. If I get these done, I'll be happy. (A couple of them are re-reads or things that I almost finished in 2020.)

1, Angels, Barbarians, and Nincompoops

Esolen, Anthony


2. A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear when the Birds Sing

Smyth, Richard

3. Beyond Order: 12 More Rules For Life

Peterson, Jordan B.


4. The Frayed Atlantic Edge: A Historian’s Journey from Shetland to the Channel

Gange, David


5. All Things Being Equal: Why Math Is the Key to a Better World

Mighton, John

6. Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry

Koch, Kenneth

7. Why You Should Read Children's Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise

Rundell, Katherine

8. Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader's Guide to a More Tranquil Mind

Jacobs, Alan

9. Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture

Fujimura, Makoto

10. Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S. Lewis

Terry Lindvall

11. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God

Willard, Dallas

12. On Purpose: How We Create the Meaning of Life

Froese, Paul

13. Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996

Heaney, Seamus


14. The Making of Poetry: Coleridge, the Wordsworths and Their Year of Marvels

Nicolson, Adam

15. Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Eyal, Nir


16. Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life

L'Engle, Madeleine

17. Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis

Armstrong, Chris R.

 18. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

Levitin, Daniel J.

19. Polishing the Petoskey Stone: Selected Poems

Shaw, Luci


20. Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet

Gardner, Howard

21.Heaven in Ordinary

Guite, Malcolm


22. Words Overflown by Stars: Creative Writing Instruction and Insight from the Vermont College Mfa Program

Jauss, David

23..Tree and Leaf; Smith of Wootton Major; The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth

Tolkien, J.R.R.

24. Winter Weed Finder: A Guide to Dry Plants in Winter

Miller, Dorcas S.


25. Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace

MacKenzie, Gordon

Mama Squirrel's List of Books Read in 2020

This time last year, I made such a long list of things I wanted to read, but in a year when the cliché is that everybody had time to catch up on their reading, I didn't seem to. For the first time in a couple of years, I wasn't obligated to read any textbooks; but I was also busy making books of my own (four books in the Plutarch Project, plus an Advent devotional) plus other writing and curriculum projects (like an update to the Canadian version of AmblesideOnline); and sometimes I was just feeling the 2020 thing and not firing enough brain cells to get into a deep reading project.

Well, enough excuses. According to GoodReads, I finished 55 books this year, and that includes re-reads, and my own books that I had to mark as "read" because it would look silly if I didn't, but I'm not listing any of those here. It doesn't include things like  the Bible, Charlotte Mason, Plutarch, and other things that are ongoing.

I'm officially partway through several other books, but being as we're into December, I don't figure on finishing more than a couple more of them before the year's end.

And as always, just because it's on the list doesn't mean I recommend it.

Favourite Christian-themed book 

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God (John Piper)


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


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

One that I wish I'd read a long time ago

Fern-seed and Elephants and other essays on Christianity (C.S. Lewis)

Favourite new Charlotte Mason-related book

In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education (Karen Glass) (read it at least twice)


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

The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America (Thomas King)

Canoe Country: The Making of Canada (Roy MacGregor)

Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes (Dana Thomas)

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale (Adam Minter)


Flannery O'Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith (Angela Alaimo O'Donnell)


The Creatures' Choir (Carmen Bernos de Gasztold)

some of Wendell Berry's Sabbath poems (re-read)

Arts and Crafts Style

Living with Arts & Crafts (Ros Byam Shaw)

The Arts and Crafts Home (Kitty Turgeon)

Living in the Arts & Crafts Style: A Home Decorating Workbook (Charlotte Kelley)

Clothes, decluttering, and other practical things

Wardrobe Solutions (Susie Faux)

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

Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More (Courtney Carver)

My Style, My Way: Top Experts Reveal How to Create Yours Today (Cindy Ann Peterson)

Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life (Marie Kondo)

Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day (Jake Knapp)

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future (Ryder Carroll)

On A Personal Note - A Guide to Writing Notes with Style (Angela Ensminger)

The Perfect Setting (Peri Wolfman)

The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop (David Bowers)

Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker's Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes (Lily Fulop)

Mysteries, mindless and otherwise

The Cater Street Hangman (Anne Perry)

Murder Must Advertise (Dorothy L. Sayers)

The Man in the Brown Suit (Agatha Christie)  (re-read)

The Old Contemptibles (Martha Grimes)

Other fiction 

The Substitute Guest (Grace Livingston Hill)

The Mask of Apollo (Mary Renault)

To Be Where You Are (Jan Karon) (re-read)

Come Rain or Come Shine (Jan Karon) (re-read)

Plainsong (Kent Haruf)

 That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis)  (re-read)

Fidelity (Wendell Berry)

Blackout  (Connie Willis) (re-read)

All Clear (Connie Willis) (re-read)

The Best of Connie Willis: Award-Winning Stories

 A City of Bells (Elizabeth Goudge)

Children's books

 The Lost Words (Robert Macfarlane)

A Child's Book of Composers: Lessons and Listening Guides for Composer Study (Hannah Hoyt)

 The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain, #2) (Lloyd Alexander) (re-read)

The Castle of Llyr (The Chronicles of Prydain, #3) (Lloyd Alexander) (re-read)

 Taran Wanderer (The Chronicles of Prydain, #4) (Lloyd Alexander) (re-read)

 The High King (The Chronicles of Prydain, #5) (Lloyd Alexander) (re-read)

  Running Out of Time (Margaret Peterson Haddix)

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Scraping, Scratching, Scrabbling, Scrooging

From this Side of the Pond
1. Here we are entering the last month of the year 2020. 2020!! Every year The Oxford English Dictionary publishing team chooses a word that captures the general mood of the year we're leaving behind, or the one word that will leave a lasting impact on the world at large. This year they needed sixteen words in order to cover the whole enchilada. 

My response: I am not pasting the OED list of words here because I think I could get censored or have to post warnings or something for even mentioning them. And that should be enough of a response in itself.

2. What one word from your own list of words describing this year sums up/best reflects your 2020? Tell us why. 

Did you ever see Richard Condie's animated film The Big Snit? A middle-aged couple argue over a Scrabble game, unaware of  nuclear devastation going on outside. I could say that I have tried to focus on the game (and the work, and the walks, and the thrifty wardrobes, and the small mercies) as a way to cope with the otherwise much much much that I am aware of..

However, if I had to choose one word, it might be arrows. Arrows everywhere. Arrows on floors, arrows outside doors. I'm very tired of arrows. (And doors.)

3. Do you like peppermint? Peppermint mocha, a candy cane, peppermint bark, peppermint tea, York Peppermint Pattie, peppermint ice cream...of the peppermint treats listed, which one is your favorite? Will you bake anything featuring peppermint this holiday season? 

Now that's a much nicer thought. Bring on the peppermint.

I bought some peppermint-striped Hershey's Kisses this year to put on top of cookies. (Bake the cookies first,  white, chocolate, whatever; let them cool just a few minutes, then press in the Kisses while they're still soft.)

4. Besides Christmas, what do you associate the color red with? How about the color green? 

Have you seen my Be an Elf post? Oh, sorry, I guess that's still Christmas.

Red? Roses. Ketchup. Hair. Maple leaves. Canadian Smarties.

Green? Frogs. Salad. Scout uniforms. Bits of unpeeled zucchini in muffins.

5. Is your tree up? Real or artificial? Is your house decorated? Is your shopping done? Started? Wrapped? On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being Scrooge-like and 10 being Buddy the Elf, how's your Christmas spirit?

We have an improvised Advent wreath and a couple of things out, but mostly no. No tree yet, but we will pull it out when we have time. 

As for the rest, I'm working on it.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I just finished reading a short essay by C.S. Lewis on "Forgiveness." He is most emphatic that, whether we like it or not, Jesus makes it clear that forgiving--though not excusing or trivializing our own sins or those of others--is not optional for Christians. 

"To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don't keep on polishing it up."

Then I opened up a much re-read copy of Jan Karon's novel Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good, and  the characters were discussing how "love is an act of endless forgiveness." Is someone out there trying to get my attention about that? 

Yes, there's a lot to forgive this year, though perhaps not to excuse. Perhaps also to confess. And for all that, as Lewis said, we have to admit that there is sin.

But without that: no Advent. And no Incarnation. 

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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

O quickened little wick so tightly curled,

Be folded with us into time and place,

Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.

~~ Malcolm Guite, from "O Emmanuel"

Wear a Vera (especially if it's thrifted)

 The funniest thrifting thing happened last week.

We dropped in to the Salvation Army thrift store, which isn't one of our regular stops but we were in the neighbourhood. I found this teal Miik Vera dress, which is still sold on their website (it's on sale right now too).

If you're not from Canada, don't follow sustainable brands, or otherwise don't recognize Miik, just say that I was impressed, surprised, and pleased, although puzzled as to why anyone would donate it. Maybe they didn't like the colour, maybe it didn't fit.

The funny part is that my other Miik dress (a purple Aileen style) came from that same Salvation Army store, two years ago.
The Vera dress is bamboo rayon (a standard fabric for Miik), but in a lighter weight than the Aileen dress. That could be both good and bad:  the heavier fabric drapes better, and you'd think it would last a bit better too. But the Vera is still well made: you can tell  by the details like the extra layer of fabric inside the bodice. It's meant to be a V-neck, with a front pleat; but it's not hard to wear it turned around for a higher neckline. It's long enough for a dress, but  it also works over leggings; and (if you look in the photographs) you can wear it as a top if you belt it up or tuck it into a skirt.

So: ways I'm thinking about wearing my second second-hand Miik dress:

Dressed down with black jeans and a denim jacket
With leggings
Dressed up with a long cardigan (this would work with leggings)
Under a pullover (ditto)
With my "festive cardigan"
With a pleated skirt
With a zippered jacket
With the jacket and the skirt

If you were in an absolute emergency (like you lost your suitcase), you could even wear the dress as a nightshirt, because it's very comfortable.

But I'm not planning on that just yet. I can think of enough other ways to wear a Vera.

Disclosure and transparency: This is an unsolicited review, and I'm not being compensated by Miik for posting about their product.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Quote for the day: The Hand and the Ear

"Those who are members of one another become as diverse as the hand and the ear. That is why the worldlings are so monotonously alike compared with the almost fantastic variety of the saints." (C.S. Lewis, "Membership")

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Be an Elf (A clothes story)

December's coming. She doesn't have any exciting Christmas plans this year. Actually she's not expecting to go anywhere at all, or even to have company over. But she does own this red leather vest.
Red isn't one of her usual wardrobe colours, and in fact it clashes rather badly with some of the pinks and purples she usually wears. And, of course, a red vest is apt to get her asked, "Are you a Christmas elf?" Enough with the short jokes already.

But in December, she doesn't care. She rounds up ten other items of clothing:

Black jeans
Blue jeans
Leggings in a sort of brown-grey
Off-white cotton turtleneck
Grey short-sleeved t-shirt
Longer-style plum shirt
Jean-style Tencel shirt
Striped cardigan
Dark grey Revolve dress/tunic/top from Encircled
Teal green convertible shawl/poncho

(All items were thrifted except for the dress and the turtleneck.)

She also pulls out three scarves, a purse, and a brooch on a chain. (And some tights and shoes.)

Her only real rule is that she doesn't want to wear red with green, if at all possible. (Except for the scarves that combine both.) How many outfits can she make?

Shirt, vest, jeans
Dress, vest
T-shirt, jeans, poncho styled as wrap
Dress worn as top, jeans, vest
Shirt, turtleneck, vest, jeans
Turtleneck, vest, jeans
Plus a scarf
Dress, cardigan
Jean shirt, cardigan, jeans
Turtleneck, cardigan, jeans
Plus the jean shirt
Plum shirt, cardigan, jeans
Or with leggings
Dress as top, jeans, scarf
Shirt, jeans, scarf
Shirt over dress, scarf
Shirt over shirt, leggings
Shirt, scarf (pants or dress-as-skirt not shown)
Turtleneck, jeans, scarf as shawl
Dress, floral scarf
Turtleneck, jeans, poncho tied in front

Score so far: eleven pieces, twenty-one outfits (and you could probably make more).

What would stretch it out to fill ten more days of December?

She looks at her list and realizes that she doesn't have a long-sleeved t-shirt or top there, except for the dress which can be tucked up to be a top. She finds a green one with long sleeves. It can be worn with the pants, or under the jean shirt, although not so much with the poncho (it's more green than teal). So that would be good for another, say, three outfits.
(The green isn't quite as dull as it appears; it's one of those colours that this camera dislikes.)

She decides she wants another warm sweater, and she just happens to have a blue-and-grey cowl neck pullover that came her way recently at the thrift store. The sweater doesn't layer well (and the colour would look funny under the teal poncho), but she does have a lightweight grey poncho that could go over top if she wants to dress it up; plus the poncho itself works with other tops and the dress. So, at least five more outfits.
And after noticing that all the pants are jeans and leggings, she decides to throw in a pair of grey cords. It's not exactly dressy, but it's better than denim. That comes to 15 pieces of clothing, plus the scarves, shoes, etc.

Hmmm...two more days of December?

Oh, rules schmoolz. Red and green rock at Christmas time. 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

A walk through Advent with Charlotte Mason


Just published at Amazon: An Advent-themed 24-day tour through Charlotte Mason’s book Ourselves Book II. There are also readings for the twelve days of Christmas, drawing on her essay “The Eternal Child” which ends the book Parents and Children.

The title Honest, Simple Souls is taken from the chapter “Praise,” near the end of Ourselves.

So, too, do honest, simple souls who bear affliction willingly, or who live their appointed lives with the sense that they are appointed. All of these ways of giving praise we recognise and bow before; but the duty would seem to pass us by as incompetent persons. We are not angels, we carry no harps. But the duty of praise is not for occasional or rare seasons; it waits at our doors every day. (pp. 194-195)

Let’s open the door to praise, both in this rare season and beyond.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Lights... Action

Since we moved in here about a year and a half ago, a couple of the light fixtures have been on the want-to-change-that list. One is the hanging fixture over the dining table: it's a bit too low and has hard edges, so, bad combination if you're taller than I am (which includes almost everyone). The other problem light is the chandelier-thing that  hangs down from the ceiling in the loft area and lights the front hall. Mr. Fixit's opinion is that it was the original dining room fixture, repurposed for whatever reason. One problem with it is that the lights shine up instead of down (see the photo), so it isn't very effective, and the front hall is dark even with the light on. Also, it hasn't been working quite right; the bulbs burn out too fast.

 When we turned our clocks back on the first of the month, things got even darker (of course).

So we bought a new fixture (with lights hanging down), put the ladder up along the upstairs railing, and changed it. Mr. Fixit said that it was a good thing we did, because the old fixture definitely had some internal medical issues.

Much better.

Over the fall, Mr. Fixit and I have done quite a lot of thrifting. I've decided to step back from my own volunteering, but we have been checking out some of the other local thrift shops and antique markets pretty much every week. Mr. Fixit's finds are generally radios or pieces of audio equipment to restore, or things like power bars (he found a good set of T.V. rabbit ears this week). We've bought some pictures...

some table linens, a few baking dishes and other odds and ends...
An odd-shaped white dish that seems like it would be good for party food, but it can do candles too
The three teapots on the lower shelf were all found this year. Mr. Fixit gave me the first one for my birthday (from a thrift store), and the other two (which are pot-plus-cup combos) were also thrifted.

a DVD of Charlie Brown's Christmas, and three Christmas CDs. 
And a toy Rudolph (that's Mr. Fixit's).
Also some books.
(The Castle of Llyr was off wandering somewhere when I took this. The set is lacking The Book of Three, but I'm sure I'll find one sometime.
(I had a Kindle copy of Essentialism, but I picked up a print edition.)
Some of the things I've bought for myself have already been worked into clothes posts or shared on Instagram, so this is just a roundup.

I have had the best luck lately with sweaters, and sweater dresses.
(My dollar-corner cardigan find)
(Also a dollar)
Talbots striped cardigan. My daughter thinks it's from the early 2000's, and with that cranberry and purple combination I'm inclined to agree.  The funny thing was, I went thrifting with the idea of a multicoloured sweater in my head, and that's probably because I had been looking a few days earlier at a suede-and-handwoven sweater jacket in the vintage-clothes booth of at an antiques market, and wondering if I would actually wear it or if I should just pay my respects to it and walk away. Much like this one:
It was nice, but the thrifted version came close enough, and it goes with a lot of things already in my closet.
Another Talbots sweater, and this one's only a couple of years old. Bought "by the pound," which meant it came to less than a dollar. Yassss (as they say).
Not technically a sweater, but wants to be one. Fleece zippered poncho/cape, with snaps here and there so you can make sleeves, or crisscross the sides.
I've also done well this fall with scarves and earrings.
(That last one is for outdoors. It's getting cold.)

And in general, how are we doing at saving money?

Well, like the rest of the world, there are a lot of things we're not doing, i.e. spending money on. So that helps, I guess.

We are noticing that a lot of things are more expensive than they used to be, and they're not all optional: you have to eat, right? So that makes us doubly grateful for unexpected sales, needed things popping up at the dollar store, and thrifted finds. Things like table runners and candles don't just get stashed: we use them regularly to brighten up the dinner table.

Tonight's menu? Baked potato soup, with bacon on the side.

And that's it for this installment.