Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Booking My Wednesday Hodgepodge

From this Side of the Pond
1. It's National Read A Book Day...whatcha' reading? What's a book you want to read? 

What I'm reading: an older biography of British-Canadian painter Arthur Lismer. Slightly dated in style, as you might expect, but very interesting, especially about which artists influenced him (Constable, Van Gogh), and also his first impressions of Canada just before WWI.

Something I want to read? The Good Thief, by Leo Furey.

2. Which is better...having high expectations or low expectations? Explain why. 

Well, I suppose if you wander into an unknown restaurant, say, and the seats are worn and the menus are old-fashioned, you might not have great expectations for the meal, but they could still serve you the best bowl of soup you'd had in years, and a nice tasty BLT. But you could also have been told what a great place it was, and that's the day you get the grumpy waitress and they burn the toast. Maybe "medium expectations" are safer.

How about when it comes to books? What if people you like have told you that it's a great book, and you try several times and you either give up or you do read the book and you still hate it? I just finished one like that, and I'm having to come to terms with the fact that I am just never going to be an [insert author] reader.

3. Serenity is________________________. 

Expecting that the restaurant pie will be better than the burned sandwich.

4. What's  the most interesting thing in your purse or pocket right now? 

I just looked and found a partly-used bookstore gift card I had forgotten about. At least I think it's still only partly used. I have high expectations of this.

5. What helps you calm down? 

Familiar CDs. Bible verses. Lake water, sand and pebbles.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I just learned a new word, habitus, from Alan Jacobs' website.

Ancora imparo. Always something to learn.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2023

From the archives: The Thing That Lives in Your Brain

 First posted August 2006. Slightly edited.

We realise that there is an act of knowing to be performed; that no one can know without this act, that it must be self-performed, that it is as agreeable and natural to the average child or man as singing is to the song thrush, that "to know" is indeed a natural function. Yet we hear of the incuria which prevails in most schools, while there before us are the young consumed with the desire to know, can we but find out what they want to know and how they require to be taught. (Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education, p. 52)
We recently watched an episode from this past season's Dr. Who. In the classic sci fi tradition (as in, didn't we just see another episode like this about sucking up peoples' brains, and hasn't just about every sci fi show ever made plus The Exorcist used this idea?), the episode features an entity living in a little girl's head, using her brain (so that she sometimes talks in a REALLY WEIRD VOICE), and sucking up other human beings for its own purposes.

This particular entity happens to be sustained on love and companionship--LOTS of companionship (in fact, in its natural state it has millions or billions of siblings). The problem is that it's inhaling companionship in the form of people, at an ever-increasing rate (by the end of the show, it has sucked up an entire Olympic stadium full of spectators and has plans for the rest of the world). Of course in the end (SPOILER), it finds its proper companions and joins them inside a little egg-sized spaceship, leaving the little girl free of the REALLY WEIRD VOICE.

There is a point to telling you about this (and it's not meant as an advertisement for the show). We each have such an entity inside our physical brains (or somewhere in there): it's our mind, and it's sustained on knowledge. In its healthy state, it desires, craves knowledge; other things cannot properly be substituted. Knowledge, not information, and there's a difference: information is short term, spit back out again or forgotten, made up of facts without "informing ideas." Knowledge is long-term, swallowed, digested, processed, used. It's like when you say in French "Je connais," which is different from "Je sais." They both mean "I know," but they are different kinds of knowing. "Je sais" is used for a fact, like "I know it's raining out," but "Je connais" is used in "I know you."

If the food is available, the entity will suck it up in whatever quantities are available (even Olympic-sized). It will do whatever it can to find its proper food AND YOU CAN'T STOP IT. BWA HA HA HA.

Well, you can. Unfortunately.

There is a cure for knowledge-hunger. Just like vinegar smashed up the Slitheens, if you can get hold of some Incuria it's quite easy to stop the knowledge-hungry mind.
I can touch here on no more than two potent means of creating incuria in a class. One is the talky-talky of the teacher. We all know how we are bored by the person in private life who explains and expounds. What reason have we to suppose that children are not equally bored? They try to tell us that they are by wandering eyes, inanimate features, fidgetting hands and feet, by every means at their disposal; and the kindly souls among us think that they want to play or to be out of doors. But they have no use for play except at proper intervals. What they want is knowledge conveyed in literary form and the talk of the facile teacher leaves them cold. Another soothing potion is little suspected of producing mental lethargy. We pride ourselves upon going over and over the same ground 'until the children know it'; the monotony is deadly. (Philosophy of Education, p. 53)
Incuria is related to the idea "not curious" and it's properly translated "carelessness," but in this sense, it means a lack of appetite for knowledge. Not caring about it. Someone who's incurious is apathetic, unobservant, careless. 
"What would you like to eat? I don’t care. Some lovely cream of wheat? I don’t care. Don’t sit backwards on your chair. I don’t care. Or pour syrup on your hair. I don’t care." (Maurice Sendak, Pierre)
Where do you get enough Incuria to stop the appetite for knowledge? You can start by offering lots of TV and computer time; provide lots of dull school lectures; and most of all, spread the idea that knowledge is Dull and Irrelevant and that anything contained in a book of over 100 pages isn't worth the trouble. You can make the entity go away or at least not bother you much.

But please don't.
But what if all were for all, if the great hope of Comenius––"All knowledge for all men"––were in process of taking shape? This is what we have established in many thousands of cases, even in those of dull and backward children....we are so made that only those ideas and arguments which we go over are we able to retain. Desultory reading or hearing is entertaining and refreshing, but is only educative here and there as our attention is strongly arrested. Further, we not only retain but realise, understand, what we thus go over. Each incident stands out, every phrase acquires new force, each link in the argument is riveted, in fact we have performed THE ACT OF KNOWING, and that which we have read, or heard, becomes a part of ourselves, it is assimilated after the due rejection of waste matter. Like those famous men of old we have found out "knowledge meet for the people" and to our surprise it is the best knowledge conveyed in the best form that they demand. Is it possible that hitherto we have all been like those other teachers of the past who were chidden because they had taken away the key of knowledge, not entering in themselves and hindering those who would enter in?  (Philosophy of Education, pp. 291-292, emphasis hers)

From the archives: The Homeschooler Supply Chain

 First posted August 2009.

You know you're a homeschooler when...

your back-to-school supplies consist of four plastic magazine holders, eight pieces of posterboard, a roll of clear sticky plastic, a set of foam dominoes, Beaver Ed's Brain Busters Nature Card Game, Beaver Ed's Kids' Quiz: Human Body, three sketch books, ten pencils, two hundred file cards, two packs of Velcro dots, one pack of reinforcements, two sets of Scrapbook Kit Alphabet and Word Stickers, and four vinyl erasers.

All from Dollarama.

From the archives: Passion for Learning, Part One

First posted August 2013. Edited slightly to correct links.


When I think of passion in learning, I think of Cindy Rollins' Ordo Amoris blog.  "Passion" is not a recommended word to search for, generally, but if you limit the search to Cindy's blog, you get snippets such as "So that is what valor looks like but even more so that is how valor is memorialized, with passion not malaise" and "I just have a passion for literacy (reading and cultural)" and "I am passionate about the *idea* of living in a republic that followed our Constitution."  A shared passion for living and learning is definitely a good thing, and Cindy is one of its vocal and valued homeschooling proponents.

As a longtime homeschooling parent, and a pursuer of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, I would like to say that a passion for learning is something we just don't have a problem with around here.  But it wouldn't be entirely true...or at least not if  "passion for learning" equals "passion for schoolwork."  Almost-seventh-grader Lydia loves to read, but mostly the books of her own choosing, not the "assigned" ones.  She likes to write, but again, not so much when it's assigned work.  I've seen this pattern emerge with the older girls, too:  "out of class" time is separate from "school."   If they feel that "their time," when lessons are done, is honestly "their time," then they seem to feel that they also have to differentiate their own reading, writing and other activities from assigned "schoolwork."  I've never heard any of them begging for more math homework.  This question of ownership--and therefore passion, or lack thereof--has been a source of frustration (on my part, it doesn't seem to bother them!) for almost two decades.  Some readaloud books have blurred the line between "this is school" and "just Mom and me reading," but in general, that's the way it works, or doesn't work.

The funny thing is that some, most even, of what we do in school...even the difficult stuff, even if it's "coerced" or at least teacher-decided, has been very successful.  The Squirrelings have enjoyed Great Expectations and Silas Marner, and I'm pretty sure that Ivanhoe will also be a successful readaloud later in the year. They are good readers, and, when they want to, they can put words together pretty well too.  (Ponytails' work in public-school English class has earned her praise and high marks, in both ninth and tenth grades.)  But I hardly ever see one of them browsing for more Dickens or George Eliot or Scott; the Apprentice did read Jane Austen on her own, but that was the exception.  Lydia's current personal reading consists of Harry Potter and the Cornelia Funke Inkheart books.

Some homeschoolers (or teachers) might suggest that the way to get older students to engage with learning would  be to leave the curriculum up to them.  If it's put on their plate, it comes from outside, isn't personally meaningful; if they've chosen it, they'll be interested.  I would say yes, to a point; I do give options wherever practical.  But, thinking of Charlotte Mason's quip about expecting people to make their own boots, it's even less consistent with our family's homeschool practice to let the kids decide if they're even going to wear shoes.  So to speak.

Since we follow, more or less, the AmblesideOnline Curriculum, it's already pretty much decided: Year Seven follows Year Six and is followed by Year Eight.  This year is Lydia's Year Seven, and, within reason, I'm expecting her to take on the work that's given in that outline. Promoting engagement by completely freeing up the curriculum is not an option for us.  It's not in tune with Charlotte Mason, it's not what I'm comfortable with, and it's not even (really) what our kids expect.

So how else do we find delight, engagement, passion, without expecting too much (or too little) of 21st-century, somewhat-distracted kids, and without turning them into prigs about learning?
 ("Mr Samuel Arrow, a wonderful man who... used to get us up from our beds before dawn for a good flossing.")

More (and a book review) in Part Two.  Make sure to come back, especially if you think I'm too hard on my kids.  Because you might be right.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Reminiscent Wednesday Hodgepodge

From this Side of the Pond
1. What's your earliest memory?

Hanging out with my grandparents.

2. What's something about you today that the old you would find surprising? 

The me holding the cookies? Probably everything, including the fact that I'm now as old as my grandmother was then.

3. Do you like to fish? Are you a fish eater? Favorite fish (to eat)? Favorite way to prepare fish? 

I fished only once in my life, and it's not something I want to reminisce over. Preparing fish: "Spread battered fish fingers on cookie sheet and bake until crispy." I am not an adventurous fish cooker.

See also this "fishy" Hodgepodge from a few years ago.

4. What's your biggest first world problem? 

Without getting too personal, serious, and outside the scope of a Wednesday Hodgepodge?


5. What one word would you use to describe your year thus far? 


Going to the flea market every couple of weeks will do that to you.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I'm starting to see the end in sight for a project that has covered most of this year, and which accounts for a good deal of its reminiscent character. I'm not even sure what not having to have it actively in my mind will feel like. But everything has its right time.

Two nights before, my mother had snapped off a thread, looked at the quilt in surprise, and said, "I think it's finished. How can it be finished?"...She stood up and laid it out on the big kitchen table. There they were, all those orderly, geometric patterns of our past... (Lois Lowry, A Summer to Die)

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Get Me Down From Here

1. What motivates you to work hard?

If Socrates asked that question, he would probably keep asking it no matter what you answered. Why? "Because I need something to do." "Because I like to see things get done." "Because I don't want people to think I'm lazy." "Because I want to help support our household." Why? "Because I want to keep learning to do things better." "Because I want to feel like I'm a little bit successful." Why? "Because I want to be of some use in the world." Why? "God gave me a job to do, so I'm doing it."

2. It's been said "Ignorance is bliss" it? 

No way.

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” Charles Spurgeon

3.Would you rather be stuck on a broken elevator or a broken ski lift? Explain. Have you ever actually been stuck on either? Of the common fears listed here what's your #1-

heights-enclosed spaces-snakes-public speaking-the dark-flying

Neither. But the ski lift would be worse. And yes, I have been stopped on one long enough to make me very nervous.

And you forgot to include mice.

4. What's something you like about the town or city where you live? 

The free summer music festivals.

5. Life is too short to_________________________________. 

I'm not sure of the answer to that. I think one person's "doesn't matter" is another person's "really important." I personally have never spent time individually decorating sugar cookies, for example, other than sticking chocolate chips or raisins on gingerbread people for eyes. But I met a woman recently who said that she decorated cookies every single weekend for years because her grandchildren would come to have tea parties with her, so there you go.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Do you want to see my nebulous fall wardrobe? Some people might think that putting that much time into thinking about what one wears definitely falls in the "life is too short to" category. But for me, thinking it out ahead of time makes it easier, because I know I have what I need.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2023

"Nebulous" (Fall Clothes 2023)


"Snow Fantasy," by Lawren Harris (1917)

This fall's wardrobe is going in a direction I didn't expect.. 

No, I haven't taken on an office job, or a hostessing position with a great clothing allowance. My life is very casual, and much as I like looking at blazers and dresses, I need to stay realistic. Working at home days are casual. Running around days are casual. Even church is casual. 

I've also had some changing thoughts about colour. Most years, my summer colour has been navy blue, and then in the fall I switch to grey, teal, and burgundy. This means, though, that if I thrift cool-weather clothes in navy, they tend not to get worn. But why not navy this fall, for a change? I'm a bit greyed out on grey.

Bead bracelets found here and there

While browsing through Vivienne Files posts, I came across the (imagined) story of a photographer who spends the fall at an observatory.  This is the first post about herthis is the second. Her (very casual) wardrobe is based on a photograph of "The Spinning Pulsar of the Crab Nebula," and includes navy plus bright pink, sky blue, and purple accents. Many of her clothing items match what is already in my closet (including the neglected navy things), and a couple of thrift store trips have  rounded things out.

You can read the rest of the post here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Hello August (Wednesday Hodgepodge)

1. Hello August. What's one thing you're looking forward to this month? 

 I'm looking forward to not having anything in particular to have to look forward to.

2. What are you doing to beat the heat right now? If you live in the southern hemisphere are you enjoying cooler temps or counting the days until summer? 

We drove to Kincardine on Lake Huron yesterday, although it wasn't terribly hot.

3. How do you see the world? 

"Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart." (Lloyd Alexander, The Book of Three)

And also

"Simplicity, happiness and expansion come from the outpouring of a human heart upon that which is altogether worthy." (Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children)

4. What food product do you think is better store bought than home made? How about something you refuse to buy because it is so much better homemade? 

Better store bought: Cheerios. Peanut butter. Cabbage rolls made fresh at the European deli, because I'm not going to bother making two cabbage rolls.

Better homemade: Brownies, even if you have to make them in the microwave because it's hot out.

5. Are you easy to get along with? 

As easy as most Assistant Pig-Keepers, and possibly more so than some. Especially if we have brownies around.

6.  Insert your own random thought here. 

A couple of weeks ago (between me remembering to post Hodgepodge responses and then forgetting again), my husband and I went to a free jazz festival in our town. One of the musicians referred to the events (or non-events) of the past few years, and said that it was hard for jazz musicians to function while distanced from each other, because community is where this kind of music lives.

And I thought that could apply to many other things in life as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: The Pleasures of Today (or Yesterday)


From this Side of the Pond
1. Is your life simple? Elaborate. 

Oh dear. Is anybody's? I mean, to make your life perfectly simple, you'd probably have to walk away from legitimate challenges and responsibilities. I have never been a fan of the song "Gentle on My Mind."

But by "simple," do you mean not terribly overstressed and overworked and overwrought, able to enjoy simple things? Well, yes, my husband and I keep working on that. Homemade pizza and all the rest of it.

2. What simple pleasure are you are currently enjoying?  

Right now, this minute? Sunshine coming in through the loft window, the last of the microwave brownies, and the swish of a thrifted silk maxi dress which I decided to wear around the house today since I have no special other place to wear it to.

3. Travel by plane or go on a cruise? walk or ride a bike? swim or ski? ocean or mountains? 

Top choice out of all of those: walking. But I would travel by plane if it landed me somewhere interesting.

4. What's the last thing you bought online that you really loved? 

Do books for the Kindle app count? I haven't bought much else online lately.

Now if you asked me about flea markets, I might have a longer answer.

5. What’s your 'back in my day we__________' story? 

I go "back in my day we" way too much as it is, especially at flea markets and antique barns.

This morning I was thinking about a camping trip with my grandparents and my little sister in a very old travel trailer, when I was maybe five years old. I don't think we can have gone too far or been away too long, because I'm pretty sure my parents weren't there, so maybe it was just for a weekend. Anyway, my grandpa was worried that the two children were going to fall out of the quite-high bed in the trailer, so he scrounged around for a big flat board (because he always had that sort of thing around, it was like magic). He wedged it against the bunk and penned us in for the night. My grandma, as always, thought he was overdoing the worry thing, and said so; but that was just the way he tried to take care of things, and I still appreciate the thought (even if we had to be penned in like puppies).

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Well, that last one was pretty random.

Since the theme here seems be enjoying the simple things, here's a summer lemonade recipe I learned years ago from Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad Gazette: 4 cups water, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice. Blend with a big spoon. You can halve it, double it, or whatever you need to do with it to make the right amount. It can also accommodate a bit of leftover canned pineapple juice or random things like that.

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Blame it On My Youth

From this Side of the Pond
1. What does productivity look like to you? 

I guess that depends on what species you are. A productive little ant or bee isn't the same as a human. Having been self-employed for the last dozen or so years, my husband and I are still trying to figure out what the right pace of things is to stay productive but not burn out. I think, whatever you're doing, you have to get a sense of the time something will take. If you know that you want to have a project done by the end of the month, then "being productive" means getting a certain piece of it finished each week, and you might even be able to break that down to getting a certain amount done each day. But since real life isn't always like that, and since some projects just go better in spurts, you might work really hard for three days, then take the next two off. And that's still productive.

2. What was your fondest (or one of your fondest) memory of High School? 


3. What did you do the summer after High School? 

I had gotten a first-year scholarship to university, so I somehow took that to mean that I could afford to spend the summer not making any money. Paying jobs for teenagers were a bit scarce right then anyway, so it wasn't a terrible idea.

So. The first half of the summer, I volunteered at a camp up north. Most of the time I worked in the kitchen, but towards the end I did one-on-one support for a couple of campers with special needs. 

Then I went to a social justice "work camp" in Toronto, with a group of young adults coming from several different countries. I didn't really know what to expect. At all. Which is probably a good thing because if I had, I might not have gone. Part of the time I did clerical work for a conference and met my first Macintosh computer. In between that, I went to a couple of protests, learned some Italian, and saw Paul Gross (a now-famous Canadian actor) performing Romeo and Juliet in the park. We also went up to the Canadian version of The Farm for a few days, and learned to make giant blocks of tofu.

Well, you did ask.

4. June 14th is National Strawberry Shortcake Day...are you a fan, and if so will you celebrate? How do you make yours? Have you been strawberry picking? If so what do you do with all those berries?

We had some strawberries last night to celebrate a friend's birthday. But really, that's about it, we just eat them. 

5. What's something you always splurge on? 

Good cocoa.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

We had a couple of bananas going soft, so I suggested to my husband that we make Smitten Kitchen's double chocolate banana bread together. I melted the half cup of butter in the microwave and left it in there, thinking I would pull it out when my husband, doing the wet ingredients, asked (as I was sure he would) "where's the butter you're supposed to put in now?" But he somehow missed that in the list, and I was doing the dry ingredients and didn't notice what went in the bowl.

So,  the three mini loaves went into the oven without any extra fat at all. I didn't find the bowl of melted butter until half an hour later.

Now, I've had extremely low-fat health food cafe muffins (not usually by choice), and they're usually either very tough or very crumbly, or both. This is the weird thing: this banana bread actually baked fine. I think there must have been enough high-fat ingredients even without the butter (see #5, plus there were the chocolate chips), plus enough moist things like the bananas, to make up for the oversight. It's not like I'd do it again on purpose, but I think we will probably at least cut down on the butter next time.

Anyway, it's nice to know in case you're either very forgetful or just out of butter.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Toffee and Coffee

From this Side of the Pond

1. Of kings and queens...

I'll pass on this round.

2. What are you the uncrowned queen of?

Finding weird things at rummage sales. And then finding ways to use them.

3. In a box of chocolates which one do you usually go for? 

Anything except the hard toffees.

4. Something learned at your mother's knee?

Paste food colouring works better than liquid.

You have to be extra careful cutting out the tabs on paper doll clothes.

Don't play on the railroad tracks. (I did not learn that by experience, just by a song she taught us. But it was a good idea since we lived near some railroad tracks.)

5. 'Like mother, like daughter' what way is this saying true for you? 

The same saying that Giant Tiger puts on its funny coffee packaging: add hot water to make instant human.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: When birds nest in the treehouse

From this Side of the Pond
1.  April 26th is National Audubon Day, honoring John James Audubon, the French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter known for his detailed study and illustration of birds in their natural habitats. Do you have a bird feeder? Any birds in your home decor? Have you ever owned a pet bird? What's your favorite bird?   

We live in a condo townhouse, and the rules discourage birdfeeders because the seed attracts other critters. Most springs we host a robin family under the back deck; I don't think there's any building going on there yet, but probably soon.

Our powder room is bird-themed! We have a French birds poster on the back of the door, a stained glass piece on the wall, and occasionally a ceramic bird or bird-shaped candleholder on the back of know.

2. What's something you took to 'like a duck to water'? 

The best answer would be swimming, wouldn't it?--but in this case no, I was ten before I could even get my feet off the bottom. And we won't even talk about driving.

When I was seven, I took a camping trip through northern Ontario with my grandparents, parents, and sister. Most of the way we drove, but we also travelled to Moosonee on the Polar Bear Express. I did not think the view of "hydroelectric dams and isolated homes" out the train window was that interesting (and there were no polar bears), so my mother pulled a puzzle book out of her bag and introduced me to hidden words. By the end of the trip I was a pro.

3. Empty nest, nest egg, proud as a peacock, free as a bird, birds of a feather flock together, or the early bird catches the worm...choose one and tell us how it currently applies to your life. 

My mind is somewhat of an empty nest today, so I'm going to skip that one.

4. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds...your favorite seed and a favorite food or dish made with that seed or topped with that seed? Have you tried all the seeds on the list? Any you don't care for? 

I've probably had them all either accidentally or on purpose. I can take or leave the chia and flax seeds, but I like all the others. Sometimes we buy a poppy seed-filled loaf from the bakery at Eurofoods, and that is a pretty intense hit of poppy.

5. Something in the past week that made you 'happy as a lark'?

Larking around with some summer clothes plans. And then finding a dark blue purse at the thrift store that should fill in the gap I mentioned there. It was in very good shape, but had a problem with one of its metal bits, so my husband is working on that.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

I really think the winter coats are going away this week. Loud cheers.

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

Monday, April 24, 2023

A Just-Enough Warm Weather Wardrobe

I'm posting this on the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse. Since that tragedy, April 24th has become known as Fashion Revolution Day.

Most of the clothes that most of us wear, most of the time, are products of the global garment industry. Unless you raise sheep or weave your own cotton, there aren't too many ways around that. Even buying mostly-thrifted clothes doesn't exempt us from needing to care about worker abuse, or chemical processes that damage rivers and soil. The fact that technology has now advanced to spray-on dresses is also beside the point. It's only when we stop thinking of the fashion industry as a big anonymous entity, and ask "Who made my clothes?" that we can begin to care about things like the well-being of employees. And that leads us to ask further questions, like "What plants or animals were used to make the fabrics for these clothes, and how were they processed and handled?" "How can we use the clothes we have well?" And finally, "Where will they go afterwards?"

Giving donated clothes a reprieve from that final destination seems to be something I'm good at, and I'm happy to pass on anything that I've learned. But there are a lot of clothes out there (literally tons of them) that the earth and our closets would have been better off without. And (sermon's almost over, I promise), we need to remember that we're humans living our lives in clothes, not mannequins, not subjects to be photographed. That doesn't mean "wear ugly clothes"; we still have choices about colours and styles. But when we've got enough things to wear--let's let that be enough.

Enough, she said

Our summer travels are mostly day trips, maybe to the beach, walking in the woods, or visiting flea markets and small towns. Although I'm not packing for summer at a cottage, or even an extended trip, I'm planning a small-sized wardrobe anyway. That makes it easy if I do need to pull a few things together for a night or two away. 

Filling in a gap (something new)

I wear a lot of grey in the fall and winter, and by spring I'm ready to switch over to navy blue. Navy is easy to find in thrift stores, almost too easy; it can also end up looking like a uniform if you overdo it. One thing I thought would help pull my navy things together was a pair of everyday sandals. I chose a pair of Keens in the same style I bought a couple of years ago.

Old ones, new ones

You can read the rest of the post here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

An Eclectic Wednesday Hodgepodge (Eclectic has 8 letters)

From this Side of the Pond

1. April 13th is National Scrabble Day...are you a fan? Do you enjoy word games in general? What's an eight letter word that tells us something about your life currently?

Scrabble, Bananagrams, word puzzles: all yes. Did you know there was a Scrabble for Juniors board game as far back as 1958? I won a Juniors set in a television show birthday draw (the Uncle Bobby Show, for you Ontarians) when I was three or four...never too young.

Eight-letter words? I went looking online, and found this page with a fascinating array of double-Z words. Which is puzzling (see what I did there), because there's only one Z in a Scrabble game. I suppose the other would have to be a blank.

Out of 80,000 playable eight-letter words, you would think one would jump right out at me. I think CONTINUE would be a good one for this month. 

2.  Do you have a junk drawer? Is it full? Do you know what's in it? What's in it? 

My mind is my junk drawer. That's why I like to play Scrabble.

3. When does time pass quickly for you? When does it pass slowly? 

Quickly: driving places.

Slowly: driving home.

4. These eight vegetables are in season during spring-asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, collard greens, garlic, herbs. What's your favorite? Any on the list you refuse to eat? Last one on the list you ate? 

Favourite: carrots. I made some carrot spice cupcakes for Easter.

Broccoli (and cauliflower) unfriended me awhile back.

5. What's the oldest thing you own? Tell us about it. 

A couple of books that are older than Canada. 

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

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Happy Hodgepodge

From this Side of the Pond
1.What would you say is the most difficult task when it comes to spring cleaning? Have you completed that task this year? Any plans to get it done?

We just keep cleaning things, more than "spring cleaning." I did put away the winter coats today, because even if it does snow past this point (which it could and has), I would prefer to shiver.

2. Your favorite pastel color? Favorite thing you own in a pastel shade? 

As in, the colours of candy Easter eggs? Probably pink, maybe green or blue. Favourite about the rabbit collection, they're all in pastel shades. Especially the baby, who seems to be sleeping through the noisy bongos and tambourines.

3. Do you like ham? Do you fix ham year round or is it mostly just a 'holiday food'? Baked ham-ham and eggs-ham and cheese sandwich-scalloped potatoes and ham-Hawaiian pizza....what's your pleasure? 

I like it, but it's not something we eat all the time unless it's on sale. Mostly we just bake one of those mini-hams with a little water in a roasting pan. But I like using up the leftovers in quiche. Or on pizza.

4. Do you celebrate Easter? What did Easter look like when you were a kid? What are your plans for Easter this year? 

Yes, absolutely. And my first Easter looked like this.

5. Something that makes you feel hopeful amidst all the chaos and confusion this world brings? 

Spring waking up the earth. (Is that enough anthropomorphism?)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Back in the Hodgepodge, y'all

From this Side of the Pond

1.Why do you blog? Have your reasons changed over time? 

This blog is (as it says at the top) eighteen years old. It started when friends blogged together, and we thought we had a lot to say about everything, and had to say everything about a lot. It continues infrequently, mainly with Hodgepodge posts and occasionally with something about clothes or other adventures that are too big for a quick IG post. I feel like it's much less likely, these days, that anything I post here will get noticed unless I mention it somewhere else.

I've thought about taking on one of those blogging challenges like going through the alphabet, but right now I'm not sure I have the stamina for it, particularly Q X Y Z.

2. What's a typical Friday night look like at your house?

About the same as any other night! My husband and I are self-employed slash semi-retired, so we don't say WEEKEND the way we might once have done. Actually, my husband worked a lot of Saturdays during the first years we were married, so even then.

3. Do you like donuts? Your favorite kind? How often do you treat yourself to a donut? Have you ever made homemade donuts? 

Homemade doughnuts? Not the fried kind, I'm squeamish about deep fat frying, but we have made baked pumpkin doughnuts many times.

As for the rest...I live in Canada, I go to Tim Horton's, what can I say. I prefer the solid kind, not jelly-filled.

4. How do you feel about shopping? Are you an online shopper? Catalog shopper? Brick and mortar shopper? Do you order groceries online or prefer to select items with your own two hands? 

Shopping? We usually hit the thrift store right after we go to Tim Horton's.

I used to love mail-order catalogues, back in the pre-Internet era when every small vendor (including homeschool book vendors) was sending them out and you had to send cheques or money orders (remember those?). In those days, I think, the shipping for things wasn't quite so crazy. I will buy something new online if I'm pretty sure it's what I want and/or it will fit: most recently, this backpack.

Groceries? In person.

5. Next week's Hodgepodge finds us somehow in the month of April, which just so happens to be National Poetry Month. Sum up (or tell us something about) your month of March in the form of a limerick. You can do it!! 

There once was a lone Mama Squirrel

Who said, "I'll give flying a whirl."

So she travelled to Dallas

And stayed in a palace

With three of her favourite cowgirls.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Back in the Saddle (Travelling Light)

The opportunity came up recently, after a very long time on the ground, to do a little air travel. I decided to pack as minimally as possible, using only a personal-item bag that would fit under the airplane seat. Now I'm back, everything's unpacked and washed and I can't show you precisely how it all looked; but the teddy bears are going to help me reconstruct the story.

Now, I hear you asking if you haven't done this recently, what's wrong with regular carry-on? Because an increasing number of travellers don't want to pay for checked bags, or worry that they'll get lost, carry-on is way more popular than it used to be. If you're travelling on small planes (say for shortish flights), there isn't enough overhead space  for every single passenger to stow a bag. What will probably happen when you're waiting to board the plane is that, first, they'll ask for volunteers to check their wheeled carry-ons (for free). If they don't get enough volunteers, the last passengers to board will have to check their bags even if they don't want to. Which defeats half the purpose of going carry-on, which is avoiding the search for your luggage at the airport, or (worst of all) hearing that it went somewhere else without you.

So I did a crash course in how to pack extra-light, courtesy of Youtube's "Travel Tips by Laurie" and a free webinar by I do have a backpack that would have fit within the underseat size limits, but it's smaller, like a school backpack, and only zips open partway. Going by online reviews (and a friend who had just bought one), I bought a Cabin Max Mini Metz 30 L pack, which is sized exactly to meet American Airlines' underseat limits. Setting my old and new packs side by side, you might not notice a lot of difference, but I do think the full-zip style and the bigger capacity made getting the new bag worthwhile. 

The next thing I had to do, after all this time at home, was to round up any travel equipment I had, especially small containers, pouches, and bags. Several years ago I managed a less-is-more trip by stuffing clothes very tightly into large Ziploc bags, which did work, but this time I wanted to try some alternatives. A daughter had given me a pile of her Shein bags (they're a travel thing right now). I had a few smaller dollar-store mesh bags, similar to the Shein bags; two cloth bags that had held sheet sets; a thrifted child's lunch pack that seemed like it would make a good packing cube; and quite a few zippered cases. Most of the liquids bottles I had used in trips past had been discarded, but I still had some of the small round containers, and a few tiny ones from cosmetic samples. 

And that brings us to one key point. What's wrong with just putting your clothes and everything else straight into the backpack? Nothing. Of course you can do that. But there's one reason you might not want to if you're flying: TSA security checks. Although I was (thankfully) not stopped, beeped, or patted down during this trip, it has happened to me before, and sometimes then they want to look in your bags or they ask you to show them a specific item. And if you have things organized in smaller bags, you can not only access them faster, but get them all repacked very speedily as well. Which is much better than having clothes spewing out every which way.

Obviously, part of the very-small strategy is to minimize what you're taking, and to take the smallest and lightest versions possible; but how you fit things in can make a difference too. I ended up using two of the zip-top Shein bags for clothes (one became a dirty-clothes bag during the trip), plus a really great expandable pencil case of my daughter's for non-liquids makeup and things like bandaids; a clear bag for liquids; a large Ziploc bag for in-flight needs; and a small crocheted pouch for jewelry.

 A pair of shoes, an umbrella, and a small purse went in by themselves. I kept minimizing the size and weight of things wherever I could. I packed the lightest-weight pajamas I had, mini-pens, a tiny emery board. I even used one of the tiny cosmetic boxes for just a bit of my favourite lipstick colour. I knew that there were going to be some basic soaps and shampoos at the place where we'd be staying, and in any case, we would be near stores, so I didn't need to pack every possible toiletry.

This is where the story turns a little bit funny, packing-wise. I had originally thought it might be quite warm, and had planned out some clothes accordingly, had even thought of sandals, which is pushing it for March, but it could have happened. What is the one other tip that all the travel videos give? Check the weather online for the place you'll be going. So I did, and every time, the destination sounded wetter and colder than before. Some of our planned activities were going to be outdoors, which is another good thing to consider when you're packing. Also, the weather here in Ontario stayed very cold, which meant that even if I wasn't wearing a winter coat, I would need to be well-layered for the going and coming.  So, off the list went the sandals, and, eventually, even the springy dress and jersey blazer, in favour of a zip-up fleece jacket and an extra shirt. 

And now are you waiting for me to say that the weather was perfect, the temperature went up to 80 degrees and everyone was walking around in shorts? Um, no. It was more like walking by the lake in October: not cold and snowy, but definitely chilly and windy. I ended up wearing almost every layer I'd packed, every time we went out. I was grateful for that fleece jacket which I'd originally crossed off the list, thinking it would be extra weight I didn't need. (As it turned out, wearing it under my coat was also helpful because I could put small valuables in its zippered pockets.) So: check the weather reports as carefully as you check your departure gate, because they can both change without warning. And don't be too committed to what you thought might be nice to wear, because warm enough/ cool enough/ dry enough is more important.

Fantasy vs. reality

One small disappointment was that the crossbody purse I found (at a thrift store) turned out not to work very well for the things I wanted to put into it (it looked like my ID cards were going to fall out). I had brought a lightweight tote bag and ended up using that as a day-bag. As they say: test things out ahead of time. I should also have tested the travel toothbrush that came free with some travel-size shampoo and lotion. If you really need to go mini on the toothbrush, get a decent folding one. Just saying.

The filled backpack (with wardrobe modifications as above) ended up weighing between eleven and twelve pounds, which was quite manageable and fit perfectly under the airplane seat. I didn't make full use of all the little pockets in the front compartment, because I thought it might be awkward to keep pulling the bag out and fiddling with the pockets during the flight. It was easier to rummage in the Ziploc bag for my magazine or  an anti-ear-popping stick of gum. I fit my tablet into one of the front-compartment pockets. (I didn't have to show it for the flight out as they were only interested in laptops, but on the way back they asked us to show tablets as well.)

I made sure the clear liquids bag was near the top so that I could grab it quickly, and when I was going through the TSA line, I attached it through the Velcro on the top handle, just to keep things together.

When I got where we were going, I took my rolled-up clothes out of the Shein bags, and hung them up. We did have laundry available, but I preferred to wear everything a couple of times and wash it all when I got home.

And that's my story. Would I go underseat-only again? Yes, and again not so much because hoisting a carry-on into the bin is a problem, as that these days you might not get a carry-on space at all. It's nice to know for sure that nobody's going to try to wrangle your bag away. Plus it's good to prove, sometimes, that you are up to the challenge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Chop cherries and dollars, but not the truth

From this Side of the Pond

1. What do you find is the most boring part of your life at the moment? 

Breakfast, probably.

Sometimes lunch.

Occasionally dinner.

2. February 22nd is George Washington's birthday. You'll find his face on the US $1 bill. What's the last thing you bought for roughly $1.00? (.94 €/ .83 £)

The top I'm wearing today, from the dollar (last-chance) rack of a local thrift store. I bought it because I liked the pretty sky-blue colour, but it also appears to be a higher-end brand, so that was a bonus. Actually the jeans I'm wearing were also from the dollar rack, so I guess that makes a two-dollar outfit.

3. Is it ever okay to tell a 'little white lie'? Explain.

There's too much playing with the truth already. I think we need to be cautious about how much we can afford to add to the fire.

4. What's the last thing you 'chopped'? Cherry pie, chocolate covered cherries, a bowl of cherries, cherry vanilla ice cream, maraschino cherries, a cherry lifesaver...your favorite cherry flavored something? 

Chopping and cherries are getting me mixed up here. I chopped up dried cherries to put in Christmas bread, if that counts.

5. Describe yourself with three words using your first, middle, and last initials. 



Woeful, right now. See #6.

6. Insert your own random thought here. 

Oh, there's a lot of that right now, but it doesn't feel right to call it just "random."

Our blog, such as it is currently (that is to say, infrequently), just touched the eighteen-year mark.

I didn't feel much like doing a woo-hoo post about it, though, as that was the same day I lost a close friend and colleague, the second to pass away in the past year. Queen Shenaynay, as she christened herself years ago on her own blog, has been remembered with love by many people already, and I don't need to say more about that here except that we will miss her and miss her and miss her some more.

And then there is the large disregard for truth that whams into one on even a quick viewing of the past week's news. I try not to get political here so I'll leave it at that.

"I have a woeful feeling, as if the double O of doom were sticking in my throat." (James Thurber)

On a brighter note (because we badly need one here), this is not only Washington's birthday, but Ash Wednesday, and while you might not think that the beginning of Lent is a particularly bright spot on the calendar, it is, at least, the promise that the rest of these things only "come to pass," as Queen Shenaynay used to say, and that truth and life will remain beyond them. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Pre-Spring: Clothes and Inspirations

Spring here can be more like a second winter, which is not as enjoyable as a second breakfast. But in February we do start to see longer days, more sunshine, and the occasional green thing trying to come out. And in March, I'm planning to spend a couple of days in a spot that gets springier weather.

Arthur Lismer, "A September Gale on Georgian Bay"
Thrifted sweatshirt and scarf
OPI Nail Lacquer in "Tickle My France-y"
Vintage earrings

Travel Things

So I'm going to work backwards, both in climate and in number of clothing items, and start with a very small carry-on wardrobe for warmish weather.