Monday, October 12, 2015

Thanksgiving at the Treehouse


Thanksgiving, Ten Years Ago

First posted October 2005.

Thanksgiving! We had planned to go to the Oktoberfest parade in the morning, but drizzly weather and sniffles decided against it. So we made some maple-leaf turkeys for a centerpiece (we put them in a big bowl with a bunch of chestnuts and paper leaves--the real outside leaves were abundant but too wet), and watched the parade on T.V. Mr. Fixit put the bird (not a turkey this year, he bought a DUCK, which got some stares from the squirrelings) and a giant sweet potato on the barbecue. Grandpa Squirrel is bringing pies, and Mama Squirrel is filling in the corners (making crockpot stuffing, vegetables, homemade cranberry sauce, and doing all the odds and ends). Mama Squirrel makes a mean pumpkin pie, but this year she's going to make it for Reformation Day instead. (Virtual cranberry sauce if you know when that is.)

Here are our recipes. In the Treehouse tradition, they're not fancy. But they're better than the packaged kind.

Cranberry Sauce (from Food that Really Schmecks, but it's a standard recipe)

In a pot, combine 2 parts cranberries to 1 part water and 1 part sugar. We used 2 cups cranberries, about 3/4 cup water (because I don't like it thin) and 1 cup sugar. Some might find it too sweet; you could experiment. Stir to dissolve the sugar, but after that don't stir it. You're supposed to boil it for about 5 minutes, until all the berries have popped; but mine don't always pop, and it still turns out. So I'd say just cook it for about 5 to 10 minutes until it looks pretty much done. It should thicken a bit in the fridge (so I make it a day ahead).

Bread Stuffing (adapted from Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1986)

The main ingredient in this--really--is the bread, right? So don't try to make this with your average store bread--it's not worth it, and it's too hard to cube anyway. If you don't use homemade bread, then try something like Texas Toast or another thick-sliced commercial bread (white or whole wheat).

1 1/2 cups chopped celery, with leaves if possible
3/4 finely chopped onion
3/4 cup margarine or butter
9 cups soft bread cubes (or less if you know you won't eat that much)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. each ground sage and thyme
1/4 tsp. pepper (or a good grinding from the pepper mill)
Some chopped dried apricots (my addition)

You can chop the celery and onion together in the food processor, if that makes it easier. Cook them in the margarine, in a large pot, until they are soft; remove from heat; stir in the remaining ingredients.

At this point, Betty Crocker gives several variations, including what to do if you're not using this to stuff anything: put in an ungreased 2-quart casserole, cover and bake in 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes (the book says "until hot and bubbly", but I've never had bubbly stuffing and I'm not sure I want to). What I do (since we always eat it separately, not in the bird) is make the stuffing around 10 or 11 in the morning and then put it in a slow cooker, on low, for the rest of the day.

Thanksgiving Day Meal plans

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! The sky is at its best October blue, the parade has probably started, and we are hosting a not-too-big dinner.

Menu plans:

Turkey pieces, gravy, slow cooker stuffing, cranberry sauce
Pasta and butternut squash casserole (adapting it to be vegan)
Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy (vegan)
Broccoli (I wanted frozen green beans but the store was out of them)
Caesar salad
Rolls, carrot sticks and things like that

Desserts made by two of the Squirrelings
Date-coconut bars
Dare Ultimate Maple Leaf Cookies
Grapes, kiwi fruit

Things to drink.

Books read so far this year

Finished this year:
Remove from my books

How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
Dreher, Rod

Come Rain or Come Shine
Karon, Jan

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Cain, Susan

Writing to Learn: How to Write--And Think--Clearly about Any Subject at All
Zinsser, William

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Zevin, Gabrielle

Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
Greene, Graham

The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School
Postman, Neil

Love in the Ruins
Percy, Walker

Ten Philosophical Mistakes
Adler, Mortimer J.

The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
Feynman, Richard

The Winds of War
Wouk, Herman

The Indie Author Guide: Self-Publishing Strategies Anyone Can Use
Hamilton, April

Leisure: The Basis Of Culture
Pieper, Josef

No Little People
Schaeffer, Francis A.

The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion
Wouk, Herman

The Alphabet of Grace
Buechner, Frederick

Every Waking Moment
Fabry, Chris

Not for Profit
Martha C. Nussbaum

Becoming Human
Jean Vanier

Concerning the Teacher
St. Augustine

Journey to the Source of the Nile
Christopher Ondaatje

Still reading:

Spiritus Mundi: Essays on Literature, Myth, and Society

Remove from my books
MFA in a Box

Remove from my books
The Divine Comedy

Remove from my books
Home Economics

Remove from my books
A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership

Remove from my books
The Cost of Discipleship

Remove from my books
New and Collected Poems

Remove from my books

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

What's for supper? Sweet and sour beef

 Tonight's menu:
Sweet and Sour Beef, from the freezer meals, with peppers and celery added.
Pot of rice.

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. It's October so let's get this out there first thing...have you jumped on the all-things-pumpkin bandwagon? How so?

I have a can of it in the pantry, does that count?

Since Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend, I guess I should dig through the decorations bin already.

2.  "We have more power than will; and it is often by way of excuse to ourselves that we fancy things are impossible." Francois Duc De la Rochefoucauld  

What's something you once thought impossible, but in hindsight see as more a matter of lack of will?

Some things are lack of will, others are a lack of time or a lack of timing, or a lack of knowing; maybe you were just in training to do the impossible thing. I started publishing my Plutarch studies this year (that I had been writing and posting free online for over a decade), but it wasn't a lack of will that kept me from doing it earlier, it was just not the right time, and I couldn't visualize what I wanted them to be; I didn't know anything about self-publishing; and I decided I would rather just be an anonymous squirrel for a while longer. I didn't know how to do then as much as I know how to do now.

3. The rose is America's National Flower, but every state also has its own (click here to see the list). Are you happy with yours? If you were in charge what would you declare your state's flower? If you're outside the U.S. what bloom would you like to see labeled as your country's national flower?

Canada doesn't seem to have a national flower, although we do have provincial flowers and a national tree. I can't think of one flower that seems to symbolize the whole country.

4. What have you lost interest in recently?

A particular form of finding your personal style, after I got through the first couple of free videos and found out the next one was about identifying personal energy by the shape of your nose. I am well enough off knowing that I like purple and pink, don't like black, can't wear beige (it turns my face the colour of oatmeal), and that I shouldn't shop in stores where the music makes the hair crawl on my neck.

5. In your opinion, who's the best living musician?

Maybe Wynton Marsalis?

6. S'mores-love 'em or no? Ever make them indoors? Last time you sat around an outdoor fire? Are making s'mores and sitting round a fire pit on your autumn bucket list? Do you have an autumn bucket list?

No, no fires, no bucket list. We like these chocolate-topped cookies from Walmart, though, and they're almost like S'Mores without the marshmallow. What if you put a marshmallow between two of the cookies and melted it in the microwave, would that count?

7. Your favorite small town? Why?

How small is small? Probably Goderich, Ontario, "Canada's prettiest town." Where else in this part of Ontario can you find a harbour, a museum, and a homeschool store?

8. Insert your own random thought here.

We had an unusually successful trip to the mall last night--one place we generally avoid, and even more so lately since there is a lot of construction around there. But Lydia needed a coat, and we were going to be somewhat near that end of town in the late afternoon anyway, so it made more sense that fighting rush hour traffic in the other direction to get home. We got some burritos and burgers, and then went to one of the stores mentioned in #4. They did have a good sale on teenage-type coats, and Lydia found one she liked, so it was a worthwhile trip.

Off to the thrift store in ten minutes with Mr. Fixit. 

Linked from The Impossibly Possible Hodgepodge at This Side of the Pond.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge, a day late

1. Something on your October calendar that makes you smile?

Several things! Besides Thanksgiving, there's the third annual L'Harmas retreat weekend near the end of the month. 

2. Food for the soul or music for the soul...which camp are you in? Tell us why?

Is it either/or? I like ideas for the soul, but food and music are good too. Also I need to start taking more photos.

3. What are two or three things you've learned recently as the result of an online search?

a) That there are stop-motion Lego videos for the major battles involving Pyrrhus of Epirus. Really, who knew? b) How to make oven-dried cherry tomatoes (now I wish we had more ripening so I could make another batch).  c) That there are two 1936 movies, one called Sabotage and based on Joseph Conrad's book The Secret Agent, and another called Secret Agent and starring Sir John Gielgud and Peter Lorre.  The VHS movie we found was the second one, but the blurb on the (dollar-store-type) box described the first one. Very confusing, but we liked the movie, especially Peter Lorre's curly hair and earring.

4. Share your favorite game day recipe. You can describe it, post the how-to, or add a link to the actual recipe. 

I'm not sure what "Game Day" is or what we eat for one. Obviously I'm not into the right sorts of games. Do you mean something  like those Superbowl parties with nachos and meatballs and things? (In Ontario right now, "game day" might be cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays.)

5. What are your five essential steps for creating the perfect morning routine?

Waking up is good.

Coffee is helpful.

Bowl of cereal. Radio news. Check emails. Everybody out the door on time who needs to be out the door on time. (It varies.)  Doing the dishes. Then (usually) going to work on the computer.

6. What small thing have you taken note of today?

It's the first of October, and it's colder; but we have one of those blue fall skies.

7. Sum up your September in seven words or less.

Discovering the post-homeschooling life.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Elephants. The new Plutarch study I'm working on is full of them. One funny bit is that, in the old translation, there's an elephant who picks up a body and carries it on his 'two tushes." I'm pretty sure the actual elephant part involved was "tusks."
Linked from More Than a Hodgepodge at This Side of the Pond.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First day of fall: how can we not like this Google Doodle?

I've never posted a GIF here before, but there's always a first time. Today's Google Doodle seemed made for Dewey's Treehouse. Happy Fall!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Drying tomatoes

How do you turn this:
into this?
Sprinkle with salt and bake in a slow oven.

I am so impressed.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Freezer meal reviews #4

Sweet and Sour Beef, Islander Pork Chops:  These both turned out to have the same problem, which is that other members of my family don't really like slow-cooked chunks of pineapple along with meat. They are traditionalist Squirrels, and while pineapple is okay on pizza, they would prefer their beef stew and pork chops to be carrots-and-potatoes, not something-else. So this one isn't a recipe review so much as a note to self for next time.

Freezer cooking for tonight: Chicken Chili, which we've had once before and liked.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What's for supper? Soup night

Tonight's menu:

Cheese and Bacon sandwiches
Cheeseburger Soup (from the freezer meals), without the bacon or cheese because we used that for the sandwiches
Zucchini sticks

Banana Bread.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Freezer meal reviews #3

What we've eaten recently:

Chicken Tikka Masala: This was just okay, could have used more oomph. The next time I cook one of the Tikka Masala packages, I will probably try it on the stovetop (instead of the slow cooker) to see if the flavours hold up better.

Chicken Cacciatore: We had this for dinner tonight and really liked it. I added a small can of tomato paste because it seemed to need it; otherwise it was good as written.

Next up: I think one of the stew beef packages, because Lydia is trying out for basketball, and if she makes the team we may will be eating late some nights.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Squirrel hijacker

Mr. Fixit showed me this video--must be a friend of Dewey's.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Date night: rummage saling

Mr. Fixit and I had some time together this afternoon and into the evening, with everyone else off doing other things. We drove to the antique market in the town where I grew up. Mr. Fixit found a radio to clean up, and I got a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's Virginibus Puerisque and Other Papers. If that sounds familiar, check out the quotations in the sidebar.
We went out for some dinner and then to a rummage sale. The Eugenia Price books are in honour of my grandma, who always had a few of them around.
Christmas stationery in a nice box
A little tray to go with the cards. The coins are just to show the size (it's hard to tell in a photo).

And then it's off to Lydia's school to pick her up from Grade Nine Night. There is a meet-and-greet for the parents as well.

Welcome, weekend!

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2009

First posted September 2009: "What Did Mama Squirrel Do Today?"

In no particular order...

1. Covered seven crochet hooks with masking tape and foam pencil grips (which we had sitting around doing nothing). Free comfort hooks!

2. Found out what lizards eat.

3. Taught fourteen homeschoolers how to make sock critters.

4. Made my Squirrelings laugh hysterically at my attempts to hop along with the Spacewalk exercise. (Video about Spacewalk)

5. Read a chapter of Lassie-Come-Home, two Blake poems, and part of a Mr. Pipes chapter. (That was a very low-reading day.)

6. Watched Ponytails inflate a marshmallow in the microwave.

7. Took two Squirrelings out for a quick and rather cold Outdoor Challenge in the backyard.

8. Watched a very beautiful sunset out the back window.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2008

First posted October, 2008. "Yes, It's Worth the Trouble (Memory Work)."

Crayons [Lydia] has memorized the 23rd Psalm this fall (she enjoyed watching a video of a cute little girl saying it), and most of Christina Rossetti's "Caterpillar, brown and furry." (For some reason she does better with Scripture than with poetry.) I've also started her working on Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the Wise Men).

The poem "Indian Summer" came to mind because the children's Sunday School teacher used it as part of a children's momet in church, and mentioned that she had memorized it (more years ago than she preferred to say) during elementary school.

And in this beautiful post, Queen Shenayay reflects 
on what her lifetime accumulation of poetry and Scriptures has meant to her.   

Freezer meal reviews, #2

Tamale Pie, minus the pie, so more or less just chili with corn: a bit bland, but it was okay with macaroni and cheese. The next package I heat up, I'll add some spices or salsa. It would be a good starter for hamburger soup.

Chinese-style Beef with Broccoli: this is one of the recipes I halved (to serve two), and when it was cooking in the little slow cooker I wondered if I should have just made the whole recipe in one bag--it looked like such a small amount.. However, once the broccoli was added near the end, it did turn out to be just enough for two (with rice and other things).  It was good, too, and the beef was very tender.

Tonight's dinner-from-the-freezer: Chicken Tikka Masala.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Quote for the Day: On not reading too much

"As we have pointed out several times, the primary aim is to read well, not widely. You should not be disappointed if you read no more than a handful of the books in a year. The not a challenge that you can meet only by finishing every item on it. Instead, it is an invitation that you can accept graciously by beginning wherever you feel at home." ~~ Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read  a Book

The Wednesday Hodgepodge: The Wednesday Hgpodeogde

I think this week's theme is a real Hgpodeogde.

1. Last thing you did on the spur of the moment?

Bought a kitchen table and chairs at the thrift store, on a day when we were just browsing.

2. How well informed do you feel about the current Syrian refugee crisis?

Somewhat, but not enough. We had a presentation at church from members of the local Syrian community, and are discussing what we can do as a congregation.

3. What have you changed your mind about? 

Boarding up Dewey's Treehouse! I figured the ten-year point would be a natural end to the blog, especially since a large part of it was about homeschooling and now we're not; but I think it will continue for awhile, just in a lower key.

4. A medium sized non-poisonous snake found it's way into the pool trap this weekend. If you'd been sitting poolside would you have fished it out? Gone running? Called for help? Pretended not to know? Continued swimming?

Called for help, because I would have no idea what to do with either a snake or a pool trap.

5. September 10th is National TV Dinner Day...what's your idea of a great TV dinner? (Or at least a pretty good one!) 

Laurie's Cabbage Rolls. Heat them and eat them.

6. Samuel Johnson  is quoted as saying, "Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other." Would you agree? Where have you seen that played out recently? What's the second greatest virtue?
Well...if the Serenity Prayer asks for "the courage to change the things I can," it also mentions "the wisdom to know the difference." Sometimes it's more about faith and the Higher Power (a.k.a. God), when we don't have courage. might say that "courage" is much like "Will," and if you don't have either of those things, you're not only not going to preserve any other virtues, you're not going to do much of anything at all. Courage to choose, courage to do, courage to say yes or no, or "I am, I can, I ought, I will"; in that case, yes, it's pretty important.

7. What are three words you have trouble remembering how to spell?

Schism. Recommend. People's.
“(Are there, or are there not, two ‘c’s’ in ‘recommend’? In spite of the fact that I am a B.A. I can never be certain. Fancy if the Pringles had discovered that before I found Andy’s diary!)” ~~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars
8. Insert your own random thought here.

Today's newspaper crossword taught me a new word: kegler, which means a bowler.  Scoring a Kegler is a perfect game, 12 consecutive strikes. I have only been ten-pin bowling once, and as Elizabeth McGovern's character said in Ordinary People"I'm not a very good bowler, what I mean is, I'm a funny bowler."

(Elizabeth McGovern? Cora on Downton Abbey. We were all a lot younger then.)

From the archives: Homeschooling in 2007

First posted September 2007.

So far most of the term's plans have been working out. Doing the JUMP Math Fractions Unit was definitely a good choice for Ponytails; in fact, now she thinks math is getting a little too easy. She's finding that doing more of her own reading and doing written narrations (especially her Bible readings and Poor Richard) is a bit tougher than she'd like, but it's only a small part of the day. Ponytails also keeps amazing me by getting all her spelling words right. We just learned about General Braddock in Canadian history (yes, it's part of Canadian history too), and we're about to do the fall of Quebec. Reading Robinson Crusoe along with an audio book has worked well too; we're just at the point now where he's getting shipwrecked. Ponytails is unimpressed by Crusoe's tendency to shoot everything that moves, though.

I changed Crayons' Bible schedule; we were going to use the readings from her Bible League Planner, but we found they jumped through too much too fast--especially because they continue over the weekends and she doesn't use the planner then. We've gone back to using Daddy's copy of the Golden Children's Bible, reading the Genesis stories. This is actually very cool, because our study of Turkey has also mentioned the Tigris and Euphrates, Mount Ararat, and Haran (in the story of Abraham). I love it when threads come together unexpectedly like that.

Crayons has been reading books to herself at an awesome speed; I'm glad we can go a little slower with her school time books. We're enjoying the Just So Stories and the rest of Year One; we've also been going through the Little House books at bedtime.

We've done less on crafts than I wanted to this month, but that's partly because the weather's been so good; in all the school days that Crayons circled the weather symbols in her planner, there was only about one day she didn't circle the sun. But there's no big hurry...Christmas is only THREE MONTHS AWAY...

We're taking a bit longer than I expected to work through two books that we're all reading together: Organized KIDZ and Ben Franklin. We're also reading Five Little Peppers together. So it's just as well that I decided to hold off on starting Astronomy and French until later this fall--we're busy enough for now.

And if you want to know how The Apprentice is doing...she's solving equations for x and y using elimination and substitution; exploring problems of ecosystems; watching videos about the early 20th century (with me); teaching the younger Squirrelings how to play chess (okay, she's just learning herself); and her second-year hairstyling class finally gets to Use Scissors. Kind of like student nurses passing their probation in all those old nurse novels...I think she's also reading Emma.