Monday, September 22, 2014

You're right, some don't. (The push to common standards)

"After withdrawing their son from Westfield Public Schools, a homeschool family was surprised when the assistant superintendent sent them a copy of the school’s homeschool policy and asked them to call him. "Their surprise turned to shock when they saw that the policy required them to submit a letter of intent and an outline of their curriculum which (per the policy) must follow New Jersey Common Core content standards, and then wait for the superintendent to approve their curriculum and give them permission to homeschool...."  ~~ HSLDA news
"Many people are opposed to a standards-based education. Even though a standards-based education can protect academic efficiency when students relocate to a different school, some do not like the idea of having others dictate what their children should learn. Some do not like the pressure that tests put on their children. Some do not think the performance of a single test day should carry so much weight. Some do not like the potential for more narrowed learning." ~~ Homeschool Common Core homepage
"'Hush!' said Doctor Cornelius, laying his head very close to Caspian's.  'Not a word more. Don't you know your nurse was sent away for telling you about Old Narnia? The King doesn't like it.  If he found me telling you secrets, you'd be whipped and I should have my head cut off.' 'But why?' asked Caspian.  'It is high time we turned to Grammar now,' said Doctor Cornelius in a loud voice.  'Will your Royal Highness be pleased to open Pulverulentus Siccus at the fourth page of his Grammatical Garden or the Arbour of Accidence pleasantlie open'd to Tender Wits?'"  ~~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Charlotte Mason quote for Sunday

"The point in the Sunday readings and occupations, is, to keep the heart at peace and the mind alive and receptive, open to any holy impression which may come from above, it may be in the fields or by the fireside.  It is not that we are to be seeking, making efforts all day long, in church and out of it. We may rest altogether, in body and spirit; on condition that we do not become engrossed, that we keep ourselves open to the influences which fall in unexpected ways.  This thought determines the choice of the Sunday story-book.  Any pure, thoughtful study of character, earnest picture of life, will do to carry our thoughts upward, though the Divine Name be not mentioned; but tales full of affairs and society, or tales of passion, are hardly to be chosen....Music in the family is the greatest help towards making Sunday pleasant; but here, again, it is, perhaps, well to avoid music which carries associations of passion and unrest....'The liberal soul deviseth liberal things' is a safe rule once the principle is recognised, the purpose and meaning of the Sunday rest."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Strictly nostalgia: for a dollar and two labels...

1967 advertisement:
"Kids! Now you can play in the Green Giant's house 30" square, 27" high, made of tough polyethylene to fit over a standard card table! The Giant's jolly new playhouse is a cozy place for kids to play, it looks just like the leaf covered cottages you might find in the Valley. And it's made of heavy-duty polyethylene, with real see-thru windows on all four sides. It's compact, too--slips right over a standard 30"x30"x27" card table--so you can put it up easily indoors or out."

Rummage sale: Baskets and angels

This morning a local seniors' home had its annual rummage sale.  I spent $3 on two baskets, one sandwich bag of lace, and nine little porcelain angel bells, made in Japan, probably from the 1940's or 50's. The box says eight, but somebody squeezed in a bonus.

Betty Crocker got it right again: Apple (Crumble) Pie

Our post about Betty Crocker  Brownies (the recipe, not the mix) has gotten many, many hits over the years.  I have other recipes, but I still make those too.  And Betty Crocker, the old reliable, helped out this week with an apple pie for a family party.

I have a particular limit on my pies, and that's that they have to have bottoms only.  I don't make rolled crusts, I just make pat-in ones, and that, obviously, curtails making any kind of a "lid" or top crust.  But we had a request for apple pie, and I decided to make what I call apple crisp pie" or, as Betty more elegantly puts it, "French crumb pie."  It turned out not as transparent as what I think of as regular old apple pie, more towards a Dutch Apple type, which might have been because I used brown sugar and whole wheat flour; but it was good that way, and it wasn't as overly sweet as some Dutch Apple or schnitz pie recipes.

Sorry I don't have a photo, but most of it is gone!

The following is my adaptation/corruption of the recipe for 10-inch Apple Pie, with the French Crumb topping variation, as it appears in Betty Crocker's Cookbook (the 1980's edition). (For a 9-inch pie, you cut down the filling ingredients slightly.) It's the filling part that really made it work, and that recipe is all over the Internet anyway with comments like "my mother has made this apple pie for thirty-eight years." There are also people out there, apparently, who leave out the nutmeg and have their own other mutations. (I say keep the nutmeg.) So I don't think the recipe is exactly a secret, but it is good to know about.

And as a further P.S., I would like to post this in memory of an intrepid senior blogger known as Jay, the male half of Momma's Corner, who passed away this summer and who was known, along with Momma, for his legendary jars of jam and apple pie filling.

One Ten-Inch Apple Pie with Crumble Topping, Thanks to Betty Crocker

1 10-inch pie crust, traditional or press-in

8 medium-sized apples: I use 4 Paula Red (which, according to that link, aren't recommended for pies at all), and 4 Gala.  Which just goes to show you how much the apple-describers know.

1 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat because that's what I had, having used up the last of the white flour in the crust)
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash of salt

Ingredients for topping, your choice: flour, oats, oil or margarine, sugar, etc.  I used some frozen leftover crumble mixture from making date/raisin squares.  (Which was a very good idea, to freeze what I didn't need, and I'll probably do that again.  You can use it right from the freezer.)

Make your crust.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the sugar, flour and spices together in a bowl.  Peel the apples.  Core and slice them thinly, or do what I did and just cut them into slices around the core.  Put about a third of the flour mixture into the pie crust, then start arranging the apple slices on top.  Partway through, add more flour mixture, and again near the top.  When the crust is full of apples, cover with a layer of crumble mixture; try to cover the apples as well as you can, because any that remain uncovered will tend to dry out.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees; check to see that the apples are tender and the filling is cooked.  Don't slice right away unless you have to, because the filling will set a bit as it cools.

Serve with whipped cream or other pie accompaniments.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cinnamon cake for a fall birthday

Ponytails had a birthday this month.  She found this recipe for Cinnamon Cake on For Bakes Sake, but we changed it a bit to make it one layer (it was just for our family); frosted it with plain butter icing with a bit of cinnamon added (instead of the cream cheese frosting); and did the spices a bit differently.  This is our version:

Spice Birthday Cake (makes two layers, or one layer plus a dozen cupcakes):

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (see below)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (we used 2% milk)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (but it doesn't matter, you're going to melt it anyway)
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange peel (I grated some from a fresh orange)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Before you start mixing everything together, this is what I did: I mixed the flour, baking powder and salt, but left out the cinnamon. I followed the directions otherwise until it was ready to go into the pans. I used about half the (unspiced) batter to make a dozen small cupcakes. Then I added 1 tsp. cinnamon and about 1/3 tsp. nutmeg to the batter that was left in the bowl, and baked that as the birthday cake. I didn't want to take all the air out of the cake after I had just spent all that electricity beating it in, so I just swirled the spices in gently, and that gave the cake an interesting swirly-spice effect. I baked both the cupcakes and the cake together for about 24 minutes as the directions say.

So if you really want two spice layers, bake the full amount of batter in two 9-inch pans; but increase the spices for the two layers.

From here on the directions are as in the original:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Sift first 4 ingredients into small bowl. Stir milk and butter in small saucepan over low heat just until butter melts [I used the microwave]; set aside.
Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until thick enough for batter to fall in heavy ribbon when beaters are lifted, about 5 minutes.
Beat in orange peel and vanilla. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Add warm milk mixture; beat just until blended. Divide batter between prepared pans.
Bake cakes until tester inserted into centre comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 24 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on racks 20 minutes. Cut around pan sides and turn cakes out onto racks. Turn cakes right side up.

Frost with cream cheese frosting (amounts given in the original recipe) or with cinnamon-tinged butter icing.

Photo by Ponytails.

CM quote for the day: The dangers of literary cheese-cake

If we are raised on a junkfood book diet...

"...the succession of 'pretty books' never fails us we have not time for works of any intellectual fibre, and we have no more assimilating power than has the schoolgirl who feeds upon cheese-cakes.  Scott is dry as dust, even Kingsley is 'stiff.'  We remain...'poor readers' all our days...Guard the nursery; let nothing in that has not the true literary flavour; let the children grow up on a few  books read over and over, and let them have none, the reading of which does not cost an appreciable mental effort." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Drawn from the P.U.S.: how Charlotte Mason might have taught a chapter on Ecosystems and Biogeography

Subject: Ecosystems and Biogeography.

Group: Science. Class III. Time: 30 minutes. By Mama Squirrel.
Book used: The World Around You, by Gary Parker.

I. To increase the student's knowledge of biotic and abiotic factors.
II. To show how all living things are connected to each other.
III. To give some account of the different biogeographic realms, using Australian marsupials as an example.

By way of introduction, I would ask the student to tell me the meaning of an ecosystem, and, for any ecosystem, name some of the things included; for instance, in an aquarium, we would have particular plants, animals, but also factors such as light and temperature. (Don't forget the tiny organisms that we can't see unaided.)  We can label any of these factors as either biotic or abiotic.  How do the different "factors" interact with each other? (Example: plants releasing oxygen for the animals to use.)
I would have her read orally from The World Around You, page 11, the paragraph about the interaction in an aquarium ecosystem.
Then, after narration, I would show a map of the six (original) major biogeographic realms: Palearctic, Nearctic, Neotropical, Ethiopian, Oriental, Australian.  Recently this map has been updated.  I would give the student a printout of the updated map, and read from the accompanying article.  "Our study is a long overdue update of one of the most fundamental maps in natural sciences," lead author of the new research in Science, Ben Holt, said in a press release. "For the first time since Wallace's attempt we are finally able to provide a broad description of the natural world based on incredibly detailed information for thousands of vertebrate species."  
After narration, we could talk about why scientists believe it to be important to divide the biogeographic realms more accurately, and what has allowed them to do that. Something hard to think about: would creationists and evolutionists think about biogeography somewhat differently?  As an example of a creationist approach, we would read the rest of the chapter, about Australian marsupials.

Adapted from Class Notes, as printed in various Parents' Reviews.

CM quote for the day: When knowledge is pleasure

"They must be educated up to it....delight in a fine thought, well set, does not come by nature...But the press and hurry of our times and the clamour for useful knowledge are driving classical culture out of the field; and parents will have to make up their minds, not only that they must supplement the moral training of the school, but must supply the intellectual culture, without which knowledge may be power, but is not pleasure, nor the means of pleasure." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Edward Ardizzone illustration from The Little Bookroom, by Eleanor Farjeon

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pear Oatmeal Muffins (recipe)

Pear Oatmeal Muffins, made with a cupful of cooked pears.

Wet ingredients:

Leftover cooked pears, run through the food processor so they resemble applesauce
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
About 1/2 cup milk, or enough to sufficiently moisten the batter

Dry ingredients:

1 1/2 cups flour and 1 cup oatmeal, or thereabouts
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Spices as needed: our pears already had ginger and orange in them, so I didn't add any

Combine wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix and correct the amount of liquid.  Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes at 375 degrees F.

What's for supper? Veggie vegetarian chili

Tonight's dinner menu, on a night when one Squirreling has a before-dinner music lesson and the other has an after-dinner choir practice:

Really Easy Mixed Bean Chili in the slow cooker, from Leanne Ely's book Saving Dinner: two cans of beans, corn, sweet potato, salsa, taco spices.  Never tried this one before, we'll see how it goes.  I didn't know how big her "jar of salsa" might be, so I settled for a cup and half of Walmart's Medium Chunky.  I started it at 12:30 on High, checked it after an hour and it seemed kind of dry (see photo), so I added a cupful of tomato sauce.

Leftover meat loaf for the meat eaters (that was from last night--Saving Dinner's Upside Down Meatloaf)
Leftover potatoes
Leftover Broccoli Slaw

Mango-Yogurt Freeze (run frozen mango cubes and yogurt through the food processor till they're smooth and fluffed up)

That's better (4:30 p.m.).

From the archives: Highlights Magazine

First posted July 2007.
"This book of wholesome fun is dedicated to helping children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideas, and worthy ways of living--for children are the world's most important people."--Highlights Magazine
Highlights has been around since 1946. I remember it as being a staple of doctor and dentist offices during the '70's, along with Bible storybook samples and Reader's Digests. But it can also be a helpful tool for homeschoolers.

I had a few issues that I used with our oldest when she was about five, and I picked up another pile this weekend at the thrift shop (mostly from 1999 and 2000). A sample issue I have here has the table of contents marked with symbols showing the reading level (pre-reading, easy, and advanced) and which stories/activities encourage creative thinking and moral values. I think the older copies used to have the same thing but in chart form.

We always liked the "Thinking" or "Headwork" pages and puzzles. I remember each of the old issues used to have a whole page of open-ended questions that got gradually harder, and it looks like they're still around, although some of the issues I found don't have as many questions. Samples: (a page showing kitchen utensils): "Which of these have straight sides and which ones are rounded--and why?" From another issue: "Wiggle your nose. Wiggle your toes." "Who wakes up first in your family? Who goes to bed first?" "Jim picked up the wrapped gift and said, 'I know what's in here.' How might he have known?" You can use these to start school some days.

Since marking up a magazine never seemed as heinous a crime as marking up a book, we often used to use Highlights for language scavenger hunts too. Children who can't read yet but know their letters can be asked to find all the P's or K's on a particular page; or those who know a few sight words can circle the words they know. (For a short time, The Apprentice's reading vocabulary consisted of her name, Mom, Dad, bed and no; so I used to let her mark every "no" on a page.)

Those with a bit more experience can be asked questions like these (I made these up while looking at a one-page story, "Molly Mim's Shop," in the November 2000 issue):

How many times do you see the word "cat?"
Find all the words with an "s" on the end, and circle each "s."
Find all the words that mean the same as "walked." (They are all in the same paragraph.)
Find all the words with double letters. Which one is spelled in a funny way just for this story?
Molly sold "cat hats." Can you think of something else for cats that would also rhyme?

The same issue, November 2000, has several things that could be used for copywork: a very short fable called "The Rooster and the Jewel"; a lovely short poem called "November Day" by Eleanor Averitt; a slightly shortened version of "The Whistle" by Benjamin Franklin (and my goodness, that one has some tough vocabulary in it); a Thanksgiving grace; and this one, for those who enjoy being grossed out:

"From the big red apple
I took a bite
But something wriggled
And didn't feel right
On my tongue.
I looked in the apple
But I didn't laugh
There it clung--
Only a half!"--Garry Cleveland Myers

And this fun-for-spelling joke (excuse the lack of quotation marks, I'm getting lazy):

Said a boy to his teacher one day,
"Wright has not written write right, I say."
And the teacher replied,
As the blunder she eyed,
"Right! Wright, write write right, right away!"

And of course there are easy and harder stories to practice reading with, and non-fiction articles, and hidden pictures and crafts and riddles and all the rest.

Highlights has never had the flashy appeal of some of the other childrens' magazines. I have to admit that my kids don't dance up and down much when I bring old issues home; they tend to treat Highlights with that slightly wary "stuck in a waiting room" attitude we used to bring to it. (Is this going to be good for me?) However...its lack of glitz is what makes it such a gold mine for homeschoolers, for parents of gifted children, and for those who are just tired of the new-and-trendy. I just about fell off my chair when I read an editor's response to a reader's question, saying that her parents' decision about whatever it was should be final. Maybe at Highlights it's still 1946...but that's okay with me. (And the Squirrelings do like Highlights, really. I caught one of them reading a copy before breakfast this morning.)

Links and Carnivals

This and that, things you might want to click on:

One of the best "oh yes, this is the real stuff" Charlotte Mason posts I've read recently (it was linked through the Ambleside  Online Facebook page, which you don't have to be a Facebooker to read):  a Slice of Life at Bent Leather.

A very cool site for those with boys:  J.M. Cremps, The Boy's Adventure Store.  Boy-friendly craft stuff and more. There's a blog on the website too.  For those of us without boys and who don't get into military and fishing stuff, note that they also sell games, blocks, flying toys, and science supplies.

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at WhyHomeschool.  Check it out and you can learn a bit about computer programming at the same time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffee, Tea, me. (photo post)

Some favourite things around the Treehouse...

I don't keep coffee in this--I just like it.  I bought it last year for a couple of dollars at an antique barn.
A teapot gift from some homeschooling buddies.
Books in the bedroom.
Front hall.
Wedding present.
I cut this out of a calendar; it's stuck up over the recycling bins, and I'm not going to take a picture of those.
More bedroom books.
One of Mr. Fixit's favourite clocks.
A pincushion doll that belonged to a great-aunt.

Homeschooling and the walls of Jerusalem

In this millennial world, about twenty years after we first lost ourselves in homeschooling in that pre-Internet era back there with the dodo bird, public education bounces around (more than ever) between union power struggles (as my should-be-starting-second-grade nephew in B.C. has found out), billionaire buyouts (as The Common Room reports), and never-ending struggles with philosophy and course content.  And this is mostly in the "first world," where it comes down to those who do want to paradigm-shift their way out of what some call the industrial-revolution or Prussian models of education...and those who don't.  In other parts of the world, more chaotic, often less affluent, but also less bound by teachers' unions, less tied to the big-red-schoolhouse tradition, there seems more room for innovation.

Sounds a bit like North American churches, but that's another post.

I'm thinking about our family's almost two decades of living, to a large extent, on the fringes of the educational system, at least regarding the elementary schools.  (For those who don't know us, one of our older girls went through the Ontario public high school system, the other is still there.)  Our goal, all along, has been to let the power of ideas change us (and I had never seen a Ted Talk video until a year ago).  It has not been to line up with the government schools.  Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book says that a reader must come to terms with an author, that is, to make sure that they are (so to speak) on the same page in vocabulary and terminology, that he's not getting left behind in the discussion by a failure to understand how that author uses language.  I feel like that happens a whole lot of the time, still after twenty years, millennial or not, when we talk about school.  All you have to do is read the comments after any major online article or video about homeschooling, and watch the insults and misconceptions flying free.  If I haven't paid a lot of attention to public education over the past two decades, the commenters equally haven't paid enough attention to where homeschooling has come from and where it might be going.

And of course, why should they care, and, equally, why should I care at all what some dingbat in a faraway American state thinks about homeschoolers' right to exist?

It reminds me of a passage from Nehemiah that was read in our church yesterday.  Nehemiah got a government grant (along with royal permission) to go spearhead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, that, as our pastor put it, Nebuchadnezzar had previously done such a fine thorough job of knockiing down.  Each family living near each part of the wall worked on "their" section, and somehow they managed to get the whole thing rebuilt in fifty-two days.  That included all the time they had to waste fighting off their opponents and enemies.  But they did it, each one taking responsibility and then joining their work together. A ground-up job.  Like a lot of homeschoolers and small-schoolers, they just did what needed to be done, and then had a great party at the end.

Imagine if all that wall-building was planned out by one of our current urban construction planning departments? They'd probably still be at it.  And if the educational walls were planned out by...oh, you see where I'm going with this?

In Nehemiah's day, enemies tried to stop the building of city walls.  In our day, years after all the educational fuss should have stopped, some people still challenge our builders' permits. I wish they could stop hollering long enough to pay attention and watch how it's done. Lay on a few bricks instead of throwing them. Watch what kinds of wall-building are popping up around the world, and maybe learn some new construction ideas. What's been broken down and left to crumble can be put back together, even by those of us who didn't go to masonry school. The world is changing and that doesn't mean we need less DIY, it means we need more. More Nehemiahs to kick off the projects.  More local team leaders to connect the workers. More brave souls to just pick up the bricks or the rocks and do what needs doing.

More to plan the party and blow the horns.
(It doesn't have to be just about our own families; there are projects and schools and learning needs everywhere.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday dinner

Quick casserole: layers of cut-up tortillas, spaghetti sauce, cheese, spinach, strips of tortilla on top allowed to get a little crispy.  Sort of lasagna. (The white dust on top is Parmesan cheese.)
Broccoli Slaw
Putting things on the table.  Also on the menu:  boxed chicken wings, perogies (in the glass bowl with the blue lid), raw carrots and tomato and cucumbers.  Pie courtesy of Grandpa Squirrel.  Peanut butter cookies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ten interesting things to do this week in school (Lydia's Grade Eight)

These ideas are drawn from Lydia's schedule; although she's setting the pace for much of this fall's work herself, it doesn't mean that all she should be doing for school is read, narrate, read, narrate. That really is one of the big challenges when our kids are old enough so that we're not standing over them, directing every lesson--to discourage just flying through a chapter, to encourage them to slow down enough to make it their own.
Quote for the week:  Ourselves Book II, page 115-120, Chapter XVIII, Temptation. "The battle of life for each of us lies in the continual repetition of what seems a most trifling act—the rejection of certain the very moment when they come." 
1. Math: In Chapter One, Lesson Five of Human Endeavor, Harold Jacobs explains inductive reasoning and describes the Soma Cube.  We don't have one of those here, but you can build one out of Lego. (scroll down for directions)

2. The Roar on the Other Side (reading and writing poetry):  Writing exercise on page 18, Nature Sleuth. Choose something that you've found or that you see outdoors.  Examine it, think about it, write about it, using words that are "resonant...carrying meanings that go beyond the literal." How is a poet's lens "more like a kaleidoscope than a microscope?"

3  Read the chapter about Sir Thomas More (1478 – 1535) and his Utopia, in History of English Literature.  Dramatize the Utopian attitude towards gold and jewels...or...write an updated version, in which one group of people show off their status symbols, but don't get the reaction they expect.

4.  Apologia Physical Science:  Learn to measure with cubits!

5. Whatever Happened to Justice?, chapter 4.  "Every child knows that the specific definitions of such phrases as 'on time' and 'too late' can be very important.  Loopholes are sought like gold nuggets.  The parents are under continual pressure to hone their rulings [not just about time!>] so that no misunderstandings are possible." Write and/or perform a (short) fractured fairy tale or operatic dialogue demonstrating this.

6.  Music appreciation:  there's a free lunchtime concert on Tuesday, featuring two violas.  Do you want to go?

7.  A Man for All Seasons (about Thomas More):  start reading the play together this week.

8.  Current events: put together a "news broadcast" on Thursday of anything that has seemed important over the week.  You might particularly pay attention to the Ontario municipal election campaigns that have just begun.  How many people are running for mayor here? When is the election?

 9.  Choose a poem or Scripture passage to memorize.  Make copies of the whole thing, or particular stanzas or verses, and put them in strategic places.  Practice whenever you get a chance. Set it to music if that makes it easier.

 10.  Fabric Flowers:  Choose one kind of flower to make from the book.  Do we have all the supplies?  Spend some time one afternoon working on this craft.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Dead-easy bean soup (slow cooker)

Navy Bean Soup

I got the basic idea for this from Leanne Ely's book Saving Dinner.  But this is how I did it:

Soak one pound navy beans (half a 900 gram bag) overnight.

When you get up in the morning, discard the soaking water.  Throw some frozen chopped onion, the beans, a couple of bay leaves, and 1 litre (quart) chicken broth into the slow cooker, and turn it on high.

Later, when you're feeling more awake, add in sliced carrots and/or celery.  I didn't have celery so I put in some celery seed.  Keep the soup cooking all day, on high for part of the time if your day is getting short.  When the beans seem like they're pretty soft, add in salt and pepper; I also added a bit of cumin. Add a little water if it seems to need it, but don't add TOO much.

You can turn it off and let it sit for awhile before you eat, to let it thicken and cool a bit.

Serve with homemade bread or rolls, and slices of cheese.

Fall Flowers

Maybe it's a funny time of year to cut flowers, but these ones are still holding together. I brought in two nice big spiders along with them, but those were quickly uninvited.

Treehouse, Friday morning (photo post)

Bean soup in the slow cooker
Mr. Fixit at work
Collections and treasures.

All photos by Mama Squirrel.  Copyright 2014 Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

What's for supper? The weather turns cooler

Shepherd's pie, made with ground turkey, frozen Oriental-style vegetables and peas, mashed potatoes
Baked sweet potatoes
Yesterday's tossed salad, sliced garden tomatoes

Blueberry enchiladas, with yogurt or ice cream (I used the recipe at that link, but substituted frozen blueberries for the apple pie filling, left out the cinnamon, and added a little vanilla to the sugar syrup).

Quote for the day: Charlotte Mason on teenagers

"What they want, is, to have their eyes opened that they may see the rights of others as clearly as their own; and their reason cultivated, that they may have power to weigh the one against the other....Care must be taken not to offend their exaggerated sense of justice as to all that affects themselves.  They must get the immunities they can fairly claim; and their parents must be at the trouble to convince them, with good humour, when they are clearly in the wrong."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

(Original source of illustration unknown)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Harvest Spice Bars

These are bars made from the recipe for Raisin or Date Squares, from The More With Less Cookbook. Except that this time I made them with homemade butternut squash butter as the filling. Since "Squash Squares" doesn't sound that appetizing, Ponytails suggested "Harvest Spice Bars" instead. So be it.

From the archives: on chasing down those bright ideas

Excerpted from a post of September 2011, swiped from a scanned-in magazine of 1884.
Chasing Butterflies by Berthe Morisot
"That article from the pen of Beatrix is excellent.... When she says "I have memorized poems while paring potatoes," etc., I am interested at once, for I so often do likewise, and a pencil and paper are always at hand. It is well to catch these bright thoughts, for they oft take to themselves swift wings. Not boastingly, but in support of her theory, I may add that a sudden "inspiration," when in the midst of the Monday washing not many weeks ago, was thus written down, with but little delay to the work, which received a prize over all other competitors; and, that being the case, it evidently did not carry an aroma of "suds" to the editorial sanctum; but, waiting until arrayed in "good clothes" and with well sharpened pencil, I might have wooed the muse in vain." Michigan farmer and state journal of agriculture: Household--Supplement , 1884

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Apprentice Posts: Jello Cookies

If the row of bright, colourful macarons at the store always draws you in (only to be frightened back by the price), Jello cookies may be for you. I tried this recipe this afternoon with some leftover strawberry Jello powder and was pleasantly surprised with the colour and the taste. The powder gives more of a pastel colour, and the cookies are flavourful without being too sweet.

You can find the recipe here at Bakerette, which I followed without making any changes aside from making a quarter batch which would fit in my toaster oven because I didn't want to turn the oven on, and pressing the balls down with a fork instead of a glass--I think it's much prettier. I baked mine for the full eight minutes which was a little long as I did end up with very brown cookie bottoms, but they weren't dry and the browning didn't detract from the flavour. You may want to go for the full time in a large oven though. They also give you the option of rolling the cookies in sugar or in more Jello powder. I used the Jello and loved the tart crunchy outside layer that resulted, however it does sort of dissolve into the dough and you won't get the grainy texture you'd get from rolling in sugar. You could probably roll in both, although then you'd miss out on the slightly sour flavour on the outside.

What's for supper? (leftover pork)

Tonight's dinner menu:

Ratouille.  One big pan made with diced leftover pork chops, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, a little tomato sauce, and canned white beans.  One small pan made with cherry tomatoes, zucchini, red pepper, a little tomato sauce, and canned white beans.  And Italian seasonings.  Cheese, optional.

Gemelli pasta, one of my current favourites.

Fruit, yogurt, and last night's Brannies.

Quote for the Day: Discriminating Delight

" listen with discriminating delight is as educative and as 'happy-making' as to produce; and...this power might, probably, be developed in everybody, if only as much pains were spent in the cultivation of the musical sense as upon that of musical facility...let them study occasionally the works of a single great master until they have received some of his teaching, and know his style."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Monday, September 08, 2014

Nabisco Chocolate Brannies Recipe

Because any links I've given previously don't seem to go past the list of ingredients, here's the recipe for Chocolate Brannies, made with Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal.  (It came from a magazine ad for the cereal, a lot of years ago.)

Whole Grain Brannies

1 cup Nabisco 100% Bran Cereal, or another brand (like All-Bran)
2/3 cup milk
4 squares Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate, OR 4 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (and less sugar)
1/2 cup margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar, or less, especially if you are using semisweet chocolate chips
3 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour (or unbleached or all-purpose work fine too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch square pan.

Mix cereal and milk, let stand five minutes to soften.

Heat chocolate and margarine together, in microwave or on low heat. When melted and smooth, stir in sugar.

Beat eggs.

Combine chocolate/margarine, cereal/milk, and eggs. Stir in flour.

Spread in greased 9-inch pan.  Bake 30-40 minutes or until done. Cool and cut in squares.

Dinner, Part Two

 Pork chops, sauce, sliced tomatoes
 Broccoli, cooking
Dinner plates!
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