Friday, March 28, 2008

The making of a bread bunny

In which Jasmine the Cardamom Addict proves once again that she's not only a great cook, but her posts are a hoot to read.

Pasta Casserole

I made a ground-chicken skillet in an attempt to incorporate rice pasta (Glutino Brown Rice Fusilli). I followed the package directions for the fusilli (LOTS of water, check it carefully, rinse with cold water and add a bit of oil to the cooked pasta to keep it from sticking) and chilled it while I improvised a Typical Treehouse Skillet Meal: ground chicken, green peppers, mushrooms, half a can of hot-and-spicy spaghetti sauce. When the skillet mixture was done, I added as much of the pasta as I thought we'd eat (not the whole package), and let it heat through. We ate quite a bit of it, thought it was good, but did have leftovers.

And there I learned my most important lesson about how rice pasta differs from wheat: the reheated leftovers had the texture of mush.

So next time I'll know.

But isn't lasagna always better the second time around?

(Graphic downloaded from

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The Squirrelings like to tape the Clean House TV program in the afternoons and watch it in their spare time.

The episode they just watched ended with an unexpected twist: the woman whose living room was decluttered and redecorated was ushered in at the end, and as usual the mouth dropped open, and she said... "I think I'm going to throw up."

She hated the colour and she hated everything else they did to her house. She threw what we call a Big Hissy Fit right there on camera, in front of her daughter, the cleaning team, and everybody watching across North America. We watched, somewhat stupefied, listening to her go on about the puke green colour of the walls, thinking about how bad every house on that show looks at the beginning (mostly because of clutter), and how hard they try (on what they call a limited budget) to class up those places. I've never seen a re-do show with such a downbeat ending.

Later this morning I got a postcard from our friends at the Abarbablog, showing some Ugandan children that we had helped support with a small donation. I'm not telling you that to pat ourselves on the back for helping but rather because of the reason that we helped: these kids didn't even have BEDS. They were sleeping on the kitchen floor of their orphanage. Donations made by people like us helped get them some beds and mosquito netting.

The two things are just banging together in my brain. The things we think are important here...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Feasting at the Common Room

The Deputy Headmistress describes her philosophy of hospitality, as well as the logistics of finding dishes and eating space for nine-plus people every night.

DHM, I'd come drink out of your Mason jars anytime.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Of birthday cakes and Raggedy Anns: a mom's life

In memory of Grandma Squirrel

My mother had a remarkable talent--which I do not share--for making things come out looking just like a magazine picture. Knitted sweaters. Smocked dresses, Halloween costumes, and Barbie clothes with impossibly tiny sleeves to set in. Birthday cakes covered with roses, hand puppets, painted ceramics, and rag dolls with dresses that matched their small owners'. About the only thing she never managed to do well was get everyone's heads in a photograph.

During an era when working outside the home took on a feminist face, she worked long, hard hours at jobs that had no glamour: teaching kindergarten, working for a catering company, taking orders at a flower store, wrapping chocolates in a candy store, clerking at Sayvette, and working in the supply room at the hospital. In between other jobs, she invented businesses: babysitting numerous children; making and selling wedding cakes, lollipops and Raggedy Ann dolls; baking cookies for the farmers' market.

And somehow she also had time for us. As preschoolers she read to us, helped us make all the crafts out of our Humpty Dumpty magazines, and helped us shape fondant and put toppings on the pizza mix--no takeout in those days! She bandaged the hurts and settled the fights, which usually meant kicking us outside for awhile. In those days you didn't think anything of telling a five-year-old to go ride her tricycle down the street or even go around the corner for a loaf of bread. We always made it back all right, and we always knew Mom would be there. When we took school lunches, there was no slopping bologna in a paper bag; we got cream cheese and cherry sandwiches, or maybe meat and pickle, with carrot sticks cut with a crinkle cutter. And she knew how to fold the wax paper so it stayed around the sandwich; I've never been able to figure that one out.

Mom was also one of my first Sunday School teachers. She was intensely practical, no-nonsense, organized, adult and frugal. And she occasionally got so tired of seeing herself that way that she had to invent a wild-and-crazy side, much like (if you ever watched Fraggle Rock) Boober's alter ego Sidebottom. This part of Mom usually surfaced on weekends away with my aunt and uncle, or when she was excited about going to a Burt Reynolds or Clint Eastwood movie, or when my dad's company had an Oktoberfest dance. Watching Family Feud or getting a small win on Wintario would do it too. She always liked a good New Year's party with a lot of yelling and kissing at midnight. It was very hard to take her by surprise, but we managed it just once, on her fiftieth birthday. I think it was the only picture we have of Mom with her mouth completely open.

She admitted to screaming at Elvis movies as a teenager, and often talked about a trip out west that she'd taken with some girlfriends before she was married: it sounded like the most fun and adventurous thing she had ever done. One year during university I wanted to go to Quebec City during Reading Week, but couldn't find any travelling company; so Mom and I went together. I think it was probably the only travelling that we had a chance to do just the two of us (trips to the orthodontist don't count). We had the most fun together that week, even though it was freezing cold: we ate duck with maple syrup, checked out all the craft shops, walked around when we could stand it and took taxis everywhere else. That was my mom, remember, who always worried about every penny, having a good time splurging.

Mom liked to try out new kitchen gadgets and recipes: I remember her granola and homemade bread period, and her experiments with the blender and the wok. But I think she sometimes found everyday cooking a chore, especially when she was working; so when I started making a lot of the dinners during high school, she was the most uncritical and ate the biggest helpings, even if it was Jamaican pigeon peas or fried tofu. She was sentimental about keeping anything and everything we'd ever made for her: Brownie Christmas decorations, shop-class flower shelves, and anything with a magnet on the back.

She liked to read: James Herriot, Erma Bombeck, the Rabbi mysteries, and the A is for Alibi books. She was a whiz at Boggle, Scrabble and crosswords; but never thought she had it in her to try anything very academic. When my aunt started taking university courses, Mom had the chance to audit a folk art history course with her. She loved it and wished she had taken the course for credit. I always wished she would have had the opportunity to try more things like that, but life went on in other directions.

Mom's stubbornness carried her through a thirty-year battle against her own body, against a nightmare of auto-immune issues and chronic pain, and against a medical system that is only now beginning to see the whole picture of women's health and wellness. She continued to make her own choices when she could, including moving to a care centre three years ago after a major health setback.

Mom lived as much for others as for herself. She gave away much of what she made, and found ways to care for others even when her limitations became overwhelming. Earlier this month she and Dad phoned me first thing in the morning to sing Happy Birthday: another tradition she never forgot.

I'm thankful that her pain is over. But I will miss her.

We Will Glorify! By Ponytails

This is Twila Paris!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Breakfast By Ponytails

I want to tell you what I had for breakfast!

Top of Photo:Mini Sizzlers Sausage.
Bottom of Photo:Scrambled Eggs With Salt and Pepper!
(I made the scrambled eggs myself!)
I just used one egg!


You click on cooking then cooking videos!

(I had some cereal too!)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Palm Sunday

For several reasons, our Lenten observances this year have not been extensive. Some years the Day of Resurrection just sneaks up on you.

However, Palm Sunday is almost here and I was pleased to find some simple suggestions for celebrating it on Tonia Peckover's blog. (She is the co-author of A Child's Geography: Explore the Holy Land.)

And we'll have to dig out our Resurrection Celebration cassette. Even the Squirrelings who are too old for Donut Man tapes have a certain fondness for "God is Three in One, Three in One, Three in One."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's for dinner?

Beef goulash in the slow cooker, because I have to go to the dentist this afternoon and after they get done pounding my head I might not feel like making dinner. And leftover salad, kiwi fruit, and a package of wafer cookies that we got for some expected company that didn't transpire. (Blizzards happen.)

Well, if you have them anyway

Last night we were having chili and I was thinking about making a fast pan of biscuits to go with it. Then I remembered the half-pack of whole wheat tortillas just sitting in the fridge.

I preheated the oven to 425 degrees, sprayed a cookie sheet with nonstick spray, cut the tortillas into small triangles, piled them on the sheet, sprayed the whole works again, and baked them for a few minutes until they were crispy. I stirred them around once to give the ones on the bottom a chance.

And there you be--no dirty biscuit bowl, and no tortillas going in the garbage can.

How to make a bowl of oatmeal when nobody else wants any

I learned this from a sugar-free website:

In a microwaveable bowl, put 1/3 cup of quick oats and 3/4 cup of milk. (The original recipe suggests adding a spoonful of nut butter for extra protein, but it works fine without it.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Cook on High for about 2 1/2 minutes; you're going to have to try this a couple of times with your own microwave to get it right. Watch it during the last minute or so; when you see it poof up as if it's going to boil over, it's done, turn it off. I usually let it sit a few more minutes while I do other things.

UPDATE: I figured out you can use large-flake oats for this too, and it's not as gummy. Just give it slightly longer to cook.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The more it snows, tiddely pom--well, it's stopped now

According to news reports, this was the biggest one-time snowfall in local history; it broke a record set in 1971.

Well, that makes me feel somewhat better anyway. It gives a bit of legitimacy to all our whining!

Springtime, springtime must be near
Time for bikes and baseball gear
We've been good, but we can't last
Hurry springtime, hurry fast
Want to see the lawn so green
Want to see the driveway clean
We can hardly stand ta wait
Please springtime, don't be late.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sorry, Phyllis

"Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing." --Phyllis Diller (seen on someone's signature line)

Phyllis obviously doesn't live around here--'cause if you waited till it stopped snowing, the snow would be higher than the snow blower.



I was going to call this post "Blogging down the bones" as a play on Natalie Goldberg's book, but it looks like that's already unoriginal. Oh well. (Turns out "toblogganing" already turns up on Google searches as well, but too bad.)

It's about things coming back around, the things that are most important to you and/or the things you end up writing/blogging about the most. In my case, that would include (in no particular order) homeschooling, books, frugality, family, Christianity, and rodents. Also winter, of which I've had just dern well enough this year, thank you. Toblogganing also carries a sense of things sliding faster than is sometimes comfortable, often accompanied by a sense of chaos; but also the repeated work of getting back up the hill again; and (whenever possible) remembering that the whole business is meant to be enjoyable.

Lately I haven't blogged much about homeschooling; only because, with various chaotic things happening around here, schoolwork has been a bit out of whack. We now have a written plan of spring/summer school attack that should carry us (fairly flexibly) through packing, unpacking, bad weather, good weather, trips to the beach, and sitting in the dentist's office. When we're done, then school's done for the summer--whenever that may be. (I've also crossed off a couple of school books that were causing too much stress.)

I haven't blogged much about frugality, in spite of or because of a spell of unexpected bills, and more of those to come. But that's what I mean about things coming around: in the end, it's what we've learned about frugality, and the valuable things we are still learning from others, that will carry us through, even when we feel like we're forced to do more spending than saving. Coffeemamma has been a real inspiration to us on the food end lately--the variety of nutritional needs she manages on one income is astounding. Meredith and the DHM, as always, keep reminding me of ways to do it better on less--as do the rest of the Frugal Hacks. I am also grateful for Meredith's string of posts about moving!

In many ways life this year seems like more of an adventure than can sometimes be handled comfortably. However, others have shared that feeling and also that sense of trust in the Sender of Adventures:
"There is a part in one of the Narnia books [The Last Battle] where the children are about to go into great danger, from which it is likely that none of them will come out alive. "Let us go now," says one of the characters, "and take what adventure Aslan sends us." I have always loved that bit. An adventure! To see Aslan, or God, as the sender of good adventures, even the adventure of Death, seems an admirable and comforting way of viewing things....[I had] an odd certainty that the Sender of Adventures was all-loving, all-good."--The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow: A Mirror Odyssey from North Wales to the Black Sea, by A. J. Mackinnon

P.S. Doesn't that sound like a good book for fans of Three Men in a Boat?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Winter By Ponytails

Guess what?
I went outside today and it smelled like spring sort of!
It smelled like mud actually.
But I guess it was a sign of spring even if tomorrow it's going to snow!


Haven't done one of these for awhile

Laura at Laura Williams' Musings tagged me for a 4-Thing Meme.

4 Jobs I’ve Had in My Life

Children's Library Entertainer, TV Transcriber, Nursing Home Dishwasher, University admissions office clerk.

4 Shows I DVR (TIVO)

Laura said, "I don’t DVR or TIVO as I don't own either of these nor a television." We have the television but not the other things.

4 Places I’ve Been

Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Washington D.C., Eustis (Florida).

4 Favorite Foods

If it's food, I'll generally eat it. How about pizza with sundried tomatoes and artichokes, and chocolate cake for dessert? Or Chinese food.

4 5 People I Tag

Sebastian at Percival Blakeney Academy

The Queen of Carrots, so she won't ball her eyes out. (Congratulations on your really exciting news!)

Gem at My So-Called Homeschool, who wants you all to watch her cute baby video.

Marsha at the Abarbablog

The "other Marsha" who often comments here--I don't know if you have a blog!

Who's that bearded dude on Google today?

Wave your mouse over his face and the answer comes up: it's Alexander Graham Bell's birthday.

Homeschoolers looking for something to do today? There you go.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Verse

Not a whole hymn--just one verse by St. Francis of Assisi.

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father,
praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit,
Three in One!
O praise Him!
O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Books Read in February

I didn't finish that many books in February; the length of things got away from me. (Unlike the Deputy Headmistress.)

I did finish two more Mitford books: In This Mountain and Light From Heaven. (Reviewed earlier.)

I can officially say that I finished Little Sugar Addicts, after weeks of browsing.

I finished one Caroline book with Crayons and am almost finished Eleanor Farjeon's The Glass Slipper with Ponytails.

In process: I'm working through the book of Jeremiah, still working on John Piper's Desiring God, and am only a bit of the way through Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel.
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