Monday, March 30, 2009

White Vegetable Lasagna

I'm adding White Vegetable Lasagna to the Moms of Many cooking-for-a-crowd post, since it makes a big (for us) 10 x 15 inch pan of lasagna. You could double it if you had two pans that big, but in that case you'd also need some place large enough to chill all that lasagna before baking. Since we don't have a walk-in fridge and we usually have other food in the one we do have, one pan is the most I've ever made. But maybe you could think of a way to double it.

"Brunch Lasagna" is a make-ahead recipe I clipped from Canadian Living years ago. I always thought that the basic idea was good, but that some of the details were wrong. For one thing, even when I made it as written, 20 ounces of frozen broccoli NEVER fit into an 8-inch square pan; the only way it worked for me was in a 9 x 13 pan. Also you have to crack all those lasagna noodles to fit them in the small pan: an operation which should require safety glasses.

The other thing is that, in my opinion, frozen broccoli (at least the economy-brand variety) is Not a Nice Vegetable. You end up with mostly chopped-up stems rather than florets, and as a main ingredient in lasagna, that just doesn't cut it. [2010 update: Since writing this I have found that there are brands of frozen broccoli that are a little nicer--but of course they cost more.]

So this weekend, having a guest who gave up meat for Lent, I gave the recipe a makeover and stretched it to fit an even bigger pan, and I was pretty pleased with the way it turned out. It also made the preparation somewhat easier, since you don't have to chop all the vegetables. It's not necessarily more frugal, since its success depends on buying a package of more expensive frozen mixed vegetables (and I don't mean the peas-carrots-lima beans type); but if you're going to go to the trouble of making it, you might as well do it right.

First, here's the original recipe:

Canadian Living's "Brunch Lasagna"


1 tsp canola or vegetable oil
3 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 sweet red or green pepper, chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cup 1% milk
20 oz frozen broccoli, thawed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 uncooked lasagna noodles
1 egg
1 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese, or ricotta, cheese
1 cup mozzarella, shredded, part-skim
2 tbsp parmesan, freshly grated
2 tbsp fresh bread crumbs


In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook mushrooms, onion, garlic and sweet pepper, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Sprinkle flour over top of vegetables; stir to coat well. Stir in basil, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in 3/4 cup of the milk; cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until sauce is smooth and
thickened. Stir in broccoli and parsley; set aside. Halve lasagna noodles; set aside.

In food processor or blender, blend together egg, cottage cheese and remaining milk until smooth. Spread one-third into lightly greased 8-inch square glass baking dish. Spread with half of the broccoli mixture, cover with 4 noodle halves. spread with half of the remaining cottage cheese mixture, then half of the mozzarella; cover with remaining noodles. Spread with remaining cottage cheese mixture, then mozzarella. Top with remaining broccoli mixture.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 16 hours. Combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs; sprinkle over top of broccoli mixture. Bake, uncovered, in 375F 190C oven for (I think it said 40 minutes, which doesn't seem like enough--use your own judgment). Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Per Serving: about 275 calories, 23 g protein, 8 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, high source fibre, excellent source calcium

Source: Canadian Living magazine [Jan 96] Presented in an article by Carol Ferguson. Recipes from Canadian Living Test Kitchen.

Here's what we did with it:

Treehouse White Vegetable Lasagna


2 tsp olive oil
3 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp dried basil
pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups 2% milk plus extra as needed
1 500-g package Europe's Best "Nature's Balance" frozen vegetables [link updated 2011] (leaf spinach, sugar snap peas, broccoli, asparagus, red pepper, yellow pepper, garlic sprouts); I left the frozen package in the refrigerator overnight to thaw it a bit
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
8 uncooked lasagna noodles (that may not sound like enough noodles, but it works)
2 eggs
2 cups (500-g container) low-fat cottage cheese
2 cups mozzarella, shredded (be as generous with this as you feel you can be, nutritionally and otherwise)
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (or more)
2 tbsp fresh bread crumbs--I used about triple this, enough to cover the top of the dish


Grease a 10 x 15-inch pan (ours is Pyrex).

In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook mushrooms for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Sprinkle flour over top of mushrooms; stir to coat well. Stir in basil, salt and pepper. Gradually stir in half of the milk; cook, stirring often, until sauce is smooth and thickened. Stir in frozen vegetables and parsley; set aside.

In food processor or blender, blend together egg, cottage cheese and remaining milk until smooth. (If you use the food processor, do it gently--one time I tried this and the milk and egg sprayed out of the machine.)

This is where things get mathematical:

Spread one-third of the milk-eggs-cottage cheese into the baking dish. Spread with half of the vegetable mixture. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles: three arranged lengthwise and one crosswise (you'll probably have to break a bit off the end of that one to make it fit; the leftover bits can just go in with the other noodles).

Spread with half of the remaining cottage cheese mixture, then half of the mozzarella; cover with remaining noodles in the same pattern (3 lengthwise, 1 across). Spread with remaining cottage cheese mixture, then mozzarella. Top with remaining vegetable mixture.

Depending on how thick you got the vegetable sauce, you may want to add more milk around the edges. You're not going for soupy, but it should look at least somewhat wet, if that makes sense.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or for up to 16 hours.

Combine Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs; sprinkle over top of broccoli mixture. Bake, uncovered, in 375F 190C oven, or adjust it as I did: I started it at 375 degrees but turned it down to 325 degrees after about 20 minutes and let it cook for another hour; I wasn't in a hurry for it to be done and I didn't want to scorch the topping (I did end up sliding a piece of foil over the top when the crumbs started to get darker than I wanted). Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. If the edges seem dry when you take it out, you can sprinkle them with a bit more milk.

Served six hungry people along with sweet potatoes and salad; and we had some leftovers. So I would say it should serve 8 nicely.

What I'm Reading

Jean Janzen, Paper House (poems)

Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer (a wonderful argument for the advantages of close reading)

Leo Tolstoi (that's how my copy spells it), Master and Man and Other Parables and Tales

Suzanne Martel, Jeanne, fille du roy. I decided at the beginning of the year that whatever French I still had needed a workout, and that I'd get through at least a couple of easy novels. Martel's book was one of the few I could find on the kids' French shelf that wasn't about aliens or elves (this is historical fiction about Quebec). My goal was to get through it by the end of March, and I'm still only about halfway there, but that's because I got sidetracked...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Don't get too smug, Canadians (Bill C-6)

Found here:

"Budget legislation may capture the headlines, but other government bills currently under examination in Parliament propose reforms and initiatives that will also make an important difference to Canadians. The following is a brief selection:

Consumer Product Safety

Bill C-6 will modernize existing product safety laws to further protect the health and safety of Canadians. These amendments would strengthen the government’s ability to act swiftly when unsafe products are identified, through stricter bans on the manufacture, importation, advertisement and sale of unsafe products, along with increased fines and penalties. Recall powers and the tracking of unsafe products through the supply chain will also be enhanced."

I'm not sure exactly what all that really means. Protecting our health and safety sounds good, depending on what the "unsafe products" are. But here's a different opinion.

Bureaucracy, or, Sure we told you

Mr. Prosser said, 'You were quite entitled to make any suggestions or protests at the appropriate time, you know....the plans [to knock down your house] have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months.'

'Oh yes, well as soon as I heard [yesterday when the workman arrived] I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you?....'

'But the plans were on display...'

'On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.'

'That's the display department.'

'With a torch.'

'Ah, well the lights had probably gone.'

'So had the stairs.'

'But look, you found the notice, didn't you?'

'Yes,' said Arthur, 'yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying Beware of the Leopard.' --Douglas Adams, The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I cannot hear you lalalalala

Do you ever get the feeling you're not really being listened to?

Do you ever get the feeling you're not really being listened to?

Do you ever get the feeling you're not really being listened to?

Deputy Headmistress explains again that there have been Zero cases of children being poisoned by lead in books, discusses Nancy Pelosi's statements, and posts the response she received from her representative.

I think it's incredible that, reading a letter from someone that well informed, they felt they had to point out that "that in response to concerns regarding the testing requirements for children's products under P.L. 110-314, on January 30, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced that the implementation of such requirements will be delayed for one year, until February 10, 2010." Which, as the DHM reminds us, does NOT cover pre-1985 books anyway.

Photo found here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pocket Pastry Makers: need help!

We went to a community-centre yard sale on the weekend and I bought a set of Chef's Secret Pocket Pastry makers for 50 cents. There are three in different sizes; they look somewhat like plastic mouths with zigzaggy teeth (or dental impressions). Crayons was playing beach with her dolls last night and asked if she could borrow one for a shark.

The tiny booklet that came in the box is almost no help at all; it gives a pastry recipe and some fillings, but doesn't really show how to use the dough-squishers properly, or tell how to use other kinds of dough. I tried making some beef turnovers in one of them last night (using the Empanadas dough recipe from The More-with-Less Cookbook), and had only medium success, even when I lined the squisher with a plastic bag. It was hard to figure the right amount of dough and then get the sealed turnover out of the jaws-of-death. (The turnovers did turn out pretty well, but I ended up shaping most of them by hand.)

I didn't mind risking the fifty cents on the set, but I would like to give them a fair shot before I give up. (Obviously somebody thought they'd be a good idea!) Has anybody out there had more experience with these turnover-makers, or can you point me to a place with information?

[Update: I did find this site--hoping it will help out some.]

Carnival of Homeschooling is up hosts a very pretty Spring edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.


Julie Moses designs Kids Art Projects and Lessons at Ms. Julie's Place: How Very Vermeer- An art Lesson on Jan Vermeer via Ms. Julie's Place

Kim offers a Book Review: Animal Poems of the Iguazu via Wild About Nature.

Denise shares how Homeschool Kids Write via Let's play math!"I found a great online resource to kick-start my daughter's writing."

Much more there!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Apricot Bars (improvised)

A couple of years ago I posted a favourite recipe for Raisin-Sesame Cookies. I wanted to make some today, mostly because they're one of the few good oatmeal cookie recipes I have that use oil instead of butter or margarine (we have lots of oil, short on the other things). But we had only a couple of spoonfuls of sesame seeds left, and I didn't want to use raisins because Mr. Fixit hates them.

But there was half a box of generic toasted-O cereal, which it turned out nobody likes much for breakfast and which therefore has been sitting in the cupboard. And a whole container of dried apricots. So Mama Squirrel got an idea: we ran about a cupful of cereal and a dozen or so apricots through the food processor, not to completely pulverize it all but to leave the cereal kind of crumbly and have the fruit chopped in small bits. With the bit of sesame seeds stirred in, there was a bit more than the required cupful, but that didn't matter--we just put it all in and adjusted the liquid a bit. We didn't put any cinnamon in either.

The other change was due to the realities of a busy homeschool morning: Mama Squirrel didn't really have time to push cookies out onto sheets (or wash the pans afterwards), so we spread the dough in a greased 9 x 13 inch glass pan, and baked it at 350 degrees (rather than the usual 375 degrees). The "big oatmeal cookie" baked fairly quickly--it was done in about twenty minutes, and Mama Squirrel cut it in squares before it got hard.

Verdict: yes!

Here's the original recipe:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup milk or enough to get the dough to hold together

Sift flour, soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in raisins.

Beat together oil, sugar and egg. Add rolled oats, sesame seeds and milk. Combine with flour mixture until well blended.

Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, allowing room for cookies to spread. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes (watch them at the end). Makes about 4 dozen medium-sized cookies.

(Source: The Harrowsmith Cookbook Volume One, contributed by Holly McNally of Fredericton, New Brunswick.)

The Magic Box

My mom taught school on and off when I was young. I was thinking this morning about the trouble she used to have to go to to make reproducibles for her class. They didn't call them that, though. The teacher made "stencils" and you got a "ditto" from the "ditto machine," otherwise known as a spirit duplicator. If you were lucky, the stencil didn't wrinkle during duplication, and if you were very lucky, you got 50 to 100 nice clear (and smelly) copies before your stencil didn't work so well anymore. (Most schools had moved on from the Gestetner era by that time, although a lot of churches were still back in the ka-chunka ka-chunka '50's, duplicating-wise.) It wasn't until high school that we started getting many photocopied sheets.

Now we have computers.

I'm getting ready for a homeschool week with my second grader, getting back into the groove after March Break. We're going to be reading a chapter about Henry V and the battle of Agincourt. I go to, find H.E. Marshall's book An Island Story, find the right chapter, adjust the printing preferences (no pictures, small font), and print myself out a three-page copy. I Google-Image the words Agincourt Henry, hoping for something to cut out or colour, and come up with a page of possibilities. OK, there's a map. I try to print it out, but it's too big; I save it to our desktop, and print it out with a Photo Wizard (sizing and rotating it to fit the paper). Takes me about 30 seconds. There--one nice map of France, England, and the English Channel, and I'll teach Crayons how to colour water on a map. (I also found a few minutes of the Laurence Olivier Henry V on YouTube--the St. Crispian's Day speech--but Crayons wasn't as interested it in it this time around as she was four years ago.)

Crayons wants to start learning cursive. We do have a Canadian Handwriting transition-year workbook, but I don't think it's enough to get her started--she needs more tracing practice and the chance to learn some strokes before she's asked to go right ahead and write capital and lower-case cursive letters (especially capitals--those can wait). I print out the Kidzone Rockin' Round Letters "a" worksheet, tape it to the kitchen table, and let her go to it.

The Miquon Math (Green Book) pages for this week are a bit confusing; they want you to introduce the concept of factors, as in, what are the factors of 6? (1, 2, 3, 6) I don't like the two Miquon pages in the workbook, at least not to get started with; maybe there's something else online. At first I can't find any appropriate free sheets or instructions for dice or card games, since factoring is usually taught in higher grades. But I do come up with a page of java-based games and other online activities for teaching factors. And there's something there called The Factor Game, which can be played with two people or against the computer. I try it out myself a couple of times and decide we might be able to use this, especially after a You-tube lesson on finding factors from an elementary-school teacher named Tim Bedley. Nothing too high-tech about the lesson--just a teacher writing on a white board (I wish they'd leave out the annoying drum beats, though). I could show Crayons myself, but today I'll let Tim do it, and then we'll try out the game. (Update: success! Crayons really liked the game, both against the computer and against me, although the computer seems very hard to beat.)

We're getting back into French, after several weeks' break. I found some pages I put together years ago, a four-week study of the French version of All Tutus Should Be Pink, an I-Can-Read book. Each lesson was a short passage from the book that I typed out, plus a couple of language activities (reading, copying, finding sounds, putting words in order) for each day. I thought I'd have to type them all out again, but I realized I did have them still in my computer files. I needed new "word cards," though; that was as easy as highlighting my typed text, copying it to another page in a larger font, putting it into columns, and asking Word to put boxes around each word or phrase. (That's on the Word toolbar, something called "Outside Border" with a little icon that looks like a square divided in quarters.) I printed the columns out twice, pasted the pages onto old manila file folders, and cut all the pieces apart. (If this sounds like a Charlotte Mason elementary reading lesson, that's because it is. Only in French.) Now we have word cards for the first lesson that we can match up, play Concentration with, put in order, or play fill-in-the-blanks with.

A very far cry from having to write all that out on a stencil with a pen.

I also find a ballerina colouring page to print out and glue on the front of a file folder, so Crayons has a place to keep her "tutu" worksheets. (I picked the drawing of the two little girls, the fourth one in the top row.)

Oh, and finally today we're going to do some Ambleside Online picture study. Our term's artist (we're off the schedule) is Giotto di Bondone, and I click the link to today's painting on the Ambleside art page. Oops--it takes me to some fashion design site--I'll have to let AO know the link is broken. OK--Google Image search for "Jesus washes the feet of the apostles." There we go.

While I'm getting ready for school, I check Homeschool Freebie of the Day; I decide that I'm not that interested in hoop skirts, but there will probably be something later in the week I want to save. I have a few minutes to look at babies and babies and more babies (everybody's posting about their babies today). Sebastian is discovering Japan, and Lindafay has something about poetry that I want to come back to. Mr. Fixit wants to use the computer too--he wants to check the weather and he has to print out a shipping label for something he's sold on E-bay.

Not every day is this dependent on The Box. But when we need it--it's astonishing.

(And now we're going for a nature walk. No computer necessary.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Extending the cookies

If you have a small family and a big recipe, or don't want to be eating shamrocks or Christmas trees for weeks after your holiday, here's one way to do it: cut a few out in each pattern, bake and freeze them. Of course you can freeze cookie dough too, but this way you only have to bake once.

My mom and my grandma were heavily into cut-out cookies. They each had large collections of metal and plastic cutters, for any and all occasions. My grandma even had a few very old animal-shaped cutters that had been made, I think for her grandmother, by someone you'd probably call a travelling tinker, who came along with tin snips and a soldering iron and put them together from her designs. I have the cutters now, safely put away-- from both respect for their age and concern over those badly discoloured strips of solder. (They look a lot like these.)

Both Mom and Grandma used the same fairly standard sugar cookie recipe, also passed down from one of the great-grandmothers, and called, naturally, Animal Cookies. When I was younger, I always thought the recipe must make an awful lot of cookies, because any time the cutters were out, the table and counters were just covered with baking. Later on I figured out that they must have at least quadrupled the recipe, because as written it doesn't really make that many cookies. (And may I note, my cookies do not turn out anything like these. Just so you know.)

But to the point: a few weeks ago, having been asked to make some cookies, I made a double batch of dough. I also had a bag of candy-coated pieces (the ones that melt in your mouth not in your hand). I cut out a bunch of balls (i.e. circles) and ice-cream cones for the requested occasion, and decorated them with some of the primary-coloured candies (before baking). I cut out some pigs (don't ask, I just liked the cutter), and gave them each several brown candy spots and a chocolate-chip eye. With what was left, I cut out a few shamrocks and put a green candy piece in the middle of each.

The balls and ice-cream cones got used for the intended purpose. The pigs and shamrocks went into the freezer.

The pigs came out when we needed a little extra touch for a family birthday dessert: I arranged them on a plate along with a couple of small containers of the leftover candy pieces (looked a bit like feeding troughs). (It wasn't meant to be a comment on anyone's appetite, I just thought they looked kind of fun.)

The shamrocks came out yesterday for St. Patrick's Day. Crayons and Ponytails (on March Break) added green icing and a few chocolate chips to the single green candy already baked into the middle of each--Crayons with a knife, and Ponytails with a fancier squirt tube. They also iced some arrowroot cookies with the extra icing. And that was St. Paddy's Day dessert.

Worked for me.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yes! That's it! Throw a fit! Have a hairy conniption! (CPSIA)

MomtoCherubs posted the link to this MSNBC article about the effect that the CPSIA is having on library books. Or not having, depending on who's talking.

One librarian says this:
"The American Library Association said it has no estimate of how many children’s books printed before 1986 are in circulation. But typically, libraries don’t have many, because youngsters are hard on books, librarians said.

"'Frankly, most of our books have been well-used and well-appreciated,' said Rhoda Goldberg, director of the Harris County Public Library system in Houston. 'They don’t last 24 years.'”
But another librarian says this:
'Communities would have a stroke [emphasis mine] if public libraries started throwing out hundreds and hundreds of books just because they came out before a certain copyright date,' said Margaret Todd, librarian for the Los Angeles County system, which has 89 branches and about 3 million children’s books."
So which is it, almost none, or hundreds and hundreds?

And are the books "safe" or not? Nobody can agree on that, either:
"Nathan Brown, a lawyer for the library association, said libraries should not even be subject to the law. He argued that Congress never wanted to regulate books and that libraries do not sell books and thus are not subject to the consumer products law."
But the CPSC claims differently:
"CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson said libraries can safely lend any children’s book printed in 1986 or later, by which time a growing body of regulations had removed lead from printer’s ink.....[but] until the testing is done, the nation’s more than 116,000 public and school libraries 'should take steps to ensure that the children aren’t accessing those books,' Wolfson said. 'Steps can be taken to put them in an area on hold until the Consumer Product Safety Commission can give further guidance.'"
(DHM, stop that hysterical laughing. It's okay, really. Just breathe into this paper bag and you'll be all right.)

Keep checking back for Spritti's littlest Bee

I somehow missed this yesterday (Google Reader failed me): Sprittibee asked for prayers as Today Is Babee Day.

Check in later too, because she promises pictures of the BittiBee.

Of knee socks, door colours and other such small things (CPSIA)

Read the Common Room's heartfelt plea against what the CPSIA has done. And if you're not still convinced, dig out a (post-1985) copy of The Gammage Cup and read that too.
"Well," Muggles said again, "Well, that's not quite true. I mean, you must admit that Curley Green, at least, prefers scarlet, else she wouldn't paint her door that color. And I--" she hesitated and swallowed nervously. "And I--" She swallowed once more, and then gasped out, "I like it myself!"....

[The villagers discuss whether Minnipins have a right to paint their doors whatever color they like.]

"Periods [the ruling family] know what is right and what is wrong," said Dingle the Miller solemnly. "It has always been that way. Don't the Periods hold the high offices because of their wisdom?"

"Yes, yes!" everybody agreed....

"Of course, it's their doors," Reedy pointed out.

"But it's our village!" cried Bun....

[Curley Green said] "I hadn't realized that it was so offensive to everybody. I even thought, but I suppose this is silly, that there were some folk who enjoyed looking at my door...."

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

A message from the owner of the CM Blog Carnival:

"Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Shannon at Song of My Heart is hosting our Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival today HERE! I'm loving the bits of poetry she's sprinkled throughout. :-) This is Shannon's first time hosting, and if you've never visited her before, she has a perfectly lovely blog with oodles of great homeschooling ideas. Our next edition will be hosted at Rose Cottage; you can submit your posts for the March 31st edition HERE."

It all matters. (CPSIA)

"Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child's loss of a doll and a king's loss of a crown are events of the same size." - Mark Twain.

Quoted here.

Well, if you can't trust the government...

Now! Ten pounds of candy...six different luscious candy favorites...enough for the entire Holiday an 8-quart utility pail of heavy metal. Isn't this the biggest and best Christmas bargain you've ever seen? Safe for for everyone. Wholesome and pure because they're made with government certified colorings and flavorings. And now, for the first time, each type of candy is individually packaged to keep it clean, fresh and attractive. Shipping weight, 15 pounds. $2.19.--1942 Sears Christmas Book

Photo found here

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vintage Wishbooks, online

Have you checked out Wishbook Web yet?

It's the most amazing site for research and reminiscences. Check out the scanned-in Christmas catalogues ranging from the 1930's through the 1980's--some of them are even Canadian. Would you believe cartons of cigarettes for Christmas? (that was during WWII). Would you believe a cast-your-own lead soldiers kit? Would you believe dolls for a whopping thirty cents? How about a chord organ, or a nice car coat for Mom?

Book lovers, check out the 1964 Sears Wishbook--there are pages of children's books that will make you crazy.

The only issue I have with the site is that sometimes it just stops working, or isn't available. Mr. Fixit says that maybe they are having problems with their platform.

Too bad you couldn't just order a new one from the Wishbook.

What's next, rules about when to breathe?

I am not going to talk much about the bill that would send American farmers' markets haywire. I'm just passing on the link because my friend Queen Shenaynay explained to me how much this affects what people are going or not going to be allowed to grow in their gardens or put in their mouths in the years to come.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Mother Goose book stumper

Here's a book stumper for you--from me.

I have always thought I remembered a lot of my first childhood books very clearly--names, covers and so on. After all, we read most of them over and over. But I have always been very vague about the big 60's-era Mother Goose book we had. About all that I was sure of was that it was oversized, had glossy boards rather than a dust jacket, and I don't think it was one of the really well-known editions. Part of the reason I'm so vague even about the cover was that--I do remember this quite well--we had it covered with a paper dustjacket that we'd gotten from a honey company, with Billy Bee or a character like that on it.

I saw this, though, in the archives of Stump the Bookseller, answering somebody else's query: "Editor Augusta Baker, Best Loved Nursery Rhymes and Songs, 1963. Could it be BEST LOVED NURSERY RHYMES AND SONGS from Parents' Magazine Press? This book is about 250 pages long. I've been looking for a similar book and think this may be it (I'm waiting for it to arrive in the mail to be sure). My book had a very particular feature--I think it was a group of pages in the middle of the book that were of a different color, and may have been an ABC portion."

Well, I'm pretty sure it isn't that one; I Googled the Parent's Magazine Press edition, and the cover doesn't look familiar at all, although it would have been logical since we did get the Parent's Magazine Press picture books by mail. But the coloured pages in the middle--that line suddenly woke up a very long-forgotten memory! So, if anyone out there knows of a nursery rhyme book with a section of coloured pages in the middle--and yes, I think they were alphabet and maybe number pages--that's it!

Any ideas?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thrift shop books

We went back to the "silver-lining thrift shop" today, and Mama Squirrel found a few more good books, mostly priced between twenty-five cents and a dollar:

Jan Karon, In This Mountain (hardcover with dj)
Jan Karon, A New Song (I keep finding copies of this and giving them away)
Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede, older hc with dj
Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God
Walter Wangerin Jr., Ragman and Other Cries of Faith, a really nice paperback copy (I had a feeling there might be another couple of Wangerin books there that I hadn't found last time)

101 Dalmatians, the real book by Dodie Smith
A Child's First Book of Poems, illustrated by Cindy Szekeres--1981 library discard
The Orphelines in the Enchanted Castle, by Natalie Savage Carlson--1964 library discard

Pretty Penny in her new duds

I posted before about Crayons finding a Pretty Penny doll at the thrift shop, and that Penny was missing her sweater and hat. This is the replacement outfit I made for her. Not exactly the same as the original, but we thought it came out pretty well.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Sugar Mouse Cake: CPSIA-Endangered Books

All-Purpose and General Jinjur (get the joke?) posted an (inside-pages) photo last August of her favorite children's book: Gene Zion's The Sugar Mouse Cake. Read her comments and the reviews at Amazon (there are 22 of them), and you'll see the same thing over and over: "I loved this book but didn't own it. We took it out of the library over and over and over..." Same here. We loved the talented mouse, the truly amazing cakes in the baking contest, the queen's cheesecake-induced "nightmare" ("A mouse...was dancing...on that cake!"), and Tom's great big splash into the moat. And the happy mouse-baker reunion at the end.

It was published in 1964 but never reprinted. My guess is that the cake-guzzling queen may be a harder sell these politically-and-anatomically-correct days than she was forty-five years ago. Still, with all that begging, maybe somebody will pick it up for reprinting; Zion's Harry the Dirty Dog books are still very much in print. (Somebody did ask the reprinting question on

But in the meantime, it's contraband. That is, if you can find a copy. The cheapest one on is $95 U.S. Does that put it in the category of fancy adult collectibles and out of the reach of the CPSIA? I don't think's just scarce and expensive. The $95 copy says "Book Condition: Acceptable. POOR. Both hinges are taped and pages have many smudges. Cardboard showing at cover corners. DJ in mylar has wear at the corners. Very well-read...."

Sounds like the copy we found a few years ago at a library sale. And I'm not selling it.

Well, I can't anyway. Unless you don't live in the U.S.

Confused feetnote...Actually, I've noticed that U.S. sellers on do not seem to have withdrawn their listings for pre-1985 books. Maybe they're hoping the government will back off.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Crayons' Grade Two: Plans for the Week


Bible reading from 2 Samuel
A few addition-with-regrouping problems
Miquon Lab Sheet Annotations: Page 234, questions 1 & 2 (written for the teacher, rewritten for Crayons; no workbook sheets this week)
To Far Cathay, chapter 2 (Marco Polo map)
Tanglewood Tales, continue "The Pygmies"
Ruth Beechick-style language lesson #2 from "The Pygmies" (starts with copywork)
Telling time practice
Math library book: On Beyond a Million
Family Math: Bridges board game


Mr. Pipes, chapter 2
Memory work: Hymn
Language lesson
Drill 3 & 4 times tables
Practice making change
Family Math calculator game: The Lost Rules
Miquon Lab Sheet questions, same as Monday, questions 3 & 4
Robin Hood, start chapter 1
An Island Story (history)
Italian Peepshow, by Eleanor Farjeon


Pilgrim's Progress: Christian and Hopeful continue to argue with Ignorance
Memory work
Addition with regrouping
Telling time
Picture study: Giotto's frescoes of St. Francis
Italian Peepshow
Language lesson
Family Math: How Close Can You Get?
Pagoo, chapter 3
Miquon Lab Sheet questions, p. 225, sample problems from Group A/B


Bible reading
Robin Hood
History chapter (finish if necessary)
Drill times tables, practice making change
Lab Sheet questions, same as Monday, question 5
Composer study: continue reading about and listening to the New World Symphony
Family Math: repeat How Close or Bridges


Language lesson: studied dictation from "The Pygmies"
Finish the Mr. Pipes chapter if necessary
Folk songs
Bible reading
100 chart subtraction drill
Stories of St. Francis
Math Library Books: Millions to Measure
Family Math: Sum What Dice Game

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dingell said he wanted answers (CPSIA)

Organic Baby Farm supplies them in "My Letter to Rep. Dingell."

OBF also explains why she's not just a "Stoopid Mommy Blogger."

A playful carnival

Let's Play Math hosts the second edition of the new Math Teachers at Play Carnival--including our mega-post Journey Through Miquon Math. Check it out, there are quite a few posts and many are relevant to homeschoolers. (The first edition is here.)

Status Report, by Mama Squirrel

Inspired by The Upward Call.

Sitting... at the computer table, listening to the heater run.


Eating...nothing, but I had some Voortman Ginger Kids awhile ago and I still feel like ginger.

Feeling...tired but happy. Happy that the Apprentice is home from work, that Crayons had a good dance recital this morning, and that we're all going to have dinner together soon. bread and Sticky Chicken in the oven. We haven't had beer bread for months, since before Mr. Fixit got sick last summer.

Excited...about a Sunday School class I'm working on for next week, and about the class that Mr. Fixit is going to lead tomorrow about whether the Internet reflects our thoughts or the other way around. (The class is very eclectic.)

Outside...Kim said "mild, but wet and grey. A day right out of the childhood of Jane Eyre." Well, Kim doesn't live that far from us, and we have the Grey March Day too. (The link is to an A.J. Casson painting that we happen to have a print of in our living room.)

Finished...the book Discover Your Inner Economist. Well, almost done it anyway. Very strange book in some ways and also quite graphic about some of the strange ways money gets spent in this world.

Pondering...what to write for the class. Also pondering the fact that the supermarket cashier apologized to me this morning because the groceries cost so much. (Actually I thought we did pretty well.) the knowledge that God is bigger than my lack of knowledge.

Friday, March 06, 2009

On open-book lives, blogs and criticism

"We get through life only because we continually ignore the fact that people are watching us, evaluating us, judging us, and, yes, condemning us. Imagine walking around, knowing every minute what other people were thinking about us. Most of us would find this unbearable rather quickly."--"The Dangerous and Necessary Art of Self-Deception," in Discover Your Inner Economist, by Tyler Cowen

I can well understand why Amy Dacyczyn retired not only from publishing, but from public life in general.

I was browsing around looking for the address for the recent interview with her (I posted the link earlier), and came across several pages of self-righteous comments and criticism about her book, most of it posted within the last two years. That is, over ten years after Amy ended her Tightwad Gazette newsletter and published her last book. The Dacyczyn kids are now getting married or off at college, leading their own lives, and yet people are still microscopically examining and arguing over every last parenting thing, attitude thing, nutrition thing that she ever wrote. Did she spend enough time playing with her kids? one parent writes. How could she feed them bologna and powdered milk and call it nutrition? another asks. Didn't you see that TV show where her daughter said she had never had a new pair of shoes? asks a third. What a horrible parent Amy must have been.

So where can you go with this?

1. Many message-posting parents obviously have so much time on their hands that they can afford to use it criticizing someone whose children have already left home. Maybe they should be spending more time playing with their kids.

2. It takes the skin of a rhinoceros to write openly about anything personal, and risk being taken the wrong way. These days, you're lucky if you're not sued for whatever it was you recommended or said or didn't do.

3. I guess you have to learn when to apologize and when to ignore. Or when to give up (writing, I mean, not criticizing) because it's just not worth it. My friend Coffeemamma had trouble with a blog stalker who felt it was her mission in life to correct and criticize Coffeemamma's every move. If you've noticed, Coffeemamma has (understandably) backed off from much blogging.

4. I let my kids eat hot dogs last night (while I was reading the Apprentice's library book Fast Food Nation). Wanna make something of it?

5. Let's be gentle with each other.

You don't wanna tangle with those winged monkeys (CPSIA)

The Deputy Headmistress calls it "A Crack in the Congressional Fortress."

"So the Scarecrow at last asked the green girl to take another message to Oz, saying if he did not let them in to see him at once they would call the Winged Monkeys to help them, and find out whether he kept his promises or not. "

Books as business (not, for once, about CPSIA)

I liked this post from the owner of a bookstore (that's open only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays).
"A friend of mine asked me if I was worried about people switching to the Kindle or something like it, and not buying books any more. I said no. I’d just close the store, keep the books I still wanted to read, and I could probably get by. She laughed. She has a friend who is a multi-millionaire. He’s depressed because he’s lost several million dollars in the last 6 months. He still has several million left. I have very little and don’t care if the business folds. I wouldn’t mind having his money, but I’d rather be me than him."--"Have you read all these books?"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

CPSIA kills some businesses, boosts others

It doesn't take a genius to see that there will be gold in that there testing software.

Can't brush the CPSIA away...but maybe we could drop a house on it

Mr. Fixit was looking for a record brush on E-bay. If you're too young to know what those are, they look a bit like chalkboard brushes...and don't tell me you're too young to know what those are. You run the record brush over your Hot Buttered Soul LP to get any dust off it before you play it on the turntable you also bought on E-bay.

Anyway, he found an E-bay seller offering brand-new record brushes. (Turntables are making a comeback.) In the description was something to this effect: "This is a record brush used for cleaning records. It's not a doll's hairbrush or something for children to play with. It has lead in it." And the lead counts were given at the bottom of the page.

Now you know you're not in Kansas anymore.

Oz Ruby Slippers Doorstop found here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

No cookies for you (CPSIA)

See what you think about using CPSIA testing as a business advantage.
"As you enter, you see a sign that says "All of our baby clothing is tested and certified safe according to the CPSIA". Do you think that just might plant a seed in the minds of discriminating shoppers?The seed it plants is this: "Shouldn't everyone's stuff be tested and certified safe?" Hmmm, now I wonder whose stuff *isn't* tested and certified."
Hmmmm, so I go down the street, find somebody who doesn't have a sign on their baby clothing, and send the CPSIA police after them?

I wonder how many of those hypothetical customers will even know what the CPSIA is.

Bean counters

Marsha at Hot Water Bath says she's getting lots of blog traffic because of her frugal food posts, the current economic situation, and a certain financial planner's comments on red beans and rice. So she probably doesn't need this extra plug. But I thought her post "Red Beans and Ricely Yours" was both timely and true--so go on over and see how a frugal momma does it.

Vows of Frugality

Meredith takes the pledge.

And by the way, did you read this very recent interview with Amy Dacyczyn? Amy agrees with Meredith:
"There are a lot of things you can do that are fun and interesting and rich that don't cost a lot of money," Dacyczyn said. "That would be fun for people to rediscover."
"... For me, it's fun to take money out of the equation. That's when you invent new things."--Interview with Paula Gardner

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Crayons' Grade Two: Term Three Begins

I didn't write in any memory work--it's still there, just not noted.

Plans for this week:

Monday (yesterday):

Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, half of chapter 1
Math, two dime-store workbook pages on addition
Poems, two
To Far Cathay, chapter 1 (Marco Polo book)
Copywork/language: part of a Ruth-Beechick-style lesson based on Tanglewood Tales' "The Pygmies"
Sewing--self-directed, making doll things


Stories from 2 Samuel; using a Bible story book for these chapters as there is some sensitive material
Miquon Math
An Island Story--starting Henry IV
Copywork/language sheet
Composer study: start Dvořák


A Boy Named Giotto
Start Howard Pyle's Robin Hood
continue stories about St. Francis
Nature study


Stories from 2 Samuel
Pilgrim's Progress
Picture study: Giotto
Pilgrim's Progress


Finish the Mr. Pipes chapter
Tanglewood Tales, "The Pygmies"
Finish Island Story chapter if necessary
Composer study again
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