Saturday, July 31, 2010

It followed me home, can I keep it? (book finds)

I have had a couple of chances to search through used book bins over the last couple of days...this is what made it home, more or less.

Shop, Save, and Share, by Ellie Kay (about saving money on groceries--unfortunately a lot of her strategy depends on Sunday coupon inserts and double coupon stores, neither of which we have here)

Felicity Saves the Day (American Girl)
Josefina's Surprise (American Girl)--our girls are into American Girl stories right now

Rob Roy
, by Sir Walter Scott (just a paperback, but we didn't have a copy)

My Little House Christmas Crafts Book
Making Dolls and Dolls' Clothes, by Lia Van Steenderen (I was so happy to see this on the library discard shelf--we've taken it out several times over the years and I would have been sad to have it disappear)
Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-Inch Dolls, by Joan Hinds and Jean Becker (another book I was very happy not to miss--it even has its envelope of full-size patterns)
Hearthstrings: How to Make Decorative Garlands for All Seasons, by Carol Cruess Pflumm
A partially-there book of Dover birthday invitation postcards
Skills for Survival: How Families Can Prepare, by Esther Dickey, 1978. Includes such wonderful meal suggestions as cooked beets stuffed with greens.

Sally Go Round the Sun, a book of songs by Edith Fowke. My Squirrelings are too old for this vintage book, but I thought it was worth bringing home.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Pool of Fire, by John Christopher (one of the Tripods series)
One Tintin book
One Happy Hollisters book
Teddybears ABC, by Susanna Gretz (also too young for our girls, but we like Gretz's teddybears books) [Note: this one was recommended for tiny ones, but we looked at it and don't like it quite as much as Teddybears stay indoors. The Apprentice thinks it's too much like Alligators All Around.]
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, by Alice Dalgliesh

The Bug Game, by Ampersand Press (not a book, but it came home with the books)

Apprendre à Ecrire Sans Faute (Write Without Mistakes--a language workbook)

Wild in the City, by Jan Thornhill (picture book about urban wildlife)
The Kids' Science Book, by Robert Hirschfeld and Nancy White
Science on a Shoestring, by Herb Strongin

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sucre, sucre: improvised French curriculum

If it works for dessert, it can work for homeschool material.

For several reasons, financial and otherwise, I am using things we already have to plan Crayons' Grade 4 French. Ponytails (grade 8) is going to be starting the year with the same material so that we can work together, but she will have an enriched version with more grammar.

Our theme and the reading material is coming from a French activity/information book for kids called Les Insectes. (It came from a used booksale earlier this year.) The grammar goals are drawn from the provincial education guidelines for Grade 4 French--for instance, students are expected to use some regular -er verbs in the present tense, but only with singular subjects (I, you, he, she). (In Ontario, Grade 4 is the first year that most students (those who aren't in French immersion or who go to French schools) take French.)

Over the years I've collected three thrift-shopped copies of the Kids Can Press French & English Word Book, which is set up like Richard Scarry's books (double-page spreads with labelled objects). I pulled two of them out of their bindings, trimmed the pages to 8 1/2 by 11-inch size, and punched them to fit into three-ring binders. Instant vocabulary sections for their notebooks.

I'm making a set of insect flash cards using the French names and, where I had ones that matched, some extremely old insect stickers. (I had some leftover pink card stock from last year's co-op crafts.) The rest are being illustrated with miscellaneous cutouts and photocopies. This is just as important for my own reference as for the Squirrelings': I need a quick way to remind myself of the difference between "un pou" (a louse), "une punaise" (either a bedbug or just a bug, according to my Collins Robert French English Dictionary)), and "une puce" (a flea). My own school vocabulary did not include such useful words.

I made a pile of vocabulary cards using leftover construction paper that was already cut into strips. Very useful for making new sentences. "C'est / un insecte." "J'ai / un crayon." "Papa / est / grand."

I also pulled apart a couple of thrift-shopped/book-saled French workbooks and salvaged any useful puzzle or grammar pages--those are more for Ponytails than for Crayons.

For some of the lessons, I am incorporating French Bible verses that use vocabulary words (not about insects, just using familiar words). The Internet is wonderful for this: I go to and look up keywords on the Louis Segond French translation.

We also have a book of simple Christian songs and choruses. I also like this website, which (coincidentally) has short articles like this one by Marie-Claude Ouellet, the author of Les Insectes.

All this is going into two (salvaged) binders, one per Squirreling, along with my typed lessons/worksheets (that's taking me a little while and I don't know how far I'll get before Squirreling School starts). Here's a sample from Lesson One, which is meant to be done over a few days. (I've left out the spaces and lines for writing and drawing.)

LESSON ONE: QUELQUES VEDETTES ("Stars of the Insect World")

With Mom, read parts of pages 2 and 3 in Les Insectes.

Learn to say:

C’est un insecte. Ce sont des insectes.
C’est une luciole. Ce sont des lucioles.
C’est un papillon. Ce sont des papillons.

“C’est” means “It is” or “It’s.” “It is an insect.”
“Ce sont” means there is more than one. “These are insects.”

Draw a picture of these things:

C’est un crayon. C’est une gomme. Ce sont des crayons. Ce sont des papillons. C’est une coccinelle. Ce sont des coccinelles.

COGNATES are words that are the same or almost the same in French and English. Here are some COGNATES from this lesson:

Une vibration
Un insecte
Les antennes
La musique

Here is something interesting: In French, both moths and butterflies are “papillons.” Butterflies are “papillons de jour”—day butterflies. Moths are “papillons de nuit” or “papillons nocturnes.” What do you think that means?

TOUCHER is a verb that means “TO TOUCH”

(Remember a verb is an action word.)

If you want to say “I touch,” you have to change “toucher” to “touche.” You take the “er” off the end, and put an “e” back. So: “Je touche.”

Practice: Je touche la mouche. Je touche le crayon. Je touche Maman.

Look in the GRAMMAIRE section of your notebook for the chart labelled “-ER VERBS, PRESENT TENSE.” The word “toucher” has been filled in for you in the first line. Under “je” please write the form of “toucher” that goes with “je.”

Here is another verb for you to learn: AIMER. It means “to like, to love.” What do you do if you want to say “I like?” Uh oh—there is one difference here. If a verb begins with a VOWEL (like AIMER), you cannot use “je” right before it. Those two vowels together sound funny in French. So this time you have to drop the “e” in “je” and use an apostrophe. “J’aime.”

Practice: J’aime Maman. J’aime le chocolat. J’aime la coccinelle.

Fill in “aimer” and “J’aime” in the chart.

Here is one more verb to learn for this lesson: REGARDER. It means “to look at, to watch.” If you want to say “I look at,” take off the “er” ending and replace it with an “e,” the same as you did before. “Je regarde.”

Practice: Je regarde Maman. Je regarde le papillon. Je regarde la luciole.

Fill in “regarder” and “Je regarde” in the chart.


Comment? means How?

Comment dit-on ___________________ en français?

Comment dit-on ___________________ en anglais?

Comment dit-on “ladybug” en français? _______________________________

Comment dit-on “firefly” en français? _______________________________

Comment dit-on “une mouche” en anglais? ____________________________

Comment dit-on “un crayon” en anglais? ____________________________


Je touche la bouche de la mouche.

De, le, se, me, ne, te, je
C’est, est


Le Cécropia est brun, beige et roux.
Le Monarque est noir et orange.

Voilà un autre papillon!
De quelle couleur est-ce? _____________, ________________, ______________

(Draw it here.)

Sugar, sugar: improvised butterscotch sauce

We had some maple icing in the fridge, leftover from Mr. Fixit's birthday cupcakes (which were really banana muffins). Actually it was more butter than sugar--I got the proportions a bit off. I had the idea of thinning it down and using it in rice pudding, but we were out of rice.

We also had some leftover butterscotch pudding, the instant kind--something Crayons had asked for, but we didn't eat the whole package.

I combined the chunk of icing and the pudding with a bit of water in a large measuring cup, microwaved it for a minute, stirred it, and microwaved it for another minute.

Instant warm butterscotch sauce. Good over plain cake, muffins-in-a-pan, or something else not too sweet.

Not that I'd expect that everybody (or anybody) out there would have leftover maple icing and leftover butterscotch pudding, but when you have potentially compatible leftovers, it's always worth a try.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why we are not good mall material

We haven't been to the big mall here in awhile. It was rainy this morning (i.e. no yard sales), and a couple of us were looking for shoes and other things, so Mr. Fixit suggested we go shopping.

Crayons and Mama Squirrel went to the discount department store and bought a pair of summer shoes for Crayons marked down from $10 to $5 and then they took another 50% off at the checkout, so the final price was $2.50.

And we found an Algebra Adventure DVD for Ponytails, in a clearance bin for $2.99.

Then we went to the bookstore. Mama Squirrel spent a gift card on a book about staying out of debt. (Note: I respect this author's financial expertise, but she does use some language that some people would find offensive. Just saying.)

Other than that...well, Mr. Fixit and Ponytails found a couple of things they wanted as well (Ponytails got a tank top, a shirt, and a pair of church shoes). One store was offering a discount to "students and teachers with i.d." so Ponytails used our support group's membership card (the clerk asked "what is that?" but accepted it anyway). They saved about $15 overall. The shoe store offered a discount to Canadian Automobile Association members, which at least helped with the sales tax...and then Mr. Fixit got another 20% off Ponytails' shoes because the cashier said that if he texted a certain number and typed the name of the shoe store, he would get an instant coupon over the phone that he could use right there. So he did.

We did pay full price for a box of Timbits. :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An addition to Crayons' Grade 4 Literature

I forgot we had a copy of this: Life of Robert Louis Stevenson For Boys and Girls, by Jacqueline Overton. I think we can fit that one in, or at least part of it. There are so many Stevenson books and poems that are part of our school that it's good to be able to connect them a bit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brenda Muses on The Well Read Life

Just posted by a time when I'm thinking I might have to cut down on the book collection. sigh.
"We long for red headed kindred spirits and fully admit to being on the Tookish side of the family as we nurture a secret desire for adventure."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Please keep praying for Debi

A longtime mentor and sister in Christ who really needs to know we are lifting her up.

How do you let everybody know what they're supposed to be doing? (Workboxing and more)

Whatever happened to workboxing? Is it last year's homeschooling fad?

If you look at the posting stats for the Yahoo Workboxes group, posting there peaked in August and September last year, dropped somewhat after that, but picked up in June of this year and is up again this month. (Maybe because of Sue Patrick's seminar at the Virtual Expo?)

We set up a workboxing system at the end of last summer because of our involvement in the Review Crew. When the review was written (and we were, so to speak, off the hook), the girls were still happy to use their shoeboxes (Crayons) and magazine holders (Ponytails)....Ponytails I think more so than Crayons. (Crayons got in the habit of just skipping any boxes that she wasn't fond of.) One thing I appreciated about it, especially for Ponytails, was having a place to put all the school books she would need for a particular day. It did make setting up each day's work quite easy, once I had the week planned out.

Are we going to do workboxing again this year? Do I waste all my beautiful efforts, all my poster board and clear contact paper and Velcro dots? And what am I going to do with all those shoeboxes?

Well, the last question is already answered: right now they're storing math manipulatives in the cupboard. (I had to hunt down the lids.)

The rest of the answer is: I just don't know. I would prefer to keep my bookshelves clear of shoeboxes and use more of a traditional checklist system this year. But Ponytails likes the visual aspect and independence of working through the magazine holders, so if she wants to continue with that setup, I'm fine with that too. For Crayons, I think we need something different...maybe separate containers for her different subjects (which is kind of the way I ended up doing workboxes with her anyway last year), but not in a numbered, workboxing way.

How do you spread out a school year?

Day by day, like Cindy?

Listed by chapter or page but undated, like the Deputy Headmistress?

I have settled on a middle place: I have a year's plan divided up by months. I like to know how many chapters we are supposed to be into a book by the end of October, or roughly when we're going to get to a science or craft project that requires supplies, or when a library book needs to be put on hold. That way if we miss a Monday for Thanksgiving, or someone's sick, it doesn't mess the schedule up too much to have to put the week's work off till next Monday. The idea is just to get to where we're supposed to be by the end of the month.

I take into account things like really only having three workable school weeks in September, two in December, and three in March (we take March Break).

I can always sit down on Sunday night and figure out how big a piece of the month's work we can reasonably chew off in the coming week...but I'm not doing that this far ahead. I just like to have a rough idea at this point.

It helps to go into enough detail to include chapter titles and topics--you sometimes see connections and patterns that you might have missed. Whatever Happened to Justice? mentions Thomas Paine, and one of the Write with the Best lessons uses an excerpt from Paine. I don't usually try to jiggle them closer together--but it's nice to have a note that we'll be returning to a person or a topic later on. Or if there are chapters covering almost identical material in different books--I make notes on what to skip.

It also helps when you can see where a book's probably going to be done before the year's end, or where you're going to have to double up on readings. One of Ponytails' history books will be done in May; luckily, that's just where we're going to have to pick up the pace with the other one.

It also helps if you look at the month's work and feel either motivated or exhausted. Exhausted probably means that you need to stretch something out or cut it out altogether. I cut out a few things after looking at the year's plan...I had hoped to read a book about Alexander the Great with Crayons, but it's just not going to happen with the rest of the history we have to do. Maybe next year.

Here's a sample of the plan for the upcoming year. I don't bother to include things like Bible reading (unless there's a specific place we're trying to get to) or daily grammar pages. I also don't have a lot of details included about Ponytails' science lessons, since she does that with her dad. My plan's in a Word table, but this is a text version.

Ponytails, September:

Christian Studies: Mr. Pipes: Clement; Hail, Gladdening Light; Gregory of Nazianzen; Prudentius. Lewis readings 1-3.

History: Justice: Cause is Law, Higher Authority, Higher Law (refers to Thomas Paine). Foster: Intro (Janus), Under a Lucky Star, Ides of March, Cleopartra, Caesar's Son, Cicero, Conspirators. Bauer: 6, 7, 8. Story of Canada: chapter 7, Confederation Days, to top of page 178.

English: Elements of Style, 8 lessons. Begin writing Unit 1: Free Verse. Weekly Wordplay Cafe.

Literature: Watership Down, 2 chapters/wk so approx. 6 chapters. Read Bulfinch chapters 2-4 (skipping 1 for now). Start reading Shakespeare play. Poetry as assigned.

Science and Geography: Richards: Universe & its Origins, Dead Planets Living World, The Odd Planet. (May not get that far if we're doing map work.) Biography chapter 1-3. Readings from geography list. Nature readings together.

Math: Start work with Dad. Weekly group math time (3 times).

Languages: Latin lessons 1 (Days 1-5), 2 (Days 1-4). Learn Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Latin. Learn "In Nomine Patris." French 3x/wk (approx. 9 lessons).

Fine Arts and Citizenship: Streatfeild: The Six, Mr. Fosse. Music and picture study. Ourselves chapter XII. Start Plutarch (should get to lesson 2 or 3 of 12).

Gracious Arts: Alcott chapters 1-3. Schaeffer chapter 1 The First Artist, chapter 2 Hidden Art.

Crayons (some of her books are the same so I won't repeat them):


Christian Studies: Bible studies, 3-4 lessons.

Language Arts: Daily work with Mom, still to be planned. Weekly Wordplay Cafe.

Math: Daily work with Mom, weekly group time.

Literature: Poetry, start Stevenson. Kidnapped--start and see how far we get.

Science and Nature: Read How to Think Like a Scientist. Start some Franklin experiments (still to be chosen). Start Story Book of Science if time.

History: Read book about Franklin. Start GW's World, through "The Friendly Printer." Also read Seventh and Walnut (it's short). Writing/narration activities as planned.

Somebody IS listening (Eco Fees)

Better than having to have a Boston Tea Party over dish soap and batteries.

More on this fall's homeschooling (Part 3)


I already mentioned briefly what we're doing: Ponytails is finishing off Key to Geometry and Key to Decimals, and then will be starting Key to Algebra, and probably doing practice Gauss competition tests at the grade 8 level. She's planning on doing most of her math with Mr. Fixit again this year.

Crayons will be finishing Math Mammoth Light Blue Grade 3, because we got into it late in the year, and then we'll download Grade 4. I've been very interested to see where/how the Miquon Math she'd always used fit in to this newer curriculum; where we can go fast because we've already covered a topic, and where we have to slow down for math potholes. Not surprisingly (if you know Miquon), she has a very good sense of place value; she has a good understanding of how numbers work, and she's probably a bit ahead in multiplication, since Miquon starts that early. She's great at money math, not so good at telling time, but we'll keep working on that.

We'll be doing a weekly joint math time--I'm still working out the details on that. Some of what we'll be doing will be coming out of Critical Thinking's Math Detective book (the gr 5-6 level), since we have it on hand; but I don't want to do exactly the same format every time...the goal is to get a bigger sense of mathematics, to learn about the really interesting parts of it, not just "what you get in school." (If you've never checked out the Living Math website, there's lots of inspiration there.)


Otherwise known as Home Economics or Family Studies...but it's more than that. We are going to read through The Hidden Art of Homemaking (maybe just parts of some chapters), and supplement that with Marmee's Sugar N Spice Studies (nice around the holidays), a book on teatimes, a book on making basket gifts for people, and other books on crafts and creativity. We'll also read Louisa May Alcott's novel Jack and Jill, since a lot of that book is about "brightening the corner where you are" and finding the beauty around you.


A catch-all category. Whatever Happened to Justice? could fit in here, but I'm counting that under history this year. We'll be reading Plutarch's Lives (probably just Ponytails the first term), some of Charlotte Mason's book Ourselves, and Noel Streatfeild's book The Fearless Treasure. (We've never used that last one yet, so it will be an experiment.)


We'll probably follow the Ambleside rotation for picture studies and composer studies, except that I want to include Tom Thomson in this year's's a good year to do this since at least one museum within reach will be hosting a Thomson exhibit.

Art instruction: this is pretty much open. Crayons, although she loves to craft, is going through a spell of thinking that she can't draw, so it's not something I'm going to push right now. Ponytails has her own artistic interests she's working on. We will incorporate narration drawings and other activities into the year's work and leave it at that. (I was pretty happy, though, to find tins of watercolour pencils and charcoal pencils at Dollarama this weekend for $1.25 each.)


We'll be following the lessons in Our Roman Roots, probably three times a week.


I had planned to have Ponytails start one of the Mission Monde levels, and work something out myself for Crayons. When I got started working on Crayons' curriculum, I realized that we could probably do at least the first half of the year together, and then maybe get MM for Ponytails after Christmas. I looked at the Ontario ministry guidelines for grade 4 and grade 8 French, and they're really not that offense to anyone who might be offended by that, I just mean that, for a ministry of education outline, it's pretty simple and clear what's supposed to be taught, and we can cover that with our own books. Our theme is going to be Les Insectes, based on a Canadian activity book (from a used book sale) called Les Insectes (surprise). We'll learn bugs along with verbs.

I think that's it for now...

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up

A Dusty Frame hosts the latest version of the CM Blog Carnival. Check out A Peaceful Day's guide to picture study and a look at Magnanimity at Sage Parnassus.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Homeschool Freebie returns

Homeschool Freebie is back from a summer break, and this week it's all about the Constitution. (That's the U.S. one, if you weren't sure.)

Just thought I'd let you know.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What's ahead in the Treehouse homeschool?

Up in the Treehouse, Mama Squirrel has been hunched over a desk with a pen in her furry paw, post-it notes stuck to her tail, and a look in her eyes similar to that of a determined but frustrated suitcase-packer.

However, that's not a very leisurely place to be, for either Mama Squirrel or the Squirrelings. And the answer, of course, is not to cram everything in tighter, but to let go of what most likely won't matter on the trip. Or afterwards.

Leisure is having the freedom (time, space, opportunity) to discover what makes you fully human.


But we are still going to fit in a travel-sized package of Latin this year. And work on French, in which we have gotten unavoidably but sadly behind.

Crayons, going into Grade 4, will be doing Ambleside Online's Year 4, more or less, which covers mostly American history of the 1700's. (We won't be reading This Country of Ours or Abigail Adams.) Geography, nature, and some of the science will be different. However, we're at a very interesting point with the two Squirrelings that are left homeschooling, since some of the Year 4 books also appear on Carol's Pre-7 book list, which we like very much and which gave us a base for planning Ponytails' Grade 8. So this year we'll be doing Age of Fable and It Couldn't Just Happen together, along with Shakespeare and some of the usual other together-things.

Ponytails will have two strands of history: Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, and world/Canadian history from 1865 to 1965, using The Story of the World Volume 4 and The Story of Canada which covers, in this squirrel's opinion, too much too fast to be a favourite CM resource, but which is good for a middle-school look at Confederation, the World Wars and so on.

Math will be mostly Math Mammoth for Crayons and Key To books for Ponytails, although we'll also be doing some math journalling. Crayons will be reading Jean-Henri Fabre's The Story Book of Science and doing some Benjamin Franklin science experiments (maybe these, maybe these). Ponytails will be continuing to study science with Mr. Fixit (a.k.a. Dad) but will also have a (short) science reading list.

I'll post more details as I pull them from my tail notebook.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Duplo becomes a learn-to-read tool

Filth Wizardry has a great idea for repurposing Duplo blocks.

What happened to Bettina?

She's still happily homemaking with Bob--I just haven't had much time to work on Bettina posts lately...planning school for the fall and other things like that.

Little Stove on the Table

I haven't linked to Frugal Family Fun Blog in awhile--actually, Ponytails has been a much more faithful reader of the craft-type blogs than I have for the last few months. But this over-a-TV-table version of a toy kitchen is so practical and imaginative that I wanted to pass it on. Perfect for small spaces.

It beats the unadorned kitchen chair that little Apprentice used to pretend was her stove. (Under the stove was her oven.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

This is just so beautiful (mini quilting studio)

The owner of Old Days Old Ways is not just a creative sewer: she's also a minaturist, and she has been posting photos for awhile of a dollhouse-sized quilting studio project. Her most recent photos are the most beautiful!

Smart Meter unveils a power culprit

Although we're not being billed by the Smart Meter yet, it's counting up the energy we're using and you can see--in "real time"--how much electricity is getting used. So last night Mr. Fixit went outside and watched the meter. He gave Ponytails a walkie-talkie, and Mama Squirrel got paper and pencil. We turned things on and off (like the stove, the furnace, lights), and Mr. Fixit dictated the readings through the walkie-talkie.

Towards the end of this Why-are-our-bills-so-high power search, we had almost everything in the house turned off, but something was still drawing current. Couldn't be the two small night lights...couldn't be the fridge, because it wasn't actually running at that time...

Ah ha: the computer printer. When it's on, it stays warmed up, and that draws power. That simple.

So that's one thing that's definitely getting turned off unless we're printing.

Just thought I'd pass that on.

By the way, the regular oven was confirmed to be a Very Big Power Pig...but everybody knows that. I do try to bake/cook as many things at once as I can when I do have to use it, but it really eats into the hydro bills.

When hymns truly minister

Some of you have probably read about Joni Eareckson Tada's recent cancer surgery.

This post on her blog, and the short video of a backyard gathering with her friends, says a lot--everything--about the power of singing hymns together--physically together, or just in our spirits when we can't be right there with brothers and sisters. (You know who you are.)

Teaching Upper-level Math?

Merit K, one of the bloggers I got to know a bit through last year's Review Crew, has written a helpful post about algebra-and-that-stuff for those with older students. Worth a visit!

Cooking with the Common Room Kids

The Deputy Headmistress is cooking along with her middle-school-ish kids (and their younger friends) this week, and plans to blog about it. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Did Dewey have a good time at VBS?

Yes, he did. He even put up with one of the kindergartners "wearing" him for awhile.

Ponytails has posted about VBS on her blog.

Highlights: our class play, a three-minute version of Granny Han's Breakfast--Ponytails wrote the script; playing our own version of Duck Duck Goose (Dog, cat, horse, monkey, PURPLE SLIME MONSTER); playing Crow's Nest/Captain's Coming; helping the kids make paper snakes (some people call them paper springs, but ours had snake faces); listening to all the kids sing together. The Apprentice drove us all there every morning (Friday in the pouring rain) and kept the bigger kids busy in her corner of the gym (she introduced them to Pogs).

Now we can crash for awhile until it's time to start school in September. (So what am I doing counting pages with this notebook open?...)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Update on the Smartmeter question

Yes, we did get an insert in our last bill saying that we would begin to be billed by time of using starting this month.

However, other hydro providers missed the July 1st installation deadline, so they've decided to hold off on the billing until everyone is ready. We will see something in our bill showing our peak hours of use, but we won't be charged for it just yet.

Oh, but there is more news now about eco fees. More here.

It just never stops.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cooking without recipes: Summer Edition

What's for supper?

Pizza Pasta. I had thought of making Pizza Roll-ups, but it was too hot to turn on the oven. So this is what I did: browned a pound of ground chicken in a non-stick skillet, added some cut-up pepperoni, a few mushrooms, a chopped green pepper and a bit of canned pasta sauce, and let all that cook while I cooked a potful of fusilli. Just before the end I melted some mozzarella and cheddar over the top of the skillet.

BTW, one of the best frugal and energy-saving tips I've tried recently from the Tightwad Gazette books is the pasta method from the late Mary Leggewie of Bring the water to a boil, add pasta, bring it back to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and cook for about twenty minutes, stirring a couple of times to keep the pasta from sticking. It really works!

Raw vegetable plate: cucumbers, zucchini sticks, a few carrot sticks.

Chocolate Microwave Cake with Raspberry Sauce. (our post about microwave cake) The raspberry sauce was made like this: I partly thawed some frozen raspberries (a couple of cupfuls?). In a saucepan I combined two cups of water, two tablespoons of cornstarch, and a couple of good spoonfuls of raspberry fruit spread; I cooked that until bubbly and then added it to the berries, and we drizzled the sauce over slices of chocolate cake.

CBN helps out with our VBS story today

We first found an article about this in an old issue of Clubhouse Magazine, but it's kind of neat that this CBN story about St. Paul's shipwreck and the recovery of the anchors was broadcast just this week. (The website says it was originally broadcast in February, but maybe it was rebroadcast?)

Monday, July 05, 2010

Uncle John and Aunt Lucy get stormstayed, and Bettina teaches us how to make peanut butter sandwiches

In chapter 9 of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, Bob and Bettina go to visit Uncle John and Aunt Lucy for the day (how they got there without a car, I'm not sure); Uncle John and Aunt Lucy drive them back to town, but then it storms and the relatives end up staying overnight.

"'Oh, I'm so glad you'll really stay!' said Bettina. 'Now tell me what you like for breakfast!'
'Anything you have except those new fashioned breakfast foods,' Uncle John replied. 'I might feed 'em to my stock, now, but not to a human being.'"

Uncle Bob may not like corn flakes, but he doesn't seem to mind eating supper of a "slice of jellied beef on head lettuce, served with salad dressing, and its fresh crisp potato chips. And the nasturtium and green leaf lay beside them. 'Have a radish and a sandwich, Uncle John,' said Bettina."

And you thought peanut butter sandwiches just needed a knife and a jar?

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

(Twelve sandwiches)
4 T-peanut butter
I t-butter
1/8 t-salt
1 T-salad dressing
12 slices of bread
12 uniform pieces of lettuce

Cream the peanut butter, add the butter. Cream again, add the salt and salad dressing, mixing well. Cut the bread evenly. Butter one side of the bread very thinly with the peanut butter mixture. Place the lettuce leaf on one slice and place another slice upon it, buttered side down. Press firmly and neatly together. Cut in two crosswise. Arrange attractively in a wicker basket.

We don't get to find out what Uncle John did have for breakfast, but there are other breakfast chapters coming up.

What can we learn from this chapter? I like the way Bettina makes the relatives feel like they are really welcome, and that she's prepared for them hoping they would stay. And that (allergies aside), there's nothing wrong with serving peanut butter, if you do it graciously.

A teaser for you from the next chapter: "Don't laugh, Ruth; a sink is a very important piece of furniture!"

Sunday, July 04, 2010

VBS Week, ahoy

It's our church's VBS week...and yes, Dewey is going to make an appearance this year. We've booked him for a couple of chats with Mama Squirrel's Kindergarten-Grade One class.

Ponytails is helping with the class by organizing games. The Apprentice is teaching Crayons' class. The theme is the High Seas, and we'll be embarking early tomorrow morning with about thirty passengers and assorted crew.

The church, the piano, and me

Our church meets in rented space at a college, and we have use of the grand piano at the front of the meeting hall. We've heard many talented people play it over the years, both regulars and guest musicians. Sometimes we have people playing the trumpet or cello or something in addition, but most of our church music is based around the piano.

Recently we have been a bit short on regulars, so I offered to fill in here and there. So far it's been just prelude music and offertories (small church, short offertories!), but I may end up doing a service during the summer.

That's both more and less of a stretch than it sounds. I actually did play for evening services at a small church during university, although I had no church training other than "regular" piano lessons and a few years doing Sunday-School-style guitar chords. "Sunday School" is the style I identify with most. I don't do honky-tonk, jazz, or even classical very well. Too many notes make me huff and puff, and glissandos are not my thing. But I can pound out VBS songs all at this point I'm what you'd probably call an "okay" pianist.

My other limitation is that we don't have a piano in the Treehouse. We do have an electronic keyboard that has slightly less than the full 88 keys. It's good for practicing anything not involving too many octaves. And I am very, very rusty. My playing fingers are kind of like old dancing legs--too many muscles not used for too long. Oh...and I also don't have a lot of prelude-offertory-type music sitting around.

So my strategies have taken a couple of directions.

1. Get to church EARLY (before most people are there) and sweat over the grand piano for awhile.

2. Use online resources for music and technique. Guess what? There are whole websites and video tutorials devoted to church pianists, improvisation, and getting better than "just" playing what's in the hymn book. (Should-be-obvious tip that I hadn't thought of: hymn books, at least the kind we use, are written for the benefit of the singers, not so much the instrumentalist. So you can do things like play the tenor notes with the right hand--or skip them--and play octaves with the bass notes.)

Favourite sites I've found:

The Church Pianist: This is Jenifer Cook's website. She updates it regularly, so the most recent posts are about American patriotic music for today, the 4th of July. Look for her videos on You-tube (linked from her site as well) and her free (and not free) arrangements of hymns, rated by difficulty. I used her arrangement of Jesus Loves Me last week.

Jenifer Cook links to James Koerts' site and his arrangement of For the Beauty of the Earth, which I've also used. I liked "10 things not to say to your church pianist."

Free Piano Lessons for the Church Pianist

Greg Howlett's Free Christian Piano Lessons and Piano Music

The index to the RUF Hymnbook Online, with symbols to show which hymns have free printable piano music. I like O The Deep Deep Love of Jesus.

There's lots out there...and a lifetime to learn more.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

It's Canada Day, we get to pay

Today our time-of-use hydro meter officially kicks in. This does NOT benefit us, in spite of government propaganda to the contrary.

Today our provincial sales tax and federal sales tax are meshed into one harmonized sales tax (HST). Things that never were taxed before, or only had one kind of tax, are now all up to 13%. People with small businesses, like retired people who cut lawns, are now required to charge this tax and to download software to report it. This assumes that the very-small-business owners have a computer to use the software.

This means our hydro and electricity are up 13% in addition to whatever the Smart Meter decides to increase our rates by. This means gasoline is now taxed at 13%.

This means politicians who go on radio shows and start talking about replacing our old freezer with some new programmable one that runs during the off-hours, as a way around the cost of our being soaked by the cost of energy, and who talk about a rapid transit line-to-be-built as a solution to everybody's transit problems, should have their heads examined if they think those are any kind of solutions to the real issue of a bigger chunk of what we live on vanishing into the wall outlets and up the furnace pipes and into all kinds of places it never went before. You take two little kids and a full load of groceries on any kind of public transit and see what you have to say then. Talk to the lawn-cutting guy who has to both charge more and deal with tax reporting, and ask how this benefits him. Watch how the increased gasoline costs drive up the prices of other things not directly affected.

It's Canada Day. Do I sound disgruntled?

I don't think I can afford that long a word any more. You'll have to settle for gruntled.
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