Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sorry about that misdirect--some Blogger blogs have gotten hit with malware

For awhile today, every time someone tried to view Dewey's Treehouse, they were redirected to another site (blogrolling dot com).  Low Sodium Frugal was unaffected.

Apparently this issue has hit other Blogger blogs as well.  The culprit is a bit of code that will show up in any one of your sidebar widgets.  In our case, it had attached itself to one of the links I had posted to another site.  If you're affected, just remove the code.  For more details, see the Blogger "something's broken" forum.

But things seem to be back to normal now!

Quote for the day: whose psyche?

"....modern criticism is obliged to distinguish between the universal myth (or archetype) of almost all art and literature created before the nineteenth century and the personal symbolism of most modern creativity.  Curiously, this signal fact is assumed by the modern teacher to render three thousand years of art and literature inaccessible to the student.  Instead, students are encouraged to kick around in the private symbolic universes of Yeats, Joyce, and D.H. Lawrence.  Can anyone wonder why psychological survival seems so much more difficult in the modern era?"--David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility

Monday, August 29, 2011

Analyze that

"In our eagerness to solve the material deficiencies of the old civilization, we imported into our schools a method as humble as the English sparrow--simple analysis--but now, the immensity of our success threatens with Toynbeean predictability to overwhelm us.  Like the thinker whose brilliance we universally acclaim, Alfred North Whitehead, we have cultivated a perverse form of modesty and self-deception that, in the absence of dogma (the working yet scientifically undemonstrable hypotheses of the old civilization), has allowed us to forget who we are and what our purposes are, as well as to neglect to teach these lessons to our children."--David V. Hicks, Norms and Nobility (1981)

"Now you must remember, whenever you have to do with him, that Analysis, like fire, is a very good servant, but a very bad master. For, having got his freedom only of late years or so, he is, like young men when they come suddenly to be their own masters, apt to be conceited, and to fancy that he knows everything, when really he knows nothing, and can never know anything, but only knows about things, which is a very different matter. Indeed, nowadays he pretends that he can teach his old grandmother, Madam How, not only how to suck eggs, but to make eggs into the bargain; while the good old lady just laughs at him kindly, and lets him run on, because she knows he will grow wiser in time, and learn humility by his mistakes and failures, as I hope you will from yours."--Charles Kingsley, Madam How and Lady Why (1869)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Where we went yesterday

Photo of the Kincardine Lighthouse found here, along with the story of the Phantom Piper.

SOME of the Squirrels made it all the way to the top.

And some of us wussed out.  I guess we wouldn't have made good lighthouse keepers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Moosewood Restaurant's Sweet Potato Salad

My new favourite (thrifted) cookbook is Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, by The Moosewood Collective (1994).

This is fast-and-family-friendly vegetarian cooking, but with a bit of international flair; a good book for summertime or early fall cooking, when the gardens and markets are full of things we bring home and then need to eat up. The lists of ingredients are of reasonable length, and don't include too many things we never buy.  There are lots of menu ideas (even with the dessert recipes), and sample meals with do-this-first, then-this to get it all on the plates at the same time.  I also appreciate the listing of which recipes are particularly "Kid-Pleasers."  I haven't had this book very long, so haven't tried much out of it yet, but I can see quite a few recipes in it that sound like they'd go over well here.  I made Pasta Tutto Giardino earlier this week and thought it was a bit bland, but that's probably because I left the white wine out, and didn't season it very strongly; we also didn't have any Parmesan to top it with.  So I can't blame the recipe for that.

Today I made a double batch of Sweet Potato Salad, to take to a homeschool picnic tonight.  Mr. Fixit, who admits he does not like new things, tried some and liked it.  The recipe says it makes two servings (without doubling it), but the doubled recipe filled a ten-cup plastic container.  So use your own judgment.

Sweet Potato Salad, from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home  (original amount--can double)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes (about 3 cups) (Note: 1/4 inch cubes are really small.  Basically, diced to the same size you'd dice celery.)
1 1/2 tbsp. wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive)
1 cup diced celery
3/4 to 1 cup diced red bell peppers (I used green)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 scallion, thinly sliced (I left this out because Mr. Fixit can't eat raw onion, but I think it would add a nice bite)
Salad greens and ricotta cheese for serving (optional)

Steam the diced sweet potatoes for 6 to 8 minutes, until just tender--take care not to overcook them.  While the potatoes steam, whisk the vinegar, mustard and honey in a small bowl (I used a 4-cup measuring cup).  Slowly add the oil in a thin stream, whisking until the dressing emulsifies.  Placed the diced celery and peppers in a serving bowl.  Add the steamed potatoes and the dressing.  Stir gently, add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside for a few minutes.  When the salad has cooled a little, toss in the parsley and scallions.  For home serving:  serve on salad greens, topped with ricotta cheese (optional). 

Hit the Northrop Frye motherlode...or, The calm before the storm

Yesterday was our thrift store volunteer afternoon.  The wind was blowing a bit and there was a tornado warning when we arrived after lunch...but not much seemed to be happening, at least outside.

Inside, there was an absolute wall--we're talking room-divider size--of cardboard cartons of books.  Yow!  Even the book-happy among us quailed a bit at that.  And there were already quite a few books on the sorting shelves needing to be priced and move out to the store. 

But we dug in.  There really was some good stuff in there, all kinds of books...sometimes when there's a big load like that, they're all one kind of thing.  Like somebody's entire self-help library from the 1980's.  This was more of a mix.  Of course there were some many books that hit the recycle box, but there were some neat things too.  A boxed set of the Borrowers books.  Hardcover biographies of Joseph Conrad and Alec Guinness.  A vintage copy of Through Gates of Splendour.  Lots of classics.  One Mitford book.

But the only things that Mama Squirrel actually ended up buying were three Northrop Frye books, ones we didn't have:  Words with Power, Spiritus Mundi, and Northrop Frye on ShakespeareYeah! 

Did the book mountain shrink at all?  Just a bit.  Mama Squirrel estimates that she cleared out between six to eight cartons in three hours, which does not sound like a lot, but we had to spend time pricing and shelving what was already there plus what came out of the boxes.  And then the receiving guys brought more in...

Ponytails helped Mama Squirrel some with the books, and then helped another volunteer price VHS movies...lots and lots of them.  Crayons tidied toys and did some miscellaneous jobs.  I think she helped with the movies too.

The Apprentice (who had been working all day at the hair salon) picked us up after four, Mama Squirrel slid some fish sticks in the oven to go with Crockpot vegetables and salad, Mr. Fixit came home, and we all went out to look at a potential new Treehouse (don't get too excited, it was just a look) and to pick up bananas and milk.  The wind was starting to blow and it was just spattering rain when we got home.  Mr. Fixit and The Apprentice started putting together a new bookcase for her room that arrived yesterday morning (the bookcase, not the room).  (Mama Squirrel is getting the old bookcase, and she's happy about that.)  Mama Squirrel found some funky jazz to listen to on the CBC.

And then our real evening entertainment?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From the Archives: On the high seas

Originally posted August 25, 2006

Crayons came in from the back porch (it was gray and windy out there) and said, "I'm on a gallant ship. Like in Little Tim. And you're all on the ship with me."

For my friend the DHM: Muppets Tonight and the poor tired lion

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Carnival of Homeschooling is up

This week's carnival is hosted by Our Curious Home. The theme is...

the Tell Me Summer isn’t Almost Over Edition!

Yeah--same here.


Stamping with Lego

Sure, why not? Art ideas at Filth Wizardry.

What, another cardboard dollhouse?

I love frugal dollhouse patterns. And this one looks like it would be fun to make with a child.

This is a no-glue-required, corrugated-cardboard pattern you can download through Etsy. (Not free, but reasonable anyway.) The same shop sells printables--black and white or coloured--that you can use to decorate the structure as a house, schoolhouse, or barn.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Goderich tornado

Goderich is one of our favourite places to visit on Lake Huron. It's beautiful and historic, and the home of The Learning House homeschool store. Much of the town was damaged by a tornado Sunday afternoon.

Thinking of our friends, people who were hurt, people who lost their homes...


Photo:  SmartCanucks website, more photos here, also here (CTV).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On making a difference...one child at a time.

Minivans and Mom Jeans posted these before-and-after pictures of a new addition to their family.

I found that link on the Books and Bairns blog, where Mary Grace shares some of the same gratitude for the opportunities their family has been given to make a difference in children's lives...and reminds us that there are many other children who need help.

And we are waiting prayerfully too with our friend Donna-Jean and her family, as they have packed, prayed, and now just have to wait for their son to arrive from halfway around the world.

Thank you all for showing us how important this is, how possible it is, and how persistent and prayerful adoptive families have to be. Your stories remind us both of God's love for his children and of the broken world we live in.

That is just su-shweet

Dollar Store Crafts has a link to Creative Dollar's Sushi Baby Shower Gift. (No raw fish involved.)

Leftover cereal...leftover cereal boxes

Yes, we buy cold cereal. It may not be frugal but it's part of our life. We do try to stick to the healthier/cheaper varieties, and there are certain sugar limits beyond which Mama Squirrel will not budge.

What do you do with the end-of-the-box crumbles and bits? I save them in a plastic container and use them for baking...usually pulverized in the food processor. Works very well in dried-fruit balls and chocolate-raisin balls, but you can also use them in muffins or oatmeal cookies. I figure we paid for that shredded and puffed stuff, so we may as well use every bit of it up.

What do you do with the boxes? You can use the cardboard for gluing patterns to. You can cut them down a bit to make magazine holders. But if you really want to see how good cereal boxes can look, check out this link at Frugal Family Fun. Wow!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Geography Memory Work: Great Lakes Edition

We are not doing a lot of formal geography this year, but I'm planning on working in some geography memory work along with Bible memory and poems.

What kind of memory work?

Well, a couple of lists of rivers and not-as-interesting stuff like that. But also Mama Squirrel's homegrown, catechism-style guide to Finding Stuff On Any Map, using the Great Lakes and other geographical features (like things that stick out) as a guide. Since that's our region, it makes the most sense for us to make use of it; maybe you can figure out something similar if you live somewhere else.

Example: What cities are at each end of Lake Erie? Toledo (Ohio) and Buffalo (New York). Now you know not only two cities, but you have a rough idea of the location of two states, AND you can find them on any map that shows the Great Lakes.

What cities are at each end of Lake Ontario, more or less? Hamilton (Ontario) and Kingston (Ontario--where the lake joins the St. Lawrence).

What cities are at the bottom of Lake Huron? Sarnia (Ontario) and Port Huron (Michigan). I'm not sure that I could have told you exactly where Sarnia was before, but now I know. See, this stuff is good for adult squirrels as well as fifth-graders.

I'm planning on practicing this orally for awhile, and then printing out a blank map and having Crayons/Dollygirl write in the places she's learned. I figure that this is good stuff that's not going to change...it's always useful to have at least a vague idea of where Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto are.

(I found a similar, useful key to finding Burundi, the country that our French curriculum (Mission Monde Level 3) centres on this year. Just find Lake Tanganyika--it's big!--and Burundi is right against its eastern shore where it bends at the top. Look at a map of Africa and you'll see what I mean.)

Get organized with Mama Squirrel

A few random tips that are working for me:

Tip One

Our kitchen cupboard doesn't have expensive matching plastic containers. Besides recycled yogurt tubs etc., we have an assortment of whatever has been on sale at the discount store. For the past twenty years. Sometimes that can be confusing, especially with rectangular and square containers that only take lids of certain sizes and brands. (The Apprentice says it's not, but that's because she's just better at jigsaws than Mama Squirrel.)

Easiest solution? Mama Squirrel finally got around to permanent-markering alphabet letters on the containers and their matching lids...not the yogurt tubs, just the store-bought ones. Any lids that match leftover-box A got an A on them. Any that match slightly-bigger box B, and so on. We have three baskets in the cupboard: one for containers, one for lids, and one special one that just holds lunchbox-sized containers and lids (so nobody has to empty the cupboard looking for a sandwich box).

Tip Two

Coloured mini-size Post-It notes, one colour for each Squirrel. Good for phone messages and calendar additions.

Tip Three

Coloured cardstock: great for printing out or photocopying flashcards and other homeschool printables. Check for sales this time of year at any craft store. Index cards are cheap, but colour is cheerful!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Homeschool Horizons: Canada's newest homeschool magazine

The first issue of Homeschool Horizons is about to go to press.

And they are going to have a Charlotte Mason column in each issue. Along with other homeschooling styles, and lots of other Canadian content.

Interested? Want to support a Canadian homeschool business venture?

It's subscription only, $27 Canadian a year for 6 issues. (There's a Subscribe button at the top of their home page.)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who is this Dollygirl?

If you look over in the sidebar, you will see the five official contributors to this blog.  Five as of today.  Dollygirl...also known as Crayons...now has her own blog, on which she does not wish to be known as Crayons.  Which means that she shows up here also as Dollygirl.

In honour of this milestone, we are reprinting a short post from March 2005.
Crayons (almost 4) got her name because that's what she likes to do most, crayon; she likes to cut and glue too, but picture-making is her favourite thing. If she doesn't have crayons around, she makes pictures on the floor with Cuisenaire rods or pieces of Duplo. Her last Cuisenaire rod creation was a person with hair made of long yellow rods and some short red rods on top. When asked, she said the red rods were "highlights."

Crayons says that when she's big, she'd like to be "married, Santa Claus, and a really big girl."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

As TV is no longer free...

Canadian newspapers are running stories about rabbit-ear-using TV watchers, and how they are planning to cope with the switchover to digital TV at the end of this month.  The girls in this story say they'll be watching TV programs over the computer, rather than getting a converter box.

We don't have a rabbit-ear antenna on top of the TV, but we do have an antenna in the attic that picks up several Canadian stations.  Our family doesn't watch much broadcast TV anyway--we like movies and DVDs of older shows--but the move to digital means that we'd be getting next to nothing, that we can't even tape the late-late movie and watch it at a reasonable time (and without the commercials).

So Mr. Fixit came up with an alternative.  He bought a small satellite dish and is experimenting with Free to Air channels.  A lot of them are in other languages, but the English-language stations include Retro TV and the History channel.  So our new favourite shows are Route 66 and The Saint, and one of those shows on the History channel about people trying to sell their antique toys and treasures.  The commercials are worse than ever (no, I don't need a scooter, seniors' insurance, or a Cami Secret), but that's what VCRs are for. 

This is not necessarily the best choice for everyone;  to use FTA at this point, you have to be a bit of a techie. (Translation: I just watch the shows, I don't figure out how to get them.) According to an FTA-using friend, we're receiving some signals that are usually too hard to get with the setup we have.   Mr. Fixit, when he worked for the phone company, also installed satellite dishes, so he has some actual paid experience pointing at the right place in the sky...and, well...he's Mr. Fixit.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What's for supper? Roast Beef Ratatouille

Tonight I invented a skillet pasta casserole, and since the major ingredients were leftover roast beef and zucchini, I'm calling it Roast Beef Ratatouille.  Dessert was Crockpot Snack Mix, yogurt and fruit.  (Not all in the same bowl, just on the table.)

This is an approximation of the main dish:

Roast Beef Ratatouille

Small amount olive oil
Small amount (2 cups?) chopped cooked beef
Half a dozen fresh mushrooms
2 garden zucchini, cut in fairly large chunks (so they didn't overcook)
A handful of garden cherry tomatoes
A third to half a cup of zucchini relish  (I don't think regular pickle relish would be a good substitute)
A big spoonful of sour cream
Grated cheddar cheese
Hot pasta (rotini is good)

In a non-stick skillet, heat the oil and add the cooked meat and mushrooms.  When the mushrooms start to release some juice, add the other vegetables and zucchini relish.  Let cook gently until the vegetables are done but not mush, the tomatoes are popped, and the meat is heated through.  Stir in a bit of sour cream (optional) and top with cheddar cheese (put the lid on and keep cooking until it's melted).  Either serve with hot pasta, or (what I did) stir the cooked, drained pasta into the meat and vegetables to soak up some of the liquid.

For the Deputy Headmistress: Another "Hard Times"

Saturday, August 06, 2011

World of Absurdities: "'We'll raise this baby yet,' said Nurse"

We just bought a 1960's Scholastic printing of Father's Big Improvements through E-bay.  It's a really fun story, and just like the copy I had when I was about ten.  But the book was originally published in 1936.  (With me so far?)

The story begins (small spoiler coming) with the birth of a baby during the blizzard of 1888.  Little Nan isn't doing so well, so the doctor tells the father to walk through the snow and bring back the nurse.  Which Father does.  And then the nurse wants to know: 

"Where am I going to get fresh milk for this baby?"

Well, of course.  Everybody knows that you give fresh raw cow's milk to a sickly newborn human person.  Especially when there's a mama human person right there.

No?

Well, what the nurse says goes, so they dig out the cow, and get the milk, and save little Nan's life. 

The funny part, to me, is that I read this as a child and thought it all made perfect sense.

What I am curious about, though, is that in a story full of "oh-no-he-didn't, it wasn't invented yet" detail, Emerson would have gotten away with fudging on the baby food, even out of some kind of misaligned '30's modesty about how babies get fed.  Even if she knew nothing about babies herself, in 1936, the story of the Dionne quintuplets (1934) surviving on donated (human) milk was still big news.  Of course, she would have had to come up with a completely different reason for bringing the cow into the kitchen.  Maybe Nan's brother had a hankering for ice cream. I don't know.

Does it matter?  No, of course not; it's just a story.  But it makes me wonder how many other writerly slips in logic I once assumed were right!

Friday, August 05, 2011

What's for supper? Bits, pieces, and barbecued chicken

Last night's dinner menu:

Barbecued chicken
Vietnamese Fried Rice (from the More-with-Less Cookbook)
Chocolate-Raspberry Cake, grapes


I hardly ever make fried rice, and it doesn't always turn out that well for me, but I was happy with this batch, and it went well with the chicken.  I used part frozen Oriental vegetable mix, part fresh zucchini, green pepper, garlic, and mushrooms.  Instead of mixing in the egg at the end, which I've never liked much and which isn't good for Mr. Fixit's egg sensitivity, I beat up two eggs and cooked them in the frying pan first, omelet-style.  I rolled up the omelet, cut it in small strips, and served it along with the rice.

The cake?  That was an experiment. We had exactly a cup and a half of bulk-purchased gluten-free chocolate cake mix in the cupboard; I wanted to use it up, but it didn't have to be used in a GF way.  So I mixed it with half a cup of all-purpose flour, half a cup of brown sugar, two teaspoons of baking powder (there was some in the mix, also some sweetener, but just in case), a cup of milk, a third cup of oil, an egg, and a teaspoonful of vanilla.  This is more or less a standard muffin recipe, except that it's chocolate. 

I spread half the batter in an 8-inch square pan, dribbled the end of a jar of thin berry jam over top, sprinkled that with frozen raspberries, topped that with the rest of the batter, and sprinkled the whole thing with a small handful of chocolate chips.  I baked it in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for about forty minutes, when it tested done.  It worked! Good with plain yogurt.  Probably best stored in the fridge, because of the fruit.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Ouch quote for the day

"She glanced at her watch.  It was a little after eleven o'clock.  An hour ago she and Rusty had set out.  Pity Robert wasn't here.  He was the one who loved history.  Robert had brought Plutarch along on their honeymoon.  And worse, had found time to read it."--from Abraham Lincoln: a novel life, by Tony Wolk
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