Friday, December 30, 2011

Quote for the Day: That's some choice

"I am persuaded that many excellent persons, if they were confronted with the alternatives of reading "Paradise Lost" and going round Trafalgar Square at noonday on their knees in sack-cloth, would choose the ordeal of public ridicule. Still, I will never cease advising my friends and enemies to read poetry before anything."--Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Found at the thrift store this week


The Painted Horse, by Peter Etril Snyder


Exuberance: The Passion for Life, by Kay Redfield Jamison


The Country Child, by Alison Uttley

Most interesting book that came in:  a mid-1800's copy of "Brown's Bible."  A lot like this:

It's amazing what people will send to a thrift store.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day Ruminations

Everybody here said it was a very good Christmas.

We ate lots of chocolate hazelnut cookies and cut-out shortbreads.  We found a quick and easy way to turn a can of refrigerated crescent rolls into mini cinnamon buns (drop butter/marg into muffin tins, sprinkle with cinnamon, and add a slice of roll dough (slice across the roll instead of unrolling it first)--bake ten minutes).

We went out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve.  About the only Christmas Eve we haven't gone to the same restaurant is the year that Mr. Fixit absolutely wasn't supposed to have any soy sauce.  (And even then we only held out until New Year's...he stuck to lemon chicken.)  This year he is down to minimal meds and up to hot and sour soup.  Much thankfulness.

We had a Christmas Eve service with our church family, and a worship time / one present each time at home afterwards.


There wasn't much snow on Christmas Day. A bit in the evening, but even that didn't amount to much.  No tobogganing this year.

Crayons got all excited over her mini Kit and Molly.  Mama Squirrel gave her a book.



Ponytails got a watch and some other things she liked.  Mama Squirrel gave her books.


The Apprentice got geeky stuff.  And some grownup presents too.  Mama Squirrel...


There were funny presents.

(That's just one mini bottle, not 300 of them.)

And useful ones.

We ate turkey and trifle with Grandpa Squirrel and the Squirrelings' uncle and aunt.

We thought of our Far-Away-Nephew Number 2, celebrating his first birthday.  And others that we would have liked to have closer to us.

We prayed for a nearby family who lost two children this year, one of them on Christmas Eve.

We found ourselves wanting to hug each other a special amount...and to say thank you.  For everything.

What does our culture expect of us at Christmas?
What do our traditions offer us?
What does our faith in Christ require of us?
What does Christmas mean when our holidays are especially joyful
or especially sad?

On Christmas Eve we read from Colossians 3
and put the symbols of our faith on a small tree
as our gifts to the Lord.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

A Christmas table with Victorian leanings








China:  Grandma's.

Tablecloth:  Wedding-present lace cloth, over rummage-saled giant piece of red knit fabric.  (It looks pink in the photo, but really it's red.)

Floral decorations:  Thrifted. (Large arrangement same one as here.)

Battery-operated tealight candles in salt-filled canning jars:  seen on Coffee, Tea, Books and Me

Cornucopias:  Paper Christmas napkins, stapled into cone shapes, paper doily section stapled on, decorated with pretty 3-D stickers (dollar store).  Filled with candy canes, chocolate sticks, and lebkuchen.

Photos by Crayons. Copyright 2011 Dewey's Treehouse.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"A star is dancing on the snow": Merry Christmas from the Squirrels

CHRISTMAS SONG

by Bliss Carman

Above the weary waiting world,
Asleep in chill despair,
There breaks a sound of joyous bells
Upon the frosted air.
And o’er the humblest rooftree, lo,
A star is dancing on the snow.

What makes the yellow star to dance
Upon the brink of night?
What makes the breaking dawn to glow
So magically bright,—
And all the earth to be renewed
With infinite beatitude?

The singing bells, the throbbing star,
The sunbeams on the snow,
And the awakening heart that leaps
New ecstasy to know,—
They all are dancing in the morn
Because a little child is born.

Photograph:  Mr. Fixit, January 2011.

Treehouse, Christmas Eve




Transoceanic radio courtesy of Mr. Fixit. All photos, Mr. Fixit.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Crocheting Red Things, or, when life hands you potholders...

I posted pictures of Crystal's red popcorn hat (made from a potholder pattern) a few days ago, although in these photos I notice it's slid a bit south.  Crayons made the red jumper at her Saturday sewing class, and the white stockings/black boots are made from this go-go boots pattern.

The potholder is made from the same yarn and same popcorn pattern as Crystal's hat, just with a larger hook and with a green border. 
The red purse was an early Christmas present for Crayons.  It's made with the same cherry red Red Heart SuperSaver, but in a thick front-post-back-post crochet stitch which makes the purse good and solid.  (Okay, this started out to be two potholders too, but I wasn't using a big enough hook and they turned out a little too solid for potholders.  Good for a purse, though.)
Crystal's other holiday outfit this year is a long vest with a fleecy collar.  It was cut down from a thrifted baby jacket; we cut out the sleeves and restitched the side seams, but kept the collar and buttons intact.  When I get a few minutes, we're going to blanket-stitch around the armholes with navy embroidery floss, to match the other stitching.


Photos: Mr. Fixit. Copyright 2011 Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011 Christmas Book Quiz: Answers

Here's the quiz.

1. We went early to bed on this holiday night. For Christmas morning was to be unlike any we had ever known. It began with a blue mirage. We were away at sunrise, driving south, then west to Yaqui Well. Looking east toward the Salton Sea, across the California Painted Desert, we became aware of what appeared to be a range of distant mountains, bluish and banded. As we watched, they altered shape. The higher peaks became lower. The skyline changed. At times, we seemed to see trees and buildiings, all vague and wavering, as though glimpsed through blue water. By the time we turned away, the long mirage had begun to dissolve into vertical bands of lighter and darker blue.

Answer: Edwin Way Teale, Wandering Through Winter

2. On the night of Christmas Eve the Abbey was so still it might have been thought to be empty, or the nuns asleep, but when the bell sounded at ten o'clock, from all corners, especially from the church, silent figures made their way to their station in the long cloister....Voice succeeded voice through two hours until the priests, vested in white and gold, with their servers came in procession from the sacristy for the tenderness and triumph of the midnight Mass. Lauds of Christmas followed straight after, and at two o'clock the community went to the refectory for hot soup, always called "cock soup" because it was the first taste of meat or chicken they had had since Advent began; the soup was served with rice--"beautifully filling," said Hilary in content--and after it came two biscuits and four squares of chocolate. "Chocolate!" "We need to keep our strength up," said Dame Ursula.

Answer: Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede

3. Mother used to send a box of candy every Christmas to the people the Airedale bit. The list finally contained forty or more names. Nobody could understand why we didn't get rid of the dog. I didn't understand it very well myself, but we didn't get rid of him....Muggs lived to be almost eleven years old and even when he could hardly get around he bit a Congressman who had called to see my father on business. My mother had never liked the Congressman....but she sent him a box of candy that Christmas. He sent it right back, probably because he suspected it was trick candy. Mother persuaded herself it was all for the best....

Answer: James Thurber, "The Dog That Bit People"

 


4. "I wish I had a pink Angora sweater," Anne said. "Marilyn has two. A pale blue one and a pale pink one."

"Two?" Joan said. "Are you sure? They're twenty-five dollars, you know."

"Marilyn's rich," Anne said. "She gets thirty-five dollars a month just to spend on clothes."

Don said, "I can't understand why we let the Russians into Berlin."

Anne said, "Marilyn's going to spend Christmas in Palm Springs."

I said, "Palm Springs is the last place I would want to spend Christmas. Who wants hot weather and palm trees for Christmas?"

"I do," Anne said wistfully. "I'm so sick of rain I could die."

"Me too," Joan said. "Marilyn's going to get her own car when she's sixteen."

Don said, "Of course Russia had the world bluffed and our policy of appeasement, uncertainty and double-talk isn't fooling anybody but ourselves."

I said, "Possessions don't bring happiness. Happiness is something you must find in your own self."

"Well, it would be a lot easier to find if I had a car of my own," Anne said.

Answer: Betty MacDonald, Onions in the Stew

5. But in Raveloe village the bells rang merrily, and the church was fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the abundant dark-green boughs--faces prepared for a longer service than usual by an odourous breakfast of toast and ale. Those green boughs, the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas....brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men could as little have found words as the children, that something great and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above and in earth below, which they were appropriating by their presence. And then the red faces made their way through the black biting frost to their own homes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christmas freedom without diffidence.

Answer: George Eliot, Silas Marner

6. December is the first winter month. The ground is often covered with snow. The days are dark and cold and night falls early. Now is the time to be in the barn. There is hay and grain to eat. There are places to play or hide or dream. There are warm straw beds. December is the last month of the year. Now is the time to catch up on sleep. Everyone goes to bed earlier in wintertime.

Answer: Alice and Martin Provensen, The Year at Maple Hill Farm

7. "Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens. I did it in a good old middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree. Enough, you know the species. I really think my imitation of Dickens's style was dexterous and literary. It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."

Answer: G.K. Chesterton, "The Flying Stars" in The Innocence of Father Brown

8. For all of our twenty-eight years in Switzerland we have had the five-o'clock Christmas Eve Service in Champéry, with over a hundred candles to be put in wooden candleholders made of rough logs, and also fastened on fresh green trees....The Christmas tree has been trimmed the night before, during a traditional time of drinking iced ginger ale and eating homemade Christmas cookies spread out in lovely rows on a tray. The Christmas stockings, filled with all sorts of interesting but inexpensive things, are the old hand-knitted stockings our girls wore the first years in Switzerland. Full of holes, but still usable, they add much in the way of memories as they are pulled out one night and filled and then found on Christmas morning.

Answer: Edith Schaeffer, What is a Family?

9. It didn't matter any more that she had once chased me through the Glen with a codfish--it didn't matter that she had smeared goose-grease all over my dreams of romance....I would never dislike Mary Vance again. I went over to her and kissed her....She got Susan and me a tip-top breakfast and made us eat it, and 'bossed the life out of us,' as Susan says, for two days, until the roads were opened so that she could get home. [The baby] was almost well by that time and father turned up. He heard our tale without saying much. Father is rather scornful generally about what he calls 'old wives' remedies.' He laughed a little and said, 'After this, Mary Vance will expect me to call her in for consultation in all my serious cases.' So Christmas was not so hard as I expected it to be; and now the New Year is coming--and we are still hoping for the 'Big Push' that will end the war....

Answer: Lucy Maud Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

10. I do think it's a very uneven exchange of Christmas presents. You'll eat yours up in a week and have nothing left to show for it by New Year's Day. I'll have mine till the day I die--and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn. Thank you all. Happy New Year.

Answer: Helene Hanff, 84, Charing Cross Road

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Found at the thrift store

Today was actually the first time since mid-October that the thrift store wasn't filled with Christmas decorations, books, and everything else.  Most of the Christmas stuff was moved out this week to another location for a special "warehouse sale."  So, other than the silly songs playing over the radio, and a few last-minute holiday things that came in, it was a surprisingly non-Christmas-overkill kind of afternoon.  (Good thing we bought all those ornaments and things last week before they disappeared.)

Mama Squirrel did find a few books and videos to bring home.  A couple are for particular people, but I'll list them anyway.
Today's best find:  a complete VHS boxed set of Narnia videos.  Not the more recent theatre films; the BBC version.  We've seen several of them before, from the library; our favourite is probably The Silver Chair, with Tom Baker as Puddleglum.  Also we found a couple of Christmas videos that we had been wanting to watch. 
Everything Origami:  cool oversized book with a pack of paper included.

Dante, The Divine Comedy, III: Paradise, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers and Barbara Reynolds. 

Light from Heaven, by Jan Karon.  The one Mitford book from the original series that I didn't have.

A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton, by Steven Kellogg.  We are big Pinkerton fans.

Our Man in Havana, by Graham Greene.  One of my favourite Alec Guinness movies.

Was there a "strangest book seen" today?  Can't think of one in particular...

Monday, December 19, 2011

All-new Treehouse Christmas book quiz, Now With Hints

Answers are posted here.

If you've ever tried one of our Treehouse Christmas Quizzes before, you know that we like to play hard.  But we hope you have fun too.  (2009 Quiz2007 Snowed-in Quiz, mixed with a Carnival of Homeschooling2006 Quiz.  2006 Quiz with helpful hints.)

UPDATE:  No guesses yet?  Okay, Round Two:   I've added hints.

As always:  your "mission Impossible, played on jingle bells" (to quote Amy Dacyczyn) is to identify the book or story to which the passage belongs. 

Ready?

1.  We went early to bed on this holiday night.  For Christmas morning was to be unlike any we had ever known.  It began with a blue mirage.  We were away at sunrise, driving south, then west to Yaqui Well.  Looking east toward the Salton Sea, across the California Painted Desert, we became aware of what appeared to be a range of distant mountains, bluish and banded.  As we watched, they altered shape.  The higher peaks became lower.  The skyline changed.  At times, we seemed to see trees and buildiings, all vague and wavering, as though glimpsed through blue water.  By the time we turned away, the long mirage had begun to dissolve into vertical bands of lighter and darker blue.

Hints:  Ambleside Online.  Natural History.  Seasons.

2.  On the night of Christmas Eve the Abbey was so still it might have been thought to be empty, or the nuns asleep, but when the bell sounded at ten o'clock, from all corners, especially from the church, silent figures made their way to their station in the long cloister....Voice succeeded voice through two hours until the priests, vested in white and gold, with their servers came in procession from the sacristy for the tenderness and triumph of the midnight Mass. Lauds of Christmas followed straight after, and at two o'clock the community went to the refectory for hot soup, always called "cock soup" because it was the first taste of meat or chicken they had had since Advent began; the soup was served with rice--"beautifully filling," said Hilary in content--and after it came two biscuits and four squares of chocolate. "Chocolate!" "We need to keep our strength up," said Dame Ursula.

Hints:  Author better known for children's books.  Nuns.  Film with Diana Rigg.

3.  Mother used to send a box of candy every Christmas to the people the Airedale bit.  The list finally contained forty or more names.  Nobody could understand why we didn't get rid of the dog.  I didn't understand it very well myself, but we didn't get rid of him....Muggs lived to be almost eleven years old and even when he could hardly get around he bit a Congressman who had called to see my father on business.  My mother had never liked the Congressman....but she sent him a box of candy that Christmas.  He sent it right back, probably because he suspected it was trick candy.  Mother persuaded herself it was all for the best....

Hints:  American humorist who liked to draw odd cartoons.

4.  "I wish I had a pink Angora sweater," Anne said.  "Marilyn has two.  A pale blue one and a pale pink one."
  "Two?" Joan said.  "Are you sure? They're twenty-five dollars, you know."
  "Marilyn's rich," Anne said.  "She gets thirty-five dollars a month just to spend on clothes."
  Don said, "I can't understand why we let the Russians into Berlin."
  Anne said, "Marilyn's going to spend Christmas in Palm Springs."
  I said, "Palm Springs is the last place I would want to spend Christmas.  Who wants hot weather and palm trees for Christmas?"
  "I do," Anne said wistfully.  "I'm so sick of rain I could die."
  "Me too," Joan said.  "Marilyn's going to get her own car when she's sixteen."
  Don said, "Of course Russia had the world bluffed and our policy of appeasement, uncertainty and double-talk isn't fooling anybody but ourselves."
  I said, "Possessions don't bring happiness.  Happiness is something you must find in your own self."
  "Well, it would be a lot easier to find if I had a car of my own," Anne said.

Hint:  Author of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books.

5.  But in XXX village the bells rang merrily, and the church was fuller than all through the rest of the year, with red faces among the abundant dark-green boughs--faces prepared for a longer service than usual by an odourous breakfast of toast and ale.  Those green boughs, the hymn and anthem never heard but at Christmas....brought a vague exulting sense, for which the grown men could as little have found words as the children, that something great and mysterious had been done for them in heaven above and in earth below, which they were appropriating by their presence.  And then the red faces made their way through the black biting frost to their own homes, feeling themselves free for the rest of the day to eat, drink, and be merry, and using that Christmas freedom without diffidence.

Hint:  Classic English novel, NOT Dickens.  Missing gold.

6.  December is the first winter month.  The ground is often covered with snow.  The days are dark and cold and night falls early.  Now is the time to be in the barn.  There is hay and grain to eat.  There are places to play or hide or dream.  There are warm straw beds.  December is the last month of the year.  Now is the time to catch up on sleep. Everyone goes to bed earlier in wintertime.

Hint:  Children's book.  Lots of animals.

7.  "Well, my last crime was a Christmas crime, a cheery, cosy, English middle-class crime; a crime of Charles Dickens.  I did it in a good old middle-class house near Putney, a house with a crescent of carriage drive, a house with a stable by the side of it, a house with the name on the two outer gates, a house with a monkey tree.  Enough, you know the species.  I really think my imitation of Dickens's style was dexterous and literary.  It seems almost a pity I repented the same evening."

Hint:  English detective stories, NOT Agatha Christie.

8.  For all of our twenty-eight years in Switzerland we have had the five-o'clock Christmas Eve Service in Champéry, with over a hundred candles to be put in wooden candleholders made of rough logs, and also fastened on fresh green trees....The Christmas tree has been trimmed the night before, during a traditional time of drinking iced ginger ale and eating homemade Christmas cookies spread out in lovely rows on a tray.  The Christmas stockings, filled with all sorts of interesting but inexpensive things, are the old hand-knitted stockings our girls wore the first years in Switzerland.  Full of holes, but still usable, they add much in the way of memories as they are pulled out one night and filled and then found on Christmas morning. 

Hint:  Wife of well-known 20th century theologian.

9.  It didn't matter any more that she had once chased me through the Glen with a codfish--it didn't matter that she had smeared goose-grease all over my dreams of romance....I would never dislike Mary Vance again.  I went over to her and kissed her....She got Susan and me a tip-top breakfast and made us eat it, and 'bossed the life out of us,' as Susan says, for two days, until the roads were opened so that she could get home.  [The baby] was almost well by that time and father turned up.  He heard our tale without saying much.  Father is rather scornful generally about what he calls 'old wives' remedies.'  He laughed a little and said, 'After this, Mary Vance will expect me to call her in for consultation in all my serious cases.'  So Christmas was not so hard as I expected it to be; and  now the New Year is coming--and we are still hoping for the 'Big Push' that will end the war....

Hint:  Last book in famous Canadian fiction series.

10.  I do think it's a very uneven exchange of Christmas presents. You'll eat yours up in a week and have nothing left to show for it by New Year's Day. I'll have mine till the day I die--and die happy in the knowledge that I'm leaving it behind for someone else to love. I shall sprinkle pale pencil marks through it pointing out the best passages to some book-lover yet unborn. Thank you all. Happy New Year.

Hint:  Film with Anthony Hopkins, Anne Bancroft.  Lots and lots of books.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recycling pretty book pictures: what's in your hand?


I bought this hardcover quotes/journal book at the thrift store, thinking that it was in nice enough shape to slip in with other gifts for a Treehouse Anne fan.  Unfortunately, it turned out to have several written-on-in-ink pages that I hadn't noticed--which wiped out its gift possibilities.

Dump the whole thing then?

No way.  There were several full-page illustrations of events from the Anne books, and a few of those made nice gift tags, trimmed down and pasted onto card stock.  I particularly liked the one of her in her bedroom with her brand-new brown Christmas dress hanging nearby.  (Yes, it's supposed to be brown, not blue, if you've only ever seen the movie.)  And the non-Christmasy ones will keep for other occasions.

There are also quite a few small illustrations in the book--pictures of baking, sewing baskets, flowers and so on.  Good for clipping and pasting here and there.

It may sound awful to rip apart a book like that, but as somebody said, even a hardcover book (not considering its intellectual content) is really just paper between cardboard covers, and this one had no other real use.  So I'm good with that.

What are the Squirrelings doing today?

The Apprentice is at the university for a pre-exam review class.  She's already written most of her exams but there are still a couple left.

Ponytails is at high school--she's not done until the 23rd of December.  But she told me yesterday that there only about twenty school days left in the semester, so that's kind of motivating!

Crayons/Dollygirl has just finished a Plutarch lesson and is now transforming herself and Crystal into big and little Josefinas.  She's also re-doing her homemade fashion-doll snow cabin "dupe" that she put together last year.  Small wonder that math has little attraction this week.  But we are almost done A Midsummer Night's Dream, and we're re-reading Prince Caspian.  Re-reading because I'm sure that Crayons has heard it somewhere along the line, but I don't think she remembers it very well.

What are you all doing today?

Gift baskets and Christmas cheer at the Treehouse: photo post

Crocheted bells hung on the wall; Crayons added the angel.

Gift baskets for extended family members (who I hope aren't reading this before Christmas).  The baskets were picked up this week at the thrift store, along with most of the picks, pinecones, and other doodads.  The monkeys are handmade.





A bowlful of Christmas, to put on a table in the living room. The crystal bowl was a wedding gift. Mama Squirrel made the origami boxes from an old (thrifted) book of Christmas photos.  The ornaments and picks were all picked out of this week's thrift store boxful of stuff.


The four wooden apples on the stove came inside that red and green bucket that we used for one of the gift baskets. The brown angel box also came from the thrift store. The squirrel and acorn salt-and-peppers came from another thrift store several years ago--a gift for Mr. Fixit.


The dining room buffet, improved this week by finds from the thrift store--gold garland and ornaments, candle rings. The candle rings don't match but they're the same colours, so I'll live with that unless I can find something else.  Good Mousekeeping isn't keeping tabs here.



All photos by Mr. Fixit. Copyright 2011, Dewey's Treehouse.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Found at the thrift store: Mama Squirrel goes squirrelly with decorations and baskets

What did we bring home from the thrift store this week?

Quite a lot.  Some of it, I can't say, because it's almost Christmas.  Just say that I had my eyes open, looking out for certain peoples' particular reading interests.

And some of it, I can say, because it's almost Christmas. I earned a bit of pin money last week by sitting through a bunch of prototype commercials with four other ladies and discussing what we thought of them.  So I used some of that money to buy several nice baskets, and a whole boxful of trims, picks, bows and other holiday miscellany to dress up the baskets.  What we do with the baskets (most years) is fill them with food gifts and other small items, and those are our family gifts for a few of the relatives.

Mr. Fixit is going to take photos later today, so come on back and you can see what the filled baskets look like.

Funniest book I sorted yesterday:

Funny not because of the content, but because of the shape of the book.  If you can't see from the photo, the hardcover edition is a parallelogram.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Books are a movie written down for you? This is serious...

So says an Ontario elementary student, interviewed in an article about a recent survey saying that third- and sixth-graders are "better" at reading than they used to be, but that they don't like to read.

And she was one of the ones who DID like to read.

The most successful teacher interviewed found her greatest success through having students make movies and video games of the novels they read.

What would Marva Collins think of that?  What would Dao Ngoc Phung think?

Those of us who hang out in the homeschooled, reading, classical/CM/literature based, "I have two thousand books here" subculture may not even be aware of how big this problem is. Charlotte Mason talked about opening doors into wide places, through books. This youngest generation (in large part) not only hasn't been shown the open door, but doesn't even know there is one.  One wonders if many of their teachers are in a much better position.

Our education system is running on fumes, folks.  "Get them reading anything" may be today's mark of success; it may get the car out of the garage; but good luck doing more with it than a few laps around the block.  What used to be a cruise down Main Street is as intimidating to today's children as a superhighway...or perhaps the problem now is that people just can't be bothered driving much at all--maybe just turning the key and listening to the engine is enough.  "We are too easily satisfied," C.S. Lewis said about spiritual matters, and the same phrase can be applied to educational issues.

Life is not a movie.  Books are not video games.  Fun is good, humour is good, but learning is also a journey, a quest, an adventure, and you take real adventures seriously.  As I've said elsewhere, quoting the late Carol Bly--can't we please, please have permission to be serious?

I'm serious.

Mama Squirrel's Reading List, 2011

I didn't have a particular goal for this year's reading, so the list is pretty eclectic. This is the year I discovered George Eliot and Lloyd Alexander (I read through the Prydain Chronicles twice, once myself and once with Ponytails).   It was also a good year for art-inspired fiction.  (R) means it was a re-read.  § means I actually finished it.  A few of the books I didn't finish or didn't like have been left off the list..

Classic-type stuff

On the Art of Writing, by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
Meno, by Plato (and I started reading a couple of other dialogues) §
"Lancelot and Elaine," by Alfred Lord Tennyson §
"Self-Reliance," by Ralph Waldo Emerson §
Parts of Plutarch's Lives (R)
Silas Marner, by George Eliot §
Scenes of Clerical Life, by George Eliot §
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Great Expectations (R) (re-read with Crayons) §
The Abbot, by Sir Walter Scott §
Guy Mannering, by Sir Walter Scott §
The Incredulity of Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton §
The Innocence of Father Brown, by G.K. Chesterton (R) §
The Scarlet Pimpernel (R) §
Candide, by Voltaire §

Science-type stuff
Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory...., by Peter Woit

Theology-type stuff
The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer
Making Men Whole, by J.B. Phillips §
The Call, by Os Guinness (R) §
Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day, by James Emery White §
Lessons I Learned in the Light, by Jennifer Rothschild §
One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp §
Parts of the Bible (RRRRR)

Old-favourites-type stuff
Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon (R) §
At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon (R) §
Light from Heaven, by Jan Karon (R) §
The Trail of the Conestoga (R) (re-read with Crayons) §
Meet the Malones (R) (re-read with Crayons) §
Beany Malone (R) (re-read with Crayons) §
Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (R) §
An Episode of Sparrows, by Rumer Godden (R) §
In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden (R) §
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, by Anne Tyler (R) §
84, Charing Cross Road / The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, by Helene Hanff (R) §

Teaching-type stuff
Norms and Nobility, by David V. Hicks (R) §
Marva Collins' Way (R) §
"Ordinary" Children, Extraordinary Teachers, by Marva Collins §
Read & Grow Rich, by Burke Hedges §
Homeschooling Only One (R), by Donna Conner §
Schoolproof, by Mary Pride (R) §
Parts of Charlotte Mason's books  (R) 

Gurgi stuff
The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander §
The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander §
The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander §
The Castle of Llyr, by Lloyd Alexander §
Taran Wanderer, by Lloyd Alexander §
The High King, by Lloyd Alexander §

Madeleine stuff
Walking on Water, by Madeleine L'Engle (R) §
A Wind in the Door, by Madeleine L'Engle §
A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L'Engle §
A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle §
Two-Part Invention, by Madeleine L'Engle (R) §

More space-and-time stuff
C.S. Lewis: A Biography, by A.N. Wilson §
Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis (R) §
The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis §
Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis §
Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis §
That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis §
Prince Caspian (R) §

Homey stuff
More Make it Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O'Dea §
Canada's Slow Cooker Winners, by Donna-Marie Pye §
Hooked: A Crocheter's Stash of Wit and Wisdom, ed. by Kari Cornell §
other craft books that I can't remember
Creating a Beautiful Home, by Alexandra Stoddard (R) §
two other books by Alexandra Stoddard §
Flanagan's Smart Home, by Barbara Flanagan §
Does This Clutter Make My B---- Look Fat?, by Peter Walsh §

Miscellaneous
Madam How and Lady Why, by Charles Kingsley (R) §
The Long-Ago Lake, by Marne Wilkins
A Passion for the Impossible (bio of Lilias Trotter), by Miriam Huffman Rockness §
Trial and Error, by Anthony Berkeley §)
Detectives in Togas, by Henry Winterfeld §
Roman Ransom, by Henry Winterfeld §
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, by Harriet Chessman §
Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier §
Out of the Storm, by Grace Livingston Hill §
Not Under the Law, by Grace Livingston Hill §
Beauty for Ashes, by Grace Livingston Hill §

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Butterscotch drizzle: stretching what you have

Today I made a double batch of Doreen Perry's oatmeal cookies, using crushed cornflakes and butterscotch chips as the extras.  I purposely didn't use the whole bag of butterscotch chips, because I wanted to use them somehow as topping to fancy up the cookies.  But there weren't a lot of chips left, maybe a cupful, and the double recipe made five panfuls of cookies.

So I thought about that while the first two pans baked.

And this is what I came up with:  I mixed about two-thirds of a cup of icing sugar with a bit of milk, the same way I do when I'm making glaze for pumpkin doughnuts.  I melted the butterscotch chips in the microwave and mixed them into the glaze. It was too thick to drizzle, so I added just a bit more milk and then put the whole thing back in the microwave for half a minute, reasoning that sauces and syrups get thinner when they're heated.  (You know the old trick of warming up honey or pancake syrup that has crystallized in the jar?  It also works with jam, if you want it thinner to pour on pancakes or spread over a cake.)

Expecting a disaster at this point?  No, it actually worked.  There was enough butterscotch-flavoured glaze to give each cookie a good drizzle. 

And now I just have to go figure out what we're having for supper.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crayons' photos: our bookshelves, the monkey mob, and Crystal's popcorn hat

Jeanne wanted to know where we put all our books.


Most of the school-related books are on this wallful of bookcases in our downstairs rec room.  This is what you'd call a candid shot, because Mama Squirrel did not attempt to get rid of the leaners or the over-stackers before Crayons took the picture.  You can see more books in the photos of Crayons' doll Crystal.

Mr. Fixit has a small personal bookcase in his workshop, and there are bookcases in the bedrooms.  And a few cookbooks in the kitchen.  But that's about it, except for a few boxes of stored books--our living room upstairs does not have a good spot for bookshelves.  A few years ago, having an excess of time on my hands, I did a rough count, and I think it was about 1600 books.  I cycle them in and out pretty evenly, so I still don't think we have over 2000 total: probably more than the average North American household, but still less than many homeschoolers we know.


Crystal has a new hat to cover up the fact that her back hair is embarrassingly skimpy.  It started out to be a potholder, but the sides kept curving up and it just looked better as a hat.  Mama Squirrel added chain-stitch ties to each side so that it can be tied under the chin or under her hair.  Crayons is making Crystal a red holiday jumper at her Saturday sewing class, so this will finish off her outfit.

A back view--see the popcorn stitch?

I also stitched the monkeys' hands together so that they can hold candy canes.  Much more cheerful, I thought.  People can snip them apart later if they want.


All photos copyright by Crayons, 2011.  All yarns are Red Heart SuperSaver.