Wednesday, February 29, 2012

No retail therapy today

Crayons is still getting over her cold, so we stayed home from our usual Wednesday volunteering/treasure hunting.

Just in case you wondered.

A fifteenth-century winter-hater

The poem in today's (Mission Monde) French lesson is by 15th-century poet Charles of Orléans. I thought it had the right snow-be-gone attitude for a day when we've had freezing rain and just about everything else.  Crayons/Dollygirl didn't agree with me, though; she likes winter.

Mission Monde chose just a few of the lines from the (modernized)original, so I'll edit out the harder parts as well. If you want the rest, they're at the first link above.  Thirty-second translation:  Winter, you're a boor.  Summer is nicer.  Summer has fields and flowers, the colours of nature, and all that.  But what do you have to offer?  Snow and wind and rain and sleet.  So all I've got to say is, Winter, you're a boor.

Hiver vous n'êtes qu'un vilain.
Eté est plaisant et gentil,
Eté revêt champs, bois et fleurs
De sa livrée de verdure
Et de maintes autres couleurs
Par l'ordonnance de Nature.
Mais vous, Hiver, trop êtes plein
De neige, vent, pluie et grésil;
Sans point flatter, je parle plain,
Hiver vous n'êtes qu'un vilain !

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What's for supper? Leftovers and ends, but still good

Tonight's menu:

Cod fillets, baked with brown rice (end of a bag) and two diced potatoes (end of a bag), plus a bit of paprika
Coleslaw and leftover tossed salad

Squash pie (leftover butternut squash) (Note on squash pie: it always tastes better the next day, after it's set and chilled. Warm from the's a little squashy.)

School plans for the end of February (reposted with fixes)

These are the plans so far for this week--I'll try to flesh out the vague parts as we go.  UPDATE:  Best-laid plans and all that...Crayons woke up Monday feeling too sick to do school, so we'll have to regroup when she's over it.


Bible: Gospel of Matthew
Memory Work
Canadian History:  Read page 330 to yourself.  Skim pages 331-336 with Mom, reviewing the Red River settlement.  Read pages 336-338 together, introducing Louis Riel.
French:  Mission Monde Level 3, Unit 3, Lesson 21a.  Mostly review.
A Passion for the Impossible:  chapter 7, "Lily's Choice," pages 77-82.
Copywork:  "Montagu Square was that unique household where Lily lived with her mother and brother and sisters, a place of sunny gladness and laughter, as well as varied work and interest and unstinted hospitality."
Alvin's Secret Code, chapters 1 & 2


Pet Shop Math with Dad
Math.  Math Mammoth Light Blue 4B, Decimals Unit, page 168.  Multiplying decimals in columns.
Free Reading

WEDNESDAY (short day)

Bible: Gospel of Matthew
Memory Work
Grammar:  Mad Libs
Readaloud:  The Great Quillow, by James Thurber
Math:  start page 169.

World History:  Review where we left off with France and Germany/Prussia at the end of George Washington's World, last year.  Look at Brain Power World History Time Lines, pages 41 and 43. Read Story of the World Volume 4, the first part of Chapter 7, about Napoleon III of France.

A Passion for the Impossible, pages 82-88
Copywork:  "How God would use her life and her art...Lilias could not fathom at that time.  Nor did it matter.  'The one thing is to keep obedient in spirit,' she would write, 'to do otherwise would be to cramp and ruin your soul.'"
French:  Unit 3, Lesson 21b:  Reading short poems about the seasons.

Makers of of the English Bible, half of chapter 6, "King James at Hampton Court"--read the section about Elizabeth's reign
Memory Work
Canadian History:  read pages 338-341 to yourself and narrate orally (about the 1870 Riel/Fort Garry events and the Manitoba Act).  Research question:  when is Louis Riel Day, and in what province(s) is it celebrated?
Math:  finish page 169.
Caddie Woodlawn:  Chapter 12, "Ambassador to the Enemy."  Narrate orally.
Free Reading


Makers of the English Bible, finish the chapter--short section about King James and the Authorized Version

Picture Study:  Edgar Degas (mini-study relating to Mary Cassatt)

Story of the World Volume 4:  second part of Chapter 7, "The Second Reich."  "Just as France was becoming a republic, Prussia was becoming a kingdom."  This chapter talks about Wilhelm I, Wilhelm's son Friedrich (who happened to be married to ??), and Friedrich's son Wilhelm II, the third German emperor.  Why have you (Crayons) heard of Kaiser Wilhelm I before? Hint.


Caddie Woodlawn, chapter 13, "Scalp Belt."  Read to yourself and narrate orally.

French, Unit 3, lesson 22b.  Re-read the poem about winter.  Workbook page 42, "Did you know?", about cultural differences and "third culture kids"

Time working with Dad

Free Reading


Bible: Gospel of Matthew
Composer Study:  begin study of Johannes Brahms
Plutarch's Life of Dion, Lesson 10
Copywork:  "For they having nobody to command nor rule them, employed all their joy in rioting and banqueting...taking so little care and regard to their business, that now when they thought the castle was sure their own, they almost lost their city."
Caddie Woodlawn, chapter 14, "A Dollar's Worth." 
Math: page 171
Nature Study
Time working with Dad
Free Reading

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jan Berenstain has passed away

"Once you've bought the book, catchily entitled Cocky-Locky Bakes Some Cookie-Lookies, and taken it home, what then?  Should you just hand it to him and say, "Here's a quarter book I brung ya"? Definitely not!  Hold on to it.  It's money in the bank.  Keep it under wraps until, in the normal course of events, a crisis arises.  Then say, in your most casual manner, "If you don't stop eating the leaves off Mommy's nice philodendron, I won't give you the pretty new book I bought you."  If you manage just the proper tone, he'll stop.  He might even spit out what he has in his mouth.  You then have him--and philodendron pulp--in the palm of your hand."
--from "First Books," by Stanley and Janice Berenstain, in The Family Book of Humor

I'm not much of a community cook

Over the years, I have been given a few "community cookbooks" as gifts.  It's nice to know that the gift-giver is supporting a good cause and thinking of our culinary enjoyment at the same time.  One of the volunteers at the thrift store says that church cookbooks are her all-time favourite source of good recipes, since everyone sends in their tried-and-true, best stuff--right?

However, community cookbooks and I do not always get along, for a few reasons.  They're often full of recipes using ingredients that I don't have.  They often lack an index, or have a lot of typing errors, or the recipes are just so non-standard as to be almost impossible to follow.  "One bottle ginger ale" does not give me enough information to know how much gets poured over the pork chops.  I don't mind if it's something like "brown a pound of hamburger and add some chopped onion."  That, I can figure out.  But it would be helpful for them to say, at least, "a big bottle" or "a little bottle," when it's obviously something you're supposed to be adding in a specific amount. I was looking through one of those cookbooks today, I think I found the recipe that takes the prize for "hunh??" value:  "Chicken Casserole." 

The recipe lists ingredients such as a can of cream soup, chopped celery, onion, pepper.  The directions:  combine it all and put it in a baking dish.  The afterthought:  top with the chicken and bake.

Where'd that chicken come from? Whole? Legs? Arms? Leftover from last night? Still flapping? (Sorry...I just had visions of Amelia Bedelia trying to follow this recipe.)

Beats me.
Computer Clipart Images

What's for supper? Stuffed with recipe

We haven't had stuffed pasta shells for a long time, and both ricotta cheese and jarred Alfredo-style pasta sauce were on sale this week, so I picked up some of each with the plan of making a pasta meal.  Pre-made sauce is not usually my first choice, but it was on sale for less than it would have cost to buy the cream and make it from scratch.

Tonight's menu:

Spinach-Stuffed Shells in Alfredo Sauce
Butternut Squash
Last night's leftover salad
Maybe...Garlic Bread Sticks

And dessert leftovers from the weekend.

Spinach-Stuffed Shells

One 340 g box jumbo pasta won't need all of them
Half a 300 g package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
One 300 g container ricotta cheese (lite is fine)
One good chunk Mozzarella cheese, grated or cut up--amount is up to you
One 420 ml jar store-brand Alfredo sauce, or your own alternative
Marjoram, pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)

For a casserole that serves four to six people, cook most of the pasta shells (I cooked all of them just to be safe).  Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a food processor, combine the ricotta cheese, spinach, Mozzarella, and seasonings.  If you don't have a food processor, just stir them together.  Stuff each shell with a heaping teaspoonful of the mixture, and arrange them in a large greased casserole.  Keep going until all the stuffing is used up. Cover with store-bought or homemade sauce, put the lid on, and bake at 350 degrees for about forty minutes or until it's all bubbly.  Sprinkle the casserole with Parmesan before serving, if you want.

Would you let this woman into your living room? (Homeschooling on TV)

Oh. My. Goodness. Just watch the first few minutes (even if you have issues with Bewitched), and then be thankful that homeschool parents in North America no longer have to deal with this. We think.

What's up at Hampstead House these days? (A few online book deals)

I still get paper catalogues from the Hampstead House remaindered bookstore near Toronto.  I haven't bought much from them in the last while--there just wasn't much that we could use or didn't already have.  But they are still a good source of books for resourceful homeschoolers, especially if you shop online and don't have to take the chance that they've run out of whatever you're ordering.

Here are some current examples from their website, but as always, they can quickly change.  And as always, no guarantees on anything--in many cases, I'm just going by their product descriptions, and what sounds great might turn out to be not exactly what you expected.  In most cases, we've been happy with the books and kits we've ordered for ourselves. 

Come to the Castle.  $6.99.  "The Earl of Daftwood welcomes your noble youngsters to his 13th century castle. Imaginative colour illus. let them gleefully imagine they’re watching a jousting tournament, attending a banquet and meeting the colourful cast of knights."

Prince Caspian 4-CD set.  $7.99.  This is the version read by Lynn Redgrave.  Plus you get a copy of the book.

Impressionism: A Celebration of Light.  $12.99.  This is a BIG book: 10 x 12 inches, 224 pages.

The Nature Book: What It Is and How It Lives$6.99.  Reviewed here on the British Amazon site.

The Ultimate Spelling & Vocabulary Reference.  $5.99.

The Penguin Map of North America.  $2.99.

The Dictionary of Disagreeable English, by Robert Hartwell Fiske.  $7.99.

THE BOOK OF HARD WORDS Read it, See it, Know it, Use it.  $5.99.

GEOFFREY CHAUCER: THE CANTERBURY TALES A New Unabridged Translation.  $14.99.  This is Burton Raffel's translation, reviewed on Amazon here.

And finally:

Stray Sock Sewing.  $6.99.  Really.

Special prayers needed for Amy

Amy, the owner of the CM Blog Carnival, could use a specially big dose of prayers and cyber-love right now.  More here (link fixed).

Reclaiming students' educational birthright

"She told them to do up their ties and sit up straight, and for years tried to make her lessons “fun,” according to educational guidelines.  Fun, she noticed, had crowded out learning. Vocational subjects were used as a dumping ground for kids from poor families, whom nobody expected much from. She would sit in on lessons at the country's top private schools and wonder why only the privileged children had much expected of them. The lack of skills among some kids who graduated from state schools was shocking."

Charlotte Mason, 1900?

No. Katharine Birbalsingh, 2012. (link to Globe and Mail article by Elizabeth Renzetti)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crochet Class #4: Pick Your Project

At the end of the last real-life class two weeks ago, some of the girls had finished their hearts and pretzels, or were close to it, and some hadn't.  But they went ahead and finished on their own, so everyone was ready for a new project. 

Here are the notes I had written before today's class:

First, some basic techniques:

We are going to go back over some of the basics today--making sure that you work into every stitch, remembering to chain one at the end of each row of single crochet, making sure that everybody knows how to turn their work and start the next row.

How do you change colours in crocheting?  The usual way is to start a stitch with the old colour, and when you get to the last bit of the stitch (like the last pull-through), bring the new colour over the hook and finish the stitch with that, leaving a short tail.  Do the next couple of stitches in the new colour to anchor it, then pull on the loose end to firm up the first stitch.  Cut the old colour (unless you're going to be coming back to that colour in the next row or something), also leaving a tail.  When you're all finished the piece, weave in all the loose ends.  Some crochet sources will tell you to tie the two tails in a knot, after the piece is finished, and then weave in the ends.  I've never found it necessary, at least in the kinds of things I make, and I always thought the idea was to avoid knots in the first place--I just go ahead and weave the ends in unknotted.  But if you're making something that's going to take lots of stress and you think the join might come undone, then go ahead and knot.

How do you make ribbing in single crochet?  Ribbing, if you don't know, is the tight-but-stretchy stuff that you usually find on sweater cuffs and turtlenecks, with a bit of a ridge on each row.  It's easy to do:  after you've done your first row of single crochet into the foundation chain, just work each single crochet stitch  of the following rows into the back strand or loop of the previous stitch, rather than under both strands.  (You don't make rows of "regular" stitching in between--just keep back-loop crocheting all the way through.)  The leftover strands form a ridge, or bump, in the crocheting. This is a common way of starting a hat:  you make a strip of ribbing, crochet or sew the ends of the strip together, and then work single crochets (or other stitches) across the ribbing--that is, perpendicular to the direction you were going before.   

But the band of ribbing itself is our first project option today:  you can make one (without the rest of the hat) and use it for a Doll's Hairband or a Person's HairbandHere are the directions:  chain 7 (or desired length), single crochet across the chain (so six single crochet stitches), and keep crocheting row by row, working only in the back loops.  Note again that you're working across the short rows here, rather than deciding on the length in advance and making a really long chain--otherwise the ribbing would go along the length of the headband and you'd lose the stretch. When it's as long as you want (measure against the intended head), end off and sew the ends together.  Decorate as desired--hairbands are a good place to add crocheted rosettes and other fancy motifs.

Bonus note:  back-stitch crochet is good for more than just ribbing: you can use it for a textured effect on things like coasters and dishcloths.

The second option today is a Doll Purse--with stripes if you want to practice colour changes.   But if you don't have a doll, you can make some other kind of small bag, cozy, or case--or a larger one if you're ambitious.  Single-crochet a rectangle twice as big as whatever you have in mind--because you are going to fold it in half and sew up the sides.  With worsted yarn and approximately a 4.5 mm hook, you might go with about twelve to fifteen stitches across, for an average doll purse, and work for--I don't know, twenty rows, maybe more?  Just stop when it seems big enough.

If the doll would prefer a plain tote bag, then fold it exactly in half, and add whatever kind of handles you like; if she wants a more stylish shoulder bag or clutch, then leave enough on one side to fold over for a flap.  How are you going to keep the flap closed?  Your choice--sew on a button, a snap, some Velcro, a hook and eye--whatever you have.  If you're short on hardware, you can stitch a big French knot onto the front of the purse, and then make a yarn loop on the flap--that is, thread yarn on a needle, take a couple of small stitches on the flap, make a small loop with the yarn as if you were making a lazy-daisy embroidery stitch, and anchor it down again with a couple more stitches.  The loop goes over the French knot to hold the flap closed.

For a simple strap for the shoulder bag, attach yarn to one corner of the bag with a slip stitch, then chain for the length required.  At the end, slip stitch to the opposite corner, then end off and weave in the cut end.  Or you could use ribbon or something else for a strap.  For a wider strap, make the chain, then work back across with single crochet.  You'll end up back where you started in that case, so you'll have to attach the loose end of the strap with a slip stitch or a couple of sewn stitches.

Our real-life class will be ending in only a couple more lessons, so we're going to be moving on next time to crocheting in the round--very useful, and a big step towards making some of the cute amigurumi stuffies that the girls are oohing and ahing over.  We're also going to make a really easy shamrock bookmark, and start learning about increasing and decreasing.

How has your crocheting been going?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Raspberry Ripple Muffins--your style

How do you make Raspberry Ripple Muffins?

1.  Make a regular muffin batter, or buttermilk muffin batter, or sour cream muffin batter, or cake-mix-clone batter, mixing in some rolled oats for texture.  Don't make it too thin, because you'll be adding fruit.

2.  Mix in a leftover cupful of the raspberry sauce that you very quickly concocted for last night's dessert (frozen raspberries, microwaved with a globule of jam that had a spoonful of cornstarch stirred in).  Don't mix it too hard or you'll lose the ripple effect.  If you don't have said cupful of fruit puree, you can always cook some up fresh.

3.  Bake in muffin papers until firm and just a bit browned.  Eat while fresh, or store in the refrigerator (I think--I wasn't sure about leaving them on the counter).

4.  If you don't want muffins, you could try this with pancakes.

That's all!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Poem for Gloomy Old February

"When Skies are Low and Days are Dark"

by N.M. Bodecker

When skies are low
and days are dark,
and frost bites
like a hungry shark,
when mufflers muffle
ears and norse,
and puffy sparrows
huddle close--
how nice to know
that February
is something purely

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two things we learned in school today

"[In the 1540's] men were so eager to hear the Word of God that they even clustered round the lecterns while the priest was saying prayers at the altar.  More than once some reader would slip from his place in the church as the clergyman mounted the pulpit.  As soon as the dull, creaky voice in the pulpit announced its text, the Bible reader announced that he would read the story of the Good Samaritan or David and Goliath.  There was no doubt which was the more interesting.  Before the poor parson had got well into his dreary discourse his congregation had forgotten about him and was eagerly listening to find out if the shepherd boy slew the giant or if the man robbed by the wayside really died.

"The Bible had become a part of the life of the English people."--Makers of the English Bible: The Story of the Bible in English, by Cyril Davey

"Early in the morning [of July 1, 1867], the royal salutes began. At Saint John, New Brunswick, the twenty-one guns in honour of this greatest of all modern marriages were fired off at four o'clock.  At six o'clock they sounded out from Fort Henry, just across the river from Kingston....High Mass was sung in the cathedral of Three Rivers at seven o'clock in the morning....The steamer America brought nearly 300 visitors across the lake from St. Catharines to swell the crowd in Toronto....And down the Eastern Townships all the shops were shut; the streets were bright with flags and bunting.  Down in the Maritime provinces, where the anti-Confederates watched the bright day with sullen disapproval...a few doors were hung with bunches of funereal black crepe."--D.G. Creighton, The Young Politician, quoted in Canada: The New Nation, by Edith Deyell

Photo of the Coverdale Bible found here
Photo of Prince George Hotel on July 1, 1867 found here

Found at the thrift store: banana box bonus

I spent most of the afternoon upstairs doing data entry, but I also wanted to help out towards the end of the afternoon by emptying a few of the stacked-up banana boxes of books.  (That's what the receiving guys use to repack donated books, so they can be stacked evenly.) You know how those boxes have a bunch of holes in them and you can kind of see what's inside?
It was really about time to leave, but there was one box in the stack that caught my eye--the coloured spines I could see looked very vintage. So I worked my way down quickly, and found a whole bunch of cool old books, mostly children's.  A few were thirties-forties Thornton Burgess, that sort of thing.

There were also some old how-to-draw books, and oh boy--some Scholastic paperbacks.  I hardly ever see those at the thrift store, only at rummage sales and yard sales.  And there were a couple of others that I picked out to bring home.

So it was worth spending a few extra minutes with the banana boxes.

This is what I bought:

Intimate Home: Creating a Private World, by Victoria Magazine
Madame Tussaud's Royalty & Empire: Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee 1897 (a photo book for Crayons' school)

The Bayeux Tapestry: The Story of the Norman Conquest 1066
The Pond, by Robert Murphy (a novel, winner of the 1964 Dutton Book Award)
Tree in the Trail (an extra copy, for trades)
Simply Sewing, by Judy Ann Sadler
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

For the Scholastic shelf:

Alvin's Secret Code, by Clifford B. Hicks (on our extra reading list for this year!)
The Riddle of the Lonely House, by Augusta Huiell Seaman
Voices in the Night, by Rhoda W. Bacmeister
Fog Magic, by Julia L. Sauer

What's for supper when everyone's home?

It is nice to have the Apprentice with us during her week off from classes (the university equivalent of March Break).  Although she's a commuter student, by the time she gets home she's usually either already eaten, or just heats something up.  So I am trying to make some favourite family things for dinner, since everybody's here.

Tonight's dinner menu:

Crockpot sausage and sauerkraut
Kasha (the Apprentice got this started while I was on my way home from the thrift store)
Corn and peas

10-minute microwave chocolate cake
5-minute microwave raspberry sauce

From the archives: On hard books, or, don't serve a stew you wouldn't eat yourself*

(Originally posted April 2010)
"For people who want to do the "living books" thing that Susan Macaulay has popularized, here is the kindergarten program all worked out for them.""--Dr. Ruth Beechick, review of a preschool-K curriculum
I use some of Ruth Beechick's books in our homeschool, and she has many good, practical ideas, especially (perhaps ironically) in using real books to teach language skills. However, I also think this comment is typical of the general misunderstanding around Charlotte Mason and "living books" in particular. In both fiction and non-fiction, the term “living books” has been overused, abused and confused, to the point that almost any chapter book set in some other era is now considered quality historical fiction...and, in the review above, "classic" picture books also suddenly join the list. Some people may take offense at that, and please understand that I am not discouraging the reading of picture books in general--only saying that these were not "living books" in the way that Charlotte Mason used the word.

If we’re going to be faithful to Charlotte Mason’s literary standards, we need to understand that she wasn’t exaggerating when she talked about little children playing Robinson Crusoe, or a schoolboy spending his whole Easter break reading Southey’s poems. It wasn’t so strange that Anne of Green Gables and her friends chose to act out "The Lily Maid" in 1908. Authors like Scott, Pyle, Kipling, Bunyan, Defoe, Kingsley, even George Eliot, were just considered The Books That There Were. They were the standards of the time, and children in "literate" households grew up familiar with Those Books, along with the Bible. If you look at the books Charlotte Mason refers to in the second half of Ourselves, which is meant to be read by older high school students, there are casual references to George Eliot's novels and other books that most of us are lucky even to get around to reading in college. For her students, they were common currency.

Now there must have been hundreds or thousands of books published over the last century, and most of us have gotten much worse at reading and at making time for reading. We’re hesitant, like Joyce McGechan, to put this kind of meal in front of our children because we’re not even sure we’d want to eat it ourselves. We’re in an era where, in a lesson plan for fourth graders, it’s expected that you should define words like “average” and “develop” before reading a book to them—and the lesson plan I found that in is for a picture book.

So I’m very aware in saying this, that the verbal and cultural gap between CM’s students and ours can seem insurmountable. But the fact is that there’s very little being published now, especially for children, that has both the literary power and the idea power of the books from the earlier eras, so we will often find ourselves turning back to them, not exclusively, but as a solid foundation.

Remember this from the third post? "Despising children is not doing the good that we should do in loving them or teaching them, because we undervalue their intelligence, their value as persons, their capacity for good, or even their capacity for bad."

And why are we using these hard books again? Is it because children develop character by chewing on gristle?
"Let us imagine an author at his craft, say, Herman Melville while writing Moby Dick, or Jane Austen working on Pride and Prejudice. Now assuredly what these literary artists hoped above all else was that a century or two from their own time students in high schools would be using their great works not better to understand love or honor or revenge or nobility or happiness, but to “analyze how multiple themes or central ideas in a text interact, build on, and, in some cases, conflict with one another”; as well as to “analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).""--Terrence Moore, "Dressing up Standards, Dumbing Down Schools," quoted by the Deputy Headmistress
Children, if they’re exposed to rich language from an early age, even if we find ourselves stumbling through some of the books, will get it, and will want more. Remember the little girl at Bending the Twigs who threw a sentence about Cerberus into her grammar lesson?

A leisurely education means having the freedom (time, space, opportunity) to discover what makes us fully human.

*Cafeteria lady Mrs. MacGrady on Arthur

Photo:  The Apprentice, 2006

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What's for supper? Lasagna sounds good...

Tonight's dinner menu:

Lasagna, made with the frozen/thawed remains of last week's spaghetti sauce (that was easy!)
Baked sweet potatoes

Mango-banana cake, made with the frozen/thawed remains of last week's mango-banana freeze

"Dying broke" is good? "Frightened savers?" What's that about?

I've been slightly under the weather this weekend, so when I couldn't figure out what this Toronto Star column was about, I blamed it on my loopy-headed frame of mind.

If you read the comments, it turns out I wasn't alone.  "Not sure whether to classify this article as misinformed, or tongue in cheek," says one.  "Or you can live fiscally responsibly, position yourself to be able to live on your own, and then put in the ear plugs to drown out the whining from all those who didn't but expect you to support them!" says another.

The fundamental error in logic here (don't say The Fallacy Detective hasn't enriched my life) is that we're being told it's all either/or.  Save your money and be boring and obsessed with saving.  Or spend your money and have a life.  (That's the part that I wasn't sure whether to take seriously.)  "In between birth and retirement comes an actual life.  Frightened savers forget this."

The (free) satellite TV channel we watch is loaded with advertisements about foreclosures and credit problems--legitimate fears.  But I'd rather be frightened enough to save something, rather than have fun spending and then be frightened by how I'm going to pay the dentist bills, or by how I can get the collection agency to stop calling.  [Clarification: yes, those things, and worse, can happen due to circumstances beyond our control.  I'm talking here only about what could have been prevented by careful planning and the kind of self-control that the column's author seems to be sneering at.]

Sounds like a pretty clear case of grasshopper and ant, if you ask me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Happy Blog Birthday to Us

Seven years old, and still squirreling.

Photo: Ponytails, 2009.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What's for supper? (Really clearing out the fridge)

Tonight's menu: 

Boneless chicken baked with oregano, garlic, and a bit of broth--thinking sort of Greek-style here?
Potato-spinach-feta perogies (we saw them at Walmart and decided to try them)
Carrot-apple salad, or carrot sticks for the picky eaters

Squash-oatmeal muffins, very low sugar (because I forgot to put in the sugar--actually they're still quite tasty)
Coconut-fruit balls, made with apricots, raisins, coconut, chocolate, juice of an orange, and some leftover cereal
Canned pears

Photo:  By Ponytails, taken earlier this week.  Why was she taking pictures of what's in our fridge?  It was a project for her Food and Nutrition class. 

Making a Barbie House from 3-Ring Binders: great ideas from the Blogworld

I clicked through to this through a BlogHer link at The Common Room, but the actual post is at a blog called Southern Disposition.  There are some extra posts there too about making the furniture, so have a look around.

This is so, so, so nice!  Crayons and her doll-playing friends would love it.  It reminds me of the Sunshine Family House that I had in the '70's. 

Mr. Puffett's purloined peaches (Crayons' Grade 5)

As a "read aloud special" for Friday, we had the story "Talboys" by Dorothy L. Sayers, which describes the domestic life of Lord Peter Wimsey by the time that his oldest son is old enough to get into a bit of mischief of his own.  What IS he hiding in the furnace room? 
"I wonder what the devil you've been up to. We've had newts and frogs and sticklebacks, and tadpoles are out of season. I hope it isn't adders, Bredon, or you'll swell up and turn purple. I can stand for most livestock, but not adders." " 'Tisn't adders," replied his son, with dawning hope. "Only very nearly. An' I don't know what it lives on..."
Sayers takes a good poke at armchair child psychologists and meddling houseguests (Miss Quirk is a kindred spirit to Aunt Mary Maria in Anne of Ingleside), and there aren't even any corpses in this one, so it's quite suitable for family reading.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Never miss a chance of learning," says Montague Egg.

Many people know Dorothy L. Sayers' detective Lord Peter Wimsey; but have you ever read any stories featuring her other sleuth, a travelling wine salesman named Mr. Montague Egg?
“You seem to be something of a detective, Mr. Egg," said Dr. Lovell Wilverton...“Do you mind telling me what first put this idea into your head?”

“Well, sir,” replied Mr. Egg, modestly, “...the thing that really bothered me was the books in that library. I’m no reader, unless it’s a crook yarn or something of that kind, but I visit a good many learned gentlemen, and I’ve now and again cast my eye on their shelves, always liking to improve myself. Now, there were three things in that library that weren’t like the library of any gentlemen that uses his books. First, the books were all mixed up, with different subjects alongside one another, instead of all the same subject together. Then, the books were too neat, all big books in one place and all small ones in another. And then they were too snug in the shelves. No gentleman that likes books or needs to consult them quickly keeps them as tight as that—they won’t come out when you want them and besides, it breaks the bindings. That’s true, I know, because I asked a friend of mine in the second-hand book business. So you see,” said Mr. Egg, persuasively, “Greek or no Greek, I couldn’t believe that gentleman ever read any of his books. I expect he just bought up somebody’s library—or you can have ’em delivered by the yard; it’s often done by rich gentlemen who get their libraries done by furnishing firms.”

“Bless my soul,” said Dr. Lovell Wilverton, “is Saul also among the Prophets? You seem to be an observant man, Mr. Egg.”

“I try to be,” replied Mr. Egg. “Never miss a chance of learning for that word spells ‘£’ plus ‘earning.’—You’ll find that in The Salesman’s Handbook. Very neat, sir, don’t you think?”
--"The Professor's Manuscript," by Dorothy L. Sayers, in The Complete Stories

What's for supper? Swojska sausage and the rest of the food groups

Tonight's menu:

Polish smoked sausage (Swojska style--who knew there was a Sausage Wiki?) baked with sauerkraut
Baked potatoes
Baked spaghetti squash
Herbed cheddar soda bread

Banana-mango freeze

Crochet projects: hearts and pretzels

You start with a single-crocheted strip, like this...

Then sew up the long side, and join into a heart or pretzel shape.

All photographs: Ponytails. Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.
Pattern source explained here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A quiet day at the thrift store

I was upstairs at the thrift store all afternoon, helping with computer work, so I didn't get much of a chance to shop today.  (S'all right, we didn't need much.)  Crayons found an L.L. Bean vest for $2.  I brought home some craft beads and one Madeleine L'Engle book.  That's all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What's for supper? (Valentine's Day)

Tonight's dinner is all about not having too much to clean up.  So:
Frozen mini beef and chicken pies (if I can manage it, I'm going to cut little hearts into...or out of...their tops)

Frozen Oriental vegetable mix (stir fried with soy sauce and a package of fresh mushrooms)
Brown rice, thawed and reheated in the oven with chicken bouillon

Double-chocolate muffins, made with the leftovers from last night's pudding
Fruit plate:  kiwi fruit cut into heart shapes, apple slices, banana slices cut with a canape cutter, and some bits of orange

(Thank you, Mr. Fixit, for the flowers!)

Monday, February 13, 2012

What's for supper? Spaghetti night

Tonight's dinner menu:

Mama Squirrel's Diner-Style Spaghetti Sauce, with linguini and Parmesan cheese
Spinach salad with carrots and sunflower seeds

Dessert:  Homemade chocolate pudding

Mr. Fixit and Crayons will have their dessert when they get back from swimming lessons.

The Apprentice will have her dinner when she tools in after a day of university classes and the commute home.

We are thankful for fridges and microwaves.

School plans for this week

We're done the Underground Railroad study, so back to our regular Term Two this week.

The Canadian history textbook moves on to the reasons for Confederation, with a special focus on the Atlantic provinces.  I'm happy about that, since all year long we've talked mostly about Ontario and the West, but haven't done  much with the Maritimes.  We might even throw in a little extra Canadian geography there for good measure.  UPDATE:  we also read the chapter about David Livingstone from Story of the World Volume 4.

We have five weeks left in the term, so we're going to work on a chapter on decimals from the Math Mammoth Grade 4B book.  Crayons is still doing Math Pet Store with her dad when he comes home at noon, but it's going slowly.  They're also doing some telephone experiments for science.

We will be getting back into Madam How and Lady Why, A Passion for the Impossible, and the Mary Cassatt picture studies.  We've been keeping up with Plutarch.

We're almost finished Silas Marner--that went pretty quickly, and I'm not sure what we'll read next for literature.  I think we'll squeeze in Caddie Woodlawn as an extra read-aloud book, since it fits with our history time period.  Also "The Learned Adventure of the Dragon's Head," from Dorothy L. Sayers' Complete Stories.

What are you doing this week?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Hymn Post: Evening and Morning (Repost from 2009)

Evening and Morning
by Paul Gerhardt, translated by Richard Massie

Evening and morning, sunset and dawning,
Wealth, peace and gladness, comfort in sadness,
These are Thy works; all the glory be Thine!
Times without number, awake or in slumber,
Thine eye observes us, from danger preserves us,
Causing Thy mercy upon us to shine.

Father, O hear me, pardon and spare me;
Calm all my terrors, blot out my errors,
That by Thine eyes they may no more be scanned.
Order my goings, direct all my doings;
As it may please Thee retain or release me;
All I commit to Thy fatherly hand.

Midi etc. available at

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Crochet Class Number Three: Make a Pretzel Magnet, or a Valentine Heart, or...

I have a couple of difficulties writing this one.  First, the real-life class has jumped ahead of the posts, but it wouldn't be very nice of me to just assume that anyone working along with us here has done the same.  Also, this week's project appeared in Crochet World, May/June 1989, and also in a book by the same publisher called 101 Fun to Crochet Projects.  So I assume that they wouldn't like me to just copy out the whole pattern as written.

However, I can give you the basic idea, and also show you how I turned the same pattern into a Valentine Heart.

But first, back to the basics.

A couple of yarn tips, in case you are not already a crocheter/knitter or just not used to buying yarn.  First of all, don't assume that, if the directions say "one skein" of something, the skeins you find will be exactly the same size as the ones described.  I have a  pattern booklet based on 8-ounce skeins of Super Saver; but all the Super Saver yarn I've seen around here is either in 5- or 7-ounce skeins.  Maybe it's like the groceries, and the packages have shrunk since the book was published; maybe it's a U.S./Canada difference, I don't know.  But just remember to check twice when you're figuring yarn amounts.

Also, most yarn labels will have a dye lot number on them.  (Some yarn is labelled "no dye lot.")  If you're buying more than one skein of the same colour, make sure it's all from the same dye lot.

New skills for this class:

By this time everybody has learned to chain, make single crochet stitches, and do a slip stitch (what you do to join the ends of a round together).  Right?

Okay--now we go from the equivalent of knowing the alphabet to really reading.  On this page, look for the "how to single crochet video" by Edna Kurtzman.  Yes, I know you know how to single crochet by now, but this time you are going to make a chain first, and then work your stitches into the links of the chain.  That's how you make the first row of single crochet, if you're working in rows--the chain doesn't count as a row.  Keep working all the way down the chain, putting one single crochet into each link, until you get to the end.  Don't work into the knot. End off when you're done (that is, cut the yarn and pull the tail tight through the last loop). That's how we made a Long Skinny Bookmark at the last real-life class--a length of chain with single crochets worked into it.  If you want a two-colour bookmark, you can make the chain and end off the yarn, then slip-stitch a second colour into one end, single crochet down the chain, and end off again. 

A couple of the young real-life crocheters found this kind of hard; their stitches were uneven, or the chain got twisted.  To be honest, working into a chain is not the easiest or the most fun thing to do.  But if you want to work in rows, you just have to put up with it to get the thing started.  And if you really, really dislike it, then stay away from afghan patterns that start with "chain 350."  Learn to crochet in the round (an upcoming lesson), make doilies or granny squares or amigurumi animals or something.  Crocheting isn't always about long chains.

Some of the girls, on the other hand, found it so easy that they wanted to know how to make the next row of single crochet.  I think the same video shows you that, but this is how:  you chain one stitch and turn your work, so that you're still working right to left, but going back across the stitches you just made.  See how the tops of the single crochets you made look sort of like chains?  Working under both top strands of each stitch in the previous row, make a single crochet stitch into each one, all the way across.  When you get to the end, chain one, turn, and start all over again.  When you're single crocheting in rows, you make the first stitch right into the last stitch of the previous row (that is, the first place you could make a stitch in this row), and work across only as far as the last true single crochet of the row before.  I'm saying that because when you get into "taller" stitches such as double crochet, the rules change: you skip over the first stitch in the row and then make your last stitch into the previous row's turning chain.  But don't worry about that for now.  Go ahead and practice going back and forth for a few rows...I'll wait.

And if you can do that, you've really learned to crochet.  There are still things to learn, like increasing and decreasing, and how to make the other stitches, but from here on it's just practice, and reading patterns.  If you can single crochet back and forth, you can now call yourself a crocheter.  You could pretty much copy the zippered case that I made last week.  Mine was done in half double crochet, but it works just as well in single crochet--it would just take a bit longer to make.  Anyway, the point is that you could make one of these, or anything else in a basic square or rectangle, with the crochet skills you now have.

By the way, this is a good time to talk about yarn tension, and how you hold the hook, the yarn, and the work without dropping it all.  You will notice, if you're watching instructional videos or looking at diagrams, that a lot of right-handed crocheters wind the yarn around a couple of fingers of their left hand, in the same way that a sewing machine has hooks and loops that you put the thread through to keep it tight.  If you do most of the hook-moving with your right hand, it's all right to have your left hand slightly "tied up" with the yarn while you work, if it helps to keep the stitches even.  You might also want to keep hold of the work itself with a couple of the fingers of your right hand, especially if you're making a long chain.  Not everyone holds the hook and yarn in exactly the same way, so just figure out what's most comfortable for you.  And again, watching a few videos can give you more of the idea.

So now we're caught up with the girls, and today they're going to make the Pretzel Magnet or Valentine Heart, which are crocheted exactly the same but just put together a bit differently.  You will need a size G/6 (American) or 4.5 mm (Canadian) hook, some worsted-weight yarn (brown for a pretzel, pink or red for a heart), scissors, and a yarn needle.  Also magnet tape if you want to make it into a magnet, and glue if the magnet tape isn't sticky-backed.  Also crystal or sparkle paint for decoration--crystal for salt on a pretzel, sparkle for a bit of Valentine glitz.  The original pattern suggests embroidering French knots for the pretzel salt; but I think the embroidery looks a bit lame, at least in the photographs.  Decide for yourself.  Also here.  I prefer crystal paint, but it's up to you.

This is what you do:  chain 51, single crochet in the second chain from the hook, single crochet all the way across, chain 1 and turn.  You have 50 stitches in the row.  Make five more rows of single crochet, making a chain 1 at the beginning of each.  At the end of the sixth row, fasten off, leaving a length of yarn for sewing.

Thread the yarn needle onto the tail of yarn.  Fold the crocheted strip in half, lengthwise.  Whip stitch the edge closed, all the way down the strip.  You will have a long, flat crocheted tube.  Lay the tube down flat, with the sewn edge facing away from you.  Mark the center of the tube (temporarily) with a pin (or a bobby pin, or a bit of yarn pulled through one of the stitches). 

For a heart, just overlap the ends slightly and sew them together, squeezing the bottom to give it a heart shape. 

For a pretzel, curl the right-hand edge 1/4 inch to the left of the center mark. Sew the end in place (see photos in those links for placement). Curl the left-hand edge over top of that, and sew it 1/4 inch to the right of the center mark.

Decorate as desired.  Glue on a magnet strip, or use in any other way you want (maybe crochet a chain to make it into a necklace?).

How else could you sew the flattened tube together?  It could be crossed over near the bottom and would resemble the different-coloured ribbons used as logos for various charitable causes.  Maybe you can think of some other variations.

Homework this week?  Keep practicing single crochet in rows.  Make a dishcloth, a coaster, a gadget-cozy, or a teddy bear scarf.  For a long rectangle like a scarf, it's up to you whether you start with a short chain and then go back and forth lots of times, or with a long chain and make fewer rows.  If you're chain-phobic, work across the shorter rows.

I'll post another Crochet Class in two weeks to fill in some details (colour changes, ribbing, and handy stuff like that)--then we'll start increasing, decreasing, and working in the round.

All photographs: Ponytails. Copyright 2012 Dewey's Treehouse.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's for supper? "Pub food night"

I'm not sure when or why we started calling this sort of a meal "pub food"--I think it was Mr. Fixit's term, mainly for chicken wings plus veggies and dip.  Tonight's dinner is along the same lines. 

Frozen pizza, plus a bit of leftover cooked bacon and pepperoni added on
Sweet potato fries
Celery sticks and green peppers plus dip (yogurt, mayonnaise and seasoning)
The very last of a can of black olives, and a few chow mein noodles

(What, you expected dessert too?)

Thursday, February 09, 2012

What's for supper?

Tonight's menu:

Chicken-corn-pepper chowder, made partly with last night's fajita leftovers
Toasted bacon and cheese sandwiches

Doughnut muffins, fruit

Crayons learns to read (from the archives)

Originally posted February 9, 2006

1. Crayons read her first really real book out loud today:  Arthur's Pen Pal, by Lillian Hoban. [link updated 2012] This isn't the aardvark Arthur from Marc Brown's TV series; this Arthur is a chimp.

2. The Apprentice made chocolate chip cookies all by herself. OK, she's baked other things, but this was her own idea and she did all the work. Except for cracking the eggs. The Apprentice will do anything to avoid getting gook on her fingers.

3. Ponytails can sing all the words to Kiki Dee's part of "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." She's also got most of the Kings and Queens of England song down pat, even though the Beethoven's Wig CD had to go back to the library.

4. French Fry (the hamster) had a little tour around the house in his plastic ball. (We're pretty sure that French Fry is a boy.)

Some days are just full of new things.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

What's for supper? (Mr. Crockpot took care of that)

Chicken fajitas in the Crockpot (put chicken in Crockpot, put salsa on top, cook on High for a few hours)
Things to eat with the chicken:  chopped peppers, cheese, sour cream, the last of a can of olives, whole wheat tortillas, rice

Vanilla milkshakes

Found at the thrift store: no books, are you surprised?

I worked on unpacking and pricing books all afternoon (instead of the computer work I have been doing recently).  But I didn't bring home any books, just some yarn.  I'm busy reading a couple of library books right now anyway (like Bookless in Baghdad).  Crayons was the one who brought home a Chicken Soup book that she wanted.

Most interesting title this afternoon:

Most interesting book that I might have gotten but didn't (because we are already have lots of Star Trek books):

The cost of homeschooling: right up there with socialization

Of all the reasons for or against homeschooling, the supposed "real costs" or "missed-opportunity costs"  argument has to be about the second-oldest after the socialization question, and it's just as misleading.

The Deputy Headmistress of The Common Room has posted her current thoughts on this, here and here.  It's also worthwhile to go back to her 2005 post here, because the comments are so interesting.  I originally posted a response to that one here.  (The DHM and I have been friends a long time.)

All I can add, to all that, is this:  first, you may save money by homeschooling.  It depends on your lifestyle, your curriculum, how many kids you have, how much money you were making or spending before, and so on.  As the DHM and others have pointed out, you won't be spending money on extra shoes, band trips, and pizza days either, and you may be saving money related to daycare or other parental work expenses. But most people don't begin to homeschool solely with the intention of saving money.  As in, we can't afford to send you to public school any more, so you'll just have to stay home.  There are usually other reasons involved in the decision--academic, religious, health reasons, bullying, bad teachers, whatever.  So from my admittedly limited economic understanding, this is not something you can approach with a simple comparison of costs.

Second, as far as the actual cost of the actual homeschooling goes--that is, minus the arguments over whether or not the kids' shoes wear out faster, or whether you have lower medical expenses because they're not being coughed and sneezed on by thirty other kids, or how much money you won't have to spend on peanut-free granola bars and juice boxes--the only point that all homeschoolers* can agree with on this, is that we're in control of that cost.  If we have money to burn and count a whole lot of things as "school", we can homeschool very expensively.  If we're broke, we can scrounge and use freebies.  In most cases (see the note below), we are free to decide that this year we will or won't teach a certain subject, will or won't have swimming lessons, will or won't buy a new printer. 

Yes, you could put together some kind of an "average" family picture, and say that "most" homeschoolers pay a certain amount for math materials, reading books, computer stuff; or that people who spend a certain amount are more successful at homeschooling than others.  But what's the point?  A glance through any general homeschooling magazine, or through a week's Carnival of Homeschooling, will show such a diversity of approaches and lifestyles that such comparisons would be meaningless.  Even within our own family, every year's expenses are a little different: some years we've just re-used what we had, other years we've needed to buy new materials.

Conclusion?  There isn't one, except that, like the socialization question, the "costs" question is just as red a herring.

*"All homeschoolers" meaning all who live where they are free to plan their own work and/or choose their own curriculum provider, rather than being required to teach a set curriculum, buy required books, etc.

RELATED POST:  Frugal Homeschooling: Let Me Count the Ways

Charlotte Mason carnival, with nature study bonuses

The latest Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at Handbook of Nature Study.  So take a nature walk over in that direction, because there's lots to take in.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

What's for supper? Stuffed peppers

Tonight's menu:

Stuffed red peppers, like this
Brown rice, sweet potatoes, broccoli

Chocolate cake (a small one)

Some recipes I'm thinking of trying

These all came out of the February 2011 issue of Chatelaine Magazine that I got free from the Apprentice's hair salon, back while she was still working there last summer.  I was being her volunteer head so that she could finish her course (you do not want to know how awful I look in a finger wave), and while she was doing things to my hair, I got interested in the magazine and asked if I could take it home since it was already a few months old.  Turns out that the recipes are online too, but I didn't think of that at the time.

Red-curry-peanut noodles with chicken and broccoli

(Mr. Fixit can't handle peanut butter in any large amount, but we'll either cut it way back or figure something else maybe using cashew butter.)

Smoky corn chowder with bacon

Herbed cheddar soda bread

Spanish Rice with peppers and sausage  (no chorizo for us--we've tried it and it was a bit too much.  But I might try it with a less-heat sausage.)

Chunky chipotle-pork chili  (also no chipotles for us this time around, mainly because we don't have any.  But for our wussy tongues, the chili powder would probably be enough, and Mr. Fixit can add his own Frank's Hot Sauce.)

This one's not from Chatelaine, but it looks very melt-in-your-mouth:  Strawberry 2 Ingredient Fudge.  This was linked recently from A Holy Experience, and I thought it looked good then, so I checked this weekend to see if our discount supermarket carries canned strawberry frosting--it's not something I've ever had a reason to look for.  Nope--they just had chocolate and a couple of kinds of vanilla, which was not a big surprise. Well, I'll check around; we could always add some flavouring to a can of vanilla frosting, I guess.

Monday, February 06, 2012

I will not be indexed**...well, sometimes it's all right (meal planning)

One line from a book that has stuck with me for years is Peg Bracken's phrase, "the recipes we swear by instead of at."  Do you have some of those?  I remember her also writing something like "I just want to know one little thing you can do with a chop besides broil it."

Well, I don't broil chops too often (all right, never), but I do know that you can leave them in a slow cooker all day on top of some sauerkraut, and they'll come out all right.

I keep a couple of binders of favourite, medium-favourite, and sounds-good-let's-try-it recipes.  But I've also started a notebook--a very low-tech, dollar-store notebook--with pages listed by main ingredients that I want to use up, food I have in the fridge or the cupboard, or things that happen to be on sale this week.   The recipes and ideas I've written in--not full recipes, just page numbers or notes like "in the red binder under Soups"--are pretty basic ones, and/or things you could do without adding a lot of other ingredients or taking a whole lot of time. What's the most basic thing you could do with a sweet potato?  Stick it in the oven until it's done.  Or peel it and cook it in a potful of water, or a steamer.  Sometimes we forget the obvious.  What else could you do with a sweet potato?  Sweet potato fries. Fritters.  Sweet potato salad. What else?  Mash it and use it as a substitute for pumpkin puree (or feed it to the baby, if you have a baby).  And so on.  Canned pineapple?  Besides just eating it or mixing it with other fruit, you could freeze it and then run it through the food processor for sherbet.  Celery?  Celery sticks, celery in salad or chili or stew or soup or stir fry, or Kitchener Special, or something sweet and sour.  Sometimes it's not more recipes you need, it's just a review of the possibilities.

Red peppers are on sale this week at the discount supermarket.  Okay, they're not local, but they're unusually inexpensive and I'll probably buy some.  What can I do with them?  Eat them raw as snacks or in salad--that might be as far as I'd need to go.  But I could also plan a fajita meal, because I do have some tortillas (bought on sale) in the freezer, and I know we have chicken--now you're talking, as Mr. Fixit would say.  Or I could put them in chili, or a stir-fry.  Or I could chop some and flash-freeze on a cookie sheet.

I have one or two pages each dedicated to cabbage, barley, pineapple, peanut butter, ground turkey, and so on.  It's like a personal index of the stuff we eat, so that I don't have to reinvent the wheel every time Mr. Fixit brings home ground turkey (oh yeah, last time we had Turkey Sloppy Joes), and so that I don't have to fish through all our cookbooks for an appropriate recipe.

I know that Gayle at Grocery Cart Challenge uses this idea on a larger scale.  If she has chicken, tomatoes, and green beans, she goes on a large recipe website and plugs in those ingredients to find an appropriate recipe.  My version is more limited, but it works for me.

**You never watched The Prisoner?  "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered."

Sunday, February 05, 2012

That's one frugal makeup bag (crochet projects)

This started out as an example of "crocheting a rectangle," something coming up soon in our girls' crochet class. The class project that week will be to make a small purse for a doll (since this is a class of tweenage girls, there are several doll projects--and doll projects work up quickly), but I wanted to show how the same idea--folding a square or rectangle in half--could be used to make a bigger purse, glasses case, Barbie sleeping bag, whatever.
Ingredients: one 50 cent ball of thrift-store yarn (of which I used about half), one red zipper taken from a one-dollar thrift store skirt (most of the skirt had already been sacrificed for another purpose), two red buttons, two daisy motifs from a thrifted bag of trims, and a bit of red thread. Total cost--maybe seventy-five cents?
Method: Crochet a rectangle as long as the zipper and as deep as you like. I used half-double crochet which is a good solid stitch and is easy to do, but which has one little catch if you're crocheting in rows: make sure you don't miss the last stitch before the chain, because it tends to hide. I noticed that I was losing a stitch as I went along, and wondered what I was doing wrong--so I quickly checked a video tutorial and found someone pointing out that exact problem. Oops. So I tried again and got it right.

Turn it inside out, sew up the sides, thread a sewing needle with thread to match, and sew each side of the zipper to one side of the case. Keeping the zipper partly unzipped while you sew it is a good idea, because otherwise, when you get it all sewed together, you'll have to poke at the zipper tab and open it upside down and backwards to turn it right side out, if you know what I mean.
Decorate as you feel inspired.  I happened to have the daisies and a box of buttons nearby, so that's what I used.

Crayons' Grade Five: Focus on the Underground Railroad, Week 2

Week 1 is here.

Crayons, as I could have guessed ahead of time, is already a bit Underground-Railroaded out.  We don't usually put so much focus on just one topic during the week.  I had also intended on having her do some independent reading on Harriet Tubman, Levi Coffin, or someone like that, but we seem to be getting a bit of information about all those people just "by the by" as we read the other books, so I'm not sure how worthwhile that is.

But we will carry on.  Towards the end of the week the focus shifts to a quick look at the U.S. Civil War.  I said a quick look.  This is Canada, people; yes, this country (as it existed then--Confederation was still a couple of years off) was affected, but it's not something elementary students here learn about in any great detail.  As Gladys Kravitz said to Abner, "The North won."

I'm thinking about incorporating Janet Lunn's novel The Root Cellar, a time-slip story about the Civil War.  This book has been fairly popular, I think, with teachers and homeschoolers studying this time period; but I remember it as being a bit dark for a fifth grader.  Any opinions there?

Anyway, here's the plan for this week:


Poem: "Mother to Son," by Langston Hughes

Copywork (poem or quote)
Underground to Canada
(A break here to go outside and skip, since the ground is dry and it's unusually sunny and warm for February)
History:  pages 88-93 in The Last Safe House, including information about Alexander Milton Ross
Workbook (unit study pages):  more information about Ross
Chapter from Silas Marner (nothing to do with this topic, it's just what we're reading anyway)


Bible:  chapter from Matthew
Poem: "Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes
Copywork (poem or quote)
Underground to Canada
History: pages 110-114 in The Last Safe House
Draw something from this time period in the sketchbook

Watch part of the Homestead Blessings DVD on Crafts

Lunch break, and telephone technology (with Dad)

Plutarch's Life of Dion, Lesson 7


Poem: "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes
Underground to Canada
Workbook:  math problems (distance travelled to Canada, etc.)
French (computer games)
Draw something from this time period in the sketchbook
Probably start reading The Root Cellar together

Afternoon: volunteering at the thrift store


Poem: "I know why the caged bird sings" and "Touched by an angel" by Maya Angelou
Copywork (poem or quote)
Underground to Canada
Workbook:  map exercise
History:  Canadian history textbook, two pages about the Civil War
Draw something in the sketchbook
Two short chapters from Silas Marner, written narration


Poem: "Life Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson
Copywork (poem or quote)
Finish Underground to Canada.
History:  Canadian history textbook, finish the section on the Civil War
Creative narration project:  to be decided. 

Weekend reading assignment:  continue reading The Root Cellar, or choose another book set in the same time period (Little Women etc.).

Friday, February 03, 2012

Bisy, backson, and all that

We are pulling up the ladder to the Treehouse for the weekend.  There's nothing wrong, we just need to get some other things done!  See you next week.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

What's for supper? Frozen everything.

Tonight's menu:

Frozen fish
Frozen fries
Mashed-potato scones (we had a cupful of leftover mashed potatoes)
Frozen green beans
A bit of leftover smoked sausage and sauerkraut

Blueberry crisp made from frozen blueberries.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Found at the thrift store

Again this week I was doing data entry part of the time (I think that will be an ongoing part of the Wednesday routine), but there were also a lot of books to unpack.  I got a few boxes done...

What did we bring home?  Three part-balls of yarn (for the crochet class), one bag of ponybeads and beadie-critter ribbon, a couple of cookbooks, one Beanie Baby Handbook (for Crayons), and one Little, Brown English handbook (for everyone).
That's all.  Not even any weird book stories today--sorry.
Related Posts with Thumbnails