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 oven...it'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.

TUESDAY

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

LUNCH BREAK

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

WEDNESDAY (short day)

Bible: Gospel of Matthew
Memory Work
Grammar:  Mad Libs
Readaloud:  The Great Quillow, by James Thurber
(break)
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.'"
Poems
French:  Unit 3, Lesson 21b:  Reading short poems about the seasons.


THURSDAY
 
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.
Copywork
Free Reading

FRIDAY

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.

Copywork

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

NEXT MONDAY

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."
Poems
Cooking
Caddie Woodlawn, chapter 14, "A Dollar's Worth." 
Math: page 171
Nature Study
Time working with Dad
Free Reading

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's for supper? Stuffed shells...now 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 shells...you 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.

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!

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
Yogurt.

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
Salad

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

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. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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
Peas
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.

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?

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.

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

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.

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.