Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book Review: Underfoot in Show Business

Underfoot in Show Business, by Helene Hanff

If you're a regular Treehouse reader, you already know that I enjoy Helene Hanff, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, and the books that connect the two.  I read Q's Legacy earlier this year and liked it, mostly.  I think I was hoping for a bit more insight into exactly how Helene studied Sir Arthur's books, rather than a memoir of her writing career, but that's all right.

She spent quite a bit of time in Q's Legacy talking about how she got to know the editor Gene Young, and how Gene persuaded her to write her first book, Underfoot in Show Business.  The two books actually work well together--one seems to fill in details that the other is missing.  But out of the two, I actually like this one better.  It's very funny...well, most of it.  I can't find a great deal of humour in the extended descriptions of how Helene and her equally poverty-stricken friend Maxine used to sneak into the second half of movies and plays (usually by mingling during the intermission and then looking for empty seats).  But the bits about living on the "ladies' floor" of a New York apartment building, and having to share a communal kitchen etc., were wonderful.  (I had a very similar experience living off-campus during university.)  One note: she is talking about life in the big city, and life in the big city, even in the 1940's and '50's, had its seamy side; there are some bits of the book that you would not necessarily want your kids reading.  Just saying.

There is a really good chapter--this is probably similar to the New Yorker article that got Gene Young's attention in the first place--about Helene's early job working for a theater company that produced a series of flops, but that was trying one last time, in 1943, with a show that nobody expected anybody to like.  And wouldn't you know...

And the best part, the part I won't give away so that you'll have to read the book, is about her later job as a reader for a movie studio.  She, and an assortment of other characters, got paid to read and review all kinds of things--books, stories, plays--for the studio to consider as movies.  Then she got her absolute worst assignment ever--a little light reading for over the weekend. 

I'll give you a hint.

It was a trilogy that had been published in Britain but that was just then being published in the United States.

Here's another hint.

It was Long.

P.S.  I found Underfoot in Show Business at the library.  If you can get hold of a copy and you like 84, Charing Cross Road and the rest, you'll like it.  Four out of five stars.

Thrift store Wednesdays: what bugs you?

Last week we were on our blog break, but I did find some books last Wednesday at the thrift store.  It also looks like I will be going back to doing mostly books instead of bookkeeping from now on.  Not like I was embezzling money or anything; I would just rather unpack and price books than type numbers into a computer.

Here's what I found last week:

The London Blitz:  a booklet to supplement some of our fall history

Man and His World: studies in prose, by Malcolm Ross and John Stevens.  This is a 1961 school-type anthology of "stories and essays of intrinsic interest and permanent value."  It includes stories like "The Machine Stops" and 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," and essays by C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and Phyllis McGinley.

Philip's Atlas of the Oceans, by John Pernetta.  To go with The Sea Around Us.

French Painting: 19th Century, a booklet from the National Gallery of Art in Washington

For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts, edited by W. David O. Taylor, foreword by Luci Shaw.  As I was thinking, "what a beautiful book," I opened the front cover and there was a squished bug. 

Irony? Or just ewww...

A loss in the Charlotte Mason community

We would like to extend our prayers and sympathy to the Van Pelt family of Ancaster, Ontario, whose son Kenton passed away in a water accident this past weekend. Many of you will have heard of Dr. Deani Van Pelt because of her direction of the Digital CM Archives, and you may have also met her or heard or speak at conferences in Canada and the United States.
"In lieu of flowers, a scholarship fund has been created to promote short-term mission trips by students of Hamilton District Christian High School. Donations may be sent c/o First Christian Reformed Church, 181 Charlton Ave W, Hamilton ON L8P 2C9."

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to School Plans, Part One: Changes to Dollygirl's Grade Six Science

Sometimes you have to trust your instincts about books.

I had a strong feeling that the physical science textbook we planned on using for Dollygirl's Grade Six was going to be dull, too young for her, and too much repetition of stuff we'd already done.  Our family bent is towards physical sciences anyway--where we usually come up short is on chemistry and biology.  I know Mr. Fixit used the textbook with Ponytails in Grade Seven, but I think that he added to it from his own knowledge; and he's not teaching science this year except maybe for a bit of workshop stuff.

"Couldn't you do sort of a Grade Six Integrated Science course?" asked our science major.  "Work on a problem and use different kinds of science to solve it?"  I liked that idea, although I wasn't sure what kind of a problem we could work on at this level.

But even if we were to stick with physical science, I kept wishing that we at least had a better (as in, more appropriate for Dollygirl) spine book to go with the suggested biographies of Einstein and Archimedes.

Then I happened to be at the big downtown library--just by a fluke, or maybe by Providence, because I haven't even been at that library for at least a year--and I found it.

The Great Motion Mission: A Surprising Story of Physics in Everyday Life, by Cora Lee, illustrated by Steve Rolston (ISBN: 9781554511853, Annick Press, 2009).  There's a good review of it here.  It's still in print and available through the online bookstores.

It's a bit along the lines of The Magic School Bus, but for older kids (grade 5-6 and up).  There's an almost-too-smart-to-be-true teenage science whiz (Ms. Frizzle Junior?) who's out to spread the gospel of science-is-amazing.  There's a goateed Gen-Xer who wishes she'd keep quiet, and the nephew of the goateed one, an eventual convert to "Yes, science is interesting, science is important, and science is all around us, so you'd better pay attention."

This is not baby science: we are not putting pots of water on the stove here just to see them steam.  This is a book full of grownup ideas and contemporary vocabulary: superstring theory, quarks, dark matter, integrated circuitry.  But it also covers some of the basics, things that we could spend extra time on, trying things out for ourselves, or looking them up in more detail:  the physics of hitting a baseball, concepts of light and sound, mass, gravity and so on.  And that is the difference between trying to force some interest out of the old textbook topics, vs. using the same textbook (as I'm planning to do) as our reference guide.  Yes, Dollygirl has seen demonstrations of friction and static electricity; she knows that matter can be solid, liquid or gas: but this book takes it all a step beyond, into the world of what scientists do with those facts.

As far as Christian/non-Christian, creationist/evolutionist issues go, I didn't find the book offensive.  There's one section about the origins of the universe and the Big Bang theory, and one reference to the His Dark Materials books, but that's about it.

The book is only seven chapters long, which, at the rate of about one chapter every two weeks, will take us through the first term.  After that, I think we'll concentrate on Archimedes and the Door of Science and The Sea Around Us.

I'm now looking forward with much more enthusiasm to the first term of science.  I hope Dollygirl enjoys it too.  (Update: The Apprentice says she's thought of some other good ideas for science, but she'll have to email them to me because her time home from her summer job was very brief this weekend.)

P.S.  Cora Lee has also written a similar book about math, which I'd like to look at, but the only copy in our library system is at another branch, so I'll have to request it.

Linked from Carnival of Homeschooling: Let's Play School Edition, at HomeschoolJourneys.com.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pulling up the Treehouse ladder--back in August

We are taking a short blogging break--see you in a week!

Thoughts for Sunday: the 2012 Circe Conference

Something to read and maybe post up somewhere:  "Why Contemplate Creation?", from the 2012 Circe Institute Conference that wound up yesterday.

It starts like this:

--Because education is a fundamentally creative act
--Because we are made in the image of a Creator
--Because creation as object is our stewardship
--Because creation as activity is our joy.

More here.

Also:  Cindy's after-thoughts about the conference.

If you don't understand Cindy's references to the roof blowing off, that was literal.  A tornado made the conference a bit more exciting than planned--we are very thankful to hear about God's protection on all who were there.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday yardsaling: my turn

Yard sales haven't been very productive this summer.  Mr. Fixit has found a few electronics, but since we're not really in the market for baby stuff, toys, dishes and so on, I haven't found much myself.  Also I'm pickier than I used to be about books, unless they're a really good deal; I want a copy of Little Men, but I see those about every other week at the thrift store.

This weekend, though, the finder's luck turned in my direction.  Yesterday at Elora we went into several antique shops, and I was the only one who found something in one of them: a bagful of vintage snap fasteners and bias tape, still in their 15-cent packages. I use snap fasteners mostly when I'm making doll clothes, and the bias tape is mostly bright reds and greens that could be useful for Christmas gifts. The owner obviously cared more for his glassware and gizmos than he did a dusty bag of sewing supplies, so I got the whole thing for two dollars.

Then today I came across the insert to a Cuisinart pasta pot--a big metal pot-shaped strainer that you can use to lift out spaghetti, corn or whatever without having to dump the whole pot of boiling water.  It's a bit taller than our stockpot, but I don't think that matters if you're cooking without a lid on.

And I found a set of Corningware "saucepans," kind of like this:

They are a set of three casserole dishes that can also be used on the stovetop, if you attach these handles.  The Apprentice is probably going to take one to her place, since she's short on both casseroles and pots.

So once in awhile I do get my turn.

Friday, July 20, 2012

An afternoon's vacation: visiting Elora

It was a sunny, hot afternoon, and we decided to make an impromptu trip to the Elora Gorge, to walk through the woods to the lookout, and to check out some of the shops in the town.

Elora has gotten more...I don't know, Euro-cized?...in the last number of years.  Brighter, more upbeat, more hip.  The river wasn't at its best, though--the drought has brought the water level down.  We saw someone fishing, but nobody was tubing or canoeing, at least that we could see.

But it turned out to be a good afternoon for just enjoying.

Photo found on Wikipedia

Did I ever link to this? Never too late, though

Beauty and order:  Wildflowers and Marbles shows a nice way to use cupboard doors and ribbon boards as a homeschool "action center."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

In the Treehouse: the teacher's desk

We were moving some furniture around in the Treehouse today. This is Mama Squirrel's new corner.

What's for supper? Dangerous chocolate cake in a cereal bowl

Tonight's menu:

Sausage baked with sauerkraut
Black beans-and-salsa (reheated)
Brown rice
Carrot sticks, peppers

Chocolate cake in a mug (we make two and share them) Update: Every time I make these in mugs, it makes a mess. So I had an idea: cereal bowls work just as well and don't run over. And they're easier to share.


From the archives: that summer of 2006

Originally posted July 21, 2006

"Some things we did this week":

1. Met Coffeemamma and three of the Blue Castle progeny in the park, along with another Ambleside Online mamma and her family. It was so nice to talk in person after all these years of long-distance chats!

2. All the Squirrels went to the Elora Gorge, and had a good time wandering through the woods, oohing over the precipices, and climbing up and down 59 steps (Ponytails counted them) carved out of the rock.

3. Mr. Fixit, Ponytails and the Apprentice went to Cruise Night with Grandpa Squirrel.  Ponytails says, "There were a lot of people, and we met one of our cousin squirrels, and he had some new wheels--it was long and black, one of those cars with no roof, and it had red seats, I think. It was really cool and it made nice smoke."

4. Ponytails made Shrinky Dinks (Shrink Art). Note to Coffeemamma: "thank you so much for the Shrink Art, it's very fun!"

5. We played a new game called Woolworth that we found in a Dover books preview. (This isn't the card game Woolworth, it's played with two nickels, two dimes and a printed-out playing board which would be really easy to copy yourself. If I can find this online anywhere, I'll post a link.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: not all books, but mostly

Usborne Fairy Cooking (for Dollygirl)

Exploring the Past: Ancient Greece, by Neil Grant.  An oversized hardcover with lots of drawings.

The Way They Learn: How to discover and teach to your child's strengths, by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.  I was very happy to find this, because I'd been reading an excerpt of it in a PDF file and wanted to read the rest.

Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?: Stories, Inspiration, and Memories of Growing Up, by Walter Wangerin Jr.
The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, illustrated from original drawings by Harold Copping.  A 1920's copy, just like this one except it's blue instead of red.

One yard of red V.I.P. print fabric with teddy bears and alphabet letters.  It's quite a small print, so I was thinking maybe a school dress or nightie for a doll...

A  Memories mini scrapbook kit, new in the package with alphabet stickers, full-colour cardboard cutouts (what do you use those for?), scrapbook paper, and a 12-page booklet of acid-free paper.  I'm thinking maybe Dollygirl could use it for some special copywork this year.

That's it!

What's for supper? Keeping it simple

Dinner in half an hour:

Frozen fish sticks
Reheated potatoes
Mixture of frozen broccoli and frozen Oriental vegetables (both end-of-the-bag)

Yogurt sundaes in fancy glasses: crumbled graham crackers, strawberry yogurt, sliced frozen banana

No bikes and trikes, thank you: changes in English vocabulary

Something to read today, from the Ambleside Online Parents' Review Archives:  "Words Which Have Seen Better Days," by G. L Apperson.  (Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 196-202)
"Cab" is a clearer case. Seventy or eighty years ago, when the cabriolet first appeared in London streets, in succession to the old hackney-coaches, the contracted name of "cab" was slang, and nothing else. The word was unknown in polite speech. But this was soon changed. Cabriolet was altogether too find and long for every-day use, and "cab" holds the field now as a word of unchallenged respectability. "'Bus" is in an intermediate state; but it is quite possible that in time to come "omnibus" may be as extinct as "cabriolet." One can only devoutly hope that such abominations as "bike" and "trike" may not similarly fight their way into the recognized vocabulary.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What's for supper? No-bake taco pizzas.

It's too hot to cook much, so we made no-bake taco pizzas for dinner.  I adapted a recipe that I found in the Fix It and Enjoy It Cookbook, but it looked to me like one of those recipes that's been handed around everywhere, at baby showers and kitchenware parties.  The original recipe has a crust made from refrigerated crescent roll dough, baked in a large pan and then cooled before adding toppings and cutting in squares.  Also you're supposed to use typical Tex-Mex garnishes:  shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes, olives. We just used mixed chopped peppers and cheese.

Instead of making the crust, I layered the toppings on pita bread, in this order:  a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream (mixed in the food processor); ground beef, browned and mixed with homemade taco seasoning; red, green and yellow peppers, chopped together in the food processor; and cheddar and mozzarella cheese, chopped together in the food processor.  (I like my food processor.)  Serve immediately or refrigerate.  A pound of meat covers six big pitas, and that served four of us with leftovers.  If you think you might have made too much and don't want leftover sandwiches, you could just put everything on the table and let everyone fix their own.

Our side dish was canned black beans, heated with a scoop of salsa.

Apprentice, if you're reading this, you should try it.  It would work with tortillas too.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What's for supper? Homemade creamed corn

Tonight's dinner menu:

Cut-up potatoes and Polish wieners. cooked together on the stovetop with a cupful of beef broth and a bit of paprika

"Cream Corn Like No Other"--but made with a can of evaporated milk instead of cream

Mango-pineapple-vanilla yogurt freeze.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Two Treehouse Classics, Revised

It's always interesting to share your nuts with rodents outside of your tree, because other squirrels may not have tried that particular kind before. You never know if that particular type of walnut is something that only grows in your locale, or if your Mama Squirrel is the only one who seasons pecans just that way.

I've been having some fun making desserts lately, and I turned to our blog archives for some of my childhood favourites. Of course, eating a whole pie yourself, while entirely possible, is not such a good idea. I decided to share with my friends G.P. and Roderick to see what they thought of Treehouse cooking, and save myself the stomachache.

Doreen Perry's Cookies

These have been posted about many, many times here and were really a staple growing up. You can read about all Mama Squirrel's variations here. I had baking powder, not soda, so I omitted the salt and substituted three times the called for amount of soda with powder. I've done this a couple times now with absolutely no problems. I had been eating Special K for breakfast every morning and was getting really sick of it so I used that as the cereal...we usually use Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes, and I like the Rice Krispies version much better. I didn't have any rolled oats so I added some extra Special K. I went with Treehouse tradition and used chocolate chips instead of raisins, but for the first time in my life added the walnuts, something we always omit due to nut allergies (not mine!).

I left a few at G.P.'s house before trying them myself, and got a text message in the middle of my night class..."Your cookies are AWESOME!" How G.P. can text with those furry little paws is beyond me.

Tortoni Pie

 Originally from the Goldbeck's Short-Order Cookbook, tortoni is another food I've never seen outside of the Treehouse. You can read about all our different versions here. Essentially, it is blended, frozen and flavoured ricotta cheese. I made a lasagna but it was a very small lasagna and I had most of a container of ricotta left and was worried about it going bad. When I saw graham cracker crusts on sale (very cheap sale...normally I'd just make one myself) I was inspired. Instead of freezing it in little dishes, I prepared the tortoni and used it as a pie filling, decorating the top with sliced strawberries.

Roderick, being a rat, is rather a big fan of cheesecake, so I introduced tortoni as a distant relative of cheesecake. Roderick was not particularly thrilled with it, but did eat two pieces and deemed the second, which had had more time to warm up, as tastier. Roderick's main complaint was that it really wasn't flavourful enough. I had to agree...I had more ricotta than called for and threw it in anyway without adjusting the flavouring. While it tasted great before I froze it, freezing seems to mellow the taste. Additional almond extract likely would have fixed this problem. I also wasn't a big fan of the graham crust: it was a good pairing with the tortoni but the crust itself was a little off in taste. This would easily be resolved by making one's own crust.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Mini-mart grocery strategies

I've posted before about our somewhat-regular trips to Giant Tiger, a Canadian discount store chain. Shopping at this type of store can save us money, often, simply because there aren't as many things there that we like to eat. If we don't bring as much food home, we're forced to use up more of what we already have. Plus there are often advertised (and unadvertised) good deals there.

But you can't go into a mini-mart trip with a fixed shopping list or menu plan, unless maybe you've planned your week around food on hand and just need to fill in with milk and eggs. What's on the shelf there can be very hit-or-miss. Giant Tiger today had lots of slightly green bananas, some okay summer berries, bags of oranges, but no apples at all. The cucumbers were a great deal, but the lettuce was palest-green balls of iceberg--so I bought double cukes and no lettuce. Come to think of it, I don't remember seeing celery either, so if you'd planned aWaldorf salad, you'd be out of luck.  Flexibility rules. 

For some reason I had looked at last week's flyer instead of this week's (I didn't realize that until we got home), so I wasn't aware of some of the sales, and couldn't figure out why I couldn't find the ones I was looking for.  It turns out that this week's good deals were better than last week's anyway.  I was about to put a couple of bags of 2% milk into our cart (yes, we buy milk in bags), when I noticed a little old man standing beside me (seriously, I think his picture must have been in the dictionary beside the word geezer).  He was trying frantically to get my attention, and pointing at the more expensive brand of milk.  Light dawned--it was on sale this week.  But no 2%?  "They're bringing it out in a few minutes," he explained.  Okay.  So off I went to find a few other things--and my new friend kept putting his head around the corner to give me bulletins on the milk delivery.  Giant Tiger is sometimes like a small town, even in the city; the customers will either knock you down to get at the good deals, or they'll be your long lost best friends.

What did we bring home, besides milk, bananas, and cucumbers?  Fruit yogurt, large tubs on sale for a dollar (regular price is $2.97); mushrooms, half-pound trays for a dollar; a can of salmon; green, red, orange, and yellow peppers, on sale very reasonably; two pounds of animal-shaped pasta (I didn't care if it was animal-shaped, at a dollar a pound); a package of cookies; several loaves of bread on sale; a jar of instant coffee; a pound of margarine; a small package of sliced cheese; a few canned things.  Even adding in a couple of t-shirts, a pack of plastic hangers, a pair of shorts, and a pair of sneakers, we spent about half what we do on a normal grocery trip.

So look for a few "What's for supper" posts involving animal-shaped pasta, peppers, and vanilla yogurt.  Maybe not all in the same dish, though.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Today's great post: Real learning with Harmony Art Mom

My favourite post today:  Barb at Harmony Art Mom posted about how we know our CM students are really learning.

Well worth reading!

What's for supper? Chicken Spaghetti, this and that

Tonight's dinner menu (cleaning out the fridge, groceries tomorrow):

Spaghetti with tomato sauce and chicken
This and that: carrot and celery sticks, cheese...maybe garlic toast...

Whatever fruit we have left
Pumpkin cake made with leftover sweet potato (baked in the toaster oven, it's too hot for the big oven)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thrift store Wednesdays: wars and nerds

It's summer, people are cleaning house and moving, and lots of stuff gets dropped off at the thrift store. But the receipts and invoices have to be kept up with too, so most of the book boxes had to wait today. I did find a DK book about World War II that will help with Grade Six history this fall. And Stephen Segaller's Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, for Mr. Fixit. I liked the cover photo of a bunch of 1969 computer geeks.

For those who asked last week, I'm not sure yet about the best age level for The Prism and the Pendulum.  There's at least one online review that suggests it could be read by (or read to) a keen thirteen-year-old, and I'm inclined to agree, just by browsing through it--it's not that long, and not too technical.  But it got some mixed reviews for accuracy; I might hand it off to the Apprentice for her take on it.  It is nice having a science major around.  When she's around.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

From the archives: Bursting out all the seams

First posted July 2006

Tim Fredrick's ELA Teaching Blog has an excellent post about classroom teachers who are so hung up on teaching to standards that they hang up the list of have-to-do's on the classroom wall and check them off throughout the year. Every kid has to read 25 books, period (even if 3 books might be a more appropriate goal for a slow reader). Every kid has to do so many, so long writing assignments. And the bigger problem: who sets these standards? As Tim Fredrick points out, it's not usually the parents, teachers or local community. More and more, these decisions are centralized and made by people who don't know the students and who may be bureaucrats but not actually educators. (For those of us in Ontario, "standards" are just another word for something like the Ontario Common Curriculum. Third graders study such and such, fourth graders have to be able to do this and that.)

But don't gloat, homeschoolers. As I commented on Tim's blog, being enslaved to standards is not unique to classroom teachers. Homeschoolers can be caught up in school standards because of state or provincial education laws that require this subject, that book, this skill. Or they can put themselves there by following curriculum (any curriculum, from provincial guidelines to Ambleside Online) slavishly. There are homeschoolers who worry if every last exercise in the workbook isn't done (and figure they've covered everything as long as the book is completed). Some homeschoolers knock themselves out or empty their wallets trying to get one particular book, or they keep on buying gimmick after gizmo in hopes that they'll cover everything. And that's the point I'm trying to get back to: cover "everything." Teachers with standards on the wall are trying to cover everything that some bureaucrat has demanded. Homeschoolers squeezing two years of a curriculum into one (so their kids won't get "behind") are trying to cover more than everything.

The truth is that nobody can do everything, and that learning is a lifelong process. Setting goals and celebrating achievements is good; collecting assignments and checking off pages just so you can say you've "done it" is not. Ruth Beechick's book Heart and Mind: What the Bible Says About Learning  makes this point, after explaining a possible model of learning with arrows going in different directions:
But these ladders [arrows] are not meant to propose that we can do a great deal about setting learning in a linear sequence for our students. The ladders are simply insets taken from the total learning model, and if we look closely at the model we will see thousands of these ladders reaching in all sorts of directions, climbing on numerous levels all at once.

Try, for instance, to imagine a child learning the word Jerusalem. When he first meets it, it is likely to mean only a place--perhaps the place where Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple. And of course the child has nothing like his teacher's idea of Jerusalem in his mind at such a time. It may mean almost nothing to him, but he does hear the word. As time goes on he learns more about Jerusalem: it has a temple in it, walls around it. His concept of city is also growing and he can begin to picture a city of Jerusalem....All through his growing years (which may be his whole life) he gains a continually richer meaning for the word Jerusalem....At what point will we say a student has "mastered" Jerusalem and is ready to go on to the next item?....In setting out curriculum content we make considered judgments about such things, and we keep our classes moving along in a general way. But individual students are bursting out all the seams. They do not stay in line. --Ruth Beechick, book above, pages 75-76
Bursting out all the seams--we're people, not standards on a wall. Celebrate it.

From the archives: Uncle Dewey answers your squirrel questions

First posted July 2006

Someone found our blog by searching for "do squirrels like hot chili powder?"

Dewey says: "Only with refried beans and some good salsa."

Someone else was looking for "good places to start a treehouse."

Dewey says: "Try to pick a nice starter tree in a yard without any cats. Something with nuts is always nice, or maybe near a bird feeder."

Well, you wanted to know...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What's going on around here?

I'm not trying to neglect the blog this summer, but there isn't a whole lot new to tell.  The Apprentice is away most of the week, working. Mr. Fixit is home most of the time, working, Mama Squirrel is planning the fall term and anxiously watching our one remaining zucchini plant (it's been putting out nice big healthy-looking green leaves, finally, but doesn't have anything yet we can positively identify as a zucchini).  The younger Squirrelings are just soaking up the summer.  They've gone berry-picking.  Crayons/Dollygirl has been playing with neighbourhood friends--the ones who haven't gone off to camp or a cottage somewhere.  And Ponytails went to a concert in Toronto.

So bear with us:  when we have something worth posting, we'll holler down at everyone.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

What's for supper? Turkey fajitas and corn

Tonight's dinner menu:

Turkey fajitas, with green peppers, sour cream, and grated cheddar
Corn on the cob, in the pressure cooker

Banana cake, baked in the toaster oven, and made with butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips (usually we leave the chips out altogether, so this was a  special treat)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge, Part 2

This week's work on the "Aunt Sarah Scrap Challenge" hasn't come totally out of the yard-saled bag; I've also been using up some of our stash of fabric and yarn.

Three Scrubby Rows Dishcloths, made with yellow and black crochet cotton combined with (thrifted) Bernat Handicrafter white cotton yarn. (The disadvantage of these is that since they're fairly heavy cotton, they take a long time to dry.  Lighter-weight cotton or acrylic would probably work better.)

A party dress for Abby, made from some pink broadcloth we'd had forever, plus an overskirt and sash from the scrap bag.  The dress pattern was adapted from one in Sew the Essential Wardrobe for 18-inch Dolls, by Joan Hinds.  If you click on the link and look at the dress pictured on the cover, it's pretty much the same as ours, except that I skipped the collar and didn't make tucks in the overskirt.  The hat is more Bernat Handicrafter cotton yarn.
A back view.  The back does up with snaps.
One of several clothespin dolls, with a skirt covering a bag of potpourri.  One Christmas when the Apprentice was small, we made several of these as gifts, and I still had the pattern.

The baby rickrack trim is from the scrap bag, and the calico came from a fabric grab bag that we bought a couple of years ago. This is the only doll I've finished so far, so she got to be in the photo.  I'm working on the others a bit at a time. 
The whole thing. Abby looks like a giant compared to the little potpourri lady.

Thrift store Wednesdays: Books, books, books

I spent this afternoon at the thrift store, unpacking and pricing books (I didn't even get to the computer work).  I got through quite a few boxes, and loaded up most of the shelves as well, but when I finished there seemed to be just as many left to unpack.  I guess it's that time of year.

Here's what came home today:

Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity, by Robert Cwiklik.  This is on Dollygirl's grade 6 Ambleside Online list, and it's one of the few required books that we didn't already have.  I was very happy about that!

Beyond the Reflection's Edge, by Bryan Davis (sorry, I cannot recommend this)

The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science, by Robert P. Crease

Depression Era Recipes, by Patricia R. Wagner

Smart Muffins, by Jane Kinderlehrer

Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion.  Just for the pretty pictures.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Worth reading: Charlotte Mason meets Vacation Bible School

As I've mentioned before, I've been involved with summer Vacation Bible Schools since I was old enough to sing "Fishers of Men."  I've posted about it most summers here.  This year our church won't be hosting one, for various reasons, and I think that's good, in a way; everybody needs a break sometimes, and VBS is a lot of work.  But generally I think we do a pretty good, non-screaming, non-stickering job of it.  When you have fewer fancy resources, you do tend to concentrate more on on relationshipsthan programming.

Veteran CM homeschooler Tammy Glaser posted recently about CM and VBS on the ChildLight USA blog, and I think she hit several nails right on the head.  Even if you have no experience or interest in VBS itself, the post provides a thoughtful look at how one class strengthened its relationships not only within the student group, but also with the teacher, the church body, and the community.  Lots to think about there for families, for homeschooling, and for churches.
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