Friday, July 31, 2009
And they did rise...still a bit on the fragile side, though that may be partly the fault of our aging waffle iron. The ones that I let bake "too long" turned out better than the ones that I let bake an average length of time. So maybe it's just a matter of patience with these.
Well worth a visit!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Soaking in the blender: ingredients for Sue Gregg's Blender Batter Waffles.
Treehouse-hunting: an ongoing squirrel activity that peaks in the summer months (is it unique to our species?). We've been checking out a couple of possible new trees, as we seem to do every year.
Weather: Sun! Sun! Nothing like Gayle's heat wave, but something at least approaching summer weather.
I have my own version of Recipezaar's ingredients (I think it could take a lot of variation): a 2-pound (4 cups of flour) recipe of bread dough (made in the bread machine), a stick of pepperoni, 200 g shredded cheese, a few sliced mushrooms, and a bit of chopped parsley. (I left out all the other seasonings.) Green pepper works fine too but is not as popular with the Squirrelings. Roll out the dough in a long, thin rectangle, mix the chopped topping ingredients with cheese, roll dough around the stuffing as for cinnamon rolls, and slice into 24 pieces. You don't have to let them rise a second time, but the recipe does recommend letting them sit for 10 minutes, and I put them in the fridge for awhile instead since I wasn't ready to bake them.
What I would warn you about though is that, contrary to one of the comments posted on the Recipezaar site, that melted cheese can be horrendous to scrape off, even if you do grease the pans. Last night I covered the pans with foil and then used non-stick spray on that; it seemed to do the trick, there were very few stuck places.
You might not have to bake them as long or as hot as the recipe says--just go with what you'd usually do for rolls, somewhere around 375 degrees. Keep an eye on them and take them out before they get hard. Serve with your choice of sauce or dip, or just plain.
The Apprentice asked if I will make her some of these for school lunches this year.
"....Coxeter despised, almost more than anything, the onslaught of the computer age. 'I deplored the attention that people gave to computing,' he said once. 'I was afraid they might neglect other subjects....'--King of Infinite Space, pp. 198-199
"Coxeter never used a computer, let alone a modem. Although, not wanting to be out of touch with the world of fans that wanted to be in touch with him, he had his son-in-law....send e-mails on his behalf. And, ironically enough, the computer server in the University of Toronto math department has been named in Coxeter's honor-- email@example.com."
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Please understand that I have absolutely no qualifications for reading or understanding this book. I have no post-secondary education in mathematics of any stripe, geometry or otherwise (although I did briefly work in a university math office). In fact, I'm pretty sure that my high school mathematics completely skipped over even the basics of what Coxeter spent his life doing, and we certainly NEVER talked about the historical rift between geometry and algebra. (See Nicolas Bourbaki...who didn't exist.) Which is really sad, because it might have helped make a little more sense of what we did do.
But I'm enjoying it anyway.
In the meantime, I'll point you once again to the Coffee Tea Books and Me blog. I met Brenda years ago on CM message boards (I think Debi's, for one (that's a link to Debi's blog, not the old message board)), and recently I have been visiting her blog full of teacups and good advice. DHM, you should check out the hanky-lined tray and vintage mixing bowls on this post (even though she's now switched the hankies for flowered paper). And CMers, there's a bonus for you if you go over for Sunday Afternoon Tea.
Friday, July 24, 2009
"Now, young ladies," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "we have ready some blue gingham aprons. You see how they are cut out; two seams, one at each side, then they are to be closed down the back. There will be a pair of strings on each apron, and you may begin by pressing down a narrow hem on these strings. We will not need to baste them, just press them down with the finger this way."-- The Bobbsey Twins in the Country, 1907
Well, if a bunch of eight-year-olds a hundred years ago could do it...surely I could manage to put together a child's apron of the same era? (My first big TOS Review Crew challenge.)
And designer Jennie Chancey of Sense and Sensibility Patterns (well-known for Regency gowns and other vintage patterns) certainly does try to make it easy and cover everything you need to know...between the pattern (girls' sizes 2-14, available as a download or in envelope), and the e-class (same page, scroll down past the pattern), and four bonus video segments, you would think that there could hardly be anything left out. Plus there are advantages to sewing this sort of apron: there are few extra notions needed; no collars, sleeves, or facings; and the sizes are fairly flexible. The apron itself can adjust as the child grows (you just tie it looser).
So I watched about half the e-class, helped my going-into-third-grade Crayons pick out fabric, thread and bias tape at an outlet store, and spent most of a wet weekend working on it...for her rather than with her. There wasn't much I thought she could help with, this time around...particularly because I was just getting the feel of the pattern too. Bias binding is something I have never had much success with (though Angry Chicken's No-Swearing method helps), and this apron takes a LOT of bias tape.
Actually too much. More than the pattern called for, by my count. That might have been because I completely messed up one pocket and had to discard it, but even so I think I would have been short. [UPDATE: Sense and Sensibility has confirmed that there was an error in the amount of bias tape recommended for sizes 4 and up. This has now been corrected.] So I had to wait most of a week before we could get back to the outlet store and I could finish it. (The pattern gives you a choice of making your own binding, using the same or contrasting fabric, or buying double-fold bias tape. Instructions for making your own are included in the e-class, but I did find some alternative methods online. I might have tried it this time, except that the fabric we bought came from the end of a bolt, and there wasn't enough of it to make self-binding.)
This is what I came up with.
Cousin Ann--to switch books--would be doing her Look of Scorn). My mother was an impeccable seamstress; I am not. I have a medium amount of sewing knowledge, but my impatience with putting things together often shows in the end result. Especially if you look carefully at the ends of the straps (which go through loops on the back to become a bow). I went as slowly as I could around those corners, but they're still not perfect.
If you've never done something like this, I'd suggest buying (or making) even more binding, and cutting out a third strap just to practice on. (Another idea might be to make a potholder first, or two or three, until you've figured out how to get bias tape around corners as well as curves. Or cut some strap-sized rectangles and trim them for bookmarks.)
All in all, I'm pleased with the apron. It seems to be about the right size for Crayons (it was plenty long, and she is taller than average), although I think she could have used a longer strap length--it would have given a prettier bow in back. The pattern is attractive, and as you can see from the S&S page and from other reviewers' photos of their girls, it looks good made up in anything from old-fashioned prints to brighter colours.
I'd consider making another Sense and Sensibility pattern...actually, the one that interests me most (since I'm not planning on sewing any Regency bridesmaids' dresses) is the Girl's Simple Shift from Jennie's mom's site, Practically Pretty by Design. I think the apron and the dress together, made up in two pretty prints or a print and a solid, would be lovely together for little girls on special days...and then you might not mind spending forty to fifty dollars to make an apron.
Well, the E-class bundled with the pattern is U.S.$24.95. (The pattern by itself costs $12.95, plus shipping if you want a paper pattern instead of a download. If you're a good sewer or just like to figure things out for yourself, skip the e-class--the directions that come with the pattern are quite clear.) I bought three yards of fabric, at $4.50 a yard (half price), for a total of $13.48 Canadian. (I had to buy new fabric because I never have three full yards of anything in my scrap box, and unlike my friend the DHM I don't find entire bolts of fabric at yard sales.) I bought three-and-a-quarter yards of bulk bias tape at 50 cents a yard, for $1.53. The spool of thread was $5.50 (yes, even at the outlet store). And then I went back and bought four more yards of bias tape for $2. I used maybe a dollar's worth of that. So with tax, the materials came to $24.
That's a fifty-dollar apron.
I don't know exactly what comparable American fabric costs (a decent-weight cotton print that won't shrink too much), and maybe you can find a better price on thread, but I'd guess you'd still spend at least $15 on materials, if you have to buy new fabric.
That isn't a criticism of Sense and Sensibility, just the sad truth that sewing...unless you're using "found" materials and free patterns...costs money. But look on the package as a sewing class, for you and any younger people around you who would like to learn to sew. You'd pay that much for a real-life class anyway. Look on it as a pattern that you can use to make adorable toddler aprons for gifts. Look on it as part of your homeschooling, with the fact that you get an apron at the end kind of a nice bonus. Because otherwise that price might seem just a bit too steep for something to cover you while you cook.
Check out more reviews of this product (most made by much more talented seamstresses than Mama Squirrel) on the TOS Homeschool Crew site.
Dewey's Disclaimer: This pattern was provided free for review purposes, but no other payment was made.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Last time I did the math on it (a year ago), powdered was coming out about the same as fresh in this area; but as the article points out, if stores are trying to attract buyers with milk sales, that can widen the price gap.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Some have been done to death. How many things on a tray can you remember?
So when it was time for a much-anticipated baby shower this weekend (for a mama who's given many memorable parties of her own, we (her friends) decided we had to do something different. But not gross.
When we asked the New Mama's other offspring (who's the Apprentice's age) what they needed, she said that they were well stocked with clothes and all the big stuff...so we thought having a surprise Toys for Boys party would be fun (and probably appreciated after years of pink). That idea also inspired the games and decorations.
The guests were a mix of moms and teenage daughters--plus our own younger squirrelings, plus the New Arrival who got very well hugged and walked around. Plus Baby's Dad and Mr. Fixit, who spent part of the time hanging out in the workshop. Fourteen bodies altogether. We all know each other--we used to get together every couple of weeks during the older girls' younger years--but don't often get everyone together now. So it was kind of like a family reunion too. (The only (female) bodies missing were our friends who moved to the U.S., and a couple of daughters who were travelling or doing other important things.)
We browsed both the baby shower sites and the birthday party sites, and started to get inspiration from some of the ideas there: Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy made Mama Squirrel think of doing something like Toy Jeopardy or a toy trivia quiz; the Lego parties sprouted the idea of having some kind of a model contest or race. Just thinking about all the different kinds of toys through the years made me remember how many little bits and pieces we have around here already (and the old catalogues we've been looking at). Finally we used those ideas to come up with two of our own games. Actually three, but we decided that two were enough. (The third was going to be a competition to see who could build the best "baby stuff" (high chair, bed, toy) out of Lego.)
The first was a variation on the tray game, and it was partly inspired by our
The second game came out of the WishBookWeb vintage catalogue site, and it's something that Crayons and I did a couple of times this year for school. What you do is pick an old Christmas catalogue on the site--say 1942--give yourself a reasonable budget for the time--and pick out presents within that budget.
I picked out seven catalogues from the site and printed out about ten toy pages from each one. Each pair of players got those pages in an envelope with the year marked on it and some play money, a sheet of coloured cardstock (3-hole punched), a glue stick, scissors, and markers. (Crayons volunteered her set of fancy scissors too.) The 1933 team got only $5; the 1988 team got something like $25. (Yes, I know that in 1933 you would have been extremely lucky to have had $5 to spend on baby presents; but I didn't want to give them 39 cents either.)
The challenge was to pick out presents for the baby and cut and paste them onto a page for a keepsake booklet--with autographs, comments and so on. We had prizes for the most artistic, most fun for the money and so on. Mr. Fixit and the Baby's Dad each made a page too. The last page of the booklet was left blank, and one of the guests used it to write down the "real" presents when Baby's Mama opened them later. At the end, we tied the pages together with ribbon.
There was lots of laughing and reminiscing over the catalogue pages while everybody worked on them--"oh, I remember those!"--"look what a teddy bear cost in 1933!"--"hey, Mom, you found one of those at the thrift shop."
Each family brought a plate of finger-food desserts--cookies and squares. We used Momma's photos and recipe for mini cheesecakes. (Jay's Jammin' also posted some tips for these.) I thought they might fall apart when people unpeeled the paper cups, but they held together really well. I think ours might have been a bit smaller than Momma's--I was just guessing at how much crust and how much cheese mixture to put into each one. We used half her filling recipe--1 package of cream cheese and so on--and ended up with 36 mini cakes.
We followed the very detailed directions here to make an edible fruit bouquet. It's the tail end of strawberry season here, so this idea is a good one for June or July; I don't think I'd try it in January. (I liked the baby sock bouquet too, but the fruit bouquet looked tastier.) (Yes, I know our skewers show a lot more than theirs did--we just did our best.)
High up in a cupboard we found a ceramic container that someone had sent flowers in when one of the Squirrelings was born--not sure which one, and I had probably thought of sending it (the vase, not the Squirreling) to the thrift store more than once, but now I'm glad I kept it, because it did look good with the fruit arrangement. (Photos coming.) I was going to make a batch of plain playdough to stick the skewers into, but I found Play-doh Soft-packs at the dollar store, saving me the trouble. And we saved the Play-doh afterwards.) Ponytails and I put the fruit on the skewers in the afternoon and refrigerated them until after dinner; then she arranged the vase, and we put it in the cold room until the party. (It wouldn't fit in the fridge.)
We made punch (one of the guests brought her punch bowl), from a recipe I saw in Taste of Home while waiting at the dentist's last week. (2 litres club soda, 1 750 mL bottle white grape juice, 1 cup sugar or to taste, 1 cup lemon juice. Mix and serve with ice.) I put on a pot of coffee too.
We kept it simple: a dozen balloons, a bright green plastic tablecloth, bright flowered napkins, and Crayons' Toy Story collection (mostly from yard sales) displayed by the front door.
We used a lot of things we already had: the old toys for the games and decorations; homemade jam for the cheesecakes, homegrown parsley for greenery in the fruit bouquet, the re-used baby vase, skewers, "real" plates and cups, surplus-store cardstock, and so on. I printed out the catalogue pages mostly on the backs of other printouts (that was partly because we forgot to get more printer paper).
We spent our money where it seemed to count the most: fresh fruit for the bouquet (and a daisy-shaped cutter for the pineapple, although we could possibly have improvised with a knife); cupcake liners and Nilla Wafers for the cheesecakes (graham crackers are cheaper here, but I wanted the "real thing"); a few partyware things. We stopped at a new Dollarama that had a really good craft-supply section, so that's where we found prizes for the games.
If you're planning a shower for a mom whose baby has already been born--and especially if she's nursing--allow time in the evening for her to take care of the baby's needs. New babies can take a long time to nurse, especially if they're heading for a nap. Most guests don't mind entertaining themselves for awhile if the New Mama has to disappear for awhile. For groups that don't know each other well, you might want to have a game or something that doesn't require the Mama's presence. (This happened to Mama Squirrel too when the Apprentice arrived slightly ahead of schedule (and ahead of the baby shower). It wasn't that we were squeamish about feeding the baby in public, it was more that we weren't very experienced at it yet, and our Squirreling wasn't going to go to sleep with all that noise.)
The best idea, I think, is to do what you're comfortable with and what will mean the most to your guests. For this group of friends, that meant--along with no chocolate on the diapers--spending a few minutes at the end thanking God for the blessing of our children and families...and each other.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Annie Mouse sure has made a lot of poems!
Polly Ester sure has made a lot of clothes!
Do you get it? If not, just leave a comment and I will give you the Annie Mouse one!
It's a pun on words!
I have always been curious about the way my grandmother (of mixed Scottish and German heritage) pronounced words like "Psalm" and "palm." Almost everyone else I have ever met--in this part of Ontario--gives these words a drawn-out vowel sound--in other words, they rhyme with "bomb."
Grandma enjoyed describing the lovely pam trees in Florida (to rhyme with jam), and she told me that she got a great deal of comfort out of reading her favourite Sams.
So...somewhat amazingly...after I met Mr. Fixit, I heard one of his relatives talk about a certain town which we'll call Balmerton, but he pronounced it Bammerton. This is the only other time I've heard someone pronounce words the way Grandma did, and he didn't even come from the same place she did (although not too far away).
Can anybody identify this particular habit of speech? Has anybody else in southern Ontario heard older people talk about pams and sams? Is it a particular ethnic thing, or just a rural way of talking?
I saw another interesting possibility when I was in a teacher's supply store: you can get flexible, adhesive whiteboard material in sheets or on rolls like wallpaper. I don't know how durable it is, but it might work if you have limited space and, say, want to turn the side of a cupboard into a whiteboard without nailing anything up.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
That might have been because I messed up one of the pockets (after I'd already bound it) and had to make another one. But I still don't think there would have been enough. Note to self: next time buy way more than the yardage chart says.
Crayons likes it anyway--she says that now she can be a "pioneer."
Photo and proper review to come--after I get back to the store.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Every summer of my childhood, we went to a Baptist church's VBS. (Our church didn't have one.) As so many people remember from old VBS's: the cookies and Kool-aid flowed Deep and Wide, and the crafts were largely popsicle sticks. The theme for the week might be "Following Jesus," and I have no idea who published the materials but they--at least the stories for grade six or so--were pretty meaty. One year it was a version of Nicky Cruz's Run Baby Run, about gangs in New York; another year I remember reading missionary stories that must have been about John and Betty Stam, because I can still hear this Dr. McCoy voice in my head saying something like "Dangit, Jim, those Lisu are going to learn about Jesus."
What also sticks in my head is the person who taught us older kids for the last two years I was there. I remember two things about him: first, that I always admired the commitment this young man had that made him come back and teach us rowdy kids, year after year. The other thing I remember is that he was killed on a motorcycle a couple of years later. I've always felt sorry that I never got a chance to thank him properly.
I've helped with several VBS's since then, at different churches. I've noticed how they're changing. Especially I noticed at the big church we attended while Crayons was very small--I didn't help those years, just watched from the parent's point of view, and that was the first time I'd seen one of these new Wow curriculums with so many kids, music videos projected on big screens, and more screaming during the music than I'd ever seen in a church before. The crafts were still paper plates and tie-dyed t-shirts, but overall there was a new, slicker, more packaged feel to the whole thing. The themes are now more like birthday parties or library reading clubs: outer space, treasure islands, even (last year) an amusement park. Kids go here, leaders say this and that, and then it's on to the next station...am I wrong in feeling that it's all getting a bit too programmed? (Especially when you find out that every other church in town, and maybe more than that, will all be using the same curriculum...VBS must be about the only time all year that we all get so ecumenical.)
As a parent, I also have a bit of a problem with some of the "discipline the parents" language that appears in the Director Manual I was given this summer. "Some parents may want their preschoolers to [stay with] older siblings. Firmly insist that the [preschool] activities are the best ones for preschoolers." It's not that I'm arguing with that, I'm just not that impressed by being "firmly insisted" at.
The church we have been attending for the last three-and-a-half years is very small, and our VBS is not very big either. It also leans more towards the traditional Kool-aid mode than the frantic screaming and plastic memory toys--probably because our membership, and in particular our VBS leadership, is largely made up of an older generation. Our imaginative, energetic friend who has directed the VBS for three of the four summers we've been there was a teacher for many years, and she runs things according to her long experience with children--no matter what the books say to do. We also don't have a policy of "firmly insisting" that parents stay out or that children go where they're not comfortable.
But we're still using the Big Mega VBS Curriculum--or at least the parts of it we could afford. No music videos, although we did get a CD of the music. No plastic toys. We didn't even get take-home papers or worksheets, which in my mind is a plus anyway.
I was given the Preschool level curriculum to use, which was a bit of a problem since the seven or eight children I was teaching were all five or six years old. (The rest were in one big group for the elementary-age children. We didn't have any preschoolers.) I didn't need to teach the Bible story, since that was acted out during group time each day. We didn't have the additional DVD stories for them to watch. I didn't need to do crafts with them, since everybody made crafts together later in the morning. I didn't even need to do many songs, since everybody sang together at the beginning and end. This is all to say that most of what I was given was unnecessary, or in some cases too young for my class...I had to dig through the teacher's guides and pick out what was left.
What I was supposed to do with my group, each morning, was provide some kind of follow-up to the Bible stories, help them learn the memory verse and Bible themes for the day, and play games. I did find a couple of games I liked in the curriculum materials, but some of the suggested activities made me wince. I refused to have them go around in a circle and sing "Here we go round the burning bush." I'm sorry, that's not only silly but it seems somewhat blasphemous as well. (We also--collectively--decided NOT to serve a snack called "Berried and Raised" on the day we learned about Jesus' resurrection.)
Dewey fills in one morning for the curriculum's official hand puppet
Anyway--what did our class do? Played Freeze Tag--to get unfrozen, you had to shout out the memory verse. Played What Time is it Mr. Moses? (that felt slightly less blasphemous than dancing around the burning bush). Jumped along a number line marked with pictures to help learn one tricky memory verse. Sang a couple of songs I dredged out of my memory. Listened to a couple of picture books that fit with the day's theme. Crossed the "Red Sea" (a balance beam we improvised). Watched Ponytails do a magic trick, and talked about how God really did make wonderful things happen (no trickery). Played Hot Potato and said the memory verse. Watched Ponytails chat with Dewey about flashlights and missing batteries. And so on.
And the kids really did enjoy the Bayou theme, as far as we took it, and the dock area that some wonderful volunteers created (with real bullrushes to hide baby Moses in).
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Just hope the rain holds off until after we play "Block the Croc" this morning. (River made out of sheets--two kindergartners are crocodiles in the river--the rest have to cross the river and if they get tagged they turn into crocodiles too.)
Monday, July 06, 2009
What I'm reading: The King of Infinite Space and Inside Prince Caspian.
Sitting on our counter: A new Bravetti toaster oven, bought on sale. (why)
Welcome back to: Coffeemamma.
Congratulations to: Molytail--she won the Karito Kids doll!
Pray for: Birdie and MamaLion
Rejoice with: Javamom.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
All the ways you can enter are on the blog post: commenting, tweeting, blogging, whatever. But time's almost up: the giveaway ends July 3rd.