For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Making Tourtierre

After sharing the recipe, I figure sharing the end results might be in order, too. :-)


This year we used about 5-6 pounds of ground meats for out tourtierre - which seems to be just enough to fit into my large stock pot. :-D We have our own preferred blend of meats to use - experiment to find what combination you like best. Whichever you choose, try to get the leanest cuts you can find. Of the blend you see here, there's almost no fat at all. You'll see why that's important, later.



Next, we add in the equivalent of 1 small onion and 1 clove of garlic per pound of meat. Or 2 cloves of garlic per pound. It's not like you can have too much garlic, right? ;-)

With only a few onions to cut up, I didn't bother bringing out the food processor. That was probably a mistake - chopping onions is not a good time to discover a cut on the side of my thumb! Oh, and I was reminded that the effect of onions is amplified for people who wear glasses. Ouch!!

Time for the spices and herbs! Go ahead and get creative. Experimentation in the kitchen is a good thing. :-D

Finally, add the water - about a half cup per pound of meat or less. The water is one thing that doesn't need to increase exponentially when you double, triplet, or sextuple a recipe. ;-)

Next, bring the water to a boil and cook, mixing frequently to break up the clumps of meat. With a pot as full as this, I let it simmer more than boil until the meat was cooked through, then I increased the heat and boiled off as much of the excess liquid as I could.




There's still going to be a lot of liquid - and this is why lean and extra cuts are recommended. You'll still get a fair amount of fat in the juices. Once you've cooked off as much liquid as you can without over browning the meat, take the pot off the heat.






Time to do something about all that liquid. I started off with somewhat less breadcrumbs that the recipe would've worked out to for this much meat. Stir it in really well, then let the whole thing sit for about 10 minutes or so to let the breadcrumbs absorb the liquid.






Now, take a peak. There's still a bit of liquid in the meat. You really could leave it at this point, but we like our pies thicker.






At this point, I start adding flour - just a bit, to start with. Once again, stir it up really well, then let it sit for another 10 minutes or so.



Now that's the way we like it! All the liquid is absorbed. At this point, we covered up the pot and set it on the balcony to cool down. It was about -12C at the time, so that works out just fine for us.

After that, Dh and Youngest made the pastry, but I neglected to get an pictures of the process! Silly me.

The pastry needs to sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours, so we had a good long break before the real work began.




Dh is my resident expert tourtierre dough roller. ;-) Rolling the dough between two sheets of plastic really makes the job easier.







My job was to fill the bottom shells, then wet the edges with water. By then, Dh would be ready with the top.



All trimmed, crimped and ready for the oven!

Oh, and the green bits in the dough is parsley. We find it adds a really nice touch to the dough.

Our oven has room for two pies at a time. We just made sure to reverse them half way through the cooking time. Like many ovens, ours doesn't heat very evenly, and we could really tell from how the tourtierre browned, that one side was quite a bit hotter than the other.




One of the first finished tourtierre, cooling down while the next pair browned. At this point the entire apartment was smelling just heavenly!









All done!









Even though it was quite late by the time they were done, we just had to give them a taste - and wow, did they ever turn out delicious!

Mmmmm....




Best of all, these keep really well. Once they're cool, wrap them in foil or put them in big freezer bags and freeze a bunch. They make excellent gifts and potluck contributions. You can warm them in the oven without bothering to thaw them out first, either.

Enjoy!
:-D

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a joyous and prosperous year in 2008.

"See" you after Christmas.
:-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tourtierre

We've been fighting off some pretty nasty colds for a while, so things have been quiet around here - unless you count the sounds of coughing and nose blowing! Time to slowly catch up on things.

Part of our Acadian Christmas tradition is the tourtierre, a type of meat pie. Every family seems to have their own version of it. Here's a recipe from Mdm Benoit that's the foundation of the secret recipe I inherited from my MIL. (I highly prize my Mdm Benoit cookbooks - if you find any, snap them up! My favorite is Mdm Benoit Cooks at Home.)

First, the filling (quantities for 1 pie).

Quebec Tourtierre

1 pound minced pork
1 small onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp savory
1/4 tsp celery pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup water
1/4 - 1/2 cup bread crumbs.

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, except the bread crumbs. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring often to heat up the meat. Remove from heat.

Add a few spoonfuls breadcrumbs [and stir in]. Let Stand 10 minutes. If the fat is sufficiently absorbed by the bread crumbs, do not add more. If not, continue in the same manner.

Cool and pour into a pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with pastry. Bake in a 500F oven until the top is well browned. Serve hot.

Note: Feel free to mix and match your ground meats. The original tourtierre were made using game birds and only changed to pork when it became common. You can also use things like potato flakes or flour in place of the breadcrumbs. Experiment with the herbs, too. We've never found celery pepper, so we use ground celery and added our own pepper and other herbs and spices to taste.

The recipe is easy to increase - we've used as much as 38 pounds of ground meats, adjusting the other ingredients to match. The only increase that isn't necessarily proportional is the water and breadcrumbs, depending on what meats you use. At that amount, the filling was divided into a pair of roasters (actually, a single roaster with a lid that could also be used as a second roaster), each over a pair of elements on the stove. With careful stirring and occasional reversing of the roasters, they cook just fine. We'd then put them in my FIL's trunk to cool down for the night, then make the dough and bake the pies the next day. Obviously, that doesn't work if you don't live in a cold enough winter climate! ;-)

We also never baked them as such a high temperature!!! Usually, we could fit 3 or 4 pies in the oven at once, baking them at 350F until well browned, rearranging the pies half way through the cooking time.

Now for the crust, also from Mdm Benoit.

Hot Water Pie Crust

1/4 cup water
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Bring water to a boil. Add shortening. Remove from fire and stir until smooth.

Sift, measure and re-sift flour with salt and baking powder. Combine mixtures. Stir until smooth.

Set in covered container in refrigerator for 2 -3 hours.

Note: This is NOT a flaky crust in any way, which is perfect for such a savory filling. We usually quadrupled this recipe. Using modern appliances makes it a lot easier, too. After boiling the water, we'd add it to a mixer bowl with the shortening and beat it with an electric mixer. We'd then put on the dough hook, then switch to the bowl of dry ingredients and let the machine to all the work. We also did just fine using all purpose flour, and even did half and half with whole wheat flour.

When making multiple recipes, divide the mixed dough into the number of portions you need for each top and bottom, then chill.

Another trick to make things easier - especially when making large numbers of pies - is to use a sheet of thick, clear vinyl. These can be bought off rolls at most fabric stores. The sheet we got was large enough to cut off a square somewhat larger than the width of the pie dough we'd be rolling. Place the larger sheet on your rolling surface, then dust with flour. Take one of your portions of dough and coat both sides with flour, then top it with the smaller piece of plastic. Roll dough to size. You can then use the plastic to help you move the dough onto the pie plate.

When the pie plates are filled and you're ready to add the top crust, wet the edges of the bottom half with water, first. After you've trimmed and crimped the edges, cut steam openings in decorative designs into the top.


Enjoy!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Today's very short library day results

I think library day is going to be short for the rest of the year, actually. Either that, or we start bus hopping to another branch. There's construction going on in our usual branch, with the sound of jackhammers all day. It was there last week, though not as bad - at least from while on the first floor. Talking to one of the librarians before we left, I asked how much longer they'll have to put up with it, and was told probably to the end of the year! I was really feeling for them, I gotta tell ya. You could see the strain on their faces. While I was talking, another librarian slipped something onto the counter for her - it turned out to be a pair of ear plugs. Someone had gone and picked up ear plugs for everyone. I hope it helps!

We didn't return many books, having stocked up pretty well last time, though we did return all the dvd's. Youngest is down to one book, and she wants to finish that before she takes out more. Eldest did return almost all her books (she kept Creation, which she's finding very interesting), but only took out two.

Bad & Beautiful; Inside the Dazzling and Deadly World of Supermodels: This looks to be quite interesting - it's based on an undercover investigation by the author, described as an investigative writer, Ian Halperin.

European Architecture 1750-1890: This one is more descriptive than photographic, compared to the ones she took out before. There's enough for her to get more "notes" for her drawings.

I hadn't intended to pick anything up myself, but found three more anyways.

Shisha Mirror Embroidery; A Contemporary Approach: I've taken this one out before, but wanted to grab it for reference and ideas.

Romanian Point Lace: I have a set or craft books in storage that include directions for needle woven lace. I've been bouncing ideas around for edging on the set of decorations I need to finish, but couldn't remember. I thought this book might have what I was thinking of, but it turned out to be very different. It still has some techniques I wouldn't mind trying - but not for this year. ;-)

Ruskin Lace & Linen Work: This book turned out to have exactly what I was thinking of - except for the edging. The needle woven lace patterns are for filling cut out squares and bands, but when it came to the edges, there was only one type shown. Ah, well. I'll figure something out.

After that, I picked up some dvd's I had on hold, and we quickly grabbed a few more before making our escape from the jackhammers.

Death Star; Space detectives solve the most powerful mystery in the universe: This video, from NOVA, covers the search for the cause of intense gamma ray bursts first detected in 1967.

Deep Blue: Youngest perked up when she saw the baby penguin on the cover of this one. *L* This dvd showcases the underwater world of the Antarctic.

Live in the Undergrowth: From the BBC, it looks to centre around insect life. Eldest was smitten by the photograph of an insect on the cover.

The Blue Planet; Tidal Seas and Coasts: We enjoyed the last disc we got so much, we want to see the rest of the series.

Cirque du Soleil; Alegria and Corteo. I haven't seen Alegria in years, on tv. I loved the music for it. Corteo, we haven't seen yet at all.

That's it for this week. :-)

.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The last three - almost done!

Here are the last three in the light coloured set of decorations I'm making. All I need to do now is the edges.

This is the only one of the set where I didn't use gemstone beads. I forgot. *L* So it's just silver twisted bugle beads, plus clear seed beads that have the holes coloured black. I had to go into Eldest's supply of beads for those.







This one was simple in design, but difficult to do - I had to do it without a hoop. I'd marked the squares on the fabric in a row, which was a mistake. I had already finished the one pictured above, and when it came time to move the hoop to this one, I was catching the beads on one side, and the mirror from the one below on the other. I truly dislike working without a hoop!

The ribbons are done in back stitch using rayon floss and the stone chip beads are rose quartz.


I was able to use the hoop for this one, at least. :-D

The points are done in the same clear and black seed beads I used before, with hematite chip beads for the accents.

Before I finish any of the edges for this set, I'm going to have to find a way to wash off the pencil marks. I really expected them to rub off easily, like the white pencil crayon I'd used on the red set did. No such luck here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Easy Christmas craft

As we're unpacking the bin of Christmas decorations and, with the tree done, turning our attention to the walls and windows, I thought I'd share one of the things we've made that are getting use year after year.

There's two versions, but they require the same things. You'll need some Christmas patterned wrapping paper, scissors and adhesive backed, clear plastic. The plastic is sold in rolls as shelf liner in places like Walmart, or in the scrapbooking section of places like Michaels. It's the same stuff we use to protect our flat travelers, which don't take much at all. One roll will last us a couple years. I suppose you can also use a laminator if you've got one, but I've never tried it.

For wrapping paper that is solid coloured, or has an all over pattern, cut out squares in various sizes. Fold and cut them to make snowflake or star patterns. Because wrapping paper is pretty thin, you'll be able to make more folds in larger squares. Just make sure the largest ones are about an inch or so smaller than the width of your plastic. Open the finished cut outs and lay them flat. If the creases are particularly noticeable, you may want to press them between some heavy books for a while.

If your wrapping paper has individual objects on the design, such as ornaments, angels, toys, etc., pick out your favourite ones and cut out the shapes.

Once your shapes are cut out, cut pieces of the plastic to fit them on. You can usually fit a bunch of small shapes together on one large piece. Just make sure there's space in between them (about half an inch will do), as well as from the edge. For the larger shapes, make sure the plastic is about an inch larger than the cutout. The rolls will have measurements printed on the paper backing to make the job easy. You'll then need second sheets of plastic in each size.

Once you've got your plastic cut out, carefully remove the backing of one sheet and lay the plastic flat, adhesive side up. Watch out for stray pet hairs. ;-)

Arrange the cut outs on the plastic, ensuring there is open plastic in between and around them. For the larger pieces, it's easier to work from the middles, out. Gently press the paper down as much as you can without touching the adhesive. Just enough to make sure they're nice and flat.

Next, remove the backing from a matching piece of plastic and carefully lay it down so that the cut outs are sandwiched in between. It's really easy to go crooked or wrinkly with this part, so take your time with it.

Next, rub the surface of your plastic to remove any air bubbles and ensure the two pieces are well stuck together. Pay extra attention around the cut edges of your designs. The back of a metal spoon is good for that.

Finally, cut the shapes out of the plastic, making sure there's an edge around the outside of each shape. You just want a curvy outline of plastic around them.

That's it! You can now use your shapes to decorate your walls or windows, year after year.

Here's what we've got on the outside of our apartment door instead of a wreath, which would get stolen rather quickly. Click on the image for full size. There's a few more that aren't in the picture. Some of the others we have are a set of Victorian style decorations (balls, fans, an angel) that we tape to our living room window.

Have fun!

.

I love it!

I'm subscribed to Word of the Day, and absolutely LOVE what I got in this morning's email.

Abibliophobia: the morbid fear of running out of reading material.

I think that describes most of my family. ;-)

.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy First Day of Christmas

Today is the Feast of St. Catherine's which, for us, is the first day of our Christmas season. In my husband's family, it was traditional to make Tire (pronounced a bit like tear). The Acadian tradition, as my MIL told me the story, goes back about 300 years or so, when the French were colonizing the New World. Nuns had come to Acadia to build schools for the Native children. They built the schools, but had no students - the children were too shy, and would run away when approached.

When November 25th came around, the nuns celebrated the Feast of St. Catherine, and made Tire. One of the sisters went outside to pull the cooling toffee. As she worked, she noticed children hiding in the woods, watching her. She said nothing to them, but continued working. After the Tire was done, however, she took a small plate of the finished candy and left it outside. Sure enough, the watching children made their way to the plate to take some candy. She continued to leave the treats out for them, eventually earning their trust - and their attendance in the school.

We didn't end up making Tire today, but we did put up our tree. If you'd like to give it a try, however, here's our recipe.

Tire (Pull Toffee)

2 cups (300g) brown sugar
2 cups (1/2 kg) molasses
1/2 cup (1/8L) water
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp butter (must be butter - do not substitute, or it won't work)
1 pinch baking soda
icing sugar for coating

In a LARGE pot, boil brown sugar, molasses, water, vinegar & butter until a drop of toffee hardens into a hard ball in cold water. The syrup should be approx. 130C (254F)

Take off heat and add baking soda (sprinkle). Mix well.
(note: it bubbles and foams like crazy at this point - that's why you need a really big pot)

Pour into a buttered container until cool enough to handle.

Stretch pieces of toffee until golden in colour. It's best to do this outside in the cool temperatures, if you can. When ready, snip the stretched ropes of toffee with scissors.

Roll pieces in icing sugar to prevent sticking.

Store with layers separated with waxed paper.

Enjoy.

Just as a warning, resist the temptation to have too many of these - they do have a slight laxative effect!


Here's a picture of our finished tree. It has a lot fewer lights this year. I had lots of regular lights - last year, I was finally happy with how many I had - but when I tested them out, one string wasn't working at all, and the other had about twenty working lights in the middle of the string of 60 lights. These are the type that are supposed to work, even if a bulb is removed. Well, I'd been wanting to replace them with LED lights anyways, so I ended up heading out to pick some up. They only came in packages of 35, though. I got three packages, but I probably would've done better to pick up 5. They look great, but there's empty spots! *L* The down side with the LED lights is that we can't plug in our angel tree topper. She looks awfully dark without her candle lit up!

Most of the decorations are hand made, including the very first set I made for Eldest's first Christmas. I didn't want to had to keep her away from the tree all the time, but couldn't find child safe decorations that I liked, so I finally learned out to crochet and made some! They are the spirals, as well as some crocheted balls stuffed with polyester fiberfill. Among the ones we've made ourselves is an origami garland made by our home school group that Eldest won when it was raffled off last year, and even a few that were gifted to us by our flat traveler friends. I'm not sure if you can see them, but our permanent flat guests are in the tree, too. :-) Of course, the decorations I'm still working on will be added on, too.

Next on the list - decorating the apartment.
:-)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Yesterday's library list

I didn't manage to post this yesterday, so here it is now...

Youngest chose to keep what she's got for a bit longer, so she didn't add any more to the list - though she did end up choosing a couple of dvd's, which I'll list later.

Eldest is on an architectural bend, it seems...

Towers of Time, Ontario - a book of clock towers.
Venitian Architecture of the Early Renaissance - that one's.. well, fairly self explanatory, I suppose! *L*
English Cathedrals - also pretty self explanatory.
The Stones of Venice - this one is neat - not just interesting buildings, but floor mosaics, planters, stairs, statuary... all sorts of interesting features.

Then there's my list. With a bunch of the more serious books I still have to work my way through, I had to get myself some "fun" books for a bit of balance, many on a Christmas theme.

Keeping A Canadian Christmas with Don Narron & Catherine McKinnon - a cross country look at how Canada celebrates Christmas.
An Old Fashioned Christmas - the legends, carols, games, toys, food and drink that have had surrounded Christmas celebrations of the past. I'm liking a lot of the old time crafts and decorations.
Christmas Ideas for Families - a little bit of everything seems to be covered in here.
Victoria At Table with Family and Friends; Treasured Recipes of Memorable Meals - for a moment there, I thought the title referred to the city of Victoria (and if you've ever lived there, you know why that would make sense), but they mean the Victorian era. It's a combination of recipes with quotes, menus, tips and interesting bits of information to entertain in Victorian style.
Enduring Harvests; Native American Food and Festivals for Every Season - with brief descriptions of various seasonal celebrations, and a short blurb with every recipe. This looks to be a great read, as well as a source of great recipes. Besides. Everyone can use a good recipe for Hickory-Smoked Buffalo Jerky (my GOD that sounds good!!), Canadian Cree Bannock, or Aztec Chocolate Nut Fudge!
Feast; Why Humans Share Food - animals will fight each other for food, or drag it away to eat safely in private. Humans will seek out other humans to share their food. The books examines why, and some of the cultures that have developed around food.
Making Great Cheese; 30 Simple Recipes from Cheddar to Chevre - I'm in no position to actually make cheese, but gosh I love reading and dreaming about it!
The Squire's Tale; A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery - 'cause food isn't the *only* thing I read about for fun. *L*

It occurs to me, with all these food titles and cookbooks I take out, you probably think I'm some gourmet cook. Or at least an interesting one. I'm not. Sorry. I just like to read about it. That and there's a rather large disconnect between what I'd like to cook, and what I can afford to cook. *L* Well, that and a significant lack of space and equipment. Maybe that's why I like to read about it so much? ;-)

And now, on to the dvd's.

I went around the section, just grabbing a bunch of titles that looked interesting. A couple I wanted to take out for myself, while the rest I let the kids go over and choose. Usually, we just get 5 - the limit for dvd check outs per card in our library. Of the ones I picked, only 2 were rejected - one with hesitation, the other enthusiastically *L* - and the girls made a point of checking out their favorites on their own cards. :-D

Dance of the Warrior - a CBC documentary featuring over 20 dancers and dance troupes around the world, and their ritual war dances, both ancient and modern.
Edmonton Remembered - I was a bit surprised this one got picked. I thought the kids might find the concept a bit boring, but I guess they share at least some of my ideas of what's interesting. *L* I'd love it if this were part of a series - one on Winnipeg would really catch my attention.
Instructional Bellydance with Jullina, level 1 - I've been lax in my bellydancing. Maybe this one will get me going again. I'm really hoping it's an actual instructional video, and not another weight-loss video in disguise.
The Life of Mammals, part 2 - we just returned part one of this series. It's another I wasn't sure the kids would choose. When we finished watching the last one there were a few moments of silence followed by Youngest exclaiming, in a vaguely stunned voice, "there were... so... many... placentas..." LOL I guess it takes more than watching live births and placentas to turn my kids off.
Legacy: The Origins of Civilizations Disc 2; China: The Mandate of Heaven and Egypt: The Habit of Civilization - I didn't even notice the "disc 2" part when I grabbed this one (there's only 1 disc in the case). If it goes over well, we'll have to check out the rest of the series. I just thought China and Egypt would be interesting. The kids did too, it seems. :-D
The History Channel: The Aztec Empire - just because we like ancient civilizations.
Cirque du Soleil; La Nouba and Quidam - we've taken Quidam out before, but somehow Youngest never managed to watch it before we returned it. Eldest was wanting that one specifically. La Nouba seems to be one we've missed until now.

So we're going to have to make some effort to watch these in the next week. That's not usually all that easy for us. Most times, we forget we have a tv. We finally got a good dvd player, though, so maybe that'll help. It'll be nice to see movies on a player that doesn't stutter between the chapters. I'm real happy with it - I could finally watch the dvd photo album I made on tv! The old dvd player died a slow and painful death, so we were never able to watch in on there. The replacement was just a cheapie, and while we could watch commercially produced movies on it well enough, it just couldn't handle home produced discs. This time we got a much higher end machine and, best of all, it was free. Those grocery store points are worth something, after all!

Well, that's it for today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cool site

Earthcam - Webcam Network.

This site has links to webcams all over the world.

I wonder if I can find the ones around our city? Time to go looking...

;-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First set done!


There they are! The first set of this years decorations are done! I'm really happy with how they turned out. We'd brought them with use for park day yesterday, where I could keep working on the second set, and found they really sparkled in the sunlight. That's exactly what I was after, so I'm really looking forward to how they reflect the lights of the tree. :-D

The surface stitching for the larger decorations in the second set is done, but so far I've only applied the mirrors on the small ones.

With the fabric for this set being so much heavier, I'm able to go with heavier materials. The very first one ended up being very light, anyways. I did the alternating circle of red coral and gold glass beads, then couldn't figure out what to do next. Eldest pointed out that it was fine just the way it is, which is true. The bulk of this one will be in the trim after it's sewn.





I'm going to have to figure out how to wash the pencil marks off this one. I'd started out with longer points in the corners but, remembering how tight that fit when sewing them up later, I decided against it. Pencil doesn't erase well on this type of fabric. :-P

The border is done in twisted chain stitch, though it's kind of hard to see the twists. The stone chip beads are goldstone, which we all really like. The inner star is couched metallic floss, with the points filled with glass beads in 2 different golds.


This one was SUCH a pain to stitch as first! The outer ring is done in open chain stitch. With the rayon floss being so slippery, it was a challenge to keep the loops open. Not enough friction for the next stitch to hold open the previous one! The outer edge is finished with knots. The stone chips are turquoise, the star is couched metallic floss, with gold filament in between the points.

Now it's time for me to go. Youngest has the monopoly board set up and is waiting for me to get off the computer. :-D

Friday, November 16, 2007

Today's library list

Hmm... I've been pretty lax in posting these. Ah, well.

Our library days have been a bit messed up lately, with things being renewed or returned on non-library days, so when we headed in today, we didn't have anything to return at all, though we do still have a few items at home.

Youngest didn't take anything out at all, as she's still working on one book with another as yet untouched, both from the Enchanted World series of books. She's really liking those.

Eldest was quite pleased with her finds today.

Smithsonian Institution Animal; the definitive visual guide to the world's wildlife from DK. She really misses her encyclopedias. This one is a monster of a book - I swear it weighs almost 10 pounds all on its own! *L* ok, maybe eight. ;-)

The Collector's Book of Twentieth Century Fashion: Plenty of images in this one, from photos to advertisements. It's always interesting so see how fashion has changed over the years.

Creation; Life and How to Make it: Written by Steve Grand, who makes some of the most advanced artificial life yet possible. Should be an interesting perspective.

My own choices were on the lean side today. We had to head out before I had a chance to finish looking. Which is probably a good thing, all things considered. *L*

Eco-Imperialism; Green Power, Black Death: I snapped this one up as soon as I saw it, having had it on my reading list for a while now. I've been interested in reading this since I first encountered the issue in some of my research. The author exposes the damage being done by today's environmental movements, which increasingly have little to do with the environment and more to do with money, politics and anti-humanism.

Heat; How to Stop the Planet from Burning: If you read my other blog at all, you'll see I've been spending quite a lot of time on the issue of AGW and climate change. Lately, I've been trying to alternate between pro-AGW and con-AGW viewpoints, though that's not always been possible. This book had been on my reading list, but not near the top until it came up in a discussion about the author. I decided to put a hold on it, along with a couple of other books on the subject I already had on hold. Unlike the "skeptical" books I've got on hold, where I'm 32 and 18 in line, this one didn't have a waiting list, so I got it a lot faster than expected. Hmm...

Conservative Environmentalism; Reassessing the Means, Redefining the Ends: I've actually borrowed this one before, but never got to read it before it had to be returned. Once I finish the current pro-AGW book I'm reading, I'll be moving on to this one before going on to Heat.

Environmental Overkill; Whatever happened to common sense? This book seems to confront how extremism has overtaken science and logic, with an insider's perspective that I look forward to reading.

On to the videos...

The Blue Planet: Seas of Life - Open Ocean and The Deep. Eldest was thrilled when she saw this one, as she has particular interest in deep sea life.

The Life of Mammals: the BBC seems to come out with some really interesting dvds. :-)

Engineering Disasters: this one is from the History Channel. We'd borrowed More Engineering Disasters and enjoyed it so much, I had to go looking and put a hold on the first one.

The First Beliefs: part of the Secrets of Ancient Empires series. The only one left in the series for us to see is The First Armies.

All's Well that Ends Well: from The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare series by the BBC and Time-Life.

I think we're set for the next while. :-D

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A bit of modern history

I still remember when this happened! That plane was bigger than any of the hangers.

Learn about the Gimli Glider.

When did Barbie (TM) become classy?

A couple of days ago, the kids and I were in a department store. Youngest likes dolls, so they soon wandered off to see the newest additions they're bringing in for Christmas. Shortly after, they came back to me and dragged me over in disbelief. There was a new Cher doll out - and it actually looked like Cher! What an amazing concept.

Now, when I was a kid, Barbie (TM) was the epitome of everything wrong with toys for girls. She was unrealistically formed, with gigantic breasts, minuscule waist, and deformed hips (though that, at least, could be blamed on the need to attach the movable legs). Then she had all that sexy clothing. She was also promoting a consumerist lifestyle, with houses and cars and toy boys (Ken's gone now, apparently). The list of all the terrible things Barbie (TM) taught our girls was quite long. Personally, as I kid, I hated dolls. I preferred interlocking bricks (no Lego (TM) back then - am I dating myself?), and cars - or better yet, running around outside and playing with sticks. Did you know that you could make a really neat whip that snapped most satisfyingly with a stick and some bale twine? But dolls? Nope. I sneered at those. They were "girl stuff" and I hated girl stuff, whether in toys, clothes or the behavior expected of me.

My kids are a lot more opened minded about such things than I was. *L* They were as comfortable playing with dolls as they were with their tool kits (they each had their own), play houses or cars. My only restrictions were with make up. No toy make up. That stuff is gross. If they were going to have make up, it would be the same stuff that's sold for grown ups.

So it's been interesting to see how they are responding to the dolls that are available to girls today. Barbie (TM) is now pretty much the most realistic, classy doll available right now! The latest Bratz (TM) dolls and their imitators now dominate the shelves, and the girls find them disgusting. The heads are gigantic and misshapen. The faces look deformed. The bodies make Barbie (TM) look realistic. Then there's the clothes and accessories - talk about skank!! They exude a sexiness that's crude, blatant and disturbing.

With what's on the market right now, I'm happy that Youngest prefers the elegant and beautiful Barbie (TM) and friends over the others that are available now.

Man, have things changed.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Evolution of a Home Schooler

Recently, a mom considering home schooling her children asked my husband and I why we decided to home school. What an interesting question! Like many others, I grew up thinking that, if I ever did have children, either my husband (if I married at all) or I would stay at home until they were old enough to go to kindergarten, then they would go to school. An alternative, if the thought of one ever occurred to me, might have been private school instead of public. I vaguely remember home schooling being mentioned as something some parents did, though the only reason I remember it at all is because most of the class, including myself, scoffed at the idea.

Yet even then, the seeds of the home schooling parent I eventually become were already being sown. My parents greatly encouraged my siblings and I to go to school, then college, then get good clean office jobs - or in my case, become a church organist, get married and have a lot of children. ;-) My own parents considered themselves uneducated, and they didn't want us to have to work hard for a living, like they did on the farm. The thought that any of us might want to be farmers didn't seem to occur to them. Both from Poland, I'm told my father went to school until about the 3rd grade, while my mother went up to the 6th grade. In both cases, school was something they went to as long as the weather made it safe to walk, so even what schooling they had was interrupted. Unschooled they may have been, they were far from uneducated. Both were multi-lingual before coming to Canada. ESL classes didn't exist back then, so they taught themselves how to speak, read and write in English, too. My father was one of those jack of all trades who seemed to excel at whatever he put his hands to. He was carpenter and electrician, welder and mechanic, arborist and veterinarian, as needed. I remember helping him build a desk for me and watching in awe as he perform mathematical calculations, using a method I'd never seen before, faster than I could've punched the numbers into a calculator. My mother, determined to fit into her own distorted view of housewife and struggling with a possible mental illness, seemed almost to hide her sharp mind and prodigious intelligence. While they both insisted that we needed school to become a success in life, I could see by their unknowing example that one didn't need school to learn what one needed to know.

As the years went by, I still assumed that any children I had would go to school, while the groundwork for a different path continued to be laid. When my older nephew was about 8 years old, I got a tear-filled phone call from my sister in law. They had moved to a new town and the school he was in had diagnosed him as ADHD. Their doctor simply agreed and wrote out a prescription for Prozac. They didn't want to drug their son, as he didn't display any symptoms of ADHD at home, but while my brother was out of country on a business trip, the school was pressuring her to drug her son. She managed to hold them off until my brother got home, but they finally gave in to the pressure and tried it. The experiment lasted a single day, as my nephew's behavior became erratic and bizarre. After that, they flat out refused to drug him. Eventually, the school backed off, but the pressure was always there. It wasn't until two years later, when my nephew finally got a different teacher, that his "symptoms" suddenly disappeared. This was a story we saw repeated among our friends, as well.

When I became became pregnant with my first child, I was about as prepared for parenthood as anyone who hasn't had a child could be. I had no illusions about how much work a baby could be. I joke that God looked down at me and said "she's just too confident for her own good!" when he gave me my first daughter! After she was born, we quickly discovered that she was not like other babies, and I discovered the whole different world of parenting a "high needs" baby. With the help of La Leche League, we overcame breast feeding problems the doctors we went to didn't even recognize, and it was through them that we learned how to walk down a different parenting path. As we explored our new life as the parents of a high needs child, the memory of what happened to my nephew still strong in my mind, I quickly realized that our daughter would not be a good "fit" for a classroom setting. I could already foresee the day when some school official would tell us our daughter was ADD, and that we needed to drug her. I knew there was nothing "wrong" with our daughter. She just experienced the world in a different way - a way that classroom teaching couldn't accommodate. The idea of sending her to school became increasingly uncomfortable.

LLL had become the source of support and information I needed so much of at the time. The leader that had helped us those first days of my daughter's life had came to our home late in the evening, her two younger daughters in tow. Concerned about the late hour, I'd asked her if it would be a problem for them in school the next day. She told me it wasn't an issue because they home schooled. I wasn't in a position to ask more then, but by the time I met a different leader some months later and learned she also home schooled, I had only one question that mattered. "Is that legal?" As soon as I heard her say "yes," my decision was made. Thankfully my husband, who had been at sea at the time, was willing to give it a try.

My older daughter is now 14. She and her sister have never been to school. As I watch them grow up to become the amazing young women they are today, I find myself thankful that we discovered home schooling as early as we did. If anyone had told me, all those years ago, that I would some day be educating my children at home, I wouldn't have believed it.

Today, I can't imagine doing anything else.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Catching up - again

I hadn't realized it's been so long since I posted! Oops.

It's been productive time, though. Among other things, I've started this year's Christmas decorations, which have shisha mirrors as focal points. Here's what I've got so far.



This is the first one that I've "finished." I'm doing all the surface beading and embroidery before they're cut out. I had originally expected to add more to this, but after the border of beads was done, I felt that anything else would've detracted.




This one looks kind of lopsided to me. I used metallic thread in chain stitch to outline the leaves. It was horrible to work with. I'm specifically using materials with a shine to them, but I won't be using metallic like that again. Not worth the fight.






After finishing this one, I could think of a whole bunch of ways I could've done it better. Ah, well. I was coming up with the pattern on the fly and had only a vague idea of what I wanted when I started.




This one is Eldest's favourite. Just rows of chain stitch in rayon floss with a few beads for interest.








There's going to be a total of 12 when I'm done, 6 on this red cloth, six on a creamy coloured cloth (left overs from the girls' cotehardies), in two sizes, and each will be different.

Unfortunately, as I was stitching another that I don't have a photo of yet, the last one's mirror popped out. I was afraid it would - the guide threads ended up being pulled a lot farther to the edges than I was comfortable with. Better that it falls out now than later, though! I had to do a lot of cutting to get the embroidery out.

It's stitched back in now, and there's no way it's going to fall out again! *L* I've found a way to keep the guidelines from moving too far out. Now, I just use 4 stitches to hold the mirror in place, with the threads wrapped around each other at the intersections. I then go back and wrap the thread around each intersection before going back to the edge and taking the thread to the back. The second image above, with the leaves, has a mirror put on in that manner. It makes for a slightly smaller opening for the mirror, and a tendency for the opening to be a bit to one side, but it's much more stable.

So far, I like how they're turning out.


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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

a quick addendum

A bunch of items I'd put on hold had come in at the library - and of course, we couldn't stop with just those, right? *L* Here's some new titles to add to our library list.

One hold we had:

The Traitor's Tale: another Dame Frevise Medieval Mystery to join the one I already have.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Warming

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism

States of Fear; Science or Politics from Micheal Crichton (dvd) (hmm... I sense a trend, here. *L*) I've read the novel, State of Fear, and found it quite enjoyable. Like his previous books, it's fiction with a strong base in scientific reality. The dvd, which discusses the politicization of science, should be interesting.

The Romans in North Africa; A journey Back in Time (dvd)

Plus, my substitute book, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts.

and Eldest's acquisition, Artwear; Fashion and Anti-Fashion. I've glanced through that one myself already, and it's really interesting!

Hmmm... I wonder how many times we'll have to renew our current batch before we finally finish them. *L*

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Learning shishadur.

Every year, I try to make new decorations for the Christmas tree. I originally started this new tradition the first Christmas after Eldest was born. I didn't want to have to worry about her getting into the tree and breaking things and hurting herself, so I went hunting for nice, child safe decorations. Unable to find any I liked, I ended up crocheting an entire collection of balls and spirals. We still use them. Since then, I've tried to make decorations using new techniques or styles every year. We use them on our own tree, as well as pass them on as gifts. This year, I've decided to make decorations featuring shisha mirrors.

I don't have a local supplier for them, though, so I've substituted small craft mirrors. Usually, shishadur is done using small, irregular circles of hand made mirror (originally, they were made with chips of micca). They're grayish blue, semi-transparent, as well as being thinner and lighter than manufactured glass mirrors. Instead of glass mirrors, large sequins can be used, but I'm not big fan of them as a substitute. Eldest had a skirt beautifully decorated with them, and they all fell off. :-( They're just too flexible.

So today, I practiced a bit of shishadur with the craft mirrors that I have. Here are the results. (my apologies for the rather bad photos - my lighting sucked and I didn't feel like setting up the tripod.)

For my first attempt, I tacked the mirror in place using a total of eight straight stitches. These serve to both hold the mirror in place (some instructions recommend using fabric glue or double sided tape, but I don't want to mess with those at all), and to form a base of guide threads to stitch on.







There are several variations of stitches that can be used to border the mirror. This is the method I used. After bringing the needle back up, right next to the mirror, I tucked the needle under the guide threads from the centre, out, making sure the needle went over the working thread - kind of like a button hole stitch.






After taking the needle to the back a short distance from the mirror, I brought it back up so that it went through the loop of the working thread. I continued this pattern all the way around.









Here's the finished mirror. It looked nice enough, but as you can see at the bottom of the picture, the mirror is starting to slip out of the stitching. The opening is just too wide.









So I tried again. This time, I made the stitches so that they crossed closer to the centre of the mirror. It didn't work. Perhaps I made the stitches too loose or something, but I didn't even get half way before I could tell the mirror was going fall out.






In this picture, you can see both my second and third attempts. This time, I used only 4 stitches to hold the mirror in place. The first two were placed parallel to each other, then the next two were wrapped around each of previous threads as they crossed at right angles. This seemed to work much better, as the guide threads seemed to hold each other in place, rather than being pulled too far out as I stitched.


Here's the finished mirror. I am a lot happier with this. That mirror is *not* coming off without a lot of help! I thought at first I'd have to cut the stitching to reclaim the mirror for when I made the decorations. It took some doing, but I was able to get it out without resorting to scissors.

So there's the basics. For these, I used 3 strands of ordinary embroidery floss. For the decorations, I'll most likely be using the shiny rayon floss.

I think this will work out just fine. :-D

Friday, October 12, 2007

Today's library run

It's been a while since we made a full library run - we were down to only one book to return! I mean, what's with that? *L*

Youngest went hunting for a specific book that had to be returned before she finished it, Double Identity. While we were wandering around, she ended up grabbing two more from The Enchanted World series; Water Spirits and Magical Justice.

Eldest got herself an interesting list this time...

European Costume; 1000 Years of Fashion: clothing, jewelry, hats, hairstyles - it's all there.

Fruits and Fresh Fruits: Every single page in these books has a photo of Japanese people on the street - the Harijuku girls (and boys) of Gwen Stefani fame. There is text, but it's barely visible. Tiny print in a rainbow of colours printed over street scenes, with all the colours and textures expected. It's almost impossible to read, but after reading a few, I'm not sure that's a loss. Each individual has a few listings of where they got their various clothing items, then it ends with "point of fashion" and "current obsession." It's the current obsession that's a bit alarming (almost as alarming as the clothes!!). There's things like "making friends" or "snails" or "my boy/girlfriend." Then you get things like "S&M" and "cutting myself." Yikes!

After glancing through them, Eldest says she finds Japanese culture frightening. *L*

Make Up: tracing the history of make up through the ages, from the various styles and methods to materials used. Did you know that white lead was used to completely cover the face?

Early Scientific Instruments: with some incredible pieces featured. There was a time when scientific instruments were incredible works of art. One example is of a Royal microscope of brass, steel and beaten silver. Two figures grapple around the eyepiece, while urns and mermaid decorate the base. A globe of the moon is another favourite.

I got my own eclectic variety of books; too many again, as usual. *L*

The Clerks Tale; A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery: something to satisfy my craving for historical fiction.

Wild Weather; The Truth Behind Global Warming, which is a new one for me, and Eco-facts & Eco-fiction; Understanding the Environmental Debate which is a repeat.

The Culture of Food; part of a series called The Making of Europe. From the jacket, "Until recently it was the concern of the populace to conserve meats and grains by salting and dessication, while the nobility - from Roman times onwards - sought to consume fresh food out of season... Now most foods are available all the time, the taste of the privileged has moved to those of the natural season. Vegetarianism is symptomatic of ready access to meat. Then a diet meant what you ate, now what you don't." How true that is!

Cheesemaking Made Easy and Making Cheeses at Home: I'd found a whole section on cheese making, and it was all I could do not to grab the whole bunch. *L* Not that I'm in a position to actually make cheese, other than yoghurt cheese, perhaps. Until I can, I'll just have to make do with learning how. :-D

Famous Diamonds: Isn't it funny that stones can actually have names and histories? Extensive information and exquisite photographs of some of the most famous diamonds in the world in a gorgeous, oversized book.

After our book bag started looking way too full, we headed for the audio/visual section and grabbed a few dvd's.

The Planets; Volume 1: with the episodes Different Worlds and Terra Firma

Do You Speak American? We've borrowed Talking Canadian - now it's time to see the differences in the US.

Guys and Dolls: I figured it was about time I saw this one, as I keep hearing about what a classic it is. I like musicals, but it occurs to me I've seen very few of them.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Catching up

The last few days have been out and about days for us. Friday is becoming our regular library day, it seems. This time, though, we just dropped off a few things, picked up what we had on hold. Eldest had reserved Our Posthuman Future; Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution and Pulse; The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things. For Youngest, we got the first two books from A Series of Unfortunate Events on CD. Book two actually has both the cd's and the book, which we weren't expecting.

That done, we headed out again. We'd spent the morning working on Eldest's vest and were figuring out where the buttons were supposed to go when we decided the buttons she had didn't really suit like she thought they would. Also, the fluid fabric led to an edge uneven enough that interfacing was showing at the seam. Right at the front, of course. So we wanted to get some Fray Check as well. With that in mind, we went from downtown to a Walmart to get both. By the end of the evening, Eldest's vest was complete, and she is very happy with the results. She wore it to her art class the next day. It looks really great!

And yes, she really does choose to dress so formally on her own, though it's the first time with an actual tie. The scarf she'd intended to wear didn't go, so Dh gave her one of his silk ties. He hardly ever uses them anymore, so she may as well, if she wants them. :-D

The rest of us ended up accompanying Eldest downtown when she left for her art class. She's not too sure what to make of the class. It's a youth "paint and draw" class with the local art gallery. She's starting to wonder when they're going to, you know, paint. And draw. She's done collages for two classes in a row now. That and the teacher and a couple of the students practically worship Andy Worhol, whom she detests. She dislikes pop art in general. I'm no big fan of it myself, so I can understand that. *L*

We were going to somewhat make it a picture taking day, though the only pictures I got were of some mushrooms in front of our building. Dozens of these guys showed up overnight, growing so fast, they split their own skins.

Sunday was going to be a more formal picture taking day. We were planning to go to a local botanical garden, where we now have passes, however it was free admission day for the city. We decided to take in the zoo, instead, as we've never been there. We did get a lot of pictures, but we won't be going back there. I knew it was a small zoo, compared to what we were used to in Winnipeg. It wasn't the size, but the condition of the zoo that was a disappointment. The animal enclosures were disturbingly small, and many had so many layers of chain link and mesh, you could hardly see the animals in some of them anyways! It was really quite sad. Especially for some of the more exotic animals. I don't have anything against zoos, and even this one is light years better than early menageries of the past, but we know more about the animals now, and what sort of environments they thrive in. Or at least do well in, if we can't replicate the ideal. I believe zoos to be a valuable resource. I know it takes a great deal of money and space, both of which zoos are often perennially short. The staff we saw clearly cared for the animals, all of which at least appeared healthy. The conditions just weren't very good.

The other problem with going to the zoo is that it took a full hour to get there - and the final bus that actually goes to the zoo no longer runs, as it's a May to September route only. Off season, the nearest bus stops on one of the streets several blocks away from the entrance. As it was, one of my knees started acting up while we were out, and it's still giving me a bit of grief. So there's really nothing to bring us back there again.

Today is normally a park day for us, but we were expecting something to come in - well, hoping it would come in today - which would've required me to take care of when it arrived, so we stayed home and baked bread and watched library movies, instead. It didn't come in, though. Hopefully, tomorrow. We've now planned specifically for Tuesdays and Thursdays to be home days, anyways, so that works out.

Youngest has been listening to one of the books on cd today, and Eldest has been working on her comic book pages, as well as other pieces she wanted to get done. In the evening, all four of us did a bit of arnis, using a squash court for a gym. Youngest got a bit of sword work in, too. She likes that better, I think.

*sigh* I need to be working on a column for a newsletter, but I haven't been able to settle on a topic. It's not a formal column, exactly, but I'd really hate to miss a month. Deadline is in 2 days, though. I can easily finish a column in that time - as long as I have a topic to write on! Hopefully, I'll get a good idea soon.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stuff we're doing

Today, I continued helping Eldest with her vest. We started sewing the pieces together. It took a few hours, and we didn't finish. Partly because we didn't start until the evening. We got to just before attaching the lining and left it for the night. Tomorrow, it should be done. :-) Because this is a far from easy pattern, I did more of the sewing for her. She still needs time to get comfortable with the sewing machine. That's just fine - it takes time to get used to using one.

In other fronts, we made some new literary acquisitions this past weekend. Our public library system had a huge book sale, and I snagged a few. It's a good thing I gave myself a very strict budget! That and I was limited to how much I was willing to carry around, as we had various things to do before heading home.

Here's the list of our new treasures...

Back to Basics: How to Learn and Enjoy our Traditional Skills. This is a book from Reader's Digest, copyright 1981. I've had a chance to go through it, and I just love it! It's got everything! Want to buy land? Build a house or cabin? Make cheese? Weave baskets? Raise livestock? Plant a garden? Dance? Play games? Trap and skin rabbits for food, then tan their skins? Make moccasins? Build a fireplace? Cook? It's all there, and more. What a resource!

Healing Plants: Botanical descriptions of health-giving and medicinal plants, Recipes for making teas, ointments, baths and compresses, Information on cultivating plants. Wow. I think this book wins the "excessive sub-title" competition! I've just glanced through it so far. The first section lists ailments, etc., then the second section lists the plants themselves. It looks to be a very useful book.

Cash from Square Foot Gardening. What I really wanted was to find Square Foot Gardening, but this is close enough. :-D It gives a brief overview on how square foot gardening is done, then goes on to how to run a business with your produce, from finding a market and choosing what to grow, to collecting money, etc.

Clear and Present Danger. I got this one mostly for my husband, who enjoys Tom Clancy books. I also thought it would be interesting to see what differences there are between the book and the movie, which we own.

Body of Lies. This one I chose more for Eldest, though I'll be reading it, too. Part of a series of books from Iris Johansen featuring a forensic sculptor as the main character. We've read the first book with the character and enjoyed it, but weren't as keen on the next one. We'll see how this one pans out.

Timepieces. I spotted this one and just had to grab it for Eldest. She's been in heaven ever since! It traces the history of timepieces, and has wonderful photos of the interior workings of various timepieces. Eldest has a strong preference for old-style timepieces. They are truly works of art.

Standard Spanish Dictionary. I got this because I swear Eldest said she'd wanted a Spanish/English dictionary (she already has several others). Apparently, I was wrong. :-P

Making Memories: Food, Family, Friends and Photographs; Marvelous food for unforgettable occasions with great ideas on how to capture these special moments on film. *L* Another book vying for the "longest sub-title" competition, this one has *two* subtitles! This is a Canadian book, which is cool. It's nice to have a cookbook that has Canada Day themed recipes rather than Fourth of July themed recipes. *L* This is not just a cookbook, though. Skattered throughout the book are hints and tips on how to take photographs (film was still the primary method, though there was a brief mention of digital cameras), and ideas on how to store, present and preserve them. There's also advice on how to host various themed events.

Outdoor Pleasures: Picnics, Parties and Portable Feasts. I had to laugh as I was going through this book! It's got wonderful recipes I can't wait to try - from the ridiculously complex, to the sublimely simple. It is, most definitely, a gourmet cookbook, and that's part of what was so funny. Just as an example, there's a section on tailgate picnics. Now, this is something I'm not familiar with - as I understand it, it's very much a US thing, and closely associated with football games and stadium parking lots. *L* I'd only heard of them a few years back, and I think they're a great idea. They seem like such a fun, relaxed, casual thing to do. Not in this book! First, there's the photo in the introductory page. With the text "Getting down to basics in the trunk of a Rolls Royce: iced Champagne, caviar, and pistachio nuts for nibbling," the photo shows the Champagne, two bottles, in a container with ice, a couple of wine glasses (no, not Champagne flutes), crackers on a plate with caviar, complete with silver caviar spoon, pistachios artistically spilling out of a bag in the back, and a cloth napkin draped over a silver and grey fur coat. !!! Then there's the photos on the next pages, showing people sitting on the ground with their food laid out on a blanket before them, or wandering around the bouquets of flowers, socializing - and all the cars are Mercedes, etc. Not a single tail gate in sight!

Then there's the menus! Check this out. Dishes like Bloody Mary Soup, Saucisson Au Vin, Chicken Tonnato, Lobster Bisque, Marinated London Broil with Bearnaise Sauce, and Garlic Crumbed Chicken Drumsticks.

Or how 'bout their Hunters' Dinner. Photos in the introduction show hunters with their bird dogs on the hunt, including one of a man with several dead birds hanging off of him. The menu? It includes Oysters on the Half Shell, Hazelnut Pasta with Shitake Mushrooms (which really sounds good!), and Pheasant Breasts in Champagne Sauce.

Yeah, we're really roughing it, here! *L* I absolutely love the book and look forward to trying some of the recipes (the ones I can afford to!!!), but it's so pretentious, it makes me giggle the whole way through.

That's the last of them. I wasn't able to find anything for Youngest, though. I just didn't see anything I thought she'd be interested in. I feel kind of bad about that. :-( Maybe next time, I'll be able to bring the kids with me so they can look for their own books. :-)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Progress in other areas

Well, that's it. I've come to determine that I was not made to wear contacts! I tried putting them in, and it just won't happen. Worse, the attempt very quickly irritated my eyes again, and that just shouldn't be happening. They still burn a bit now, and it's been over 5 hours.

Things have been better in other areas, though. Today Eldest, with very little bit of help and guidance from me, cut out the pieces for a vest she's making. It's considerably more ambitious than the skirt. It's a fitted vest with collar, darts in the back, and little decorative strips on the front. The back and collar and lining are black, while the front is in a colourful fabric that was quite horrid to work with - it *slides* like a living thing! *L* The iron on interfacing applied to those pieces will make them easy to sew, though. That part is waiting for tomorrow.

Until then, I'm trying to figure out the instructions for attaching the lining. I've made lined vests before - back when Eldest could fit a size 6! *L* So I have a good idea of how to attach the lining, then flip it all right side out. The instructions here, however, don't seem the least bit familiar and, between the text and graphics, I just don't understand what they are.

It's one of the last things to do, though, so we should be able to figure it out before then.

Monday, September 24, 2007

AAAAAAaaaahhhhh!!!!! My Eyes! They BURN!!

But it's self inflicted.

And it's supposed to get better.

You see, today I got a trial pair of contact lenses. I have never before tried contacts, though I've had people telling me for years that I would just love them if I would be willing to give them a try. Dh has had contacts on and off for years. I know plenty of other people who have them. I've seen them experience both the good things and the bad. Until now, I wasn't willing to put up with the bad.

Finally, though, I figured it was time for me to at least try them. If they don't work out, it's no loss, other than the ridiculous cost of getting new glasses, which I've been needing for a few years now. I just don't have half a grand or more lying around for something like that. Yeah, we've got insurance that'll cover 80%, but the company does it by reimbursal, so it's cash up front, first.

Things went well until it was time to actually put the things in. The first lens didn't work at all. It was for my right eye, and it kept flipping. The assistant thought it was behaving strangely, as though it were misshapen, so she got rid of it and found another for me to try. They didn't actually have one exactly like I needed, as I've got astigmatism in that eye, which needs a slightly different lens. The dr. is ordering the correct lens for me tomorrow. Until then...

It wasn't long before I could see the assistant helping me was getting really frustrated. I just couldn't get the lens in! You see, I can't open my eyes very wide. The lens is actually larger than I'm able to do so, even with yanking my lids apart with my fingers. I kept hitting my upper lid when I tried to put it in place, which would make me blink and out goes the lens. It took a while, but I did get it in, though not before my eye was all red and irritated. I actually ended up doing the one handed method, rather than using my other hand to hold open my top lid at the same time. It went in much easier that way, I found. I don't think it took too much longer than usual, though.

Then there was the left eye.

First, she had me trying to put the lens into my eye using my right hand, as I did for my right eye. I'm left handed, which I'd already told her. I kept positioning the lens too far out. She finally commented on it and wondered out loud why that was. I told her flat out, it's because I was using my right hand. Apparently most people, including left handers like me, still tend to do better using their right hand. So I switched hands, which solved the too-far-out problem, but I had an even harder time getting my eye open than with my right eye. I tried two handed and one handed, and it didn't make a difference. I'd have the thing on my eyeball, start moving my eye around to position it, only to blink the thing out repeatedly. At one point, I popped it out onto the carpet! Finally, because it was taking so long, I think, she was going to do it for me, so she could go on to showing me how to take them out.

Can you guess how that worked out?

Right. Not well at all.

Now, it's not like I've never had someone else poke around in my eyeball before. Usually my husband, trying to find and remove a loose eyelash I couldn't find on my own. You'd think that would've prepared me somewhat.

It didn't.

There she is, trying to put the lens in for me, and I'm feeling like someone's taking sandpaper to my eye. She's telling me to relax and not blink. Of course, as soon as she says "don't blink," what do I do? Yup. I'd blink. My whole face was practically spasming in my struggle to NOT blink and pull away - which I still ended up doing.

That experiment didn't last long.

Finally, she got me to try again myself. Eventually, I did get it in.

So there I am, wearing contacts on both eyes for the first time in my life, and what I want to do most at that moment is put on my glasses, so I could see properly! I felt like I just couldn't focus properly, even though my vision was actually clear. Meanwhile, my eyes felt like they were rubbed raw. I then got taken to another room so the dr. could check them and she asks me how I find them. How the heck do I answer that? Worse, I could barely read the eye test letters on the wall across the room, which I'd been able to read clearly with my glasses. I could make them out. I could even make out the row of smaller letters on the bottom she had me looking at, though it was mostly a combination of guessing based on shape, and remembering what they were from earlier. :-P

We're finally done and heading for home, and I'm having a heck of a time. I was actually starting to feel nauseous, like vertigo or seasickness, from not being able to focus properly. I was supposed to keep them in for 4-6 hours, but I only managed 3. The crazy thing is that, with my glasses back on, I *still* feel like I can't focus properly! That and my eyes are still burning like crazy.

I'm really hoping that'll be gone by morning. I'm supposed to wear these things from 6-8 hours tomorrow, and I'm going to be out most of the day.

I'm bringing the kit and my glasses along, just in case.

Time to go to bed now and give my eyes a chance to heal!

Friday, September 21, 2007

new library list

Well, since "school" has officially started again, I guess I ought to be more diligent about posting our library lists again. ;-)

This was mostly a me trip, though. Youngest still has several novels she wasn't ready to return yet, and Eldest has set up some work for herself and library books would distract her from it, so she just found a couple books to put on hold and that's it. I still have books I'm working on, too, but that didn't stop be from getting a big pile. *L* They're all go-through books rather than research books, so it's all good. :-)

So our list for this week...

The Smallholder's Manual: Looks like everything you need to know to run a small, self-sustaining farm, and make a small income from it as well.

Rural Renaissance; Renewing the Quest for the Good Life: "...captures the American dream of country living for contemporary times." Well, not any American Dream that I know of. ;-) Following the story of a couple, this one looks to really romanticize living off the land (I've done it. Trust me. There's nothing romantic about it. *L*). Still, I think it's got a lot of good info in it.

Traditional English Country Crafts & How to Enjoy Them Today; A comprehensive guide to more than thirty country crafts with sources of supply and information in the USA and a complete craft directory for visitors to Great Britain: Wow, what a long sub-title! LOL I was originally going to pass this one by, but then I glanced through it and just couldn't resist. :-D

Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons; Celebrate Holidays with Elegance and Simplicity - On any Income: This one looks to have a little bit of everything in it, and I'm always up for new ideas to try.

Native American Gardening; Buffalobird-Woman's Guide to Traditional Methods: Very basic looking, and written in a conversational manner. Somewhere along the line I realized that most ofl the edible plants I'm familiar with are European based. I want to learn more about edible native plant species.

Herb Mixtures & Spicy Blends; Ethnic Flavorings, No-Salt Blends, Marinades/Dressings, Butter/Spreads, Dessert Mixtures, Teas/Mulling Spices: Need I say more? *L*

Gifts in a Jar; Holiday Fun; Recipes to make your own gifts: Years ago I was on an email list for gift-in-a-jar ideas. I had to pare down the number of lists I was on, and that one went by the wayside, but I still love the concept.

Bread Made Easy; A baker's First Bread Book and The Bread Book: Because you can never have too many bread recipes.

The Rice Cookbook: from the Women's Weekly cookbook series. My husband LOVES rice. He'd eat it every day at every meal, if he could. Me, I'm getting tired of it. *L* Time to add a little pizzaz.


On the video front, I found the following dvd's.

Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas; this is from the History Channel and traces the origins of many of our Christmas traditions.

Learn How to Tie Dye: Complete 3 Volume Set; I know how to do basic tie dying. This goes way beyond that. www.TrueTieDye.com

Planet Earth series. We grabbed 2 dvd's form the series. I don't know if there's more than that. One includes the episodes The Solar Sea; The sun - giving life or delivering destruction? Gifts From the Earth; How other planets predict Earth's future and Fate of the Earth; The dawn of a new age... or the twilight of our existence? The other has The Climate Puzzle; Earth's weather - unavoidable destiny or humankind's greatest miscalculation? and Tales from Other Worlds; How other planets predict Earth's future. These will keep us busy for a while. *L*

Bollywood Hollywood: Nothing is what is appears to be; I got this because I've wanted to see a Bollywood movie ever since I've first heard of them, and this is the only one I've ever found.

On the VHS side of things, we got:

Trail of the Pink Panther: You just can't beat the original Pink Panther! :-D

Welcome to Canada: An unusual enounter between two cultures; I remember when this happened. This documentary talks about when a boatload of Southeast Asians were found and rescued by a group of fishermen off Canada's East coast in 1986.

There's our list for this week. :-)