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.

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. :-)


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.

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. :-)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

First skirt

Today, I helped Eldest sew her first clothing item, a simple skirt. She likes really long skirts.

The cat has a thing for fabric being cut. She has to get right in there! *L*

Next, a bit of time on Brother Cadfael, Eldest's sewing machine.

Then the finished skirt - and more cat. ;-) The pattern was for slits on the sides, which Eldest didn't want, but we'll probably have to put them in after all so that she's got more freedom of movement.

Not to bad for her first clothing item. :-D

His name is Fredrick

Yes, we named the apple head. *L*

Here's what Fredrick looked like after soaking for 24 hours.

And again after hanging for two days. It's really flattening out. I guess it needs to be carved much deeper. It's also a lot darker than I expected. I noticed, after removing it from the soak, that the baking soda had settled to the bottom. Could that be making a difference? I wonder.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Shrunken apple heads

I decided to try out a new project today. If it works out, the kids and I will make more of them. I found the instructions in a book on Halloween, where it suggested using them as a display of shrunken heads. I first encountered them as the heads of dolls. An artist used them to make dolls of grandmotherly people, and I loved the effect.

To make your own shrunken apple heads, here's what you need.

A large apple - I used a Macintosh because that's what we had, but I think I'd recommend something more firm fleshed, like a Granny Smith.

Baking Soda - 3 Tablespoons

A container deep enough to cover the apple with water.

Peel the apple smoothly, then carve a face onto one side.

Here's the face I ended up with. I had no plan beyond recognizable eyes, nose and mouth. Once I know how it looks after drying, I might try experimenting with expressions or something. This was a pretty small apple, though, so I didn't have much room to play with anyways.

Put the apple in water with the 3 Tablespoons of baking soda. The apple is supposed to be completely covered. Problem is, apples float...

So I put some water in a cup and set it on top of the apple to hold it down. Hopefully, this isn't going to cause any damage to the apple.

Leave the apple to soak for 24 hours. After it's done soaking, tie some string to the stem and hang it up to dry. According to the instructions I've got, if you put the apple on a surface to dry, the area in contact with the surface will start to rot.

The apple will dry in about 2 - 2 1/2 weeks, and will be about 1/4 the original size. Once dry, it's supposed to be coated with... hold on, let me find the book again and look it up...

... a sealer such as polyurethane. I wonder if the kids' Modge Podge will work?

That's it. :-D Easy, peasy.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I caught this very brief article in one of the Sun media papers...

Cosby announced last week that his animated series, Little Bill, which aims at getting preschoolers interested in learning...

Say what??? Since when are preschoolers NOT interested in learning? I always got the impression that preschoolers are voraciously interested in learning (as anyone who's lived through the "why" phase can attest).

Am I missing something? Have kids ages 4 and under changed while I wasn't looking?

I don't get it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thoughts on school

The 4th was our local not-back-to-school picnic, and it had a huge turn out. While other kids were heading off to their first day of school, my kids got to see friends they hadn't seen in a long time, find new ones, dig in the sand and mud, and generally have a good time.

One of the things about being "media challenged" as we are is that we miss out on all the back to school promotions - which makes it a bit of a surprise when to go out and see all the crowds! I can't believe how much it costs to send kids to public school these days! Not just the usual stuff like new clothes, backpacks, and stationary supplies, but the extra expenses. There are so many expenses and fees that didn't exist when I went to school.

I do read the news online, though, so I've been catching some of the back to school articles. It was interesting to read one columnist share memories of his first days of school, and how afraid he was.

It brought back memories of my own first day of school. Unlike the columnist, I was thrilled. I still remember seeing the bus turning at the road by our place and running out, screaming and yelling in excitement, to meet my siblings when they got home. I was so excited to finally be able to join them! I never went to kindergarten, so it was straight to first grade for me.

The day itself, I don't really remember. I met the one teacher we had for K-3, with all the grades in one classroom (there was a second classroom, but not enough students to use it). I remember her name, and how she had such long, straight, dark brown hair.

It was when the day ended that things got traumatic for me. As we all gathered outside the door, I found a whole row of buses waiting for us! Which one was mine? I had no idea! Until then, it never even occurred to me that there'd be more than one bus! *L* I stood there, watching, trying to see my siblings (all of whom went to schools in a neighboring town) through the windows, as one by one, they closed their doors and drove off. Finally, there was only one bus left, so I ran for it. I got on and saw that all the seats were filled, so I simply turned to face the front and held on to the back of the seats on either side of me, somehow confident that this bus would take me home. The driver, however, wouldn't leave. One of the older kids recognized me and tried to talk the driver into taking me home, as he did actually drive by our place (they just didn't turn onto our road), but he wouldn't have it. I had to get off the bus.

Well, I was totally in tears. I had no idea what was going on, or how I was to get home. The teacher took me back into the school and comforted me as best she could - she went into a closet and pulled out a chocolate bar! This was an almost unheard of treat for me! I honestly can't remember my parents ever buying us chocolate bars, though I'm sure they must've, at some point. I stopped crying almost instantly. *L* She then phoned my parents to come and get me. Somehow, I never imagined that my parents would be able to do that. Strange, the thoughts children have.

When I got home, I was back to all smiles again. One thing that really stuck in my mind, though, was how upset my youngest brother, 3 yrs older than myself, was. He felt so guilty about my being left behind, saying he should've stood in the bus doorway so I could see him and know what bus to go on.

I wish I could say things got better after that, but they didn't, really. Not academically, which was never much of an issue. I can't say I was particularly motivated, either. Somewhere along the line, I decided high academic achievement just wasn't all that important to me. I did enough to pass, enjoyed certain classes enough to do really well, but otherwise, just drifted along.

It was the social side of things that did it for me. In those first days of school, I did start to develop a friendship. Then another student "stole" her from me, and I discovered that apparently, you couldn't have more than one friend at a time. My potential friend had to choose between me and someone else, and she didn't choose me. Eventually, I did become good friends with a new boy. That's when I discovered that girls and boys couldn't be "friends," but only boyfriend and girlfriend. Then one day he disappeared, never to be seen again, and I discovered something called foster care. It wasn't until grade 4, when I started going to the next town's elementary, that I developed a friendship that actually stuck. In between were years of tears, misery and torment.

It got better as the years went by, but for pretty much my entire time in school, I was one of the "rejects." I can't say I felt rejected, though - I had no respect for the people who rejected me in the first place, and was proud of the things they tried to hold against me. If anything, I'd developed a strong disdain for the "popular" crowd, whom I found to be weak, self-centered and two-faced. The friends I did have - all considered rejects like myself - were people I preferred to spend time with. They didn't play cruel games of popularity, or talk behind anyone's back, or all the other things done by the popular cliques to jockey for position. The things that made them unpopular with the other kids where the things I liked about them. They were pretty much the only things that made going to school worthwhile.

Well, that and I did meet a certain young boy that moved into the area, becoming one of my closest friends by the time we graduated. Then I married him. ;-)

Strangely, in my last year of school, many of the kids who wouldn't be seen anywhere near me, actually began talking to me and treating me decently. I still remember the shock, the first time it happened. It was downright bizarre!

I started out loving the idea of going to school. Then I hated it. Finally, I viewed it as a waste of time. With a few specific exceptions, I learned more from my parents, living on the farm and my own reading than I did from school.

Sometimes I get a bit complacent about our home schooling the girls. It's just something we do. Every now and then, however, I get a glimpse of what life would be like if we'd gone another way, and I find myself thankful for for the choices we've made.