Monday, November 23, 2015

Frugal and fun: quilted Dayrunner cover

Two years ago I bought a brand-new, black, zippered Dayrunner (the 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch size) at a church rummage sale. I was happy to find it, but after all this time I was getting bored with the black cover. But I hadn't seen any prettier ones at the thrift store, and I didn't know how you would go about putting a handmade cover around the binder hardware and the zipper.

Today's Handmade Holidays post at Sew Mama Sew linked to this Composition Notebook Cover from Amanda of  Jedi Craft Girl for Riley Blake Designs. I decided to make one, not really thinking of my Dayrunner but just wanting to use some fabric that had been given to us, and thinking I would find a blank notebook to put inside. It took me most of the morning to make, but it wasn't hard. You cut an upper and a lower piece for the outside front cover, sew them together with some batting, and machine-quilt lines three-quarters of an inch apart.The inside lining is made with one large piece and two smaller pieces that are folded in half for the flaps. The whole thing is sewn together with a gap at the bottom and turned inside out. (The heart applique was traced from a cookie cutter.)

It was when I was choosing the button to sew on the front that I noticed my tired-looking Dayrunner on the table, and the lightbulb went on. On examining the case, I discovered that the inside of the Dayrunner lifts out of its zipper cover, so I didn't have to destroy it. (Bonus!)

I am so happy with this!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mama Squirrel's Daybook: Doing things, making stuff

Weather: still hanging in there, colder but still not quite "November." That could change.

News from the Squirrels: Lydia's school is having a Flop, Drop and Read day today (you were also supposed to wear pajamas to school). Sounds like they have been taking lessons from the homeschoolers.

Things we've been watching: We finally started the fifth season of Downton Abbey (I was on a waiting list at the library). Longmire. Death in Paradise. Two movies: Steven Spielberg's Super 8, and Finding Forrester (we'd seen that a long time ago, but it was worth watching again).

In the slow cooker: Chicken Cacciatore, from our freezer meals.

Also to eat: Applesauce Muffins, made from dry ingredients mixed ahead for Crockpot Applesauce Cake, but since the Crockpot is full of dinner, I did mini muffins instead.

What are the best deals at the dollar store? These candles-in-a-jar, sold for religious purposes. The pictures on them are just shrink wrap and come off easily. I bought four candles for an Advent decoration. (They're going to get some trimming.)
Using up thrift store finds: Do you remember this ribbon embroidery kit and the diecuts of Victorian children? (I thought they were stickers but they were diecuts.) 
I used them, along with a few other cutout photos, sticky letters, buttons and ric-rac, to make Christmas cards. The base for the cards was a package of blank watercolour-paper cards that we had bought several years ago and never used.
Also making: crocheted pinecones, with a pattern from Planet June. (I downloaded the pattern a couple of years ago and then didn't have a chance to use it.) I had a bit of brown yarn left from old projects, and then I found this strange-scratchy-textured stuff at the dollar store while I was buying the candles. I don't think you'd want mittens made out of it, but it's perfect for cones.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. What's surprised you most about your life, or about life in general?

That I find myself middle-aged, so soon. When I read stories about fiftyish women, or see magazine stories about "makeup/health/whatever for those over fifty," I realize they're actually talking about me.

Other than that: technology.

The Church Mice Adrift, by Graham Oakley: a rat cafe?

2. Among others, these ten words were added to the Oxford English Dictionarythis year...awesomesaucebeer o'clockbrain fartbuttdialcat cafe(apparently this is a real thing), fatberg (gross-read the definition here)fat shamehangryMx (gender neutral), and skippable. 

Your thoughts? In looking over the list, which word do you find most ridiculous? Which word would you never in a million years say out loud? Which word would you be most likely to use in conversation?

We prefer to say "pocket dial" when referring to making an accidental cell phone call. Recently Lydia pocket-dialed Mr. Fixit, and he could see that it was her number, but there was nobody on the line, so he  said, "Ly-di-a, this is the little man living in your pocket, I'm talking to you" and a few things like that. (I don't remember if she said anything about it when she got home from school.)

"Hangry" sounds like a situation that's always been there, just waiting for a word. It could cover anything from a child's church-went-too-long-and-I-want-my-lunch grumpies, to something more serious, like unrest during a famine.

3. Do you like gravy? Is there a food you'd rather not eat unless it comes with gravy? Do you make your own or buy the canned or store-made variety? Turkey and gravy, sausage gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, country ham and red eye gravy, biscuits and chocolate gravy, pot roast and gravy...which one on the list is your favorite?

I never heard of sausage gravy until I was an adult; people around here eat fat sausage with sauerkraut, or skinny ones as a side with pancakes and syrup. But never with gravy. Gravy for us is what you have with roast beef or turkey, and that's about it, unless you count poutine, and I try not to.

But I do know that you can make a pretty good vegetarian gravy with water, milk and soy sauce thickened with cornstarch.

4. Do you have a plan? Do you need a plan? Have you ever had a plan fall into a trillion pieces? Explain.

Homeschooling and having young kids in general gave me lots of outlets for planning: school needed plans, holidays needed plans, groceries needed plans. It didn't mean that I always stuck to the plans, but at least I knew they were there in the first place.

I still make plans (that's why my little zippered book is my planner, not my journal or some other name). Right now I'm in the middle of a holiday crafting plan, a book project plan, and the plan for how I'm going to finish this post in the next five minutes and get out the door for a church work day.

5. November 19 is National Play Monopoly Day. Do you own the original or some version of the game? Do you enjoy playing Monopoly? How likely is it you'll play a game of Monopoly on November 19th? Ever been to Atlantic City? Ever taken a ride on a railroad? Is parking in your town free? Last thing you took a chance on?

Our oldest owns the original Monopoly (so it's at her place), but we have Canad-opoly in the cupboard, and also the new version (Monopoly Empire), Monopoly Deal (card game), and we used to play Monopoly Junior when the girls were younger. One year we had a Monopoly Junior birthday party for Mr. Fixit, and when he landed on certain spots, we had entertainment or activities relating to that place.
For people who do a lot of "frugal," you would think we were a bit obsessed with money. But I think most of those games were gifts...except for Monopoly Junior, we got that at a thrift store.

Whoops, five minutes are up. Better half a Hodgepodge than none at all.

This post is linked from Wednesday Hodgepodge with Gravy at From This Side of the Pond.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. What does Veteran's Day / Remembrance Day mean to you?

I read an interesting blog post recently: Simone Weil and Homer, by David Beardsley, on the Circe Institute blog. This is the part that struck me:
By not making the clear connection to the one war, however, she made a clear connection to all War; to the eternal process that is inevitable when one country, one sect, one person, seeks domination over another. 
She also describes those moments of love that do break through the “monotonous desolation:” hospitable, filial, brotherly, conjugal, even the friendship that can occur between mortal enemies such as Achilles and Priam.  “These moments of grace,” she says, “are rare in the Iliad, but they are enough to make us feel with sharp regret what it is that violence has killed and will kill again.”
2. What's your favorite film with a patriotic theme woven into the storyline?

Right now I'm in the middle of reading War and Remembrance, so I guess that counts too.

But a movie? How about the 1979 O Canada T.V. signoff?

3. Flu shot-yes or no? If you answered no, do you plan to get a flu shot? If not, why not? Have you ever had the flu?

I am ambivalent about the shot, that's all I can say. And yes, I've had the flu. To quote Jan Karon: "It feels like you've just eaten a dish of Miss Rose's week-old, unrefrigerated banana pudding and on are on your way to the emergency room in the back of a van that's been lived in through a long, hard winter by seven Russian wolfhounds..."

4. I've seen lots of people posting pictures of their Christmas trees up and decorated. Many stores have had Christmas on display since well before Halloween. Red cups are back at Starbucks, sans the holiday decor; and that has some people up in arms. What are your thoughts on all the holiday ruckus this second week of November?

My November ruckus is just about making things--it's the month when the holiday crafting roundups appear, and I'm usually in the mood to sew or crochet something. I pretty much ignore whatever other quasi-holiday stuff is going on out there, until after we light the first Advent candle.

5. What 'critter' are you most afraid of encountering unexpectedly? Why that one?

I am not really afraid of bugs, other than the fact that they can bite you and make you sick. I cheerfully swat them, or go somewhere else without feeling particularly traumatized. However, I am phobic about mice. I've decided that the differences between mice and bugs are a) they're bigger, and b) they have faces, c) with teeth.  Hamsters, I was okay with; I usually knew the hamster. (We haven't had a hamster here since Snowball.) Mice are just anonymous housebreakers.  I'm not so sure about Rose Fyleman's "I think mice are nice"; I agree more with the lines that come before that one: "They nibble things they shouldn't touch, and no-one seems to like them much." 

6. Do you like building things? What's the last thing you 'built'?

No, not really a builder here. Mr. Fixit is the tool guy.

7. In keeping with this month's theme of gratitude...what are you most grateful for that brings beauty to your daily life?

The sugar maple beside our driveway, for its greenness in the summer and its orangeness in the fall.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Quote for the Day: By the aid of imagination

"Rightly taught, every subject gives fuel to the imagination, and without imagination, no subject can be rightly followed. It is by the aid of imagination that a child comes to love people who do not belong to his own country, and as he learns the history of their great deeds and noble efforts, he is eager to learn something of the country in which they lived, of its shape and size, of its mountains, woods and rivers, of the causes that made the people what they are. We English people, I am sorry to say, have not usually the art of teaching our children to love other countries, and many of us think of foreign lands as we might think of a show at the White City, something that is there for us to look at, something that may rest us or divert us, but not something that stands as high, if not higher, than we do. We are still deluded by the idea that we may travel in a missionary spirit with civilisation streaming from our garments. We must change something in ourselves before we can hope to do much for our children in this respect." ~~ E.A. Parish, "Imagination as a Powerful Factor in a Well-Balanced Mind" (Parents' Review article, 1914)

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Saturday thrifting, an eye towards the holidays

 Eleven fabric pieces (upholstery samples, I think), for a dollar. Not washable, but still good for crafts.
 Stickers, fifty cents.
Pack of silk ribbons and trims, also known as an unused craft kit, two dollars.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Quote for the day: On hope

"If we are to know how far we live by hope, how far it is bread of life to us, we must go where hope is not." ~~ Charlotte Mason, "Children as 'Persons'" (from The Story of Charlotte Mason)

Remember: the Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. Besides Thanksgiving, something you're looking forward to on your November calendar?

A couple more days of sunshine and warmth? Some years at this time we are already into snow.

2.  If I gave you a thank you card right now who would you send it to and why?

The teachers and other staff at Lydia's new school. They work very hard at making it a good place to be.

3. Of the breads listed, which one's your favorite...bagel, cinnamon, sourdough, garlic, banana, biscuit, pita, Naan, or plain old fashioned white bread?

All of the above, plus whole wheat, tortillas, rye,  croissants, and beer bread.

Be gentle when you touch bread
Let it not lie uncared for--unwanted
So often bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty in bread
Beauty of sun and soil, beauty of honest toil
Winds and rain have caressed it,
Christ often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch bread.
(poem quoted in The More-with-Less Cookbook)

4. What's something you have in abundance? Is that a good thing?

Warmish November weather has brought ladybugs, too many of them. Ladybugs are cute, but they bite hard. Lydia reports that her school also has a ladybug problem, and it was especially bad when they were outdoors playing soccer for gym class on Tuesday. She says she had about twenty clinging to each of her  legs, and they did not want to "fly away home."

5. November 5th is National Love Your Red Hair Day. Are there any redheads in your family? Who's your favorite redhead?

Several of my dad's family are red-haired; I think it's the Scottish coming out. 

Favourite, as in celebrities? Greer Garson. She looks sort of like my aunt.

6.  The travel website Busbud recently calculated the most Instagrammed spot in every state. Go here to see what made the list where you live. Are you happy with your state's #1? If not what do you think should be the most photographed spot in your state? Have you snapped a photo there? If you live outside the USA answer as it relates to your state, city or province.

According to Busbud, the most Instagrammed spot in Ontario is Niagara Falls. Which probably goes without saying. But I think Georgian Bay should come a close second.
(Wikipedia's photo)

7. I'm going to try to have something related to gratitude in this spot each week during the month of November. Here's this week's question-

What's something you've learned about yourself this year that you're grateful for?

That I can enjoy change. Sometimes.

Linked from Remember Remember the Hodgepodge November at This Side of the Pond.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Porch fixed.

Mama Squirrel's Daybook

What I'm working on today: a revision of an older Plutarch study.

What I'm listening to, in between that: Reading in Morning Time, a Morning Basket podcast with Pam Barnhill and Brandy Vencel. (The opening rooster was a bit startling...)

What I'm making for dinner: Mr. Fixit is going to make hamburgers.

What I'm making for some other dinners: Dry mixes for split pea soup and lentil soup. (I package beans and lentils separately from the seasonings.)

What I'm looking at: a blue, blue October sky, with orange leaves all over the ground (and some left on the trees). Sparrows and chipmunks. Ladybugs--still lots of those around.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Where is the YEAR going?

A thought for All Saints' Day

 "The great recognition that God, the Holy Spirit, is Himself personally the imparter of knowledge...this is the key to the whole education of each boy and girl. Practical discernment and knowledge of everyday matters, the discovery of the secrets of nature, the great inventions, every conception of beauty or truth and their expression--all have one history, each must have been a great idea when it first made a stir in the mind of the man, woman or child who conceived it." ~~ Charlotte Mason

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do... 19 Consequently, you are ... fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2, NIV)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rummage sale morning

The annual fill-a-bag sale at a local church. Probably the last rummage sale in town until January.

No, I don't have little kids. Yes, I still pick up vintage Scholastic books when I find them.
I have been looking and looking for these. I borrowed The Winds of War from the library, but the sequel never seems to be in when I want it.
Historical fiction.
A small cake pan and a woven throw. The throw might become a Christmas tree skirt, because we need one. Last year we used a blanket.
Two No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency books.
A game-in-a-book.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Something slimy for Hallowe'en

How can you not like a post that starts like this? (Link found on the Afterthoughts blog.)
A few days ago I had the slimy experience of listening to a forty-minute discussion on BBC radio purporting to show the history of Britain through the medium of poetry. I describe the experience as slimy because I felt, having listened to it, that I had been slimed, finding myself covered spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally in a decaying, mendacious goo.
Let me explain.

 Full article "The BBC: Writing Christianity Out of History," by Joseph Pearce, at The Imaginative Conservative.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Apple cake from a homemade mix

I have mentioned The Perfect Basket here before. It's just a little book I picked up a long time ago from a pile of books in a liquidation store. It turned out to be worth the $2.99, not so much for the gift basket ideas as for the mixes and recipes that were created to go in them. Pumpkin Bars to go with a fall basket, and so on.
So today I decided to use up some baking supplies and also some of the apples I bought in Point Pelee, and make the Spiced Apple Cake recipe from the book. I baked one cake right then, and put the dry ingredients for two more in plastic bags. When I pulled out the powdered vanilla, I realized that it had been on the shelf for probably a couple of years, so I asked Mr. Fixit if he would kindly pick up some while he was out radio-hunting this morning. (The bulk store is next to the antiques market.) 
The cake recipe sounds like it shouldn't work, or taste good, but it does (both). It has no salt in it; it contains baking soda, but nothing acid like yogurt or sour milk for the soda to act on, so I'm not sure (kitchen-chemistry-wise) why the soda instead of baking powder, but it did rise. I don't have the Bundt pan that the book called for, so I used our 10 x 15 inch glass pan.

Something crafty to look forward to

Handmade Holidays runs through the month of November.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge

1. Are you comfortable with silence? If you're home alone, do you like silence or do you need regular background noise? Do you seek out times and places to be silent? What's your favorite place to find silence/be silent?

I don't mind quiet, but I've gotten so used to having people around that it can seem almost too quiet when I'm here alone. Sometimes I like being quiet in busy places, like airports; you know you're not alone, but you don't have to talk to anybody either.

2. October 28th is National Chocolate Day. Can't let that go by without a mention now, can we? Will you celebrate? How? Let's say you can have one of the following right this very minute... a cup of hot chocolate, a strawberry dipped in chocolate, a bowl of plain chocolate ice cream, or a slice of chocolate pie...what's your pleasure?

Any of the above. Mr. Fixit just came in five minutes ago and offered me a piece of a Polish chocolate bar, so I guess that's the answer. I haven't had Tofu Chocolate Pie in quite awhile, or the other kind of chocolate pie we sometimes make at holidays; those are both worth a chocolate celebration.

3. How do you feel about blue jeans? Favorite thing in the world to wear or nope, don't own a single pair? How often do you wear blue jeans in a typical week? Do you own a blue jean jacket?

I wear blue jeans...or black jeans...most of the time at home. But I just bought a pair of pink jeans at the thrift store. Might as well live dangerously.

4. Are you superstitious? If so, in what way?

Does anyone ever admit it if they are? I don't think I am, but someone could probably come up with something on me.

5. If you had to come up with a costume using only things you have on hand right now, what could you come up with? 

I haven't worn a costume for anything in I-can't-remember-how-long. I would probably borrow something of my husband's, like a jacket and a hat, and go as a hoser.

6. What scares you a little? What do you do when you feel scared?

Pray hard. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I have been busy most of the day making freezer meals with my husband. We are a pretty good team. I read ingredients, he fills bags. This was our second time around, and it was much easier than the first time, because we were more casual about amounts and we were doing it more to our own tastes. 

When I was first married, I went to a couple of co-op freezer meal sessions at a community centre, and it was a whole lot more work. Basically we were cooking casseroles and then taking them home and freezing them. They should have tried it this way (no pre-cooking except for ground beef).

Linked from Hello Hodgepodge My Old Friend at This Side of the Pond.

Mr. Fixit and Mama Squirrel make freezer meals

Here is our second freezer-meal marathon. (Read this post first if you haven't already.)

10:45 a.m.: One table full of groceries and labelled plastic bags.
11:45 a.m.: Pork meals are done and we had a lunch break. On to ground beef and stew beef:
12:45 p.m. (or a.m., or whatever it is when lunch hour is almost over): Working on chicken meals.
Bags of Chicken Cacciatore
1:30 p.m.: Finishing the last of the chicken meals:
1:45 p.m.: Meals split between the chest freezer and the top of the fridge (so they will freeze faster); one pork chop meal in the slow cooker for tonight; and we are done.

You Need to Read This. Really.

Please read all the way through this post at The Prudent Homemaker, and enjoy. Good advice, I think.