Friday, 28 February 2014

What Liv Learned: February 2014

1.For years, I swore that I couldn’t memorize things. It appears that what I really meant was I’d never tried.
In February I learned to exercise my brain.

 2. We told each other our grocery store track record wasn’t good. We knew the grocery cart was too full. ..
In February, I discovered that you never get too old to rip sugar bags in public.

3. I never would have thought it, but sometimes when you fear the worst, you can only be surprised by happy. For there they all are, with dinner invitations, sonnets on your pillow, and notes in the inbox.
This February, I learned how very good and cheery it can be to stand where I am.

4. I take it as a challenge to make kiddies smile.
What I didn’t know, was that underneath a seven year old’s skull, there is enough funny to make me laugh out loud – taken by surprise at his clever turn of phrase.

 This month, I learned that babies grow up to have a sense of humour.

5. I also learned how deeply devoted a certain niece is to country music. Who knew?

6.  As if the pain in my hamstrings weren't proof enough...did you know that two strings of bowling equals one mile of walking?
In February, I learned that science facts on the wall of a retro-esque bowling alley are probably not accurate, but somehow reassuring. "This is exercise. Don't feel bad that you can barely limp back to the snack machine."

7. And also, this.
To present a kindly face to world, the Nazis set up Terezin, Czechoslovakia as a ghetto for the more ‘desirable’ Jews, in 1941. It was supposedly intended for the war heroes from WW1, the artists, the poets, the part Aryan. A place for them to live - to spend the war in confinement, but safety.

Instead, it became a temporary holding place for those destined for death camps of the East.
Of the 15, 000 children who passed through Terezin, only  roughly 100 survived. 100.
One of the inhabitants was Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, an artist who brought what art materials she could to Terezin. She taught the children art during her stay there…using office forms, scrap paper, cardboard and wrapping paper to help them create collages, drawings and watercolours. Pictures of flowers, butterflies, trees ...and on other pages - the hospital bunks, the barbed wire, the guards.

Their lives.

They wrote poems too, and plays and told stories – and in everything these young people said, and all the things they didn't say…you realize how brutal this world is. And how strong hope can be.

In February, I discovered this poem.


The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing
against a white stone….
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly way up high.
It went away I’m sure because it wished to
Kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I’ve lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I  have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don’t live in here,
In the ghetto.

~Pavel Friedmann


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Just Wonderin'

Two things...

1. Once upon a time, in the fall of 2012 to be exact, I bought ten books all on the subject of education. I read them in quick succession and then wrote a paper on what I had learned. That's the back story.


I was recently thumbing through these books looking for pithy quotes (a favourite hobby of mine) and found this shoved just under the front cover of "The Disappearance of Childhood":

 This piece of scribble scrap paper wasn't the only one.

These notes are where the rubber hits the road - the difference between reading something and doing something. Looking around you, reading ideas and theories and then finally putting pen to paper, finger to keys and making promises to children maybe still unborn and altogether hazy in one's mind.
I wrote these notes just so I wouldn't forget how I learned from Dr. Montessori the importance of a beautiful and orderly home. Neil Postman and I made a pact that I would learn more traditional children's games. Charlotte Mason finally got through to me how narration works and why it's pretty wonderful. Stratford Caldecott made math come alive. And, I keep on writing, keep on remembering, keep on talking about how I'm going to read and read and read to my children. Because I just don't want to forget something that important.
So, now, all this to say that I want to hear what you've promised. Maybe you don't have kids and aren't totally sure you ever want to have any (that's me). Maybe you're focussing on nephews, nieces, and other kids who wander into your life (that's me, again). Or maybe you're entering in to the world of grandparenthood (please make the birthday presents awesome!)Whatever. What's one thing you've promised yourself you are going to do with these children? Be silly, be practical. Be fun or serious. But don't break that promise ever.
2. My second question needs a little preface. I think mothers are often too hard on themselves. They get stressed, uptight, and they mess up. Maybe that's you right now. Maybe you're not the fun loving aunt you always pictured you would be. Maybe your grandchildren differentiate you from their other ancestors as "the scawy one." Maybe you don't have fun baking sessions with your kids every week. Take a deep breath. Think of one thing you are glad and proud that you do regularly for or with those kids. Once again, it could be something really small. Or something really impressive sounding. Either way,comment on this post and let us celebrate with you!
So, you got that? Two things: 1. Tell us one thing you're going to do with future kids. 2. Tell us one thing you're doing now that you're quite proud of.
- Millie

Thursday, 20 February 2014


I've had my fair share of cooking disasters; curdled milk, raw chicken, burnt cookies. Ask my long suffering mother.

In my better moments, I admit to being (mostly) responsible. But on the whole, I've found it suits better to deflect raised eyebrows to the recipe's soundness.

And you have to admit, this is not just pulling a culinary fast one. There ARE those recipes. The ones with way wrong cooking times, or you know when they don't specify the size of 'glass baking dish?"

The worst!

What is more horrifying, is that sometimes, whole cookbooks fall into this category. Taking an unofficial survey (oh, of one), I've been safe to assume that the worst cookbooks are the 'themed' variety. Recipes entirely based on TV shows, or the ones with scene stills from a movie on their glossy cover. I squint and smirk, because I pride myself on a sixth sense and can usually pass them right by. I KNOW those recipes won't work.


This past Christmas I received Dining with Mr. Darcy - a cookbook of regency food that Jane Austen or her characters would have eaten.

Let me explain my observations.

The first thing I noticed was that the cover did not feature Kiera Knightly.

That's kind of hard not to love.
Second: There were no pencil illustrations to be seen. The photography was surprisingly pretty and there was lots of it.
Third. The recipes appeared to strive for Regency authenticity (at least as much as I know about it) and not just throw "Lizzie's Favourite" in front of every pudding or fool.
So I made the English muffins.
And they worked.
So I made six more recipes. (roast pork with onions, syllabub, apple custard tart, bath buns, dried pea soup...)
And they worked too.
The most unusual recipe I tried was Flummery. A sort of almond flavoured milk gelatin, it was intriguingly smooth and placid. Maybe the desserts back then had to allow for corsets?
So I take back my assumptions about 'gimmicky' cookbooks. Despite the recipes in Dining with Mr. Darcy that call for partridge and sweetbreads, it is still fully functional, interesting and fun to read.
 It could stand alone, even without the alliterative title.
But I still am holding ground on the bad recipe theory. They are still out there, I promise. Take this excerpt from Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, published 1747.
"To make a hedgehog, take two Quarts of sweet blanched Almonds, beat them well in a Mortar, with a little Canary and Orange-flower Water, to keep them from oiling. Make them into a stiff Paste, then beat in Sugar, put in half a Pound of sweet Butter melted, set on a Furnace or slow Fire and keep it constantly stirring till it is stiff enough to be made into the Form of a Hedge-Hog, then put it into a Dish.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Single on Valentine's Day

Is it rude to steal a lover's holiday? I say let's go ahead until they make a special day for singles. Maybe they already have, and I just don't know about it...
For those who didn't get a love letter today, read any or all of the following:
Psalm 107
Psalm 136
Ephesians 1
1 John 4: 7 - 21
Revelation 19: 1 - 10
There. Feel better? There's more than enough love to go around.
Anyway, did you celebrate today? You should. Because we've all got love.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Funny, Happy, Loved, Ridiculous, Smile, Joy

Funny: This book. If Harold D. Lehman’s idea of leisure is bacon wrapped hotdogs – I’m all for it.


Happy: That every single one of the nephews and nieces who have a moderate grasp of the English language, can also sing every word of Do A Deer by heart.  Aunt win.


Loved: Despite gifts scoring low on the old love language chart – I feel over the top cherished when people bring me things from the thrift store. Or in paper bags via mutual friends. Or hand delivered to my doorstep.

Thank you, people.


Ridiculous: I thought it was a worthy New Year’s Resolution for the craft room. But. My personal goal of finishing those quilt tops has become a health hazard. Sitting on the couch now has become a struggle to survive suffocation.



Smile: Donuts. Obviously.



“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
Psalm 16

P.S. Learning apparently took a hiatus in January. However, we have higher hopes for February!





Thursday, 6 February 2014

For This Month of Love

I have developed the ridiculous habit of checking this blog over the last weeks - somehow expecting that I have posted something amazing without knowing it.


It doesn't happen that way apparently.


We're in the throes of curriculum writing this month, so it seems like my best work is to create lists of homonyms. However, while scanning through poetry anthologies, I found these gems. Appropriate for Valentine's and all that.


For the men:


"Now you're married, you must obey;

You must be true to all you say;

You must be kind; you must be good;

And keep your wife in kindling wood."




Words to live by, that.


And as for my own personal life plan...


"If no one ever marries me -

And I don't see why they should,

For nurse says I'm not pretty,

And I'm seldom very good -


If no one ever marries me,

I shan't mind very much,

I shall buy a squirrel in a cage

And a little rabbit-hutch;


I shall have a cottage near a wood,

And a pony all my own,

And a little lamb, quite clean and tame,

That I can take to town.


And when I'm getting really old -

At twenty-eight or nine -

I shall buy a little orphan-girl

And bring her up as mine."


~Lawrence Alma-Tadema


I'm totally pumped. See you in the cottage!