Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I have to admit that although I will miss warm days, fresh peaches, and lake swimming, I really do prefer the autumn to any other season. I am in full 'prep for hibernation' mode - cleaning out the cold cellar (ridiculously embarrassing photos to come), trying to convince my hubby to buy another cord of fire wood, making blankets , and canning every scrap of produce in sight. I love the fresh air, the smells of cool earth, sweet apples, fresh woolens, and dried leaves. I love watching my children finally launch themselves into the 'perfect ' pile of leaves, after having worked on it without a single 'test run' for 20 minutes until it was just right.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

William's Dream

A quote from William, while we were driving in the car this afternoon...

Mama, wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a really big forest with a lot of trees and a squiggly river than ran through it half way, and then there was a waterfall where all of the water poured down into a lake that was in the middle of a green field, and it was really sunny so the water in the lake was all sparkly??

It sure would.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Apple Sauce Cake

The house has smelled wonderful ever since we got back form apple-picking. This is definitely one of the reasons that Autumn my favourite season.

Thought that I would share with you one of my favourite apple-recipes in case you want to make your home smell yummie, too!

This is from The Ontario Harvest Cookbook by Julia Aitken and Anita Stewart

Chunky Brown-Sugar Applesauce Cake with Caramel Sauce

1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C softened butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C cake and pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (or even a little more, and a dash of nutmeg)
1 C applesauce

1/2 C chopped walnuts (I prefer pecans, myself)
2 tbsp brown sugar

Caramel Sauce:
2 C packed brown sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1 1/2 C boiling water
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture alternately with applesauce, until no dry spots remain. Spoon batter evenly into a greased 9-inch square pan.

In a small bowl combine the nuts and sugar for the topping. Sprinkle evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm or let it cool completely in the pan.

Now really, you can stop right here. It is a wonderfully moist and not too un-healthy snack cake, with a mild cinnamon taste and nice crunchy nut and brown sugar topping. But if you really want to be decadent, go ahead and make the caramel sauce...

In a large heavy sauce pan combine brown sugar and corn starch. Cook, stirring, over medium heat, for 10 - 12 minutes, until the sugar melts and the mixture is golden brown. Remove from heat. Carefully and at arms length, pour in boiling water. The mixture will hiss and sputter. Return the saucepan to heat, stirring to dissolve any lumps of caramelized sugar. Add butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Turn off heat. Continue stirring until caramelized sugar is completely dissolved. If any lumps remain, strain sauce through a sieve. Let cool slightly. cut cake into squares and serve with caramel sauce poured over top. Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apple Picking

Today was a wonderful day for apple-picking. We beat the weekend rush, and went late enough in the afternoon so as to avoid any school trips. This is certainly not the first time that we have gone apple picking, but the boys really enjoyed it this year. They really do mature so much in one year!! On a sad note, we had a great if disturbing talk with the farmer who owns the orchard. He was telling us of a huge sub division that is being built just down the road from his farm, on what used to be another orchard. Acres and acres of beautiful, mature, fruit-bearing trees are geing sliced down so that a few hundred houses can be crammed onto the land, and the rest paved over. But it doesn't stop there. The farmers who work the land close by, such as where we picked, will feel the effects, too. The helicopters that they rely on to lift the frost from the trees end up being banned because of the noise. The increased traffic becomes a problem, and commuters do not want to be 'stuck' on a 2 lane road behind a tractor. More complaints. The fresh air and peace and quiet that makes for such a nice atmosphere while you are picking disappears when the farm is smack dab in the middle of suburbia. That in itself is a huge issue, since this farmer had to open up his orchard as a pick-your-own farm when Canadian grocery stores would no longer purchase his apples. There are higher profit margin for imported fruits, don't ya know. Although it certainly wasn't a 'nice' conversation, it was good to have the boys begin to learn about this sort of dynamic from someone whose livelihood it is effecting so directly. William has planned a field trip for us this week - to check out our local grocery store to see how much local produce we can find, what types of foods are imported, and where all of the food had been brought in from. We'll post the results after our investigation! For now, though, a few truly 'Autumn in Ontario' pics for you...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Isn't it amazing how kids tastes differ from those of adults when it comes to decorated deserts? I swear, this is after I begged them to take it easy on the sprinkles. No wonder diabetes runs in our family...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sidewalk Chalk

I love driveway chalk. I love how vivid the colors are, how big the canvas can be, how it invites friends to join in. I love how it encourages creativity on such a grand scale, and how it takes 'art' away from a table inside. I love how much the kids enjoy it, and how they will come back to it over and over. I love having a box of chalk at the ready by the front door, all summer long. I love how careful my husband it to park the car so as to cover up as little as possible of the masterpieces that adorn driveway.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Telling Tales

We were off today to Telling Tales, a community literacy festival at Westfield Heritage Village. We couldn't stay for the whole day because of other more important commitments (Daddy Jim's birthday party!!) but it was still worth the trip. Westfield is a pioneer village, reconstructed with original buildings from the early to mid 1800s. The staff were dressed in period costume, or else dressed up as characters from famous works of fiction. There were lots of readings by some great authors and story tellers, a book exchange for the kids, and of course, all of it in a beautiful setting. And it was free! This is definitely an event that we will look forward to next year.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Soccer Gala

Today was the Soccer Gala for the boys' local soccer league...hundreds of kids in their uniforms, running around the fields, playing to their hearts content, showing off their trophies for participation, and munching on hot dogs care of the local Optimist Club. This was the first year that Charlie played (Williams third year) and they all had so much fun. By the end of the summer, he actually managed to kick the ball a few times (as opposed to picking dandelions, wrestling with his friends, or clinging to my lap...) I really think that this is one of the best 'sports' values for you parental buck. Our league is run by a local parent volunteers, so each child pays only $80 for 4 months of soccer, uniform, trophy, and with a hot dog thrown in!! Not only that, but the kids actually get some activity. The teams are small enough that each child is playing for 3/4 of each game, and even if they are not sure which goal to aim for yet . Not to mention the fact that virtually every kid in town plays, so it is a wonderful opportunity for the moms to catch up on our chit chat. Definitely a win-win.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The English Language

Why some kids find it a wee bit frustrating learning to read...

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row...
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig..

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Local Archaeology

While we were out today we came across a team of archaeologists working on a site just north of Brampton. I can't even begin to tell you how cool it was!! The boys have really enjoyed going to archaeology day at Crawford Lake and learning about how that Iroquois village was discovered. Seeing it all happen in front of them however, was even better. Apparently this is the site of a blacksmith shop from the 1850s. The archaeologists have found a lot of iron nails, some pottery shards, and even a tiny horseshoe. The boys were thrilled. The people were wonderful, and answered all of our questions. What a wonderful stop!


The boys took Grammy for a walk in the woods near our home this past weekend. So many blessings in one day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Media Kids

I ended up blathering on about media and kids in a posting to our homeschool group and thought I would share it here.....

We believe that media is an important part of our lives, it is integral to how most of the adult world functions, and it is something that our kids will be living / working / playing with for most of their lives. Moreover, the technologies that they will be using are inconceivable to us today.

I believe that there is a lot of good things in the media, and also a lot of mediocre or bad stuff there. And lets be honest, some of what is out there is down right evil.

So here is how media fits into our lives...we have a TV, but no cable. We as a family watch movies, minus the previews, and with parental supervision (at least the first time that they watch a movie). I have a good idea of what the boys enjoy, what they are comfortable watching, and what I am comfortable with them seeing. Sometimes that matches the noted rating on a movie, sometimes it doesn't.

We have a computer, that William (6 1/2) uses for educational games, research, and fun stuff ( and National Geographic Kids, mostly!!) He uses the computer only when my husband or I are close by, and stays on his marked 'Favourites" unless we are right with him.
We listen to a lot of radio, mostly music or CBC (Will is a huge of Quirks and Quarks - who would have thunk it!)

We have a strict 'no news' policy in the house (with regards to the boys).

We try to limit the overall screen time that the boys have to less than 1 hour of 'recreational media' each day, and that is a mixture of mediums. If William has been playing video games as a bit of a break in the afternoon, we do something different in the evening. If we have been out all day and the kids (and parents!) need some 'down time' after dinner, I don't mind if they want to watch a movie before bed. In the summer we watch less, in the winter, a little more.

I think that I would be more worried about the amount of screen time that they have if we were not homeschooling - even with a few video games or movies mixed into some of their days, the boys still spend most of their time playing, running, exploring, creating, and learning.

We also talk a lot about the choices that we have made regarding media, and why we have made them. We talk about what our family believes, and how it might be different from what other people believe - and that that is alright. We discuss how important it is to us to learn about other people, places and things in the world, and how important it is to have accurate information from which to learn. We talk about the fact that just because something is written down (published or on-line) does not mean that it is true. We talk about differences in opinion, biases, and slander. We say (often) that other people may do things differently, but that in our family we do things this way.

We explain to the boys that once an image is in your head, you can never, ever, get rid of it.

We also talk a lot about marketing. I know that the boys are exposed to marketing each and every day. Even without TV, or exposure to media at school or through peers, it seeps into their consciousness. So we talk about it. We talk about McDonalds - why you might eat there, why you might not. We note how nice it is to buy foods from a farmers market or CSA, and how it is different from buying food that has been grown across the world in a big store. We talk about what 'cheap' means - in price and in quality, and how that should effect our decisions and purchases.

So I guess that sums it up - our family is media-friendly, but not media-run. I hope that the boys are learning how to enjoy technology and all of its benefits, and also to be critical of its drawbacks and risks. I want more than anything for them to be able to think critically about media, to enjoy what it has to offer, and to never forget that watching other people's 'lives' on television is no substitute for having a life of your own.

I'll let you know in about 20 years how it has turned out!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The right to learn

...we have come to realise that for most men the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school

- Ivan Illich

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Carrot Fest at Everdale

We spent the afternoon today at Everdale, a fabulous organic farm and learning centre just a few minutes away. Along with a farm market and CSA, regular workshops and apprenticeship programs, Everdale is the site of Home Alive, a straw bale home featuring solar and wind power systems, renewable and non-toxic natural finishes, a rainwater collection system...Today was their annual Carrot Fest - and a great day to visit the farm. We all had fun collecting eggs, making our own ice cream, playing in the sandbox, petting the animals, exploring the maze, learning about seed saving, and in general enjoying fresh air, warm sun, and great, natural foods. Unfortunately I left the visit to the straw bale home to the end, and by that time the kids were too hot and tired to go for the tour. Maybe next time...I would love to take a look around.

Friday, September 11, 2009


As Summer into Autumn slips

As Summer into Autumn slips
And yet we sooner say
"The Summer" than "the Autumn," lest
We turn the sun away,
And almost count it an Affront
The presence to concede
Of one however lovely, not
The one that we have loved --
So we evade the charge of Years
On one attempting shy
The Circumvention of the Shaft
Of Life's Declivity.

by Emily Dickinson

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not Back To School Party

"What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children's growth into the world is not that it is a better school than the schools, but that it isn't a school at all."

--John Holt

Today, this lovely, warm, sunny September day, about 15 families from our local Homeschool group headed off to the beach to celebrate not going back to school. The kids played, the parents visited (and knitted) or just sat in the sun. We chatted with old friends, and welcomed new families to the fold. The younger kids splashed in the water or played in the sand. The older kids disappeared into the woods to build forts and plan out complex battle strategies. And in the eight (yes, 8!!) hours that we were there, not a tear, not a scream, not a name called or feelings hurt. I really do love that about homeschooling gatherings. The kids, more used to being in groups of different ages and backgrounds, seem somehow more accepting of differences than I tend to see in traditionally schooled kids. Being different is alright, since they are all a little different, anyway.

Thanks to everyone who made this such a wonderful day in the sun!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Crystal Music

Do you remember doing this as a kid? Wonderful, coffee table music made with Mom's favourite wine glasses and a little bit of water. What a great, hands on (no pun intended) way to learn about sound waves. I came out of the shower to find all three of my boys (William, Charlie and Hubby Jim) gathered around the coffee table making beautiful music. Not sure where the inspiration came from, but they were sure having a lot of fun!