Friday, 31 December 2010

BOOKS - Leonardo's Horse - By: Jean Fritz

An interesting children's book
The Leonardo da Vinci lapbook, that we downloaded the templates for from the Homeschool Share website, is based on a lovely book written by Jean Fritz.  The book is titled, "Leonardo's Horse" and is illustrated by Hudson Talbot.  This is an interesting book because it is not square or rectangular -- but it is cut out in an oval shape at the top and both the front and back pages are a coppery gold colour.  Both the text and illustrations are copyright 2001.  The book was published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in New York.

The illustrations are very detailed and beautifully done.  The story of Leonardo's horse is told in brief. (For an detailed explanation of the story of the horse, see our post from December 15th titled "More Photos of our Leonardo da Vinci Lapbook).  Then, Fritz tells the story of an American, Charles Dent, who is inspired to recreate the clay model that was never cast in bronze.  The funds were raised and a model was made, however it was found not to be acceptable when it came time to take it to the foundry for casting.  And so the process began again until a pefect horse could be made as a gift for the people of Milan.  Dent died, during the process, but his family promised to see his dream through to its conclusion.

On September 19, 1999 the bronze statue was unveiled in a small park in front of Milan's famous racetrack and within whinnying distance of the racing stables.  The sculptor, Nina Akamu, had written on the pupil of one eye of the horse "Leonardo da Vinci" and on the other "Charles Dent."  She also wrote her own name in the curly mane of the horse.

In an "Author's Note" on the back flyleaf of the book, it says, "Charlie had planned to paint the finished horse gold, just as Leonardo had expected to do.  But the people of Milan said they already had one gold statue in the city.  That was enough.  So gold was ruled out."

"When the twenty-four foot horse was completed it was possible to make others, but the Board of Trustees decided to allow only one more to be made.  This would be an American horse. Frederik Meijer, one of the most enthusiastic and generous of the original donors, bought the American horse and placed it in the public gardens he had already donated to the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he lives."

An address is given for more information on the activities of Leonardo da Vinci's Horse, Inc:

P. O. Box 396
Fogelsville, PA  18051-0396, USA

The website is:

Photos of some of the wonderful illustrations:

Leonardo releasing caged birds

A depiction of one of the special occasions at the Duke's palace

Leonardo presenting the clay model - November 1493
The finished statue in Milan, Italy

CHARITY - An Extraordinary Gift of Two Baby Chicks

Aren't they cute??
A  few weeks ago, the Give Joy catalogue arrived in our mailbox, which is an initiative of cbm (The Christian Blind Mission) in Stouffville, Ontario.  The organization were suggesting people could purchase a unique gift for their friends and family.  Instead of buying something the person may not need, they suggested donations could be made to their organization in the name of someone on your gift list.  A gift card and a gift tag would then be sent so the donor could advise the recipient of the present. 

A rooster and two hens or two little pigs could be had for $50.  Two egg-laying hens came in at $35.  Two goats were $140.  An Injera oven to make traditional flatbread was available for $60.  A sewing machine for a family so they could begin a tailoring business was $175.  There were other health related items too -- like a hearing aid for $77 or a wheelchair for $150.  A special chair for a child with cerebral palsy was only $40.  Many other projects were also featured from water wells to cataract surgical tool kits.  You could even donate to train an ophthalmologist for a year (if you had $15,000 to give).

Although Alisdair didn't have a lot of money to donate to charity, he did want to do something to help the less fortunate at Christmas time.  And so he decided to buy two baby chicks for $5 each.  The catalogue says "These baby birds can be raised to produce eggs or sold to provide income for a family coping with a disability."  They were listed as a "stocking stuffer."

And so, today Alisdair went to the bank and got them to print up cheques from his bank account.  And he wrote out his very first cheque to cbm for this worthy cause.

The motto of cbm is "Together we can do more."  Perhaps you are interested in helping.  If so, click on the words "Give Joy" at the top of this post for a link to the catalogue.  A little can go a long way to helping others.

POETRY - The Bastables - "Secret Oath"

Alisdair and I are almost finished reading "The Bastables" by E. Nesbit (just two chapters to go.)  I had to smile at a little poem on Page 279 in the chapter called "Hunting the Fox."  It reminded me of a made-up ritual my brother and I used to do - shaking hands while jumping up and down and saying (too loudly at times, as our parents overheard us, on at least one occasion) - "I won't tell if you won't tell"  The secret oath the Bastable children used sounds so much more official!

They said:

I will not tell, I will not reveal,
I will not touch, or try to steal;
And may I be called a beastly sneak,
If this great secret I ever repeat.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

BOOK REVIEW - Katie Meets the Impressionists - By: James Mayhew

"Another Katie book!," cried the children when I came home from the library with "Katie Meets the Impressionists."  Unfortunately this is the last of the Katie series that is easily available to us through inter-library loans, as six of the titles are not listed as being part of the collection of any library in Saskatchewan.  Apparently there is often a considerable charge to order books in from other jurisdictions and so the library does not like to bring in childrens' books from other places outside the province.  Perhaps we will have to purchase them for birthday presents as both Alisdair and Isobel love to accompany Katie on her adventures.

It's Grandma's birthday and Katie accompanies Grandma to the gallery to celebrate this special occasion.  In a twist from the other books, Grandma doesn't fall asleep and nap while Katie explores!  The first painting they enjoy examining is "The Luncheon" by Claude Monet.  Katie enters the painting and meets Monet's son, Jean.  The two children go inside Monet's studio and paint portraits of each other "using dabs just like real painters."

The Luncheon - Claude Monet

The next painting is "Girl with a Watering Can" by Pierre Auguste Renoir. Katie brought some flowers from the Monet's garden and they begin to wilt -- so she needs some water to preserve them. But despite the water, the flowers still droop. The girl with the watering can and Katie pick some new, fresh flowers but they are soon reprimanded by the girl's mother. Katie hastily returns to the gallery.

Girl with a Watering Can - Pierre Auguste Renoir
Katie recognizes Jean Monet in another painting called Field of Poppies.  She joins Jean and his mother on a picnic and gathers armfuls of poppies for Grandma. However, soon Katie is chased by a swarm of angry bees.  Even after she returns to the safety of the gallery, the bees still buzz above her head.  Thinking quickly, Katie opens a window and throws the poppies outside.  The bees fly away -- but Katie still doesn't have any flowers to give her grandmother for her birthday.  Then Katie spots the posy of flowers, held by the girl in a picture by Pierre Auguste Renoir, called Her First Evening Out.

Her First Evening Out - Pierre Auguste Renoir
Katie briefly speaks to the girl before running away from the theater manager.  She opens a door to hide and finds herself on stage with dancers from The Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas.  So Katie performs, the crowd cheers and throws flowers at her!  Katie collects the flowers and when she returns to the gallery, she has a lovely bouquet for her Grandma.

The Blue Dancers - Edgar Degas
A delightful introduction to Impressionist paintings!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

RESEARCH - Inportant Information About Head Lice

Growth stages of the louse

A few weeks ago a note came home from the local elementary school indicating some pupils had head lice.  Because of this, we ordered some books from the library on the topic to read to Isobel.  One of these was titled "Yikes-Lice!" by Donna Caffey, with illustrations by Patrick Girouard.  The book was published by Albert Whitman & Company in Morton Grove, Illinois in 1998.  The forward is "A Note to Concerned Grownups" and is written by Christine G. Hahn, M. D.

This medical expert says, "People sometimes think that head lice are a sign of uncleanliness, but in fact anyone, no matter how clean, can get them.  They are easily passed by being in close contact with someone, or by sharing combs, brushes, or hats.  Young children have higher rates of head lice infestation than older children and  adults. Children between the ages of 3 and 10 are most likely to get them.  In this age group, boys and girls tend to be at equal risk.  Among teenagers, girls are more often affected than boys.  Several treatments are available in pharmacies, over-the-counter, or by prescription.  Some studies have suggested that lice may be gaining resistance to some of these treatments.  Until research gives us new answers, the best way to deal with lice is to carefully follow the instructions in the lice treatment packages, taking care to thoroughly remove all lice and nits."

Other information provided by the author is as follows:

"The head louse, sometimes called a cootie, lives on the human head.  It is a wingless insect about 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, about the size of a pinhead.  Head lice (the plural of louse) range in colour from light brown to dark brown or black.  They do not live on animals.  A head louse crawls, but it does not hop, jump or fly."

"Lice are usually found nested in hair close to the scalp at the top of the head, behind the ears or at the back of the neck.  They have six legs, with claws used for holding onto hair." 

"Lice require blood from the "host," or human being they are living on, in order to survive.  They use their sucking mouth parts to pierce the skin and feed.  If left alone, lice will feed quickly and frequently.  Without a meal they cannot live more than one or two days."

"The female louse can lay 3 to 6 eggs per day - about 50 to 150 in her lifetime.  The eggs, called nits, are very small (about 1/32 of an inch in length), oval-shaped and grayish-white.  The female attaches the nits to the hair with a gummy substance."

"It takes seven to ten days for a nit to hatch and the young louse, or nymph to emerge.  Soon the nymphs mature into adults.  Then the female can lay eggs of her own.  Most lice live about a month, long enough to have many children and grandchildren."

"Itching is caused by the feeding louse who punctures the skin, injects saliva and then sucks blood.  However, you can have lice and not itch."

"Although they will not hurt you, head lice can be very aggravating.  They do not cause other diseases, but if you scratch too much and break the skin, an infection can develop."

"You will need help to check yourself for head lice.  Lean forward under a good light.   The "checker" can use a comb with a tail to part and lift the hair.  He or she should begin at the back of the neck and proceed to each side, lifting the hair in small sections all over the head.  Most lice and nits can be seen with the naked eye, but a magnifying glass may be helpful.  (Be sure everyone's hands and all the equipment are washed after the examination.)" 

"To make sure that lice are completely gone, everything that was exposed must be thoroughly cleaned.  Personal items such as combs, brushes, and hair accessories must be soaked in very hot (but not boiling) water for 20 minutes.  Clothing, linens and towels should be washed with hot, soapy water and completely dried in the clothes dryer using the hot cycle.  Non-washable items, such as some stuffed animals, pillows, bedspreads, bike helmets, and headsets with foam ear pieces should be dry-cleaned or placed in an airtight plastic bag for two weeks."

"Because lice can live from one to two days away from a person, sofas, chairs, mattresses, carpets and car upholstery should be thoroughly vacuumed.  Throw the vacuum bag away."

"You do not need to spray the house with insecticide.  Remember that lice don't live long away from people and you do not want to expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals."

"Often people get lice in schools or camps or anywhere they are in close contact.  It helps if you do not share your combs, brushes, hats, helmets, headsets, or clothes.  If you do get lice, you should tell your teachers and friends so they can be checked.  You should be checked again every day for two weeks and regularly after that."

"It's not your fault if you get head lice - anyone can!  According to historians, head lice have been around for 9,000 years.  They have been found on people of all races all over the world, no matter where they are living or how clean they are."  

... So, tell me... are you itchy yet?!   If not, take a closer look at the photograph and you soon will be!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

"The Peace of Christ Be With You!"

(Taken December 27th)

It was Christmas Eve and we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house.  Everyone was heading to bed.  But Alisdair and I decided to stay up for a little while longer... and so we got in the car and headed over to Battleford to St. George's Anglican Church for their late night Christmas Eve service.

Upon arrival, tea or coffee and hot apple cider and Christmas baking were served in the fellowship hall.  Soon those gathered moved into the nearby sanctuary, receiving an "Order of Service" booklet that said, "Let us go now to Bethlehem (Luke 2:15)" on the cover.  We were also given a candle on our way in.

The Collect for Christmas Eve was as follows:

"Eternal God,
this holy night is radiant
with the brilliance of your one true light.
As we have known
the revelation of that light on earth,
bring us to see the splendour of your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever."

When everyone went to the altar to celebrate the Eucharist, Alisdair and I went up to receive a blessing.

We sang, "The First Noel," "A Candle Is Burning,"A Christmas Lullaby," "Who Is He?,"O Come All Ye Faithful,""It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," and "Silent Night."

"Who Is He?" was especially nice, as although it is not a familiar carol, the refrain was very uplifting:

" 'Tis the Lord!  O wondrous story!
  'Tis the Lord!  The King of glory!
  At His feet we humbly fall,
  Crown Him!  Crown Him, Lord of all!"

At the conclusion of the service, we "spread the light" - with Gordon Yarde coming down the aisle and lighting each candle of the person on the end of the pew.  That individual, in turn, would light the candle of the person next to them.  This continued down the row until the everyone in the whole congregation held a burning candle.  Most of the lights were turned off in the sanctuary and we sang "Silent Night" before blowing out our candles and returning home to our beds. Althought it was well after midnight in the Central Time zone (that the Battlefords are on) Alisdair noted that it wouldn't be midnight for us yet, if we had been home in Neilburg (as we observe Mountain Time).

Later, when we were in Battleford to attend the traditional Foreman Boxing Day get-together, we stopped to take the above photo of Alisdair in front of the sign at St. George's.

ALISDAIR'S THOUGHTS on the Christmas Eve Service:

"It was FUN staying up late.  My Mum got sleepy during the sermon and nodded off a little and dropped her service bulletin.  It made a big noise and I had to pick it up for her.  Later, I was scared she was going to doze off when she was holding her burning candle as she could have dropped that too!  She could have set the whole church on fire!  Luckily, I made sure that didn't happen!  As I was leaving, the minister kindly gave me two candy canes."

Friday, 24 December 2010

COOKING - Bartlett Pear Orange Marmalade

Finished quart jar of marmalade
Alisdair and I had a cooking adventure - making marmalade for the first time!

The recipe said the Preparation time was 10 minutes with the cook time another half an hour for a total of 40 minutes, but it took us a lot longer than that to make our marmalade.  We only sterilized three pint jars and then, when they were filled, we discovered there was more marmalade to put somewhere - so we had to sterilize another quart jar.  And then it took quite a while for the water in the canner to get to the boiling point, so we could process the jars so they would seal.

But, in the end, we have one quart and three pints of delicious marmalade.  I thought it would be a bit thicker, but we tried some on toast this morning and both of us agreed it was worth the time and effort.

The recipe we used was from the "Pear Bureau Northwest" and was found at "" It reads as follows:

* 4 pounds (about 12) firm, ripe Northwest Bartlett pears, pared, cored, and coarsely chopped
* 2 oranges (thin skinned), thinly sliced and quartered
* 5 cups of sugar
* 2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice (we used the juice of one whole lemon)

We also added a package of pectin to make sure it would set properly.

Combine pears, oranges, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium to low heat; stir 20 minutes or until thickened and mixture sheets off a metal spoon.  Watch carefully that the marmalade does not scorch.

Ladle into clean hot canning jars to within 1/8th of an inch of the top.  Seal according to the jar manufacturer's directions.

Place jars on rack in canner.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water 2 inches above the jar tops.  Remover carefully, and place away from drafts.  After 12 hours test the lids for a proper seal.  Remove the rings from the sealed jars.

Yield:  6 to 7 half pints

We took photos throughout the process:

Ripe, washed pears

Alisdair chopping up the cored and quartered pears 

Coarsely chopped pears

Sliced and quartered oranges on top of the pears

The recipe called for lemon juice.  We squeezed a real lemon.

Resulting lemon juice

Sugar added to pot on top of the fruit mixture

Mixing the sugar/pectin with the fruit

Slowly cooking the fruit and sugar

Pear chunks disappearing as cooked mixture changes

Sterilizing jars and lids in another pot

Ready to seal in jars

Finished marmalade before processing in the canner

Boiling the marmalade for 10 minutes to seal the lids tightly

Now... I guess we need to take a photo of the pleased recipients of our marmalade as they enjoy a piece of toast on Christmas morning!  No doubt they will also think our efforts were worthwhile!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

BOOK REVIEW - Polar The Titanic Bear - By: Daisy Corning Stone Spedden

Delightful Historical Read
We have borrowed many books on the R. M. S. Titanic disaster from the library.  In the back of one of these, the picture book Polar - The Titanic Bear  was recommended for further reading.

This delightful childrens' book is based on a true story and was written by Daisy Corning Stone Spedden as a Christmas present for her only son, Douglas, in 1913, when the boy was just eight years old.  Daisy even painted a cover illustration for the story.

Original painted book cover
This little book was found amongst her belongings by a relative - Leighton H. Coleman III and he set about having the story published for others to enjoy.

Daisy, her husband Frederic, young Douglas and his Nanny (the boy called her "Muddie Boons" as he couldn't pronounce her actual name - Elizabeth Margaret Burns) were world travellers.  While the family lived just outside New York City, they spent their summers near Bar Harbor. Maine and their winters at resorts around the world.  In the introduction Coleman explains:  "The Speddens traveled on luxurious ocean liners that visited exotic ports in the Caribbean, Africa and the south of France.  Douglas was lucky enough to see things that other children only read about, including the Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time, and the Eiffel Tower, the highest structure in the world in 1912" (Page 6).

Douglas (with Polar at his feet), next to his parents on a hotel balcony in Madeira
The family considered themselves lucky to obtain passage on the R. M. S. Titanic as it was the "biggest, newest ship in the world -- a floating palace that contained every modern convenience and luxury." Little did the Speddens realize the ship would be halted on its maiden voyage across the ocean by an iceberg.  And so, the family boarded the vessel at Cherbourg, France.

The book is told from the viewpoint of "Polar" a little stuffed bear that is given to Douglas as a gift.  But the tale begins in Germany when Polar is first created.

Newly manufactured - Polar
Workers at the Margarete Steiff Company in Germany
From the factory, Polar is shipped to New York City and is put on display in
F. A. O. Schwarz -- the largest toy shop in the world.  It is here "Aunt Nannie" purchases the bear as a gift for Douglas.

Page 15 - Aunt Nannie presents Polar to Douglas as the Spedden family leaves on a trip on the Caronia
The family spend time in Madeira (near Portugal) for several months.  While there, Douglas is struck down with measles but manages to recover from this illness.  Polar is by his bedside and must be disinfected.  In early April, the family sailed back to the United States on the Adriatic and Polar was taken to his new home in Tuxedo Park (near New York City).  During the summer the bear travelled to the family's summer house near Bar Harbor, Maine.  When winter came, Polar and his Master enjoyed playing in the snow.

Page 23 - Winter fun

Alisdair and Isobel were amused to see a photograph of Polar, taken one Christmas Day, with Polar sitting at his own special table for the holiday meal. When New Year arrived, the Spedden family were off to Panama, where Douglas and Polar visited the site of the Panama Canal (which was under construction).  They eventually arrived in Bermuda where Douglas and Polar enjoyed playing on the sandy beach.  The next winter, the family set sail on the Caronia again - this time enroute to Algiers, in northern Africa.

Page 27 - Celebrating George Washington's Birthday in Algiers in February 1912
From Algiers the family set sail for the south coast of France, staying in a hotel at Monte Carlo. Cannes was the next stop on the trip, where the Spedden family stayed for nearly a month.  Then they took the night train to Paris.

Pages 30 & 31  Paris (The Tuileries Gardens)

It was time to return to America and the family readied themselves to sail on the R. M. S. Titanic. For the first few days, Douglas and Polar enjoy themselves.  They play games on deck, meet new friends and once "Master" even sent Polar flying down the banister of The Grand Staircase!

Page 32 - A Titanic postcard, a diamond shaped luggage sticker
and a photograph of The Nomadic that carried Douglas and his family out to the Titanic
Page 33 - Polar arrives onboard the R. M. S. Titanic
Page 36 - A deck chair in the upper deck sun parlor
It was the fifth night at sea when the unthinkable happened.  Douglas and Polar were in bed.  Muddie Boons woke Douglas and began to dress him "in a great hurry."

Page 38 - Dressing quickly after the ship struck the iceberg.
  Can you see Polar in the little net rack beside the bed??
Douglas wearing his lifebelt, holding tightly to Polar
The family managed to get to the top deck and to the safety of a lifeboat. The entire family (and Muddie Boons) were able to get into the lifeboat that was lowered into the sea.

Page 40 & 41 - Waiting for rescue in the lifeboat.  Douglas is sleeping, still holding Polar
"Toward three o'clock in the morning, an icy breeze sprang up and the sea grew rough.  Master opened his eyes and said he felt seasick.  But Muddie Boons, who had him on her lap, soon quieted him with a story of Cinderella.  About an hour later, someone suddenly shouted, 'Here comes a ship!'  Looking towards the horizon, we first saw a white light and then some rockets.  As the ship gradually approached, we feared she might either run us down or not see us at all, since we had no lantern.  But soon she slowed down and then stopped" (Pages 42 and 43).

Page 42 - Waiting in Lifeboat Number 3
Page 43 - The Carpathia coming to the rescue
Page 45 - After the occupants of Lifeboat Number 3 were rescued, Polar was left floating in the small boat
Where was Polar?  Daisy Spedden thought the toy had fallen overboard and bought an ugly little brown bear to replace the lost stuffed animal.  But suddenly Polar "felt a terrible jerk, and then another.  The boat swayed dangerously. I nearly fell into the icy water as several sailors pulled the lifeboat up to the decks of the Carpathia.  I slid down the ribs of the boat, banging my back against each one along the way, and landed in a puddle.  'That's the last of them, then,' said a sailor.  He turned the boat over with a bang, and I fell onto the hard deck in a wet, miserable heap.  I lay there for what must have been hours.  Then I heard a kind voice.  'Hello, there!  Fancy seeing you again.'  It was one of the sailors from the Titanic.  he picked me up and squeezed the water out of me, quite taking my breath away.  Then he carried me down some stairs and into a warm room.  It was full of passengers with blankets around them.  Many of them held hot drinks" (Page 46 and 47).

Page 46 - Polar is rescued by a kind sailor

Page 47 - Photo showing how the lifeboats were hauled on board the Carpathia
"Polar!"  a familiar voice shouted from across the room.  It was Master.  He rushed over and took me in his arms.  I was delighted to see him again, too.... As soon as master saw me, however, he hugged and kissed me.  He took me to bed with him that night and every night after, forgetting all about the other bear" (Page 48).   

Page 49 - The joyful reunion of Polar and Douglas

Page 51 - Sailing into New York Harbor in the middle of a thunderstorm
The family returned to a quiet country life in Tuxedo Park and the book ends with a picture of Polar snuggled up in his Master's arms.

This is where the tale of Polar the little white bear concludes.  In the epilogue, however, we learn that just three years after the sinking of the Titanic, 9-year old Douglas was killed in a car accident near the family's summer camp in Maine.  It was one of the first automobile accidents in the state.  No one knows what happened to Polar the bear.  Frederic Spedden died in 1947 and his wife Daisy passed away in 1950.  The Speddens had no other children.

The illustrations (which I have photographed) were done by Laurie McGaw, who lives near Toronto.  The back flap of the book jacket says she has "always been captivated by Edwardian art."  While I realize this blog post is heavy on photographs - the colourful pictures are so detailed and captivating that it was hard to choose which ones to showcase the story of Polar and his Master, Douglas. The jacket also tells us that "since discovering Daisy Spedden's possessions in an about-to-be-discarded family trunk, Leighton H. Coleman III has been fascinated by his relatives and has become a bona-fide ocean liner buff.  He lives in Stony Brook, Long Island, and New York City."

Polar - The Titanic Bear is a Madison Press Book and was produced for Little, Brown and Company.  It was published in 1994.  This historical picture book would be a wonderful addition to any collection and is well worth checking out of your local library.