Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Craft Fair

This year was my first time participating in the SDHL Craft Fair (although I had gone before).  I made some Christmas tree, snow flake, and star ornaments.  I made the Christmas trees with cardboard and yarn, and the snow flakes and stars with the wood and springs from clothespins.  

Over all it was a very fun experience to be able to sell something you made with your own hard work and know they're going to good homes.  It was also fun to look at what other people made, and all the creativity that was put into it.  There were things on sale from plants to candles to doll clothes.  There was definitely ample variety for people to choose from, and that was good to see.  One of the best parts of the craft fair is that when sale gets slow, you can hang out with your friends at their tables!  All in all I thought it was a great experience, and I would love to do it again!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Stella & Turtle: 2 Historical Fictions

I recently read two books called Stella by Starlight and Turtle in Paradise.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper is about a girl living in the all-black section of Bumblebee, North Carolina in the strictly segregated south in 1932. She battles her fears about the rising threat of the KKK, and her struggles with expressing herself. There were many things to fear in her day. Imagine never being allowed to go out at night, seeing men in white hoods burning crosses in your backyard, or watching your friend being beaten for buying a bag of candy. These were all the things Stella and others like her experienced in the story. I learned quite a bit about what people would have felt during this time period - fear, oppression, anger, injustice, hopelessness.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm is set during the Great Depression in Key West, Florida. A girl, Turtle, tries to find her true family and, in the end, comes to realize what real treasure is. From this book I learned about the Great Depression and how things we take for granted today were practically unavailable then, such as shoes, food, work and a dry place to sleep. One of the things that got me sucked into this book was the colourful set of characters.  Conchs, as Key West natives are called, have a very unique and diverse culture with a blend of Cuban, Bahamian and other influences. Back in Turtle's day, and probably even now, Conchs had a custom of giving people odd nicknames, such as Beans, Slowpoke, Killy the Horse, and Pork Chop to name just a few characters from the story.

Where did the name "Conch" come from?  One theory is that during the American revolution the English officials heavily taxed the food in Florida like they taxed tea in Boston. Legend has it that the locals said they'd rather eat conch than pay taxes. They did just that, creating 27 different ways of cooking it. I find this shows quite clearly the sense of humour and indomitable spirit of the Conchs. A group of rambunctious boys in the story who call themselves the "Diaper Gang" is a good example of this.  If you want to find out why they are called the "Diaper Gang", read the book!

These two stories have many similarities. They are both set in roughly the same time period, narrated by female protagonists of similar age both living in tight knit communities, resulting in strong family bonds and deep friendships. They share a similar message: home is where family is, be yourself, and hardships don't last forever!  Both of these were very enjoyable reads and I definitely recommend them.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Great Climate Race

Calling themselves the Crazy Socks, Serena & Daddy did a 10K run along the Stanley Park Seawall as they participated in The Great Climate Race on a beautiful fall day. We recently read an article about the Paris Agreement, an international treaty designed to slow global warming that was recently adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. We also watched Before the Flood, a National Geographic documentary on the threat of climate change. Serena will now share her thoughts of what she's learnt:

"I have learnt that climate change is much more urgent than I could have imagined. There is actually a hidden force of corrupt government officials and corporations trying to confuse the public in order to keep their profits in polluting industries especially those based in crude oil.

I also learned that palm oil, the cheapest kind of cooking oil on the market, is being harvested in shocking & unsustainable ways, deforesting area equivalent to 300 football fields in a single hour and pushing animals like orangutans to extinction while creating giant amounts of carbon. 40 to 50 percent of our household goods contain palm oil, from shampoo to Nutella. The problem is especially dire in Sumatra, Indonesia because of corrupt government officials.

Another surprising fact the documentary revealed is that cows are incredibly costly in every sense, taking up enormous amounts of land and food (as feeds) while producing huge amounts of methane.

But there's a message of hope! Change can be as simple as trying to use as little electricity as possible, eating less red meat, taking shorter showers, and making smart purchasing decisions.  The important thing is for us to act now, the planet won't accept more procrastination."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Out of My Mind

Out Of My Mind by Sharon Draper is an amazing novel about a girl named Melody with cerebral palsy who can neither move nor speak but is incredibly smart. She has a photographic memory and can “hear” colours and “taste” music, but she is utterly trapped in her mind. All people know is that she is a disabled girl who can’t speak.  

I really like this book because it shines light into the minds of people who can’t communicate, while showing the cruelty of the typical human response to such people. It is very interesting to read about the way we act towards these people, calling them “special”, “disabled”, or “gifted in other ways”, while looking away.  

I would definitely recommend this book because it is very enlightening and also a fun and emotional read. Check out this TED talk by a woman with the same condition as Melody. She is a hilarious comedian!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Biography Fair - Eva Perón

Inspired by the opera Evita, Serena chose Eva Perón as the study subject of her 7th Biography Fair. What a fascinating & controversial character who is both loved and loathed by the people of Argentina.

Serena had a chance to practice her Spanish during her presentation and unbeknownst to us, there happened to be a Spanish speaker in the audience. Thankfully she passed muster and was congratulated for a stellar performance!

While "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" is a beautiful song and Serena did an excellent job on the flute solo, I think we're all ready to get it out of our heads now...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Art Techniques

I recently started taking art lessons with a new art teacher, and she showed me different art forms I had never even heard of - let alone tried.  Some of these included mirror drawing, in some cases she folded the paper, made a design on one half, and I copied it on another.  A harder version I tried was drawing my hand, then mirroring it... upside down!

I also tried contour drawings, gesture drawing, drawing blind, and negative space.  I learned about techniques like pole drawing, where the pencil is at the end of a long pole and the paper is on the floor!

All in all, I learned that the world of art is a place I have explored little of, and I hope I continue to learn!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bard on the Beach

My most recent excursion to Bard on the Beach was to watch The Merry Wives of Windsor, one of Shakespeare's most hilarious comedies, and the one closest to home for his original audience. It was set in Windsor, England, but this production switched it up by putting it in Windsor, Ontario (haha!), set in the swingin' 60's.

The physical comedy was really funny, especially how each character had their own hilarious style of walking (literally). One of the characters, Slender, walked leading with his hips, and he was constantly leaning so far back I thought he was going to snap in half.  Another, Mistress Quickly, was wiggling, shimmying and jiving so much that she couldn't seem to stand still. She must have been exhausted by the end of the performance! My mom loves Mr. Brook (the disguised Ford) the best with his groovy beatnik impersonation.

Unfortunately,  I couldn't enjoy the performance to its full extent, a bad cold struck me that morning and I was suppressing sneezes five minutes at a time. It was still highly entertaining; the combination of audience participation, great live pop & country music, and superb performances by all made it go by in a flash. I would definitely recommend this play, and watch it again if possible!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Izzy Dolls

Izzy dolls are knitted dolls anybody can make for Health Partners International of Canada to send to over 100 countries in their Humanitarian Medical Kit. The soft dolls provide padding for the life-saving medicine instead of paper packaging. The bonus part is, they're given out to sick children and well ones too who may have never owned a toy!

It's really humbling for me to know that something I've made can make a kid smile somewhere in another corner of the world. My Izzy doll is my first real knitting project which was fun to do with my other homeschool friends. I knitted the one in the fuzzy white sweater, while my mom made the ones on the far left and far right. I decided not to put eyes on them because I think it looked cuter! One thing's for sure, I'll making more Izzy dolls!

* Izzy Dolls are named in memory of Master Corporal Mark Isfeld.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Groovy Greeks

We saw fresh dates for sale at our neighbourhood Persian store. I was marvelling at my first sight ever of fresh dates (as opposed to the dried shrivelled up ones), Serena excitedly announced that we needed to get some so she could try out this Groovy Greek recipe that requires fresh dates.

"You know a recipe?!"

Of course she does! Glad to know she retains some knowledge of what she reads, something that doesn't seem to be happening for her aging mother.

Following the Groovy Greeks' instructions, we pitted the dates, stuffed them with walnuts, and boiled them in honey. Serena got all fancy and added a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg.

She got even fancier, whipping out her little antique book Iliad and started reciting the epic poem. Groovy!

The sweet concoction is quite heavenly and very... uh, sweet. Did the Groovy Greeks have very many cavities, we wonder?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

Summer Hiatus

"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." ~ Dr. Seuss

Monday, June 13, 2016


We've read all of Pam Munoz Ryan's novels to date and we love them all. Her newest book, Echo, is easily our favourite. It's a historical novel about hope in the midst of injustice through the eyes of children. With music as a thread throughout, Ryan crafted 3 separate stories wrapped within an overarching fairy tale, all bound together by one magical instrument - "The Thirteenth Harmonica of Otto Messenger".

Serena will give us a glimpse of these beautiful stories within the novel.

Story 1: In 1933 Hitler became chancellor and rose to power in Germany. This first story is set in Germany and is about Friedrich Schmidt who dreams about conducting an orchestra and loves music like his father, a cello player. Friedrich struggles to live with a birthmark that scars his face, an excuse for his schoolmates and the rising Nazi party to persecute him. Tension in his family mounts when his sister, Elizabeth, joins the Hitler Youth and becomes a loyal "Hitlerite". Friedrich, his father, and his uncle work at a harmonica factory which is where the harmonica comes into play and brings much comfort to Friedrich.

Story 2: In 1935 the Great Depression struck Pennsylvania and its residents, causing a lack of everything from clothing to money to hope. In a small boys-only orphanage, Mike and his little brother Frankie are treated cruelly by the orphanage overseer, Mrs. Pennyweather. Musically talented, Mike loves playing the piano. Their Grandmother had sent them to this particular orphanage before she died simply because there's a piano there. They are eventually adopted by a seemingly cold-hearted woman whose love and trust they struggle to earn. Frankie wants to join Hoxie's' Philadelphia Harmonica Band (it was a real band!), and he and Mike receive new harmonicas along the way, freshly imported from Germany...

Story 3: In 1942 World War II was raging, and the Japanese American citizens were being sent to special camps simply for being Japanese after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.  Ivy is a Mexican American with a father who is a "bracero" (Mexican farmer working in America). Ivy struggles with yet another one of many moves as her father continues to look for better opportunities. The move to California is because of a chance Ivy's father has to care for and maintain the house of the Yamamoto family who have been sent to internment camp.  Ivy is horrified to see the abuse the Yamamotos and their house have taken. She struggles with her brother being at war, her parents not accepting her musical talents, and worst of all, the new school system. In her new town, Mexican-American student segregation is a part of life. Ivy has to endure the humiliation of seeing her white friend Susan go to the "main" school while she attends the "annex", a dumpy version for Mexicans. Thankfully she finds comfort in orchestra practice and her new harmonica...

In a fairy tale occurring many years before the three stories, a boy named Otto buys a book that happens to describe the story of 3 girls he meets while lost in the forest. They are trapped in a clearing, and the only way for them to escape is if their spirits are born on a woodwind, and this woodwind saves a soul on the brink of death.

By the silken thread of destiny, a magical harmonica finds its way to a factory, an orphanage, a school, and miraculously takes the bullet meant for a person's heart.

"Your fate is not yet sealed. Even in the darkest night, a star will shine, a bell will chime, a path will be revealed."