Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volunteer Toronto

I've had a fun little time today searching for volunteer positions through the Volunteer Toronto website.

There are so many neat positions available.  Should I be a Pet Visiting Volunteer and take either my active young cat, or affectionate old cat, to an old folks' home in Scarborough?  Should I build on the ESL course I'm taking by being an ESL teaching assistant?  How about a boys' cooking instructor in my old neighbourhood, or setting up a new children's library at the St. Felix Centre?  Math tutoring or computer help are the obvious answers, since I am a math teacher by training, and programmer by profession.  They need math tutors just four subway stops away from me.

This will require some thought, but I think the timing is good to contact a few places and set something up for the new year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Genealogy Indexing

Lately my enthusiasm has been for indexing birth records for Ontario.  The microfilms are held by the Archives of Ontario, but has obtained copies of them for an indexing project.
They have a nice little Java indexing tool that shows the page and lets me enter the data.  I've transcribed 2501 records so far, which feels like a major accomplishment.  One thing I would like is to be able to pick which pages I index; it would be a favour to me because I could find and index the pages I need for my own research, but it would also be advantageous to them, because I'm more familiar with the names in the areas I've been doing research in, and less likely to interpret the old handwriting incorrectly.
I like to think that I do a particularly good job at this because I've worked at deciphering old handwriting before, and because I use other resources to cross-check names.  The rule is always to transcribe what's there, but there are many times when it's hard to see exactly what's there.  An "n" can look a lot like a "u", and a double "r" can look like an "m" in these old records.  Because the births I've been indexing have fallen between 1898 and 1902, I use the 1901 census heavily to search for the parents and make sure that the names I'm indexing make sense.

These Ontario birth records are key to genealogy researchers because they record the mother's maiden name.  The female lines are always harder to trace, and that one last name can unlock a whole other family.  Other interesting information that is not being indexed is the residence and occupation of the father.  For rural families it's not helpful, but if they lived in town, the actual street address will be given.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tonight's links

Not URLs... links I made from 1901 to 1911 census on!

In Houghton, Norfolk, starting with page 1 in 1901:
Alton, Albert R.
Alton, Martha
Alton, Leslie A.
Alton, Charlotte E.
Jackson, Andrew
Alton, William B.
Alton, Marion R.
Thomson, Thomas E.
Thomson, Annie
Thomson, Lauerence/Lawrence W.
Thomson, Kenneth C/E.
Thomson, Howard W/Winston H.
Willis, Arthur
Willis, Phebe L.D. / Pheobe L.
Willis, Arthur R.
Finch, Lafayette G.
Finch, Hannah
Marshall, Charles
Marshall, Castellia R.
Marshall, Verna A/M
Marshall, Charles S.
Marshall, Earl S.

I could not find a strong match for Alton, John, but a quick search on showed a John Alton, died November 6, 1909 in Port Rowan, which is a lovely little town in Norfolk, near Houghton.  So that explains him.

I also could not find Williams, Ada L.  She was 18 in 1901, so she quite likely married between 1901 and 1911.  Marriage records are notoriously scarce, and didn't show any Ada Williams marriage, although I did confirm her birth and parents' names.  The other Williams are already linked, so presumably that researcher ran into the same problem.

I couldn't find a Severance, Sewell in 1911, but someone of that name died in 1910 in Malahide, Elgin, which is not too far from Houghton; plus, he was 80, which is the correct age.

I couldn't find poor Crawford, Emma J. in 1911.  Her husband Wallace is easily found, but he's now married to a Sarah with a very different birthdate, so it's probably a second wife.  It took some searching, because the name on her death record is recorded as "Ema Jane", but I found her death in Houghton in 1903.  That fits with the new wife.

And that's as far I'm going to get tonight...

Charlotte E. Alton - a linking case study

Here is Charlotte E. Alton in 1901, in Houghton, Norfolk, Ontario:

5 2Alton Charlotte E.F DaughterSApr 191870

and here, I believe, she is in 1911, also in Houghton, Norfolk, Ontario:

48 95Alton Charlotte E FHeadSApr186546

It's tempting to believe that they are the same person.  How many Charlotte E. Altons can there be, anyway?  In 1901 she is living with her father, John Alton, but in 1911 she is the head of her own household.

The problem is the dates.  I can't quite convince myself that the five-year difference between the two birth years is no problem.

In 1891 there is a Charlotte E. Alton who gives her age as 24, which would make her birth year around 1867.

In 1881 she is living with her father John (as she is in 1901), and her birth year is 1865.

In 1871 there is a Sharlotte E. Alton living in Houghton, with mother Margaret and brother George.  Father John is not listed in the household.  The birth year then is given as 1866.

All those differences, and no sign of any other Charlotte Alton, convince me that this is just someone where weird dates accumulate.  Whether she habitually forgot or lied about her age or not, there seem to be just some people you run across where the dates never quite match up.  I'm going to go ahead and match the two up in 1901 and 1911.

Census linking

One of my favourite online volunteer projects is  Volunteers have already transcribed the entire Canada 1901 and 1911 censuses, and now people can add themselves as researchers to individuals and families, and link individuals across the two censuses.

For instance, here's my grandmother and her family in 1901:

10 81Woodard Angus MM HeadMJan 251865
36page icon
 11 81Woodard Sarah EF WifeMSep 61869
31page icon
 12 81Woodard Sarah EF DaughterSAug 201894
8page icon
 13 81Woodard Lola PF DaughterSJan 141894
7page icon
 14 81Woodard Charles WM SonSAug 131897
3page icon
15 81Woodard Lydia MF DaughterSMay 181900
10/12page icon

And here they are in 1911:

32 7Woodard Angus MHeadMFeb186546Links
33 7Woodard Sarah E FWifeMSep186941Links
34 7Woodard Sarah C FDaughterSApr189218Links
35 7Woodard Lolla P FDaughterSJan189417Links
36 7Woodard Charles W MSonSApr189713Links
37 7Woodard Lula G FDaughterSAug19055 
38 7Woodard Iva B FDaughterSMay19083 

I think this illustrates perfectly why this can't be done automatically.  Sure, Angus and Sarah E are consistent names, but can the computer recognize why Lola became Lolla?  And why has Angus's birth month changed from January to February, and his daughter Sarah's from August 1894 to April 1892?

In another census year Lola and Charles are given as Pearl and Wellington, the names I knew them by, but actually their middle names.  Additionally, I knew the daughter Sarah as Great-Aunt Sadie.  That makes it difficult for searchers to match people up by name alone.

It becomes a little treasure hunt, finding someone related to you in one census, and then trying to track them down in the other.  I'm about to do a little more hunting...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shape-note singing

I've long been a fan of the group Anonymous Four, especially their CDs American Angels and Gloryland.  These two CDs introduced me to shape-note singing and the book The Sacred Harp.

Here's a screen shot of the PDF I found online, of one of the A4 songs:
And here's my recording!  It's a bit ragged, but for a first try I think it's not so bad.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Katrina" Cottages

I follow the small/tiny house movement, as you know, and dream of downsizing someday into a very small space.  An odd interconnection between small houses and world events is the idea of "Katrina" cottages, meant to be quickly and cheaply built for people who lost their houses in the 2005 Katrina hurricane. recently released eight plans for these little houses, ranging from 544 square feet to a relatively large 1200 square feet.  I particularly like the fact that the 1200 square foot house is an expansion to one of the smaller houses; that a small 938-square-foot 2-bedroom (shown above) can be expanded to have an extra bedroom and bath.  At the website, there are actually more plans, but they don't seem to be available to buy any longer.

Many of the cottages on Cusato's own site are designed with the traditional form of New Orleans homes, long and skinny with a front porch.  We are thinking of an addition on our farmhouse someday, and I like the idea of building an addition that's also a self-contained unit on its own for future adaptability.  This yellow house is only 308 square feet, which is not big enough to build as a dwelling in our district, but there are no minimum-size requirements on additions!

I can definitely see this cute little appendage tacked on to the back of our farmhouse!  I would have to make some minor changes to provide a back door that would attach to the lobby connecting the two houses, but I think it could be done, and the 7 by 13 bedroom with a closet stuck in the middle could be improved anyway, I think.  Perhaps I would have to add two feet to the length of the house, or move the middle window and wall between the bedroom and living room.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Farmhouse Hearts and Darts, Part 12

It's time to finally show you the front of the house!  First, here's how it looked when we bought it.  That's Insulbrick at the bottom of the front, and two colours of aluminum siding.  The upper left is the original painted concrete with some wood strapping attached to it.  The previous owner must have been adding siding as he found it, possibly leftovers from other houses.
Now, here it is when we left it last week!
It was a bit of a gray day, but you can see what a huge difference it makes to the look of the place.  The door under the gable makes the proportions look completely different, and without that blank space, I think the 'face' of the house makes so much more sense now.
There's still plenty of work to do, of course - parging the cracks and holes, and painting, will make it look completely different again.  I'm hoping to get the trim painted this season, but everything else will have to wait until late spring, once the cluster flies wake up from hibernation and move out.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Another old bathroom

Three pictures of a restored (not original) 1918 bathroom.  Pictures are taken from Jane Powell's Bungalow Bathrooms.  Click on any of the pictures to see a bigger version.

An old bathroom

(Click on the picture to see it full size).

There has been a discussion on the Old House Web forums lately about a bathroom in a 1911 house with wooden wainscoting and floor.  I wanted to post this picture for reference.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Historic Properties for Sale

Why, oh why, did I find this website?  It is so tempting! sells only historically significant real estate.

Here's the only "project" home in Canada; a 1870s Cape Cod shingled home on Indian Island.  The island turns out to be on the south-west corner of New Brunswick, in the Bay of Fundy.

Only $60K!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Non-dairy sources of calcium

One of my enthusiasms is nutrition.  I may not always do anything about it, but I love to read and try to improve the way my family and I eat.

Swiss Chard added to a pan of bacon, onion, and perogies
A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy along with lactose intolerance.  A combination of stress and eating too much dairy (I love cheese and had a lot of skim milk and yogurt in my diet) made me hypersensitive, and I ended up with both typical lactose intolerance symptoms (which we won't go into here!) as well as itchiness, stuffiness and sore throat in the mornings, and ringing and pain in my ears.  Cutting out dairy solved all those problems, but at my age calcium is still a vital dietary need.

I am also a big fan of the USDA nutrient database.  I like looking up foods to find out what's in them, but less often I find a reason to look at their nutrient lists.  I looked at their PDF listing dietary sources of calcium and picked out these non-dairy and non-fortified sources:

Cornmeal, self-rising, degermed, enriched, yellow; 138g; 1 cup; 483
Wheat flour, white, all-purpose, self-rising, enriched; 125g; 1 cup; 423
Collards, frozen, chopped, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 170g; 1 cup; 357
Rhubarb, frozen, cooked, with sugar; 240g; 1 cup; 348
Leavening agents, baking powder, double-acting, straight phosphate; 4.6g; 1 tsp; 339
Fish, sardine, Atlantic, canned in oil, drained solids with bone; 85g; 3 oz; 325
Spinach, frozen, chopped or leaf, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 190g; 1 cup; 291
Soybeans, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 180g; 1 cup; 261
Turnip greens, frozen, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 164; 1 cup; 249
Biscuits, plain or buttermilk, prepared from recipe; 101g; 4" biscuit; 237
Cowpeas (blackeyes), immature seeds, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt; 165g; 1 cup; 211

This is, frankly, a little discouraging.  The cornmeal and flour only make the list because they are self-raising; i.e., have baking powder in them (and because a cup is a lot to eat in a day).  I'm not sure whether I should count baking powder as a non-fortified source or not.  I like collards, spinach, and other greens just fine, but I don't eat them every day, and I'd have to eat three to four cups - and that's the cooked measure! - to get my day's allowance.  Rhubarb and edamame (the green soybeans) are hard to obtain and expensive, and I don't even know where I would find immature cowpeas.

Goat cheese is still not entirely problem-free for me, but it's better.  Taking a quick look at the package in my fridge, though, it only supplies 2% of my daily calcium.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


I discovered that I could read the magazine "Natural Health" online through the Toronto Public Library.  (Love you, TPL!)  However, I don't think I'm going to get through more than one issue - it's not what I'm looking for.  First of all, I notice in the editor's intro that they're going to help with my fall wardrobe.  Oh goody!  Wait... how does that relate to my health?  Do their readers tend not to dress warmly enough and get hypothermia in the winter?  Hm.

On to the articles.  Maybe that will be better.  Oh... nope.  Here's a maddening quote: 
Millions of pounds of edible yet cosmetically unsellable produce would be left to rot on farms across the nation if it weren't for the thousands of volunteers who collect food for people in need. Groups like Glean for the City in Virginia, the D.C. Central Kitchen and the national Society of St. Andrew Gleaning Network organize "gleaners," who gather food left behind after harvest, a practice that dates back to the Bible's Old Testament. To find out more, donate or volunteer, visit
Here's an idea... let's stop worrying about the 'cosmetics' of the food!  Ship it all to the grocery stores and let consumers find out what green beans or apples really look like, not just the top however-many percent of it.  We'd need less farmland to produce food, have enough for everyone, and reduce the amount of oil-intensive fertilizers that are needed.

On the island last week, while running errands, we happened to drive from the hardware store to the grocery store.  Since the hardware store is a little ways out of town, we drove past fields, and in the thin strips of trees and bushes between fields I counted five trees heavy with ripe, red apples.  It was a gorgeous site, although I felt bad knowing that most of those apples are just going to fall to the ground and provide fertilizer for the tree, not food for people.

Then we got to the grocery store.  What did I find?  New Zealand apples for sale.  I was speechless.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pie in the Sky

The Home Hardware store in Providence Bay, Ontario is up for sale, for $219,000.  It's a big old rambling building with tons of character, most of which you can't see from the real estate listing.  They're moving to a huge new facility on the other side of Mindemoya.

There's actually two storefronts here, with the one on the right being a false front on a regular gable-shaped building.  At the far left of the picture you can just make out the first storage shed.

There's 10,000 square feet of floor space in this building, with 60% of it on the main floor, and 6,500 square feet of storage shed space (according to the listing).  There's a art/craft collective already on the main street of Providence Bay, and I think it would be a lot of fun to re-develop this property into a combination gift shop / art gallery with artist's studios to rent out.

Here's my concept of how I would lay out the space.  On the north gabled side, I would frame out eight 15' by 19' studios, each like a little house on the main street of the hallway.  They'll have their own lockable doors, of course, and a window into the hallway that can open for ventilation and companionship, or be shuttered closed from the inside.  I'll put two skylights over each one on the north-facing side of the roof - natural north-facing light is best for artists, right?  At this latitude the sun will never shine directly in the skylights, so no problems with glare.

The hallway is wide enough to move large materials in and out, and maybe even put a bench opposite each door with some storage or display shelves for personalizing, perhaps by pinning up inspiration.

If the storage sheds are used as storage lockers, there should be enough space for each artist's studio to have an additional good chunk of space.

Ooh... and another good idea - a place for salvage and a kind of thrift shop in the storage sheds, with all the great stuff I retrieve from the dump and from local builders and carpenters!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FBR: "Time Management from the Inside Out", Morgenstern, Chapter 4

This chapter is on "Developing Your Big-Picture Goals", and it's funny how several things I've read lately have had this step.  It's obviously something important I've been procrastinating on, and Morgenstern helps me identify why that is - not believing I can reach the goals I actually want to have, and feeling insecure about my goals, for example.  Not letting myself want what I want is a big problem that I have to fix!

Working through the exercises I was able to write down life categories, big-picture goals, and specific activities I could do to reach those goals.  There's still a bit of a tenuous connection - I tend to go to what activities I think I "should" do, rather than what I want to do, which I'm realizing is why I procrastinate.  But, it's a list I can work on for a month, then I'll re-evaluate and see what I've learned.  I'm ready for Part Three - "Strategize"!

Monday, October 3, 2011

September Reading

I've been recording books read for just over a year now, and thought I'd assemble a single-shot picture of the books I read in September 2010, so I can compare them to September 2011.  There were only ten books last year, which seems about right since I was just starting a year of teaching at a new school.

In September of this year there were a few more, although I realize that some of these were read in August and recorded in September.  It's not realistic to catch up at the end of every month, although I may try to do better; but for now it will when they were recorded.
I'm surprised there weren't more, actually, because I thought I read a lot more this fall, especially more non-fiction such as books on building and furniture.  I haven't been reading them all year round, so it must be a September thing!  Definitely more fiction this year, which is good - I had gotten out of balance.

FBR: "Time Management from the Inside Out", Morgenstern, Chapter 3

I found this chapter to be weak.  It relies too much on following the same format as Morgenstern's "Organizing From the Inside Out", starting with two worksheets on "What's Working" and "What's Not Working".  Although I found them useful in the organizing book, I did not find them useful here.  The other worksheets on Preferences and Energy Cycles were even less illuminating, since they seemed to say simply "figure out what works for you" without any idea how to determine it.

In summary, although this chapter was titled "Understanding Your Personal Relationship to Time", I didn't find it helped me to do that.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Return to Quilting!

Yes folks, it's apparently time for another of my come-and-go enthusiasms to return to me - quilting!

From "The World of Amish Quilts", by Rachel Pellman.
I remember quilting with my Mom when I was a girl - probably not "helping" as much as I thought I was, but we used to make applique baby quilts together, and it was fun.  When I was in Waterloo at school I discovered Amish quilts and was blown away by the bold colours and deceptively simple patterns, so unlike anything I'd seen before, and the intricate stitching.  (I highly recommend Rachel Pellman's "The World of Amish Quilts".  I used to visit the UW library just to leaf through that book for a few minutes between classes.  The picture here is taken from the Amazon "look inside" feature).  I started quilting again, including a traditional Amish star baby quilt for the birth of a cousin, and a massive Carpenter's Wheel that I was quite proud of.

Sometime along the way it fell by the wayside - the second-hand sewing machine my Mom had given me years earlier stopped working well, and knitting became a fierce enthusiasm for a long time (not that you'd know it from the single post I've made here about it, and that was an ugly project to boot, although I still maintain it wasn't my fault).

This all started again on the island two weeks ago, when my Mom took me to a meeting of the Island Quilter's Guild.  I met the talented Jackie White, and she asked me if I was going to start quilting again.  I replied evasively and told myself I should finish some knitting UFOs first (those are UnFinished Objects if you're not familiar with the term), but then my devious Mom sent me the link to Jackie's blog.  I read some of it (okay, all of it, and in one day too) and noticed she noticed an Etsy store called The Intrepid Thread several times.  I had to follow the link, of course, and check out the "sale" category because that's what I do, and we all know what happens next, right?

I always have a hard time deciding how many fabrics to buy, and how much, unless I sit down and design the quilt first.  BUT, she had some bewitching packages of 1/2 yards all from the same collection, and the one at the right called to me.  I loved all the purple with the pop of pink, which I wouldn't have thought to throw in, but looks absolutely perfect.  I wanted to order an extra 1/2 yard of one of the fabrics to make sure I had a good border for it, and in emailing the merchant to find out about shipping for multiple items, she mentioned that she can fit up to 8 yards in a flat-rate envelope.  WELL!   Clearly anything less than 7.5 yards meant I was wasting shipping money.  I put more of this collection - which is endearingly called 1001 Peeps, by the way - in my basket and was off to the races.

It's not here yet, but I uploaded shots of all the fabrics into MS Paint and I've been virtually quilting.  I think I have a plan, but I don't want to post the image just yet... it's like writing a novel, you know... if you talk about it too much, then you use up the excitement and never get it actually written!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Three Old Homes I Love

I see a lot of old houses that I like, and some I like a lot, but these are the ones I love.
Our 1914 brick house in Toronto.
Our 1913 concrete farmhouse, very much a work-in-progress, or perhaps even a work-to-be-started.
This one I don't own, but it's my husband's family's home, a lovely old 1880-ish foursquare in Toronto. It has been in the family since the mid-1920s.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

"Pizza Party", by Grace Maccarone (author), Emily Arnold McCully (artist)

Availability:  32 copies at the Toronto Public Library.

Reading Level:  Ages 3-4, JK.

Two-word sentences combine to make an engaging story about making pizza.  My son loved this book.  Characters are carefully drawn to include all races.  The library has a couple of other books in this series, which is called "Scholastic  Reader: Level 1".

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Go Away, Big Green Monster", by Ed Emberley

Availability:  213 copies at the Toronto Public Library.

Reading Level:  Ages 3-4, JK.

This fun die-cut book slowly reveals the face of a big green monster, which the reader can then shut the book on.  Intended to reassure children who fear monsters in their room, but a fun one for beginning readers as well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Stop, Train, Stop!" by Rev. W Awdry

Availability: 3 copies at the Toronto Public Library (unfortunately 33 holds); available for $.01 + $6.49 shipping on

Reading level:  Ages 3-4, JK.

This is a great read-aloud book for various stages; first for you to read, then to transition to him reading certain words or phrases (try letting him read what the characters say), for him to act out with his Thomas train set, and finally to read out loud to you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Online Math Games for Girls

Most online math games, although well-intentioned, do not work well for the average female learning style for the following reasons:
  • They emphasize competition and high scores over co-operation
  • They focus on individual skills rather than broad concepts
  • Because of their very nature, they have to focus on math questions with one right answer, rather than open-ended questions
  • They don't tend to address real-life situations
Although these sites are useful for limited amounts of practice with certain skills, they can't be used to put together a comprehensive math program for girls. With those caveats, here are some of our favourite sites:
  • Funbrain's math arcade has some fun games for K to 8 (American curriculum).
  • The BBC has maths games linked to their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) revision (review) site. Our favourite is the Lost Army of Fu Shi.
  • The online game of SET doesn't link to any specific math curriculum, but it does involve problem-solving, logic, and pattern matching.
  • (remember it as "I Excel") is a new-ish, paid site that lets kids earn virtual stickers and has a theme for each grade from 1 to 8. They list Ontario curriculum as "coming soon", but currently it's American curriculum.

Six Great Links

When doing my original research, I could find no good links on how girls learn math. (Which is sad). I did, however, find great links on how girls learn in general, and math resources. Here are the best three of each.

How Girls Learn

  1.'s take on gender differences
  2. NASSPE article on learning style differences
  3. The first issue of "Advances in Gender and Education"

Math Education

  1. Family resources from the NCTM
  2. Minnesota Space Grant Consortium information on math and science for girls
  3. Ontario Ministry of Education Math tips

When Am I Going to Use This? (Math for Girls)

When Am I Going to Use This?
A 2007 study by Xin Ma of the University of Kentucky in Lexington says that "calculus was identified as a critical filter that screened females from science and engineering majors and into majors in liberal arts."
As a test, we looked at every program offered at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Waterloo. Almost a quarter of them list Grade 12 Mathematics of Data Management as a recommended pre-requisite... do some of these surprise you?
  • Accounting and Financial Management (requires Calculus and Advanced Functions)
  • Anthropology
  • Computing and Financial Management (requires Calculus and Advanced Functions)
  • Economics
  • Geography and Environmental Management
  • Psychology
  • Political Science
  • Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies
  • Social Development Studies
  • Sociology

It looks to us like stopping math courses after Grade 11 might not even qualify you for that major in liberal arts.
(Xin Ma's full study.)

What We're About (Math for Girls)

Girls learn differently than boys, and specifically they learn mathematics differently than boys. We can argue about whether they're born that way or socialized that way, but the fact is that there is a very worrying body of evidence from researchers. 1. Although girls' test scores are on a par with those of boys, their confidence starts to drop around grade six. 2. The confidence gap continues through to graduate work, where one study found that female students had more doubt than male students about completing their advanced degrees, even through their performance was equivalent. 3. By the time girls reach high school, many girls become disinterested in mathematics. However, math acts as a "critical filter" when students enter post-secondary school, and many girls are excluding themselves from a large portion of university majors. There are specific strategies that parents can use to help stop the downward slide, by introducing mathematical activities that are geared to the way girls learn. You don't have to be a math teacher, or even very confident in math yourself, to help a few girls do better in math class. Our activities are designed to appeal to the way girls learn, and they include a parent guide to help you through the process of learning alongside your daughters, nieces, and young female friends. All our activities harness the collaborative nature of the typical girl, so they are designed to be done by a handful of four girls ages 11 to 14 working together. Because girls perform better in activities covering a breadth of material, these are not "drill'n'kill" worksheets - they are real-life, open-ended problems that tie together various topics, but also encourage a depth of thinking rather than practice of a particular skill.

Top Ten Tips: Helping Your Daughters with Math

Top Ten Tips: Helping Your Daughters with Math

1. View yourself as learning with them, rather than teaching them. Pose problems that you don’t know the answer to yourself, and work with them to try and solve them. Don’t be afraid to drop the problem if no answer appears – you may be surprised a week later when your daughter comes to you with a solution or an interesting angle to try.
2. Emphasize co-operation over competition. The average girl responds better to a social, collaborative environment rather than trying to do better than others. Encourage your girls to do math with friends, and to practice putting concepts into words.
3. Do encourage them, but make your encouragement specific, mathematical, and based on intellectual achievements rather than effort. Do say things like “you found a good strategy to use on that problem” or “that picture you drew really captured the problem well”. Don’t say “that’s okay, you tried hard”.
4. Pose real-life problems whenever possible. You may be the rare parent that enjoys drilling the times table, but your daughter likely doesn’t enjoy being on the receiving end. Instead, look for situations day to day where math could be used. If you only have enough bread for three sandwiches, but there are four of you for lunch, how can you cut the sandwiches to make it fair?
5. Turn the tables so you can model mathematical problem-solving. Ask your daughter to show you what she did in math class. Ask her to give you an example of an easy, hard, and medium question from class. Solve them if you can, talking out loud about how to approach them based on what you know or remember. Don’t worry about giving up – she may offer to help you, or you can praise her for being able to do them when you can’t. Ask her to explain what’s easy or hard about them – you may get valuable insight into what skills she has, and what she’s missing.
6. Help her to see the connections between various topics. Girls in particular need to see the bigger picture, but with as many as 53 individual curriculum expectations to be covered in a year, teachers and textbooks sometimes resort to teaching small, individual ideas that only take one or two classes. Help your daughter to use creative techniques such as mind maps to lay out the whole year so far, brainstorming the connections between everything that has been done. (This is also a great study tool!)
7. Pose open-ended problems with more than one solution. Outside of school it’s rare to encounter a math problem that only has one answer. In the sandwich example above, each person gets ¾ of a sandwich – but that’s not the interesting part of the problem. There are an infinite ways to cut the sandwiches so that each person gets ¾ – which way is “best” is up to you and your daughters, and you get to pick the criteria.
8. Use a calculator and any other forms of technology you have available. As the Ontario Ministry of Education says, “Operations can now be accomplished quickly and effectively using technology, so that students can now solve problems that were previously too time-consuming to attempt, and can focus on underlying concepts.” Rather than finding the volume of a drawing of a cylinder with all dimensions integer lengths to make the math easy, find the volume of all the cans in the pantry, using a calculator to do the calculations. Use spreadsheet programs for collecting data, doing calculations, and creating graphs. Being able to interpret a graph is more important a skill than being able to draw one.
9. Practice can build confidence when used well. Encourage your daughter to reflect on what skills she finds difficult and time-consuming, and find workbooks or web sites to practice that skill in isolation. Help her to decide how often and how many problems to do, but let the final say be hers.
10. Chances are if you mention estimating, your daughters will roll their eyes. It is a useful technique that has been over-used in current textbooks. Instead, encourage her to get started on a problem by thinking what range of values would make sense. If the problem involves the ages of a parent and children, for instance, she might say that the parent’s age should be something between 20 and 50, and the children should be between 1 and 20. She may also realize that the answers will be whole numbers.

"Math for Girls"

Yes folks, I'm the creative genius behind the website What's that? You've never heard of it? Oops.

All kidding aside, it was an unsuccessful venture, and one of the reasons I started this blog. It's meant to be one place to post about all of my enthusiasms, so having a bunch of other blogs that I theoretically maintain, but actually don't, makes me feel guilty and wastes money on domain renewals. (Not to mention remembering the logins for all those sites).

So, I'll be porting all the old content over from today, and they'll all have the label "MathforGirls". If you want to see it all in one spot, the link will set you up nicely.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

FBR: "Time Management from the Inside Out", Morgenstern, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of this book is where things get tough - it's called "What's Holding You Back?", and it's probably the reason I've waited (i.e., procrastinated) on writing about it. Morgenstern identifies three levels of obstacles that keep people from getting what they want - Technical Errors, External Realities, and Psychological Obstacles. I've detailed the ones that pertain to me after the cut.

Fortunately the psychological obstacles, which seem the hardest to solve, can be left to the end of the process, Morgenstern assures me!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

FBR: "Time Management from the Inside Out", Morgenstern, Chapter 1

I've been writing book reviews for a while, and there are times when a short review just doesn't capture everything I want from a book. Some books are so important that I need to make notes on them, but those notes then end up lost in the piles of paper that still defeat me occasionally. That's why I'm going to try what I'm thinking of as "Focus Book Reviews", which deal with only one chapter at a time. It's a chance for me to slow down my reading and make actual changes to my life, rather than whipping through the book in a few days, taking it back to the library, and never acting on the information.

The first book up is Julie Morgenstern's Time Management from the Inside Out. I've been a fan of her organizing books for years, so this was a natural for me. I read a library copy a few months ago, and recently received my own copy from a friendly donator on Now that school is going back in, it's a perfect time to get my time under control.

Before I dive into Chapter 1, here's the most motivating quote I found in the Introduction: "Being organized... is all about being ready. It's about feeling in command so that you are prepared to handle all of the opportunities, distractions, and surprises life throws your way." I would like to feel that way!

The first chapter talks about changing my perception of time. At first I thought her comparison of a cluttered schedule to a cluttered closet was rather a reach, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. She also promises to show methods that will let individuals design a schedule that's right for them, rather than necessarily showing how to be more productive; after all, learning to take time for myself is one of the things I need to do, even if it makes me less productive in the short term.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Low-Fat Diet - Probably Not What They Intended

So, yes, apparently I have a gall bladder. Most of us do, and probably most of us have as little clue about it as I did, until mine started to complain.

The short version of the story is that I'm on a low-fat diet - specifically, 20% of calories from fat - for at least a month. Since food and nutrition are enthusiasms of mine already, this has led to some interesting number-crunching.

Here's a typical Saturday night dinner at our house, of steak and potatoes, and a vegetable cooked in a little olive oil and garlic. We cook pretty healthy already, and my analysis says it would be 30% calories from fat, which is a healthy amount according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Food Serving Calories Quantity Total
Fat grams
Beef, lean (round, loin, flank) 2.5 ounces 135 2 270
Potato 1/2 cup 68 2 136
Broccoli, raw 1/2 cup 15 2 30
Vegetable and olive oil 1 teaspoon 40 1 40
% calories from fat: 31%

Now, here's the way I think I'm probably not supposed to reduce it to 20% calories from fat. I've added just one new line:
Food Serving Calories Quantity Total
Fat grams
Beef, lean (round, loin, flank) 2.5 ounces 135 2 270
Potato 1/2 cup 68 2 136
Broccoli, raw 1/2 cup 15 2 30
Vegetable and olive oil 1 teaspoon 40 1 40
Wine 4 ounces 97 3 290.4
% calories from fat: 19%

That's right, drinking half a bottle of wine fixes the problem!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Virtual Travel

I love how Google Maps lets you travel virtually, seeing how childhood places have changed.

My father helped his father built this house, in 1953 when he was 12. I have many happy memories of visiting here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

1911 continued - Maternal side

Here we have the little Bailey family. There's husband George, his second wife Ella, and his children Annie and Everett (my great-grandfather). Annie went on to marry Floyd Massender and have ten children, and Everett married Lola Laverne Griffin and had nine children. The 19 cousins and their descendants still have a reunion every summer. In 1911 they're living in Mersea, in Essex County.

Nearby, in Colchester North, George's mother Eliza Bailey is living with another of her sons, Joseph, and his growing family. She is 69 but lived to be 86, so I imagine her enjoying the company of little Ruby, Frederick, and Orville (whose middle name was Fair, her maiden name).

George's first father-in-law, who is of course my three-times-great-grandfather, lives in the very next household.

Moving on to the Griffin branch, we have the perfect example of why families are hard to find in the census. I finally found them spelled Griffen, with the husband's birthdate 20 years off from what I had been told! They are in Essex North county, in a settlement called Rochester that appears to no longer exist. The family consists of Alfred, his wife Louisa, and children Curell, Almer, Wesley, and Laverne. This poor eldest child of theirs is listed in 1891 as a 7-year-old girl named Coral, in 1901 as a 16-year-old son named Carell, and finally in 1911 as a 25-year-old son named Curell.

Also in Mersea we have Louia's mother, Anne Shelson, living with her daughter Attillia, her husband, and their three daughters.

Over in Gosfield North we get my mother's mother's foster family. Henry Carder is a ripe old 88, despite the fact that his wife Sarah died in the previous year at the age of 64. Henry is living with his son Edwin, and his wife Ella, and they have sons Albert and Orville; my grandmother did not join their family until the early 1920s. It will be interesting to see if she is in the 1921 census when it is released in 2013. In this snippet we also get a tantalizing idea of their address - "N.W. ? 25 con 8".

Minor Genealogy Mystery Solved

I mentioned in my last post that I had a couple of women I was trying to track down in the 1911 census. One is Sarah McFarlin, born April 12, 1838 on the lovely island of Islay, Scotland. I don't know when she emigrated, but it was before she was married, with her parents Neal and Flora McFarlin. Sarah married Benjamin Franklin Woodard (a popular name in 1841 when he was born) on August 14, 1860 somewhere in the Simcoe district.

Franklin and Sarah lived in the town of Stayner, and are found there in the 1881 and 1891 census. Franklin lists his occupation as "Labourer" in 1881, and his racial origin as German. They had a big family of 9 children, one baby every two years, like clockwork. I don't know when Franklin died, but Sarah is listed as a widow in the 1901 census, living with her daughter Rachel in Collingwood.It took me a while to find Sarah in the 1911 census, since in the transcription her last name is listed as "McDonald" (it is not given at all in the actual record), and her birth year has magically shifted to 1840. I think things like that happened in the census recording when someone in the household listed everyone, and the exact dates weren't seen as that important. (It sure annoys family history hunters, though). It didn't help that Rachel's name is recorded as Raphael, either, and that she's on the previous page. However, I finally found Sarah, 71 years of age and living with her daughter and family, including two teenage granddaughters and a four-year-old grandson. She died later that year and is buried in the Stayner Union cemetery.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Genealogy and 1911 census

Here's an enthusiasm I haven't touched on yet... family history!

This evening I have the urge to check out's 1911 census records and see if there's anyone I've missed.

Here's my grandfather Nelson with his parents and siblings, in Evanturel Township, Nipissing. A little hard to read, isn't it? That's why the website is so great. We've got James (shortened to Jas) age 58, his wife Christine age 40, and their children Annie (14), Aubrey (12), Laura (9), and Stella (7). Mary someone was a lodger.

Here's the Woodard family, consisting of my grandmother and her parents and siblings in the town of Stayner. Angus (46) and his wife Sarah E (41), with their four daughters and son. My grandmother is Lula, currently age 5.

I actually have a picture of them just a couple of years earlier (that's Grandma in the lower right).

That's all I have so far from my Dad's side of the family. There are a couple of loose ends to tie up - there are a couple of women who died in 1911 or 1912, and I've like to find them in the census, but so far haven't had any luck. The last names are Woodard and Garrod, which are two that have given me a hard time in terms of variant spelling.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Backyard tree planting

I've been intrigued by the current series of bus shelter posters proclaiming "You need a backyard tree!". (They're pretty funny - two kids trying to hold up a hammock for their dad to nap in, for instance). I finally got around to visiting, and am I ever impressed!

There's a huge variety of trees and shrubs available. You get a consultation with an arborist, then buy a tree. They're $140 to $165, come 5 to 8 feet tall depending on the variety, and that price includes it being planted for you!

I've filled out the questionnaire to have someone call me about a consultation, so I'll report back on how that goes.

Don't file... pile!

One of the great things about this blog is that I can go back and see what interested me before, and renew my enthusiasms.

For instance, looking at old post headings sent me back to, where I found a link to this awesome video on "file-piles". It's a system that combines the best of a filing system, with the best of a "piling" system, which is my natural tendency. It's really true that when I force myself to file, I get less productive.

The one filing system that I have and use is the financial system my husband and I set up. It takes exactly one filing cabinet drawer, and works beautifully. It came from some book about couples finance (not surprisingly!). As Rob points out in the video, filing works well when you share a system.

I'm going to finally add a 15-minute block to my lunch routine to deal with paper clutter. I'll use a regular binder (which I have tons of) and try this out tomorrow.

A real-life kitchen!

Further to this post, I found a real estate listing today that is almost an exact replica of that "ideal" 1920s kitchen.

I'm fascinated to see such an untouched kitchen. It needs a good scrubbing, but I don't think I've seen anything that old outside of a museum.

Too bad the house it's in is in Texas!

Here's a little version of the original picture, for comparison:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Roof Framing

After a little period of being stuck and needing to refer to a couple of library books, my virtual framing project is back underway. I've got all the walls framed, and the main roof. I haven't quite figured out how I want the living room roof to be yet, but I'm leaning towards a low-sloped hip roof. I'll handle the gable ends next. I've been helped a lot by the blog of a guy named Jonathan who has built a similar house. (Here's his post on framing his roof.) His detailed pictures have helped me to visualize what I need to do.

The rafters and ridge beam turned out to be easy in SketchUp, but I wasn't sure how to handle the top of the walls. I went with a 2x4 on end, then another flat on top, with the loft 2x4 supports running in between the ones on end. (See the detail).

Unfortunately it's a little difficult to make anything out in the pictures now, with it being just a forest of 2x4s! I'm not sure it will be any better when I start putting plywood sheathing on, since it will then be a box of wood with a pointy top. Not very interesting.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Virtual Framing - end walls up

The linoleum is down and the end walls are (virtually) up! The beauty of SketchUp is that I don't need any bracing to leave them like this overnight.

The far wall will end up being one of the bathroom walls, designed to face north. The extra stud is at the edge of where the shower will be, as a place to fasten it.

The near wall is the end of the living room, designed to face south. The three rough openings are for 22" by 44" double-hung windows.

The walls framed on top of the finish flooring is a bit unusual, but it eliminates the weight and thickness of plywood that would normally go under the hardwood floor.