Friday, August 25, 2006

On the high seas

Crayons came in from the back porch (it was gray and windy out there) and said, "I'm on a gallant ship. Like in Little Tim. And you're all on the ship with me."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rhubarb-Pear Crisp, yum

This recipe is what we had for dessert tonight. (Mr. Fixit and the Apprentice had to hurry because they were on their way to the Apprentice's voice lesson, but they had a bit anyway.) It calls for a pound of rhubarb, and we had only a few stalks because we have an un-cooperative rhubarb plant that doesn't like us to take too much at a time. But I just used what we had along with the pears, and it was still good. The ginger is a very nice addition.

(I changed a couple of other things, too: I left out the walnuts, didn't dab anything with butter, and used oil instead of butter to make the crumbs.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Perhaps if I perservere and blog frequently...

...we will go up to a Cute Rodent and maybe someone will comment on my posts.

Anyway, I've been a bit bored with the internet lately. Neopets is going VERY VERY slowly with its latest plot, The Cyodrake's Gaze. Okay, maybe not that slowly, but it doesn't seem like much is happening, and nobody has really figured out much that's all too important. I'm saving for a Lab Map, but I only have two pieces and I can't use Neopets every single day because it puts cookies on the computer. I can make about 10k a day when I do go on, though. I use this guide. I don't play all the games listed on there, just the ones that are still actually on. If you'd like a list of the ones I play, here you go:

  • Aly & AJ: Personality Quiz

  • Brother Bear

  • Cars: Matching Madness

  • Devo 2.0: Personality Quiz

  • Disney Records Album: Move It!

  • Hilary Duff: Matching

  • How to Eat Fried Worms: Wormsicles

  • Licca-Chan Trivia

  • Material Girls: Personality Quiz

  • Pirates of the Caribbean

  • Venus Vibrance: Find Your Neopets Vibe

And I am planning on trying their latest sponsor game, Shopping Adventure brought to you by Wal-Mart. The sponsor game system of earning Neopoints is quite easy. For instance, I can get roughly 600np for the Cars one. You may question the choice of my games, I mean, Hilary Duff? Since when do I listen to her? I don't. The game is simply an easy way to points for me. That's how I choose them.

Anyway...I said I was bored with the internet. Yes, I am. As I said, Neopets has lost its appeal (for a little while, anyway, I'm sure I'll be back). I get a very small amount of email, my Yahoo! Groups haven't been sending me that much mail, probably because people are on vacation, I don't have anything that needs looking up (like my 5 songs, or reviews for a new nail polish I'm buying).

What hasn't been boring, is the Falling Sand Game (thanks Queen of Carrots), it's always fun mixing and pouring and watching slugs explode. Also, blogging.

The real world has been fun, I had my Chicks over on Thursday. I got a larger turnout than I expected. I thought only B was coming, but I somehow managed two more, and lots of people coming next time.

I tried doing the doe-eyes-thing with eyeliner today. I'm not sure if my eyes look like doe eyes now, but it does look lovely. I used Wet 'n' Wild eyeliner as a base, then put purple shadow from The Color Workshop on top.

As usual, this has been a very random post, and I'm sure I confused some of you quite a bit with my ramblings on. :-)

~the apprentice~

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Cooking with the apprentice

A new quiz to do if you're bored. Made up exclusively by me.

What was the best ___ you ever had?

1. Pasta/spaghetti?
Fettucini Alfredo from a little restaurant downtown that's not there anymore.

2. Best chocolate chip cookies?
Neiman-Marcus cookies.

3. Birthday cake?
My hot dog birthday cake, complete with fries. I think the one I linked to is the right one, family members feel free to correct me.

4. Chicken burger?
A certain resturant's Monterey Jack bacon chicken burger *drools*.

5. Hamburger?
Mr. Fixit's. I'm not bad at it either.

6. Pumpkin pie?
If you give her some whipped cream, that Mamasquirrel can make one mean pumpkin pie.

7. What's your favourite food, and who made it?
Cabbage rolls. Preferably made by Mr. Fixit, with the little spice packets from the meat store.

8. Name three people you'd like to join in.
Mamasquirrel. Pippinsqueak. Katelyn.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The CBC reports on homeschooling

(Thanks to HomeSchoolBuzz for pointing this out.)

The second of two columns on homeschooling by Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko (of the Radio Free School Reading Room, a radio show for unschoolers)appears on today. (The first, with readers' responses, is here.)

Normally I'd be turned off by an article that starts out, "While home-based education may seem like a risky or experimental new venture into unfamiliar territory"--oh no, here we go again with that dark-ages-of-homeschooling stuff. But it does get more interesting, since Ekoko is a homeschooling parent herself and obviously knows better.

I found these statistics interesting, although not surprising:
According to the findings, a typical Canadian home-educating household is a white, Christian, two-parent family with a father as primary income earner. These families tend to have a slightly lower than average income because the mother usually stays home with an average 3.6 children (well above the national average of 1.1) of elementary school age. However, "mothers do contribute to the family income at a higher rate than in the past," [researcher Deani] Van Pelt notes.
3.6, huh? I knew our family was too small......or maybe Dewey counts as point six. But it seems to me I just read an homeschool-bashing article somewhere that said that people with more than two children usually opt out of homeschooling. That seemed pretty strange to me, considering all the large homeschooling families I know. Well, there we have statistics to back us up. [Update: okay, I found it, and I it wasn't meant to be a homeschool bashing article but was just meant to tell you how much somebody thinks it costs to homeschool. And it was more than three children, not two. But I still think that's a strange comment. I guess they haven't talked to the Duggar family lately...]

I liked this quote too (from researcher Dr. Bruce Arai):
According to Arai's research, some parents felt strongly that home-schooling is part of an alternative lifestyle, but "the majority of parents … felt that they were normal in all respects, except for the fact that their children did not go to school."

Hungarian Stew

Well, that sounds better than Hungarian Leftover Roast Casserole.

The Deputy Headmistress was looking for recipes for leftover roast beef, and this is what I usually do with ours. It's one of those no-real-amounts recipes, which makes it hard to write out. But these are the basics:

You need 1 good chunk of leftover roast, chopped into small (fork-sized) pieces; 1 small onion, sliced; at least 1 clove garlic, chopped; sliced carrots; salt, pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, and a can of tomato soup. Bake this in a covered casserole for an hour, or put it in the crock pot for the afternoon. When it's heated through and the carrots are cooked, you can add a can of green beans, if you want to stretch it a bit, and a large spoonful of sour cream; you might put it back into the oven for a few minutes to warm up the beans. We usually eat this with noodles or perogies (the little potato-stuffed ones from the supermarket).

Mushrooms might be a good addition, too. If the sauce is too runny, you can thicken it with flour or cornstarch (mix the cornstarch with the sour cream before adding).

Monday, August 14, 2006

The thing that lives in your brain

We realise that there is an act of knowing to be performed; that no one can know without this act, that it must be self-performed, that it is as agreeable and natural to the average child or man as singing is to the song thrush, that "to know" is indeed a natural function. Yet we hear of the incuria which prevails in most schools, while there before us are the young consumed with the desire to know, can we but find out what they want to know and how they require to be taught.--Charlotte Mason
We recently watched an episode from this past season's Dr. Who. In the classic sci fi tradition (as in, didn't we just see another episode like this about sucking up peoples' brains, and hasn't just about every sci fi show ever made plus The Exorcist used this idea?), the episode features an entity living in a little girl's head, using her brain (so that she sometimes talks in a REALLY WEIRD VOICE), and sucking up other human beings for its own purposes.

This particular entity inside the little girl's brain happens to be sustained on love and companionship--LOTS of companionship (in fact, in its natural state it has millions or billions of siblings). The problem is that it's inhaling companionship in the form of people, at an ever-increasing rate (by the end of the show, it has sucked up an entire Olympic stadium full of spectators and has plans for the rest of the world). Of course in the end (SPOILER), it finds its proper companions and joins them inside a little egg-sized spaceship, leaving the little girl free of the REALLY WEIRD VOICE.

There is a point to telling you about this (and it's not meant as an advertisement for the show). We each have such an entity inside our physical brains (or somewhere in there): it's our mind, and it's sustained on knowledge. In its healthy state, it desires, craves knowledge; other things cannot properly be substituted. Knowledge, not information, and there's a difference: information is short term, spit back out again or forgotten, made up of facts without "informing ideas." Knowledge is long-term, swallowed, digested, processed, used. It's like when you say in French "Je connais," which is different from "Je sais." They both mean "I know," but they are different kinds of knowing. "Je sais" is used for a fact, like "I know it's raining out," but "Je connais" is used in "I know you."

If the food is available, the entity will suck it up in whatever quantities are available (even Olympic-sized). It will do whatever it can to find its proper food AND YOU CAN'T STOP IT. BWA HA HA HA.

Well, you can. Unfortunately.

There is a cure for knowledge-hunger. Just like vinegar smashed up the Slitheens (careful, that review has some language), if you can get hold of some Incuria it's quite easy to stop the knowledge-hungry mind.
I can touch here on no more than two potent means of creating incuria in a class. One is the talky-talky of the teacher. We all know how we are bored by the person in private life who explains and expounds. What reason have we to suppose that children are not equally bored? They try to tell us that they are by wandering eyes, inanimate features, fidgetting hands and feet, by every means at their disposal; and the kindly souls among us think that they want to play or to be out of doors. But they have no use for play except at proper intervals. What they want is knowledge conveyed in literary form and the talk of the facile teacher leaves them cold. Another soothing potion is little suspected of producing mental lethargy. We pride ourselves upon going over and over the same ground 'until the children know it'; the monotony is deadly.--Charlotte Mason
Incuria is related to the idea "not curious" and it's properly translated "carelessness," but in this sense, it means a lack of appetite for knowledge. Not caring about it. Someone who's incurious is apathetic, unobservant, careless. ("What would you like to eat? I don’t care. Some lovely cream of wheat? I don’t care. Don’t sit backwards on your chair. I don’t care. Or pour syrup on your hair. I don’t care.")

Where do you get enough Incuria to stop the appetite for knowledge? You can start by offering lots of TV and computer time; provide lots of dull school lectures; and most of all, spread the idea that knowledge is Dull and Irrelevant and that anything contained in a book of over 100 pages isn't worth the trouble. You can make the entity go away or at least not bother you much.

But please don't.
But what if all were for all, if the great hope of Comenius––"All knowledge for all men"––were in process of taking shape? This is what we have established in many thousands of cases, even in those of dull and backward children....we are so made that only those ideas and arguments which we go over are we able to retain. Desultory reading or hearing is entertaining and refreshing, but is only educative here and there as our attention is strongly arrested. Further, we not only retain but realise, understand, what we thus go over. Each incident stands out, every phrase acquires new force, each link in the argument is riveted, in fact we have performed THE ACT OF KNOWING, and that which we have read, or heard, becomes a part of ourselves, it is assimilated after the due rejection of waste matter. Like those famous men of old we have found out "knowledge meet for the people" and to our surprise it is the best knowledge conveyed in the best form that they demand. Is it possible that hitherto we have all been like those other teachers of the past who were chidden because they had taken away the key of knowledge, not entering in themselves and hindering those who would enter in?--Charlotte Mason

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A book meme

1. One book that changed your life: Better than School, by Nancy Wallace. For the Children's Sake gave us a method, but Nancy Wallace's book nailed the idea of homeschooling in the first place.

2. One book that you've read more than once: That's hard, I've read a lot of books more than once--why own them if you're only going to read them once, right? How about Great Expectations?

3. One book you'd want on a deserted island: Shakespeare's plays. If it was good enough for the Noble Savage...

4. One book that made you laugh: The Church Mice and the Moon, by Graham Oakley.

5. One book that made you cry: I'm not telling.

6. One book that you wish had been written: the book that Charlotte Mason wrote after time-travelling forward a century.

7. One book that you wish had never been written: Democracy and Education, by John Dewey. (No relation to the squirrel.)

8. One book that you are currently reading: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, by Thomas Cahill.

9. One book you've been meaning to read finish: The Betrothed, by Alessandro Manzoni. We got stuck partway through.

Swiss Cashew Salad, our version

I clipped a recipe for Swiss Cashew Tossed Salad from a Taste of Home magazine somebody gave me; and the exact same recipe (no credit given to anybody) is posted on at least two recipe websites. So it doesn't look like this idea is much of a secret: Romaine lettuce, cashews, Swiss cheese (sliced thin with a vegetable peeler), and poppy seed dressing. This is a very simple salad to make, but that's why you need to use the best possible quality ingredients. We got good-quality Swiss cheese at the deli and used a combination of Romaine and our own garden lettuce. I can't even imagine this one with iceberg lettuce, so if that's all you have, I wouldn't bother.

I didn't like the dressing recipe that came with the salad (the one given if you do a search for "Swiss Cashew Tossed Salad")--I couldn't stomach the idea of 3/4 of a cup of sugar in one bowl of salad. So I used this one from Betty Crocker's Cookbook.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp. poppy seeds

Mix everything except the oil and poppy seeds. Gradually add oil, beating until thick and smooth; stir in poppy seeds. The book says to cover and refrigerate at least two hours. Makes 3/4 cup of dressing, enough for one average salad.

Some people here don't like poppy seed dressing, so they had the salad with commercial Caesar-with-bacon dressing--and that was also very good. Oh, one other thing--don't mix the cashews with the lettuce too far ahead--they go soft.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Crayons' Books

Crayons: This is a very fun day.

Mama Squirrel: Uh huh?

Crayons: I have nothing to do but sit back, relax, and read books.

(This said while shivering in a lawn chair on the back porch--this is an August morning, and it starts to get chilly in the mornings now--with a stack of ten picture books beside her. She is trying to get them all read so she can win a book bag in the public library's summer reading program.)

(Mama Squirrel is reading Plutarch's Titus Flamininus beside her, but at least Mama Squirrel realizes that it's cold enough to be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. Mama Squirrel takes compassion on Crayons and goes and gets a jacket to drape around her so that she doesn't have to interrupt her reading marathon.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mouths of Kindergartners

(These really did come out of the mouths of kids we know--I didn't see them on the back of a church bulletin.)

When we were singing hymns, Crayons asked for one she knows: "Trust and Okay."

A lady at church was asking the kids if they knew how caterpillars turn into butterflies. One little boy called out, "I know! They have to go into raccoons!"

Finally, Crayons' best hard question yet: "Are cheetahs good spitters?"

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thrift book shopping

The most fun a Mama Squirrel can have: one particular downtown thrift shop that has an ever-changing back corner full of books, mostly for a quarter or at least under a dollar; and a half hour or so alone to search through it.

On this particular Saturday afternoon, I brought home:

Erewhon, because Krakovianka recommended it
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (in one volume with Maggie-Now), both because Krakovianka recommended them (see a pattern here?);
Cry the Beloved Country (read it already, but we didn't have a copy);
School for Scandal (a play scheduled for The Apprentice for next year);
Tasha Tudor's And It Was So;
2 well-used copies of The Mennonite Hymnal, to go with our other one so that we don't have to crane our necks to see the words;
3 copies of The Mennonite Bicentennial Songbook (to go with our other half-dozen);
a complete volume of Lord of the Rings, for The Apprentice (actually that came from a used bookstore around the corner from the thrift shop, but it was on sale);
Chris Madden's Guide to Personalizing Your Home: Simple, Beautiful Ideas for Every Room. Inspired by Krakovianka's post What's On Your Walls?;
a Lucy Waverman cookbook;
and some old back-to-school issues of Family Fun.

Altogether, a good afternoon.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Serendipity (and chicken recipe)

(To please those at the Beehive)

Serendipity (from

The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident. Like an extra piece of chocolate bar left in the drawer when you thought it had all been eaten. Or two frozen bananas when you have been thinking about making banana muffins.

The fact or occurrence of such discoveries. It does happen.

An instance of making such a discovery: The Deputy Headmistress posted a recipe today for Chicken Breasts Honeyed and Curried, just after I had pulled a bag of chicken out of the freezer, and I read it while I was trying to decide what to do with it.

I used the same idea but cut down on the ingredients (had only a small bag of chicken), cut back on the spices, and used the crockpot. This is what I ended up putting in the pot: 2 boneless chicken breasts (that's about a pound of meat), 1/4 cup margarine, 1/4 cup liquid honey, 1 tbsp. each curry powder and dry mustard (powder), a bit of salt and a grind of pepper. The chicken was still fairly frozen so I started it at about 11:00 and cooked it on high until 5:00. At about 4:30, I thickened the sauce with 2 tbsp. cornstarch that I had mixed with a small amount of cold water, and then set it back to cooking until supper time. I served it with brown rice and a sprinkle of cashews on top.

This served our family of 5 (but a couple of our kids are small eaters, so I'd say it was more like 4 servings with rice and salad).