Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Phantom Tollbooth and other things, by Ponytails

First of all, I watched The Phantom Tollbooth movie. And then Mama read me the book. Why didn't they put Alec Bings, the Sound Valley, the whole orchestra, and other things like Canby (can-be) in the movie? I guess because they didn't want to make the movie too long. I think Rhyme and Reason looked prettier in the book, because in the movie they're just yellow and red outlines of people, sort of. Why do they do that to a lot of books: make them into a movie, different?

I took two really cool pictures, and some others. Here's one.

It's a picture of tulip leaves sprouting. I like taking pictures.

At least I'm not an insignificant microbe

I notice we have dropped down to the Multicellular Microorganism level in the TTLB Ecosystem (see the bit below Mama Squirrel's Reading List over there to the left). Hey, that's not nice! Some of our Large Mammal blogging friends may not even give us the time of day after this.


Good stuff from the Bonny Glen

Yes, I've heard it all before too. "Well, I couldn't homeschool my kids because they will have to learn to deal with the real world sometime."

Read Melissa Wiley's detailed and funny analysis of the common objections to homeschooling, here. [Update: and another good post by Melissa, here.]

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ten-year-old you

This isn't my original idea for a meme; I saw a website where people introduced their "ten-year-old selves" to each other, and it was very funny (and sometimes sad).

So I've been thinking about this one for the past couple of weeks and dredging down deep for some memories of THAT YEAR. Here's my attempt to remember ten years old; what do you come up with?

I'm ten years old and my sister is turning eight. She has long braids like her Heather Hobbie rag doll. I have glasses and hair that doesn't do much unless my mom uses the curling iron on it, and that lasts for about ten minutes.

We live in a semi-detached house next to a corner store (where we spend all our money on Bottle Caps, wax lips and Wacky Packs); we've been living there for about a year and we'll move out just after I turn 11. Our church (where we go to Brownies) is across the road from the store and our school is a few blocks away. If we're getting takeout food, it's usually Kentucky Fried Chicken or maybe fish and chips; there's a Mother's Pizza on the highway, but you have to line up forever to get in. Sometimes we go to the Ponderosa for burgers.

Our favourite TV shows are Wonder Woman and Welcome Back Kotter (and The Flintstones at lunchtime). I have a couple of albums that I think are very cool: John Travolta's solo album and the Captain and Tennille's Song of Joy. (Of course I'm playing them on my plastic record player...) We also play Clue, make pictures on our Twirl-O-Paint, ride our bikes (my sister's has a banana seat), and play with our new puppy. And play Barbies.

The Big Deal that year is the Montreal Olympics. At school we do a whole unit on the Olympics and divide up into countries for sports day. Our school is very big on units, Environmental Studies, learning centres, listening centres, and other 1970's stuff like that. And many, many coloured dittoes. We also have a Betamax VCR at school, but only the librarian knows how to use it. I hate gym class (we have to do the Canada Fitness Awards and that means chinups and an awful lot of running around the soccer field).

The worst thing about being ten is that I keep breaking things, losing things, and getting in trouble. I seem to have a knack for knocking things over.

The best thing that happens to us during the year I'm ten is our big family trip to Disney World in our green Nova, the first time I've been to the United States. It's the American Bicentennial and we get souvenirs and colouring books and postcards everywhere we stop: Mammoth Caves, Jellystone Park, Stone Mountain, and the White House (on our way back up). We pose for pictures at Disney World wearing matching Fonzie t-shirts.

There, that's my ten-year-old life. What was yours like?

13th Carnival of Homeschooling...

is up here at Why Homeschool.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dessert creation

The Apprentice wanted to make something for dessert tonight, but we didn't have a lot of ingredients to play around with besides a container of ricotta cheese. I showed her the recipe for Tortoni, and she wanted to know if we could make it chocolate-flavoured, and not frozen. Why not? So this is what we came up with. It's not all that original; variations are all over the Internet, some low-carb, some artificially sweetened; sometimes the same kind of chocolate-cheese mixture is used as a stuffing for pears or blintzes. Our version is rich but not very sweet.

Cocoa Ricotta Cream

1 500-gram (2 cup) container ricotta cheese (lite is fine)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
About 1/4 cup of honey (we didn't measure)
1/4 cup brown sugar (or more to taste; you could also use just brown sugar, no honey)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until very smooth. (We started out with just the cheese, cocoa and honey, but it needed more sweetener, so we added the sugar and blended it again.) Chill in small dessert dishes. Makes 4 (larger) to 6 (small) servings.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Zzzzz and other things, by Ponytails

Me and my mom read about electromagnets in a book we were reading for school. And me and my dad made an electromagnet, and I had the POWER!!! I felt it ZZZZ, and I heard it ZZZZ! And it can lift up really heavy things. First you get a big nail, a really long one. And you wrap some yellow and blue wire around it, and keep pushing it down until it's all covered. Then you put tape at both ends. And then you hook up a power supply to it, and you try to pick up bolts or paper clips or tacks.

And I know how to make another kind--I can make an electromagnet out of a screwdriver. First you take a speaker from a transistor radio, and you rub the speaker against the screwdriver's silver part, and you get an electromagnet for a little while.

We went skating today. I can skate really well. I have hockey skates.

Crayons has bobskates. The Apprentice has hockey skates. Mama Squirrel used to have figure skates and now they fit The Apprentice. Mr. Fixit has hockey skates.

I have finished Pippi Longstocking, and now I'm going to start Pippi Goes On Board.

Me and the Apprentice were playing a game. It's called Funny Avatar...actually it's not called anything. It's where I stay on Dewey's Treehouse on this computer, and The Apprentice stays on her avatar-changing thing on the laptop. And she keeps changing it! For instance, I see her with green spiky hair. Then I see her with tattoos and ugly hair. Then I see her dressed up for Chinese New Year with a panda bear next to her. Then I see one I made. What do you think of the one she has now? I wish I had an avatar.boohoo


Sunday, March 19, 2006

And while we're talking about education...

This article from Edutopia isn't new, but this is the first time I've seen it.

"Mommy, where do school textbooks come from?"

(Red-faced, stammering) "I'll explain it when you're a little older, dear."

(Thanks to the CMCanada subscriber who pointed this one out.)

Leisure education: Richard Mitchell would have loved this

The Record (our local newspaper) ran a story on leisure education this week after Linda Caldwell and Edward Smith lectured at the University of Waterloo. Unfortunately you can't read The Record online unless you subscribe, but a Google search for Caldwell and Smith will turn up quite a bit from other sources.

Did you even know that leisure education exists? We're not talking about even a college degree in recreation here; we're talking about adding yet another "subject" to the curriculum of middle-school students.

These were a few of my favourite bits from the article:
"If they [young people from 12 to 14] find something they are passionate about, they are on a positive trajectory," Linda Caldwell said in an interview after the public lecture. "If you are doing something positive, you are not doing something negative."
Caldwell, a professor of recreation, park and tourism management in Penn State's college of health and development, said parents can't assume they know best when it comes to teens. Youth must be intrinsically involved in the decision making process for using their spare time, she said.
The five-year study, which began in 2003, is looking at youth in Grades 7 to 9. The curriculum, called TimeWise: Taking Charge of Leisure Time, was introduced to teachers and educators at the school. The work is being funded by the United States-based National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Oh, so that's where the tax dollars are going.

But alas, the work of a leisure researcher is not all fun and games.
The brain of a young adolescent [is] open to influence and ready for change. In fact, the frontal lobe, where decision-making is processed, is not fully developed. So it's ripe for igniting passion and introducing leisure education, Caldwell said.
I just bet.
But leisure education is not typically done in schools and not valued, she said.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Crayons is really good with felts, by Ponytails

Today Crayons did something really cute. She was using a felt set from a garage sale, and she was doing some Silver Chair Narnia with it. That set is really good for it. You can make the snake and everything. And there's even a "Good Day Travellers" lady in a green kirtle. And this is how it looks.

Crayons: I'm making Narnia.

Ponytails: Can I see maybe?

Crayons: See? This is Rilian tied up, and see, this is Eustace taming the dragon, and this is Puddleglum. And see, this is Jill with a bag of the nightclothes of the giants, and the giants' little baby bed that Jill sleeped in, and the giants' cookbook.

And this is so cute...she made the witch, and she used blue ducks and blue birds to make the earth workers, and our green felt lady was down there with them.

We watched a Silver Chair Narnia movie, and it's kind of bad, because the snake is so unreal. It looks like a puppet on Mr. Dressup or something. I like Puddleglum, because he's Tom Baker, Dr. Who. (Jellybabies, Sarah?)


Dumping leftovers

Since Crayons has discovered she can read "a zillion stories," it's been a lot of fun going back over some of her old favourites and letting her do the reading. Yesterday we took turns with a Mother Goose book. She read,

"Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old."

Ponytails was listening and she said, "I know YOU put it in muffins, but then it's only TWO days old."


Homeschooling Carnival at The Common Room

This week's Homeschooling Carnival is now up at The Common Room, and it includes our post about Crayons' approach to reading. The always-amazing DHM and family have managed to get this up in spite of the fact that they're moving into their brand-new house (complete with Common Room) this week. Hurray!

Monday, March 13, 2006

My birthday present, my preciousss

I am not a teapot collector. In fact, I've poured tea for the last sixteen years out of the same red Chinese teapot. So Mr. Fixit kindly bought me a new one that goes much nicer with the blues and browns in our kitchen. (It matches the blog pretty well, too, don't you think?)

Homeschooling humor

From the forum: You might be a homeschooling family if...

This was my favourite:
"... you are in a grocery store with your six year old who is reading signs and a lady comes up, asks how your daughter knew what the sign read and the daughter answers, "Well, with some of the words I used whole language and with some I used phonics, but the little ones were all sight words I learned a long time ago." MRSTWOBEARS"
(Hat tip to for pointing this out out.)

Checking in with U Krakovianki

What's it like going BACK home to Poland after a year away? Our friend shares this week's settling-in experiences in Krakow.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chinese food

One of the first (and really the only) sort-of-international restaurants I remember eating at WIWAK (When I Was a Kid--there, I just made up my own Internet abbreviation) was George's Chinese Restaurant. George was probably the most authentic Chinese thing about the was pretty standard Cantonese-for-Canadian-tastes cuisine. Very good food, but not scary.

When I started university, I had a Chinese-Canadian roommate whose parents ran a restaurant. She told me that it was also a to-Canadian-tastes restaurant, and that when her parents wanted to eat real Chinese food, they closed the restaurant and headed to Toronto. Since we were studying in Toronto, she offered to take a couple of us to Chinatown for something a little more adventurous than soo guy almond.

So we were introduced to congee, and rice noodles fried with meat, and the little bowls filled with rice where you take some of what's on the table and add it to your bowl. And chopsticks, of course. And tilting the lid on your teapot to signal that you wanted more. I went back to that restaurant a few times while I lived in Toronto, and also checked out some other interesting places. One restaurant I remember featured the cooking of some Chinese province that specialized in spicy (not Szechuan). Not realizing just how hot that chili-spiked dish was already, I added some of the bowl of sauce on the wasn't plum sauce! But I ate it anyway.

This recipe is a lot tamer than that. I think it's kind of semi-authentic Chinese (meaning it uses hoisin sauce instead of ketchup). We've made it a couple of times and it's very tasty.

Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

1 sweet red or green pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (we have also used leftover roast beef)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced gingerroot (the kind you have to chop up)
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
3 cups diagonally halved trimmed green beans
1/2 cup beef stock (I used no-MSG bouillon powder)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Rice or noodles for serving

Get everything ready to go before you cook. Seed, core and cut the pepper into thin strips. Mix up the beef stock, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and cornstarch. Chop up the beans, garlic and ginger.

Ready? In wok or large skillet, stir-fry the beef over high heat until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, remove the beef and set aside. (If you're using leftover meat, cut it into thin strips and add it later with the vegetables.)

Drain fat from the wok; add oil. Stir-fry garlic, ginger, salt and pepper over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add green beans, red pepper and 2 tbsp. water; cover and steam until beans and pepper are tender-crisp, 3 minutes.

Return beef to wok. Stir up the hoisin mixture again and stir into pan. Bring to boil; boil, stirring, until sauce is thickened and glossy, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with green onions or pass them at the table.

(Source: Canadian Living Magazine, March 2005)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Happy Birthday MamaSquirrel !!! By Ponytails.

Happy happy happy Birthday to MamaSquirrel!!! !!! !!! !!! !!! !!! !!Yay Hooray!!! !!! !! Thank you for:Being a special Mama,Thank you for Scraching my back(With good warm hands),Thank you for hugging me,Thank you for Being a Super Mama.

Hug and Kisses on your special day!!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dulcie's Dish

I've mentioned the Beany Malone Cookbook before and given the recipe for Beany's Beans. I thought I had posted this recipe for a helper-like dish before, but I don't see it in our archives. Like Beany's Beans and like our Kitchener Special, this recipe (which we had for supper last night) does not use gourmet ingredients. In fact, the number of recipes we make that include ingredients like ketchup is kind of embarrassing. Not particularly healthy or fashionable, I know. But this one is good, inexpensive, and husbands and young squirrels like it, so I'm passing it on, with a couple of adaptations.

Dulcie's Macaroni Meal in a Skillet

2 tbsp. bacon fat (we leave this out)
1 lb. ground beef or ground chicken (it's good with chicken; in a pinch we have even used bacon)
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper (or less, to taste--we don't like that much pepper)
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce (or equivalent anything else like tomato puree; last night I used part of a can of diced tomatoes and added a little extra water)
1 1/2 cups water, or as needed (depending on how wet the tomatoes are)
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 rounded tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 cups elbow macaroni (we used whole wheat)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional. We were out of Parmesan, so I grated some Cheddar and mixed that in before serving.)

This is how I do it. Because the list of spices and things is kind of long, I combine the salt, pepper and paprika with the cupful or canful of tomato sauce (just dump them in the top of the opened can). I put the mustard, sugar and vinegar into the half cup of ketchup. I chop the onion and start browning the ground meat in a large skillet that has a cover; when it's almost done I stir in the onion and finish browning it. When the onion's soft, I add the tomato sauce mixture. The recipe says to rinse the tomato sauce can out with the 1 1/2 cups of water and add that to the skillet. (If you don't have a tomato sauce can, obviously you just measure out the water and add that.) And then add the ketchup mixture.

Stir it all together, bring it to a boil, and then add the two cups of macaroni. Let it boil for a minute or two, and then cover (if you haven't already), turn the heat down, and cook for about 1/2 an hour or until the macaroni is done. You can check it occasionally and add more water if necessary. Mix in grated cheese if you want, or serve with Parmesan at the table.

You can also add canned grean beans or mushrooms to this skillet meal; we've done both. Mr. Fixit likes to add hot sauce at the table.

Preschool Theology

Crayons (drawing): I'm making a picture of God.

(Note from Mama Squirrel: I was not so sure about this, re violating one of the Ten Commandments and so on, but since I know that God and Jesus are interchangeable in Crayons' mind, I murmured something like "okay.")

Crayons: Does God have a wife?

Mama Squirrel: No.

Crayons: Oh...why not? Did she die then?

Mama Squirrel: No...God just doesn't need a wife, he's enough all by himself.

(Pause to draw some more)

Crayons: Does God have wings? I'm drawing wings.

Mama Squirrel: No, God's everywhere. He doesn't need wings.

Crayons: (as scornfully as a four-year-old can say this) Humph. Well, then, how is he supposed to FLY, then?

(Note to self: I think we need to sing some of those Judy Rogers catechism songs again.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

A great feeling of loss

The Common Room has the details. Please pray for this Ambleside family.

[Update: I thought this post on Missey's blog kind of said it all.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kitchen Floor Cookies? Oh so frugal, but good

No, no. They're not made with floor sweepings. (My kids think they're so funny.)

These are supposed to be called Kitchen Scrap Cookies, which I don't really like either, but it will have to do for now. I found it on the Like Merchant Ships blog, via a side trip through In a Shoe. Since we did have leftovers from this morning's crockpot cereal (the main ingredients of that were brown rice and oat groats, with a little TVP), I decided to try it. They are good! A lot like pumpkin drop cookies without the pumpkin, which makes sense if you think about it because you're just substituting one thick wet thing for another thick wet thing. We got about four dozen small cookies out of the batch.

Another idea for using up that cooked crockpot cereal (or leftover oatmeal) is to put it in muffins--this only uses up a bit of it (maybe half a cup of cooked cereal per dozen muffins), but sometimes that's what you have. I follow the Tightwad Gazette's instructions for incorporating cooked grains into muffin batter: that is, run them with all the other wet ingredients through the blender, and then add the dry ingredients and adjust the wetness as needed then. I don't own a real blender, but a stick blender works fine for this. I like some applesauce and cinnamon added too. And muffin batter can also become muffin cake if you bake it in a square pan at 350 degrees.
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