Friday, October 23, 2015

This is not a toy

Thank you, Captain Obvious! Where would we be, what would we do, without directions and warning labels? Because nothing says "fun" like a straw basket. A dark brown straw basket. 

Again, to recap:



Not a toy. 

Why Johnny can’t read.

And why he can’t write a complete sentence.

And why he doesn’t know who Jane Austen is. Or Chaucer. Or Tolstoy.

Remember high school English, anyone over 50? You did two things, basically: they were known as “Lit and Comp” As in studying “Literature” (good books, plays, poems and stuff) and then writing things. That was Composition. (That included grammar, style, sentence structure, literary devices, rhetoric, all that jazz.)

No more. Now they study Equity, Ethics, Diversity, Inclusivity and a host of other diseases.

Yes, I homeschool, but when my kids reach the high school years, they usually opt to do (credited) online courses. This is so that they can get transcripts to get into post-secondary and so forth. Yes, I know there are other ways to do high school at home; that's a discussion for another day. 

The online classes vary widely: they come from a variety of different sources (individual school boards all over the province provide courses; there is no longer any such thing as the one-size-fits-all “Government Correspondence School”). There have been some good courses and many excellent teachers. Other times, not so much. 

Oh, the funny stories I could tell. Like the teacher who revealed (via a Power Point lecture) that he couldn’t read/pronounce “tuberculosis,” (but his version, “Turb-you-locus” kept us in stitches for months).

I can relate the anecdote below now that the child in question has finished high school and left home. In fact, I can’t even remember which school board in the province developed this English course. I just recall that it made my head explode on a fairly regular basis.

The first section “Equity and Ethics” of my daughter’s grade 10 English course dealt with "learning styles" (fair enough, since it helps students identify theirs) but then followed the questions below (keep in mind: this is the VERY FIRST ASSIGNMENT of the year, in a course meant for 15-year-olds.)

(I have taken the liberty of providing my own answers, in red. They are not the answers my daughter gave to the questions when she did the assignments.)

1. A student is blind, but wants to take visual art as a course in Grade 10. The student cannot see, yet a major portion of the Grade 10 course is all about the colour wheel and it is mandatory that every student in the class does a project involving the visual effects of colour on design trends. Ethically, how should that student be assessed on their [sic] learning for this part of the course?

1) Response:
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?
Yes, should they so opt, blind students have the right to study visual art, just as a quadriplegic likely has the right to be on the track team. If they can’t “see” colour (what is “seeing” anyway?), there are ways to “feel” and “intuit” colour. You just need a teacher who is sufficiently imaginative, artsy or new-agey to assist with that.
A blind artist could not possibly produce anything worse than some of the modern art that is already out there. To demonstrate “yellow” for instance, one could submerge a photo of Jackson Pollock in a jar of pee.

Oh, and the [sic] in the last sentence? “Their” is a plural pronoun, and the antecedent (“the student”) is singular. But then it’s not as though we’re studying Grammar and Usage or anything. This is just high school English.

2. A deaf student is registered in the Distance Learning B10 course, in which there are a number of listening and speaking activities. It is required that all students demonstrate their skills with listening and speaking, but it is decided that this student does not have to do these portions of the course. Another student who is extremely shy to speak aloud is failing the course because she did not do any of those activities. What is the ethical thing the teacher should do here?

The teacher should take a leave of absence, possibly to university, and take courses such as Ethics and Equity, Psychology, and Curriculum Implementation: Brainstorming Solutions in an Inclusive World, instead of asking her 15-year old students to solve her classroom problems for her.

3. Johnny is a student who has extreme difficulty with keeping his hands still while in English class. Often, during reading time, he is disruptive and interrupts the quiet atmosphere the teacher has created in the classroom so all can concentrate. The teacher spends a lot of time trying to keep Johnny quiet, and his parents have refused the request to send Johnny to another room with a teaching assistant during reading time. Ethically, what should be done to provide an opportunity for Johnny to learn, as well as time for the rest of the class to read?

1) It had to be “Johnny”, didn’t it?
2) Johnny should be held down forcibly and given his dose of Ritalin.
3) Johnny’s parents are evil and stupid. It’s not a solution, but we do want to reinforce this point in the child’s mind.
4) Sentence two is self-contradictory: if Johnny is being constantly disruptive, then is it accurate to claim that the teacher has created a “quiet atmosphere” in the classroom? But then, they don’t teach Logic in Teachers’ College anymore.
5) Johnny’s parents (who are probably being maligned, since no parents in such a situation would refuse the one-on-one services of a TA, knowing that their child was a disruption) should withdraw him from school and home-educate him.

Wow. Is it just me, or is it absolutely INSANE to expect 15-year-old kids to be able to solve these kinds of dilemmas? What are we paying teachers and school counsellors and psychologists for (to say nothing of the gargantuan bureaucracies that develop curricula and administer programs)?

But as Gary Larson’s cartoon caveman would say, “It get better.”

The next section in my daughter’s "English" course was called:

We Want to Know How Superstitious, Anti-Choice, Reactionary, Conservative, Anti-LabourUnion and Bigoted Your Parents Are
Factors that Influence our Learning

Students are asked to answer the following:

1. What are your views on work?
2. What do you believe about death and an afterlife?
3. Summarize what you believe about criminals and the justice system.
4. Do you think terminally ill people should be allowed to end their own lives, or not? Please explain your answer.
5. Should Canada allow illegal immigrants into the country, and assist them financially once they “in”? Support your views with at least one solid reason.

For the love of Learning, this is NOT the study of law, sociology, class warfare, or contentious social issues! Can anyone explain to me what any of this has to do with the study of English?? This is ENGLISH (Lit! Comp!) not Political Correctness 101.

Equity and Ethics indeed.
When do they get around to studying “Sentence Construction”? I’m not going to hold my breath. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Lovely graphic found at this blog.

When I wrote this post, I went looking for a picture that depicted "deep roots" or some such google-friendly phrase. I found this one and promptly fell in love with it. I'm not sure whether it's got an Art Deco or a Retro (heaven help me, 70s?) vibe. Admittedly, it's not green, but then neither am I. It is autumnal--but then again, roots are supposed to last year round; they are not just a spring-summer thing. The year is waning and sometimes it seems that civilization is too. 

The following came from Morning Prayer a few Saturdays ago.  (The Liturgy of the Hours is my lifeline. If you don't pray the LOTH, please give it a try. It has, at times, kept me alive and functioning.) Sometimes, I merely listen to/pray along with the LOTH podcast (which sort of feels like cheating, but hey, it's still an attempt at prayer, which has got to be better than nothing). Other times, I meditate for much longer on a particular Psalm, a line, or even just one word. Like "Planted." 

Planted in the house of the Lord,
 they will flourish in the courts of our God,
 still bearing fruit when they are old,
 still full of sap, still green,
 to proclaim that the Lord is just.
 In him, my rock, there is no wrong. 

Planted: the key is planted. You cannot be sitting in a flower pot in the courts of our God. You can't be cut off at the stem and sitting in a vase of water. You can't merely be visible from the windows, but growing in the soil outside the house of the Lord (even if you're beautiful and you seem to be thriving--trust me, you're not: at some point, the soil will erode or become barren, or the wind will knock you down, or lightning will strike, or you'll be drowned by a flood, or die of drought and scorching heat). You must be planted IN the house of the Lord.

No better way to survive; no better way to flourish and prosper.

And now you know that it's ok to be sappy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

"Now we have 'airheads'"

Lib-lefty politician: Vote for me and you will get lots of free stuff!
Electorate: Yay! 

I feel so vindicated (and affirmed) when I discover I've been thinking the same thoughts as a smart person. Of course, it's a tragic thing to feel affirmed when cultural and civilizational collaspe is in the offing. I really hadn't planned to post about the election, because it's too depressing. (Like Mrs. Beazly, I'm planning not to watch the news for the next decade or so.)

However, if you need our new Prime Minister (T-who-cannot-be-named) summed up, look no further: David Warren's "The Triumph of Drivel." The money quotes are just too numerous, so you should read the whole thing.

Much as I despised his Liberal predecessors, they also knew what a budget was, and could discern differences between large and small numbers. [...]

In addition to snowboarding, his experience includes nightclub bouncer, and teaching high school in Vancouver. To many (me for instance), his father was a devil in human flesh, his mother demonstrably insane, yet the lad was not really exposed to politics until it came into his head, or into the heads of Liberal Party organizers, that thanks to his family connexion, he could probably get elected to Parliament, in Montreal. This happened in 2007; he now has approximately eight years of bewilderment under his belt. [...]

His sincerity shines when it comes to a small range of policy enthusiasms, such as the legalization of marijuana and brothels, and he is visibly convinced that peace is much nicer than war. [...]

So how did this happen? Mr. Warren explains:
As I’ve mentioned before, the overwhelming majority of the general, voting population have been morally and intellectually debilitated — “idiotized” is my preferred term — by post-modern media and education, and by spiritual neglect within 

Amen, brother. 

Hands-down, Theo Caldwell wins the prize for the most engaging epithet: "ridiculous ballerina," but when he's not being funny, he too is struggling to wrap his head around how the majority of Canadians can be so utterly clueless as to elect someone even more shallow and incompetent than Barack Obama (audio for this vid not great, unfortunately).

At this point, I really am unsure whether to go gently into that horrific night, or to rage rage against the dying of the light. The latter is so exhausting. Perhaps there is a third way. If I wish to retain my sanity and my hope, I must continue to believe it. 

Laura Rosen Cohen's advice (snippet below) is remarkably similar to that of Bl. Mother Teresa: "Deal with what is at your feet." 
Thus, my post-election advice:
In my view, the important thing in times like these is to focus on the micro. Let the Liberals expend their hot air (and your money of course) on the Big Picture Save the Planet stuff and let them really knock themselves out. Focus on the small stuff because the small stuff is really the big stuff. 
Keep raising your children well. Speak up for what you believe in. Take on the battles that you can, (not what you can't). Live well, tell jokes. Tell your family and your friends you love them. Sing. Dance. Paint. Pray. Give thanks. Give hugs.
It's always darkest before the dawn
Amen, sister. 

Time to shower and get ready to take the kids to music lessons. Jesus is our saviour, but Chopin, Bach, Mozart and Beethoven certainly help.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vegetable Oddities, continued.

Every year we plant Nantes carrots. They are sweet and crisp, they keep well, and the cylindrical shape means your carrot doesn't trail away to a scrawny little nothing at the root end. Like most of these assorted carrot varieties:

But Nature has her way of playing tricks, and you never quite know what will grow for you in any given year. Sometimes, you actually get a perfect carrot: 

I am about to slice it up on my mandolin, wearing --of course-- my cut-resistant glove (they are very fantastic: I would never recommend using  a mandolin slicer without one). Usually, you get typical carrots:  

Typical Nantes carrot
(it was about 7-8 inches long)

Then there are your atypical carrots. Your vegetable oddities, as it were: 

Typical carrot beside a behemoth "Grinning Cyclops"
 (no, that's not a variety; it's a mutation).

The size difference doesn't mean much without some kind of scale for reference, you say? I agree. So I brought in a familiar object to photograph beside the Cyclops. Yes, Virginia, that's a BASEBALL BAT.

(I wonder if anyone has ever been bludgeoned to death by a carrot.)

Or scared to death by one? 

Monday, October 19, 2015


If you couldn't read at all, what message would this convey? Perhaps "NO Hiking;" but,  "Falling Head-first to Your Death Permitted." 

Taken at this lovely spot in Banff last summer (Bow Falls, I believe).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Can there ever be too much pie in the world?

I think not, and Mr P would agree with me. Being a farm boy from a German background, he grew up on pie. It was the hearty go-to dessert for threshing crews and Sunday dinner (though farmers call it supper). 

I love pie. I love looking at it and I love eating it, and I love the look on my husband's face when he comes home from work and sees and smells my freshly baked pies. 

As a child, I loved watching my mom, aunts, and older sisters make pie. I dreamed of the day when I would make my own, but my first few attempts were disasterous (by "few" I mean approximately every pie I made during the first 20 years of married life). This profoundly affected my self-esteem and my conception of myself as a wife and homemaker. I was so traumatized by my lack of pie-making skills that I wrote about it in my Catholic Insight column (March 2004). 

Coming out of the closet of Pie Crust Ineptitude turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. For one thing, a lovely lady on the CI staff sent me a new pastry recipe that was truly, indestructibly, NO FAIL. (It was a "pat-in" recipe, and thus not a truly true roll-out pastry recipe, but it was a move in the right direction. It brought pie back into our lives, thus beginning my healing journey toward Pastry Proficiency). 

Now of course, I love making pie. Here are some pics from a recent effort (last September, when I was too busy doing other things to be able to blog).

You must start with a good recipe. I use Tenderflake lard, and only Tenderflake lard. I have not had good results with home-rendered lard from my childhood farm (sorry Ma and Pa), nor with Crisco All Vegetable Shortening.

Apple pie.

 "Bumbleberry" (three or more random fruits,
in this case, apple, blueberry, strawberry and peach)
Admittedly, it's prettier when it's unbaked. 
Darling little cut-outs courtesy of Mrs Beazly, and her #1 son,
 who gave them to me for Christmas one year. 

Something I still have not mastered: how to prevent your pies from boiling over and making a mess in the oven. I still put too much filling in my pies. Oh well, like sanctity, something to keep working on.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vegetable Oddities

I'm almost tempted to make this a category by itself (and not just because I've asked Mrs. Beazly to write a short story with that title). It's because nature can be so strange, and when you do vegetable gardening (as we have been, for decades), you see lots of funny veggies. 

Though I don't care for kohlrabi very much, Mr P plants it in our garden nearly every year.  "Kohlrabi" apparently comes from the German words for cabbage and turnip. And yep, that's how it tastes. I don't care how anti-carcinogenic it is-- I can only handle so much in a season. 

For those not familiar with this rather homely vegetable, this is what kohlrabi is supposed to look like: 
The green kind

The red kind 
(though for some odd reason, I call it "purple")

It’s never been a supermarket staple in the U.S., and ten years ago you’d be hard pressed to find it even at a farmers market. But now kohlrabi has exploded from home gardens into markets across the country.
Buddy, you said a mouthful. Below is a specimen Mr P found in our garden this year. Note: it's ONE kohlrabi, not five fused together. 'Exploded' indeed. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Krafty kids

Miss P #7 loves doing crafts. Here's a Memo Owl she made for me (behind his beak is a clothespin so he can hold notes). So cute. It's hanging by my front door. 

She has also become interested in baking. She had never tasted (or even seen) scones: I haven't made them in forever. "Hot scones" made several appearances at High Tea in a book we've been reading, so she wanted to make some. This was her first effort. Just lovely, and very tasty--the fresh orange rind makes them fabulous. ("Orange Scones" from Company's Coming: Muffins and More. Next time we make these, I'm adding dried cranberries.)

I love this wild tablecloth: 
it reminds me of the vibrant Slovakian textiles in my Grandma's house.

Purchased at Think Kitchen (formerly Stokes)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'd better move #5 a little higher

At the beginning of the school year, I'd asked Miss P #7 to list her favourite subjects in order, so that we could devise a schedule that would make getting started each day a little less onerous. (Mybad: "Religion" didn't even make the list. Oh well, I console myself with knowing: Faith isn't a subject in school; it's a Way of Life.)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Walmart promotes responsible parenthood


But am I the only one who finds the pocket date planner in the centre funny? 

I can just see the notation for Valentine's Day: "5pm: Pick up candles chocolates, and roses. 7pm: Dinner reservation. 11pm: Try for a boy." 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I love my Breville mixer

It really helped make my Thanksgiving weekend stress-free. This is my beautiful machine, and it was given to me in 2014 for a *cough* milestone birthday by my seven beautiful daughters. 

They ordered it from (where it appears the price has gone up a bit from last year). 

However, it's still less expensive than this baby--"discounted" price $500 (down from $700!!). Yet the Breville (an Australian make and model, modelled very effectively by this lovely Australian model) has roughly the same amount of power as the (575 watt) KitchenAid Pro 600 model below. I have had a KitchenAid experience (conflated with a Costco experience) which I will tell another day.  

My Breville was the star of Thanksgiving weekend. It mixed up my pie crust, my wheat salad, whipped my cream (for the pie), and most impressively, mixed up my nearly 5-1/2 dozen (tiny) Awesome Potato Rolls (I'm not boasting; that's actually the name of the recipe--see Company's Coming: Breads cookbook). However (now I am boasting), the kids did say that the buns tasted like my Mom's, which is sort of the highest compliment I could ask for. (The secret is the mashed potatoes--makes the buns soooooo soft and tasty.)

Serious bakers, beware! At 550 watts, this machine is "medium duty." It will NOT do large recipes or very heavy doughs, but that's ok, because I have fewer kids at home now, and I no longer do really big batches of anything. If you need more power, get a bigger machine (more than 700 watts; my other mixer, now sold by Blend Tec, is 1000 watts. I've had it since 1999). 

The Breville stand mixer didn't get all the glory, however. Miss P #6 used my new Breville immersion blender (birthday 2015 gift from the girls) to mix up the pie filling, and Mr P used it to mix up the orange juice on Sunday morning (so much quicker than stabbing the frozen blocks of concentrate with a wooden spoon for half an hour).
Fifteen speeds, people. My old immersion blender had one. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Not pumpkin pie

It's a really long story, but the short version is this: the pumpkin-shaped things we planted (which yielded 22 in total) do NOT taste like pumpkin. So I had to make Thanksgiving pie out of an over-mature zucchini (which had turned orange inside, and actually smelled quite pumpkinish). The result was a rather delicious pie which had a sort-of pumpkin taste, but was more mild --which pleased Miss P #1 (now Mrs. K), who does not like the taste of pumpkin. Thanks to Miss P #6, who mixed up the filling for me, and Misses P #6 and #7, who cut out the cute autumn shapes for the crust). Thanks, Mrs. Beazly, whose vintage Purity Cookbook pie crust recipe continues to be my go-to for easy-to-work-with pastry. And thanks to my neighbour Mrs. B (another Mrs. B) who gave me the zucchini.

Your morning cup of awesome.

Not your typical Thanksgiving post. I give thanks for so many things, the gift of humour among them. The totally epic Jerry Irby. Thanks to my nephew Daniel, who posted this link to horrid Christian album covers on Facebook.

I especially love the evil laugh--it totally seals the deal. Methinks DOH needs a new category: "Evangelization: I don't think that word means what you think it means."