Apples Are from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins

Apples Are From Kazakhstan: The Land That Disappeared by Christopher Robbins.

Apples, tulips, golden eagles, nomadic horsemen, caviar, Genghis Khan, Scythians, Sarmatians, steppes, and lots of oil, uranium, natural gas, coal, iron ore, manganese, chrome ore, nickel, cobalt, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, bauxite, and gold; they’re all from Kazakhstan, a country that is larger than Western Europe and well on its way to wealth and modernity since becoming independent in the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

Mr. Robbins, a British journalist who first became interested in Kazakhstan after talking to an Arkansas man who was traveling to Kazakhstan to meet his internet girlfriend, spent three years exploring the country and talking to its people, including many interviews with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The book is very pro-Kazakh, and Mr. Robbins ends up with a great admiration for Mr. Nazarbayev, who has been president of the republic for over twenty years (ever since independence). Internet sources imply that Nazarbayev is either dictatorial or slightly crazy, but Mr. Robbins’ book has none of that. He presents President Nazarbayev as the architect of Kazakhstan’s growing economic prosperity and of the country’s burgeoning democracy.

In addition to the stories of Kazakh apples and the life of President Nazarbayev, the book chronicles:
the shrinking of the Aral Sea which has been called “one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters.”
the imprisonment in Soviet or czarist gulags in Kazakhstan of some of Russia’s most famous exiles and “criminals”, including Leon Trotsky, Feodor Dostoyevsky, the entire nation of Chechnya, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
the Polygon in northeastern Kazakhstan, the principal test site for Soviet nuclear weapons.
the Baikonur cosmodrome and the Russian space program that launched most of its rockets from Kazakh territory.
the clash and the harmonization of the more than 100 ethnic groups that make up Kazakhstan today: Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Ukranians, Koreans, Tatars, Germans, Uighurs, and many others.

I found the book fascinating, a look at a land that is very much “off the radar” for most Americans but that may play a huge role in future world economics and geo-politics.

My interest in this country was first aroused because I have friends who several years ago adopted two children from Kazakhstan. Now I am interested because it’s a huge nation with a compelling and important history and current influence in world affairs.

What do you know about Kazakhstan?

100 Apple-y Activities for Home and School

File1. Buy at least three different varieties of apples. Cut them into slices and take a poll as to which variety is the tastiest.

2. Sing an apple song.

3. Make an apple doll.

4. Make mini apple pies with canned biscuits and apple pie filling. Add a little filling to each biscuit and fold in half. Press the edges closed and bake according to the biscuit instructions.

5. Cut an apple in half, then into fourths, then into eighths. Talk about fractions and then eat an eighth.

6. Read Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple Picking.”

7. Write an apple acrostic poem.

8. Draw pictures of different varieties of apples, color, and label.

9. Do an apple craft project.

10. Eat an apple.

11. Take a trip to an apple orchard. (I wish we could do this; no apple orchards in South Texas.)

12. Go to an apple festival. (Again, none in Texas, but if you live north or east, you might be in luck.)

13. Or visit the National Apple Museum in Biglerville, PA.

14. Draw a cartoon sequence of the events that an apple passes through from blossom to grocery store.

15. Divide your paper into four parts, and draw an apple tree in each of the four seasons. Read The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree.

16. Look at Cezanne’s Still Life With Apples and Oranges and his Pommes et Biscuits. Set up your own still life and paint or draw.

17. Make an apple place mat. Cut a large piece of construction paper into an apple shape. Cut vertical slits in the paper, then weave in strips of a contrasting color.

18. Write ten words that describe how an apple tastes.

19. Make a list of products that are made from apples.

20. Find out how to prune an apple tree and how to graft an apple tree. Write a paragraph telling how to do these tasks in an apple orchard.

21. Make apple-shaped birthday cards for all your friends and relatives who have a birthday in September or October. Give the card with an apple for a birthday gift.

22. Drink hot apple cider.

23. Ask your friends and neighbors for their favorite apple recipe. Then invite them over for an apple party. Everyone brings his or her favorite apple apple dessert and a copy of the recipe. Make a booklet of apple recipes.

24. Make caramel apples.

25. Bob for apples.

26. How many words can you make out of the letters that spell “APPLESAUCE”?

27. Give each student an apple and a piece of poster board. Have students draw a picture of the apple in the center of the poster. Then make a poster by adding apple facts all around the apple. Measure the apple. Weigh it. Count the seeds. Put all this information on the poster.

28. Read the story of Snow White. Act it out, using a real but not poisoned apple, of course.

29. Cut an apple in half crosswise and look at the star in the center. Draw it.

30. Stand a bushel basket in the center of a table. Guess how many apples will fit in the basket. How much would the basket of apples weigh? How many books would fit in the same basket? When you’ve finished eating all the apples in the basket, fill it with books to find out.

31. Which two states claim the apple blossom as the state flower?

32. Try making an alphabet book with a picture of a different variety of apple for each letter of the alphabet: A is for Alexander and Arkansas Black, B is for Baldwin and Bailey Sweet, etc. Include pictures, either drawings or pictures from the internet.

IMG_3697.JPG33. Give an apple to a favorite teacher or to a neighbor.

34. Eat apples dipped in peanut butter or in honey.

35. Make an apple pie.

36. Tell the story of Atalanta from Greek mythology. Have a footrace and give the winner an apple.

37. Try to peel an apple in one continuous strip. See who can get the longest strip of unbroken peeling.

38. Read Henry David Thoreau’s essay, “Wild Apples”.

39. Make applesauce.

40. Use an apple corer and then cut the core in half to expose the “star” and then use that as a stamper in tempera paint to put stars on either an apple cutout or an apple tree.

41. Count the apple seeds inside an apple.

42. Burn an apple-scented candle to make the house smell all apple-y.

43. Collect a variety of round fruits such as an apple, peach, orange, nectarine, etc. Place the fruit in a bag. Choose a student to touch the fruit, describe it and guess its name. Repeat with each fruit, discussing the characteristics.

44. Give out an apple award.

45. Do your handwriting practice on apple lined paper or apple-shaped writing paper.

46. Find out why apples turn brown when you cut them. How can you keep them from turning?

47. Make some apple leather.

48. Read The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven and then, make one. Reviewed at Becky’s Young Readers Blog.

49. Make an apple ornament.

50. Play the game Apples to Apples.

51. While eating an apple, locate the seeds and remnants of the flower’s calyx and stamens.

52. Apple Unit Ideas for Kindergarten and First Grade by Sallie Borrink.

53. Make some apple dumplings.

54. Find out which varieties of apple are best for cooking and which are best for eating raw. What makes each variety better for the given purpose?

55. Who was Granny Smith?

56. Read the book Ten Apples Up on Top by Theo LeSeig. Try to stack ten apples on top of someone’s head.

57. Plant an apple seed and see what happens.

58. Learn all about Johnny Appleseed.

59. Read some apple picture books.

60. Make an apple man.

61. Make some dried apple snacks.

62. Apple Word Search.

63. Try an apple art project.

64. Watch a funny movie: The Apple Dumpling Gang from 1975 starring Tim Conway and Don Knotts.

65. Sing another apple song.

66. Read the poem “Apple Pie and Cheese” by Eugene Field and then eat some.

67. Or try some apple pie a la mode —with ice cream on top.

68. Hand out red and green construction paper and see who can tear the paper into the closest approximation of an apple shape.

69. Who was Pomona? Define pomology.

70. Use these ideas for an apple unit study.

71. Read about an Apple family.

72. Enjoy an apple salad.

73. Learn a new/old hymn, Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

74. Make apple crisp for breakfast.

75. Make Dawn’s Crafty Apple tote.

76. Try some apple pudding with caramel sauce.

77. Tell a Johnny Appleseed story.

78. Shoot an apple off someone’s head? Too dangerous. Use rubber-tipped arrows and shoot the apple off a doll’s head or off the top of a pole or a fence. Read about William Tell.

79. Illustrate an apple aphorism.

80. Memorize Psalm 17:8 or Proverbs 7:2. More apple verses here.

81. Find Kazakhstan on the map. This region is where the wild ancestor of the apple is thought to have originated.

82. Find out whether the story of Isaac Newton the falling apple is true or not. Watch an episode of the science series Newton’s Apple if you can find one at the library.
83. Take an apple quiz.

84. Bake some apples.

85. What city is called the Big Apple? Why?
Walking Off the Big Apple: a Strolling Guide to you-know-where.

86. Print out and color an apple coloring page. Or an apple numeral coloring page.

81. Look at some photos of apple trees.

82. Write a story or a poem about an apple or about an apple doll or about the Big Apple or something else related to apples.

83. Drink some apple juice.

84. A Is for apple: Ten Fall Apple Activities.

85. Host an Apple Party where you use some of the above activities to add to the festive apple fun.

86. Make Apple Dumplings.

87. Make an apple pencil holder.

88. Apple coloring pages.

89. Play Apple Corps (sort of like Mr. Potatohead).

90. Research the nutritional value of an apple and tell what each vitamin and mineral does for your body.

91. Read “The Little Red House With No Doors and No Windows and a Star Inside.”

92. Celebrate Apple Day or Apple Night.

93. Cook some more apple recipes: apple sausages, apple slaw, apples with caramel dip.

94. The Apple Pie That Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson.

95. One Bad Apple by Sheila Connolly, reviewed by Lesa.One Bad Apple is an example of everything that is right with the cozy mystery. Her book has a likable heroine, an attractive small town setting, a slimy victim, and fascinating side elements.”
Also reviewed by Bookish Ruth. (for the adults)

96. A Shiny Red Apple by Patricia Karwatowicz techaes children that “God loves a cheerful giver.” Reviewed at Christian Children’s Book Reviews.

97. October 21st is Apple Day in England. Also check out

98. How about some Mint Flavor Apple Jelly?

99. Tricia shares her favorite apple (and pumpkin) books at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

100. All Semicolon Apple posts.

Enjoy your Apples!

Apple Songs

Last year in September I did a whole series of posts on apple-related things, and I invited others to link to their own apple-y posts. Somehow this post was leftover, but it’s still good even after a year in cold storage.

Can you name the apple songs that feature these lyrics? Can you name the composer or the artist who made the song famous? Guesses go in the comments, and if you get one or more right (without googling), buy yourself an apple!

1. I just got word from a guy who heard
From the guy next door to me
The girl he met just loves to pet
And it fits you to a T!

2. I feel like this is the beginning
Though I’ve loved you for a million years
And if I thought our love was ending
I’d find myself drowning in my own tears:

3. “The oriole with joy was sweetly singing;
The little brook was burbling its tune.
The village bells at noon were gayly ringing
The world seemed brighter than a harvest moon.
For there within my arms I gently pressed you
And blushing red you slowly turned away
I can’t forget the way I once’t carressed you
I only pray we’ll meet another day . . .

4. And I wake up in the morning with my hair down in my eyes and she says hi
And I stumble to the breakfast table while the kids are going off to school, goodbye.
And she reaches out and takes my hand and squeezes it and says how you feeling hon?
And I look across at smiling lips that warm my heart, and see my morning sun.

5. I can tell you’ve been hurt by that look on your face girl.
Someone brought safety to your happy world.
You need love but you’re afraid that if you give in,
Someone else will come along and sock it to ya again.

Children’s Fiction of 2007: Perch, Mrs. Sackets, and Crow’s Nest by Karen Pavlicin

I liked the quiet, natural references to God and prayer and spiritual solace. I liked the family vignettes and country cozy details. I liked this conversation between Andy and his mom. Andy’s father is dead, and his mother is trying to answer some of Andy’s questions about the future:

“Mom set down the bag of mulch and sat back on her heels. ‘Andy,’ she said, ‘Our lives are like novels. The first book didn’t end the way we thought it would, but it was still a really good book.’

She brushed her hands on her jeans. ‘Now we begin the second book,’ she said. ‘There will be some of the same people in this book, but some new characters, too. We don’t know what will happen next or how the story will end up, but what fun would it be to read the last chapter first?’

She picked up a few stray pieces of mulch from the grass.

‘The best part of reading a good book,’ she added, ‘is seeing the story unfold, page by page, chapter by chapter, even with all its surprises.’ She leaned over, kissed my forehead, and smiled. ‘We can still suggest edits to God along the way.’

I nudged her back and swallowed hard. Our next book sounded sad and hopeful at the same time.”

However, the short, episodic chapters made the story choppy and disjointed. It almost felt as if I were reading photo blurbs for a summer vacation, vignettes that attempted to encapsulate the story of Andy’s “summer of courage.” And Andy himself, the fourth grade protagonist who’s lost his father, is a bit too good to be believable. I’m tired of reading about bratty, out-of-control kids, but there is a happy medium. Andy’s father has died, and his best friend has moved to Colorado. As the story begins, his mom has decided to spend the summer in the country at Andy’s grandma’s house. While they’re at grandma’s Mom reconnects with an old flame, and Andy isn’t sure where the relationship will lead. Still, the worst feeling that Andy experiences is a “knot in my stomach.” He never acts out or questions, and his worst fault is a bit of laziness which is cleared up with the help of a five dollar bill.

Mrs. Sackets is a neighbor, and I’m not sure what her place in the story is. She’s eccentric, which is OK, but in this instance she’s unbeleivably eccentric and serves no purpose in moving the story along. And Andy thinks the things Mrs. Sackets says and does are odd, but he just plays along and never criticizes even in his mind. My kids would be much more taken aback by Mrs. Sackets dancing around catching moonbeam messages from heaven.

Show, don’t tell. Tie the narrative together in smoothly connected whole. And most of all, give me believable characters with flaws even if everything does turn out all right in the end.

Poetry Friday: Apple Pie and Cheese by Eugene Field


Full many a sinful notion
Conceived of foreign powers
Has come across the ocean
To harm this land of ours;
And heresies called fashions
Have modesty effaced,
And baleful, morbid passions
Corrupt our native taste.
O tempora! O mores!
What profanations these
That seek to dim the glories
Of apple-pie and cheese!

I’m glad my education
Enables me to stand
Against the vile temptation
Held out on every hand;
Eschewing all the tittles
With vanity replete,
I’m loyal to the victuals
Our grandsires used to eat!
I’m glad I’ve got three willing boys
To hang around and tease
Their mother for the filling joys
Of apple-pie and cheese!

Your flavored creams and ices
And your dainty angel-food
Are mighty fine devices
To regale the dainty dude;
Your terrapin and oysters,
With wine to wash ’em down,
Are just the thing for roisters
When painting of the town;
No flippant, sugared notion
Shall my appetite appease,
Or bate my soul’s devotion
To apple-pie and cheese!

The pie my Julia makes me
(God bless her Yankee ways!)
On memory’s pinions takes me
To dear Green Mountain days;
And seems like I see Mother
Lean on the window-sill,
A-handin’ me and brother
What she knows ‘ll keep us still;
And these feelings are so grateful,
Says I, “Julia, if you please,
I’ll take another plateful
Of that apple-pie and cheese!”

And cheese! No alien it, sir,
That’s brought across the sea,–
No Dutch antique, nor Switzer,
Nor glutinous de Brie;
There’s nothing I abhor so
As mawmets of this ilk–
Give me the harmless morceau
That’s made of true-blue milk!
No matter what conditions
Dyspeptic come to feaze,
The best of all physicians
Is apple-pie and cheese!

Though ribalds may decry ’em,
For these twin boons we stand,
Partaking thrice per diem
Of their fulness out of hand;
No enervating fashion
Shall cheat us of our right
To gratify our passion
With a mouthful at a bite!
We’ll cut it square or bias,
Or any way we please,
And faith shall justify us
When we carve our pie and cheese!

De gustibus, ‘t is stated,
Non disputandum est.
Which meaneth, when translated,
That all is for the best.
So let the foolish choose ’em
The vapid sweets of sin,
I will not disabuse ’em
Of the heresy they’re in;
But I, when I undress me
Each night, upon my knees
Will ask the Lord to bless me
With apple-pie and cheese!

What do you eat on top of your apple pie?

If you have an apple-y post to share —a picture, a story, a book, a recipe, anything about apples— leave a link, and we’ll celebrate apples together in the month of September.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Sara Lewis Holmes at Read Write Believe.

The Legendary Apple

The Greek hero Heracles, as a part of his Twelve Labours, was required to travel to the Garden of the Hesperides and pick the golden apples off the tree growing at its center.

The Greek goddess of discord, Eris, became disgruntled after she was excluded from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. In retaliation, she tossed a golden apple inscribed Kallisti (‘For the most beautiful one’), into the wedding party. Three goddesses claimed the apple: Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. Paris of Troy was appointed to select the recipient. After being bribed by both Hera and Athena, Aphrodite tempted him with the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. He awarded the apple to Aphrodite, thus indirectly causing the Trojan War.

Atalanta, also of Greek mythology, raced all her suitors in an attempt to avoid marriage. She outran all but Hippomenes, who defeated her by cunning, not speed. Hippomenes knew that he could not win in a fair race, so he used three golden apples (gifts of Venus, the Goddess of love) to distract Atalanta. It took all three apples and all of his speed, but Hippomenes was finally successful, winning the race and Atalanta’s hand.

The Irish say that if an apple is peeled into one continuous ribbon and thrown behind a woman’s shoulder, it will land in the shape of the future husband’s initials.

Snow White is killed, or put into a deep sleep, by choking on a poisoned apple given to her by her stepmother. She is awakened by the kiss of the prince.

In Arthurian legend, the mythical isle of Avalon’s name is believed to mean ‘isle of apples’.

The Swiss hero William Tell is supposed to have shot an apple off his son’s head.

Any more apples in myth or legend?

A Sweet Year

Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, begins tonight at sundown. Rosh Hashanah meals often include apples and honey, a symbol of a sweet new year.

I think we’ll have our own snack of apples and honey tomorrow and discuss the significance of Rosh Hashanah and the Feast of Trumpets for both Jews and Christians.

Leviticus 23:24 (NIV): “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.'”
Numbers 29:1-6: ‘On the first day of the seventh month hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is a day for you to sound the trumpets.
As an aroma pleasing to the Lord, prepare a burnt offering of one young bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect.
With the bull prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths;
and with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth.
Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you.
These are in addition to the monthly and daily burnt offerings with their grain offerings and drink offerings as specified. They are offerings made to the Lord by fire–a pleasing aroma.

Wikipedia on Rosh Hashanah.

Speaking of Apples

Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.
Robert H. Schuller

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther

The sweeter the apple, the blacker the core. Scratch a lover and find a foe!
Dorothy Parker

Let the public mind become corrupt, and all efforts to secure property, liberty, or life by the force of laws written on paper will be as vain as putting up a sign in an apple orchard to exclude canker worms.
Horace Mann

Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the one who asked why.
Bernard Baruch

One mustn’t ask apple trees for oranges, France for sun, women for love, life for happiness.
Gustave Flaubert

It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.
Henry David Thoreau

Picking Apples

Picking Apples by Arthur John Elsley

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
Jane Austen

My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Robert Frost

What a healthy out-of-door appetite it takes to relish the apple of life, the apple of the world, then!
Henry David Thoreau

Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits. Let the most beautiful or the swiftest have it. That should be the “going” price of apples.
Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau wrote an entire essay entitled “Wild Apples,” extolling the virtues of wild apples found by the roadside in early nineteenth century New England. But when he speaks of wandering among the wild apple trees, even in his time, he says he speaks “rather from memory than from any recent experience, such ravages have been made!”

No wild apples for me down here in Semi-Tropical Texas! Ah, well, it’s wandering among the grocery store aisles for me.

Apple Aphorisms

She’s the apple of his eye.

One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.

She really knows how to polish the apple.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Don’t upset the apple-cart.

Adam ate the apple, and our teeth still ache.

It’s as American as apple pie.

Motherhood and apple pie.

You can’t compare apples and oranges.

When the apple is ripe, it will fall.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Any more suggestions?

Poetry and Fine Art Friday: Underneath an Apple Tree

Apple Tree by Z-baby

Apple Blossoms by Will Carleton

Underneath an apple-tree
Sat a maiden and her lover;
And the thoughts within her he
Yearned, in silence, to discover.
Round them danced the sunbeams bright,
Green the grass-lawn stretched before them
While the apple blossoms white
Hung in rich profusion o’er them.

Naught within her eyes he read.
That would tell her mind unto him;
Though their light, he after said,
Quivered swiftly through and through him;
Till at last his heart burst free
From the prayer with which ’twas laden,
And he said, “When wilt thou be,
Mine forevermore, fair maiden?”

“When,” said she, “the breeze of May
With white flakes our heads shall cover,
I will be thy brideling gay—
Thou shalt be my husband-lover.”
“How,” said he, in sorrow bowed,
“Can I hope such hopeful weather?
Breeze of May and Winter’s cloud
Do not often fly together.”

Quickly as the words he said
From the west a wind came sighing,
And on each uncovered head
Sent the apple-blossoms flying;
“Flakes of white! Thou’rt mine,” said he,
“Sooner than thy wish or knowing.”
“Nay, I heard the breeze,” quoth she,
“When in yonder forest blowing.”

Will Carleton was a popular poet in the latter half of the nineteenth century. He was known as the first poet laureate of Michigan, and in 1919, according to WIkipedia, the Michigan legislature passed a law that said that Michigan teachers had to teach at least one of Mr. Carleton’s poems in school. (Do they still teach the poetry of Will Carleton in Michigan?)

The artwork, which doesn’t exactly mirror the poem, is nevertheless a product of that fine artist, Z-Baby, whose painting should be, and probably will be, world renowned. She’s the Artist Laureate of the Semicolon Household.