Friday, April 30, 2010

Kid's Gardening - Stepping Stones

I'm pretty sure everyone has made one of these with their kids, but just in case you haven't...

Garden stepping stones are super easy to make, and are actually a useful art project. (How many completely useless art projects do you have sitting on shelves in your house because you feel guilty for throwing them away?)

We've made them every year for the past few years, both footprints and hand prints. I finally have enough to line the flower bed in my front yard.

When I mix up the cement, I make sure to save enough to fill small containers for the girls to make their very own creations - random mosaics of stones, or whatever designs they choose. Those stepping stones go into their very own garden, adding a bit of beauty there too.

Michael's craft stores carry the supplies. If you use a 40% off coupon, it can be a pretty reasonably priced project. They also make nice gifts (since Mother's Day is around the corner.)

Is anyone else getting creative and decorating their garden space? I'd love to hear about your ideas!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Have some respect. A rant.

Something's been weighing on my mind for awhile now, though I've avoided blogging about it because I didn't want to offend.

When did it become so acceptable for women to disrespect their husbands? It seems that this day in age, it's the accepted "norm" for conversation among women to involve husband bashing. It breaks my heart to think of how our men would feel if they heard these conversations about them. How disheartened and discouraged and hurt they would feel.

If I were to challenge you to think of something nice to say about your husband, could you? What about three things? Could you rave for an hour about the great things he's done, the way many women can rage for an hour about the things he hasn't?

I get that your husband isn't perfect. Neither is mine. I could opt to bitch about the fact that he has a serious problem with paper clutter, that he can spend four hours in front of the computer at one time, that he likes watching hunting shows on TV, that he works too much, that he's anal retentive and it can be hard to live with. And in fact, I have bitched about those things from time to time. But I certainly try not to make a habit of it. Instead, I make it my goal to simply choose to live with those things that make me crazy. Instead, I focus on the fact that he works hard to support us, he mows the lawn without complaining, he listens patiently to me when I'm in the mood to talk incessantly, and he does what he can to help around the house when he's home.

I'm not perfect either. In fact, I'm pretty sure I can be miserable to live with sometimes - I'm moody and demanding, I'm a perfectionist, and I don't iron. But I'm nearly positive that my husband doesn't sit around with his friends grumbling about wrinkled shirts and taking out the trash.

How does complaining about our husbands make anything better? Does nagging and griping really make them want to do better? How about instead of that, we thank them when something is done for us, we appreciate how hard they work to support our families. Maybe if they see a bit of gratitude instead of a wife who is never satisfied, they'd be more likely to improve in the areas where we think they need it.

What really gets me is the women who expect their husbands to respect them, but refuse to give their men the same respect. Women are NOT better than men! This whole feminist thing irks me to no end - this way of thinking encourages women to hold themselves on a pedestal above their men, and it's destroying relationships and self images everywhere. There's no shame in being a woman, doing woman's work, and being satisfied with it. Women do have a place in this world, and we would do well to take it instead of trying to fight it.

It's exhausting to listen to all of these women gripe about the men they are married to (or are living with, which is essentially the same thing.) Surely there is something good about this man, or you would not have chosen to spend your life with him. Do me a favor - focus on some of those good things. The next time you're ready to vent about what a jerk your man is, instead think of something fantastic that he has done, or about him as a person, and share that with your friend instead. See if you can get a conversation going about what great guys you have, how hard they work or how funny they are or how much you enjoy being with them or what great daddies they are... something, anything, that's positive. Let your daughters hear you rave about your husbands, so that they know how to speak about their own husbands when they are grown and married.

Or even better - tell your husband to his face those positive things. Let him know you love him. Let him know you respect him. Stop just expecting his respect - earn it by respecting him first.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Did you know Disney released a new movie in theaters on Earth Day?

Yeah, neither did anyone else, apparently. Or at least, anyone that I've talked to. I accidentally came across an advertisement for it on a website I was on, or I'd have no clue. But then, I have no idea what movies are out, since we don't really watch TV.

But anyway.

Oceans came out last Thursday in honor of Earth Day. I'm not the biggest supporter of Disney, but I thought that was kind of cool. I took Chloe to see it this afternoon, a big-girl's date with Mom.

The verdict? It was awesome. We both loved it. Now, I'm not sure every kid would love it - many would probably be bored to death. But I'm the mother of a child who is fascinated and enthralled with animals, and so this was right up her alley.

Other thoughts:

*It's amazing that anyone could catch all of that stuff on film. I have immense respect for the two guys that filmed it.

*Listening to Pierce Brosnan talk for an hour and a half makes the whole movie worthwhile.

*Watching birds eat baby sea turtles almost made me cry. Seriously. Did you know that only about one in a thousand baby sea turtles actually makes it to sea to live it's life? The rest are snacks for big, mean birds.

*I had to ask my daughter, more than once, what kind of animal it was that we were looking at. And she could tell me. I'm not sure if I ought to be ashamed, or proud.

*I never thought I'd be the kind of person who watches documentaries for fun. That would make me a dork. But I do, so I am.

*I can't believe how flipping expensive it is to go to the movies. I haven't been to the theater since the first Twilight came out (a year and a half ago?) I'm glad going to the movies isn't something I make a habit of, because the cost is outrageous. Thankfully, this one could be passed off as educational, which makes me feel a bit less guilty.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Green stuff

It's wild asparagus season again.

We'll just eat this fresh - steamed, grilled, in soup, and raw on top of salads.

We're still eating salad twice a day. This is what I harvested yesterday - I'm getting this much about every other day now.

The girls are over that initial novelty of eating salad fresh-picked from the garden. They're back to saying things like, "Um, Mom? I'm kind of sick of salad" and "I not like lettuce no more!"

I promise I'll stop showing you pictures of greens... just as soon as something else is ready to harvest. Let's all hope, for the children's sake, that it happens soon.

Actually, I got creative with some of the garden spinach tonight and made manicotti using some elk sausage and farmer's cheese as well.

Try this:
1 1/2 lb farmer's cheese mixed with 1 egg, half a cup or so of grated parmesan, some italian spices like basil and oregano and a handful of chopped spinach, all mixed together til it's creamy. Use a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off (making it like a parchment bag for cake decorating) to squeeze the filling into uncooked manicotti noodles.

Then mix up a red sauce - tomato sauce, paste, crushed tomatoes or diced, whatever you've got, make it pretty soupy - with some onion and sausage or ground beef, garlic and other spices. Put the noodles in a casserole, pour the sauce on top, making sure to cover the noodles completely (this is what makes it possible to start with uncooked noodles.) Then bake it (covered) for 45 minutes or so, put on some grated mozzarella, bake another 10 minutes uncovered to melt the cheese, and you're done. Serve with (more) salad. Manicotti's never been this easy. My children devoured it. Even the salad, because I told them they couldn't have manicotti until their salad was gone. I'm sneaky like that.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mud - The Compromise

Mud has officially become A Problem at our house.

I love mud. I love kids and mud. I think playing in mud is a perfectly healthy way to spend an afternoon. There are many times that I encourage my children to strip down to their skivvies and play in the mud.

And then, there are times when mud's just not appropriate. Like when we're going to a friend's house in ten minutes. Or when we have to drop the car off at the mechanic. Or when we need to run to the grocery store. Or any other time that Mom says, "Do NOT play in the mud right now."

Chloe struggles with that. There is some innate, magnetic force that draws her to the mud hole in the back yard. I sometimes think she tries to fight it, but simply can't. It's in her veins, this need for mud.

There's a big difference between my oldest and my youngest. The oldest is something of a tomboy. If there is mud in sight, it will take her ten minutes to be covered from head to toe, clothes ruined, hair plastered to her forehead. It is, in her mind, not at all possible to enjoy mud unless it is covering every inch of your body. The youngest is so different - she can spend all afternoon making mud pies (and cakes, and brownies, and smoothies) and have only a little splatter or two on her knees.

So anyway. I got really tired of fighting with Chloe about the mud. We did time outs. I grounded her from the outdoors. I yelled a bit. I lectured. I used words like "disobedient" and "responsible" and the ever-popular "Why can't you just listen to me?!" None of that worked. (Does lecturing ever work on a seven year old?) Every single time she set foot outside, she came back to the door covered in mud.

Today, I had an idea. I got down the weekly calendar that we keep posted on the fridge. On Monday and Wednesday afternoons I wrote "MUD". I showed it to her. Those are the two days each week that she is allowed to play in the mud freely, without having to worry about me being mad. Any other day of the week, I expect her to find some way to play where she stays (reasonably) clean.

Today was Sunday. Not a mud day. We spent four hours in the back yard this afternoon, and when I called the girls in for dinner, they were (for the first time in weeks) both clean.

If this still works in a week, I'll let you know. I'm hopeful. :o)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bedtime Cuteness

Cora's favorite book to 'read' before bed is a kid's picture dictionary. I always ask if we can read a real story book, but she'd much prefer to look through the dictionary at each picture and talk about them.

We read the 'C' section tonight. It goes something like this:

"That's cat. I like cats. You like cats? Chloe like cats? Daddy like cats? Grammy like cats?"

I answer yes to each of us. And then she says "Awww. That's so nice."

"That's cheese. I lub cheese. You lub cheese? Chloe lub cheese? Daddy lub cheese? Izzy lub cheese?"

If I answer no - because truthfully, I really don't like cheese - she says, "Oh. That's not nice. You not nice to cheese." Then she gives me another chance. "You lub cheese?" I lie. "Awww. That's so nice. You lub cheese now? Cheese your fwaybit*?"

It goes like that on and on through each word. Unless it's something she doesn't like. "Chameleon." "I not like kweelyin. Kweelyin yucky." And that's my cue to move on. If she doesn't like it, she doesn't care what anyone else thinks of it.

I hope this fun bedtime stage lasts for awhile because it's highly entertaining.

*Fwaybit - favorite. In case you aren't fluent in toddler-ese.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Canning Season Begins

I've been procrastinating. It's been strawberry season for a couple weeks now, and until today, I hadn't canned the jam our family would happily subsist on.

See, the thing is, I know once I start canning, I won't be stopping until sometime in October. It's not that I don't like it - actually, I love it - but it can be a LOT of work.

By the end of harvest season, I'll have canned strawberry jam, peach or apricot jam, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, bread and butter pickles, pickled asparagus, tomato soup, peach salsa, peach butter, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie filling, apples, and peaches. And anything else that sounds appealing as the summer progresses and we see what the garden brings. And strawberry jam is always the first, the start of that enormous amount of satisfying but exhausting work.

But when I found a great sale on organic strawberries this week, I knew I had to give in. Besides, my husband actually pouted when he discovered we ran out of strawberry jam a few weeks ago.

The good news is that now that I've got a few years' experience under my belt, canning isn't quite the enormous project it used to be. In fact, we had a triple batch of jam finished by 10:00 this morning.

I say we, because this is now a family project. Even the Littlest One can help mash berries.

I just realized she looks homeless. We didn't bother dressing
her or fixing her hair before starting.

And the seven year old is actually helpful now - not just smooshing, but also stirring as the jam cooks on the stove. (With supervision, but she's gotten lots of stirring practice from our bi-monthly cheese making.)

If you're not sure about canning, jam is a great place to start. Berries, pectin, and sugar, a bit of patience and a big pot of boiling water are all you need. It's pretty straightforward. I use organic raw cane sugar and organic berries, just to make it slightly healthier. (Can jam actually be healthy? Probably not...)

A triple batch should be enough to keep our family's sweet tooth satisfied until this time next year - it works out to about 12 pints. Of course, a few of those will be gifted to good friends and family.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kid's Gardening - Garden Logic

I read somewhere that a child of four is usually old enough to plant large seeds in a garden bed.

I can't see any reason to wait two more years.

Little One has planted a crop of snow peas, some morning glories, and last night, green beans. She completely grasps the idea that if you plant a small thing in the soil and water it, it will grow a plant with something tasty to eat on it.

The other night after dinner, the girls finished off the last of the Easter jelly beans for dessert. We sat around munching jelly beans and talking garden plans. Then we went out to do the usual weeding and watering in the evening, and the girls went to work digging in their little garden space.

I walked over to check on them, and there was my sweet two year old, oh so carefully poking holes in the dirt, pressing a jelly bean in, then covering it. When she was finished (she planted three of them) she dutifully watered them and explained, "I'm plant jelly beans in my garden."

(I realize this would've made great pictures. I was too interested in watching her to run for the camera.)


The garden is coming along nicely. It actually looks a bit more like a garden this month instead of The Ugly Plot of Dirt Along the Back Fence, the way it looked all winter. There are still lots of empty spaces as we wait a few weeks to plant tomatoes, peppers, and other warm weather crops. We're harvesting spinach and salad greens daily, and I used the thinnings from some of the Black Seeded Simpson lettuce to make up a salad with our dinner tonight. In fact, we've been eating salad for lunch and dinner for the past three days. I finally made a honey mustard dressing for the girls just to give them something a bit different.

Radishes are scheduled loosely to be picked tomorrow. We may pick a few, but most are still pretty small and need more time. The turnips that I planted all sprouted, the onions are coming up beautifully, and the carrots are getting their true leaves.

Here are a few photos... I realize they're not beautiful. More than anything, they're for me to compare in a few weeks, when it seems like nothing has grown, because watching plants grow is a slow process requiring patience, a character trait I've never really possessed.

The carrot bed. Those big plants are radishes.
If you look really close, you can see the carrots in there too.

Broccoli appears to actually be trying to grow.
(which is more than I could say for it last year.)
Garlic in the background.

One of the lettuce beds - marveille des quatre saisons,
black seeded simpson, and a red romaine - flame? Can't remember.

Kohlrabi - the larger ones are the first planting, the smaller ones are a few weeks younger.

The spinach, which blogger was kind enough
to automatically flip upside down for me. (?)

The mixed greens, quite obviously
overplanted, which is why we're eating
thinnings each day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bridgeport - Dominguez Canyon

Once upon a time ago, Andrew and I hiked this trail. I remembered only vaguely where it was or what it was like, but I remembered a neat little waterfall and some pot holes that I thought Chloe would love to play in. Fast forward four years, and now we have Two Little Girls who both love to play in water!

It ended up being about an hour each way, which isn't so bad. Except that carrying forty pounds of Small Child in a backpack on your shoulders adds to the difficulty level. We convinced my friend Katie to come along with her kids, ages four and one. The water was running a little harder than it had been the last time I'd been there (okay, a lot harder) but we still found a nice little pothole for the kids to splash in.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creating with ivory

I'm pretty sure most people will think this is gross.

I'm also pretty sure I should think it's gross, except I'm pretty much over that.

Back when my husband had his elk skull mounted, they gave him the ivory teeth along with it. They've since been sitting on my dresser, still kind of nasty looking with bits of dried tissue on them, etc.

I decided I should go ahead and attempt to do something with one of them. The first step was to get all that dried tissue off, which is easier said than done. I tried the most logical thing first - I brushed it with a tooth brush. (The one I use for scrubbing faucets, not my own. Because I know you thought it.) The tooth brush was useless. I even tried it with some Comet. (Hey, it works on faucets.) Comet does not remove dried elk gum tissue. Just for future reference.

I took my dirty, now slightly damp tooth to my neighbor's house. This is an example of just how cool my neighbor is. I can show up at his door with a dirty elk tooth in my hand, and ask him how to clean it, and he doesn't think I'm the least bit odd. In fact, he got kind of excited, whipped out his pocket knife, and in the process of showing me how, pretty much scraped it all clean for me. I brought it home, found my husband's pocket knife, and went to town. Then I sanded it (with nail files. Finally found a use for nail files.) And buffed it. (With a nail buffer.)

When it was all clean and shiny, I took it back to my neighbor and borrowed a file to make notches in each side so the wire I was using wouldn't slide off. I just used some jewelry wire I bought at Michael's. Then I strung it with some ceramic and shell beads on some necklace memory wire. (I have no idea how to bead. I've never really done it. I realize there's an art to it. I probably failed.)

But what I have looks pretty darn cool, it seems pretty sturdy, and now I can proudly wear an elk tooth around my neck.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


From Chloe:

"Hey Mom, when you were a kid and you had dogs, did they have wooden dog toys to play with?"

She's under the impression that plastic had not been invented yet when I was a kid. Because the 1980's was a "really, really, really long time ago."


From Cora (when she saw me cleaning my ears with a q-tip):

"You clean your ears? You have eye boogers in your ears?"

"No honey, not eye boogers."

"Oh. You have dirt in your ears?"

"I guess, kind of."

"Oh. You been playin' in the sand box?"


"Nope, not lately."

"Oh. There ear boogers in your ears?"

Children are so charming.

We will forever call ear wax "ear boogers" in our house now, because that's just kinda funny.

We just couldn't wait.

I'm pretty sure this occasion deserves a blog post:

We ate our first garden veggies tonight for dinner.

I had three leaves of store-bought romaine lettuce in the fridge. I supplemented them with these:

Baby spinach, mesclun, and mixed greens planted in February.

Tossed in some diced up chicken and shredded carrots, cashews, sesame seeds and an oriental dressing*, and we had Chinese chicken salad for dinner. Yum.

It's not much, that first little harvest, but Two Little Girls cleaned their bowls and asked for seconds because it's just that exciting to eat from the garden. :o)


*Oriental Dressing
(Measurements are approximate. I eyeball it.)

1/2 c. olive oil
2-3 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
2 tsp soy sauce
several splashes of sesame oil

Mix well to incorporate all ingredients. Use immediately, or it will separate. If it does, just mix it up again. This stuff is good.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Bulbs Make Me Smile

I'm busy spending a few last moments with my hubby, so no exciting blog post tonight. I'll just share some photos I took today from the front - tulips, daffodils, and grape hyacinth are in full bloom, and looking at them pleases me. The only problem with bulbs is that they don't last long enough!

Daddy did his packing today. Unfortunately, he had a hard time fitting in everything he needed after Cora had packed her things... and herself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to the Bakken

Pro: Hubby got offered a promotion today.

Con: It's in North Dakota.

No, we're not moving. He'll be working up there two weeks, then will have a week off at home. I'm not in love with the idea, but I'm not against it, either. I'm kind of undecided, really.

Pro: I'll have lots of time to myself.

Con: I'll be pitifully lonely.

Pro: He'll get a break from having rambunctious kids and an excessively talkative wife requiring his attention every moment he's awake.

Con: It'll be pretty lonely up there, too.

Pro: I can serve homemade pizza and spaghetti seven nights a week and my kids won't complain one bit.

Con: I won't have anyone to taste-test the strange concoctions I come up with.

Pro: We might be able to save a bit faster toward living the Farm Dream.

Con: I won't have anyone to listen to me when I dream about it out loud.

Pro: We'll be able to go on several long camping trips this summer.

Con: If we want to do our Fourth of July camp-out, it'll have to be just me and the girls.

Pro: I won't have to try to keep the kids quiet when Daddy's in bed at seven o'clock.

Con: I'll have to go to bed with only a Big Black Dog to cuddle up to.

Pro: I can leave the house messy longer and won't feel guilty since he won't see it.

Con: The mess might get out of control without anyone around to see it.

Pro: He'll be happier working with the new crew than he is with the one he's on now.

Con: We'll have to talk on the phone, and I hate talking on the phone.

Pro: I'll have more time to finish more projects if I'm not cooking and cleaning as much.

Con: I won't be able to come bounding to the back door as soon as he walks in to show off said finished projects.

Pro: I'll have to stop being so dependent on him to do the "guy stuff" around the house.

Con: I'm going to have to give in, finally, and learn to mow the lawn.

It's gonna take some adjusting, but I'm sure we'll do fine. I'll count my blessings: it's not many people who get 17 paid weeks off each year.

And I'd better get used to the idea quick - he flies out Sunday.

Classical Kids - a book

I saw a reference to Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum. I found a copy of it for about half price on Amazon, so I went ahead and got it, and we love it. If you're working through a study of Greece, as I know a few of you are, definitely check out this book.

Yesterday, we read the story of Pandora and her box. Then we did an activity based on one found in the book:

First, you write down different things you can't change or do anything about, but would like to get rid of.

I added a couple of my own.

Then, you make a box (the pattern is provided in the book)

And then you put your bits of paper into the box and glue it shut, never to be opened again (no matter how curious you may be!)

We also made coiled pots out of some Sculpey clay I had lying around.

There are tons of ideas in this book - things that will bring Greece together with math, science, art, creative play, and of course, history. Definitely worth checking out!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kid's Gardening

I came across this "Kinder-garden" challenge on the Inadvertent Farmer's blog. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Anyone else joining in the fun? I look forward to getting inspiration for more fun ideas to bring to our own garden!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Changes and Growing

This past fall we took a family bike ride on the local river front trail. One of us pulls Cora in a little bike trailer, and Chloe rides her own bike. That first ride was... well, it was long. Chloe was scared of even the slightest little hill, she rode so slowly that it was very trying on my patience. Finally by the end of the ride she was gaining the slightest bit of confidence, but there was still lots of "C'mon Chloe! Hurry up! Let's go!" going on.

Fast forward to today - a lovely, sunny spring day and we decided to try another stretch of the trail. Apparently, Chloe has forgotten her fears. (Mostly). She was riding like the wind, zig-zagging all over the place, racing down hills and up. I found myself this time tempted to say, "Slow down, kiddo. Be careful!" A far cry from the last ride, to be certain.

I love these very obvious bits of growth in my kids - being able to see so clearly how beautifully they are growing!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


"Honey, what's the orange stuff on the counter?"

"It's carrots," I say, as if it wasn't obvious.

"Why are there carrots in a jar on the counter?"

"Umm, they're fermenting."

"I see. And why are you making rotten carrots?" he asks.

"Fermenting! Not rotten!" I reply, indignant.

"Fermenting is synonymous with rotten."

"Point taken. They're supposed to be good for you. And I needed to use up some whey. Will you eat them when they're done rotting? I mean, fermenting?"

"Have I ever not eaten anything you've made?"

He's such a good sport.

The rotten fermented carrots, which he dubbed "carrot-kraut" were finished fermenting today. I have a weak stomach. I made him and the kids taste them first. I'll tell you that the texture was sort of like limp grated carrots saturated in snot - sort of a mucous-y, stringy sort of substance. Probably the result of, well, rotting.

Chloe's response was something along the lines of, "Wow! Those gave my brain a zap! I like them!" Another bite..."Mmm. Well, I maybe kind of like them, but not very much." Another bite... "Those are really yucky, Mom."

Hubby dutifully ate them. He's amazing. Cora and I opted out.

We're throwing the rest of them away.

I know this whole fermented foods thing is supposed to be really healthy, but there are some things I just can't force my family to do, and eating rotten vegetables is one of them.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Turnip Success!

I recently posted on my Facebook status asking of any of my friends had favorite turnip recipes to share.

The first response was "Eww. Nope."

The second response included "Double Eww. Good luck with that."

Well thanks ladies, that's encouraging.

I'm feeling all gung-ho in the kitchen lately, trying all kinds of new things (and, admittedly, failing frequently.) Why not turnips? Surely there must be a way to eat them that tastes good, or people would not still be going to the trouble of growing them... right?

I Googled "how to cook turnips" to get some ideas. Creamed turnips definitely did NOT sound appealing. Neither did boiled ones. I did read a nifty tip that if you put a potato in the water when you boil turnips, it takes the bitterness out of them (which is apparently quite overpowering.)

Here's what I did:

I peeled and diced two large turnips. Then I diced a couple of small red potatoes and left the skin on. Then, I made mashed "potatoes" the normal way (in our house. Which is not really normal. But it's good.) I drained them in the colander, then put them back in the pot with a couple tablespoons of homemade butter, and I poured in enough homemade ranch that when I smooshed them up they were nice and creamy.

You couldn't tell there were turnips in it. It was just like mashed potatoes, only a lot softer and creamier. Really, seriously, pretty darn good.

And this, coming from the Girl Who Doesn't Like Vegetables.

I'm gonna see if our local nursery carries turnip seeds.

Homeschool Science - Skin

We're still making our way slowly* through our book about the major organs of the body. Today's subject was skin - not something we normally think of when we consider the primary organs, but in fact, the skin is the largest organ of the body.

After reading about how we are constantly losing dead skin cells, and how our body produces a whole new layer of skin each month, we used the following as an illustration of washing our body to slough off dead skin cells.

Materials needed: sand paper, a bar of soap, and a plastic plate or a piece of colored paper.

Method: Use the sandpaper to scuff the side of the bar of soap while holding it over the plate.

Note the flakes of soap that land on the paper.

Explanation: The soap is the skin on our bodies; the sandpaper acts as a loofah or wash cloth or any other rough surface our skin comes in contact with. Upon rubbing, the soap (skin) is flaked off. But underneath that layer of flaked off soap is more soap - just like there's more skin under the layer that flakes off when we wash.

*Charlotte Mason was a big proponent of slowly and we've adopted her policy after seeing how well it works. Learning small bits at a time, instead of reading whole books or chapters in one sitting, allows the child to really digest the information and consider it before moving on. Many times after reading a small part of a school book, I'll find C playing it out later, or talking about the information with her toys. This is a good example of allowing that material to "settle in" before moving on to more facts. More info on quality over quantity can be found at and

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Book Review(s) - Michael Pollan

Back at the beginning of March, I won a drawing at Not Dabbling in Normal, and in the package, Kim also included a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules.

Great. Book.

It's one of those little books with a paragraph or two per page that can easily be devoured in one afternoon. And it is fantastic. It's a simple guide to the foods we should be eating (and avoiding) and a little bit about the way we actually eat them. I think every American should read that book - maybe more than once, to get it to sink in. There were a few bits in there I might not completely agree with, but the majority of it was spot on, and written in a wonderful way and presented in the type of format that makes it a book people actually can read.

Food Rules was spawned from Pollan's earlier book In Defense of Food (which came following The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'm reading them in reverse order, inadvertently.) Being one to never be satisfied with only bits of a story, I'm now about 3/4 of the way through In Defense and I'm thrilled with it.

If you've ever wondered what the big deal is about high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil (aren't soybeans supposed to be healthy?) you should read this book. If you're overweight and have cut all the fat out of your diet and still aren't losing weight and can't figure out why, you should read this book. If you wonder whether or not organic is really that much better than the produce that comes from modern agriculture, you should read this book. If you want to learn a little bit more about the politics of our diet and the Food Pyramid, you should read this book. If you spend too much time thinking about what you're eating and have a terrible relationship with your food because of it, you should read this book. If you're a Real Foodie and just want to learn more and get more ideas on what you could be eating, you should read this book.

I won't tell you it's an easy book to read. It's journalistic, it's full of citations and footnotes and some science jargon (though he tries to make it easy for average folks to understand) There are times to I have to re-read a paragraph because I didn't quite digest the information the first time through (which reminds me vaguely of my college anthropology text.) But really, if you make the effort to read it and understand it and apply it, this book has the potential to change the way you eat, and by that medium, to change your life.

So many people I love dearly suffer from "Western Diseases" - friends and loved ones struggle constantly with obesity; my dad has cancer and my brother died of it; my grandfather has diabetes; my mom has diverticulitis; my grandma had a stroke; my other grandfather died of leukemia. These diseases are everywhere we turn, as long as we're looking in America.

I'm willing to bet most of you have a similar list. If you do... you should read this book. (And so should the loved ones on your list.)

I haven't even read Omnivore's Dilemma yet, and I'm pretty sure (from reviews and reactions online) that it might turn out to be even better than In Defense of Food. I've got that Dilemma on the shelf next to me, and I'll read it next. But for now, put in a request at the library for In Defense. It's so worth taking the time to read, no matter who you are.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I know I already posted pictures of rag curls, but these made me smile.

Observations in our Home School

We've been WAY off track now for a few weeks. Not that it's a bad thing... a break is good for all of us. It started when we took a week off for "Spring Break" once the weather turned nice. And then we took another week off because we were still enjoying the sunshine... and then, if we're being honest, I just got a little bit lazy.

Our break times aren't really a full-on vacation. It's sort of like we turn into unschoolers for awhile, still learning, but without structure. Life presents so many fantastic opportunities for learning that you can't help but find new sources of knowledge, even when you aren't looking for them.

In these three weeks off, I've had the chance to observe my kiddos in their "natural state" and figure a few things out about them.

Observation 1: The seven year old thrives on structure and routine. Without a specific plan and guidance from me as to how to spend her time, she wanders around the house aimlessly, complaining of boredom. (Which befuddles me, because I'm not generally capable of boredom, and our house is jam-packed with things to do.)

Observation 2: The two year old thrives on freedom and free time. She likes someone to be playing with her, but is great at forming her own ideas and playing them out. And she actually might have a longer attention span than the older one.

So here we have... well, the beginnings of a problem. Child A needs structure, Child B needs the opposite. Thankfully the youngest isn't "in school" yet, so we can work around her needs easily. But we'll have to see how it goes in a few years when we settle in for some more structured schooling with her.

And as for my first grader, we're picking back up on our schedule. I made up a new schedule reflecting our plans and goals for this last 8 weeks of our school year. I can't say we'll follow it to a T - we never do, there's life to be lived - but it gives us a goal to reach for, and that's helpful. We're sticking with the general Charlotte Mason curriculum, with our own activities and twists thrown in as they fit.

I've got some sort of activity planned for nearly each day for the next 8 weeks - something fun, something she'll want to do. And I've scheduled each one for right after math time. My hope is that she'll be more inclined to do her math more quickly - if it doesn't get done, there won't be time for the "fun" activity.

To outline the basics of our next 8 weeks: copywork focusing on letter formation, punctuation and capitalization; the last segment of A Beka Arithmetic 1, plus memorization of addition and subtraction facts to the 12's family; complete our study in Ancient Greece; Complete the study of the human body and primary functions of organs; Nature study/Garden study once per week (includes drawing, flower and leaf pressing and rubbing, identification of animals, plants, etc.); Classical Music - Chopin; Literature - completion of Little House on the Prairie, with the option of starting up with Farmer Boy or going on to different lit.; continuation of handiwork and home ec skills (knitting, sewing, cooking); Complete the Child's Book of Character Studies... and I think that might be it.

It kind of looks like a lot, doesn't it? Most of that comes so naturally though that it doesn't feel like school. This puts us at about 4 hours of structured school time each day, not including four hours set aside each week for "kitchen time" that has both girls helping with things like cheese making, bread baking, etc. It's definitely doable, and I'm hoping the structure gets her back to her version of normal.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is there hope?

I might just be crazy optimistic. I realize that. But it really seems to me that more people are making The Change. A lot more people.

This stuff is making it big. There's a whole TV show about it now, this crazy idea of actually eating real food. There are fantastic journalists writing books and articles that people are really reading, there are bloggers lining up like crazy to share the things they're learning and doing in their kitchens.

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, people are starting to question whether the scientists really have any clue what they're talking about, and they're doing it en masse. As shoppers, we're learning that just because the Wheat Thins box tells us they're healthy, or the Oreo package says it's only 100 calories, does NOT actually mean this stuff is okay to be eating. As moms and housewives, we're donning our aprons and wielding rolling pins, baking our breads and muffins from scratch again, after finally figuring out that the pre-made mixes our mothers adopted are actually probably killing us. We're shunning the aluminum cans and learning to make broth, we're insisting that huge corporations like Wal Mart start providing us with organic yogurt and whole grains. And they're doing it.

There have been movements like this before - people trying to tell us that this "modern" way of eating is probably making us very sick, telling us to get back to eating actual food. Remember the "Back-to-the-Landers"? But we've never listened the way we are now. Maybe it's because we have more tools now - we have access to articles online, we have the means to share the knowledge we gain with huge quantities of people easily. People don't have to listen to their doctors regurgitate outdated, incorrect nutritional philosophies anymore if they don't want to.

I'm excited. I think it's cool to be a part of this. It thrills me to see so many people joining forces, using every outlet, to get these ideas out to the general public. To the many bloggers, to the TV chefs, to the journalists willing to shun politically correct "nutritionism" in favor of actual fact - a big Thank You. Little by little you're creating hope that our species could actually survive, that our children might not die of Western Disease.

We're starting to stand up for ourselves - do you see it? Or am I just optimistic crazy?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Springtime Babies

Know what the best part of spring is?

Baby animals.

If you have the time, it's definitely worth taking a drive through the country to ooh and ahh at all the baby sheep and cows and horses. Something about watching baby animals run and play gives you warm fuzzies, doesn't it?