Friday, August 31, 2012

Great smoothies anytime!

    With school and co-op starting back up, as well as trying to grab spare moments here and there, to work on things for my shop, convenient foods are looking more and more appealing.  Or at least they would, if it weren't for the fact that it seems as if you have to make the choice between convenience, and everything else.  Such as, health, price, environmentally sound, and of course, taste!  However, I have found that you can have it all, if you put in a little initial effort. For example, I love smoothies, and they can be a very easy, quick treat if you freeze your fruit in smoothie size portions.
I get big bags of bananas, that are about to be over ripe, cheap, at the grocery store.  A lot of times there are organic bananas in the bag, so not only are you getting cheap bananas, your getting cheap organic bananas.  The only thing is, they have to be used right away.  I peel and break up two bananas per sandwich baggy, and then throw all the little bags in a big freezer bag, and freeze them.  When I want to make a smoothie, I grab a baggy out of the freezer, and I have just the amount I need.  I do this with other fruit too, such as mangoes. 
     So that's one convenient food that is healthy, economical, ecologically sound, and tastes great! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

     No, that's not a new fancy hair clip; it's a real live butterfly!  Anna has an amazing way with little creatures.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday's Moon

    This is a little on how we combine Waldorf and CM.  Anna practices her penmanship by writing a few lines of a verse or favorite poem (which is CM) in a Waldorf style main lesson book.  She writes on the lined sheet, and then illustrates what she has written on the blank sheet.  She absolutely loves her new Lyra colored pencils.  I thought the crayons might go to the way side with her, but she still uses them, even in conjunction with the pencils. 
    I enjoyed seeing how she chose to illustrate the poem she wrote today.  It goes like this:

The night was growing old,
    As she trudged through snow and sleet;
Her nose was long and cold,
 And her shoes were full of feet.
First of all, I was a little surprised she chose this poem, and then, as you can see above, she drew a moon with feet.  In her finished picture, the moon is carrying a lantern, surrounded by snow flakes and rain.  I would have never pictured a walking moon, but that is one of the reasons I am glad that her poetry book is not illustrated, so that she is free to imagine what she will.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

     After spending hours getting Five In A Row resources lined up, I don't think that's going to fly this year.  The twins really weren't that into it, and quite frankly, neither was I.  Most of the activities I found to go with it, were a little too much like busy work for me. I'll tolerate a little bit of busy work, if the kids are really into it, (lapbooks, for example) but I'll never force anyone to sit down and do a worksheet.  Abriel would much rather be doing this.

Or this.
     She always has some kind of elaborate game going on.  Currently it's a little world she and Anna have with their root children dolls. She likes stories being read to her, but after it's through, she'd much rather go and do her own thing, instead of doing an activity based on the book we just read.
     Samuel loves doing "school".  He likes practicing writing letters and counting anything and everything.  He thinks he needs to do school right along with Anna, and I think that was the problem with BFIAR. It wasn't school like enough for him.  When I brought out a coloring page for him and Abriel, he said, "I want to do school now, Mommy."  When I told him this was his school, he looked at me like I was nuts.  I think he's going through a highly curious period.  He smells everything, even people; this can be embarrassing.  He wants to know the how and the why of everything.  But... He is still very three.  His idea of school is sitting on my lap while we count his fingers and toes, or me helping him write the letter that he wants to learn that day, not a set "letter of the day".
     So, what has our first week of preschool looked like? 
     They listen pretty well to me reading the Bible in the morning, and some other of Anna's readings have caught their attention.  Abriel was very into the D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths.  We made play dough together and they had a play date with their nephew and niece.  They helped make muffins and go grocery shopping.  We went to our homeschool co-op on Thursday. They drew many colorful pictures with their new beeswax crayons.  We set up our small tent on the deck and played camping for a couple of days.  They caught lizards and butterflies, and most of all, played. 
    This is natural.  This is us living our lives, not trying fit into a prescribed schedule, or check off a list of what we should be doing.  I like this. 
    Sometimes our best laid plans don't turn out exactly like we thought, and some times that's just fine.

Peanut Butter and Banana Recipies

     I've been making a lot of muffins lately because they make a good breakfast when you know time is going to be an issue in the morning.  Since school has started, time is always an issue.
     I like to make a whole bunch at a time, and then freeze them.  You can't get more convenient than that.
      I recently came up with a new recipe for peanut butter banana muffins.  One of our favorite snacks this summer has been peanut butter banana smoothies, so I wanted a muffin that had a similar flavor.  They turned out good and moist, and pretty filling too, which is what I wanted.  Here's the recipe:

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Preheat oven to 350*. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine:
·         1 ¼ cups white whole wheat

·         ½ cup brown sugar

·         1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

Whisk until well combined.  I another bowl, mash  2 bananas. 
Then stir in and mix well:
·         1/3 cup peanut butter

·         2 tablespoons oil

·         1 egg

·         1 teaspoon vanilla

·         ¾ cup milk
Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.
Fill muffin cups about two thirds full.  Bake 25 minutes. Makes 18 muffins.
And if you're wondering how they compare with the PB &B smoothies, here's the recipe for that:
Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
Put in a blender:
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup milk
  • a couple of table spoons or so of peanut butter.
Blend until smooth.  Serves 3-4

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aroma Therapy Play-Dough

     Looking for a calming activity for your little ones to do?  Try mixing up a batch of lavender scented play-dough. The combination of lavender and the warmth of the freshly made play dough, makes for a very relaxing time.
Here's a good play dough recipe, that you can add essential oils to, to make any scent you wish.

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup salt
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • A few drops of food coloring (optional)
  • A couple of drops of essential oil
    Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the water mixed with oil and dye and stir over medium heat until mixture thickens and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. When cool enough to handle, kneed until smooth.

    Monday, August 20, 2012

    Farewell To Summer Camping Trip

         This camping trip was really for my birthday, but it coincided well with the end of our summer vacation.  I love being outside in late summer when the crickets are out in full force.  It reminds me of a book I read as a child, (maybe Charlotte's Web) where it describes the crickets as singing a farewell to summer song.  The weather has turned cooler here, and it's almost bitter-sweet. 
    I spent most of the first day in a jacket, trying to get used to the cooler temperatures in the higher elevation.  Funny thing; I didn't realize this picture was taken, so when I first saw it on my camera, I thought, "Who is that?"  I guess I'm not used to seeing myself in profile.
          My sister and her family joined us later that day, and it was great visiting with her and spending time with my nieces and nephew, who change so much every time I see them.  Her older ones, because they are teenagers, and are growing up in light speed, and her younger ones, because they are toddlers, and grow up equally fast. 

    Here she is with her little blond beauties.

    We took lots of walks, while herding lots of little ones. 
    Taking time to pick flowers,
    Discover centipedes,
    Or let a rubber lizard eat a few leaves.
    The trail ended at a little lake, where the kids kicked off their shoes and got a little wet, even though that wasn't our intention.  But, kids and water are magnetically attracted.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2012

    Finished! Wool Farm Play Mat

        After months of work, (Not solid, and most of that, spent watching old TV shows on Netflix) the farm rug is finally done!!!
    There's winding streams
    A field of wheat
    A pond for ducks
    A green lawn
    A garden with vegetables growing, and meandering paths.
         It has been backed with burlap, and the edges neatly bound with yarn. I couldn't find any information on the web on how to bind a rug.  Apparently most crafters don't bind their rugs, but use some kind of self adhesive cloth tape.  I couldn't see that working with this style of rug, and it needed a backing, as the underside was a mess, so I just copied what appeared to be done on my oriental rugs.  I am really pleased with how it turned out.
         This rug combines knitting, latch hooking, needlepoint, and embroidery.  I used over fifteen different yarns, all of them being wool, or a wool blend.  The surprising thing about this rug, was that it was actually very easy to make.  It was time consuming, and I have to admit there were times I thought this would sit in my closet, unfinished forever, but now that it's done, I almost miss working on it.
         Now I need animals!  I have a duck and a chicken, but I don't think that quite makes up a farm. 

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    Our Basic School Schedule for AO Year 3

             Every year I make up a new schedule for Anna's school.  This has been an invaluable tool, not only for me, but Anna as well, since she can look at it and see what comes next.  It helps for me to actually look at a spread sheet, and think about not only what Anna has to do that day, but our whole family, and how we all fit into the school schedule.  I put Bible first, since that is something we can all do together to start our day.  Next is something Anna can do mostly independently, because while she is doing her spelling or penmanship, I will use that time to read a story to the twins.  I am hoping that by having a little special time with them, they will transition better into coloring or doing little activity sheets, while I am helping Anna with her math. 
            Most of the AO readings will be done during the twins nap time. Here's hoping to get one more year of naps out of the twins!  I trimmed the AO schedule down a bit, to better fit our needs.  We are not reading Pilgrims Progress now, as I think this book will be better understood when she is older.  I also didn't schedule in American Tall Tales.  I don't see the need to read a whole book on tall tales.  The few culturally relevant ones, such as Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, and Paul Bunyan, can be easily read without being part of the school schedule. 
            The fun stuff is planned last, as that gives Anna something to look forward to.  Thursday is our co-op day, as well as Odyssey of the Mind.  That's enough for one day, but if I do need to get extra reading in, I can do then.

           P.S. I realize the word odyssey is misspelled in the schedule. I didn't notice it until I had already printed it out, so there it will remain.  Probably bugging me until I am forced to re-print it.

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Familiar Walks

         Nine times out of ten, our nature walks are taken around a little lake that is close by. The word "lake" is a little misleading, since it's more like a large pond, but even with it's small size, and the same old trail that we've walked a hundred times before, we never fail to discover something new there.  That is what's great about having a familiar walk. 

    You've seen the big picture so many times, that you pay more attention to the little things, that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

    Things like an interesting caterpillar,

    or a turtle sunning on a rock.

    It might even be a duck with a weird hairdo,

    or a heron, where there are usually just ducks.

    Healthy Banana Bread Recipe

         I like banana bread, but I've found that most recipes are basically just cake with bananas.  I started tweaking mine in order to come up with something a little healthier.  It has now been tweaked way past recognition, and pretty much shares bananas in common with the original, but I find it much yummier, and the kids really like it too.  I think Samuel could eat a whole cake by himself! 
    Here's the recipe for those who might be looking for a healthier version for themselves:

    Banana Oat Bread

    Pre heat oven to 350, and grease 12 cup bunt pan.
    In large mixing bowl, whisk together,

    ·         2 cups white whole wheat flour
    ·         ½ cup wheat bran

    ·         1 cup oats

    ·         ½ cup whole wheat flour

    ·         1 tablespoon baking powder

    ·         1 teaspoon baking soda

    ·         1 tablespoon cinnamon

    ·         ½ teaspoon nutmeg

    ·         ½ teaspoon coriander

    ·         ½ teaspoon salt

    Stir in 1 cup pumpkin seeds.
    In another large mixing bowl, whisk together,

    ·         2 eggs

    ·         1 ½ cup brown sugar

    ·         6 mashed bananas

    ·         2/3 cup oil

    ·         2 teaspoons vanilla

    Add dry ingredients, and mix together with a few strokes.  Pour into pan and bake 50-55 minutes, or until skewer inserted into middle comes out clean.

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Summer Nature Table

         I realize summer is nearly over, but since I haven't gotten around to posting it yet, here is our summer nature table.  This slowly evolved from spring to summer.  I love the Lunaria, even though in it's off years it looks like an ugly weed in the garden, it's on years make it worth while.
        The little root children do not stay on there for long, as they are some of Abiel's favorite toys.  She sucks on them, carries them everywhere with little grubby hands, and even sleeps with them, but they've held up pretty well.

    Saturday, August 11, 2012

    What You Need When Camping

        We are going camping this weekend with my sister and her family, and since she has not been camping in awhile, she asked me to come up with a basic list of things you need while camping. While I was working on a list for her, I thought I would go ahead and post it here for anyone else who hasn't been camping in a long time, or maybe is getting ready to go on their first camping trip.  I might be editing this shortly, as I seem to always think of something else.  If you more experienced campers see something I missed, leave a comment. 
    • tent
    • sleeping bags
    • air mattress or pads for adults. Kids don't seem to mind the hardness.
    • 1 pillow each, except for toddlers
    • special blankie for toddlers, doubles as pillow (This is specifically for my toddlers. Yours might be different.)
    • 1 warm weather outfit per person per day
    • extra outfits for toddlers and babies
    •  long sleeve shirt or sweater for cool mornings
    • jeans, if going hiking
    • pajamas. Long cotton pants and a T-shirt is good for warm weather
    • sneakers or sturdy sandals. Everyone should be wearing their shoes. You don't need two pairs.
    • rain ponchos, if you feel like being extra prepared
    • underthings (you know what you need)
    • Swim suits if near water
    Campsite extras and activities:
    • Books for the kids and you. 
    • Quiet activity, like crayons and coloring books or jacks
    • active activity, like a frisbee and jump rope.
    • quilt or ground cloth for little ones to sit on
    • folding chairs
    • firewood, or come prepared to buy wood at exorbitant prices
    • kindling and scrap paper
    • lantern
    • flashlight

    • towels
    • soap
    • wash cloths
    • shampoo/conditioner
    • personal toiletries. Facial soap, deodorant, etc.
    • toothbrushes and toothpaste
    • wet wipes, or extra ones if your bringing them anyways for diaper changes. These are great for quick sticky mess clean up.
    • clothes line you can string from a couple of trees. Really great if you're near water
    • dish washing soap
    • washing tub. I use a plastic tote that I can pack stuff in when not in use.
    • dish towel
    • camp stove
    • knife
    • paper towels
    •  dishes. I have metal ones for camping, but if you don't have something that packs well, bring disposable plates, cups, and forks
    • pots and pans necessary for anything you are planning to cook
    • Cooking spoon, if you don't bring metal ones
    • matches and lighter
    • cutting board, if you are going to be cutting up stuff at the campsite.
    • table cloth
    • percolating coffee pot (This is a must for me!)
    • Sunscreen
    • Insect repellent
    • first aid kit that includes:
    • band-aids and gauze bandages
    • eye saline
    • tylenol, both adult and children's
    • antibacterial ointment
    • burn ointment
    • any meds you might have (Actually, this should be put in with your toiletries)
      This isn't a list, so much as suggestions and tips. 
    Breakfast can be elaborate or simple, depending on how much you like campside cooking.  I personally don't like getting up at the crack of dawn to fry bacon, so I bring ready made food.  Things like boiled eggs, hearty muffins, and granola with milk, make filling breakfasts that you don't have to cook.
       For lunch I like sandwiches. They're easy and healthy and you can change up the fillings.  My kids favorite is peanut butter and honey, which is great because nothing has to be kept cool.  Dave likes meat, cheese, and vegetable sandwiches, so for these I have everything pre-sliced and in separate containers.  Cucumbers are more compact and less messy than lettuce or tomatoes. 
       Supper:  If you pre make a soup or stew, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. It packs well like this, and also helps keep the other food in the cooler cold. Just remember to bring a pot to reheat it in.  For hamburgers, pre-form the patties and freeze, separating each one with a square of wax paper, then putting them in a freezer bag. 
    Ice for the cooler should be put in sealable plastic bags before you put it in the cooler. If just dumped in the cooler, water from the melting ice will creep into everything and make it yuck!  Ask me how I know.
         Pack a desert you don't have to keep cool, like spice cake or brownies. (Or smores!) If you want whipped cream with desert, put whipped cream in a mason jar in the cooler, and then when your ready to eat it, let your kids shake it till it turns to whipped cream.
        If your kids guzzle milk, look for milk that doesn't have to be refrigerated.  I bought a big pack of Horizon Organic vanilla flavored milk for this camping trip.  Don't forget coffee cream.  This note is for me;) .  If you like sugar in your in coffee, (I don't) get a sweetened cream, so you don't have to pack sugar as well.
        Snacks are a must for camping, as there isn't much else to do but eat.  However if I eat a whole bunch of junk food it takes me weeks to recover from camping, so I try to get healthy snacks like fruit and nuts.
        A bottle of wine for you and your spouse is awfully nice after the children are in bed. Time to relax and talk is my favorite thing about camping.
    Happy camping!

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Miniature Dommesticity

         The good thing about having a shop that sells things for children, is that I have the perfect models.  This morning Abriel modeled a new apron and oven mitt set I had just made.  She looked so cute, I decided to show her off here, since most of the photos I put in my shop were of just the apron.

    Her glasses almost look like a prop, to make her look like a miniature grown up. 

    Saying Goodbye To Being A Bilboard

         I have very ugly shopping bags.  They're an assortment of free ones I've picked up, advertising things like Wal-Mart and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.  Shopping bags are shopping bags I guess, and it doesn't really matter if they are ugly, but I don't like being a walking advertisement for things I don't even like.  After all, I can believe it's not butter, and you will never catch me eating the stuff. 
         So I have decided to make some nice pretty shopping bags, that I can be proud to have sitting in my cart.  I've been up to my ears with making stuff for my etsy shop, but I managed to find time to make one bag.
         I had some burlap left over from lining the kids farm rug, and it turned out to be the perfect amount to make this. I just love the texture of it.  So now I have one, very stylish, very me, bag; and I know just what ugly bag this is going to replace.  Fake butter, anyone?  And in the spirit of producing less waste, (Since that is after all, why I have reusable shopping bags.) the handles and trimming on the bag is from an old sheet.  Probably the rest of my shopping bags will be made entirely from sheets, as burlap is a pain to work with.  But it looks great!

    Composting 101

         This might be an odd subject to write about, but with more and more people trying to reduce the amount of trash they generate, I thought I would share my method of composting for those who might be interested.
         When we first moved here six years ago, I built a scrappy little compost bin, and went about learning how to compost the "right" way.  All gardening books I read, recommended an elaborate set up of perfectly balanced green and brown materials with added fertilizers and ashes, all perfectly layered.  If done right, the compost would heat up and turn into wonderful humus in a matter of weeks.  The problem with that is, it's not practical.  Who has heaps of "green" material just laying around?  No one. Green stuff turns to brown pretty quick.  It's called decomposition.  I even read one book that recommends keeping your kitchen waste in a plastic tub, until you were ready to start a new pile. Yuck; that method is not for me. 
         So that leaves the other method.  Dump it and forget it.  This works OK, because you can add kitchen scraps, weeds, grass clippings, etc. over time, but it takes a long time for everything to break down and turn to dirt.  The third method, that I have never seen in any gardening book, is my method of composting.
         Her is my compost pile.  This is a new bin, made from old ceder fencing, as the original one eventually decomposed right along with the garbage.  The left side is my green pile, where I add stuff as I need to.  Right now there's a lot of grass clippings.  The right side is my brown pile.  This stuff has been in there for awhile, and has broken down enough to be, well ... brown. (See, this is very simple. )
        When I've let a bit of green stuff pile up, I get my pitch fork and scoop some of the brown stuff onto the the green pile.  I do this until I run out of brown stuff, and then the newly emptied side of the bin becomes the green pile. The stuff on the left is now brown, and can be layered onto the new green pile.  The benefit to doing it this way, is turning the piles helps it break down quickly, and layering the brown with the green also helps it not to smell.  Simple, practical, and efficient.  What's not to love?
         So what do you put in a compost pile?  Anything that can rot.
         The compost bucket that I keep in the kitchen, is a stainless steel stock pot.  I found this works best.  Plastic absorbs odor and is gross.  I've seen  pretty little ceramic compost buckets for sale, but they're tiny.  Maybe they would work for one or two people, but if you're cooking for a family, you need something bigger. 
         Other than food waste, I also put paper towels, shredded newspapers, and cardboard egg cartons into the compost bucket.  It gets emptied every day to every other day.  Any longer than that, and it starts to smell.  The stainless cleans up easily, and it's really not a hassle.  I like knowing that I'm turning garbage into lovely dirt I can use in my gardens, and I'm also keeping a lot of trash out of the trash.