Friday, March 13, 2015

Biology & Nature Study– Dog Violet “Viola Labradorica”

The spring has sprung here.  I know that must be so frustrating to hear for those of you in the arctic Midwest and east coasts… but here, it’s come early and I am singing praises!  There are so many theories on why the weather would be effected this way that I don’t feel qualified to add my own…  but for this short time, I am trying not to worry about the drama of the weather and just enjoy the weather!

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Dog Violet!  How I love this little plant!  It is such a tiny flower but oh so lovely.  It is a ground cover in my yard.  The white ones (“Viola Reichenbachiana”) come out first with their cute little white faces.  I asked my neighbor two years ago if I could have some and I planted them under my grape arbor.  They have now taken over and cover both sides of the ground.  My hope is that next year I will have to trim them back because there are too many!

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The blossoms are only about 1/2 an inch wide and 3/4 of an inch tall.  The leaves get bigger but still lay close to the ground.  They are found on page 477 in the Handbook of Nature Study.

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I added them into my nature notebook and the kids added them into theirs as well. 

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White Dog Violet pollen under the microscope.  The pollen is so tiny that I wasn’t even sure the pollen was on the slide!  When I looked, this is what I found:

40x magnification:

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400x magnification:

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It is interesting to see that it is most like the Flowering Quince in pollen shape and structure.   I doubt that means anything, but I am looking further into pollen sciences to see.  So far, it’s been fruitless as far as lesson material.  Most ‘pollen experts’ are also forensic experts.  They know about the pollen and what it looks like so they can best guess where dead bodies they find originated from.  Morbid, huh?  I plan on keeping up the search so I can share something less disturbing with the kids about people who study pollen. 

Happy Homeschooling!

In other homeschool news…

A few bullet pointed happenings here on the Rose Garden Homestead.

Lots of field trips!  Another friend of mine has started making regular school field trip groups at all kinds of places around our area.  Mixed with our regular spots we go to at each season of the year, it has been a SUPER fun way to explore the area and we have a new field trip every week!! 

Field Trips

Harbor History Museum – The best field trip so far this year!  We spent the school day in 1901 and watched as Galloping Gertie fell into the Puget Sound.  We completely embedded ourselves in the time period.  I even dressed up!

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A lot of the day was spent in this sweet little one room schoolhouse.  Below is Cyan in her class (4th grade and up), the entry way where the boys hung their hats, the metal cups they got water in, and Logan and I, all dressed up and ready to go.

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Cyan learning her lesson in a sweet little pentefore and calico dress:

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Here is Logan and his buddy, all dressed up in their 1901 garb.

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The hem of my dress and black freshly polished black boots.

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This one has to be in color. 

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It’s our hen’s hard boiled eggs for our lunch wrapped in a handkerchief.   It went along with nuts and last years preserved pear sauce in mason jars along side fresh lemonade in a neat glass bottle.  It was delicious and also, very 1901.  Winking smile

Preschool – Luke has been tagging a long with lots of bigger kid stuff, but I have been trying to keep activities around that are just for him.  Here he is working on a President’s Day craft tray with red, white and blue beads.

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Now that we are fully into spring here (sorry, snow dwellers!) I have a bunch of sensory bins and Montessori trays to make up with spring related fun!

Cub scouts – We have had a blast so far this year with Cub scouts.  Logan is just loving all of the grown-up boys stuff he gets to do each month with his den!

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Here he is making a plaster cast of someone's boot, which he then had to figure out which boot it belonged to as part of a forensics day.  We also talked about teeth marks, hair, and fingerprints.

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Here he is holding a soap bubble made from dry ice at a Cub scouts Blue & Gold science night!

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Here is Logan’s experiment that his den did for the science night!  It’s a buzzer game that has a flying plane which you have to guide through the mountains and not touch either wire or you will complete the circuit and sound the alarm!  This was all thought up by our den leader, whom I am forever thankful.  My kid would not be doing nearly as cool science stuff without her.

With all the public school stuff in the news, I am happier than ever to be a homeschooler.  People ask if my kids are missing things or have enough social interaction, and in all honesty I can say my kids have more social things than most.  And yet, they still have time to play, time to just be, time to make Legos for hours on end after their school work is done.  No tests to get ready for, or hours of homework after a long and grueling school day… just pure kid fun with no strings attached.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Spring Recipes– Delicious Asparagus Pesto

There are some foods that I just don’t cook often, even if it is in season.  My family doesn’t enjoy it and I don’t enjoy it enough to make it worth the fight.  Eggplant is one.  Asparagus is another.  Up until last year, I didn’t fight with them about asparagus (I still don’t fight over eggplant).  But I adapted this recipe from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson.  Her cookbooks have SO many good ideas!  Many of them we have added to our monthly menu plan because the whole family enjoyed them.  Her recipes are so fun and easy that even when we don’t love an ingredient (or it’s hard to find) I can change it up pretty easily.  So when this came up, I just couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that we would love some version of this dish.

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I was right!  Even my veggie hating husband LOVES this pesto.   On to the monthly menu plan it goes and I thought it would be a perfect, dye-free dish for St Patrick’s Day!  Enjoy!

Before trying this recipe, you need to dry roast pine nuts.  To do this, heat a dry pan on the stovetop.  Add one cup of pine nuts and about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to the hot dry pan and toss until about half the pine nuts are browned on one side.  This makes the pine nuts sweet and slightly salty. 

Spinach Asparagus Pesto Pasta

  • 1/2 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and rinsed
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup dry-toasted pine nuts
  • olive oil

Blanch asparagus in a pot of water for 4 minutes or until bright green.  Drain and transfer to a food processor.  Add raw, washed spinach.  Pulse process until it resembles a mash.  Add olive oil while food processor is on until smooth and almost creamy looking.  Add half the dry roasted pine nuts and the cheese and process it all on high for about one minute or until super smooth. 

Toss this recipe with 2 pounds of pasta of your choice and add the rest of the pine nuts on top with extra parmesan if you have it.  Serve warm.

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And just in case you are making this for St Patrick’s Day, it is perfectly paired with my Rainbow Fruit Pizza recipe I just posted on Inner Child Food!

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St Patrick's Day Treat - Rainbow Fruit Pizza!

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Biology & nature study– Forsythia “Forsythia Intermedia”

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Blankets of these are everywhere right now!  Some people trim them into bushes, some allow them to free-form as sprawling shrubs, but anywhere they are, they are covered in yellow blossoms and just asking to be admired!  Any bees that are out and about right now are sure to notice these wonderful bright blossoms!

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Once again, this shrub flowers before it puts out leaves.  You can see the leaf buds just starting to bulge at the tips of each twig but the flowers are already in full bloom along the stalk.  Each cluster of deeply 4-lobed yellow flowers has several blossoms.  The flowers are each about 1 – 1.5 inches across and the branches are a light green/brown and darken to a grey/brown as they age past their first season.

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The kids really enjoyed drawing this one.  It’s just so bright and happy!  Logan got to use the watercolor pencils for the first time and was really excited to see how he could move the paint around the paper to create shading. 

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I was shocked that this shrub isn’t in The Handbook of Nature Study!  I was sure it would be when I went to look, but alas.  I don’t think they have much of this beautiful shrub on the East Coast where Anna Botsford Cromstock lived as she wrote The Handbook. 

The Forsythia is actually in the same family as the Olive Tree!   They were brought as cultivars from the Far East and have done so well here that many other varieties have been developed. 

The pollen of this shrub is similar to the flowering quince but smaller with a distinctive ridge in the center of each slightly oval pollen cell.  Forsythia pollen – 40x:

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400x:

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Such a fun plant to draw, and so beautiful!

Any ideas what I could do with all of these pollen pictures?  They are so interesting but when I look up pollen science all I find is forensics!  They mostly use pollen science to tell where someone was when they died!  Morbid but true.  So I am trying to gather some ideas as to what I could do with these pictures that would actually help my kids in biology.  What do you think?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Biology & Nature Study–Flowering Quince “Chaenomeles Speciosa”

We have moved on from bulb plants to flowering shrubs. 

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In the back corner of our yard, framing our beautiful playhouse, is a flowering quince bush.

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It has done a great job of keeping the kid’s space contained with it’s spiny twigs and sprawling branches.  In the summer time it has beautiful small green leaves with reddish tips.  But it is in late winter it really shows it’s color.  Unlike the fruiting quince, this plant has little fruit and what it does produce rarely ripens in this climate.  It is purely for decoration. 

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But it made a fun biology lesson! 

We learned that it’s natural habitat has long been obscure so it is completely domesticated.  But it does not need much care, so planted in wild spaces, many of these plants will do just fine.  Reaching 6 – 9 ft. in height and pushing out to a nice, long hedge in some spots, this shrub is often used as a barrier for gardens and yards.   

The pollen is tiny and resembles kernel of Uncle Ben’s quick rice when looked at under 400x magnification. 

40x magnification:

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400x magnification:

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The blooms form before the leaves start to pop out and the flowers are self pollinating, having both male and female parts in each flower.  The flowers only grow on year old twigs so it is beneficial to prune yearly to promote lots of blooms.  We do this naturally as it grows too close to the kids space with it’s ‘pokey parts’ and the kids ask for clippers and cut it back each year. 

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We have gotten some incredibly beautiful blooms off of it this year!

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Bittersweet

In the seasons of parenting or ‘people growing’ there is often a time of release.   Sometimes gentle and sometimes not-so-gentle.  I remember so many of these release-driven moments.  Days where you sit and ponder the choice to let the 9-year-old go to the movie theater bathroom by himself, and bite your nails until he is safely in the seat beside you again.  Days where you wonder if you truly did completely screw up that 14-year-olds life, as he just told you you did.  Days where you don’t want to let her leave the house because you finally read that ‘sex-offenders in your area’ notice that came in the mail… two months ago.  Days where you have been up all night long with a sick or crying child and two need lessons and the big one needs shoes again and you just wonder when it is all going to stop… 

Well folks.  It is only a season.  I won’t go into the ‘embrace the chaos, it doesn’t last’ speeches, which many do in their moment of realization that childhood is really a short phase in life.  But it really is a short and tender season where emotions are higher than they ever will be again with that child and so often you just want to get off that bus at the next available stop. 

There is a stopping point for me in just 6 months.  For the first time, I will have a child that is moving out of my home …

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and (Lord, help me) onto an army base in Georgia.  In some ways, this is a very sweet reprise in the long, hard road of parenting.  This particular kid has been a struggle for a while, as many teens are.  And through this choice, which was all his own, I have seen some of that beautiful man I always hoped and prayed would be inside this boy.  But there are moments of quite release where I sit and tearfully wonder if I could have done anything different.  Anything that would have made his path easier.  Should I have spent more time with him, should I have pushed him harder, been more strict, more inclusive, more understanding?  Can he balance a checkbook?  Do his taxes?  Make himself a meal that doesn’t include cup-o-noodles?  Does he understand anything of the ‘real world’ and what does that phrase include these days anyway? 

This morning I woke up to an 8-year-old laying on the floor near my bed and my 4-year-old laying with his arm across my neck like a very heavy, sweaty scarf.  The two older kids were already up, one making  his own breakfast while texting some other poor soul that was conscious at 6:40am and the other out in the frosty morning, tending to the animals she spent years begging me to get.  I was struck by how gently fleeting it all is.  Time marches on.  Ready to pounce each time you take a break to watch the newest season of Downton Abbey in a week long Netflix-binge.  

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And after a couple more Netflix-binge weeks and passing seasons; it will be the snuggly newly 4-year-old, who currently gets mad if you peel his banana wrong… and that child… he will be the next one going off in to the wide blue yonder to get his own life and balance his own checkbook and I will be wondering if he will be able to make his own meals without me.  

I am not sad that my children are growing up.

That’s kind of a lie.  It is SO bittersweet!

But I have enjoyed each and every phase of their lives and I am so glad I chose to stay home with them and live my life deliberately along side them. 

I do often wonder that with all these moments we are making, do they see them the same as I do?  Will the oldest look back in 2 or 3 or 10 years and wonder why in the world I took him out of public school and what was I thinking with that whole ‘organic food thing’?  Will they ever really *get it*? 

My favorite quote for parenting has always been from Robert Fulghum’s It was on fire when I lay down on it:  It is included in an essay called “Family Man”.  It is advice for his son who is having his first baby.  

“Don’t worry that your children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  

I read this book my first year in college when the oldest was around a year old.  This one quote has truly stuck by me all of these years in between.  What a powerful sentiment.  That it isn’t what you say, but what you do that shapes your children.  I guess I will just have to trust that the things he saw was something that he can build a life on.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Camp Lucas birthday party!

This party was a blast to put together. 

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I spent a lot of time contemplating what the best parts of camping were for little kids.  None of them had been away to camp…  they were all 4!  They just got over the section of their lives where their mama’s called them Baby.  But I am sure many of them had been camping… so I focused on the most fun parts of camping.  Tents, lanterns, fire, s’mores, stories, flashlights, and treasure.  And then I threw in some bubbles for good measure.

The invitations were sweet little tents that opened up into the party information. 

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They were gifted with a treat for each of the kids on the receiving end. 

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DISCLAIMER: this party was at night.  It had to be at night, because all of the funnest things about camping happen at night.  Fire, s'mores, flashlights, um… fire.  That means a couple things when it comes to a party.  It means that there are not many very good pictures, for one!  And for two, the pictures that I did get, are somewhat blurry because everything that I couldn’t set up hours early happened in the dark or very near it. 

Ok.  On with the pictures:

D├ęcor:

Trusty chalk board, lanterns that regularly hang from the front porch, and pine cones from a friends wedding a year ago were the decorations for the porch.  It was simple, free and effective.  Smile

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When the kids walked through the door, they got a wood burned name tag that said “CAMP LUCAS” on one side and their name on the other:

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Inside, his party was all over the house.  The school room had these little tents I made for his birthday and a few fake Christmas trees, given to us by friends.

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I had a chalkboard bunting left over from Valentine’s Day and I just wiped it off and wrote CAMP LUCAS across it then added a pine cone banner I made myself.  I didn’t even change my Spring mantel decorations because they seemed to fit so well!

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The cake table was decorated with a crate and a bunch of stuff that I had or borrowed from friends.  (We’ll talk about the campfire cake later.)

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Activities:

First we ate dinner:

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The fire was already lit in the back yard and I had one of the teens sitting out there watching it.  Earlier in the day I had set up the treasure hunt with candles at each station.  After dinner the kids each got a bag that had acorn and an animal tag on it:

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(Free animal graphic found here)

That tag coordinated with a flashlight in the back yard.  Then I had them go on a treasure hunt with their flashlights! 

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(All of this was done after dark, so these pictures were taken way before.)

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On the hunt they found a container of bubbles, a cricket clicker, a jar of trail mix, a bug bag filled with gummy butterflies, and a small bundle of twig pencils. 

The rest of the evening was spent making s’mores by the campfire and telling stories. 

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I kept the ghost stories away but told one about an old man who thinks his house is too noisy.  It’s a great story that I used to listen to told by Danny Kay when I was a kid.  The kids all loved it! 

The rest of the time was spent blowing bubbles into the fire.  Have you ever done that?  It makes the bubbles go up up up super fast.  They thought this was the coolest thing ever.  Thanks to my new 8 year old for showing them.  They spent at least 1/2 an hour doing that alone.

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After that part, it was cake and present time! 

Sooooo… for the cake, I was going for campfire, like this:

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I LOVE how it turned out:

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What do you think??

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We had several tutorials on how to do this, but this one was by far and away the easiest.  Didn’t even require a candy thermometer! 

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All in all, it was Luke’s best party yet and I have heard from two mamas of kids who were there and they (and Luke) are STILL playing with their treasure bags the next day!  I call that party success!