Monday, September 26, 2011

fun science at home.

Dark wet fall weekends are perfect for family home life. We cozy up, bake, make, read, play, and spend time together. Science is big in our house - there is always something on the to-do list, and there is always a basket filled with something or other we want to play around with. Sometimes we do bigger projects - program a robot, make a solar oven, look through the microscope for specific somethings, test water or soil, see what happens. But sometimes the small projects are really fun too. And they are fun to repeat and even if simple they never quiet get boring (at least with my boys).

One of those endlessly fun things is the cornstarch project. You mix water and corn starch and get a funky substance that is both a solid and a liquid. The thing is water and corn starch don't completely mix. Their molecules slither around each other. The corn starch molecules get tangled up, but the water molecules flow around them. So, if you whack the substance hard, the molecules don't have time to move and it feels like a solid. When you move into it slowly however, the water molecules have time to flow around and it is a liquid. It is messy. It is fun. And it is easy to do.

You might want to cover your table with something.
Pour 2 cups of corn starch into a bowl. Measure 1 cup of water and add a few drops of food coloring if you want. Stir. Slowly add the water mixture into the corn starch, stirring as you go. Mix it up - it should be really thick and hard to stir. If you can't stir at all add a little more water, but it should be a bit of a struggle.

Now, go! First try to hit the mixture with your knuckles quickly.

Next, gently press your fingers or hand into it.

Goo is a long time of fun.

Another easy and fun one is making a lemon battery - with your tongue as the final connection. Batteries of course are made with two metals and an acid. One metal has a positive charge, one a negative and the lemon is the acid. By sticking your tongue on it, you complete the circuit and get the tingle.

Take a lemon and push while you roll it on the counter to get it juicy inside. Straighten a paper clip and stick it in the lemon. Take a piece of copper wire about the same length as the paper clip and insert it into the lemon near the paper clip. Touch it to your tongue! You should feel it tingle.

We had zinc and copper plates from another science kit, so used those and got a bigger tingle. Whoo hoo! :) We could also test the current by connecting it to a little LED light.

Very fun. Perfect family fun for a dark rainy day.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

welcoming autumn.

I love the change from summer to autumn. Cool days, chilly nights. The smell of the air. The angle of the light. How everything goes from such vivid green to every other color - red, yellow, orange, brown. Everything looks different.

The past few days we have watched the colors start to appear and so today we had to go wander to the pond and nature trail at our local apple orchard (just 5 miles from home) to get out in the wonder of it all. We are excited to welcome autumn!

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Saturday we woke to perfect weather. Sunny and cool. We told the boys we were going on an adventure, packed up the car and headed out. And oh, what an adventure we had.

Our first stop was a county park in the woods with a big sandy beach and spring fed lake.

The boys cast on an empty sunny beach with practice weights on fishing poles, saw where a spring bubbled up from the sand and fed the lake and watched the water lapping against rocky outcroppings.

We saw butterflies and dragonflies and birds.

After a lots of casting and playing, we told the boys we had to head out to the next place on our adventure, packed back up and hit the road.

Our next surprise stop was at our at our very favorite hiking trail at our favorite state park.

We hiked a steep cliff of rocky stairs down down down into a waterfall oasis. Filled with ferns, caves, a clear pool and rambling creek.

There was a lot of rock hopping, frog watching, stick finding and cave exploring.

And of course plenty of hiding behind the waterfall.

In this beautiful place fall has already arrived, and golden leaves drifted down around us the whole time we were there.

We walked down the trail beyond the waterfall oasis, hiking along a mossy fern covered creek bed.

We looked at animals, trees and moss. We crossed bridge after bridge, and climbed fallen trees. We felt bark, and moved fuzzy caterpillars to safer spots.

We hiked and wandered and went back to the waterfall. As we climbed the steep stairs out of the oasis, the boys said they never wanted to leave that magical spot. After passing creeks, watercress, fields of goldenrod and galloping horses, we headed out for our next stop.

We drove past Frank Lloyd Wright, stopped in a small town cafe, and visited another county park high atop a hill. The boys spun and climbed and ran and skipped.

We looked out at fields of gold from up high. We counted silos, we watched the patches of sun move across the landscape.

We listened to the wind.

As we headed back for our last stop near home the boys talked about their favorite parts of the the adventure. A sobbed, never wanting it to end. He wants to always take the scenic route. He wants an adventure day every week. My boys said it was the best day of their entire life. Of course they say that every day. And that is how I like it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

herb pressing.

We love to press herbs and flowers and use them for crafts like ornaments, bookmarks, gift tags or artwork. We pick all kinds of flowers - from lilacs and violets to those lovely flowers atop the arugula going to seed and dill tops.

Pressing flowers is nice because they are so colorful even months later when peeled from between the pages. But we also love to press herbs and leaves. We are always picking different things and experimenting. Some may be for our quest to see if we remember what they are later, or just using something that caught the eye of A or G.

We also love pressing things for ... smell. There is something quite heady about getting a whiff of an herb in January during a blizzard. We try different things to see what holds the smell best. We do dehydrate herbs for culinary uses but they turn dark and crinkle in the dehydrator so all we get is smell. Pressing in a flower press we keep color and shape and often the scent!

So throughout the summer we will remember to pick and press for both crafts and smell. This week we heard that we might get an early frost and could lose the delicate greenery. Which means it was the perfect time to pick. One of our presses is full of summer flowers, but we still had some space in the second one.

We picked all kinds of things - remembering or wondering which would be best later.

We picked flowering herb tops such as hyssop, chocolate mint, spearmint, lemon balm, tiny dill heads, shisho, thai basil, purple basil. We picked other leafy herbs like celery tops, thyme, marjoram, cilantro, and fennel. And of course the boys picked some other things that looked interesting like nasturtium flowers, lilacs, a piece of tomato leaf (G wants to sniff it later!), and some clover just for good luck. They wanted to save all the four leaf clover so they will have good luck all winter, so they searched and searched. ;)

I am interested to see if the celery still smells in 4 months!

What do you think would retain its scent best?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


For this fall, the boys wanted to try some new classes/activities. Of course the challenge is that asthma boy is not supposed to be in crowds of kids during cold/flu season, and we have to be *really* careful (not to mention that my other sensory boy can't do loud/crowded anyway).

One of the activities the boys have wanted to do is clay/pottery. We found an awesome local studio that has open studio hours during the week days and we can go whenever we want to and not worry so much about crowds of kids and loud and too much and viruses. PERFECT.

We went to our first open clay studio last week and the got familiar with the setup and how things work. Both boys really enjoyed themselves, and we will definitely be going all winter. We even hope to have a private lesson so they can learn the wheel! Fun!

And the bonus is this mama can participate too - love it.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

adding it up.

I love that he collects change from all over, all the time, to add to his change bank. Every penny goes in. From pockets and purses and that little spot in the van that collects change and odd bits. Almost every day. A few times a year it is full enough to take in to the bank. I love that even though he is the only one that remembers to put loose change in the bank, he always, without fail, says he is splitting it 50/50 with his big brother. And he does.

He carries that heavy load into the bank and asks to cash it in. I love that every time he guesses how much it will be, and he is always close.

He always has a plan and knows what he wants to buy with his money. But today he got something NOT on his list. He has been trying on hats for the past few months. Looking for "his style", but nothing has been right. But today he found it. THE hat.

It fits him, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011 long weekends.

I love long holiday weekends with perfect weather. Don't you? This weekend was so busy, but all good busy. And I mean good busy in that I didn't have to touch tomatoes but to make a salad all weekend! ;)

We had family in town, so lots of cleaning and cooking to prepare. And then of course a lot of visiting and catching up!

I had both of my sisters in town on Saturday - at the same time. The three of us haven't been in a room together at the same time in years (my family has 4 siblings living in 4 states). And the boys had some aunt catching up to do.

Sunday was more family time, walks, ice cream and botanical gardens. The boys were happy but exhausted after so much.

So for Monday we knew we needed a laid back day, but wanted to get out in the perfect weather. We headed to Old World Wisconsin, which is one of the largest living history museums in the world (almost 600 acres). So much room to roam!

We walked and wandered and visited all the animals and looked at the gardens and went into each farm. We took tram rides around the farms and through the woods.

We played games and watched wild turkeys. It was a perfect day to be out - pants and fleeces and sunshine and blue skies. I love the cooler air and happy boys who could walk and run and play without worrying about prickly heat, heat rash or sun blisters. SO wonderful!

I'm back to the tomatoes and red raspberries, but that is OK. A little quiet kitchen is good after so much weekend! Happy Tuesday!