Thursday, August 30, 2007

CSA Box This Week...

This week ... red & green lettuce, green beans, fennel, celery, red pepper medley, carrots, red potatoes, leeks, green tomatoes, Italian parsley. And I forgot to include 2 watermelon in the photo. In trying to avoid "gravity experiments" this week, I put them in my cooler pack and forgot! I will remember now though, because we want to make watermelon sorbet. MMMMMMmmmmm.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A's "school" agenda.

It is interesting, because my 4 year old hasn't really had any concept of "school" before. He knows he is a "homeschooler", but he has no other reference for that other than what we do with our days.

Well, it is that time of year, and he must be looking closer to "that age"...this week every bagger, clerk, teller, citizen, and passerby has been asking him if he is "ready to go back to school", "excited about school", if he "has all of his back to school supplies ready", in addition to asking what school does he go to, does he like it, how old is he (only 4!). At Whole Foods the other day when the bagger took a breath in the school chat to ask him where he goes to school, he took a deep breath, thought for a second, and said, "Well, I'm homeschooled." My little sweetie. Now, I know that they were just being chatty, but it has started a seed of something, and his plan to now be "ready"!

So now it appears that the first ingredient for our "school" at home is a lunchbox. Not just any kind of lunchbox, but a metal one. With a design on it. With no "high fructose corn syrup in it".

The second ingredient is that he wanted to know if we had all of our "supplies" ready as everyone has been asking him. We went through all of our books and art supplies and organized and categorized what we had so he could see most of it. We put together a few stacks of stuff he wants to work on.

He said he has to practice more german, of course, since he only knows a few words and songs now (and oma and opa chat with dad in german when they visit). So german stories & sticker book from oma & opa on the pile.

He (as always) wants to learn to read and write. He got out his bin with his notebooks, pencils, sharpener, and eraser. He uses this stuff all the time, but wanted to put it all out together. Our recent development in this vein has been that I must now write a note to him for everything we do. Dear A, Here is your lunch. Love, Mom. Dear A, Please go to the bathroom before you have an accident. Love, Mom. He then stashes the notes, and I am allowed to re-use certain ones (meals, etc.). I am also the person who writes notes for him, dictated, upon which he traces to write it himself afterwards. Dear G, Please stop crying so much. Love, A.

Science. Ocean creatures. Always his favorite subject. Also, to learn as much as possible about the ocean creatures, he wants to reference the globe and kids atlas...I mean, where DO box jellyfish live, where is the Mariannas Trench, and what about the Nomura jellyfish around Japan? SO, we stacked some books together that we have in our home library, one book set includes crafts, experiments and projects along with each topic/chapter (including ocean creatures) - which he LOVES. As long as it is the ocean creature diorama project. (Or the worms.)

Money. Not "math", money. He wants to count it, sort it, keep it, you name it. He wants to know how much money is in the money bowl, and to do so he must know all about money and be able to count it and differentiate coins. He suspects the coins in the money bowl total kazillions of dollars and there is a parental conspiracy to keep that fact away from him. So he wants to confirm for himself.

And then all of his other projects. Tools, games, crafts, art supplies, his little stash of workbooks (he loves mazes & cutting), and of course a mountain of books from the library. Oh, and sea sponges.

So during all of this my 2 year old jumped into the game of laying everything out and, and decided this is what he wants to work on right now:

Painting. Beeswax molding. Coloring. Charades. Music. Puzzles. Lacing. Marbles run. Shells for gluing. Oh, and his new "harder puzzle":

Eat Local Challenge 2007.

"For the third year in a row, the Eat Local Challenge website, in association with the Locavores, is hosting a month-long Eat Local Challenge. This year, the challenge is in September with an emphasis on canning and preserving the bounty of September for the winter months.

During this time, nationwide participants focus on what foods are available in our local foodshed and how we can support our local farmers. This year, we have received many inquiries on the ways that supporters of the Eat Local Challenge can participate. While the original challenge premise involves eating as much food from your local foodshed as possible during the month, there are many ways that you can participate."

Click here for all of the details and ideas of how you can participate!

I'm braindead from working wayyyyyyy too many hours this week in the middle of the night on a big project while the boys sleep! I'm sure I'll be more chatty about it later! Until then, does anyone in my area grow coffee beans? ;)

Monday, August 27, 2007

More rain!

Playing with letters.

For a few minutes the boys were not haggling over the letters (as is usually the case when one or the other shows interest in them) and we sounded things out, found letters, and spelled words! The little toddler head is in the bottom of the photo though...getting ready to pounce as soon as the letters form any logical sequence (HE prefers to spell GafldmOpQLTi). :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Warm sun, blue sky, nice day.

Today was a beautiful, sunny, warm day. It felt like summer again! My 4 year old has been asking to go back to a particular children's science museum, so we took a little road trip today. The boys are at the ages where they are at a different stage every visit - and so always find something new and interesting.

Today ... they played with an air cannon -
Listened to different sounds -
Piloted an airplane -
Learned the hand signals and controls to operate a crane -
Hosted a tv show -
They also made pizza, routed water in a flood plain, gauged strength, played with internal organs, tested different types of ramp speeds, experimented with balls floating on air in tubes, built a fort, watched a tornado, made giant bubbles, and so, so much more (oh, and had a fun time together)!

This museum also has a massive outdoor play area, so as always we played outside - sliding, climbing, clanging bells and gongs and pipes, digging up a dinosaur, going down into a cave - it was nice to be outside and feel the warm sun again.

OH! And we saw the most amazing lego art - incredible - check it out!

A few fun books - hurricanes, recycling & garbage.

With all the rain we have had more time to read, and we have a few books that quickly became favorites. It was hard to choose just one, so I have listed a few. A is a facts and information bug, as you can tell by his selections (although he loves his more relaxing bedtime stories too!).

A had heard about the hurricane on the weather channel during our big storms last week and was interested in finding out more about them. We tracked the hurricane for several days, researched a bit about the Hurricane Hunter aircraft and the science behind their readings - but he wanted more!!! The library had a book about them titled "Hurricane Hunters!: Riders on the Storm" and it seems that we have read it at least 30 times in the past few days. The artwork is nice, the story and information is thorough but simple, and the story ties it all together. Definitely a great book to tie in with any other weather books.

A has been asking questions lately about garbage, landfills, recycling. He has been asking questions about why we recycle, why we buy recycled goods, why we take our own bags to the grocery store, and what happens with our trash when it leaves here. All good questions. We found several books at the library about recycling and garbage - but the favorite this week is "Garbage and Recycling". The book not only has facts and great accompanying graphics, but also includes "Do It Yourself" experiments for kids, and simple side bars titled "How Can We Help?". He was thrilled to find we do most of the things listed, and is excited about some experiments, such as building a decomposer. He also inspects any packaging before throwing it away to see if it needs to go in the recycling bin!

Along with the garbage questions have come the questions about everything else - the inner workings of the home. Where does the water come from, where does it go after it goes down the drain, what happens to what we flush, how does electricity get to our house? More good questions! We have spent the last 3 weeks reading (and re-reading) "Switched On, Flushed Down, Tossed Out : Investigating the Hidden Workings of Your Home". It is written with easy to follow descriptions (although not much in the way of alternative energy, but realistic in its portrayal of the standard energy sources) and is illustrated and bright. It is organized to have clues, and investigators who crack the case at each step, and he loved that element of the book. It is a bit longer than many books for this age group, but the information is organized enough that even the preschoolers can follow it easily - we just broke it out into sections. Some of the info, such as televisions and telephones are overly simplistic, but you won't get the science of that in one page anyway...definitely helps to answer those questions and explain how it works in a very visual way.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Baking...bread & pumpkin cookies.

Today was another rainy day, so we did some baking. The summer is for preserving foods, eating fresh veggies, grilling, and having lots of tomatoes. Each year as the weather is cooler and fall rolls in, we get back into the groove of stews, crock pots, bread baking, and warm comfort foods. While I know that we will definitely be getting hot sunny days again at some point before fall arrives, we have felt that drive to make things as the rain hits the windows.

Today G helped me bake a loaf of whole grain white bread with oats and flax. Very yummy.

For a sweet treat, both boys helped bake pumpkin cookies (can you tell we REALLY want fall to arrive?). They turned out great - and the drizzled icing on top is too much for one little boy to stay away from (other little person helped bake, but doesn't like sweet things much-but he loved the fresh bread with butter!).

Here is the recipe - I make 2 sheets of the base recipe for kids, and then I add fresh homemade granola into the rest for the adult version. Your kids may be reasonable and like granola in all of them! ;) It is a nice recipe because the base cookie is soft and not so you can make some with icing and some without too!

Pumpkin Cookies:
2 cups of organic all purpose flour
1/2 cup organic oat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder (we use aluminum free baking powder, but you can also use arrowroot powder)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg or pumpkin spice
1/2 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar (you can use white, turbinado, cane, xylitol, etc.)
1/2 cup packed organic brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat to 350.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in one bowl and mix a bit. In a second bowl beat the sugar and butter until blended. Beat in the pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract until it is smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture in, stirring. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto baking sheets. Bake 15-18 minutes. Cool.

Alternate version: When dough is ready, stir in 1 cup of mixed crunchy granola (not the cereal type). Today I used a crunchy apple cinnamon with sunflower seeds granola.

2 cups organic powdered sugar
3 tbsp organic milk
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
Stir together until smooth - add more milk if it is too thick.
Drizzle over cooled cookies (use a wire rack with parchment paper under to catch the drips).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

CSA Box This Week, And Yummy Stew...

A was SO excited to go to pick up our CSA box at the farm today. He has toasted 2 pairs of shoes in 2 weeks playing in the pit of mud running down from the wash station - and he KNOWS how much it has been raining...While the farm missed out on the heavy destructive flooding experienced by some in their area, they do have lots and lots and lots of mud. Miraculously, A only piddled around in the stream coming from the washing trough, and picked at a few rocks. I believe it may have even been too wet and muddy for him!

From our CSA newsletter this week: "We’re not flooded, we’re not using boats to move around the farm, we’re not having to lay off staff, no one is hurt and because of some good conservation tillage and strips of land and waterways, very little of our soil has moved. There is very little erosion, and the watershed is recharging from nearly a year of too little water."


This week we have red & green lettuce, romano beans, fennel, celery, 3 types of peppers, carrots, romanesco broccoli, lacinato kale, leeks, and italian parsley.

I already made a delicious white bean & veggie stew from our goodies today. SOOO good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rain, rain...

Wow. We are "dry" here (relatively speaking) - looks like nothing will happen here at home - but what a crazy week for southern Wisconsin!

The rain has left us a few surprises - in the garden, our corn has completely tipped over with the downpours, but the beans are happy, I have absolutely no idea about the tomatoes (so muddy & buggy I have only picked what is in pots), and herbs & peppers want heat & sun, but they will recover.

We had broken the record for rainfall in August already earlier this week, and tonight within only 1/2 hour we had an additional 2.25+" of rain. Yes, more. And more rain forecasted overnight, and they are estimating some parts of southern Wisconsin could get another 6+" of rain by Friday! WOW.

Unbelievable - so many stories, so much to absorb and think about.

Sad, sad, story today from this latest storm.

Organic farms in the area suffering massive losses.
"Only California has more certified organic farms than Wisconsin, and more than a third of the Badger State's 994 organic farms are in the five counties where rivers and streams overflowed." (Um, "overflowed" seems like an understatement here, eh?)

I could link 100 stories here - it is big to see, and the boys know things are happening, as the weather channel talks of hurricanes and flooding in between our local checks. We keep it positive, but all the talk has led us to some weather reading this week.

We have read several books on weather, and have a large chart that the boys can use to select what they believe the weather for the day will be (guessing rain, huh?). We have researched a bit about the Hurricane Hunter aircraft and how it takes measurements inside hurricanes, and have kept track of the hurricane satellite images as it moved through the Caribbean. All interesting, and we plan to do a few crafty "experiments" as this rain continues a bit longer.

And what is forecasted for Sunday at this point? Sunny and warm. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rainy Days and The Sillies.

We have had quite a few rainy days this past week. Not the sprinkling "lets play outside and see worms and slugs rain" that the boys like, but the "it is cold, wet and windy and slugs are all over and why won't it ever stop mom" rain.

We have had a bunch (let me rephrase - TON) of work over the past 6 or 7 days due to several client project re-surfacing at the exact same time - so we have been working very late nights and weary parents welcome some at home inside play days - but the kids need more action.

So we also organized, de-cluttered, made yogurt, made cheese, made ice cream, sliced and froze tomatoes, moved furniture, did puzzles, played zingo!, built forts, stacked blocks, read books, had tea parties, played simon name keep boys interested and happy. And then it was only Monday. :)


We painted rocks:We did some wet on wet watercolor painting:

And then the boys "caught the sillies". A was first:

His brother followed closely behind:

It seemed to have balanced out...but then there were a few incidents which seemed slightly surreal, and I think the sillies may have played a part:

More rain is in the forecast - lets hope they keep t he sillies and don't get the crankies!

We wished for rain, but not for this!

We wished for rain, as drought spread through the region, and our lawns and crops turned brown - and then we get the deluge. Hour after hour, day after day, of rain. Lucky for us our home is in a pretty safe spot, but flooding in SW Wisconsin (and surrounding us throughout our county) is just annihilating towns, bridges and highways.

I know a few moms that visit this blog live in the western WI area which has been the hardest hit - and I hope you are safe, high and dry right now.

This weeks forecast? Rain.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Embellishing canvas shopping bags.

I have been experimenting with embellishing plain canvas bags with felt and fabric creations - in my quest for personal and useful holiday gifts for this year.

Giving just a plain canvas bag to use for grocery shopping/whatever doesn't seem too unique, hence my experiments with shapes, styles, machine sew vs. hand embroidered...and so on.

For the apple bag, I sketched out and cut felt shapes to make an apple tree - laying it out on the bag helps determine scale.

Pin the items together, and hand stitch the main piece using embroidery floss.

When done, position the piece on the bag and pin - embroider the piece to the bag using more floss...

...almost done with the apple bag...and working on a machine sewn version using fabric instead of felt...and an abstract art version. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

CSA Box This Week - And Seed Collecting.

Today our CSA box is full of the super summer goodies. Red & green lettuce, romano beans, summer squash, eggplant, several varieties of red peppers, colored carrots, broccoli, brusselini, yellow onion, sun jewel melon, watermelon.

And yes, that is a shattered golden watermelon in the photo. My 4 year old helped carry it into the house with great care. As I unloaded the cooler, I heard a loud sound...I asked what happened and went to the living room to see it shattered on the floor and A lying UNDER the couch. He said he was "testing gravity"...lovely.

This week we had lots and lots of rain, but we did manage to bring in some seeds. A didn't mind helping with the herbs, but wasn't thrilled about the smell of the peppers as we retrieved the seeds. He has tested a few of the dill already by sprinkling the heads around, and has a bunch of new green shoots to show for it (boy the bunny loves baby dill). What he wants is to squash a pumpkin to save the seeds...he has 2 random pumpkin plants out front in the bushes that are from his squashed pumpkin "experiment" last fall, so I have a feeling we'll have many more showing up next year!

Monday, August 13, 2007


Only two and a half years together thus far, a lifetime to go.

Snuggle buddies.

Different, yet...
Two peas in a pod.
Best friends.

A two boy band.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pickles, Garlic, and Tomatoes.

I have been trying out a few new things in the kitchen. For the past several months we have been making our own yogurt, ice cream, bbq sauces, jam, dry rub mixtures, and so on, and freezing or storing extra as we go. I have moved into new territory in trying out some fermentation and pickling. I don't have time for the whole big canning process at this point, but I have found several recipes for quick pickling, which requires clean jars but no canning.

From left to right is fridge pickles, pickled garlic, and dried tomatoes in olive oil with rosemary.

1. Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil. The tomatoes from my garden have been dried in the dehydrator, and then put in a clean jar with olive oil to cover, and a few sprigs of dried rosemary. This is stored in the fridge and can be used for salads, stews, and pasta. They taste SO good coming from fresh ripe tomatoes it is amazing.

2. Pickled Garlic. The pickled garlic was easy too. I basically used the recipe from Nourishing Traditions. Take up to about 12 heads of garlic, remove the outer skin and then bake the cloves in an oven until the rest of the skin can easily be removed. The garlic is not mushy soft, but slightly soft and aromatic and beginning to look less opaque. Put the cloves in a clean jar. Mix together a few teaspoons of dried herbs (I used dried oregano and rosemary from my garden), 4 teaspoons of GOOD sea salt, and about 1/2 cup of water. Pour the liquid over the garlic, and add more water if the garlic isn't covered. Screw lid on tightly, keep at room temp for about 2-3 days, then put in the fridge.

3. Refrigerator Pickles. The fridge pickles I adapted from several books I have out from the library. Each one has a different recipe, but I used what I had at home. I took the 5 cucumbers I have from our CSA and cleaned and sliced them into 1/4" slices. Pack them in the canning jars (or clean glass container). On the stove combine 2 cups of water, 3/4 cup of high quality apple cider vinegar, and 1/3 cup of good quality sea salt.

To the cukes I added amongst the jars a total of 4 dill heads and a handful of dill sprigs from my garden, as well as the seeds from 2 large dried dill heads (I dried in the sun over this week). You could use a few store bought sprigs of dill or 2 or so tablespoons of dill seed. I added 1 clove of my pickled garlic per container. If you like stronger dill flavor, you can add more. If you like heat, add hot peppers or pepper flakes as well.

Bring the liquid on the stove to a boil, then add it to the cukes in the jar - make sure they are covered. Let it come to room temp and then refrigerate it and eat all within a few weeks! They taste SO great.

A key point with using the raw apple cider vinegar and good sea salt for the recipes is to increase the nutritional value of the it is an important part!

Look mom, no training wheels!

I don't know of many things more exciting than watching a child's joy at a sense of their own accomplishment. A, who is 4, loves riding his bike, and many an evening is spent in our carriage lane with several other kids on our block riding back and forth until bedtime.

A few of the older kids have, of course, eventually learned to ride without training wheels, to which A took great notice. Each time he has asked to try to ride with them off, my husband will take them off, give him a little push, and let him ride until he wants them back on. Over the past few weeks, this has happened more frequently, and now he is a comfortable rider without them, and even taught himself how to start (so no more pushes!), and to brake. Turning...well, that takes some practice, and to watch him focus and be so clearly thrilled at each step he does what he set out to do is so amazing to watch.

I have so enjoyed watching the natural, comfortable process...taking his lead, letting him go at his own pace, all at his own doing and request. And to see him SO focused and excited about it is cool.

Today we went to get him a kickstand - since he says he must stand his bike up with one now that he doesn't use training wheels - and as soon as it was installed he happily stood the bike up on it and took a look, before putting it up and riding off!