Monday, March 31, 2008

Nature Walk - Buds and Birds.

The weather this time of year is pretty up and down. Freeze, snow, hail, ice, warm, sunny, cloudy, foggy, thunderstorms, thundersnow (yes!), wind... We know it as spring here in Wisconsin. We have been getting out as much as possible for our nature walks and green hour outings. This weekend it was cold but not too windy. Many hiking paths in our area are closed right now to preserve the trails, so we found a few other places to visit!

One nature walk was at our local botanical gardens. It is interesting, because only here have we seen buds, growth, and birds (lots of birds!). So while it seems everything is still asleep throughout our area, the moment we entered the outdoor gardens it just exploded with activity. Birds singing, chirping, flying, fighting, flaunting. Busy busy busy. Buds on trees, flowers pushing through the snow. So much to see and hear. We walked and looked, and also took time to stand and listen to the cacophony.

So many signs of spring.

Flowers pushing up - A particularly liked the white snowbells and crocuses coming up through the snow and leaves.

In addition to the new growth, we also saw what was left behind from last season - peeling bark, pods, seeds, leaves. So much beauty!

I love that we can take pictures of the most interesting plants, trees and birds on our walks, and then look them up when we get home. A has a bunch of favorites from the weekend - time to get searching!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour.

We participated in Earth Hour last night - the boys took a bath, got ready for bed, and had a bedtime story - all by candlelight.

We moved the hour earlier here, so that the boys would be awake for it. We started with a craft - we rolled beeswax candles by hand, and placed them in glass canning jars. As we rolled the candles, we chatted a bit about what were were doing and why. All of the candles we used are candles we have made or decorated over the past several months. Poured candles, dipped candles, beeswax votives decorated with punched beeswax shapes, tapers covered in beeswax stars. The warmth and smell was wonderful, and the boys got to see all of their candles lit at once throughout the bathroom and bedrooms. It was a magical hour, and today A asked if we could have Earth Hour every day. Not a bad idea!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Nature Notebooks.

We enjoy making seasonal nature notebooks. Using card stock, paper, stickers, stamps, envelopes and other bits and pieces, we assemble smalls journals to take with us on walks or to try to draw what we remember when we get home. We last made nature notebooks last fall, so today we made a set for spring!

We first cut the base paper (I just cut 8.5x11" pages in half). The boys cut pieces of paper to glue on the covers and punched insect shapes onto the page corners.

They stamped birds, butterflies and dragonflies on the pages as well as on the cover, and decorated the front with a feather.

After I help assemble the pieces and punch holes, they use embroidery floss to stitch the binding. They look great!

Since my boys are very young we don't quite use a nature journal as an older child would, but they both do enjoy drawing in their special nature journals after seeing something interesting outside, and having a special place to put their goodies.

Creative Craft Ideas.

I am always on the lookout for creative projects to do with kids. Cassi from Bella Dia has had a great idea. She started a new blog called The Crafty Crow, which is a creative collective of kids crafts from the blogsphere - all pulled together in one spot!

I am flattered that our butter project was featured this morning - I can't wait to see what other fun crafts she finds!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


A few times a year, usually in the spring, we make butter. It is a fun project for the boys as they love to shake those marbles in the jar as well as see the results of their efforts!

We used about 2 cups of cream from our 'cream on top' milk (or use store bought heavy cream). The cream went into a canning jar along with 3 marbles. Tighten lid. Then shake, shake, shake!

And shake, shake, shake. Take a break.

More shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake. Shake, shake, shake (keep shaking! don't stop until that butter separates!).

And, ta-da! Butter! Spoon it out (save that buttermilk - mmm scones!) onto a wooden cutting board, fish out the marbles, and smear it around with a wood spoon, getting out all that liquid. Rinse with cool water, then smear it around some more. It is ready when liquid no longer comes out when you smear it. Scoop into a container.

Then spread some on fresh home made bread and you have yourself a delicious snack!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Viruses, Bacteria and Micro Bugs - Oh My!

The past month has been filled with viruses, bacteria, minute insects, and all kinds of parasites. A discovered this microscopic world, and so we have been exploring it together. His first interest was viruses and cells - what viruses are, and what our body and our cells do to combat them. Oooh, he loves that. Then he became interested in bacteria in addition to viruses. Fascinating. Finally, in a book about electron microscopes (he wanted to know how we can see those small things), he discovered micro bugs. Mites, lice, ticks, parasites, nematodes...he wants to know. He loves this stuff.

Over the past week he has started drawing these things on his chalkboard while looking at his books. Animal cells, plant cells, mites, viruses. He has asked for my help with a few things - wanting me to draw a mite so he can then try to draw one too, or asking me to write out a difficult word such as salmonella. But otherwise, he has been doing the drawing and the lettering as he goes this week - and my little guy who loves to spell but doesn't like to write has been happily labeling each thing with small careful letters.

I love watching how he thinks and learns and becomes so interested in things. I try to remember to just hop on board and go with his interest - and each time we ALL learn something new.

Here are two of his favorite books this week:

Bill Nye the Science Guy's Great Big Book of Tiny Germs
by Bill Nye

Micro Bugs (Up Close)
by Paul Harrison

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Photos of the Day - More Snow.

More snow today - the beautiful, big, floating, magical kind. The boys ran up and down the sidwalk a few times barefooted, catching snowflakes in their mouths before zipping back inside quickly to warm up!

Six snow-covered doves perched on our deck, waiting for the snow to end.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I knew the warmth and sunshine were only teasers and that spring does not truly come for good in my part of the country in March. We always have a peek this time of year - a few warmer days and that bright gorgeous sunshine. We always enjoy what we can when it comes.

Today brought back March reality...but in the "winter of 2007/08" style. Snow, snow, snow, snow - about 8 inches so far today. Our average snowfall is 40-something inches per winter. In February we broke the previous all time record of 76.1". And today?? We might break the 100 inch mark for the season (last winter our total was 45")! And we always get snow in April. What a winter!

With the snow today came the return of the Juncos. We miss them when they are gone. They don't need us when it is clear and bright, but as soon as it snows they descend on our back deck in groups, twittering, chirping, clearing snow, and digging out the birdseed.

Now where is that shovel...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Vernal Equinox!

"On March 20, 2008, at precisely 1:48 A.M. EDT (March 20, 05:48 Universal Time), the Sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator. This moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere."

The word equinox derives from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night). Because of the suns position, day and night are nearly equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes.

"Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beets & Radishes.

A was feeling a bit better today, but G was just not feeling well at ALL. That didn't mean he didn't want to do stuff - oh YES he wanted to make eggs, bake cookies, play and draw. But he did not last long before getting upset, nor would he just lie down and rest. His brother was doing something! What? Oh My!

So, we did slow and easy things - one was to color another batch of eggs (this batch is for grandma-shhh). This time we did one pot using purple cabbage, and another pot using beets. We juiced the beets first, and then added the juice AND the pulp to the pan. To get more intense colors this time, we boiled the eggs in with the dye materials, and then after cooling them put them back into strained cool pot water and let them sit for a few hours longer in the color. We definitely got more intense hues that way.

Oh, and what is this? A harvested his first radish from the RootVue window garden today! Tasty!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cough, Cough.

I have two sick little guys. A picked up the cold virus first and started feeling bad over the weekend, and then inevitably G, the asthma boy, started getting symptoms, and was hit full force late last night.

Remember this? Yeah. They seem better tonight - after a day of yummy smoothies, good books, and snuggles on the couch. Sweet boys.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Earthy Eggs.

Today we made our first batch of hard boiled eggs. We get farm fresh eggs, so they are already beautiful shades of white, brown, blue/green and beige. We hard boiled the eggs in a mix of natural dyes - onion skins, paprika, and ground espresso beans. This gave all of the eggs all a deeper, rich color.

We then drew on each egg with oil pastels and the boys put them into little jars of additional color (vinegar, food coloring, water) for a few minutes before fishing them out with spoons.

It was fun - and we ended up with rich earthy colors, which we all like. We plan to make some using purple cabbage and beet juice this week too - fun!

Blackboard Joy.

Our lap blackboards are very used in this house. The boys love the color, texture and feel of chalk, and images on the rich black surface pop with character. A and G each have their own small blackboard, and enjoy using them for so many different things -

Drawing pictures.

Drawing scenes from books we are reading, or illustrating our own stories.

(The two images below are from Friday when G, out of the
clear blue sky, sat down and wrote words and totally surprised me!)

We also love to draw images from books to add some color to our nature table - or we draw things that the boys are reading about or interested in. This is an image from The Spring Equinox. A and G worked with me on this one, and helped color in some of the sky, grass, and flowers!

I love sitting at the table reading aloud as the boys draw.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photo of the Day - Brothers.

Hope you are all having a nice weekend!

Friday, March 14, 2008


We have been thinking about spring. Prepping to start our seedlings, reading about spring and animals and plants, doing spring craft projects, learning about the upcoming equinox (A wants to know every detail!), spending more time outside, and just taking this time to really enjoy the coming of the sun.

Yesterday we created golden silks - to bring more of that sun inside! I used a different type of dye this time - it was very easy and the boys could safely do it with me.

We created some solid golden silks, and then A carefully worked on knotting twine with me to create his special pattern. A also wanted to know about the fabric, the dye, how different colors are made, and how/why the color adheres to the material and doesn't rinse out. Very interesting!

They turned out great, and that vivid color is so beautiful!

We made four, so of course now we have a few more than we need - but that is OK - I'm sure they will find a home.

Note: To answer the questions about the white silks and the dye :: I get the white silk squares here. I like the Habotai Scarves which are 35" square. They also sell the Jacquard acid dyes at this site too (they have a big selection). But this time I bought the dye from here (scroll down) instead, and they had special instructions of their own that they mailed with the order which doesn't use boiling water - making the process a bit more child friendly and it worked great!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I have so many things I want to blog about, but I couldn't pass by the photos from today. It was in the mid-40's and sunny!!!!! That of course means we Wisconsin folk were outside without our heavy coats, working in our yards, shoveling the ice/snow melt, and out chit-chatting with neighbors.

The boys played outside on the deck for a long time in the warm sun, and we were even able to dry our big project of the day outside on a rack. Ahh.

This evening A's bike was back in from the shop after getting new tires and a tune up. So we went outside so the boys could ride for a bit. It was still 43 degrees! G loved riding again. A was SO SO SO happy. He learned to ride without training wheels early last summer, but I wasn't sure how it would go hopping on the bike for the first time in 4 or 5 months. He was awesome, and even faster than last year. Is this a happy boy or what?

As the boys rode their bikes up and down the sidewalk neighbors jogged by in shorts and t-shirts. We are supposed to have some rain and snow tonight, but we sure enjoyed our sneak peek today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Crafts.

Today was a day full of creativity - crafts, books, cooking, writing. The boys have been really wanting to do our new seasonal crafts and change our white nature table to SPRING!

Yesterday we had painted a few eggs. We started with 2 plain wooden eggs. The boys sanded them a bit first to smooth them. They then took oil pastels and decorated and colored the wood. On top of that we used watercolors in blues, greens and golds to paint the eggs. After they dried I added a clear water based varnish.

Today was the day for our little flower people. We had wooden people pieces, tiny ceramic pots, acorn tops, felt, and some yarn and pipe cleaners. The boys really wanted to do it all, and so glued on the hats, glued on the capes (which I stitched to keep on), and helped me twist the pipe cleaners into arms to hold the pots. We even made little flowers to go in the pots.

They turned out so cute - the boys played with them in their gnome treehouse before carefully placing them on the nature table with the other things they had made.

The perfect addition to the table! As the boys get older the attention spans grow longer and on days like today their energy and enthusiasm just keeps on going!