Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Party Planning

Alex and Cyan both really like to cook. But honestly, I don't let them in the kitchen very often. Well, they help me all the time, but when it comes to cooking their own thing the opportunities are few and far between. I am always working in there! So last week I decided that since we were doing the Farm to Table curriculum, their assignment for the week was to make a full on dinner party from scratch. From start to finish.

Alex was given the heavier load that included the menu plan, table set up, selecting and cooking the appetizer, main and side dishes, and then setting the tables. This included many more little jobs through out the week for him. Such as a grocery list, checking the pantry for supplies, making sure we had the amounts he needed, deciding on a budget, making a cooking timeline for party day, and remembering to defrost/prepare the things needed in advance so they would all be ready.

Cyan's side included dessert and table decorations. She had to pick and read a recipe, get the ingredients all ready and then help put them together.

I did have a couple of stipulations... the budget had to be under $40, the food had to all be from the same culture, and the groceries had to be in season. Other than that though, they were on their own. Alex spent hours pouring over cookbooks and finding the best recipes. He picked one that I thought looked daunting, and I told him so... but he wanted to make it. So I let him choose. He picked Italian American Lasagna from the Joy of Cooking. Which includes making the sauce AND the meatballs before hand. A lofty recipe to start with. Especially when you are responsible for three more courses as well.

The day before I had him sit down and make a timeline for what he needed to do the next day. He checked all the cooking and prep time, and decided that he needed to start by 1pm so that he could be all done by the time our guests arrived at 6pm.

When the day came, we went and I had them get their groceries from Trader Joe's. I had already gotten the produce on their list from the market. Then we got home and Alex got to work. He started off by making the meatballs. He had started to defrost the 1 1/2 of beef the night before, but it was still frozen. So he put it in the microwave on defrost and got it all ready. When the meat balls were done, he realised that it had taken him 45 minutes longer than it should have, and just like any good host... he started to freak out.

At this point, Cyan and Don were making the carrot cake. This was great because it left me free to help Alex. After the meat balls were made, he added the sauce stuff to the pot and let it simmer. Then he cut the lettuce for the salad and set the tables.

He was still feeling stressed, but as things got completed and he was able to focus on setting the table and such, he started to calm down.

Dinner turned out to be about a half hour late... even with his 5 hour head start, but it was DELICIOUS! The menu they picked:

Appetizer: Italian Salad (butter and oak lettuce with kidney beans, Genoa Salami and provolone)

Main Course: Italian American Lasagna with spiced meatballs

Side dish: Fresh baked sour dough bread and steamed artichokes.

Dessert: Carrot cake with vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberries on top

It ended up being a educational experience for the whole family, for my very non-culinary husband decided that he would help Cyan with the dessert once again. Twice in the same day looking up recipes and making them... Banner day for my man. :)

Cyan was very proud of her cake:

And Logan loved Daddy's cream cheese frosting. :)

It was a wonderful learning experience. There were tons of great learning opportunities. I think I may have them do this once a month this year and see how they improve their skills.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Alex's Potion Shop

Alex has spent the last week making a magic shop in his room. It is pretty adorable. He has a whole bunch of things in there that look ordinary, but have magical properties. Some of them are really inventive. Like last week he went out and collected rain water in a bottle. He calls it "last minute rain water". It was on sale for cheap because it's magical properties are unknown.

He had a simple piece of paper taped to his door that said that his shop was open, and I thought that for the work and time he has put in to his shop, that just wouldn't do. So I made him this sign:

It was very simple. I used a craft round from Micheal's and chalkboard paint. Then I drilled two holes in the top and hung it from thick brown ribbon. He loved it! I painted the other side as well. It currently says "Closed".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fine Art class #7 & #8 ~ Winslow Homer

These last two classes have been great. It is fun to see what kids have learned and be able to apply it to future lessons. Today and last Friday we studied Winslow Homer. He was an amazing American artist that started out drawing for newspapers and ended up being a master of capturing moments. He created so many beautiful works that it was hard to concentrate on the any one style, for he used many styles and many mediums, in his art work.

At first we talked a bit about his life and watched Winslow Homer ~ An American Original. Then we had a good chat about what it was to be an artist for a news paper in that time and how they were crucial; like the photographers of our time. They were counted on to draw exactly what they saw, and usually they were amazing artists as well, for they had to have their work not only be on paper, but on wood printing blocks so that they could add it to the printing press for the paper. To be able to make these took amazing skill, and Homer was a master.

Thousands of his paintings survived him. And his love of the pencil and paper were some of the things we concentrated on first. We talked about Monochromatic color schemes, and using only black and white to make the picture have depth using nothing but color value. We used the ditto from the Meet The Masters curriculum for this activity.

The kids were only allowed to use one pencil from their sets to color this whole page. They had to think of how hard they were pressing and the color values they had used next to each other to fill in all areas and create some depth to their picture. It was a neat exercise.

Then this week we started off with more talk on color value and depth perception. The activity that we were doing today had a lot with reflective plains, so we concentrated on that for a while. The kids each were given a chance to see what different plains will do to a reflected image. For example, if you are above the reflective plain you will see a nearly perfect image... like this:

But if you are at eye level with the plain (as you are with the sea and the sunset) you will see this:

Then, I had one of the kids move to the side of the mirror and as they looked they took turns shaking it a bit to simulate waves moving the reflective surface. They got SUCH a kick out of this activity. They probably didn't get all of the terminology, but that can always be touched up later. They completely got the concept and they really enjoyed finding other reflective surfaces during class to tell me about how the light was distorted and how long it made the reflection. These kids are truly amazing!

I illustrated what we were going to show on the paper up on the white board, showing the reflection of the sunset in a visually accurate way. They followed suit on pre-made pieces of paper put together to show the two plains of the sky and ocean (we made them last week).

We used torn paper (as suggested by Meet the Masters) to make monochromatic clouds and a rocky shore out of greys, whites, and blacks.

Then we made the sunset and the reflection, along with a few bird sillouettes. We discussed the bird siouettes in detail and why they would only be sillouettes in the setting sun. I took my camera and snapped a few pictures to show how this would be true to the eye if there was something between them and the setting sun.

I love the results for each kiddo. They were all so determined to get it finished and perfected.

After the project was completed we had a little review... and as I showed the paintings I have used in past classes, they kept seeing the way people painted reflections and pointing them out! LOL! Even Van Gogh painted a reflection of a person in the water on The Red Vineyard. I would have never even seen it... I love these kids.

Photo Friday

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Field trip with a side of homicide.

This morning Cyan asked if we could go to our favorite farm instead of the zoo like we had planned. I thought that sounded like a great idea as we hadn't been there for a few months now that we live 25 minutes away. We started getting our chores finished and then got ready to head out. Logan started in on his before nap routine about an hour early and so I begrudgingly decided that we would have to wait until after nap. I wasn't happy about it. But it was better to wait if Logan was going to melt down on our little field trip. So at 3:30pm we get on our way to go see the goats and pick up some apples for sauce to can.

It takes us a while to get down there since we have moved... but the kids got really excited as they started to see the familiar stuff around the farm, and the horses and houses... along with the huge pumpkin patches that we have gone to every year for pretty much their whole lives. When we pulled around to go into the parking lot however, it was taped off with yellow police tape. Don and I were both thinking that something was really strange... and then we saw the police cars... and then news vans. We knew as we drove by that something was really wrong.

I called my aunt who lives close to there and asked her to check online to see what had happened. This is what she found:

Woman Shot at Lattin's Cider Mill

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A woman showing up for work was gunned down by her former boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself.

Co-workers tried to stop the horrifying and deadly encounter as it played out at Lattin’s Cider Mill, a popular farm near Tumwater.

How stinkin' crazy is that? And on the one day we were going in the last 4 months??? SOOOO strange. So very strange. I seriously went to this farm once a week for 6 years or so. We spent Easters there, Halloweens there... We got all our eggs and produce from there for years! I have taken field trips with my homeschool group to there numerous times. I have pictures of Cyan feeding goats there as a toddler right next to my desk this second. It was a huge part of our Olympia lives. Just crazy.

I am having a crazy week folks. Feeling very strange and disjointed.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Better get on with it

Life, that is. Monday night I took the kids out to eat and we snuggled in my bed to watch a movie. This has become a very rare thing recently that is only done on mommy is near meltdown 'very special' occasions.

This last two weeks has been really rough. Yesterday was the pantry shelf fall out. Still dealing with a bit of shell shock on that one (and has absolutely NOTHING to do with the tv. Still figuring out how to get two more boxes of peaches this late in the season without breaking the bank too. That is the only thing that really was effected in mass quantities. Which sucks, because they take a LOT of work... unlike jam... which is easy and fast. Like I said: shell shock.)

But back to the tv... Last week the kids had some sort of argument about something related to who gets to pick the next movie and the bigger one ended up stabbing the younger one in the eye with a fork. Yes. A fork. In her eye. It was horrible. Luckily her reflexes took over and thank God because that meant that we had two puncture wounds on her eyelid instead of sight problems to deal with. Between this and the numerous toddler melt downs (every day) that have been going on around "movies"... I have taken the tv completely out of the living room. Now the only one we have is the 19inch in the bedroom. The game boys are gone too. I have even had to limit my cell phone (as there is a game demo on there that Logan will freak out if not allowed to play).

It was out of control for a while. We have not had cable tv since we have had children... but we do have the tv box and the Xbox console and so we rent and watch movies quite regularly. Things have been slowly changing at my household with regards to screen entertainment from a 'fun pastime' to a 'frantic addiction'. And it had to stop.

So out the tv went. Into the garage, covered with a quilt, with a huge tuperware under it of the all Xbox stuff, gameboys, and video games. The folders with the movies in them went into the top of my closet, and that was that. All the media, out of the center of the house.

What is strange is the last few days have really not been bad. The first days were hard. Espically on Logan, who, not really understanding, threw more fits than usual... but the last two days in particular, I have noticed that he doesn't freak out when I say 'no' about the movies. Yesterday when he asked I said "Nope... sorry bud, the tv is all gone." and he looked around the livingroom and said "Ok, you play puzzle with me?" That was that. I am sold. I may never let it back in.

It has been hard trying to get through the moves, and homeschooling two older ones etc to not use the tv as a crutch for the toddler. But we are settled now, and it is time to get back into the routines and rituals that we had when we were settled last time. No tv on weekdays. "Get outside." That was my mantra whenever my kids said they were bored. (Well, that and "Well I have something for you to do... go pair socks." which they hate to hear and will vow never to say to their children. I think all moms have some of those don't they?) I will even say it in the pouring down rain... "Get outside" when it is raining is then usually paired with "You will not melt."

TV free evenings are a treat for me now. The rituals that we started when we first moved here have now come alive. All of a sudden Logan is telling stories outloud. Full on, long stories which always invlove someone dying or being shot and always include lots of sound effects... and yesterday, someone brushing their teeth. Funny boy. Cyan builds fairy houses in the back yard again. Alex has taken up reading again and even spent time in the library the other day looking up a new book series he has had his eye on... which he read the first of in less than a day. It is amazing.

The world is out there... better get on with it.


Monday, September 14, 2009

A message from the help desk.

After 4 days of school, I have decided to put up a new little sign:

(Just kidding... well almost.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book pick of the week ~ A Hole Is To Dig

With the start of the school year starts another round of book picks! :) I love books but with the move, they have ended up being one of the very few things that are still in boxes. The other night I was with a friend at the book store and saw "The Night Kitchen" by Maruice Sendak, whom I have loved since I was a kid. It made me glance at his other books, and the only one that I didn't own as a child was "A Hole is to Dig" It was written by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, so I am guessing that is why we didn't own it. I picked it up and started reading... and haven't been able to stop laughing about it since!!

This book is filled with funny little definitions and pictures. Definitions that a two year old could completely relate to. This is my favorite page:

That little bit in the bottom left says "A floor is so you don't fall into the hole that your house is in."

The entire book is filled with these sweet little definitions. I have read it to my kids, to my husband, and now my daughter is reading it to me. If you can, put it on your kid library list. It will give you a chuckle...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Farm To Table and Beyond...

Yesterday, my kids didn't know what was coming. They knew it was the 'first day of school'... which to them meant just another day, but that the workboxes would be clean and they would have to do math. LOL! Little did they know, I had big things planned... which started with a special breakfast of Blue Corn Flakes.

After I put Logan down for nap, I pulled out my science curriculum. Last year was concentrating on botany and earth sciences. This year, we are doing a curriculum called "Farm to Table... and Beyond". What a fun curriculum this is! It starts with corn products, and then move on to making grape juice (processing), and go on to packaging, and then to waste where we calculate how long it will take for a years worth of our garbage to actually decompose (if any of it will). It should be educational for all of us. I am adding a bunch of experiments in there, so we are covering less than a lesson per week... but I am really excited.

Needless to say, today was corn. First, I grabbed all the corn products I had in the house. Actually, I had to buy some. We don't keep corn syrup or corn oil in the house... and we don't use it at all. So I had to find some organic (non-GMO) corn oil and syrup. It took some more cash, but it was the difference between spending $3 and throwing it away, or spending over twice that and having something I may actually use in my kitchen eventually.

They had a wonderful diagram that I copied for the kids of the parts of a corn kernel (endosperm, germ, and seed coat) and simple definitions of each part. I had the kids direct this model on the white board so they could see how much oil, water, starch, fiber and protein there really was in corn. It was funny, but as I came and sat down again I saw Cyan glancing into the corn oil cup with a very intent look on her face. I could only imagine that she was thinking "How do they get that 4% oil out of each of the corn kernels?"

The next part of the lesson consisted of nothing more than questions. They were asked to pull out their notebooks and pick a corn product. Then they were asked "How do you think that this product was taken out of the corn?" and "What part of the corn do you think this came from?" Cyan told me her answers and I wrote them on the board (this is a 6th grade curriculum after all... I want to make it as easy for her as possible to follow along), and then I had Alex write his answers in complete sentences in his notebook.

This is one of his answers:

It says;

Corn Flour

It is similar to the corn kernel because it is yellow and smells like it.

My product is different because it is a powder.

I think they take out the germ of the corn kernel and and then they grind the rest up and let the liquid dry out to make flour.

That is EXACTLY how they make corn flour! I have to admit to being pretty amazed. I don't know why. He and I have talked about food for years... but still, you just never know what they will retain. When I read the next section (on how to make corn flour, starch, and syrup) he was grinning ear to ear because he knew he had guessed exactly right. It was a great lesson!

And just to add some more science to our day, I had Cyan go check on our Topsy Turvy experiment... three more for the 'growing down'!

Growing up: 9

Growing down: 12

The Topsy Turvy is taking the lead. I still don't know if that is because of the May toddler disaster, or because it just grows more tomatoes... but it has been super interesting!

Friday, September 11, 2009

First day of 'school'

It sounds SO funny to say that considering we never stopped and we have had classes at least three times a week for two months! But... we started Math U See today... so that means that we 'started school'... LOL!

We started out with a review of the math rods. I pulled out her princess addition and subtraction flash cards and I (or Alex) would pull a card and she would make them with the rods, and then tell us the answer. The problems were not the important part... she has been adding and subtracting double digits for a while now... but it was the use of the rods that I wanted to reinforce.

She did just great! We quickly moved on to the first lesson in her new math book and found out that even that was review! She already knew her place value... but it was good to get some reinforcement for that as well.

I moved her on to reading, and went to check on Alex... who was doing great! He was doing a lesson from his math that was a unit review as well... and without my help he was able to look up where he was in the text book, figure out which problems. I can't tell you how much of an improvement over when he was in public school. He couldn't do anything (and I mean ANYTHING) by himself. Now he is looking up words from his math book in a dictionary, and then finding the correct lesson and doing the problems all by himself. If I pulled him out for the self motivation alone, it would have been worth it. He is a really amazing kid.

And turning into a beautiful young man as well.

I just love my children... so very much.

We also started the most wonderful science curriculum EVER today. I will tell you about that tomorrow. ;)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tiny Birthday Party for Hally ~ Cyan's Doll

Cyan and I decided that Hally, her doll, needed a birthday. And between that and finding this set on sale at JoAnn's for $6 came the "Tiny Party". We have been planning it for months... since before her birthday party in July actually. lol! But I wasn't about to add another party into that crazy month... so we made this party for Sept and sent out the invitations (tiny ones of course) to 5 of her little friends a couple of weeks ago.

Today was the day! The Tiny Party day!

Due to a tiny mix up in invitation wording, everyone showed up an hour earlier than I thought... so I was still very much in prep mode when they got here. Luckily, little girls bearing dolls can find 'something' to do while they wait. :)

I finished up making their lunch and we got on to the party!

First we ate a snack of tiny biscotti, tiny candies and cookies in tiny gift bags, and tiny crackers with tiny cheese flowers.

Then got set with the crafts. Shrinky Dinks!

The girls all picked out which charms they wanted and I cut them out so they could color them. This was a really cool project as most of the girls had never seen these before... so they were all in awe of the magic of tiny Shrinky Dinks.

Then we ate tiny sandwiches, tiny cupcakes, and lemonade in our tiny goblets... and they sat around and has some tiny girl talk.

Then a second batch of Shrinky Dinks!

When the second batch was cool, everybody picked theirs out and we put them in a tiny gift box. Each of the girls ended up getting enough stretchy string to make a bracelet out of the Shrinky Dinks they had made, and then a necklace for their dolls as well. They had a wonderful time and I think it is so great that Cyan has such fun friends!

Happy Birthday Hally!!