October 12, 2011 at 6:00 am
One of my kids’ favorite annual projects is apple painting.
I think we have put apple prints on just about everything — bags, table runners, T-shirts, greeting cards, homemade wrapping paper …
We love using apple halves and apples cut the other way, to reveal the star inside.
A friend gave us homemade banners to decorate with apple prints this year. She made them with pieces of muslin and wooden dowels.
They will be nice decorations for our home all season, and a perfect mama keepsake for years to come!
Quick Apple Print tips:
- Be sure to cover your table and wear old clothes.
- Cut lots of apples to devote to each color, but later in the process you can mix the yellow, red and green paint to get some really beautiful and realistic looking apple images.
- It’s easy to make a little “handle” in the apple half. Just cut a way a small piece from each side!
A Little Apple Story
October 11, 2011 at 6:00 am
Have you ever done the little apple poem with your kiddos?
I had the opportunity this week to share it with a new group of pre-schoolers, and I had kind of forgotten how completely excited they get. It seems like some kind of magic to find that little star inside.
The Apple Star
Take an apple, round and red
Don’t slice down, slice through instead
Open it up and you will see
A star inside for you and me!
We have been doing an Apple Week here since the kids were tiny and have discovered a lot of amazing apple-themed books over the years like The Apple Pip Princess, Jane Yolen’s Johnny Appleseed biography, Apples and Pumpkins and lots and lots of others.
What are your favorite apple books and stories?
Monday Morning Organic Journal
October 10, 2011 at 6:00 am
This Monday morning we are …
- Celebrating everything APPLES! Coming up we will be talking apple painting, apple recipes, apple learning and apple orchard love!
- Studying migration.
- Building some autumn backyard fun.
- Stockpiling canned pumpkin (I bought 6 cans) for pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pies, pumpkin bars, pumpkin waffles and pumpkin smoothies!
What are you up to this fine Monday morning?
Fall Fun: Leaf Rubbings
October 6, 2011 at 6:00 am
One of our favorite fall activities is to go for a hike (or even just hit the back yard) to look for cool and interesting leaves.
The kids and I spent a lot of time last week talking about leaves, why they change color, and all the different variety of trees that can be found in our area.
Afterwards, we took a stroll and a chose a variety of fallen leaves to take home and make leaf rubbings.
We used simple recycled paper, beeswax block crayons and our leaf collection to make a seasonal display for the front door. In the past we have also used cardstock to make autumn greeting cards for family and friends.
Quick how-to: Fold a piece of paper in half and insert the leaf into the middle. Holding the paper (and leaf inside) very still, rub the top with a block crayon or the side of a regular crayon. You may need to rub pretty hard to get a clear pattern to show up, so the littlest ones may need a bit of help.
This is an excellent project for tiny hands, though, and something we have been doing here since the kids were tiny!
How are you bringing little bits of fall inside your home?
Easy Beginner Sewing: Bean Bags
September 28, 2011 at 6:00 am
My kids have been requesting sewing lately. Just about every day, they ask to sit at the machine and practice. So I have been on the look-out for some quick and simple projects.
We whipped up these Star and Moon beanbags this week to go along with the astronomy unit we are doing for school right now.
Then we took a little break and played a few bean bag games. What kind of games, you ask? A few creative beanbag tosses; hot potato; and a new favorite game we like to play here called “Hide the fill-in-the blank.” (In this case, a beanbag.)
All three games are very simple and basic, but my kids love them. Kind of like how they love making these quick and easy beanbags.
To make your own, you will need:
- A pencil or marker
- A funnel
Begin by tracing a shape onto your fabric. If you don’t want to draw free-hand, you can get a silhouette of your shape from Google Images and trace around it.
You want to trace or draw your shape onto the wrong side of the fabric and make the lines fairly dark, but not so dark you can see them on the other side.
(This is imporant — you’ll see why in a minute!). Cut around the outside of the lines leaving a little room extra fabric around the edges.
Place right sides together and help your child sew up using the pencil or marker lines as a guide.
Sew almost all the way around, leaving a small hole. Flip the fabric right-side-out and use the pencil or marker to poke-out any corners.
Use the funnel to fill the bag with beans. Tuck the edges of the hole over to create a seam.
Sew up the seam and top stitch all the way around. (You may need to stop a few times to push beans out of the way.)
Make sure the beanbag is all sewn up. And then, PLAY!
Making your own nutbutter
September 22, 2011 at 6:00 am
We have been mixing up a lot of trouble this week, including making nutbutter.
I want to be sure to clarify that normally, I just buy a jar of almond butter, or peanut butter or sometimes cashew butter. Because this is a bit of a process. But once in a while (especially if you are studying squirrels!) it’s a lot of fun, and my kids love it.
The end product is pretty tasty too … if you are patient.
The process is pretty much the same for making any type of nutbutter, but you may have to adjust the roastng time and oil and honey amounts a little. We made almond butter and roasted the nuts for about 6 minutes.
2 cups of nuts
2-3 tablespoons of light oil
1 tablespoon honey
Roast nuts in a 35–degree oven until they are brown and fragrant.
In a blender or food processor mix nuts and oil and pulse until combined, stopping often to wipe down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. This might take a while, but eventually the mix will turn into a chunky butter. If it is just not mixing, try adding another small drizzle of oil.
When mixture looks like a smooth consistency, transfer to a bowl, add honey and stir well.
Serve with apple slices and crackers or oatmeal bread (recipe tomorrow!). Keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for just a day or two.
September 21, 2011 at 6:00 am
There have been a lot of puppet plays going on around here lately.
Like the one where a witch named Ted stole a parrot’s voice. It had 9 acts. But eventually, Ted redeemed himself.
The plays began with a few baskets, and a simple stage. We are having a lot of fun getting the whole family involved, and creating lots of silly stories.
Here’s what you need to start your own very mini production company:
- A stage curtain. Pretty quick to make with a wooden dowel rod and a couple of pieces of fabric. Non-sewers can use fabric glue to create the curtains.
- More fabric. The kids used their small table to create their stage, and use the tablecloth as part of the production. Some play silks are very handy as well.
- Puppets. These can be full-size puppets, finger puppets, small stuffed animals or dolls or even homemade puppets, if you are up for repurposing some solo socks.
- Props. This is where you can go bananas. We are finding blocks, small wooden pieces and parts of various playsets helpful. We also have some dollhouse type furniture that has been handy.
- A whole bunch of imagination and improv theater-like support. There are no bad ideas, every can participate, and if something goes wrong, just go with it. It will probably work out just fine!
September 15, 2011 at 6:00 am
A long time ago, I worked with a woman who affectionately referred to herself as a “bag lady.”
She had a lot of bags. She would drag them into work every morning — filled with papers and books, yogurt and recipes.
She was awesome. Still is, I’m sure.
But she had nothing on me in the bag department. I am a bag lady too — I have countless reusable cotton bags. I use them for everything — grocery shopping, the library, taking things to and from our homeschooling events.
I pack big lunches in them and keep a change of clothes for each kid in one in the trunk. I have another for books, papers, crayons and other “backseat items.”
I keep one stocked with outside gear like sunscreen and rain boots, so it is always ready to grab and go.
So, you can understand how when I say something to one of my kids like, “put it in the library bag, Pumpkin.” They look at me like I just said, “Put it in the decapitated head, Pumpkin.”
How is anyone, especially a 4- and 7-year-old supposed to know what bag I am referencing?
Enter the bag tags! (For Midwest flair, go ahead and pronounce that “baaaaag taaaaags.”)
These quick bags tags are made from felt and ribbon, so that they can be tied to any bag. Because sometimes you bring a raw chicken home in a bag. Or some dirty socks. And you’ve just got to trade out your bags while you do some very necessary laundry.
I made one for the library, another for the car, one for our homeschooling co-op and one for things that we need to return or loan to friends.
But you could make all kids of bag tags: for the gym; for school; for work; for overnights at Grandma’s …anything that you do enough to justify two inexpensive pieces of recycled felt and about 15 minutes.
I cut two pieces of each shape from different colors and sewed them up using a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine.
Note: Nervous about cutting free-hand? Check Google Images for a silhouette of whatever shape you are making and print it out, then trace onto your felt.
The great thing about felt is that it is so forgiving. Just about anything looks cute and holds together!
So what kind of bag tag do you need in your home?
Creating a seasonal table
September 14, 2011 at 6:00 am
I mentioned on Monday that this week we will be updating our seasonal table.
This is something we started doing several years ago — having a seasonal or nature table in our home.
But here is a quick funny story … Our nature table is “housed” on a small table that my grandfather bought for my grandmother many years ago. Before my grandfather died, he gave it to me.
I think because it reminded him or her. But this all worked out, because it reminds me of both of them. It reminds me of their love and commitment to each other. And so, even though it is essentially just a decorative table, it is important to me that it is a part of our home.
It’s grain engraving makes it a perfect fit for a nature table, I think.
And so, when Owen was old enough, we created a nature table for all of his “treasures.”
It was around the time that he started pre-school, so we were also arranging other areas of our home to be more conducive to learning.
My husband, seeing the nature table, suggesting we re-appropriate it since the kids were just putting random stuff on it.
I am sure this is how our first nature table looked — like some random junk piled up without much of a plan or design.
Since then, our nature table has changed a lot. It not only changes every season, but it sometimes changes day to day.
It is home to rocks and shells, pinecones, leaves, acorns, seeds, flowers, bug exoskeletons, twigs, bark and various other found items.
It is a place that brings the outside in, and it is a place my kids visit a lot …stopping to see something that to them has a lot of meaning.
I think my grandparents would have liked that.
Do you have a nature table in your home?
My Many Calendars and My New-Age Meal Plan
September 8, 2011 at 6:00 am
A long time ago, when I worked as a newspaper reporter, when I would get overwhelmed I would dash to the office supply store for some new paper clips and fancy pens.
This served two purposes (I realize now) … it took me out of the crazy for a minute or two, and it gave me the illusion of organization.
Perhaps I wasn’t really that much more organized, but a deep breath and an actual working pen helped tremendously.
I still love the idea of being organized.
Organization is NOT something that comes easily, however. And so, I work at it — bit by bit and piece by piece.
One tool I find really helpful is calendars. I have a lot of them: a school calendar; a cleaning calendar; a blog calendar and a meal plan calendar.
Recently, I have embraced the smart phone revolution and I have synced my Google calendar to my phone.
This is almost too much technology for me to handle, but it is giving me a new lease on planning, especially when it comes to meals.
Meal planning has always been a chore for me. As much as I love feeding my family wholesome and nutritious food, it is hard for me to come up with a lot of variety that is also pleasing to four palates.
Add in some food intolerances and general dislikes, and meal planning stops being much fun (as if it were ever fun in the first place).
But my Google Calendar is making meal planning a little simpler. And when it comes to food, I am all for simple.
I have recently plugged in general ideas for meals each night of the week:
- Sunday is chicken or fish
- Monday is salads
- Tuesday is Soup or Pasta
- Wednesday is breakfast (Wednesdays are a busy day for us, so a quick egg-based dinner is fast and easy)
- Thursday is tacos
- Friday is pizza
- Saturday is rice or potatoes
This general framework makes plugging in ideas easier, but still opens us up to a little variety. There’s lots of stuff you can put on pizzas, for instance; and Saturdays could be risotto, or could be a baked potato bar. Mondays and Thursdays I program in reminders to cook beans in my slow cooker so they are always ready.
This plan also works for us because of our split cooking situation here. I still eat primarily vegetarian. My husband needs more meat. The kids like most foods, but also like some choices when it comes to dinner, like what to put on their salads or pizzas.
With the school year starting, I am hoping this new meal plan will get us eating a variety of seasonal foods, but still give me a framework that keeps the overwhelming feelings away.
Otherwise, I just might buy even more paperclips.
Do you meal plan?