Friday, April 30, 2010

Nature Resource for Arbor Day!

The National Arbor Day Foundation has  free educational resources to help connect your children with nature. The program is called Nature Explore Families' Club and it offers free resources that you can use with your family or within the context of your homeschool co-op, school, club or neighborhood!
The Families’ Club kit has everything you need to connect families with the outdoors and each other, while introducing them to a variety of natural spaces in the community.

With the Families’ Club kit, you will find easy to use, developmentally appropriate activities designed to engage families in exploring the natural world together. The free Club kit includes general information and customizable forms to get started ,a facilitator’s guide with helpful hints on organization, and nine visual, child-friendly activity sheets with facilitator notes specific to each one.

Go here to get your free kit

Also, don't forget to sign up for your Resource Book. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Night and Morning Rituals

Every night when I tuck Maggie into bed I sing her this song.  I have sung this to her since Day 1.  I don't think we have ever missed a night.  Sometimes I sing it alone, but most of the time we sing it together.  When we are done we do our hug and kiss and our night is done.

I remember both my grandma and my mom singing this song.  It's fun to having something to pass down to Maggie.  She already tells me when she has children she is going to sing it to them.  :)

When she wakes up in the morning I sing "Good Morning to you, Good Morning to you, Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning to you" to the tune of "happy birthday". 
Do you have any night or morning "rituals" you do with your children?  I would love to hear them!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another year has flown by!

Today is my birthday!!  I love birthdays!  I have always been one of those people who has loooong birthdays.  Meaning, they usually start a few days before the actual day and end days later.  LOL  I love that!

Friday night Chris and Maggie took me out to dinner, Mexican food.  I had a delicious Shrimp Cocktail, and then I was surprised with a new camera.  Chris bought me my Nikon for my birthday a couple years ago, but I have wanted a small camera for convenience.  So he bought me a Canon PowerShot.  I have been a snapping fool since I got it.

Saturday we went shopping at the Hardware store.  They have an awesome Garden Center.  Yes.  This was my idea of fun and exactly what I wanted to do!  I ended up getting some beautiful Gardenia plants and some English Thyme to plant under my front living room window.  Can't wait until they bloom.  Chris and Maggie took me out to lunch.  I had a wonderful French Dip Sandwich (my favorite!) and some french fries that were out of this world!  Here is a picture of my little beauty while we were waiting for our food:

My parents came up on Sunday and gave me my birthday present. After they left we went shopping and I bought lots of new clothes. (thanks mom and dad!)  This was big for me.  I have been waiting.....and waiting to by new clothes because I keep thinking I'm going to lose weight and don't want to waste money. Well, I bit the bullet anyway.  It's nice to have new clothes.  :)
Then Sunday night we had a "block party".  Everyone brought meat and a side dish and we BBQ'd.  Had a lot of fun, but it was a late night.  Maggie had a blast.

Today is my actual birthday.  I spent the majority of the day with my favorite girl.  My friend and her daughter stopped by for a bit. Chris came home from a side-job and took us out to Chinese food for dinner.  YUM!  We had:

Won Ton Soup

Honey Walnut Prawns and Asparagus with Beef

and Combination Rice

While there I found out I was born in the Year of the Goat.  I can't help but think that is just another sign that I need  a few Nigerian Dwarf Goats!  I kinda laughed at what the year of the goat says:

Except for the knack of always getting off on the wrong foot with people, the Goat can be charming company. Your are elegant and artistic but the first to complain about things. Put aside your pessimism and worry and try to be less dependent on material comforts. You would be best as an actor, gardener, or beachcomber.
Now after all this I was SUPER stuffed.  But, not too full for Rainbow Birthday Cake!  Check this out!

Whodda thunk a cake made with Diet 7Up would look so fun and taste so yummy!

Anyway, turning 43 isn't all that bad!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Euroepan Starling

Yesterday one of my cats was sitting by the window very intently looking into the willow tree that is right outside.  I slowly opened the blinds and I saw a European Starling sitting pretty much right next to me.  The sun was shining brightly on it and it reflected some beautiful colors!  I looked the bird up on What Bird and found a recording of what it sounds like when it is singing.  Since my computer is right next to the window I turned on the sound and turned up the volume.  The bird outside kept "talking" to the recording.  It was such a beautiful sound!  If you click here you can here it too!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Egg Geodes, pt 2

Day 9.  This has been an interesting project!  A lot has happened since Day 1!

*Click on pictures to make bigger

How did we do this?  Well, it was pretty simple!

Save some of your eggshells that you have used.  When you are getting ready to use your egg, crack the top and let the egg drip out.  I used a spoon to crack the top so I could control what was breaking.  You can remove as much or as little eggshell as you want.   Make sure you clean them out VERY well, especially the membrane (this took time...kind of a pain!).  You don't want mold! 

Next you need to boil up some water.  I used a 1/2 C at a time.  This filled 2 eggs.  When the water is boiling add in anything that dissolves in water.  You can use Epsom Salt, Sea Salt, Sugar, Cream of Tartar, Borax, etc.  Put as much in that will dissolve in water.  Add food coloring.  Then wait. 
Here is a more close up look at our project and what we used:

Sea Salt.  Funny how they are so different from each other even though it was the same batch of water.  I wonder if it had anything to do with they type of egg we used.  The brown is fresh laid from our hens.  The white was store bought egg, so they are much older than fresh laid. 

White Sugar

Sea Salt

Epsom Salt

Epsom Salt 
These were suppose to be Borax but I accidentally poured Epsom Salt in.  {sigh}

I think I am going to let the experiment go another week and see what happens!

We have been doing a lot of Rockhounding lately, so this is tying in perfectly.  We even found some of our own real geodes. 

This was a fun activity for Maggie and I. Her dad even got a curious and would check on the eggs. So this is something the whole family can get involved in! I would love to see pictures of yours if you do an Egg Geode experiment!

Thanks to Roots and Wings Co for the great idea!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

down---to---earth: The genuine article

down---to---earth: The genuine article

I know I said I was going to write and share pictures of our Egg Geode experiement, which is turning out really, really cool! But I read this blog post by Rhonda this morning and it really hit home. Thought it was too good to keep to myself!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daycation, Part One

We went for a "Daycation" on Saturday.  Maggie loves "daycations" and likes to tell us the difference between a "daycation" and a "vacation".  She gets a kick out of the simplest things!  I will probably be breaking this post up into two because we did a couple of really fun things while we were out.  We drove up to the Mendocino Coast to a town named Fort Bragg.  It's absolutely gorgeous there.  If you have never had the opportunity to see the Mendocino Coast line, you need to.  It's my absolute favorite place to visit.  I love to drive down to the little town of Mendocino and walk through all the neat little stores.  There is a great little shop that has the biggest and best chocolate covered strawberries!  And a really fun toy store that has lots of toys from way back when.  But now I am getting off on a completely different subject, as we didn't do that this weekend!  LOL  We ended up staying in Fort Bragg and going to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and then we headed to Glass Beach.  Today's post will be about the Gardens!

The garden is 47 acres of beauty.  As you walk down the trails and pathways you find yourself at the back of the garden right along side the coastline.  There are benches that sit in lush green grass so you can sit and watch the water rise up and crash on the giant rocks in the water.  The Pacific Ocean is breathtaking.  We really couldn't have picked a more beautiful day.  We all dressed warm thinking it was going to be chilly by the water, but everyone took off hats, sweatshirts and enjoyed the warmth the sunshine provided!

This is the season when the Rhododendrons, Camellias, Daffodils, Magnolias, and a few other flowers are in full bloom.  The colors were so deep, bright.  They were truly amazing.  Here is just a small glimpse into what we got to see!

Aren't they beautiful!  And there was so much more, I just didn't know which pictures to share!  LOL

And here are a few of the ocean shots. 

And a couple of random pictures from the garden

We really had a wonderful time.  I can see where you could really spend a couple of hours just combing through all the little trails and pathways.  I have read that there is about 130-150 different species of birds in the gardens as well.
I am looking forward to going back in September when the Dahlia's are in bloom.  They are one of my favorites!

I can't wait to share Glass Beach with you! What a neat beach with a very interesting story!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Egg Geodes, Day 1

Just filled our eggs.  Waiting to see what happens.

About 1 hour after starting our project. 

Hopefully we will have something neat to show in a few days!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Julie & Julia

 I just got done watching Julie & Julia on Sunday night.  I loved it.  I know, I know. I am behind the times on movies.  It definitely would have been worth paying to go see at the theater.  I really loved watching both peoples stories, but honestly, I wouldn't have been disappointed with a whole movie about Julia Child.  She was a very interesting character!  And very inspiring as well! 

When I saw Julie cooking Boeuf Bourguignon I HAD to have it.  It looked so delicious!  It was much to late to try to start making it Sunday night, but guess what we had for dinner last night??  Yup, you guess it!  And you know what?  It was every bit as good as I thought it would be.  Rich, flavorful goodness steaming on my plate.  Who can resist bacon, red wine, mushrooms, beef.......

Once in a while you get a recipe that is a lot of work and you wonder if it will be worth the effort needed to make it.  When I saw this recipe I got a bit intimidated.  There was a lot to do.  The "skill level" was difficult.  I am not a great cook, I can cook but i'm pretty basic.  Once I got started I got a little nervous, but as I plugged along and smelled all the flavors filling my kitchen I became more at ease.  I, yes me, made Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon and I did a good job!  Can you see me patting my back? 

Because I am proud of my efforts, I have to show off a picture.  So hear it is.  In all it's glory!

If you ever want a "special" beef stew, make this.  You wont be disappointed!

I am feeling inspired now to try some new recipes.  I am kind of thinking of making Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons tonight for dinner.  I will let you know how it is if I do!

Just in case anyone is interested in making Beef Bourguignon, here is the recipe.  Let me know if you make it, or if you are reading this and already made it.  I'm on a JC kick right now!  I need some pearls and a new apron!

 Beef Bourguignon
One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone or Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Cooking Directions
Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.

When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

Serve in casserole, or arrange stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles or rice, and decorated with parsley.

Bon Appétit  

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bullock's Oriole

I saw this beautiful bird this morning while I was looking out my front window.  I actually snapped this picture in between my blinds so I wouldn't make it fly away by going outside.  I have never seen this bird before so I was pretty excited to spot it.  I quickly took pictures and came back to the computer to identify him.  I found out he is a Bullock's Oriole. 
After I got the pictures I wanted, Maggie and I snuck outside and watched him flutter around in our Weeping Willows.  He was so content and happy, and sang a beautiful song!

I was kind of bummed though because I got a couple of really great close ups and accidentally deleted both.  {sigh}

A few minutes later this little guy came buzzing by for a quick meal too.....

I just love hummingbirds!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Spring is definitely in the air!

Good grief!  It's almost been a week since my last post!  Time sure has gotten away from me!  I guess I will just have to "recap" a little of what has been going on here!

On the project home-front we made a Spring Bouquet.  It was really fun, and turned out cute.  These have become a tradition in our house over the last couple of years.  Chris and Maggie started making them when he was a stay at home dad.  This time we got to do them as a family.  :)

We have had a lot of excitement around here as well.  Something we have been waiting for for some time FINALLY happened!  Ellen DeHeneres laid her first egg!  And, not only was it her first egg, it was also green!!  We have been a bit disappointed with Meryl Peep, who gave us a brown one, which is rare for the Easter Egger hens.  It's hard to tell the color as it is pretty light, but here is our green beauty!

She is in her box right now laying her second egg.  I'm hoping it's a bit darker.  :) 

And something we were expecting but didn't know when it would happen was the birth of Daisy's babies.  5 sweet little fuzzy babies.  3 striped, 2 black.  They are so stinkin' cute! 

Hours old

One baby-1 day old

3 days old

Daisy will be going in to get spayed in 12 weeks.

Yesterday we had an unexpected surprise.  SNOW in Northern California.  We were bummed it didn't stick, but it was sure pretty coming down!

Right before it started snowing we saw our neighborhood Coyote running about in the field.  He/She sure is pretty!

And today we had a little food fun.  We made Rice Crispy Treat Easter Eggs and Chocolate Covered Raisins.

Somewhere in between we have snuck in homeschooling and a lot of game playing.  I also got some great products in the mail this week that I will post a review on next week.  We have been having a lot of fun with that as well!

Hope everyone is having a great day!


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