Friday, March 29, 2013

{this moment} - Cuz I love his smile


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seedlings in egg shells

A few years ago I did a ‘crafts in egg shell’ series on my homescooling blog.  We used egg shells to make egg shaped candles, filled eggs with tiny fairy treats and covered them with beautiful tissue paper, and we figured out how to dye eggs with natural dyes.  But my favorite project that came out of that spring was the egg shell garden.


We placed a small amount of seedling soil in each egg shell, tucked in some seeds, and sprayed it lightly with a spray bottle every couple of days.


When they were getting too big for the windowsill, we cracked the bottom of the egg shell and tucked these babies into the garden!


Due to the nature of many of these herbs, I have never had to plant them again!  Many are just starting to come up from it’s winter sleep and the leaves are tiny and very potent.   We ate some of the oregano in spaghetti sauce a couple of weeks ago.  The chives have since split into three clumps and are about a foot tall right now.  We had them in stroganoff just last night! 

It would be a beautiful way to treat someone to their own Easter herb garden!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Homeschooling Today - A library of live cams

Spring time is the time of babies!  Our homeschool nature study naturally turns to watching out for the babies in our world this time of year.  It’s not always easy to see nature in a big city like ours though.  And being outside Seattle, it’s not always the right weather for being outside either.  (My children have many pictures of raindrops in their nature journals.)  One of the best ways to get a real life view of animals without stepping foot outdoors is watching them on Live Cams!


A few years ago we spent countless hours studying eagles and watching the live cam from when the eggs were laid to when the babies fledged.  It was amazing to see!  And it seemed to happen so fast.  Often I would just leave it up on the laptop and the kids would walk by and get sucked in as the mama eagle would land and feed her babies some gruesome bit of something or watching the little white fluff balls toddle around the nest as their parents spent more and more time away.  Eventually, they got dark brown/black feathers and hopped around the nest beating their wings, and by the end of April, we turned it on, and they were gone.

This year we are studying nocturnal animals and we have spent some time watching these live cams and loved seeing the barn owl eggs hatch!  I find myself wondering how fast they will grow and how they compare to the eagles in their rapid growth.

Bat House live cam at University of Florida

Barn Owl nesting box at Owl Channel Live (brand new babies right now!)

Here are some other live cams we have looked at through out our nature study adventures. 

Baby tree kangaroo at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, WA

All About Birds Red-Tailed Hawk live cam

Live Eagle Cam from the Outdoor Channel outside Washington DC

Penguin cam of rescue birds that were stranded outside their habitat in Brazil.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is especially wonderful as she is sitting on eggs right now and I can’t wait to see what happens with them!

Happy Homeschooling!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Living School

This week we took the week off from school.  We spent less than an hour doing school work and that was quick lessons in math.  I spent a lot of time feeling guilty and behind.  That is, until I looked at what we DID do.

Instead of sitting in our desks, we spent the whole week gardening, planting, testing the soil, amending the soil for the things it was depleted in, adding compost and building hoop houses.  Cyan took a whole afternoon to convert a quick bread recipe into muffins and made a double batch of those to eat while watching Bill Nye the Science Guy on Smell and Senses.  And yet, there were multiple times I had to pull myself back from the abyss of frustration that I couldn’t find the time in there to make sure they got their spelling lists memorized or we didn’t ever finish the coyote lapbook. 

This week for my youngers was in sharp contrast with what my oldest was doing only his second month in public high-school.  He spent the whole week doing HSPB testing to make sure he wasn’t ‘left behind’.  I don’t begrudge the schools for making sure that their system is pumping out kids that can read and write.  In fact, I appreciate it.  But it’s just that.  A system.  A manmade solution to an organic process.  The contrast between what society thinks kids need to learn and what they really will use in their adult lives has always been a point of issue for me.

Anyhow… on to what we learned this week:


Cyan read the instructions for all of the tests (three of which were the same, and one was different), and she did the whole process all on her own.  Our discovery was rather remarkable:



PH Seems to be fine.  The level is slightly acidic, but most plants that are planted this early (brassicas, lettuces, and other green leafy vegetables) like a slightly acidic soil.  I will add lime and compost later to bring the acidity level to neutral so that my later plants stay happy and healthy.








Phosphorus:  There is none.  Phosphorus helps the plant mature and supply fruit.  If the soil is depleted in phosphorus the plants will mature late and have small or no fruit and flowers.  To get the levels of phosphorus in my garden high enough for good growth I added bone meal to the top 6 inches of the soil and mixed it in well.  For continued supplementation and hopefully long term solution I am adding lots of organic compost.






Potash/Potassium: There is none.  Potash is important to overall plant health and helps in the process of photosynthesis.  To add more potash to my garden, I am adding a dusting of wood ashes and some commercial organic potash for a short term solution for the plants that are starting to grow right now (peas, onions, and kale).  Then, on top of that, I am adding lots and lots of organic compost for a longer lasting solution to fix the potassium in the soil and release more slowly over the season.






Nitrogen:  OFF THE CHARTS.  This must be the chicken bedding we added to compost on the beds.  My guess is that they ate everything of ‘green’ value (which would provide the other nutrients as well) and then pooped out the high nitrogen fertilizer.  Too much nitrogen will cause my plants to grow VERY quickly and very green.  Too quickly to let them get strong.  It will also cause the plant to use all of it’s energy in making leaves, and too little into making flowers and fruit.  To alleviate this issue, I am going to add wood chips to the top of the boxes after my plants are in the ground (and after I add the rest of the supplements, including the compost).  The breakdown of the wood chips will bind some of the nitrogen making what is left available to the plants in smaller amounts. 


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spontaneous Gratitude for an Emerging Spring

I’m worn out.  So many changes have been made in the last few months.  I am finding it hard to blog much because I don’t have a lot of good to say.  It’s not that there isn’t good.  It’s all just so much WORK.  I’m just worn.  This year started out hard and hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier as these three months have gone by.  I can tell you that my husband getting into a bad car accident and Alex getting in trouble at his brand new school were not things I was planning on dealing with.  Thankfully, both of those turned out ok, and aside from some scars, Don is going to be just fine.

It’s time to try to see the world around me without seeing the dark and scary everywhere I turn.  I have lost some of my ability to see the beauty in the little things.  Getting it back will require work.  Sometimes I just don’t know how much effort I have left in me.  I am desperate for some reminders that Spring comes… that the year begins anew and that summer will be here.  Warmth, lots of time outside, fresh garden food… even just the thought of these things cheers me up a little.  So I spent last week doing little things that make me happy around the house.  Spring cleaning projects mostly.  Making everything fresh and new.  It’s not a huge thing… but it’s a start.  And for any start, I am grateful.

I am eternally grateful for…


For things I have in my garage that I can turn into a beautiful spring wreath for the door in 15 minutes or less.


For at least one day where we were able to go outside without a coat and do our school work in the sunshine.


New Hellebores!  (I never knew how lovely these flowers were.  They were free from a neighbor of a friend.  I am stunned!  I love them.)


For crocus.  Because their happy faces make my face happy.


I hope you all are having a beautiful March!


Friday, March 15, 2013

{this moment} - Logan and Laundry


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What happens to a police car when it hits a pole

My husband got into an accident two weeks ago today.  He is doing just fine and is back at work this week, and aside from cracked rib or two and a couple head scars he won’t have any lasting damage.  His car?  Not so much.



They were on their way to an officer involved shooting call.  They were going fast, and they were in the rain.  They tried to go around a car that didn’t yield to the right.  They spun around, and hit a telephone pole, breaking it off.  They were taken to the hospital and it was found that both had rib issues, and Don had head lacerations from his rifle rack that sits between and behind the seats. 

They were also VERY lucky.

His car is completely totaled.  These pictures don’t even do the damage justice.  The whole back end of the car, including the wheels and axel, are shoved to one side.  The whole backside of the car is displaced. 

His head will never look the same.


But it is healing.  He is doing well.  Back at work and getting those good razzings that come along with a high-stress profession.  Because in the end, those hard comments mean you are still alive and they care about you. 

It’s another day where I am very happy my husband is alive.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Coloring dessert with fruit & vegetable juices

In the last year I have discovered it is actually very easy to use vegetable juices to color most any dessert item - from frosting to cookies to cake.  Most everyone loves ‘pretty’ food.  Our bodies are programed to want foods that are a variety of colors.  This fact has been used by the food industry to sell us products for years.  But It is way easier to run a factory than a farm, so often the ‘eat the rainbow’ concept only known to those who saw 1990s Skittles commercials. 


When it comes to coloring dessert with fruit and vegetable juices, there are a few obvious questions.

*Does it change the flavor?  The answer is yes.  But not a lot, and not in a bad way.  I mean.  Don’t get me wrong, I use spinach juice over kale juice for a reason even though kale has more juice in each bunch.  Spinach you can’t really taste at all.  Kale?  Yeah. Kale cake = not so good. 

*How to you do it?  Mostly I just replace some or all of the liquid in the recipe with the same amount of fruit or vegetable juice.  I make the juice fresh and raw from my juicer.


Cyan’s last birthday cake was my natural color masterpiece. She had a rainbow party and was dying to have one of those rainbow cakes you see on Pinterest… but I just couldn’t do all that fake food dye. Even red velvet cupcakes make me twitch a little bit. So I decided to make the cake days in advance (so if it was an epic fail I could just make chocolate) and see how I could color the cake using juice.  It turned out amazing!  You could taste each layer but there was nothing over powering or ‘earthy’ about it at all.  Some of them even complimented each other.  (Blackberry cake with butter cream frosting?  Um - YUM!)

Each layer was a 1/2 of a cake batter recipe.

  • Red = Egg white, white cake with 1/4 cup smashed raspberries and 2 Tbs beet juice
  • Orange = Egg yolk yellow cake with 2 1/2 Tbs carrot juice
  • Yellow = Egg yolk yellow cake, plain
  • Green = Egg white white cake with 2 Tbs spinach juice
  • Blue = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blueberries with a bit of blue dye because the batter looked grey. (There is nothing appealing about grey cake batter. Especially to those of us who do not like cake. So I added a tiny bit of blue frosting dye to this batter and it worked out perfectly!)
  • Purple = Egg white white cake with 1/4 cup smashed blackberries and 1 Tbs beet juice

I have thought SO many times about experimenting with a ‘blue’ layer so I can eliminate that color as well, but… I don’t like cake.  So I will have to find a birthday with which to motivate more experimentation. 

A couple other examples were in my little guy’s birthday this year too:


Luke’s birthday cake was more pastel to go with his Eric Carle birthday theme.  I also wanted it to taste a little bit different so I added the zest of a lemon and a lime to help with the color and enhance the flavor.  It turned out to be a wonderful compliment to the buttercream frosting!  Every now and again you would run into a ribbon of zest in either green or yellow which made a very light, but fun ‘muddled’ coloring… very much like Eric Carle’s paintings.  I will be playing with that idea more in the future.

  • Green - Egg white, white cake with 3 Tbs of spinach juice (replacing 3 Tbs of water) and the zest of one lime. 
  • Yellow - Butter yellow cake recipe with egg yolks instead of whole eggs and the zest of one lemon.  (Our chickens have particularly yellow yolks.  And in this case, more color = more nutrition!)

I made cookies as the favors for that same birthday party.  Due to the success of the cake batter I decided to try my hand at coloring frosting this way. 


Instead of milk I used fruit and vegetable juices to color this royal icing.  I was concerned that it wouldn’t set, but it worked PERFECTLY.  No issues at all. 

  • Green - This my good friend spinach again. In this case, you couldn’t taste it at all. Was just as tasteless as any royal icing I have ever made. lol…
  • Scarlet Red - I used frozen cherry juice.  I just defrosted a cup or so of cherries on the counter until they were soft, then mashed them with a potato masher and strained out the juice through a sifter.  Then I measured the juice and used it where the recipe called for milk.  It definitely had a cherry flavor when done.  So I decided to run with it.  Instead of using vanilla extract to flavor the icing (as I did with the spinach) I used almond, which has a distinct ‘cherry’ flavor to it.  It worked amazingly well and made for a tasty and beautiful cookie!


I am sold!  Food coloring was already of limited use in the house.  It was mostly used for play dough.  But to my kids, this meant that our fun food never had much color.  Not anymore!  I wonder what would happen if I added spinach juice to my bread for St Patrick’s Day?


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bubble obsession

Every day.  He wakes up and wants bubbles.  He asks for them before he wants food, or a new diaper, or well… anything.  All my kids have gone through obsessive phases.  I am guessing it comes with being one of my kids.  But this one is impressive.  He literally carries one or another set of bubbles around all day long.  We have had an impressively small amount of spills for how often he has one in his arms.  And on top of that, he can catch a bubble ON the wand after he has blown it!  Amazing!


The youngest of our cats, Max, follows Luke around as he is blowing bubbles and will smack them out of the air.  Luke finds this hysterical and will gladly blow bubbles for the cats benefit.  In fact, he thinks that cats can blow bubbles, too and spent yesterday following Taio (our 16 year old, 22lb cat) around with a bubble on his bubble wand saying "You bow on it? You bow on it? Bow on it, kitty!"


When the cat politely declined (by turning his head away and folding up his ears) Luke decided that he needed to be decorated in bubbles.  So the poor old cat got to endure a toddler standing VERY close to him, blowing bubbles on his fur.


Seriously.  All the time.  Every day.


Crazy boy! It is looking good if a crazy bubble obsession and a language explosion is all we have noticed so far for his “terrible twos”.  No fits or new exhibitioner habits to speak of.


He is quite a delightful toddler. Smile


Friday, March 8, 2013

{this moment} - Peas and onions


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

{Inspired by SouleMama}

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