Thank you for stopping by! Here you will find a variety of things as I post whatever happens to be going on in our home - recipes, crafts, homeschool, birthday parties, travels, meals in muffin tins and more! I'd love to know what you think so please feel free to leave comments!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fun Food - Thanksgiving Style

I love making fun food for the kiddos. I think that's probably pretty obvious if you spend even a few minutes looking around this blog. Sometimes though, I come across ideas that I love but they work better on a larger scale. However, having only two very small children with appetites that make tiny birds look like ravenous beasts, I usually do not bother some of the cute ideas I have bouncing around in my brain. Thanks to a new addiction obsession organizing tool, Pinterest, I have been able to fill my brain up with some neat ideas and thanks to signing up to do snack for our homeschool group meeting, I got to bring some of these fun foods to life. 

A cheddar cheese & black grape sunflower with a celery stem.

A veggie turkey made from cucumbers, green, red & yellow peppers and carrots. I used raisins for eyes, bits of pepper for beak & waddle and celery for the legs.. 

Indian corn marshmallow treats made from Kix cereal, raisins, dried cranberries and dried papaya. I used fruit roll-ups for the husks.

Everything was a big hit with the kids and we ended up only bringing home a couple pieces of veggies. Most of it was devoured rather quickly. I was actually expecting to be bringing home most of the veggies but I was surprised at how many times the kids kept coming back for more. Yay!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Orphan Experience and Global Marketplace

Our church, Sandy Lake Wesleyan, had an incredible event today for Global Orphan Sunday - The Orphan Experience and the Global Marketplace. For the Orphan Experience, several rooms were transformed into scenes that are common for orphans living in third world countries. 

We first visited the bedroom. There was a cardboard mat on the floor, with some cushions, a sheet and a mosquito net hanging overhead. We talked about where we sleep compared to where orphans in Haiti sleep. We also learned about a 6 year old girl named Anastasia who lives in an orphanage in Russia and shares a room with 19 other girls. When she has a bad dream, she cries herself back to sleep because there is nobody to comfort her. 

Next we visited the "bathroom" facilities. There was a large tub filled with cold water and we learned how orphan children often take a bath in cold water with many other children at once and have to share towels which end up being wet and dirty by the time several children get done with them. Laural and Micah got to bathe some little dolls in the cold water. Then we looked at the toilet which was a representation of a squat toilet - a hole in the ground. There isn't any toilet paper, just a cup and some water to clean with.

Next, we went to the Orphan Table where we had dinner much like orphans in Haiti would have. Many of us crowded around a makeshift table, sat on the floor and were served a small bowl of rice and beans. Most orphans only get one meal a day and it is usually rice and beans. Afterward, we had water in a little plastic baggie. Since bottles are rare, they might fill a bag with water and put a little hole in the bottom to suck the water out.

The next room we went to was a little glimpse into daily life in an orphanage in India. The children carried buckets of water like orphans have to. Orphans might use the water to wash clothes in a tub with a washboard. Laural and Micah got to try their hand at laundry this way. they thought it was pretty neat but I'm sure once the novelty of it wore off, they would understand it isn't all that much fun. Then they got to look at the toys on the shelf. Some orphanages have toys for the children but they often don't allow them to play with them because it might lead to fighting among the children.

The next room we saw taught us a little about foster children who live near us. We looked at bowls containing jelly beans and corn kernels to show us how many children are in foster care. They also planted some grass seeds in a cup to make a foster buddy to remind them about how foster families "foster" kids without a good family situation into healthy, growing children.

The last room we visited had piles of trash in it and we learned how many orphans have to dig through garbage to find something they can wear on their feet to give them some protection. Laural found some bags and rubber bands and put those over her feet. She didn't care for it too much.

At the Global Marketplace, we were able to purchase items made by artisans around the world. Many of these artisans are women rescued from trafficking, or people in impoverished areas of the world who deal with the reality of orphans every day. Proceeds benefit global missions projects. Laural chose a flowery headband and a doll made in Haiti.

Micah chose, what else, a scrunchie. It is some sort of silk, I think. I tried to get him to pick something else but he was starting to get tired and grumpy.

We also picked out a few pieces of candy. They both chose a couple items but I didn't see what they were until later. One of them picked up this:
Hot & salted tamarind pulp candy from Mexico. I knew as soon as I saw it that it wouldn't go over well. We all tried a little nibble. It was sour at first. Then the saltiness kicked in which was weird. Right after the saltiness, the chili powder became obvious. Yikes! It was too much for me and I had to spit it out. I think we will be avoiding hot & salted tamarind candy in the future... LOL

Micah picked out some cute Hello Kitty candy from Japan which turned out to be gum. It was much tastier.

For myself, I got something that caught my eye right away. There were lots of pretty things that would have been nice to have, like scarves, decorations, jewelry and hair accessories but I chose a lovely handmade Kenyan journal. I already put one of my little ink drawings into it.

Overall, it was an amazing experience and very enlightening. I hope it has opened the hearts of everyone who attended like it did for us. We will be praying for God's direction as we consider what our role will be in caring for orphans around the world. If you are inclined, I invite you to pray as well. God's blessings to you. ♥

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Felt Jack-O-Lanterns

Since Halloween is just around the corner, we've been playing with all of our fun Halloween stuff to play with. I made these cute felt board style jack-o-lanterns last year but Laural was the only one who used them since Micah wasn't quite ready. This year, both kids have been enjoying them.

I cut two orange circles at about 8 inches diameter and then cut a variety of eyes, ears, mouths, noses, hair, hats, and other items.

Mouths & Eyes

Whiskers, Mustaches & Noses

Hats & Hair

Ears & Horns

The kids had a lot of fun making up lots of different faces.

Laural started with a blue-haired princess.

Micah made an interesting jak-o-lantern face.

I got in on the fun and made a pig-nosed, mustached, blue-haired vampire with a jaunty little hat.

Halloween Sensory Tubs

Yep, we did two sensory tubs for Halloween this year. I figured I might get a little more peace if I had a tub for each of them to play with.

First up is the Creepy Crawly Tub. It's got black beans, various plastic bugs & spiders, a ghost bell, wicker pumpkin basket, candy corn candle holder with battery operated tealight candle, jack-o-lantern metal bucket, plastic leafy sprigs, a little wooden pumpkin and plastic confetti pumpkins. 

Laural started this one off. I just had to post the second picture because of the goofy look on her face.

The second is the Monster Tub and is filled with purple water pearls, googly eyes, green porcupine balls and 2 submersible led lights. The water beads are typically used for fresh flower arrangements. They are slippery and fun to play with!

Micah really enjoyed squishing the pearls in his hands. I like playing with them too.

I have a bunch of other fun Halloween goodies for the kids to play with too. I'll be posting some of that stuff later and try not to let a month go past between posting again!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Alphabet Sensory Tub

I finally got our Alphabet Sensory Tub put together today! I was held back by not being able to find the alphabet pasta I really wanted. So, we are already on the letter C in our letter of the Week, but since I have planned to do a tub every four weeks that features the letters we will be covering those four weeks, we are still good. 
I love how bright and colorful it is!

I started by coloring lots of alphabet macaroni in the same fashion I colored pasta last year. The only difference is that I didn't soak it as long since they aren't very big and I had to keep mixing them up as they dried to prevent them from being a big pasta pancake. I still had to spend a little time breaking them apart after they were dry.  Once dry, I put them in lines in the tub.

Next, I sprinkled letter beads & charms over the pasta. The circular beads glow in the dark! Fun!

Then came all the goodies! We are focusing on the letters A, B, C & D. We have various wood & plastic magnetic letters, large foam letters, tiny foam sticker letters, wooden letter blocks, letter cookie cutters, letter beads and charms on chenille stems, a Bb book and finally items beginning with the letters. A: apple, acorn, alligator, and ant; B: bowl, butterfly, button & bell; C: caterpillar, cross, car and coin; and D: dolphin, dragonfly, dice and dinosaur.

I am also including a small pail & scoop on the side for the kids to play with in their tub.
I don't have any action shots yet since I got this done a little late in the day. They've seen it though and are anxiously awaiting their chance to have at it. I also laid down the law in regard to the tubs - they each get to play at one of the tubs and not together. After a certain amount of time (not sure how long yet) we will switch off. I'd like to say that my kiddos are perfect angels and play sweetly side by side, but I cannot tell a lie. When it comes to the "choice" items in the tubs - like plastic jewel acorns - it's just plain hard to share!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn Sensory Tub

Happy Autumnal Equinox! Or in other words, Happy 1st Day of Fall! It came in with a blah here - cool, rainy & grey. At least a couple of the trees outside my back window have leaves that are starting to change to a lovely deep crimson hue which is quite nice to look at.

To brighten up our day, I put together our Autumn Sensory Tub and introduced the kids to it. It's jam packed full of fun fall finds for fledgling fingers.

I started with the rice that I colored yesterday (here) in four vertical lines. I love the autumn colors!

Then I added: silk fall leaves, leaf buttons, sparkly foam leaves, silk sunflowers, a pine cone, wood mushrooms, wood people, a wooden scoop, a grapevine ball, some sort of nuts, a wooden bowl, wooden bucket, plastic jewel acorns, foam and yarn apples, mini foam pumpkins and squash, yarn pom poms, an apple chalk board with chalk, and bits of green & brown pipe cleaner.

On the side I included an extra yarn apple, a mini basket and the Rubik's cube style fall puzzle cube for extra fun. Laural took to the puzzle cube right away and tried to figure it out. Micah went straight for the acorns as I suspected he would.

It was a winner for both kids, who are still seated behind me on the floor playing with it. I will be putting together a 2nd sensory tub - the alphabet theme I've been planning - this weekend in hopes of eliminating some of the arguments that seem to come along with two kids trying to share one tub.

Have a fabulous first day of fall!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autumn Colored Rice

I can hardly believe that today was the last day of summer! It seems like this year is just screaming by at breakneck speed. Although I do enjoy the coming seasons, this has been one of our best summers and I'm really going to miss it. At least the last couple of days have been pretty warm and enjoyable. But, onward and upward, right? So I am trying to get myself into the spirit for autumn by preparing for our autumn sensory tub - which meant making rice in some lovely autumn colors. 

I made a apple-ish red, bright leafy yellow, crunchy leaf brown and pumkin-y orange.

The How-to:

Gather ingredients:
cheap white rice
food colorings
zip top baggies
paper towels
plates (paper or otherwise)

Start by putting 1 to 2 tablespoons of vodka in a bag along with your coloring.
My color "recipes:"
Brown: 10 drops red, 10 drops yellow, 2 drops blue (this gave a lighter brown but doubling the amounts would probably allow more color to get into the rice for a deeper hue)
Yellow: 20 to 25 drops of yellow
Red: 25 drops of red but it turned out to be too light (almost neon pink) so I colored it again with 20 red and 2 blue.
 Orange: 10 red and 30 yellow (it was too light with 4 red & 12 yellow so I colored again with 6 red and 18 yellow)

Some people might prefer to use vinegar or rubbing alcohol. I choose to use vodka for two reasons: 1. it doesn't have an odor like vinegar does and 2. rubbing alcohol may leave undesirable residue behind.

Add 2 cups of rice and make sure to tightly seal the bag (or you might have a yellow rice mishap such as mine which called for a break in coloring to pull out my stick vac). Knead & smoosh the bag until the color is evenly distributed through the rice. 

Allow the bag to rest 15 to 20 minutes to really let the color penetrate the rice. Using a mesh strainer, give the rice a quick rinse to clear some of the starchiness. Drain it well.

Spread the rice on a paper towel lined plate and allow it to dry. The rice dries fairly fast and should be ready to play with in 2 hours or less. 

I can't wait - Laural & Micah are going to be thrilled with their new autumn play rice. I think I'd better keep my stick vac handy though...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

First Field Trip Of The Year

After church today, we decided to go to Munnell Run Farm Day in Mercer, PA. A little about Munnel Run Farm from their webpage:

The Mission:
At Munnell Run Farm we strive to integrate agriculture and ecology education through hands-on programs for students and adults in watershed management, nonpoint source pollution control, stream ecology, wetlands, forestry and agriculture.
Our vision for Munnell Run Farm is to nurture a conservation ethic in our youth, agriculture producers, and community members in order to affect a positive cultural, economic and environmental impact in our rural community. It is further our vision that Munnell Run Farm shall become a destination for school children, educators, civic organizations, agriculture producers, and families to explore and discover the interrelationship between agriculture, the natural and cultural environments and our economy.

The Farm:

Munnell Run Farm contains163 acres of cropland, woodland, pasture and riparian forested wetland owned by the County of Mercer and managed by the Munnell Run Farm Foundation, Inc., which holds a long term lease and a conservation easement on the Farm. The Mercer County Conservation District provides valuable support for the Farm's mission.  It is located 1 mile north of Mercer, PA on State Route 58 West. Visitors to MRF have an opportunity to explore the interactions of agriculture and ecology in a real-world setting. Featuring outdoor, hands-on activities designed to meet PA Chapter 4 Academic Standards, Munnell Run Farm Foundation, Inc. received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence in Education and Outreach in 2003. MRF depends on grants and donations for its educational programs, maintenance, and infrastructure improvements. 

 Some cheerful round bale piggies greeted us as we arrived.

We started by checking out some of the vendors. First up was a visit with an alpaca where you could purchase various items made from alpaca yarn. They were gorgeous and so soft but I can't justify spending $75 for a hat or $32 on a stuffed animal. It was fun to pet Thomas the alpaca though.
Micah wasn't sure what to do with the alpaca at first.

Next, we chatted with some folks representing the local 4H and spent a little time with the animals they brought with them.
A sweet bunny that Micah gave a kiss.

A less than thrilled duck.

A friendly goat.

Laural & Micah both tried the peddle tractor pull. Neither got very far. Laural's legs seemed too long for the tractor & Micah's were too short.

They played on a stack of hay bales

They both got their faces painted. Princess Laural & Pirate Micah. I'm really surprised that Micah went along with it. He has been freaked out by it in the past and has only allowed his hand to be painted.

The Civil War reenactors marched across the large yard area at the top of every hour to fire their guns to mark the time.

We took a ride on a horse drawn wagon which was pretty neat. Laural got to sit up with the drivers on the return trip.

There were loads of cows to be see throughout the farm, including two calves who were hanging out with their moms.

 We also took a ride on a tractor drawn wagon that took us to the back part of the farm where we saw lots more cows, fields & farm equipment in use.

The mom & her baby weren't sure what I was up to. They kept a watchful eye on me. 

We also went into a small trout nursery and looked at the brown trout & golden rainbow trout babies what were being raised there. Outside, both kids got to try their hand at casting a fishing rod & reeling it back in. The both did pretty well with it. I guess they'll be ready to catch their dinner when we go camping next year.

A band called Mandolin Whiskey - kind of bluegrass-ish mixed with some more modern country - played most of the time we were there. There were lots of different types of vendors selling homemade wares, a quilt show, a spinning wheel demo, an archery station where you try to shoot a bow, an ox roast, crafts for kids ( Laural made a farm necklace) and probably more stuff that I just didn't see. It was a wonderful day of fun & learning all for the price of a donated canned good for the Mercer County Community Food Warehouse. I look forward to going back next year!


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