Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

During the summer, we’re participating in the Smart Summer Challenge and the second week focuses on government.  Doing a week-long government study has been a wonderful preview of what we will be doing in a couple of months when we begin our multi-year, multi-disciplinary study of each of the states in the U.S.A. 

On Thursday and Friday, we talked about coins, coin collecting, and some of the presidents represented on the coins. One of the presidents featured is Thomas Jefferson.

One of the things we learned is that several of kids’ favorite foods were introduced by Jefferson. Some historians believe that Jefferson introduced french fries and macaroni and cheese to the American colonies. It is written that Jefferson had “potatoes served in the French manner” served at a White House dinner in 1802.

Thomas Jefferson first served macaroni and cheese at the President’s House also in 1802. A recipe for macaroni and cheese is included in Mary Randolph’s popular 1824 cookbook, The Virginia Housewife.

Of course, the dish that Jefferson ate is nothing like the boxed version so common today. Rather, Jefferson’s cooks used pasta and parmesan cheese imported from Italy. They cooked the macaroni until it was soft, and then coated it with butter and added cheese. The mixture was then placed in a casserole dish, dotted with more butter and cheese, and baked until it was slightly brown with some crustiness on top.

I made a version like this last week for a friend and her children who were visiting. The kids – who have had the boxed macaroni and cheese over the baked version more often – weren’t huge fans of this “old fashioned” type of macaroni and cheese. Oh well.

In addition to french fries and macaroni and cheese, Jefferson helped encourage people to eat tomatoes. Many people in the colonies thought tomatoes were poisonous, so they wouldn’t eat them. Jefferson proved that tomatoes were not poisonous, so they became popular.

To remember this, we had pizza for dinner (which had a tomato-base sauce). 

The girls having pizza while learning about Thomas Jefferson.

Historians are certain that Jefferson wrote the very first recipe for ice cream in the American colonies. In celebration of this, we tried a new recipe for Cookies & Cream Floats.

To make them, you put a couple of scoops of Cookies & Cream ice cream into a cup. Slowly add some cream soda until it’s at a consistency that you prefer (e.g., thicker malts need less soda; thinner malts need more soda).

Cookies and Cream
By learning about Thomas Jefferson, I came across an interesting blog called The History Chef! written by Suzy Evans. She has a Ph.D. in history from UC Berkeley, is a mother to four children, and writes the blog as she is writing a book about the presidents’ favorite foods. Her goal is to help parents and children learn how to cook together while learning about history; and hopefully help them create many great memories and meals together.
I know this will be a blog that I will be using during the upcoming study about the United States. As we study about each state, we will see if any presidents were born in the one we are studying. If so, we will visit The History Chef! and try a recipe to tie into the presidential-state connection.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “J.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter J ….is for Joy

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy
in creative expression and knowledge.
~~ Albert Einstein ~~

As I look at pictures of homeschooling, joy is a word that comes to mind. It is most often expressed when we’re doing hands-on activities and bringing to life what we learn through reading about different subjects. 

Sometimes, joy comes from the girls making connections on their own.  For example, Sophia was having fun building a snowman and making a pinecone heart near it one day during the winter.  She was so happy with how both turned out. 

She put birdseed in the snowman’s hat so the birds had another feeder to visit. She left carrots on the ground for the rabbits or deer.

Sophia with Snowman Bird Feeder and Pinecone Heart
Sophia with the snowman and pinecone heart she made
inspired by the book Stranger in the Woods.

She told me after she made the snowman that she was thinking about the book, Stranger in the Woods as she was making the snowman. It’s interesting to see how Sophia and Olivia both are inspired by books that I read to them as part of homeschooling, and how that translates into their play and learning.

I also see joy in the girls’ faces when they are doing something they love to do and at which they feel skilled.  Olivia has always enjoyed coloring and could spend the majority of her days coloring (that…or coloring and doing puzzles). 

Olivia with Egyptian Pyramid
Olivia showing jewelry she colored
and was wearing as part of the Egyptian unit study.

In the photo above, Olivia is holding a paper pyramid that has facts about pyramids on each side. She also is wearing paper jewelry she colored.  These weren’t projects that were displayed in the house or worn after multiple times.  Rather, she put them on and wanted to show what she did – and she radiated joy. 

After she was done, she took off the jewelry and carefully put it in her Egypt 3-ring binder in a protective sheet holder.  In that way, every time she looks at it, it can remind her of how much she enjoyed coloring at that point in her life.

Another time that the girls are joyful is when we spend time cooking and baking together…and then sampling what we made. 

Tea Party with Hungarian Treats
Having a tea party with food made
as part of the geography unit study about Hungary.
The girls and I have made foods that we enjoyed (like cookies and coffeecake as shown in the picture above).  Likewise, we’ve also made some food that none of us would like to eat again (Ukrainian sauerkraut and Welsh Oatcakes).  

Whether or not we enjoyed the food, the experience of cooking together brought us all a lot of joy and happpiness.  We were sharing time and creating special memories that we all can enjoy looking back upon.

Having opportunities to play and creatively express oneself are important parts of homeschooling as well.  Playing, pretending, and dramatic expression all foster creativity and being able to think independently…rather than having someone tell you what to do and when to do it. 

Sophia Ready to Start Beekeeping
Sophia was pretending to be a beekeeper after
learning about bees, beekeeping, and honey
during a home economics lesson.
Being able to exercise together and be outdoors always makes us happy.  Joy is often shown with huge smiles and laughter, especially when we’re riding bikes; playing badminton or croquet in the backyard; or walking the dogs or horses.

Olivia Riding Behind Me
Olivia riding her bike on a beautiful spring day.
Her bike is actually attached to mine (a tag-a-long bike),
thus the odd angle of this photo.

Living in the country on a small hobby farm means the wheelbarrow is used at least once each week…if not more often.  Many times, Sophia gives Olivia rides in the wheelbarrow.  No matter where you are here, you can hear Olivia laughing as she’s bumped and jostled on the rides.

In addition to having fun, the wheelbarrow rides are good for their bodies.  Both girls have sensory integration dysfunction (aka sensory processing disorder), so pushing a heavy load (for Sophia) and getting input from the ride (for Olivia) help address some of the needs that their bodies have because of SID.

Having Fun in the Wheelbarrow
The girls having fun in the backyard.

Since the girls were infants, they have enjoyed swinging.  When they were under a year old, they would be pushed and would fall asleep while the wind blew, birds sang, and sun gently warmed them.  They were so content and at peace while swinging…a more quiet form of joy.

Olivia Swinging
Olivia in a moment of pure joy
while swinging!
Swinging each day when it’s not raining or well below zero with bone-chilling winds, is both relaxing and exhilarating for the girls…often at the same time.  When they have too much energy and can’t focus on learning, taking some time to go on the swings helps get some of the energy out.  In the process, they are laughing and joking, and having a wonderful time.  They come in awhile later ready to begin homeschooling again.

Homeschooling is about joy.  And when I think about joy — about happiness — I think of spending time together; creating memories; and learning about new things and gaining new skills. 

Joy is present each day we homeschool.  I know that because I hear it through laughter; and see it through smiles and love shown to one another.

Nez Perce - Beaded Necklace
Sophia wearing a beaded necklace she made
during a unit study about the Nez Perce during the 1700s.
Hearing joy expressed through laughter
is what homeschooling represents.

Your success and happiness lies in you.
Resolve to keep happy; and
your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
~~ Helen Keller ~~

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During the past few weeks there have been some rather severe storms – complete with thunder, lightening, hail, and tornadoes.  Most recently, the high heat (over 100 degrees) knocked out power to over 8,000 homes in the metro area. 

Most people have flashlights and candles, and perhaps a battery-operated radio on hand.  These are all great items to have when the power goes out unexpectedly.  In addition, there are five good things to have ready when the electricity goes out:

1. Food that can be prepared without electricity.

I created three bins that contain food for three days in the event that the electricity goes off and the refrigerator, stove, and oven cannot be used.  Some of the food requires no preparation (e.g., crackers, fruit) while others need the camp stove to make.

Three days’ worth of food that doesn’t
take electricity to make.
It’s a good idea to purchase perishable food in containers small enough that your family can consume the food in one sitting since refrigeration would not be available (unless, of course, your power goes out during the middle of winter in Minnesota where temperatures do get below freezing).
If you haven’t had a use for the food after six months, take a look at the expiration dates and eat the food before the expiration date passes.  Make sure to replenish the food so that the bins are ready to use in case of an emergency.
2. Water for All Family Members, Pets, and Livestock
Last month, when the electricity went off due to a person driving into the electric pole at the end of the road and cutting off power to all the homes along the road, we were without power for over ten hours.  At that time, we had no extra water on hand – just the Britta water pitcher that was half full.  Needless to say, those ten hours were a bit challenging.
A small start towards the amount of water needed
during an electricity outage.
It’s recommended that you have 1 gallon of water per person per day (2 quarts for drinking and 2 for food preparation/sanitation).  Since we also have pets and horses, it’s important to have water for them as well. 

Remember to put water in containers that are easy to carry. One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. A 5-gallon container weighs 40 pounds.

3. A Temporary Toilet or Water for an Existing Toilet

If you have a lot of extra water on hand, you can simply use the toilets in your home by pouring a bucket of water directly into the toilet bowl and flushing. The contents will swirl away. You need to manually fill the tank if you want more water in the toilet bowl.

If your water is in short supply, it’s best to use what you have in gallon containers for personal consumption and cooking.  So, then you have a couple of options:  you can either use a 5-gallon bucket with a toilet seat on top or get a portable toilet that’s designed for camping use. 

Portable toilet with bags (upper left and center).
Solar shower (upper right).

4. Solar Shower

In the picture above, there’s a picture of a solar shower.  This is an easy-to-find item at this time of the year since they’re sold with the camping supplies.  Solar showers can be used in the summer when the sun heats the black bag holding the water. 

If the power unexpectedly stops in the winter, use a large storage bin and fill 2 containers with water: one hot and one cold. Put the hot one in first and then add the cold until it is a comfortable temperature. Take a bath in the warmest part of the house. Go from the cleanest person to the dirtiest. Have soap, washcloths, towels, and clean clothes nearby.

If you have a use for solar shower besides when the power goes out, check out this DIY outdoor shower from Off the Urban Grid.

Outdoor Shower.

5. Camp Stove and Fuel

If the power is out for a prolonged period of time, most likely you’ll need to cook a meal.  Having a camp stove and fuel on hand is a way to make food that would give you energy that you’ll need…especially if you’re doing hard work (e.g., clean up after a major storm or tornado). 

Coleman camp stove that uses either
liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline.

It’s a good idea to get comfortable with using the stove prior to needing to use it.  If you have children, having an outdoor dinner or camping in the backyard not only is fun, but it can help prepare your family when the power does go off.

The camp stove pictured above is the one that I have.  What I like about it is that it can use either liquid fuel or unleaded gasoline (most camp stove use liquid fuel only).  At this point, unleaded gasoline is less expensive than liquid fuel, so that is a less expensive way to cook.  Also, in the event of an emergency and if no liquid fuel is readily available, simply going to the gas station and filling up a container of gasoline is easy to do.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  5 Kids and a Dog explains:

The word “homeschooling” can cover so many things. From teaching and learning, to home skills and life skills, and everything in between. Homeschool families are very busy people! It’s not about staying home, although we try to do that so we get our school work done, but it’s about raising well-rounded kids who grow into well-rounded adults. It means phonics lessons and sports and music and languages and climbing trees and jumping in puddles.

Since we can talk about everything from the Alphabet to Zoology, The ABC’s of Homeschooling was born. Please join in each week as we cover a new letter, and link up together to go through the ABC’s!

Since I just found out about the series, I’m grouping the first eight weeks together.  Here’s what each letter of the alphabet so far looks like with our homeschool:

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter A ….is for Animals.  Having two dogs, five cats, a pony, and miniature horse provide lots of opportunities to learn about animals. The girls not only can learn about their similarities and differences, but also take responsibility for their daily needs and health care.

Meeting Gretel on Pick Up Day
Sophia and Olivia ready to take Gretel home on her adoption day. 
Gretel is about 3 months old in this picture.

We also take field trips to extend learning about animals we have as well as ones that we have read about in books.

Girls by a Clydesdale Baby and Adult
The girls by a foal and adult Clysdale horse.
The foal is taller than Olivia’s miniature horse.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter B

….is for Butterflies. The girls have raised butterflies for several years now by finding monarch caterpillars in the backyard and pastures.  They feed them indoors and then watch the transformation process.  At the end, they release the butterflies. 

Girls in Awe as Monarch Flies Away
The clarity of this picture isn’t great,
but the expressions on the girls’ faces show the
amazement and awe they felt when they saw the butterfly
fly right in front of them.

In the fall, the girls spread milkweed seeds throughout the farm so the monarchs that return in the spring and summer have food to eat.

Floating Milkweed
Sophia spreading milkweed seeds in the south pasture.
The wind is carrying the seeds off to new locations.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter C …. is for China.  Both the girls were born in China.  Sophia was adopted at 11 months old, and Olivia was adopted at 10 months old.  Their birthdays and adoption days are celebrated by integrating Chinese customs, food, and gifts into these special days.

Girls Looking at Chinese Items
Sophia showing some of the items she has
that are from China to other homeschoolers.

This past year, we celebrated Chinese New Year by making Nian-Gao – Chinese New Year Cake. The recipe was in the back of the book The Runaway Rice Cake which I read to the girls prior to the cake-making activity.

Pouring Oil in Bowl
The girls making Nian-Gao for
Chinese New Year.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter D … is for Dance. Each of the girls took dance lessons through the Minnesota Dance Theater when they were younger.  Although this isn’t something that they’ve chosen to pursue, they enjoyed dancing at the time. 

Homeschooling gives the girls an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different subjects which they can choose to learn about in depth…or simply be content with learning a bit about the subject/activity and moving on to learn something else.

Sophia during the performance
Sophia at the dance recital at Minnesota Dance Theater
at the end of a dance camp.
Olivia Spinning in Costume
The girls enjoy dancing to music at home.
Olivia often will dance to piano music that Sophia or I play.
Lion Dance with 2 Lions
The girls watched a Chinese Lion Dance
at a summer festival. 
It was the highlight of the day for them.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter E …is for Experiments.  The girls both enjoy science, particularly when there is an experiment or hands-on activity that relates to the subject they are learning. 

Olivia Learning About Vocal Cords
Olivia learning about vocal cords.
Sophia learning about volcanoes.
Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter F

…is for Field Trips. An important part of homeschooling is being away from home and learning at different locations throughout the local area or even short day/multi-day trips. 

The girls both enjoy seeing and interacting with animals.  One summer, the Minnesota Zoo had a special African animal exhibit.  There was an opportunity to feed the giraffes.  It is a memory that is vividly etched in both girls’ memories.

Olivia Feeding Giraffe
Olivia feeding a giraffe.

We also regularly attend the Minnesota Orchestra’s student performances that are held throughout the school year. 

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Sophia and Olivia at the Minnesota Orchestra.

We have been able to take some multi-day trips during the past few years thanks to my parents.  In exchange for driving them (since both no longer can drive), they have given the girls and I an opportunity to travel to places that have provided wonderful learning experiences.

Girls by Tulips
The girls by hundreds of tulips in Pella, Iowa.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter G …is for Geography.  For several years, the girls have been doing an ABC journey around the world.  I picked a different country for them to learn about for each letter of the alphabet (with the exception of “X” which no country begins with…they learned about MeXico instead). 

Sophia in Kimono with Outstretched Arms
Sophia showing the back of a kimono.
The girls studying about Japan and enjoyed learning about the country.
The kimono is from my friend, Yoshiko, who lives in Osaka.

When we studied about Sweden, there were many local opportunities and historical sites which related to Swedish immigration and pioneers.  We used the Kirsten books (of the American Girl series) as a literature base, and supplementing it with hands-on activities in many different areas.

Olivia with Swedish Braided Bread She Made
Olivia learned to make braided bread;
and, in the process, learned how to braid.
She was proud how her bread turned out.

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter H … is for History. The curriculum I have been using for the past few years (Sonlight) has a wonderful history focus.  The “living books” (versus textbooks) that relate to history make the subject come alive, and have much more of a lasting impact on the girls. 

To supplement what we read, we also take field trips to museums and living history organizations. 

Obstacle Course at Fort Snelling
The girls pretending they are soldiers during WWII.
They are at a Homeschool Day event at  Fort Snelling.

The girls enjoy cooking, so sometimes history and cooking/home economics can be connected.

Making Homemade Peanut Butter
The girls making peanut butter after
learning about George Washington Carver.

Sophia with Fossil Sandwich
Sophia making a “fossil” sandwich
when she was learning about fossils.

We have read the entire American Girl series now which helped the girls learn about American history from the 1700s to 1970s.  After completing that series, we moved onto the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Olivia took a class at the homeschool co-op that focused on the Little House series.  She was able to do her first play during the class.  Her role was “Christy Kennedy” in “On the Banks of Plum Creek” (a Laura Ingalls Wilder story).

The costume she’s wearing was made by a seamstress who I hired many years ago when I did a farm/art camp for kids. The seamstress created costumes for kids to wear that represented a variety of times in history (from the mid-1800s to 1970s).

Olivia Listening in Play
Olivia in her first play based on the book
“On the Banks of Plum Creek.”

ABCs of Homeschooling

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This week – during the break between the thunderstorms, heavy rain, and hail plus a tornado less than 10 minutes from here – we were able to do the Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Series #4: Wildflowers-Dandelions.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Before heading outside, I read pages 531-535 in the Handbook of Nature Study about dandelions.  In this way, I could point out different things about dandelions as the girls were looking at them.

Here are some facts from the book that I found interesting:

– The taproot, which lacked only an inch of being a foot in length.  It was smooth, whitish, and fleshy, and, when cut, bled a milky juice; it was as strong from the endpull as a whipcord; it also had a bunch of rather fine rootlets about an inch below the surface of the soil.

– Dandelion leaves [have] edges [that] are notched in a peculiar way, so that the lobes were, by some one, supposed to look like lions’ teeth in profile; thus the plant was called in France “dents-de-lion” (teeth of the lion), and we have made from this the name dandelion.

Dandelion leaves…or
 as the plant was known in France:
“Dents-de-lion” (teeth of the lion)

– The leaves are bitter, and grazing animals do not like to eat them.

– The hollow stalk…may be made into a trombone [by children].  [This is a good] lesson in the physics of sound, since by varying the length the pitch is varied.

– If the plant is in the lawn, the stem is short….It will blossom and seed within two inches of the ground; but if the plant is in a meadow or in other high grass, the stalk lifts up sometimes two feet or more. 

Dandelion stems can grow to be up to two feet tall.
This one was over one foot tall.

– Before a dandelion head opens, the stem, unless very short, is likely to bend down, but the night before it is to bloom it straightens up; after the blossoms have matured it may again bend over, but straightens up when the seeds are to be cast off.

– It often requires an hour for a dandelion head to open in the morning and it rarely stays open longer than five or six hours; it may require another hour to close.

Unopened dandelion in the morning.
The involucral bracts can easily be seen covering the flowers as well as
near the stem where they make a frill.

– The involucral bracts, in the row set next to the flowers, are sufficiently long to cover the unopened flowers; the bracts near the stem are shorter and curl back, making a frill. 

– In the freshly opened flower-head, the buds at the middle all curve slightly toward the center, each bud showing a blunt, five-lobed tip which looks like the tips of five fingers held tightly together.

Dandelion in the process of opening.

– All the flowers in the dandelion head have banners, but those at the center…have shorter and darker yellow corollas.

Fully-opened dandelion.

– On dark, rainy days and during the night the little green house puts up its shutters around the flower family.

– [Dandelions] awaken long after the sun is up in the morning; they often do not open until eight o’clock.

– After all the florets of a dandelion head have blossomed, they may stay in retirement for several days, and during this period the flowerstalk often grows industriously; and when the shutters of the little green house are again let down, what a different appearance has the dandelion head!  The akenes with their balloons are set so as to make an exquisite, filmy globe.

Dandelion akenes make a silver globe.

– The balloon is attached to the top of the beak as an umbrella frame is attached to the handle, except that the “ribs” are many and fluffy.

Four akenes on my shoe.

– This blossom-bald head after all the akenes are gone…is like a mosaic, with a pit at the center of each figure where the akene was attached.

Dandelion head minus the akenes. 
Notice the mosaic pattern.

– Before the akenes are fully out this soon-to-be-bald head is concave at the center; later it becomes convex, and the mechanism of this movement liberates the akenes which are embedded in it.

Akenes ready to fly off.

– Each freshly opened corolla-tube is full to overflowing with nectar, and much pollen is developed; therefore the dandelion has many kinds of insect visitors.

– The following are the tactics by which the dandelion conquers us and takes possession of our lands:
~~> It blossoms early in the spring and until snow falls, producing seed for a long time
~~> It…fourishes on all sorts of soils.
~~> It thrusts its long taproots down into the soil, and thus gets moisture and food not reached by other plants.
~~> Its leaves spread out from thebase, and crowd and shade many neighboring plants out of existence.
~~> It develops almost numberless akenes, and the wind scatters them far and wide and they thus take possession of new territory.
~~> Many insects visit it, and so it has plenty of pollen carriers to insure strong seeds.

Hand covered in pollen from picking dandelions.

Outdoor Hour Time:

Spend 15 minutes outdoors this week in your own backyard or a near-by park. As you walk along, keep your eyes out for dandelions.

Suggestions for Observations

See if you can find several dandelions in various stages of growth.

This was easy to do since we have so many dandelions growing in the yard.  During the mid-day we observed various stages of growth.  In the late-afternoon, we could see the dandelions in various stages of opening-to-closing.

Dandelions in various stages of growth.

Look at the leaves and collect a few for sketching later in your nature journal.

We will be doing an entry in our nature journals this week.

If it is growing in your own yard, you might like to dig up the complete dandelion plant and observe the roots.

Didn’t have a chance to do this, but will do at a later date.

Measure the height of several different dandelion plants and compare them.

This was something that the girls enjoyed.  Their idea was to do a race to find the longest stem. 

Running to get dandelions and
bring them back to measure.

For the first round, Olivia found one with a 6″ stem and Sophia’s was 5 1/2″.  The second round, Sophia found one with an 11 1/2″ stem and Olivia found one with a 10″ stem. 

Olivia measuring a dandelion stem with
Montague standing behind her.

As noted above, dandelions can grow to be over two feet tall.  The girls wanted to see how tall this would be, so they put two rulers together. 

Imagine a dandelion growing this tall! 
Some of them do in meadows or where there is high grass.

Examine an unopened dandelion flower.

Sophia opening an unopened dandelion.

Watch a bee working in a dandelion.

We did not see any bees visiting the dandelions while we were outside.

Observe the seeds and how they are dispersed.

See pictures at the top of the post for the akenes on the dandelion as well as stuck to my shoe.  The girls both could see how they resembled umbrellas.  They also are similar to spiderlings in that they use the wind to find a new location in which to grow.

Observe your dandelions on a sunny day and then on a cloudy day. Note any differences.
We will do this over the weekend since another round of storms are forecasted to arrive on Friday.

Follow-Up Activities:

Take some time to draw the dandelion in your nature journal. Make sure to record your observations of the dandelion and make a sketch of the leaf and flower.

We ran out of time the afternoon when we did the study, so the girls still will need to do a journal page.


Other activities that we did:

We made Dandelion Flower Cookies.  The recipe is from The Splendid Table (on National Public Radio).  Note: Before making the cookies, read Dr. Peter Gail’s instructions for cooking with dandelion flowers (below the recipe).

The cookies are moist and taste have a pleasant, though not strong flavor.  The strongest flavor came from the vanilla, not from the dandelions.  The tiny yellow petals make the cookies pretty and unusual…certainly something that children will remember…hopefully in a good way.

Dandelion Flower Cookies
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup dandelion flowers
Preheat oven to 375°F. Blend oil and honey and beat in the two eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, oatmeal and dandelion flowers. Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Cooking with Dandelion Flowers
by Peter A. Gail, Ph.D
Dandelion flowers aren’t just pretty. They are also extremely nutritious food and have none of the bitterness of dandelion leaves if you cut off the green bracts at the base of the flower cluster.
To Prepare Dandelion Flowers for Use in Recipes:
  • Wash them thoroughly.
  • Measure the required quantity of intact flowers into a measuring cup.
  • Hold flowers by the tip with the fingers of one hand and pinch the green flower base very hard with the other, releasing the yellow florets from their attachment. Shake the yellow flowers into a bowl. Flowers are now ready to be incorporated into recipes.
Dandelion Cookies.


I found a few more uses for dandelions which we started to work on:  dandelion vinegar and dandelion-infused oil (which also can be made into a salve).
The first step for both the vinegar and oil/salve is to collect the blossoms.  Make sure they are from an area that isn’t sprayed with chemicals.  These dandelions came from our yard which is not sprayed.

Sophia collecting dandelion blossoms.

Fill a quart jar with blossoms. 

Olivia filling a jar with dandelion blossoms.

For the dandelion vinegar, cover with apple cider vinegar and then put a cover on the jar. 

Sophia pouring apple cider vinegar over
dandelion blossoms.
Place in a sunny location to steep.  Shake well every day.  After two weeks, strain with a cheesecloth.  The dandelion vinegar should be stored in the refrigerator and used on salads.

For the dandelion-infused oil, pour oil (olive, almond, or canola) over the blossoms until they are fully covered. Poke around with a wooden spoon handle to make sure there are no air bubbles.  Cover with a coffee filter held on by a rubber band (or a lid if you’re concerned about the jar being tipped over for some reason).

Olivia pouring oil over dandelion blossoms.

Place in a sunny location to steep for two weeks.  Stir the mixture once a day.

Dandelion vinegar (left) and dandelion-infused oil (right)
steeping in the sun.

After one week, strain the mixture, throw out the brown dandelions, and add fresh ones.  Cover with the coffee filter/lid and return to a sunny location for another week of steeping.  After two weeks, strain using a cheesecloth. 

We haven’t gotten this far yet, but to make the dandelion salve, make the dandelion-infused oil first.  Then add grated beeswax to the oil and melt it.  Add enough to reach your desired consistency.  To test the consistency, drip a drop of the mixture onto a plate.  It will cool immediately and you can see if it is thick enough. 

Dandelions have pain-relieving properties, so the oil and salve can be used for sore muscles or arthritis.  Just apply to the affected area.  It can also be used to relieve sinus headaches by rubbing a little on your forehead.  The salve and oil can be used for dry skin as well. 

As soon as the dandelion vinegar, oil, and salve are done, I’ll post pictures.


There are two more recipes that we want to make, but didn’t have enough time today:  dandelion jelly and dandelion fritters.  We’ll be making these items this week since there seems to be no shortage of dandelions in the yard.


The last thing we did as part of today’s study on dandelions was focused on storytelling and poetry.  I read to the girls the story about how you can’t pick a dandelion. It’s a lovely story and gives a very different view of what a dandelion is…as is anything in nature.

Then I read a poem about dandelions that came from a Waldorf website:

O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all day?
“I just wait here in the tall, green grass, ’till the children come to play.”

O Dandelion, yellow as gold, what do you do all night?
“I wait and wait, while the cool dew falls, and my hair grows long and white.”

And what do you do when your hair grows white, and the children come to play?
“They take me in their dimpled hands, and blow my hair away!”

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Finally…done with planning the gardens for the upcoming season!  Sophia, Olivia, and I looked through all the vegetable, fruit, and flower garden ideas in my files and books, and now have some ideas for maintaining and expanding the gardens.

About ten or so years ago, this map was made of the property by a graphic designer with whom I worked.  It gives an overview of the layout of the farm and where things are located.

Map of the farm.

Since my computer and graphic design skills are rather limited, I did the garden plans by hand.  The first area – and the one that provides some food for us – is located in section 2 (see map above) right off the driveway and near the home.

Current vegetable garden with plans to expand it this year.
The vegetable garden has four existing raised beds as well as one cold frame.  However, they are all more than ten years old and need repair.  That will be the first priority. 
Once they are repaired and compost is added, these areas will have tomatoes, peppers (green, red, and yellow), beets, leeks, lettuce, and herbs. 
Two of the raised beds have fruit:  raspberries, strawberries, and rhubarb.  I want to add one more rhubarb plant, put a covering over the strawberries, and stake up the raspberries since they are overtaking more than their raised bed space. 
There are four new areas that will be added this year in the vegetable/fruit garden area.  These will include: carrots, tomatoes (cherry, roma/paste, pear-shape, and beefsteak), yellow beans, green beans, cabbage, broccoli, and herbs. 
The herb garden will have a variety of herbs that I commonly cook with:  basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
A couple new things I’d like to try this year are scented geraniums and Signet marigolds.  Both of these items can be used when preparing food.  The geraniums come in a variety of scents and can flavor what you are cooking/baking.  A recipe I have is for scented geranium poundcake.  The Signet variety of marigolds (e.g., lemon gem, tangerine gem) also can be used in recipes such as beverages and baked goods.
Signet marigolds on cheese and crackers.
The other vegetable garden is more of a shady one and is located in Section 3 (see map at top of the post).  The girls and I tried potatoes, beets, and beans there last year after weeding it and transplanting flowers that were it.  Unfortunately, by the middle of the summer the surrounding trees had filled in and shaded most of the garden.
So, the new plan is to focus on plants and edible flowers that can tolerate shade to limited sunlight. 
Plan for a garden that gets some sunlight…but is mostly shady.
Towards the front of the garden will be edible flowers – nasturtiums, marigolds, Johnny jump-ups, pansies, signet marigolds, and violets. 
Behind the flowers will be radishes and lettuce.  On the left side of the garden will be spinach and mint.  The back section is left open if there’s additional vegetables that can grow in the shade or if there are some perennial flowers that can be grown there that can be cut and used for arrangements in the home.
This garden will have to have a short fence around it to keep rabbits out of it.  The rabbits seem to think that some of the vegetables and fruit in the gardens are planted just for them. 
One Evening's Harvest
Some of the vegetables from one night’s harvest
during Summer 2010.

Around the garden area – in an area yet to be determined – we will be growing cucumbers and zucchini.  Last year, we had a bumper crop of cucumbers, but the vines were all over the place.  This year, we’re going to use bamboo towers to train the vines to grow up (rather than spread out). 
I thought that we would try potatoes again, but this time use tires (again, growing plants vertically).  However, in doing a bit of research about this method, I decided that purchasing potatoes from an organic farmer at the farmer’s market is a better option. Apparently, tires leach petroleum distillates and we grow all the vegetables and fruit organically, so that’s not a good option for the girls and me. 
One more area that I’ve been wanting to do something with is the little arbor that my brother put in many years ago.  It hasn’t been used much, and I like to something with it since it is next to the lilacs, a birdhouse, and the nature trail.  It’s a quiet area that would be a good spot for reading or relaxing. 
I saw in one of the gardening books the idea of using canning or food jars as miniature herb gardens.  Using wire, you create a hanger for the jar.  I couldn’t find a picture on the internet, but I did find this picture which kind of gives a similar idea:
Hanging vases.
At one time – over ten years – I had a closed loop trail plowed and leveled (shown in Sections 4-9 in the map at the top of this post).  I would mow it and it provided a wonderfully relaxing walk in the mornings or late afternoons as the sun was setting.  Then…a development was put in next door and now houses overlook this part of the farm.  I stopped mowing the trail and it has now become more wild and bumpy (thanks to gophers).
I thought it might be good to re-visit the trail since a row of pine trees is now growing in quite nicely along the east side of the property (which will hopefully block out the view of the homes eventually).  So, the plan would be to plant more trees along the trail that would provide fall color in shades of red, orange, yellow, and gold.  There are some trees and bayberry bushes out on the trail already which is a good start.
Plan for the closed-loop trail. 
Some trees and items (e.g., benches, bluebird houses)
are already in place.  The items with a * need to be added.

The girls and I are excited about planting the gardens this year, and then being able to enjoy the produce during the summer as well as preserving some of it for use in the winter (either by canning, freezing, or drying it).

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Easter was on Sunday, April 24th.  The girls did some activities at home before Easter to celebrate the holiday.  One of the things they look forward to doing each year is coloring eggs. 
Olivia’s hard-boiled eggs sitting in cups of dye.
Sophia and Olivia each dyed six eggs.

The girls also made Resurrection Buns.  They each had eight triangles of crescent roll dough.  They rolled a marshmallow in dairy-free butter and then in sugar/cinnamon mix.  Next, they wrapped the dough around the marshmallow and made sure there were no holes.  They baked them and when they came out of the oven, the marshmallow had melted leaving a gooey mess of melted marshmallow, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. 

The Resurrection Buns have no nutritional value and are very unhealthy.  Yet, they tie in with the Easter story…that’s the justification for making and enjoying them!

Sophia making her batch of Resurrection buns.

A new thing we made this year were Italian Easter Egg Baskets.  They are called Pupa Cu L’ova and basically they are dough wrapped around a dyed, hard-boiled egg.

Olivia with the baked (but undecorated) Pupa Cu L’ova.

After the dough-basket is cool, it is frosted and decorated with sprinkles.

The idea came from a recent issue of Living Crafts magazine.  They didn’t have a name for it in the magazine, only an explanation that the magazine editor’s daughter received one of these pastries from her teacher at her Waldorf school. 

Sophia’s and Olivia’s Italian Easter Egg Baskets.
They want to do them again next year.

For breakfast, one of the recipes I tried this year was from a past issue of Family Fun magazine.  Basically, it is making scrambled eggs and putting them in hash-brown baskets/nests that were baked in the oven. 

After breakfast, the girls sang in the children’s choir.  They both did a nice job singing.

We went over my parents’ home to have Easter dinner and to celebrate my mom’s 81st birthday which falls directly on Easter this year.  In her 81 years, she said that this was the first time that Easter was ever on her birthday.  “It’s been on the 23rd, but never on the 24th,” she said.

Olivia holding the Easter lamb cake that she helped make and decorate.
For many years now, she has wanted to help make this cake.

Having Easter lunch at my mom and dad’s home.
We all brought food so that my mom
didn’t have to do any cooking.

We enjoyed dessert, the children played outside on the deck, and then headed down to the dock to play in the lake.  They played games outside and had fun spending time together.

Inside, my mom opened birthday gifts and she handed out Easter baskets that she made for each of the children. 

My mom opening a present from my dad.
My dad wasn’t able to get a card and gifts this year
since he no longer can drive (due to Alzheimer’s Disease).
So my sister and I got some gifts for him to give to my mom. 
Needless to say, she was very surprised and teary as she opened each gift.

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