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

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter R…is for Relationships.

One of the benefits of homeschooling is the ability to develop close relationships between parents and children as well as between siblings. 

Sophia and Olivia on December 23rd
The girls standing in front of
the Christmas tree.

When children are in a school setting, relationships with teachers and friends compete with loyalty to parents and siblings. School schedules and homework assignments take priority over family time, and children may be taught values that conflict with those taught in their homes.

Having attended public school as a child and teen, this definitely describes my school years.

When families homeschool, they operate as a team. Parents are confidants; and siblings are close friends. Schedules are set according to the family’s needs, and children are taught their parents’ values. This is very true for the way I’ve set up homeschooling for the girls.

At home, the curriculum and activities meet the needs of each daughter – not the needs of a classroom or school system. Both girls are treated as individuals, and are truly known and loved.

Ann and Girls 7 Years Later
The girls celebrating the anniversary of
Olivia’s 7th adoption day.

I’m able to customize their lessons based on their interests as well as their developmental abilities/skills. The curriculum and schedule is flexible so if something isn’t working, I can modify it to better fit their needs.  The goal is to make learning fun and educational…and inspire a love for learning.

Another benefit of homeschooling is that the girls have been able to develop a closer relationship with their grandparents who live 50 miles away.

Mom Me Sophia Olivia
The girls with their grandma and me on
my mom/Nana’s 80th birthday.

Girls with All Grandparents
The girls with their grandparents
on their First Communion Day.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading to Papa.
She chose to read him his favorite book when he was a child.

Another benefit to homeschooling is that children within a family have stronger relationships. There is generally more camaraderie than in siblings who attend school. Since Sophia and Olivia are each other’s primary playmates, deep relationships have been and will continue to be formed and nurtured.

At the Chapel
The girls have traveled as part of homeschooling
with their grandparents and me.
This was taken at The Shrine of Guadalupe in Wisconsin
(a place where the girls’ grandparents wanted to visit).

As Sophia’s and Olivia’s teacher, we spend a lot of time together in two main ways – educationally and as a family. This time that we spend together learning, working through any problems, and communicating keeps us all well aware of one another.

All of Us by Lake Saganaga
An educational trip to northern Minnesota.
Here we’re near Lake Saganaga where
my Dad/Papa took many trips during the 1960s and 1970s.

Good relationships and communication extends beyond the immediate family. Generally, homeschooled children can easily communicate with people of many ages and from different walks of life. They learn to adjust to the group to whom they are speaking. Because of this, they often comes across as thoughtful and mature.

The Girls with Mary
The girls picking strawberries with their aunt.

Alice with Girls
The girls enjoying spending time with a
family friend (Alice) and her dog (Maggie).

Gathering together as an extended family brings together people of all ages – from newborns to seniors – giving the girls opportunities to play, talk, and build relationships with others.

Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving at the farm.
An opportunity for playing, talking, and having fun together.

Homeschooling has given the girls opportunities to form friendships with people of different ages who live in other countries. They have met and hosted people at our home including two exchange students from Brazil who lived here in the late 1990s; and my friend from Japan who visited here a couple years ago.

Mom, Dad, Girls, and Ruth
The girls with Ruth (from Brazil) and their grandparents.
Their grandparents invited us over for lunch, and
to visit with Ruth.

The girls also have enjoyed making friends with other homeschoolers as well as children who attend public, private, parochial, and charter schools. This have given them insight into multiple ways that children learn, and introduces them to a wide variety of children.

Sophia's Tea Party
The girls having a tea party with some of their friends.

Sophia with a Friend Before Performance
Sophia and a friend before one of the choir performances.
Sophia, Olivia, and Maggie
The girls holding pumpkins they picked
 from our pumpkin patch.

They have participated in community activities – theater, community ed courses, camps, homeschool swimming lessons, choir, and sports – which introduces them to a diversity of children who have a wide variety of interests.

Olivia with Friends from the Play
Olivia with three other girls who were in a
play/musical with her at a local community theater.

The girls also have had the opportunity to learn from other adults – whether it is at the homeschool co-op where they take a variety of classes; or through special education/speech therapy. They have developed special friendships with some of the teachers and therapists who have helped them learn and gain new skills.

American Girl Tea Party at Co-op
Sophia with one of her teachers at the homeschool co-op.
Ms. Dawn was the American Girl teacher, and this is the
end-of-the-semester party.
Laurie - Olivia's Speech Therapist
Olivia with her speech therapist, Laurie.

Homeschooling is represented by strong and varied relationships. As the girls get older, this will continue to be an important area and benefit to homeschooling.

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Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

With the temperatures rising this past week to a rather tropical level (dewpoints were in the upper 70s and low 80s and temperatures in the 90s making some days feel like it was 110-116 degrees), it’s a perfect week to look at ideas for cooling down. 

Make a Pinaqua

This idea is from the Family Fun June/July 2011 issue. This is a candy-free version of a pinata that is filled with water. To make it, fill a medium plastic trash bag with 1-2 gallons of water and knot the top.

Tie a rope or piece of twine beneat the knot. Toss the tree end of the rope over a tree branch and either tie it securly or have an adult stand by to raise and lower the pinaqua.

Pinaqua.

After being blindfolded and spun around three times, each player takes three whacks at the pinaqua with a broom. The winner is the one who manages to break the bag and unleash the wave.

Go Swimming

The girls enjoyed going swimming with a family friend on Wednesday. She took them to their favorite beach where they swam and played in the water for about an hour and a half. Afterwards, they enjoyed a little snack on the beach before coming back home.

Square Lake Beach.

Stay Indoors

On the hottest days when it literally felt like an oven outside, we chose to stay cool by staying indoors. The girls read and/or listened to books on CD, embroidered, played board games, practiced the piano and harp, did puzzles, and sewed doll clothes.

We also homeschool around the year (with a slightly more relaxed scheduled during the summer months), so they also worked on math, history, science/nature study, and government this week.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Now it’s your turn! What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

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In the spring, we did a nature study about cattails.  It was the first of four studies that we will be doing over a course of the year.  This idea came from the Handbook of Nature Study website, and is the
Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer #7 – Summer Cattail Observations.
.
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.

Inside Preparation Work:


Read pages 500-502 in the Handbook of Nature Study if you have not done so before (starting on page 551 if you have the free download version) . It might also be beneficial to read it again this season and highlight the parts that contain information about the leaves of the cattail plant.

The following parts of the book were shared with Sophia and Olivia:

In June and early July…it will be seen to have the upper half of the cat’s tail much narrower and different than the lower half – as if it were covered with a quite different fur.

Cattail balloon and the part above it
(this is where the pollen comes from).

It seems to be clothed with a fine drooping fringe of olive yellow.

The fringe is a mass of crowded anthers, two or three of them being attached to the same stalk by a short filament.

These anthers are packed full of pollen.

All the leaves have the same general shape, but vary in length.

Olivia and Sophia by a group of cattails.
Olivia is swatting off mosquitos and
is ready to do something different.

Each leaf consists of two parts: the free portion, which is long and narrow and flat towards its tapering tip but is bent into a trough as it nears the plant; and the lower portion, which clasps the plant entirely or partially, depending upon whether it is an outer or inner leaf.

The texture of the leaf is soft and smooth. 

The cattail is adopted for living in swamps where the soil is wet but not under water all the time.

The cattail roots are fine and fibrous.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Enjoy your outdoor time this week at your cattail spot. If you have been participating in the year-long cattail study since last autumn, you will know just where to look for cattails. Use the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study to talk a little about the habitat where your cattails are growing.

Is your cattail still growing in water or has it dried up?

The cattails are both growing in and out of the pond.

The cattails grow in and out of the pond.

What does the “cattail” parts of the plant look like now?

Sophia said that the cattail part is, “Brown, fluffy, and tough.”

“There’s some kind of stem at the top,” Olivia said.

I asked the girls to remove one of the cattails so that they could observe it closer inside. Olivia tried to snap off the cattail, but the stem was very tough to remove. Sophia tried, struggled a bit, and finally was able to break it off.

The girls were trying to break off the top of a cattail
so they could examine it indoors.

What color and shape are the leaves?

Olivia said, “Long and green.”  Sophia said, “Long, pointy at the end, silky, smooth, and green.”

Do you see the cattails seeds or balloons?

The balloons are the parts that we see now. (We had to look up what a cattail balloon is on the internet and found that it is the term for the long, oval brown part of the cattail.)
Can you pull some of the fuzz from the cattail and observe it more closely?

We took one cattail as well as a small section that was on another stalk.  We brought these two items inside to look at them closer with a magnifying glass. Some of the plant is included in the nature journal page.
How do you think the seeds spread, by wind or water?

The girls both thought they would be spread by the wind.

However, as we discussed it more, we thought the seeds could be spread by both wind and water – the wind could carry the seeds to different nearby areas of the pond and pasture; and the water could carry the seeds (once they landed on the water) to different parts of the pond itself.
How crowded are the cattails growing together?

Some of the cattails grow close together in the pond while other cattails are growing by themselves in different parts of the pond. and pasture.

The pond where the cattails are growing.

Train Your Senses


Sight: Observe the cattail’s habitat. Look for birds, insects, and animals living or resting in or on the cattails. Look for nests. See if you can find the cattail flowers.

The girls saw red-winged blackbirds, two unidentified birds, many dragonflies, and mosquitos. The dragonflies were twelve-spotted skimmers. We were seeing the brown and white winged ones – the males. We didn’t see any females.

Twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly.

Smell: Sit or squat near your cattails and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and see if you smell anything.

We didn’t sit near the cattails because most of them were near or in the pond. There seemed to be a lot of mosquitos and other insects near the edge of the pond.

Olivia was having a particularly difficult time with all the bugs, so I opted to move on to walking in the wooded area of the pasture and see if we could spot anything else of interest.

Touch: Feel the leaves, edges, and spikes of the cattails.

Both of the girls felt the leaves and thought they were soft and silky. Despite the softness, they are quite tough and provide a bit of challenge when trying to break a small section off.

Hearing: Take a minute to listen as you stand or sit near your cattails. Can you hear any birds or insects? Water running?

The red-winged blackbirds were the predominant sound…that and the buzzing of mosquitos.  The water is in a pond, so there isn’t much movement on a relatively calm day.

Follow-Up Activity:

Make sure to allow some time after your outdoor hour to discuss any subjects that your child finds interesting. Encourage the completion of a nature journal entry recording your observation of your cattails. You may wish to pull out your other cattail entries and compare the year-long changes in your cattails.

Once we were inside, we spent time touching and looking at the cattail balloon and leaves. From a sensory aspect, the cattail has such a diversity of textures which makes it an interesting plant to explore.

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This month the Unique Women in Business team is doing a Blog Hop focused on Summer Fun.  With temperatures in the 90s (some close to 100 degrees) and dew points in the 70s it feels like it’s quite tropical here in Minnesota.

For me, having fun during the summer means having some flexibility to do things I enjoy doing since the homeschooling schedule is a bit more relaxed compared to the September-May time period. 

During June and July, I’ve been able to make new window star patterns. Here’s a design that I created recently:

Window star in summer colors.
Window stars are available in my shop, Harvest Moon by Hand.

The window star that is pictured above reminds me of sunsets and sunrises in colors I typically see in the summer. There have been some spectacular ones that have colored the entire sky in shades of these colors.  I am always in awe of the incredible natural beauty that surrounds me.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Today, I was teaching a friend of my daughters how to sew since she wants to learn how to make her own clothes. The first project I had her do was a little bag with an attached tie.

There were no measurements for this pattern – it was simply an idea presented in a book.  So I showed her how to estimate and create the dimensions for each of the pieces.  By the time she was done sewing her first bag, she had learned some fundamental sewing skills…and felt very happy with what she made.

After seeing the bag (and trying out the pattern I’ve wanted to do for some time now), I made a couple of bags after she left and changed the proportions slightly. 

Two bags that I made.
The bags are a great way to use fabric and ribbon scraps. I’ve made re-usable gift bags using only one color of fabric for birthdays and Christmas.
As I made these bags, I thought they would be good to use for the girls in their backpacks or when traveling. By making the bags in a variety of different sizes and patterns, one’s suitcase, purse, or backpack could be much more organized.
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
Last, having fun during the summer means being able to enjoy nature up close. Today I enjoyed watching a bird take a bath in the birdbath in the backyard. For several minutes, it cleaned its feathers…tossing the water in the air and under its wings.
That, in itself, would have made me happy today. But…I woke up this morning and found that two of the butterflies we’ve been raising since they were caterpillars had emerged from their cocoons.
Around 11:25 a.m., the third butterfly was born and we were able to watch its wings unfold, dry, and be strong enough to fly. What an amazing process!
The girls (and Eenie) watching two of the
newly-born butterflies.

After lunch, we released the butterflies in the backyard. The black tiger swallowtails flew off immediately. One flew right to the purple flowers in the butterfly garden in the backyard where it visited lots of flowers while its wings beat quickly.

The butterfly was flapping its top wings so quickly
(thus, the picture is blurry on the top).
It was such a joy to be able to watch them
change from caterpillars to butterflies during July.

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

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter N …is for Nature.

Nature is a major focus of homeschooling. Living on almost ten acres of land, nature surrounds us each day.

One of the girls’ favorite activities during the summer is raising butterflies. In 2008, there were an abundance of monarch caterpillars. Seeing the life cycle – from caterpillar to butterfly was fascinating for the girls.

#1 - Look at Me!
Olivia with a monarch butterfly.
This one was ready to be released.

Perhaps the most memorable release was when a monarch butterfly was brought outside and didn’t want to leave the girls. It stayed on their fingers, flew to a nearby milkweed plant, flew back in front of them, and then…eventually…flew off.

August 23rd - Third Monarch Butterfly Release
The third butterfly to be released in August 2008.
This one was quite content
to stay around the girls for a long time.

Both Sophia and Olivia enjoying feeding the birds and squirrels. One of the first activities I had both of the girls do for homeschooling involved watching the birds that visited the feeders. Each time a bird would visit, the girls would add a check mark next to the type of bird.

After a certain period of time (10-15 minutes…30 minutes if they were interested and lots of birds were visiting the feeder), they would create a chart to show which type of bird came to the feeder the most.

Sophia by Squirrel Buffet and Feeder
Sophia standing by the squirrel feeder that she and Olivia built.
The corn cob pathways with shell corn
sprinkled on the paths was Sophia’s idea.
The birds and squirrels enjoyed eating the corn.

One of the nice things about living in the country in a home that was built in 1890 is that the surrounding land has some very old trees which are great for climbing. The girls started out climbing the apple trees in the backyard, and have moved onto some of the larger pine trees in the front yard now.

Girls in the Tree
The girls in the tallest pine tree on the property.

During the past year, we have begun taking time for weekly nature study using the book Handbook for Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

Taking the time to learn more about the wildlife, trees, and seasons has been such a highlight of the past year. It has given us a new appreciation for the land here as well as the wildlife that visits and lives on our farm.

Sophia Taking a Break From Nature Journaling
Sophia taking a break from nature journaling.
She is listening to and writing down sounds she hears.

Olivia Drawing in her Nature Journal
Olivia enjoyed nature journaling even when she was much younger.
Here she is at four years old
drawing a picture of what she sees outside.

Since the girls were young, gardening has always been a part of their life. They have learned to raise vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, and flowers. Both have been able to plant seeds; transplant trees; and harvest and preserve what they’ve grown.

Sophia with Pumpkin
Sophia with one of the pumpkins that she grew.

We enjoy going on walks with the dogs and horses. Living in the country, there’s always something interesting to see in the fields, in the sky, along the road, or in the ditches.

Olivia Looking for Rocks

Olivia is looking for rocks and
then putting them in her cone-shaped purse.
If you notice…she picked heavy winter boots
to wear with her light summer dress.
(Summer 2008)

One of my favorite pictures is of Sophia on the far nature trail spreading milkweed. She had lots of milkweed pods in her pocket and she would open them and let the wind carry the seeds to new locations.

She hoped that by doing this, there would be more milkweed available for the monarchs the following year…and in years to come.

Floating Milkweed
Milkweed seeds being carried off by the wind
as Sophia releases them.

Even though there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature right at our home, in the pastures, and on the nature trail, we enjoy exploring other areas as well. One of our favorite places to visit is William O’Brien State Park.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed
The girls running on one of the trails
at William O’Brien State Park.

We also have enjoyed walking on some of the trails at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is a bit of a drive, but the trails are easy to walk and provide a different view of what we normally see at home.

Olivia Looking at Hawk in Tree
Olivia observing a hawk in a tree at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We enjoy picnics outside (especially when there are no bugs – which is spring and fall in Minnesota).  There are lots of places to have picnics, but parks that have a lake or river by them are ones that are especially nice.

Feeding Ducks and Gulls
The girls feeding ducks and sea gulls
after a picnic we had.

Sometimes we visit places after we read about book. If a topic in a book interests the girls or if seeing an example of what was mentioned in the book would be of benefit, I try to find a place to go that would extend their learning.

For example, a few years ago, we visited Interstate State Park as part of a unit study we did on the ice age (after reading one of the Magic Treehouse books about the ice age).

Since the girls learn best by seeing and touching, I took them to this park to see first-hand what gorges are and the impact the ice age had on the area where we live.

This park has some fascinating and beautiful rock formations, glacial potholes, and gorges. The St. Croix River runs between the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the park.

Girls at Minnesota Interstate State Park
The girls on a rock overlooking the St. Croix River.
This was taken at Interstate State Park
on the Minnesota side.

When we travel, we always make sure that nature is part of our trip. One of our favorite places to visit is Grand Marais (Minnesota). The girls enjoy being able to be in Lake Superior (although the water is very cold) and play on the shoreline.

Walking on Water
Olivia and Sophia in Lake Superior
at Grand Marais, Minnesota.

One of their most memorable moments on a trip to Grand Marais that we took in September 2010 was being able to feed a chipmunk. We traveled up the Gunflint Trail and stopped along the way.

At the stop, there was a very friendly chipmunk who the girls fed Pik-Nik sticks (fried potato sticks). The chipmunk came up so close to them. They still – almost a year late – recall that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Close Enough To Pet the Chipmunk
The girls feeding a chipmunk.
Nature is such an integral part of homeschooling. Each day, the girls are outside playing or discovering something new. Having both of them so excited about wildlife and caring for the environment is a direct result of being able to homeschool them and have the opportunity to spend so much time outdoors.

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Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This week Sophia and Olivia did two different crafts that they enjoyed: embroidery and beading.

Sophia embroidered a pillowcase with a horse and foal design. The supplies were all ones that we had on hand: a pillowcase, embroidery floss, and an iron-on pattern. I never have used iron-on patterns, though they were something that I wanted to try after seeing the selection at Joann’s.

Sophia’s embroidered pillowcase.

Sophia worked during the week on the design and was very happy with how it turned out. She’s 10 years old, and has being doing embroidery now for several years.

Sophia used the backstitch
to do her embroidered pillowcase.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Olivia enjoys doing arts and crafts – anything that lets her creatively express herself. She picked out a loom that can be used for both beading and cotton-floss weaving.

Olivia working on her beaded bracelet.

She chose to make a bracelet with red, white, and blue beads. I set up the loom for her; and then Olivia beaded the bracelet. She followed a graph-paper chart that I did based on a picture of a bracelet pattern she liked that came with the loom.

Olivia used a sewing needle to secure the beads
in place on the bracelet.

It took a lot of concentration and patience, but she completed the bracelet within a half a day. She’s happy with it, and wants to do more beading…but not right away. “My hand needs a break. It’s tired,” she said.

Olivia wearing the bracelet she made.
Now it’s your turn! What are some fun ideas for crafting with kids?

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Welcome to the fourth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*
During the past week we’ve had temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s – very unusual for this time of year…even for Minnesota.  Trying to stay cool this week wasn’t a problem…it was trying to stay dry with all the rain and thunderstorms. 
So, we ended up doing what we do on some of the hottest days of summer: we stayed inside where it was a comfortable 68-70 degrees.  Thinking of the traditional ways to stay cool on hot days (e.g., playing at the beach, running through the sprinkler) didn’t sound interesting to the girls when it was 59 degrees and overcast outside.
Here are some ways that we stay cool…even when the temperatures aren’t over 100 degrees like they were a few weeks ago:
Visited the zoo, conservatory, and Japanese gardens – alternating between being inside (with air conditioning) and outdoors (in the “heat”)
The day we visited the zoo, there were many volunteers who had hands-on learning stations and stations where there were small animals that you could see close up.  We were very excited to see the new area for the polar bears – 15 year old brothers. 
One of the polar bears enjoying being outside.
The zoo also is holding thee polar bears from the Minot zoo since there is flooding in the area.  They are quarantined for 30 days, and then they will see if the Minot zoo can take them back (if it isn’t damaged) or if the bears will be able to be let outside.  We’re going to check the zoo again in a few weeks and see if there will be more polar bears out. It’d be nice to see them.
Since I homeschool the girls year round (with a modified schedule during the summer), the zoo was a wonderful way to learn about animals and plants.
Olivia listening to a volunteer talk about the
gecko he was holding.
This was inside near the tropical exhibit.
After spending some time inside seeing a quail, tortoise, and other small animals, amphibians, and reptiles, we headed back outside to walk through the Japanese garden.

Then we finished the day by heading back inside to the conservatory and the summer flower display.  It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!

Overlooking the summer flowers in the conservatory
under the glass ceiling.  The fragrance from the flowers
could be smelled even before entering the room. 
The flowers were so beautiful – the lilies and roses were very fragrant, and seem to invite visitors in to enjoy the flowers.  Many of the flowers seemed to be so large for their type – particularly the lilies and hibiscus.
This hibiscus was at least 5-6″ wide. 
The plant was covered with beautiful flowers
just like this one.
Ate cool dishes (rather than hot ones)
Even though it hasn’t been particularly hot recently, one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer is by eating “lighter” or “cooler” dishes.  Making salads with fresh, organic vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways to cook on hot days. 

Below is a recipe that I made this week that we all enjoyed (except Olivia who doesn’t like spicy food).  It is from Ross Turnbull, Executive Chef at the Princeville Resort (on the island of Kauai in Hawaii).  It isn’t a salad, but it reminded me of a place that gets hot (Hawaii) and the lighter, “cooler” fare they serve during the hot months.

Pineapple Salsa.
Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

2 Cups diced fresh Maui gold pineapple
1/2 Cup fine diced red bell pepper
1/2 Cup fine diced red onion
1/2 Cup fine sliced scallions
Pinch fine chopped habanero pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl and allow to marinate one hour before serving.

Drink lots of water and fresh lemonade to stay hydrated
I’ve made quite a few beverages during the past week – all with lemon in them:  honey gingered lemonade; cranberry lemonade; watermelon lemonade; and rhubarb strawberry slush. 

Out of the beverages, the favorite one was rhubarb strawberry slush that used rhubarb from the garden and strawberries that we picked at a local berry patch. 

Below is a picture and recipe for the Rhubarb Strawberry Slush that we enjoyed. What I like about this is that the frozen rhubarb-strawberry juice can be frozen and used anytime throughout the summer – particularly the very hot days when a refreshing beverage would be needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slush

(Taste of Home magazine)
Makes 22 Servings/Prep: 40 minutes + freezing

Ingredients

8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened strawberries
3 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1/2 cup lemon juice
11 cups ginger ale, chilled
Rhubarb curls, optional

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar,and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Press through a sieve; discard pulp. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice until dissolved. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze, stirring occasionally, until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: I froze the liquid in a 9″x13″ pan.  After it froze, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit.  Then,  I cut it into 24 pieces.  Next, I placed the pieces onto a cookie sheet and re-freeze.  At this point, they were placed into plastic bags and kept in the freezer to use for individual servings.

To use frozen rhubarb mixture: In a punch bowl or several pitchers, combine equal amounts of rhubarb mixture and ginger ale. Or for one serving, combine 1/2 cup rhubarb mixture and 1/2 cup ginger ale in a glass. Garnish with rhubarb curls if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 22 servings (1 cup each).

Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Set up a birdbath

Birds enjoy taking a quick dip on a warm day just as children do.  Either use a birdbath that’s available at a local store or make your own by inverting a garbage can lid in a base of flat stones or bricks.  Fill it with some water and a few small rocks (for a landing place).

The birdbath is near a birdfeeder (with seed) and hummingbird feeder.
There’s a bird drinking water from the birdbath, and
a robin in the background in the flower garden (it has a small pond in it).

The birdbath is near the hummingbird feeder and birdhouse that the wrens are using, so we can watch and hear the birds.  The baby wrens were born within the past couple of weeks, and both wren parents are flying back and forth non-stop to find tiny insects and worms to feed the babies. 

Now it’s your turn!  What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

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