Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Our Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

To celebrate the beginning of Fall, Alex and I visited our local pumpkin patch this weekend. 

This is their sizing chart- you pick your own price based on how you think your pumpkin matches up. And they are super generous. Alex brought fifty cents to spend, and the lady was so nice, she said it just so happened that the pumpkin he picked was exactly fifty cents (even though the chart clearly marked it in the higher range). 

The straw maze.

Some already picked and waiting to be adopted.

The straw slide. Alex went down first on the bag, and decided the second time he didn't want it. It was a poky ride he said, but he wasn't much worse for the wear. haha

Cup of feed for the petting zoo animals.

Alex on Mt. Haystack.

The goats were the funniest and most entertaining to feed and pet. We couldn't get enough of them. They were so tame and loved being petted, they reminded me of our dogs.

Alex had just thrown a handful of feed their way and the turkeys were racing for it.

Getting ready for the rubber duck races.

Happy Fall!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tubb's Berry Farm Fall 2012 Trip

I took Alex and the daycare kiddos to visit our favorite berry farm this morning. Raspberries are what they grow in late Summer/early Fall, and they just opened the rows for picking.

Alex ate about a third of what we picked on the way home since he skipped breakfast. I'll freeze most of the rest and use them for our green smoothies. Yum!

We used old milk jugs with a side cut out like a scoop and a rope strung through the handle to tie around our waist as carriers for the berries as we picked. Alex used a small one and I had a full gallon size. The farm supplies these for you! 

Here are a few of the animals we said hi to as we walked around the fields. The middle picture are the baby turkeys we visited in the Spring, only they are almost all grown up now!

I also picked up a big jar of raw organic honey and a lotion bar. This honey is my favorite flavor of theirs (they have several). Its got a little zing to it! It's from wildflowers, clover, and mint blossoms in and around Rock Creek Canyon, and you can actually taste a subtle minty aftertaste (or it could be my imagination). 

The lotion bar is a first for me, and I can't wait to try it. It's handmade on the farm with only natural ingredients and zero chemicals. It has beeswax, sweet almond, apricot, avocado and coconut oil, honey, and essential oils that are healing for skin- palmarosa and geranium.  

The Apple Orchard

We visited the apple orchard today and picked fresh apples.

Apples are so symbolic of Autumn and I love having them around this time of the year.

I'll be slicing most of these up and dehydrating them over the next 20 hours (in my oven) or so to use for my wreath, to make decorations, and keep some for snacks. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homemade Hand Kites

I made these hand kites over the weekend. What do you think?

I found the solid wood circles at the thrift store- a brand new 7-pk for .65 cents! I had no idea what I would use them for but I knew I had to have them. 

The number seven certainly was an inspiration, since I LOVE rainbow colors, it was an easy leap to imagine these as hand kites in all the rainbow colors. Fate? I think so. The next day I picked up some ribbon and within an hour I had a rainbow of pretty streamers for the kids. I decided to do 7 different colors rather than a full rainbow for each to help with color recognition. I could just hear them now- "I want the BLUE one, Ms. Wendy!"

So far the daycare kids, as well as Alex, love them. We've been using them for dancing and music, being birds and butterflies and anything else our imaginations can come up with. 

If you make these yourself, you do need to heat seal the ends of the ribbons. After having them for a few days the cats thought they were obviously meant for them and they were beginning to fray already. I used a candle flame and held the tip of each ribbon just barely away from it and it gently melted the end so it was sealed nicely and shouldn't fray again. 

I looked up the rings online and they sell for about $8 just for the rings, and the hand kites sell for $60 for a set of 10 on Etsy, or $7 for ONE. I really got a great deal finding these and doing them myself, and I can tell you they are EASY as pie to make. 

The biggest cost was the ribbon. If you sew a lot you probably already have an assortment of ribbon, and any kind of ribbon will do. I wanted something specific for colors, so even though I have ribbon I've been collecting from thrift stores and sales for months, I decided this time I needed to buy it new from the store. If I was just doing this for Alex, I might use what I had on hand and not care about the colors as much. The ribbon I got was from JoAnne's fabric store. It cost $2 for an 18 foot roll per color, so I paid a total of about $16 to make all 7 hand kites. Compared to the retail of about $60, I saved oodles and I like that it was made by me. 

Love them!  

Watering Our Flowers

Wednesday afternoon Levi and Taytum helped us water and care for our flowers. 

3 year olds are very helpful at this stage, and enjoy doing 'big' chores that they see grown-ups doing. 

Some are early bloomers and want to be helpful at 2, but by about 3 you can almost always depend on having your little one on your heels while you work around the house. So put them to work, too! 

This is a great age to let little ones take on more responsibility- helping wash dishes, washing the car or their bike, carrying groceries, washing produce, stirring the oatmeal cookies, setting the table, putting away the silverware from the dishwasher, watering plants, feeding pets, sweeping floors, sorting laundry... the list goes on. 

'HELPING' is the key word. Toddlers are not ready for most things yet without your help and supervision, but if you stay patient it will pay off. They will need you to stay close for most things still, and should always be closely supervised in the kitchen, around tools and machinery and other areas where they could get hurt. But it shouldn't stop you from letting them help! 

The key is to enlist them when they show interest, instead of waiting until you think they won't make a mess doing it. Keep it fun and accept the mess factor. They will quickly learn to master the new skill and gain confidence, positive self esteem, trust in you (after all, you trusted them to do it!), and independence. 

And if you are very lucky- they will learn an appreciation for hard work. But that's just icing on an already sweet cupcake.

Visiting the Library

We had fun visiting the library this week!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Investigating Bread

Today the daycare kiddos and I investigated the ingredients of bread! 

First I asked what THEY thought was in bread. They knew bread wasn't made from silly things like toys or socks. Most knew bread came from wheat or other grains, and maybe being from a farming community helped in that aspect, too. 

At my house we eat bread with lots of seeds, so the kids knew our bread had those, too. I used our doodle draw to illustrate the ingredients as we went. I love the doodle draw!

Naturally, any investigation of food REQUIRES taste testing. It's just good scientific practice. 

We are 'Daves Killer Bread' fanatics. It's organic, the ingredients are all things I am comfortable with, and it is packed with whole grains and seeds, so it's really texture-y. And best of all, their tag line is "Just say no to bread on drugs!". Love them!!

You can see by my professional illustrations on the doodle draw that the ingredients list is pretty basic- wheat, seeds, fruit juices, oats, sea salt, and yeast (not pictured because I have no idea how to draw yeast! haha). NO cane juice, no high fructose anything, no corn anything, and absolutely no GMOs.  

While the kiddos were eating and investigating, I asked them if they could find the ingredients in their bread. We could definitely find the seeds and the oats, since they are whole. 

Then I asked if they could taste the ingredients they couldn't see. I asked them to close their eyes while they chewed to see if they could detect any of the fruit flavors, sea salt or wheat. 

Some said they could, others no, but they all tried to taste them, which was important (and cute). 

Either way it helped them think about what is in their food a little different, and if you catch your child at the table chewing with his eyes closed, you might imagine he is carefully examining ingredients with his tongue!   

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Produce Stickers

This Summer the school aged kids learned about the importance of Organic, Whole Foods. As a farming community who apparently believes the more chemicals the better, organic produce is not in abundance locally. That makes it even more important to know what you are buying when shopping at the grocery store.  

Since we don't have a Whole Foods here, or any kind of real Farmer's Market, at least not like I am used to, we have to really do our homework when buying from local growers. I found many grow without chemicals or GMOs, but do not seek organic certification. This is something I can understand. Organic certification is a very costly process and takes years. So as the consumer, I have to ask all the questions directly to certify for myself which farms I deem safe to purchase food from. I have not found many that meet my own standards. Actually I have found only two, and even then I'm making some concessions. But two is a start. 

So I'm back to helping children know what to look for as they help their parents shop for produce in the store, since I can't really direct them to any kind of local sources. 

Something I've learned as an early childhood educator, is that children are great teachers! When you help children acquire the knowledge- they understand FAR far more than most people believe- there is a trickle UP effect. Children get excited about new information, then raise awareness at home and influence their families to make changes, which in turn spreads to other relatives, friends and sometimes neighbors. It's often subtle, and slow, but it works.

Anyhoo, this fun picture helps illustrate the sticker 'codes' used on produce in a colorful, easy to understand way. And really, anytime you tell kids about secret codes they are on board, so my work was half done once I mentioned that part. 

Alex learned this last year and is Inspector #Uno when we shop at the store. He checks stickers like he's one of those militant health department agents who fail a restaurant because there was a micron of dust on the salad bar sneeze guard (I'm surprised he hasn't taken to using a magnifying glass). Alex has NO tolerance for non-organic or GMO foods. There's actual hissing and curses (not profanity- actual curses; "A pox upon your soil, evil GMO farmer!!"). 

He knows to stay away from any produce with a sticker that starts with an eight, and he assures me if the world ended and he was the only survivor he would let all the 'eights' rot and not touch them, even if he was starving! He cracks me up. 

Nines are golden and 99.9% of what we buy, though you really do have to count how many numbers there are total, because there are stickers out there that have more than 5 numbers and start with a nine, but they are NOT organic. Threes and fours are for emergencies only, like when a recipe calls for something that is just not available as organic and we really really really want it. :-)