School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, October 27, 2014

Caramel Apples or Why I Am Not a Purist

Well, it seems that the beautiful portion of Autumn is drawing to a close.  You have to search pretty hard to find a yellow or a red leaf left among the brown and crinkly debris - but since you can still find one or two I shall carry on in my "Celebration of Fall" series of posts.  Today's installment brings you instructions on how to make the perfect caramel apple. 

Step 1: Go to Walmart and buy the kit.  

Seriously.  Buy the kit.  I have no delusions of a grandeur (I heard whoever just whispered "No, she's just delusional....").  I have no confidence in my ability to corral 4 kids whilst unwrapping a bag of caramel candy, melting uneaten portion of said caramel candies, keeping aforementioned children from falling headfirst into the now molten caramel, fishing apples out of the caramel after they fall off the stick during the dipping process or refraining from throwing the pot containing the cooled and now permanently attached caramel out through the front window.  No confidence at all.  That is why I bought the kit.

The kit worked beautifully.  The top sheet of waxed paper was peeled off, revealing a thin circle of caramel just waiting for an apple to be set in the middle of it.
 The edges of the caramel circle were lifted up and with just a little bit of stretching and folding they covered the apple.
 Then a popsicle stick handle was inserted and the apple was placed on another square of waxed paper on a cookie tray.  After five minutes in the oven they were soft and gooey and perfect for eating.
And here is the other reason why I am not a purist when it comes to caramel apples: the kids who begged and pleaded and harassed and cajoled for more then a week to make those caramel apples used their front teeth to scrape off a little bit of the caramel from the finished apples, turned up their little noses and said "can we have a different snack?"

Happy kit buying, everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Produce

I love fall, in case you didn't know.  It is when my Yellow-and-Orange Fever (or Y1-O1 as my husband calls it) flairs up the worst, due to all the stimulants floating in the air.  One particular reason that I like it so much is that all kinds of tasty fruits and veggies - namely apples and pumpkins - ripen and we can go collect them and make yummy things from them.  Some years we go to an apple orchard, but this year the kids and I drove to my sister's house instead, and picked a box full of apples from her trees.
 Pumpkins usually come from a little front-yard place in our town where we have lots of fun running around and picking different sized pumpkins from the different piles, but this year Great-grandpa Red grew lots of pumpkins in his garden, so we chose ours from his pile instead.
There is one type of produce, however, that I don't enjoy collecting quite as much as pumpkins and apples:
Have you guessed yet?
 Yeah - all the leaves that I love so much ON the trees eventually come down and pile themselves inches deep in the yard.  Even at that point I still love the red and orange and yellow leaves - until it is time to collect and remove them.  Then my love begins to wane a little bit.
Even so, having these cute little helpers makes the job a little more enjoyable!
Happy fall, everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fall Leaves and Banners

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law mentioned a method she used to preserve fall leaves for decorating around the house: she dipped them in melted canning wax.  It seemed like a pretty awesome idea, so the first time I had an opportunity I decided to try it out.  There was only one problem - I didn't have any canning wax AND the one store I checked didn't have it either.  Since I rather despise the notion of running to 10 different stores trying to find "THE PERFECT SOLUTION", I thought about what I had at home and decided that maybe I could melt down some unused votive candles and use those instead.
 I put them into a disposable baking pan and set that on a low stove burner.  When the candles were all melted, I dipped in the leaves.  It worked!
 The leaves crackled and popped a bit as I dipped them in, and the colors did change a wee bit, but overall they came out looking really pretty!
 Now that I had all these leaves, I needed to find things to do with them!  Some were scattered about the house and the rest got turned into a Fall Banner.  I used 4x6" pieces of left-over brown cardstock for the words, which I hand lettered in chalk.  I used mini-clothespins to attach the letters to twine and then added bunches of leaves at the beginning, middle, and end.
I'm thinking of painting the clothespins a pumpkin color to give a boost to the fall color scheme, but for a quick evening project I'm rather pleased with how it turned out.
 Thanks for the inspiration, Jamie.  Happy fall colors everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Project Day: Fall Trees and Leaves

Did I mention in last week's post that you were going to be seeing quite a lot of orange and yellow around here?  I'm pretty sure I did.  But, on the slim chance that you skipped reading that not-yet-but-certainly-soon-to-be-nominated-for-a-literary-award post, I'll remind everyone that fall colors are my favorite and I tend to go a little overboard every year making fall-themed stuff.  My mom, who also suffers from "Yellow and Orange Fever" doesn't help.  In fact, she beat me to the autumn projects this year with a fun craft on our last Project Day!

The first step was to paint coffee filters with water paints, so that the colors blend together to mimic fall leaves.
While the coffee filters were drying, each kid got a small brown paper bag, which they turned into the trunk of a tree.  For a really good description with pictures, check out this website, where my mom got her inspiration.
Finally, the previously painted coffee filters were cut into leaf shapes and then the leaves were glued on the branches of the trees.
They turned out very pretty (much better then my photography skills illustrate) and make really cute table decorations!
Stay tuned for more yellow and orange.  Happy Project Day everyone!

Monday, September 29, 2014

August and September Pond Study and other School Projects

Fall is my favorite season, and with only a day left in September the season is officially under way.  We are waiting for news from my sister that her apples are ready to pick and I am scoping out the different pumpkin places, so stay tuned for lots of reddish-orangish projects around here.  Until then, you can check out how the pond has changed over the past two months.  We'll start way back in August (which seems ages ago) and move forward in time until last week.

Week 32
 Week 35 (weeks 33 and 34 missed due to our vacation)
We found grapes growing into our yard from the neighbor's yard!  That will definitely go down as a "POND STUDY HIGHLIGHT".
 Week 36 - pond study in the rain
Week 37
Week 38
Week 39 - the kids pointed out that prior to the leaves changing color during this week, the pond hasn't really changed in appearance in the last two months.  In between slapping mosquitoes they made the claim that the pond was just a little bit boring right now.
If science isn't your thing, how about a few social studies projects?  For those of you who are interested in such things, I am not a "Project-based Homeschooler", an Unschooler, or a "Unit 
Study-er".  If, however, I encounter a project that the kids can do mostly on their own that would enrich their textbook studies, then I am all for it.  For example, Ian's history book (The Story of the World, vol. 1) suggested having the student try to build a shelter like a nomadic person would have built to live in.  That was right up Ian's alley, so I sent him outside with a tarp (I live in the city - there aren't many tanned animal hides available for authenticity) and a reminder not to touch my garden stake collection.  He came back inside a long time later with the realization that being a "cave man" wasn't all it was cracked up to be.  I'm thinking that next I should send him out to hunt and gather his own meals - it might create an appreciation for the food we have so readily available to us (and that I put on the table for him.....).
Not to be outdone, Brynnie was interested by a project suggestion in her study of the State of Maryland.  It seems that Maryland has a historically unique fishing fleet called the "Skipjacks" that are involved in harvesting oysters from the Chesapeake Bay.
Brynn decided she wanted total independence on this project and collected her supplies and solved her problems without any help from me.  It was a big girl moment for her!
I was rather relieved when the boat did float - she would have been devastated if it hadn't.
Happy "doing educational stuff" everyone!


Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall Planting

Welcome to Autumn - or as we like to call it here in the Midwest: the last few nice days before winter.  I can feel the Polar Vortex looming, so I decided I better get outside and transplant a few plants and plant a few Daffodil bulbs before the soil freezes six feet deep.  My little buddy Cam decided he was big enough to garden this year, which was fun until he also decided he was big enough to handle the shovel un-aided.
 At that point it became less fun and more a calisthenic workout, but the bulbs got planted and my skill didn't get bashed in so we'll call it a success.
With the outdoor gardening done, it was time to turn my attention to the indoor plants, namely my husband's childhood companion Ricky Henderson.  Yep, the plant has a name.  No, there are no other plants with personal names in our house.  Ricky is special.
Anyway, Ricky had experiences a growth spurt over the summer and desperately needed a new home, so I painted one more terracotta pot.  (For other painted pots, see here.)  Aaron laughed at me because I painted an already orange pot a different shade of orange, but I ignored him because he just doesn't understand.  Then I used chalk to draw a loopy line all over the pot and after mixing together varying amounts of white and yellow paint I used a pencil erasure to make dots on the line.  Despite his mocking of my color choice, Ricky's owner approved of the final product.  We shall see if Ricky does.....
Happy fall chores everyone! 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Master Bathroom Reveal

At one time (roughly 2.5 years ago), this eye sore was counted as one of two bathrooms in our house.  It had no shower, there were three layers of spider-infested shower curtain "window" treatments, the plastic tiles were stuck on over another layer of older tiles neither of which were waterproofed, there was no heat and both the toilet and sink leaked into the basement.  This list only begins to describe the disgusting-ness of the room so I suspect it is needless for me to say that we never used it as a bathroom.  It gives me hives just to remember it.
Then, about 2,5 years ago as I mentioned, we gutted the interior of the house (see some photos here) and the bathroom was temporarily gone.  I think the house actually breathed a sigh of relief.  

Fast forward to today.  That pink petri-dish is only a distant memory and a brand new master bathroom has been installed in place of it.  The new bathroom is clean, appropriately grouted, not spider infested, opens to the east instead of the south, does not leak at all, currently has no window treatments (I do intend to change that, but not with three layers of ruffles) and is heated.  I think the house is happy and I know I certainly am!
One more thing, before I wrap up here.  I would like to point out that along with doing all the building and installation work himself, Aaron built the vanity too.  He probably won't like it that I mentioned it, but I felt like bragging just a bit.  Nobody had a vanity that I liked in our price range, so he learned cabinet-making just to get me what I wanted.  He is kind of a nice guy to keep around the house.
Happy remodeling, everyone!