School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekend Treat-Making

Pinterest has such delightful looking recipes, doesn't it?  I've made quite a few of them myself, and they have all turned out just fine.  This weekend, however, I experienced my first "Pin-saster."  Here is the story: I went to Aldi and found strawberries for a really good price, so I bought a lot.  Then I needed to figure out what to do with them, besides make jam that my kids won't eat, so I turned to Pinterest.  Up popped a number of recipes for "Oven-Dried Strawberries" with lovely pictures that looked like candy/fruit snacks:
Image found here
The recipes were all pretty similar: Bake for three hours at 210 degrees.  Friends, the smell was delightful!!!!  I was very nearly drooling by the time the dried berries came out of the oven.  Sadly, they looked nothing like the pictures - they looked like this:
And they weren't dry either - they were just softer and maybe a bit jelly-ish.  They did taste good to me, although opinions among the rest of the clan were mixed, so it is unlikely I will ever waste three hours on that one again.

To comfort ourselves after that botched treat, we made something else yummy over the weekend.  The girls had great fun making their first batch of Monkey Bread.  It turned out just as sticky and tasty as you could hope for.
Cam like his with his first very own mug of coffee.....
which two minutes after this picture was taken ended up dumped into his breakfast cereal.
You win some, you lose some.

Happy baking and treat-making, everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Project At the End of the Camping Trip

This past weekend we spent camping in southeastern Iowa - Lacey-Koesaqua State Park to be exact.  "But Dana," you say, "camping isn't a project.  Camping is an adventure.  Camping is fun.  Camping is RELAXING.  Camping is not a project."  To which I would kindly respond: "You are wrong.  Camping is most definitely a project."  Still, if you persist in your notion that camping is a project, then you can scroll through the photos of the camping trip until you get to the end and find the photos of the project at the end of the camping trip.
 On Saturday we visited the Civil War Battlefield of Athens, Missouri.  We even got a private tour!  Then we had lunch in their lovely picnic shelter (Camping lunches are projects - see?  I told you so.)
Next it was on to a Burlington Bees Minor League Baseball Game.  (Note: taking children to baseball games counts as a project - think of all the bathroom trips).  The game ended up getting called due to rain, after a VERY impressive lightening show.  There was a lot of rain (even a tornado warning), but thankfully our tent stayed nice and dry.
The next morning we had breakfast in the soggy campsite, and then began to put all the damp stuff back in the van (see, yet ANOTHER project).
Then we squeezed in a quick walk in the woods before hitting the road for home.
And now we have reached the portion of the posts that all you skeptics will have to acknowledge is a real project: Cleaning Up After the Camping Trip.
Tent parts and sleeping bags need to be dried and aired out.
Other damp paraphernalia also needs to be de-mudded, de-bugged and dried out.
And, of course, there are piles and piles of laundry to wash, dry and put away.
But, as consolation for all this projecting, I discovered that my raspberries bushes are just starting to produce, so I took a little snack break before writing this blog post.
Happy camping, everyone!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Strawberry Farmboy

During strawberry seasons of long ago, when I was a kid, my dad would wake me up early on a Saturday morning (he not being a believer in sleeping in past dark-thirty, EVER) and we would go strawberry picking.  Berry picking was serious business for him, and if I wanted to keep up I had to learn to pick fast and well, but the work was interrupted with an occasional taste (or maybe getting pelted with a squishy over-ripe berry), so it was still a lot of fun.

Now that Ian is old enough to not tromp on every berry in a row, I decided it was time to share the joy that is strawberry picking with him.  I still pick at the same farm that my dad took me to, so there is a little bit of nostalgia in this first trip together.

First you ride the wagon out to the field.
Then you get assigned your row - I told him he had to pick ten berries before he tasted one.  Busted!
After you finish picking, you wait for the tractor to come back, and as you wait you sample your produce.
I decided to go easy on the rookie this time and only pick one tray.  During my teen years, my mom and sisters and I started going to the farm together, and we went for volume.  We'd each pick a couple of trays and then take them home and process them.  I have no idea how many pounds that was, but it was a lot.  We had fun working together, although our fingers were stained red for several days afterwards.  
This time I let Ian off the "Strawberry Cleaning" hook and he mixed us up a batch of muffins to snack on instead.
Happy strawberry picking everyone!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Painting Flower Pots

Earlier this spring, I volunteered to lead a project for the Cloverbuds (K-2nd grade kids) in Ian's 4H group.  I decided to have the kids paint little terracotta flower pots and then let the pots dry and carry over the project to the next month when they could plant marigolds in the pots.  It was me vs. 6 high-energy boys and 2 cheerful girls, so I didn't have a chance to take a single photo, BUT, I had some leftover pots that I let my own kids paint on as well.  My kids know the rules and routines of painting, so you do get to see pictures of them.
It should not surprise any of you to learn that since the kids were having such fun painting flower pots, I was motivated to give it a try as well.  When it comes to colorful flower pots, I am of the opinion that there are never enough!
Never one to measure or plan very far ahead, I just free-handed these, which was fun but not very precise.  If you are of a more perfectionist bent, you'll have to figure out the measurements and angles on your own.  Sorry, I'm just not a very helpful blogger today.
The best part, of course, is filling the pots with dirt and flowers and arranging them on the patio to enjoy all summer long (if your children don't drown them with swimming pool water, which is the more likely of the two outcomes).
Happy flower pot painting and planting everyone!

Linked up at: Be Awesome Link Party

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Watercolors and Stamps

To say that it has been extremely soggy and damp around here is not really an understatement at all, so my kids have been stuck inside a bit more then is usual for the summertime.  Over the weekend, I asked the kids if they wanted to do a project, and I heard hoots of joy (except from Ian who had his own "things to do") and I got faces like this one:
The inspiration for this project came from a pile of craft supplies that had been sitting on my bedroom floor for too long.  I know I originally brought them upstairs from their proper storage area for a specific purpose, but I have since forgotten what that purpose was, so it only seemed right to let the kids use the watercolor paints and rubber stamps to decorate the leftover blank greetings cards I had so carefully saved before returning them to the basement.
The girls decided that they wanted to both paint AND stamp their cards, so the project ended up being both a morning AND and afternoon event, which I think was masterful management of time AND energy.  The girls were entertained almost all day, but I only had to clean up one mess!
After the all the paint dried, out came the rubber stamps.  Blair picked her favorite letter "B" and and monogrammed all her cards using the high-speed, high-power, low-accuracy "Wham" method of stamping.  My ears are still ringing!
Brynn's method was much more careful, using multiple stamps and ink pads, and often asking for spelling confirmation.
I only managed to get a picture of a single finished card, because the girls whisked their completed treasures away as soon as all the ink had dried.  I think they were hoping that doing so qualified as enough help cleaning up.  It did not.
I did take a few pictures of the cards I ended up making.  I hadn't intended to get involved in the project, but as I watched the girls work during the morning, I was inspired to mess around with my own set of watercolors, and although I really have no idea what I am doing technically speaking I tried different things like getting the paper wet first, dropping globs of paint and then adding water, and also mixing varying amounts of water into the paint.  Most were utter flops, but a few turned out to be aesthetically pleasing, so I joined the stamping party as well.  By the way, my stamping method falls somewhere between Brynn and Blair's: less painstaking then Brynn's and less violent then Blair's.
Happy painting, stamping and card-making everyone!

Linked up at: Be Awesome Link Party

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Moving Forward on the Master Bathroom

It's late on a Thursday evening and everyone is sleeping but me.  I just finished writing my grocery list for tomorrow's expedition (it's an expedition because I take 4 kids into several stores to collect food and supplies for the next two weeks) and don't really feel ready for bed yet, so I thought I'd do a picture post of progress on our master bathroom.  These photos date back through the past few months because the chief carpenter has been pretty busy with other parts of his life.  Still, there has been lots of progress and you won't get any complaints from me about progress!
Drywall and cement-board being installed (pardon me if I don't use the correct terms - I am a mom/blogger, not Bob the Builder).
Daddy's Helpers - happy to be helping hinder the mudding.
Here the really fun part starts - tiling the shower!  (I helped, but didn't touch the power tool.)
It is grey, which is new ground for me since I usually lean towards yellow and brown and earth-tones in general, but I am VERY happy with it.
And finally, the tile floor, which is also grey (although darker).  Since I took this picture the tiles have all been installed and the grout put in.  It looks great.
 Stick around for my next insomniac, grocery-list writing evening for another bathroom update.  The toilet gets installed next, and for a family of 6, that is a much anticipated event!

Happy remodeling everyone!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Campfire Cooking a la Pinterest

A week ago our family went camping for a weekend with my sister and her family.  This particular event was our tenth trip together, and it is been a wild and crazy adventure as kids were added year by year and they had to be taught the camping ropes.  Now that the youngest ones are two years old, and experienced veterans, the nights are a little more restful and the days a little less stressful - except for the nearly constant trips to the potty.  But this too shall pass, and future camping trips will be stress-free weekends of camping bliss......or maybe they will be mosquito-torture days and thunderstorm nights, only time will tell.
This year, for some of our meals, I decided to actually try some of those fantastic camping food recipes that I have been collecting on Pinterest.  What could go wrong with that, right?  Pinterest is foolproof, right?  People have actually tried to make those recipes before they post them, right?  Well.....maybe.  

The recipe I was most excited to try was "Cheesy Delicious French Fries on the Grill."  This pin only linked to an image, but the pictures were pretty self-explanatory, I thought.
Of course, it rained during the meal I was supposed to make these, so my poor brother-in-law tried to cook them between downpours.  It sorta worked......the ones he set straight on the grill tasted much better and were less soggy.
My other choices for that meal fell prey to the rain and we substituted quick-cooking hot dogs for the Pesto Chicken and Brown-Sugar Carrots.   Despite that set-back, I still really, really, REALLY wanted to try the "Cupcakes Made in an Orange Peel" that I had heard several people talk about.  Since I never actually pinned a recipe this probably doesn't technically count as a Pinterest experiment, but that's okay - I'll pin my own pictures later!  Here's how I did it a few days later, using the grill back home:

Step 1: Cut oranges in half and clean out the edible portion.  Also, prepare a box of cake mix according to the recipe on the package (I did substitute fresh mushed orange juice for the water in the recipe - that turned out to be a pretty good idea!).
Step 2: Fill the emptied orange peels about half full - I wasn't as careful as I should have been and one or two of my oranges overflowed on to the coals below, so don't overfill.  Then, tent aluminum foil over the oranges.  I found that wrapping the foil around my closed fist created a good shape that stayed on the orange without keeping the batter from rising.
Step 3: Arrange the oranges on the grill.  I closed the top, so that I'd get a more even cooking temperature, but I suppose you wouldn't have too.  Cook for about ten minutes, but check occasionally, as my fire didn't heat evenly and some were done more quickly then others.
Just like the oven, I used a toothpick to check for doneness.
The kids gave this one a big thumbs up.  Except for Cam, who instead ate crumbs off his thumb and waved his other hand around.  Were they any better tasting then regular old cupcakes?  Probably not, but the idea of making cupcakes while camping is really awesome!
Happy campfire cooking, everyone, and happy pinning too!