School Projects

Fun Projects

Thursday, August 29, 2013

You'll "Feel-Awful" If You Don't Try this Falafel.....

This week I have been trying to finish the annual task of scraping the wood trim around our windows and touching up the paint.  It is an attempt to keep the windows hanging on to the house for another year or two until it is time to replace them.  In some places the wood is about to give up the ghost, and as it turns out quite a bit of caulking needs to be done (the former owner used caulk for many non-traditional purposes, and when his caulk gives out there really isn't any alternative but to put new caulk back in.  Another reason to be happy for future new windows attached with proper fasteners...but I digress, as I often do when discussing house projects) so this project is taking longer then I originally hoped.  What else is new?  However, posting about paint and caulk drying is no more exciting then watching the paint and caulk dry, so instead I will share a cooking adventure.

Ever since I visited the country of Israel during my senior year of high school, I have remembered how good Falafel tasted.  But, I live in Smalltown Midwestern United States, and it isn't readily available around here.  I tried making it myself, once, but decided that I needed to learn how to deep fry before I learned how to deep fry Falafel.  Then I signed up for Pinterest, and low and behold, recipes for BAKED Falafel become readily available.  I may not be able to manage deep frying, but I can manage baking.  These were yummy.  Not quite how I remember them, but passable.
 Then I decided I might as well try for some homemade pita bread, too.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found a fool-proof recipe.  The outside looked okay.....
 but no pocket.  I think I didn't roll them out thinly enough in the final step.  Just an FYI - making pita is not really a quick or easy process.  Still, the yumminess should make up for the time.  Or you could just buy them from the store.  I'll probably choose that route next time.
 Combining the two elements, along with lettuce, hummus, tomato and cucumber (most of which my kids rejected) made a tasty sandwich.  I had seconds.
Her face tells you how well a strange new Mediterranean food went over with the junior members.  "Maaa-ommmm, it just isn't very tasty."  Humph.
 Oh well, more leftovers for me.

Happy baking, everyone!

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Every Garden Needs: New Stepping Stones

One of our summer traditions is to make stepping stones for my garden border.  Here is a link to last year's stepping stones.  I force the kids to make a hand print and include their age and name, but after that they can decorate them however they like.  The only problem I have with this project is collecting all the supplies.  Each year, Hobby Lobby runs out of the mix at the critical moment and I have to scramble.  This year was no different, and so I broke down and bought a complete kit (which included a mold and mosaic glass that I didn't need), just so that I didn't have to wait several weeks until they restocked one more box.  I think I will make my next summer more relaxed by starting to collect the cement mix NOW.  Sorry Hobby Lobby, this is the only area you ever let me down.
Do you see the ice cream bucket in that picture?  Well, square ice cream buckets are a great idea.  They fit more easily into freezers and storage cabinets.  However, they are terrible for mixing things in.  Should you ever desire to mix stepping stone mix you should beg, borrow or maybe even steal a round bucket.  Learn from my mistake, gentle reader!
Here is another helpful tip: have something to for the older kids to do while the younger kids are getting their stepping stones made (I could only mix one stone's worth of cement at a time, so I started with Cam's and then moved on to the next oldest child).  Ian had to wait a long time.  Eventually, he started planning out his design in the bottom of his mold.  When I asked him if he could wait a few more minutes, he informed me that he "was terribly occupied with making patterns."  I took that for a yes......
If you can't see it, there is blue sky, a tent and campfire, grass, and a lake on that stepping stone.
One more note: stepping stone mix and drying stepping stones smell.  If you ever do this project yourself, do it outside if the weather permits (mine didn't).  

After a few days, we put the finished stepping stones out in the backyard, where they look very cute and show no indication of the trouble they caused.

Happy summer traditions everyone!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Making Charts - Not Fun Projects

I think I sleep-walked through the last three weeks.  The last time I checked the calendar it was July and I had plenty of time to get my summer list finished.  Now it is nearing the end of August and I am in a bit of a panic to fit it all in - fun stuff and chores both!

I'll start with the chores.  I decided to implement a new set of chore assignments BEFORE the new school year starts, so that the system will be firmly in place on the first day of school (HEY, stop snorting and laughing at me.  Just because I hope and dream does NOT make me delusional).
 Since I was on a roll with charts, I also made up a school schedule for Ian.  He has several once-a-week subjects and workbooks this year, so he and I both need a way to keep track of them.
When I haven't been busy organizing homeschool curriculum and schedules, I have been mostly occupied with household things.  Things like:
Laundry (never ending  - and who needs to buy extra laundry baskets when Aldi has free banana boxes? Nerdy?  Yep, that's me.),
washing dishes (this inspired some of the new chore assignments),
weeding (I actually enjoy that and wish I could trade it for the dishes and laundry),
and scraping and painting some of the exterior wood around the house (it's slow going).
 My kids don't feel the same end-of-summer pressure that I feel and have been doing their own thing at their own relaxed pace.
Ian doing his sketching for one of his 4-H projects
Brynn found out writing worksheets were fun!
Blair is rather fond of the kiddie pool
Ian found chapter books - and occasionally has to be banned from reading
and forced to go outside and play.
Cam likes things with wheels.
Cam also likes Lake Michigan and graham crackers.
The girls enjoy the beach too!
Happy end of summer, everyone!

Monday, August 19, 2013

 Today was a big day in the life of my son.  Throughout the summer, he has been busily working on three projects to exhibit at our county fair, and today was Judging Day.  This is his first year in 4-H (as a Cloverbud) and he has been waiting as patiently as a six-year-old can for the fair to arrive.  

He entered a leaf collection sketch/scrapbook,
a Lego car,  
 and a hand-print stepping stone.
 He was very nervous as the interview started, but in the end he handled it just fine - characteristically taking over at one point.
 He was quite pleased to receive three ribbons, although he wished they were single colors without pink (Cloverbuds don't get place rankings, just participation ribbons).  It looks like he might be following in my projecting ways!
 To celebrate, we had supper in the park.  Mmmmm, brats.
Happy 4-H Judging Day, everyone!

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Little Helper

I have my sewing machine out again, with the customary stack of sewing and fixing projects ranged around it.  Poor Brynnie has been waiting a long time for her most recent dress but I just can't seem to get it done.  This time the sticking point is the hem of the dress.  Instead of simply hemming it, the pattern instructs me to make my own bias tape (they provide a pattern and instructions) and this intimidates me, so I pause.....

In the interim, I agreed to do a sewing job for a co-worker of Aaron's.  It seemed a fairly straight-forward job - just cut and hem some strips of fabric that were going to be put to various decorative purposes.  Unfortunately, the fabric proved to be less then fun to work with, and what should have been a quick cut-press-sew job started to take a long time.  Usually I sew during naptimes or at night, when kids are quiet and asleep and unable to pull my steam iron down on their own heads, but my deadline was approaching and that method wasn't gonna work.  I sent the three big kids outside and tried to find ways to entertain Cam.

First: Play dough - Good for 10 minutes 
 Second: Sensory Bin - Not even long enough for a picture.
(In case you are wondering, Sensory Bins are all the rage for proper toddler development.  Maybe I didn't read enough blogs on the subject, but basically you put something textural - I used rice and dried beans - and let the toddler "feel" it and play with it.  I put my stuff into a pie pan and muffin tins.  I was pretty sure it wasn't gonna work, but you never know until you try, right?  Since I didn't even get a picture of the event, I will leave it to your imagination to figure out what happened.  Let's just say I stepped on a lot of rice and beans for the next few hours.)

Third: Tupperware Cupboard - Good for 10 minutes, plus another 10 minutes for the snack.
 Fourth: Lunch - good for 40 minutes - only because I dragged it out and made him really mad as he waited for his food.
 Fifth: Naptime - Good for two hours.  Whew - I made it just in time.
Now I need to get back to that dress.
Happy sewing, everyone!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Capturing Caterpillars - Second Attempt

You may remember that my kids wanted to find and capture a caterpillar this summer and then keep it through the cocoon stage until it hatched into a Monarch Butterfly.  Our first attempt at finding the allusive critter ended in failure.  Since then, I have seen more Monarch Butterflies flitting about, so I thought it was a good day to make a second try at caterpillar hunting.  We arrived at the teeball field, where we hunted last time, only to discover that the ENTIRE field had been mowed recently.  The kids were very upset and demanded to know WHY "someone wrecked our butterfly field?"
 After venting their disgust, the kids quickly climbed back out of the depths of despair and found other things to do - like pick wildflower bouquets (could someone please explain to me the difference between wildflowers and weeds?  Is there really a difference? Is one woman's weed another woman's wildflower?)
 Eventually, after wandering around the edges of the field for a while we did find some small milkweed plants that had sprouted since the mowing.
 We searched carefully, but didn't find a sign of a caterpillar or cocoon.  Maybe I'm going to have to break down and buy one of those mail-order kits, since finding a wild caterpillar is proving rather hopeless.
 Happy bug collecting, everyone!

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Highhill Homeschool

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Annual Family Camping Trip

This past weekend we went on our annual camping trip with my sister's family.  We drove across the state of Wisconsin to Wyalusing State Park.  This was our ninth year camping together, but our first time at this park.  It was certainly worth the drive.
 We had a new tent this trip (the Taj-ma-tent went the way of all hard-used discount manufacturer tents).  It is smaller then our old tent, but we all fit just fine and as a bonus it was pretty quick to set up and take down.
 As with all good camping trips, there were plenty of campfires and tasty snacks.
 These are Aaron's famous "Biscuits on a stick" where you take a tube of Pillsbury biscuits and wrap each one around a stick and roast it.  The idea has been modified over the years and now they get made on pudgy-pie makers and frying pans.
 We also eat marshmallows - cold and hot
 and stuffed into s'mores.
 Along with just camping, we like to tour the area we are visiting.  This year we saw Prairie du Chien, and we visited a Victorian Mansion called Villa Louis.  It was actually fairly kid friendly, and we got to see how the rich and famous lived in the 1890s.
 Of course we brought snacks.
 After the mansion tour we got to choose from two options: visit a fort or walk along the Mississippi River and check out some gardens.  Brynnie and I and Tandis chose the second option (we brought the babies with us too).
 Then we wrapped up the days' adventures by swimming in Ol' Muddy.
 Sunday started off with more yummy camp food: BACON!!!
 After taking down our camp, we went for a hike to Big Sand Cave.
 We had great fun exploring the area "behind the waterfall" which wasn't very deep or dark,
 but was just right for pint-sized explorers.
 There was even a great family photo opportunity - check it out: everyone looked at the camera!
 Then it was back on the not-stroller-friendly trail so that we could get to our dwindling food supply and make our final meal of the trip.
 Hamburgers, of course.
 Then we hit the road for home.  
Happy camping, everyone!

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