Friday, April 30, 2010

Black Forest Cake

We had two birthdays in April that we baked cakes to celebrate. Thankfully we also had several other people to share the cakes with. Mr Scarecrow's family is big on Black Forest Cherry Cakes, and Jayden had been asking for one for a while. Making one sugar-free is not a difficult task, having a reason to make one is another story. So when we had the second birthday cake notice arrive I offered to make the cake knowing how much Jayden was dying for me to make one. This cake is very simple. All you need is the Chocolate Cake Recipe, a jar of cherries, and 1-2 cups of whipping cream. You can use home canned cherries, or store bought, we've used both in the past. In this picture I used store bought cherries. Either way, check the sugar content on the jar. Our jar had a minute amount of sugar in them. Normally I'd say no, but I was completely out of home canned cherries and on a time crunch.

Drain your jar of cherries. I do this by putting a sieve over a bowl and pouring the cherries in the sieve. Make up the chocolate cake replacing the 3/4 cup of milk with 3/4 c of liquid from your jar of cherries. Bake the cake in 2 round tins. Once cooled cut each round in half. I prefer to use an electric knife which makes the job very simple and quick. Whip up your whipping cream, if you buy thickened cream (an Aussie product) be aware that most of them have sugar and fillers in them. Sometimes I sweeten the cream with 3 "scoops" of stevia per 1 cup of liquid cream.

Place one layer of cake on a plate. Spread 1/4th of the cream on the cake layer. cover the cream with cherries. Repeat three times, saving your nicest looking cherries for the top layer. Place the fourth layer of cake on, spread your cream on. I put the last of the cream in a decorating bag with a large start tip to create the cherry "holds". Place one cherry on each blob of cream. That's it, super simple. I happened to have a bit of chocolate on hand and so I used a potato peeler to make lovely curls of chocolate to top the cake with.

My boys were in awe of the many layers of chocolately goodness. The cake was made shortly after breakfast and they were begging to dig into it all day. I'm pretty sure they inhaled dinner that night in order to get to the cake.

For the record this makes a lot of cake. You wouldn't want to eat an especially large piece with all that lovely cream in it or you'd be sporting a nice belly ache. You can also make cupcake sized cakes. I simply bake cupcakes and cut each one in half and just plop one cherry on the top. This way you can make up a smaller amount of little cakes and freeze the extra cupcakes until you need them.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wildcraft Nature Game

While checking out the link to this fantastic little herbal newsletter I stumbled upon this AWESOME herbal game. Unfortunately they are currently sold out, but I'm on the email list to be notified when the new stock of them arrives. Does this game not look like so much fun? 

Plum Creek History

Because we knew the other houses Laura has lived in were still standing the question came up about the little dugout at Plum Creek. Was it still standing? Could we go see it? We decided to google it and see what we could discover. Imagine our surprise when we stumbled upon this article accompanied by the picture to the left. Could you imagine someone strolling up one day and announcing you owned the property the Ingalls family once owned? Okay, so maybe that doesn't strike many of you as amazing, but I recall reading the entire series of Little House books as a kid and spending countless days dressed up as Laura and pretending I was living in the same era she lived in. Being a girl, I wasn't ashamed to be Laura, unlike my boys who fight over who's Pa and who has to get stuck playing Baby Carrie...

We also searched for some pictures of Laura and her sisters and stumbled upon the information that they'd actually had a brother named Charles jr, but the family called him Freddy. Apparently, I wasn't as up to date on my Ingalls history as I thought I was!

Last, but not least, we stumbled upon this website, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frontier Girl. It's loaded with more information then you could ever imagine about the entire Ingalls clan. There's even video footage of all the homes including Plum Creek.

The boys were really impressed to see so many pictures of Laura and her sisters. They were equally enthralled to see her with her husband, but quite dissapointed to see she and he were a Grandma & Grandpa. They'd desperately hoped to see pictures of her as a little girl (read, from the time period we're reading) and were equally disappointed that the pictures were all in black and white. (But, at least they could still understand the story Uncle D!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Little House Fun

We obtained this  Little House cookbook from Homeschool Library Builder sometime ago and I dug it out this week so Morgan could make cornbread. In Little House On The Prairie he was quick to pick up that they only ate bread and meat and vegetables were a very rare thing. We discussed that they'd been traveling when they would have normally planted and harvested the vegetables that would have been their yearly supply. So, they had to make do with what they had. Morgan enjoys being able to help in the kitchen and I knew he'd enjoy making up a batch of cornbread to try. I all ready had some polenta on hand for making them Johnny Cakes (still to come) as part of our pioneering fun, so I pulled it out and we attacked the recipe together. The recipe in the book calls for brown sugar, which stands to reason. I was a tad skeptical of the buttermilk though because they made plenty of cornbread before they obtained their cow and calf! All the same, we used the recipe and only altered the sweeteners in it.

We swapped the brown sugar for coconut sugar, but because brown sugar can be sweeter (and often packed) we added 1/8th teaspoon of stevia to the batter. We also didn't have any buttermilk on hand so we simply soured milk with vinegar. Morgan was aghast and told the entire house that, "Mommy spoiled the milk for the recipe. She swears it's okay to eat though."  We also baked our cornbread in an 8x8 glass pan at 200 C (aka roughly 400 F) for 25 minutes. It was very yummy and the boys throughly enjoyed it. 

Here's the finished project. I swear, it really tasted better then it looks. You'll have to suffer with the poor pictures, which is what you get when the non professional takes them while ducking flying obstacles because her children are playing war... 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chore Cards

The little chore cards that I posted about back in January have gotten a lot more attention then I expected. In fact, when I showed them they were just a part of our every day to us. Something that was working for us and that I wanted to journal about. I've gotten asked if I've made them and if I would be willing to share them and so on. So, to answer the first question, "Yes, I made them." Once again I used my nifty little scrapping program (stay tuned for a give-away there) to create them. They were 100% my husbands idea, and I took his idea and made it into an actual item we could use. They have been a complete success with only the minor hang-up. Like when a certain little boy doesn't hang his back up and must be sent back to find it.. I have finally turned them into a pdf to share too!  The thing is, when I made these little cards I wasn't convinced they'd work. I also wasn't planning to share them, simply because I wasn't as convinced they'd work. However, we've been using them daily since back in January and at anytime I see chores undone or children asking for free time I simply refer them to their chore charts.

 I've altered the cards a bit for sharing as I have specific rooms and days of the week written on some of the boys cards. For instance, on the set the table card One child has M, W, F and the other one has T, TH, S on it. The chore cards are split between two rings. One ring holds their daily chores which are broken down by Morning & Evening chores (first picture). Then they have weekly chores (pictured above). They generally only have one weekly chore, but somedays (Saturday & Sunday) have more then one chore. On my boys chore cards I wrote down the day of week they had to do the chore on. For instance, Monday one child cleans the bathroom and the other restocks toiler paper. They each vacuum on the same day (Wednesday), but I also wrote down where they must vacuum. The idea is not only to have the boys help clean the house, but to help them be able to do it while I work on my own chores. I left room on the bottom of the weekly cards for you to fill in more specific details. Unfortunately I can't, at this time, make pdfs type able so you'll need to write them in by hand.

To make the cards I printed them all out, laminated them, and cut them apart. Then I punched a hole in the upper left hand corner and used a small circular ring (they are actually curtain rings believe it or not that I picked up at the hardware store for another project. I had 4 left over!) I split the dailies up with the cards Morning & Evening cards. I've included an Afternoon card incase you feel you need one. While my children do have afternoon chores they only amount to helping tidy up after school. Then they get a bit of free time until we all tidy up a bit later. I hung the Daily To Do card at the front of their daily chores (that was probably obvious) and I hung the Weekly card on the weekly chore ring.  I've also provided 4 blank cards you can use to make up any chore cards that you need. I've also included some extra chore cards we don't use at this time. Things like "clean the yard" (my kids play inside a fenced in area and need to clean a deck instead of the yard, we don't leave toys outside of our fenced in area), "make lunch", & "wash laundry". I've also included extra pet cards. We have 2 guinea pigs and 1 dog. So our pet cards pertain to our pets. I included cat cards, and a generic pet card. We hang our cards in the dinning room on a mid sized bulliten board that also holds our family schedule. Chore cards are allowed to be taken down while one does their chores, but must be returned once they are done. When morning chores are done we flip to evening chores and hang it up like that. Once evening chores are done we go right back to the start of the chart. Weekly chore cards aren't taken down. We flip to the day of the week and once the chore has been done they flip to the next chore/day of the week. You can download the eleven page pdf here, or by clicking on any of the pictures in this post. Lastly, if there's a chore card you'd like made up, let me know and we'll see what we can do.

Notes: We do not, at this time, offer rewards for chores. Chores are a part of the responsibility of living in our home. Each family member has chores, and each family member is reminded that doing their chores keeps our home running smoothly. My children are given the luxuries of an allowance (which is not based on their chores), renting movies, playing video games, and special coupons they can cash in each month. The boys have been trained on how to do their chores, which took time and patience (and can still sometimes take extra patience and time.) Because we feel satisfied in knowing that they know how to do these chores without our assistance and presence there are consequences for undone or improperly done chores. Most often this results in returning to the 'scene of the crime' and redoing the chore. Occasionally we may take add another chore onto their list. Cleaning up of their own things not done usually results in the loss of said items. Again, it takes just as much patience and training on our parts to follow through being sure chores are done, but as the boys get older and we follow through more there is often less need for anything other then praise for a job well done. Nothing makes for a better start to our day then the boys hearing, "Awesome job guys!" when a chore is checked on.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Today is ANZAC Day, and we're choosing to celebrate in a slightly more active roll then last year. All though we still won't be attending a dawn service, and it's unclear if we'll make the march or not; we will remember. We've picked six small things to help us in remembering:

1. Giant Paper Poppies. As soon as I saw these last month I knew we'd be making them for ANZAC Day. It's a quick and simple craft, and the hardest part was locating some red and black tissue paper. Our poppies may not be symetrical or even 100% realistic, but if it's the thought that counts then our poppies will be worth more then money can buy.

2. ANZAC Biscuits. We managed to create sugar-free Anzac biscuits last year, and there's no need to tell anyone in this house twice it's time to make some. If you haven't tried them yet, you really should.

3. My Grandad Marches On Anzac Day. While the boys do not have a grandfather who will be marching today, they will still enjoy reading the story. There will be many questions about the shiny medals we spotted in the News Agent, The shiny medal at Nana's, and Uncle D's new job. So many big questions from such little people.

4. Flanders Field Booklet. One poem, so many emotions. The boys will enjoy making the mini booklets, and they'll equally enjoy knowing that the poem has significant historical meaning. There's been much question about ANZAC Day since our trip to the Pioneer museum. Seeing all the garb there has given them a much wider view of the entire subject.

5. Anzac Cottage. Another Anzac book that we were blessed to be able to find in the library early enough that we could read it together on Anzac. The boys will be amazed at why and how the cottage was built, and that amazement will grow even wider when they find out it's a true story. I think they'll also enjoy seeing the pictures and wondering how much of it was "just like Laura.."

6. Anzac Memorial. The tribute in our town is smaller, by a lot. It's not as shiny, and we've yet to see a single poppy growing on it. We plan to change that. We'll be taking our giant, slightly less then perfect, poppies down to the memorial and leaving them. We can only hope the rain and wind hold off just long enough for us to leave our gifts.  There's also talk of delivering some to the two other semi-local memorials, but that may happen later this week.

This is just our small and quite way of saying "Thank you." to the past, present, and future Australian Soldiers.

Agave Controversy

I'm not usually one for controversial issues. Yes, I have opinions on them, but I prefer to discuss them in the private solitude of my home with Mr Scarecrow who always listens and pipes up with his opinion. However, I felt compelled to share a letter I received recently from the Loving Earth company. It came at such an opportune moment, after I'd stumbled upon two or three blogs knocking agave nectar/syrup in less then a week. Now, I respect and understand the need for one to do what they feel is best and healthiest for one's family. I get that, I do. I know a few people who think I'm a tad loopy myself for the efforts I go to in attempting the same goals. Yet, nothing drives me more insane then seeing people read one point of view and then walking away stating it as fact.

If you ever take a writing class and have to do a non-fiction piece you'll be told time and time again that you must get at least three sources who can agree and spit out the same information. Without three sources you aren't suppose to list it as fact. I went a step farther and I gathered information on both sides of the line, after all how can one be objective if they don't at least listen to the other side?

Here's the deal, agave syrup, like stevia and other forms of natural sweeteners, were finally permitted to be manufactured in mass production. Because, let's be honest, everybody wants to get in on it. When this happens quality is often sacrificed. Then there's those who don't get the all the hub, or the health conscience folks who decide to do a pinch of research into all these mass produced items. They learn that many of them are produced improperly and thus aren't that great for us. Does that make all of them bad?

Not all Agave is produced in the same fashion. Some are better then others. Quality matters. I can not, and will not, accept the fact that corn syrup is, in anyway, healthier then agave syrup. For one thing, did you know that corn is one of the top 5 genetically modified foods? I'm pretty sure when God said, "Be fruitful and multiply." He didn't mean go make laboratory safe food and eat it. I'm happy to take my risks with agave and to remember that moderation in all things is wisest.

Below is the email I received from the Loving Earth Company. I was given permission, from them, to post the entire email here for all of you to read, enjoy:

I would like to take this opportunity to write to you about the recent agave controversy, and also to inform you about our newest products.
Loving Earth update
Recently there has been controversy regarding the use and promotion of agave syrup as a health food.Agave Nectar - The high fructose health fraud an article written by Rami Nagel and Beware of the Agave Nectar Health Food Hype by Dr Mercola are the sources of the confusion. Both authors have presented some valid information regarding conventionally grown and processed Blue Webber Agave. However, the information presented is not an accurate representation of Loving Earth's Agave products.

Our agave is a Wild Maguey (Salmiana Variety). It is wildcrafted, certified organic and organically processed at low temperature. Loving Earth works closely with the Indigenous Association of Ixmiquilpan. We have met our growers in person and seen their operation. Our growers do not produce tequila they run a small-scale operation producing only agave syrup. Our agave is raw - it is vacuum evaporated at 40º, and a certified organic, vegan enzyme is used to break down the sugars. It contains 70-75% fructose unlike the Blue Webber variety, which can have fructose levels as high as 90%. Visit and click on the photos next to the Wild Maguey text to view the operation for yourself. Photo number seven shows the vacuum evaporator.

Doctor Mercola states that 'agave nectar as a final product is mostly chemically refined fructose'. The sugars in our agave nectar come from the breakdown of the inulin molecule through the introduction of the certified organic vegan enzyme. It is in no way chemically refined, there are no chemicals involved in any part of the production or packaging process. Our growers do not use chemicals, ionic resins, sulphuric/hydrochloric acid, dicalite or clarimex in the manufacturing of our agave syrup. Australian Certified Organic have audited the harvesting and processing of our agave syrup. They have verified that our agave syrup is pure and that no chemicals or genetically modified organisms are used. They have also verified that it is harvested sustainably. It is refined only as much as the excess moisture is removed from the juice of the plant to prevent fermentation.

Another erroneous statement was that all dark agave syrup is burnt. The light and clear varieties of Agave have undergone filtration, which is why they are lighter in colour. Our Dark Agave Syrup is richer in minerals, which results in its darker colour. Unlike high fructose corn syrup that stores its energy as starch, agave syrup stores its energy as inulin, also known as fructans or levulose. Inulin is typically found in roots or rhizomes. There is no starch in agave syrup. Inulin bypasses digestion in the stomach and small intestine and is digested in the large intestine. Inulin actually feeds the probiotic bacteria in our digestive system.

Agave syrup is a concentrated fruit juice. Like all sweeteners, Loving Earth believes that agave syrup should be consumed in moderation. We believe that agave syrup is a healthier sweetener alternative compared to cane sugar. When used respectfully agave syrup does have health promoting properties. Overconsumption and inappropriately using any food leads to health issues and imbalances of our bodies. Agave syrup should be used in moderation as part of a balanced diet.


We have recently made two new additions to our range:
  • Yellow Kale Chips - the tastiest way to get your greens. 4kg of fresh Kale makes 1kg of Kale Chips! Kale is rich in chlorophyll, vitamin K, vitamin C and beta-carotene. We coat the Kale Chips in a blend of Really Raw Cashews, yellow bell pepper, olive oil and himalayan crystal salt. This coating gives our Kale Chips an amazing flavour and increases the nutrient value of this healthy snack.
  • We have also launched two products in new a breakfast line; Caramel Buckinis and Buckinis Deluxe. They come in 500g packets. Caramel Buckinis are made with Buckwheat. Buckwheat, despite its name, is not actually wheat. In fact it is not even a grain, it is a fruit. It belongs to the Achene family of fruits, which includes strawberries. Buckwheat alkalises our bodies, unlike other breakfast cereal bases such as oats, rice and wheat, which are acid forming in the body.

    We soak and sprout the buckwheat before it is flavoured, and then dehydrate it at low temperature (under 40º) to give it a delicious crunch. Buckwheat is a rich source of protein, rutin and manganese. Caramel Buckinis taste delicious, are low GI and mineral rich.

    Ingredients: Organic Activated Buckwheat, Agave, *Mesquite, *Cinnamon.

    Organic Activated Deluxe Buckinis includes our Activated Caramel Buckinis as the base along with an exotic array of the most delicious super foods we could find.

    Ingredients: Organic Activated Caramelised Buckinis, Organic Agave*, Mesquite*, Goji Berries*, Sour Cherries*, Cacao Nibs*, Coconut*, Activated Pecans*, Activated Sunflower Seeds*, Activated Pumpkin Seeds*, Incan Berries (wild crafted), Cinnamon*, Himalayan Crystal Salt.


    Yellow Kale Chips and Buckinis can be found at your nearest stockist. Make sure you call them before visiting to ensure they have supplies available.
Special events
If you live in Sydney and are interested in coming to a Chocolate Party, we are holding two. One is at About Life Bondi Junction on Friday the 7th of May between 5-7pm - Contact Vladia for more information on 02 9389 7611. The other is being hosted by Maya at Chapel By The Sea in Bondi on the Thursday the 6th - she can be contacted on 02 9130 3445.

If you have received this newsletter by mistake or if you don't want to receive it in future, please clickUNSUBSCRIBE
In health,
The Loving Earth team

Friday, April 23, 2010

Frivolous Fun

It was made known that I'm hard to surprise or shop for because I refuse to eat goodies made with sugar. Trust me, the world is better for it! So, for some completely frivolous fun I'd thought I'd post the current top five things on my "someday" or "wishful thinking" list.

1. A miniature jersey cow. I'm pretty sure we could convince the real estate company that it's just an oversized dog. How were we suppose to know when we so lovingly and kindly took it in that it would grow to be a mere 40" high and give us so many rich and creamy buckets full of milk? Yep, this one's been top on my list, along side some amazing egg laying hens, for a while now.

2. The Rodale WholeFoods Cookbook. I'm pretty picky when it comes to cookbooks these days. Most recipes need so much altering in our home that I find the average cookbook to be a waste of money. How's that for total cookery snobbishness? When I stumbled upon this beautiful cookbook a couple of weeks ago it was love at first sight. I'm itching something terrible to get my hands on it, but our library doesn't have it. I'd prefer the cover pictured though, vs the ugly fish cover I've also seen. And, just in case you have your doubts about the wonderful awesome treats I could make from that book, check out the free recipe here.

3. Adjustable Rolling Pin. Okay, so this is totally frivalous because I all ready own a perfectly good rolling pin that works wonderfully well. Plus, it's not like I honestly use a rolling pin to roll out pastry or cookies that often. I use our rolling pin more often to crush vitamins or herbs. I really should invest in a mortal and pestil, but that's not on my top 5 list at the moment. Anyway, I saw this rolling pin a month or two ago when we were in a local bookshop, weird huh? I thought it was quite clever with little weights that will help you roll your dough out to the proper thickness. Okay, so maybe that's a tad Martha Stewartess of me to be worried that my dough is the correct thickness, but I do!

4. Disney's The Little House On The Prairie. Forget the televsion series that I use to adore and dream about as a kid. I mean we all dreamed of growing up to be Laura Ingalls, right? This movie takes the cake. We watched it when we were in the US many years ago, and with all our Pioneering and Little House reading we'd love to watch it again. The boys are itching for it to be purchased and arrive in the mailbox. I'm totally with them. In fact, it would be perfect for this Sunday evening when Mr Scarecrow will be away at a footie game. Think with overnight shipping it'll clear customs?

5. TableTop Raisins. Tabletop Raisins are made right here in Australia, and what's more, they don't use chemicals to dry their fruit with! They simply use the good old fashioned sun. Their raisins are so big and so moist that once you taste them nothing else will ever do. Especially when the shops only cary small shrivelled up organic raisins that we're most likely the only people in the state that buy them. We go through a bag of these beauties a week, and we're devastated to learn that our local veggie shed has no intention of carrying them anymore. Should I be concerned that 3/4 of the house has raisin withdrawals?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Laura, Mary, & Narration

At the beginning of our pioneer studies we began reading Little House On The Prairie. I'd actually put off reading the books allowed because I thought my boys would scoff at them. They are anti-girly through and through. Only occasionally submitting themselves to the occasional girlie thing. I have, after all, successfully gotten them to join me in watching a Strawberry Shortcake episode or two. They thought the Purple Pie man was the coolest. Alas, I tried. They've also suffered through a few musicals, which entranced them. Said musical also inspired them to ask if they could dance on top of a piano too. So, needless to say I wasn't convinced they'd take too kindly to this series of books. I was wrong. They were smitten within the first few sentences. I have never seen Jayden sit quite so still for anything. Nor, have I seen him willingly produce a chapter book or be willing to discuss it quite so much as he was with Little House On The Prairie. Honestly, it shouldn't have surprised me. Laura is a very curious person. She means well, she truly does. She even aims to do well, but her curiosity or well meaning better half can land in trouble without ever meaning to. Jayden can so very easily relate to characters like this. He took with Ramona Geraldine Quimby too. He spent an entire week running around the house shouting, "ROMONA!" each and every time something went wrong.

If Laura wasn't enough to lure him in, my boys are quite smitten with anything that was once real. So knowing Laura was a real person enticed them too. Not to mention the constant conflicts with the Indians, wolves, and panthers. For Little House On The Prairie we used the free lapbook from Homeschool Share. It's an excellent lapbook, and huge too. However, I felt the need to be a bit more free with these books. We are using them as our school time read aloud, and as I looked at the little booklets in the lapbook I realized the booklets made for good narration topics.

This struck a cord with me, because narration is something I wanted to spend a bit more time with this year. We've done it, very loosely, in the past and I really wanted to work a bit more heavily on it. So when we began On The Banks Of Plum Creek I decided to forgo the free lapbook, which would be very awesome if we were using this book as our sole unit study. Instead, I pick something from each chapter and ask them to tell me about it in as much detail as they can.

Morgan does really well with this, and I enjoy seeing what aspects of something he dwells on and expands a bit. Jayden doesn't do bad considering this is new territory for him, but he does take a bit of prodding. He was disappointed the other day when Morgan's narration seemed much better then his. Which reminded me of the idea in A Charlotte Mason Companion where Karen suggests taking your quieter child aside and letting them narrate in solitude. I like this idea, but we do so much together I was debating how that would work. While it's an idea I'm still going to play with a bit, for now what I decided to do was have them each narrate a different part of the story.

We read two chapters a day (sometimes more, but on average two) which allows me to pick something from each chapter. I try to find something I think they will each like the most. For instance, when we read the third and fourth chapters they both centered around the little creek and things the girls did. I let Jayden narrate something from the third chapter. I simply asked him to tell me what the girls did when they played at the creek. To tell me as much as he could remember.

Now, the downside to this theory was that I was asking him to remember a smaller, considerably so, part of the story that had happened at the beginning of what we read. His mind was fully focused on the wonderful water play that had happened later. However, once he changed his train of thought he didn't do half bad:

They used tubes to scare fish and to drink. They used them to blow bubbles too. They made necklaces out of the little tubes. They took tubes & blue flowers home to ma.

While I know he could have done better, I felt he didn't do half bad for his first time at it and perhaps my lesson learned might be to stop at the end of each chapter. Or, to have Jayden narrate from the last chapter we read.

Morgan on the other hand usually has to be held back so I can catch up with him as I tend to type or write what they say so we can look back on it if we want to. Plus, it makes a great record keeper for their notebooks:

The two girls put on raggy clothes to go swimming. Then they went down the path, which had long grass and tables [table land], then it had short grass, and then long grass again. At last they were finally there!
One of the girls was splashing and the other one said, “Don’t Laura!” Laura started to go to the deep water then Ma said, “Dont Laura, you’re not allowed there.”  Laura went towards the deep water when she didn’t know anyone was watching her. She went to the deep water and something pulled her down, down, down. Then it let go. Pa pulled her up. Bingo!  Pa was the “the thing” that pulled Laura down. So he dunked her. Then she asked him to do it again. Pa said she should never go to the deep water again. 
Pa said that they should go play with Mary. Mary got dunked once, but Laura got dunked several more times. Then they had water fights, and they played and it was a good afternoon. Then they had to go home. They climbed over the hills. Past the soft grass, past the hard grass. Past the long grass, past the short grass. Past the tables. Bingo, they were home.

He was quite hung up on the word Bingo! today. I then asked each of the boys what their favorite part of what we read was. Morgan felt the splashing and going under water was great, Jayden disagreed because he felt that the girls hadn't gone properly prepared. You know, with goggles and stuffs and so they probably got blocked ears. Um, yeah, never mind it was the 1800's or anything like that, right? His favorite part? The Dunking because, 'it was unusual. I was expecting it to be an octopus, not her dad! -- Suddenly something pulled her under! SURPRISE!! It was her DAD!"  And yes, he gave us a great edge of your seat voice when he described that to us.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Three Names

We’re nearing the end of our pioneer studies around here. It’s been a very fun experience and we’ve still got another week ahead of us. The boys have really enjoyed things thus far, but were a tad shocked when I said they were each going to make a quilt as one of their final projects. Next week we’ll be coming to a close with the book Three Names. It’s a sweet book as told by a Great Grandfather to his grandchild. It’s about prairie life, a dog with three names, and the love of learning. I’m looking forward to rowing this book with the boys as I think they’ll each like the book for totally different reasons.
We will be using various lapbook components that I managed to find on Homeschool Share as well as a few I made myself. Only, because I'm a slightly neurotic perfectionist I didn't just take the few booklets provided specifically for Three Names that Homeschool Share offered. I also did a bit of searching and found a few other various books that will tie in beautifully for the areas of this book we intend to focus on. Unfortunately, we won't be studying prairie dogs, despite the request, as our library doesn't have a single book on the little critters. I've promised the boys that I will purchase them a book about said mammals when I place the next book order. You can find the various lapbook components below:
To go with all those awesome little booklets I made up a front cover, a measurment booklet, a map so we can locate the actual prairie states, a pet booklet, & vocabulary cards. Morgan is especially fond of the cover that I came up with. 

We're taking the opportunity with this book to learn a considerable amount about wind and tornados. Jayden has been terrified of wind nearly his entire life. He's weathered some wicked mad storms when we were living in Tennessee. The kind that shake your house, hammer you with hail, knock out the power, and set off the local tornado siren. To this day he has serious issues with wind, thunder, and lightening. I'm hoping that if we learn about them he might let go of some of that fear. Thankfully we don't get a lot of thunder storms here, but living close to the beach we can get some mad crazy wind. He seems to have gotten use to that except in the winter when it whistles around outside at night.  Morgan, on the other hand, has hail issues. He's fine, usually, with thunder and lightning. Unless it shakes the house. However, hail just does him in. He stood in the middle of our bedroom one morning with his ears covered and just screamed top notch. Not because it was hailing, but because he thought it was. May gumtrees never grow to close to our house! I find that often times learning about something that scares the boys often helps them understand the "thing" better and thus gives them a better feeling about it. 

In order to accomplish this we'll be reading the following weather related books; those marked with an asterisk are easy readers and I may give them to the boys for reading themselves:
We'll also be enjoying the following books this week:

We've also got one final Pioneer Museum were hoping to visit, so a busy week ahead for us! You can now download the Three Names lapbook here, or by clicking on any of the pictures above.

Monday, April 19, 2010


There's just something about this picture that I really love.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Little Boys

This week, while I was making dinner the boys decided to play "good guy, bad guy". This usually entails someone arresting the other one and "locking them up" for a while. Sometimes the "bad guy" has to sit in front of the heater or the fire place while being tied to a chair. Apparently the idea is to make them "sweat", literally. I guess my kids don't get the whole "sweat it out" terminology.  They've also been known to make each other sit, tied up, on the couch where they will be forced to watch "girlie" shows until they promise to behave, I like this one, but apparently they are only speaking figuratively because when I ask if we can watch something like Angelina Ballerina or Holly Hobby they run off screaming. The list of insanity goes on. So, this past week when they were playing this game I wasn't giving it too much thought, but when I turned around to rinse off some broccoli I noticed Morgan coming in the kitchen.
He was pleased as punch when he announced he'd "chained" himself up and even managed to lock it. I look at him for a minute and then I said, "Morgan, do you even know where the key to that lock is?" He pauses for a moment and then says, "No!" "Well, how are you going to get that chain off yourself?" "I hadn't really thought about it Mom, but I'm sure it'll be okay." So I stand there and watch him attempt to slip the chain off of himself. Morgan is all skin and bone and always has been, but there was no slipping that off.  He tried to shove it off by going farther up with it, and then tried to drag it down. He only managed to dislodge his shirt and nearly lost his pants. That is when his panic levels started to rise.

My first response was, "Well if I have to take you to the Police Department to get that off  you can do all the explaining of why it's on there." He laughs for a minute and then says, "Will they put me in jail?" "Probably not, I mean it isn't like locking yourself up is bad or anything." "So, I won't be in trouble?" "No, but they might have to use a saw to get it off you." Yeah, me in my broccoli induced stupor is considering the need to have the lock cut off. Then I remember the chain is merely plastic and that we just purchased a hacksaw for making those fun marshmallow shooters.

And this my friends was the cheesy grin on his face about two seconds before he burst into tears! He was completely freaked out by the thought of us using the saw. Now, mind you it's a teeny tiny hack saw. That chain on his tum is made from plastic and is suppose to be for holding stuffed animals, as you can see it doesn't hold stuffed animals very often. In fact, the stuffed animals are usually being quite naughty and are made to suffer at the hands of the law in one way or another as mentioned above. Those who don't comply with such punishments (as in they actually like to sit with Mom and watch girlie movies) are turned into secret agent spies.

Two minutes later I heard Mr Scarecrow say, "Right, don't move okay? Whatever you do just don't move!" To which Morgan says, "I hope I can hold my breath that long!" He still takes everything very literally...

Let's just say he tested the next lock before he tied his brother to the kitchen chair and told him he was going to make him "sweat it out in front of the heater for 2 days!" As for me, I now have a spare set of keys to some unknown lock hanging on the family bulletin board. The chances of them actually opening up the lock in question next time are pretty slim, but apparently it brings relief to some to know that there's a spare set of keys hanging there.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

Remember those faith based Easter baskets? In order to fill them with the Bible and Bible book I loaded my kids up on a week day after we'd finished school and I headed to our local Christian Book Store. The bookstore is small and often very quiet, and it's parking is very limited as well. To avoid parking in the small carpark and getting blocked in I decided to park on the side of the road. This required backing into a parking spot. While I can back up our boat of a car, it has a lot of blind spots and I'm equally intimidated by the many occupance of our town who can stop in the middle of traffic throw their vehicle into reverse and pull into a parking spot before I can say, "Unsafe." My reversing skills are pitiful compared to the majority of the people here.

I come from a place where parking was free and most shops had such enourmous car parks our biggest complaint was not getting to park in the first 5 slots to the door. You know the type, where you wonder where on earth you parked your car and you'd feel silly that you can't remember but you've just bumped into 5 other people with the exact same problem. All of you mumbling numbers and letters under your breath which should remind you of which row you parked in. The kind of place where you could buy your groceries, including organics, veggies, and meat all at one time. If you timed things just right your husband could get his hair cut and your kids could get their eyes checked at the same time. In fact, if you were really good with that timing your car could get an oil change and a tire check while you were at it. I was not, however use to backing into precariously small drives, slim parking spots, and other such places. I am most certainly not, 'the best backer upper ever.' All though, I am occasionally dubbed as such by my kids when I can pull the car under the carport with one swift motion and we notice it's exactly in the middle.

So there I am, backing up into a fairly easy spot on the side of the road. My kids are excited about the prospect of playing in the bin of toys the shop has set up for children while their parents browse. They were gibbering away madly and I'm attempting to judge how close the hitch on the back of my car was from the bumper of the car behind me. As I check my rearview mirror again I notice someone bustling out of the shop I'm hoping to go into. This same man comes right up to my car, leans down to the open window and says, "If you just turn your wheel towards me and go straight back you'll be fine."

I turn my wheel and of course turn it too far so he says, "Just a bit too much." I straighten the wheel and he says, "That's it, now straight back." I back up slowly and he insists I have plenty of room. He advises me to turn the wheel just a pinch more and keep going. I do. He plops coins into my meter and is up the road and around the corner before I can even open my car door. I'm standing there and considering chasing him down, I hadn't even had a moment to thank him when I simply shout, "Thank you." up the street.  I'm not sure I've ever been on the end of a such an amazing act of random kindness, but honestly it really blew me away.

When I told Mr S about it later he was equally impressed and asked if we knew the gentleman. I told him that we didn't, and that from the large pack on his back and his walking shoes I suspect he was a backpacker or tourist of some sort. A complete and utter stranger to us. It truly made me feel so blessed for the rest of the day. Funny thing is, I can't back up our boat of a car now without thinking about that one simple act of kindness and smiling about how amazingly sweet it was.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy Birthday To You..

Happiest of Birthdays Mr Scarecrow!
We love you oh so "berry" much..

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Warm As Wool Lapbook Pictures

Thank you all so much for the kind comments and emails about the Warm As Wool lapbook. I really do enjoy making them, and I had a few spare minutes to get the pictures taken and uploaded to share. So here they are. Our good flash was in need of batteries so some of the pictures are a bit wonky on color. For instance, the file folder we used was actually a deep purple color, but you'll get the idea of how we chose to lay it out all the same. And yes, I print my kids booklets on colored paper and because we print out enough "stuff" for two lapbooks I can swap some of the colors between the two books so that they can get a booklet in one color and the title box for it in another sometimes. Unfortunately, we seem to run out of red paper way too quickly in this house, so this time I'm buying red file folders!

I did not take pictures of the insides of the booklets. I should have though, I know some of you would have enjoyed the little notes and pictures Morgan has tucked inside of his. (He let me use his for the pictures..) I especially love how he drew Betsy Ward with her sheep all around her feet after we discussed her character. He loves drawing and writing, and he's very detailed in what he does which is always really fun to see. Wait until you see the freehanded StarWars "mural" he did after being inspired by Paul Scott.

Here's what the inside looks like when you first open it up. You'll see in another picture that the right hand side lifts up for more goodies underneath it. Each booklet matches up with a lesson in the FIAR manual.

There's little sheepie counters inside the Sheep Math booklet. We'll be using those tomorrow for some fun Sheep math facts. It's a pocket book and so they just slip inside the pocket, but I think we'll need to paperclip them together because I've found a few on the floor over the past couple of days.

These are the booklets that are under the flap on the right side. The sheep poster is really neat because it identifies each part of the sheep. I especially love the sheep hiding in the pocket of the Sheep Vocabulary cards. Such a funny fellow he is!

Ignore the slightly darker side of this picture & the box of taco shells on the counter.. This is what the lapbook looks like if it's open with the flap lifted. We left a little open space because we know we'll have some fun pictures that the boys can tuck in there if they'd like. I also have a couple of sheep crafts that they might prefer to stick in there as well. Either way they are really enjoying this particular unit study! You can download the lapbook here.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Warm As Wool Lapbook

As part of our pioneer studies we're "rowing" Warm As Wool by Scott Russell Sanders. The story is based on real people that he read about in the Ohio state history. It's illustrations are as beautiful as the story itself. This book touches on American Pioneers and their struggles during those first winters. The boys enjoyed the story and relating it to Ma, Pa, Laura, Mary & Baby Carrie. The boys are really hooked on the pioneer time frame right now and would deeply love to go to a pioneer village where you live, work, and eat as though you were living in that time frame.

Unfortunately, Warm As Wool, has been out of print for many years and only recently came back into print. This means that while there were a few pieces at Homeschool Share, our first stop for free lapbooks, there weren't many. I decided that rather then mope about what was lacking I'd simply make a lapbook that fit our needs. I really enjoy making lapbooks for the boys. Morgan really enjoys personalizing his lapbooks and tells us often how much fun he's having. Plus, it really doesn't take me all that long to make one. This one, for instance, was made up in an afternoon while the guys watched a footie match. The entire lapbook has 20 pages, including the front cover (pictured above). Which includes various booklets, cards, and links all based on the lessons in the Five In A Row Volume 3 Manual.

We had much fun today talking about the Great Lakes. When the boys learned that I have been to NY (use to live there), Ohio (traveled through it more then I can count, and man is that long..), and that I'd even ridden on a boat on the Erie Canal (everybody sing Low Bridge Everybody Down..) they were in awe. I, however was not prepared for Jayden's question, "So did you know the Wards Mom? Did you meet them and everything?" He was heavily disappointed when I told him I hadn't met them.

Tell me you love the clipboards! They look really cute in their lapbook all stacked together. I used a mini brad after stacking them up. The kids love clipboards and can't wait to tackle that booklet on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure Morgan will enjoy the lesson on Prologue, Epilogue, and Author's Notes. He really likes to know what inspired people to write stories. He's on a big phase/kick of true stories, even if the retelling is slightly fictional.

We'll be spending  a bit of time exploring sheep as well. Mind you, we won't have to go far for a field trip, but we may have to tie the dog up. He's convinced it's his job to herd the neighbor's sheep, and for a dog with very little training in this area he does an amazingly good job. I'm not entirely sure the neighbor is as appreciative, but for whatever reason when Buster sees sheep he feels the need to herd them all into a corner of their paddock. If we tell him no, he sits down and watches with great intensity. We'll also be having a spinning demonstration which we've invited the other homeschoolers to take part in. If you'd like to download the Warm As Wool lapbook you can do so here. You can view the completed, and assembled, lapbook here

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pioneer Museum

Last week we decided to take the boys on a field trip to one of the local Pioneer Museums. They've been to a museum before, but that would be the kind that was very hands on, not one where you look and don't touch. So I prepped them by informing them we were going to a museum that would have items to look at that Laura Ingalls would have used. I also made them fully aware that they weren't Laura's items because these were all from various places around Australia. Either way they were psyched. Jayden was holding out high hopes that he'd get to see a carriage. We've only learned about covered wagons and I was pretty sure he meant that, but he was quite insistent he meant a carriage. We had a lot of fun and spent the better half of two hours inside enjoying everything there was to see. We were also quite blessed to have the entire museum to ourselves for our entire trip! When you enter this museum you start way back by those barrels in the picture above. You get to peek into each of these doors and windows and oogle at all the stuff on display. 

This was also at the very start and Jayden was over joyed to see it. He was also slightly freaked out because the place was dimly lit with only street lights marking the path and then low light lamps in each store/house. There was also the occasional clippty clop sound of a horse coming down the street. I found that sound highly amusing and while the guys were all crossing the "street" I shouted, "Quick out of the road a horse is coming!!" Funniest part? They all ran to get up on a sidewalk..  You were not permitted to climb up in the carriage and it took great restraint to keep ourselves out. We did, however inspect every inch of it. We all thought the spot on the back to put their travel bags was quite funny because it appeared that at any bump they might lose their luggage. 

There were a great many windows and doors to peer in and so much stuff to see inside each room too. There was a magnificent old printing press. There were various old telephones each one slightly different then the last. An old photography studio that held Mr Scarecrow up for a very long time as he oogled all the slides, cameras, and flashes. It really was amazing! The old portrait camera was as big as Jayden is! There was even a room set up to look like an old cheese and butter making shop. It was quite fascinating, but poor Morgan came away from it screaming. You see, he walked ahead of us and peered in and came running back screaming that there was something gross and dead in it. 

(this was in the blacksmith's room, no label on it either. We felt it looked like a rather primitive exercise bike!)

Now, I know it's a museum but I had my doubts so I cautiously peer around the corner. Probably not a wise idea to watch something like NCIS before your child screams "There's something dead in there!" I peer in and low and behold there's an ox head on the wall. I became quite excited and said, "Oh look boys an ox! Can you believe it? This is like the animal that pulled the wagons west in America..." Jayden was willing to look and told us that he felt the eyes were creepy, Morgan however was diligent at looking anywhere but at the poor ox. 

The same museum also had a World War I & II display going on. It was a terribly sad room to walk through considering we all ready know how many lives were lost and everything else that those wars entailed. They even had a video playing about it, and Jayden, being who he is, sat down to watch it. Morgan stood there watching and turned away stating that, "it makes my heart beat too fast to watch." So he and I walked around the room looking at all the items on display. They had many of the older weapons, some of which were terrible to see. There was a journal, and a New Testament, and an amazingly beautiful beaded belt to admire. A few of the old uniforms and so on. Then we turned around and poor Morgan nearly passed out when he spotted an old style gasmask. Honestly, it was one of the most horrifying things in the entire room. He jotted it down in his journal as the scariest thing in the room, and he doesn't even know what it was used for..

The room also happened to have a room of toys on display, as well as the pelt from a Tasmanian Tiger. The pelt was amazing, if not a tad bizarre & sad to see. The room of toys blew the boys away. Morgan was truly taken by the old Monopoly game (pictured above) and the very old Mecano set. He was equally amazed to know that Poppy once had a set as did many of his uncles. I found the old toy sewing machine and, what must surely be, the very original Daring Books for Boys/Girls on display! Jayden was taken with the child sized phonograph player.

After touring the War rooms we climbed upstairs and saw a large collection of sewing machines, plugs, radios, pianos, organs and the likes. The above set of old headphones was found highly amusing in this day and age of ear buds.. It was really interesting to see just how far so many things have come. The boys were disappointed not to be able to play even one note on the piano, and I have to say it would have been interesting to hear.

We then toured the other side of the street in the Pioneer museum and on that side, amongst other things, happened to be an old dentist's office. Oh what pain and torture that appeared to be! Our dentist would be delighted to know we have a new found respect for her and her tools. The only thing more terrifying then the tools on display was the video playing. The poor women being worked on was squirming so badly in her chair that Jayden said, "I think he must be hurting her and she needs more medicine!" So true kiddo, so true.

They had two very old postoffice/train station style scales too. It was really fun for the boys to see these and Morgan was quick to make the connection between the scales on display and the Mailing May unit study we did. Jayden was itching to stand on one and see how much it would have cost for him to be shipped to Grandma Mary (he was really taken by that character in the book), and was highly put out when I said he wasn't allowed to take the barrels off to climb on himself! 

Lastly, on the way out there was a set of barrels outside the pub. We did a double take as I pointed out that the barrels there were exactly what Praiseworthy and Jack would have hidden in when their boat left the Boston port on it's way to California. Only, we pointed out that instead of whiskey and beer they would have had potatoes in them. The boys suddenly understood why the poor Butler felt so cramped. We really enjoyed ourselves and are looking forward to visiting the other pioneer museum that is also reasonably close to us next week!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Mural Fest

We decided to attend the announcement of winners for the Sheffield Mural Fest this year. We've always gone out and seen the start of the painting process, but we generally don't get back until after it's over. This year we decided we really wanted to see who was going to be "crowned" champion. The boys were really hoping the "crab" mural would win. (see picture to the left) So we loaded up and headed out. The weather was against the festival this year and the artists had to paint during some amazing downpours! This also put a hamper on the award ceremony. So instead of being outside in the park we were all ushered into the adjoining hall. Don't think too grand, it was quite small and very crowded with locals and tourists alike, and that's not even counting the artists!

The ceremony was a tad drawn out for the boys where there was great waffling on from a few of the judges, not to mention each artist was given a prize and a chance to say their thanks before we even found out who'd won what yet! Each year there are a total of 3 places to be won. There's the People's Choice Award, where those who come and visit the Mural Fest in the week long process can vote and chose who they love best. Then there's the Judge's Choice, which often tends to differ dramatically from the Visitor's Choice. Lastly, there's also the People's Award. This award isn't handed out until the following year! You see, when you visit Mural Park you can actually continue to cast votes for the mural you most admire. At the beginning of the next Mural Fest they count those votes up!

The painting the boys were holding out high hopes for did not win Visitor's Choice or Judge's Choice this year, but that didn't change their opinion of how awesome this mural was. They were awe struck at the finished product and were a tad disappointed that the artists of their choice, Paul Scott, didn't win. So, after all the awards were handed out and Mural Fest 2010 came to an official end many of the artists were talking amongst each other. Morgan and I located the Mr Scott and asked if he'd mind having his picture taken with us near his mural.

We were struck by how humble this artist truly was. Each time we complimented him on his mural and told him how amazing it was he was grateful but pointed out how amazing the entire experience had been and how the other artists involved were equally talented and so on. Interestingly enough, while the boys were most drawn to his mural because of the amazingly lifelike crab, the artist himself felt the octopus in the picture was his favorite part.

PS: For those wondering who did win, it was an interesting tie this year. Equally interesting was that the Visitor's Choice Award and the Judge's Pick contained the same artist, the judges simply found another mural so equally amazing that they couldn't decide who most deserved the price. You can read more about it here. (You can just make out their murals behind them.)