The longer days has brought with it more outdoor play. There are puddles to play in, the sun is out, there is a foot of snow covering the grass after what might be the last Nor’Easter of the winter, allowing us still to do some sledding. You never know what the spring will bring in the North East of the United States. We’ve had a record breaking snow storm in April before, it could happen again. Yesterday was the first day of spring and we can feel spring everywhere.
Little J: The puddles in the driveway remind me of summer.
I heard a bird singing like it’s spring.
We open windows in the house and in the car on these warm days and can here the snow melting and trickling from everywhere, like it’s raining, but the sky is blue, the sun strong.
It’s time to take down the holiday decorations.
Little J is so broken hearted, especially about taking down the tree.
We decide to put the tree on the back porch after undressing it of its ornaments.
But then, it is all plain looking, so we decide to make suet to hang like ornaments.
We have the best suet recipe. Click on the link to go back to a post where I spell out the recipe.
We pack cookie cutters with the suet and put them outside to firm up in the cold. It’s been below 20 degrees F outside the past couple of days.
We pop the suet out of the cookie cutters and tie them with twine, hanging them on the tree.
We also hang the tree with painted sticks and stones made previously from another project.
Big K says he’s seen happy birds all over the tree.
The birds come out to feed right after the sun rises.
The After Christmas Tree is a book I found amongst the Christmas books at the library. It about a family that feels the after holiday blues and finds happiness by having a winter party. At the party they go ice skating, drink hot cocoa and decorate an old christmas tree with bird food ornaments.
Had me some Butternut Squash and Apple Soup at the local coffee shop one late afternoon and it was soooo good.
I had to make it at home.
So I find this recipe from Whole Living. Soup is a smart liquid-meal option that’s also less taxing on your digestive system. Fibrous squash makes this velvety, slightly sweet option satiating. Plus, research shows antioxidant-dense turmeric may boost the liver’s ability to remove chemicals.
I only alter it a little. I add my homemade chicken broth instead of using water and I don’t use cardamom, because I don’t have any in stock.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, grated (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoons turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
Dash ground cloves
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tart apple, peeled, quartered, and chopped
4 cups chopped butternut squash
Coarse salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, squash, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree until smooth in a blender. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
My kids didn’t buy into the deliciousness of this soup, but the grownups do.
I can’t help myself…
My kids won’t touch soup, but I love this book about a little boy that will only eat soup.
Alvie Eats Soup by Ross Collins.
A group of about 20 folks, MOMS and all our little ducklings, organize a tour at our local Heifer International Learning Center.
This working farm is experiential, hands-on, interactive and fun. Overlook Farm is also a demonstration farm complete with gardens and animals including yaks and traditional farm animals such as pigs, goats and more.
Heifer International Learning Centers introduce participants to the idea that one person can make a difference in ending hunger and poverty.
We start the tour with a short video, featuring 5 children from around the world, who have personally gained positive life change due to the donation of livestock. We learn that a small donation of livestock can sustain a family by supplying food and helping them earn a living. The 7 m’s of livestock: milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials and motivation.
We walk around the farm visiting little huts from around the world. We see how someone might live in another country.
We card some wool and spin it into a bracelet.
We visit animals, collect eggs, crack them open and compare the colors of the yolk to a store bought egg. We take turns milking a goat, feed pigs the milk, check out the yaks.
This is an exceptional experience for MOMS and kids alike.
There are only 5 learning centers like this across the USA.
I hope there’s one near you! If not, any farm will do. Farms are Fun!
Heifer Village: Little Rock, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center at Heifer Ranch: Perryville, Arkansas
Heifer Learning Center: Rutland, Massachusetts
Shepard’s Spring: Winslow, Maryland
Howell Nature Center Howell, Michigan
1. Carve your pumpkin outdoors or cover work area with newspaper for easy clean up.
2. If kids don’t like to feel the insides with their bare hands, use a garden, rubber, or winter glove to remove pulp.
3. Dry the pumpkin with a cloth before drawing a face with Sharpie.
4. Talk to your kids about the parts of the face and let them draw and carve it themselves to the best of their ability. (Parent supervision and help is a given.)
5. Don’t dump seeds in the compost or you’ll have a surprise pumpkin patch in the spring when you use your soil for the garden. (I say this from personal experience.)
6. Roast the seeds in your oven or dry them in the sun for next year’s harvest. We’re doing both.
Three Great Pumkiny, Halloweeny Books
Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell, tells the story of a little boy, who’s leftover decomposing pumpkin, plants seeds for the next jack o lantern.
Halloween by Harry Behn, Halloween poetry paired with beautiful illustrations of children out on Halloween night.
Pumpkin Moon by Tim Preston, tells the magical story of pumpkins on Halloween night after the trick or treating is over.
“The whole world wants to be golden
like you, sunflower,
to rest in the cool air,
listening to the cricket songs…”
The spring of 2012 starts with 2 store-bought packages of seeds. One package holds pumpkin seeds and the other, sunflower seeds.
We plant both indoors, using recycled, cardboard egg cartons, a blend of soil that was part our compost, and we watch the sprouts break through the soil, growing into the sunlight outside of the kitchen window, nurtured by our water and affection.
When the time is right, we transplant the sprouts into the outdoor soil and they flourish.
We have three giant sunflower stalks and 3 giant pumpkins at the end of summer.
The fall arrives and with it comes wilting sunflower heads and pumpkins ready for carving.
We take the seeds from both, dry them on the kitchen window sill, and put them in baggies.
As the sunflower seeds dry, they change from white to white with a black stripes.
Next spring we’ll have our own seeds to begin again.
Here are a handful of beautiful and HappyLittleMesses approved children’s books about sunflowers:
Gift of the Sun, A Tale from South Africa by Diane Stewart
Mortimer’s First Garden by Karma Wilson
What’s This? by Caroline Mockford
This Is the Sunflower by Lola M. Schafer
To Be Like the Sun by Susan Marie Swanson
Lily stalks are really fun and satisfying to snip with scissors.
For the younger kids, this may be too hard for their little hand muscles, but it’s a great challenge for the older kids.
I’ll warn you, the pieces pop up when they are cut and can be a hazard to those Betty Davis eyes, so hold it away from you as you snip.
I snatch up some interesting cardboard from our stash and some of our colored glue, arranging it all on the cement porch, right next to our lily patch.
The kids busy themselves, snipping and gluing.
It is smack dab in the middle of apple season here in New England. Our local MOMS Club’s chapter has arranged for us to have a tour of one of our favorite, family run apple orchards.
We are taken to the wall of apple crates, ready to be filled by the pickers,
to the giant fridge that houses apples through the year to keep the fruit fresh,
and to the trees where we’re each given a bag to fill with Macs.
The kids are taught to lift and twist the stem of the apple to pick them off the tree correctly.
We even get to see the apple polishing machine in action, using water and soft fabrics to transport the fruit and remove the haze from the skin.
Apple Polish, a project that will allow for some simple, slow family time together.
…a great way to interact with and prepare all the apples you and your family might pick this season at your local orchard.
Setup: Fold the beach towel in half and place it on the kitchen table, where your “apple polisher” will be working. Fill the small mixing bowl with several inches of water and put it on top of the folded beach towel. Place the two “polishing cloths” on the side of the bowl and the large empty bowl on the other to create your assembly line. You can begin with an apple polishing demonstration give a demonstration.
We added fruit and veggie cleaner spray to the assembly line, my kids are always begging me to use it themselves. This is a good opportunity.
Play: Your child dips the apples in the water, dries and shines them, and places them in the large empty bowl.
This assemply line of apple polishing fun comes directly from Unplugged Play by Bonni Conner, bursting with creative ideas, games, and projects to fill a child’s time with healthy, stimulating and rewarding play.
Taking advantage of the this beautiful fall weather is on our agenda for after school cool downs. After a long day at a desk, following classroom rules about when to move, when to talk, how to eat…all the pent up energy, big voices and big body movements can be used comfortably out in the open.
One of our favorite ways to enjoy the outdoors is to arrange natural materials. The garden needs tending, and the kids were happy to help pull up all the dry tiger lilly stalks. We use the lily stalks to build some outstanding LandArt.
Little J forms a square with 4 stalks and fills in the square space with more stalks and river stones.
Friend H floors me with her creation. She uses the stalks, dry clumps of grass, river stones and giant hosta leaves to create a house, complete with a door bell. She is absorbed, focused, and happy.
My little guy is very tired and therefore wired, sensitive, needy and impatient when he gets off the bus after a full day of school. It’s only been one week of school so far. We’ve adjusted his bedtime, we offer super healthy choices for meals and snacks, we give him lots of love and try our best to be patient…
and we also realize he needs a cool down time, unstructured, open-ended, free time.
This week, HappyLittleMesses will be focused on some simple, process and child driven activities that might help kids unwind, decompress and settle down. There will also be a new category called, “after school cool down.”
First up in this series: Ant House
We leave a little piece of corn muffin on the driveway. An hour later we return to find a line of ants taking it away, crumb by crumb. We follow the line of ants and find the hole in the pavement where they must reside.
After playing bug bingo at nature camp, Little J and K get a prize of some little plastic ants. We think it’s a great idea to build them a little habitat. With leftover snack, we leave a trail of crumbs and line up the plastic marching ants.
The boys gather small twigs and build a square around the food crumbs. I teach them how to build upwards, alternating sticks, like you would in the game Jenga. Little J covers the building with a flat twig roof.