Friday, July 3, 2015

Backyard, Beetles, and a Book - Summer Science

A new yard to explore...

...and a new ladybug to identify (we're thinking Anatis lecontei - a Rocky Mountain native).  What could be better than that?

Maybe a great backyard science book, chock-full of interesting facts, colorful illustrations, hands-on projects, and suggestions for exploring even the tiniest of yards?  Thanks to Donald Silver's One Small Square series...

...we have that, too.  I almost passed the thin little picture book up, thinking it might be too young for my children (ages 9 and up).  I'm so glad I didn't, because it's just perfect for us, and so full of information - we'll be paging through it all summer, I'm sure. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Cappella Muppets! Our Favorite Song of Summer.

As I mentioned yesterday, June was pretty much of blur of cleaning, packing, and cleaning some more.  We had a wonderful landlord, who let us out of our lease early, to move into our new house, so when he decided to put the rental house on the market, we wanted to make sure that it showed as well as possible - given it was full of boxes.

That meant a number of days though, with me rushing to clean for a last minute showing, while the children waited, trying to stay entertained, without messing up their clean rooms.  One of the days, while I was busy cleaning a bathroom, and the youngest three were (I thought) playing a video game, I started to hear a racket - sort of half singing, half chanting, followed by bursts of laughter, coming from the room they were in.

I figured they were playing some sort of computer game that called for them to repeat silly characters, or morphed their voices, or something like that.  I was surprised the older girls, who were reading in the living room, hadn't complained about the noise (normally they would have) - except that it was strangely rhythmic.  Then, G (age 16)'s voice joined in, adding a melody over the top of the chanting, and I realized they were singing a sort of impromptu a cappella song.  It was rough, but it was pretty cool.

Naturally, as soon as they realized I was listening, they stopped, and refused to sing again.

The next day, hoping to encourage their creativity, I Googled "a cappella for kids" and came up with the video below.

The children still won't sing for me, but I have to say, we have a hands down, family favorite song for summer.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Letter Garden - Our Favorite App of Summer

Thanks to our move, which was complicated when the landlord of our rental house decided to put the house we were moving out of on the market, during the last few weeks before we moved (making for daily showings, while packing and cleaning were going on) we didn't do much for crafting, baking, or elaborate summer fun in June.

I pretty much left the children to their own devices, with some interesting, and rewarding results.  Hopefully, as we settle into our new house, and get back into the swing of summer fun, I'll get a chance to share a few of them along the way.

As for tonight, I'm planning on unpacking another box or two, and then collapsing into a comfy chair, with my Kindle, for a round or two (or ten) of Letter Garden - our new favorite app for the summer.

We discovered the free "spelling" app when looking for something to pass the time with while we were waiting out of the house during showings.  At first, it was "my game", but it wasn't long before the children decided, one by one, to give it a try, and became completely hooked, as well.

It's a drop down type game, where you clear rows of letters by making words from adjoining letters, within a given time period.  Each level requires more rows to be cleared within the time - adding a few help type buttons as you progress.  Three letter words are allowed (though rude words are not), making it easy enough for younger children, while still challenging enough for adults.

It's a great way to keep the mind sharp, pass the time on those days when it's too hot to get outside, and sneak in a little summer spelling practice in the guise of a very enjoyable, and ridiculously addictive game.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Let The Packing Begin - Again!

We moved from house hunting, to house buying, to packing up the rental house.

June will be busy with packing, cleaning, and unpacking again.

Watch for us in July, returning with summer fun posts, from our new house across town.  We'll hope to see you then.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Three More Baptisms

We had three more baptized today... the name of the Father...


...and Holy Spirit.

All in all, a pretty awesome day for this mom's heart.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Kimono Costume from a Plastic Tablecloth

The teens had an Asian themed "How to Host a Murder Party" to go to for the last night of youth group.  Their leader encouraged them to come in costume, if at all possible.  T (age 17) found a cap at the party supply store, and was good to go...

...but the only other Asian themed items we could find in the store, besides paper fans, were napkins, and plastic tablecloths.

Since there was nothing else, we grabbed a couple of the fans, and two of the tablecloths, and headed home to see what we could do with them.  They were rectangular, and white in the middle, with red and gold strips running down each side.

We folded them in half, short sides together, as shown.

Then, we cut a round neck hold in the center of the folded part, so they could slip on over the girls' heads.

Starting at the short ends, we cut the strips away from the white center...

...stopping about four inches from the girls' arm pits.

If we'd had an extra tablecloth, we probably would have left the arm streamers really long, but we needed some of the red for belts, bows, and trim, so we shortened the arms by about half.

We stapled the bottom...

...and inside edges of the arm streamers closed.

G taped some of the red stripping onto the bottom edges of the white, for trim.  A left hers plain.

We taped together some of the pieces to make belts, folding in the raw edges...

...and stapling, rather than tying them, at the back (that made them a one time wear, but that was all we needed).

We added a little piece of tape to the front to hold the belt in place...

...and stapled bows (pieces pinched and stapled in the middle) to the back for a finishing touch to the robes.

They weren't authentic by any stretch of the imagination, but with fans in hand, and chopsticks in hair, they didn't look too bad...

...for a couple of plastic tablecloths.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Summer Reading - Books with Recipes at the Back.

The younger girls (ages 8 and 10) have been busy reading and crafting their way through Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series, heading into to summer reading.  There are enough books, and crafts, in the series to keep them busy for quite a while yet.  But, I also have a couple of other series (this time with recipes at the back) for them to flip back and forth from, and a similar (recipes at the back) manga series for their older sisters, as well.

Coincidentally, each of the book sets I have in mind also provide opportunities for foreign language study.

For instance, Giada De Laurentiis (from the Food Network) sprinkles the pages of her Recipe for Adventure books with Italian words and phrases. There are recipes at the back of each book, but no glossary, so the girls will be reading these out loud to me (probably only a chapter a day), so I can help them along the way.

I've also downloaded the Gus on the Go - Italian app to our Kindle... well as the free version of Learn Italian (non-affiliate link), to help them with pronunciation and word recognition.

As to the stories, we're only a couple of chapters into the first book, but they remind me a little of the Magic Tree House.

Take a geography loving 11 year old boy, from an Italian-American family, and his 12 year old, history loving, sister, and combine them with a globe-trotting great-aunt, who has the power to transport them to the places she has visited, through her recipes - and you have a recipe for summer learning, as well as an adventure (at least that's my hope).

So far, there are six books in the series (the links will take you to recipe cards on the author's site).

Book 1: Naples! with recipes for Tomato-Basil Pizza and Zeppole
Book 2: Paris! with recipes for Hot Chocolate and Crepes
Book 3: Hong Kong! with recipes for Shrimp Dumplings and Scallion Pancakes
Book 4: New Orleans with recipes for Bananas Foster and Gumbo
Book 5: Rio! with recipes for Brigadeiros and Pão De Queijo
Book 6: Hawaii! with recipes for Macadamia Banana Bread and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

If we make it through all of those, hopefully trying out more than a few of the recipes along the way, the next books I have standing by are part of the Anna Wang series by Andrea Cheng.  The stories revolve around a young, about-to-be middle schooler, from a Chinese-American home, and contain short Chinese-English dictionaries and pronunciation guides, as well as recipes or crafts.

So far, there are four books in the series.

The Year of the Book with instructions for making a draw-string lunch bag (not a recipe but still fun)
The Year of the Baby with a recipe Steamed Red Bean Bao Zi
The Year of the Fortune Cookie with a recipe for Fortune Cookies
The Year of the Three Sisters (no recipe or project that I can see - but a Chinese pronunciation guide).

Meanwhile, my teens (ages 14 and 16) are planning on baking their way through Natumi Ando's Kitchen Princess.  The comic book style manga tells the story of a young girl, the orphan child of two pastry chefs.  She was rescued from drowning as a small child by a boy, who shared his flan, and some encouragement with her, and then left in a hurry, leaving her with only a silver spoon to remember him by.  Years later she when she discovers the spoon carries the emblem of a prestigious school, she studies hard in order to get into the school, in hope of finding her "prince".

The school is filled with elite and gifted students, each with a special talent.  It does not take long for our heroine to realize her talent is baking - much like her parents.  Finding her prince might take a little longer.

It's not exactly Shakespeare, but the recipes look promising, and there's a good deal of Japanese to be learned along the way, as well (with guides thrown in for English readers).

Kitchen Princess 1 with recipes for Flan, Taramasalata, Rainbow Colored Jello, Christmas Cookies, and Onion Gratin Soup.
Kitchen Princess 2 with recipes for Chocolate Macaroons, Strawberry Shortcake, Rice Cake, Yogurt Mousse, Peach Pie.
Kitchen Princess 3 with recipes for Polka Dot Pancake, Rolled Sandwich, Banana Cream Puff, Carrot Cake, and Mont Blanc.
Kitchen Princess 4 with recipes for Omurice, Apple Cake, Cocoa Scone, and Fruit Agar.
Kitchen Princess 5 with recipes for Strawberry Tart, Castella, Crepes, and Souffle Ice Cream.
Kitchen Princess 6 with recipes for Bruschetta, Flan Cake, Curry Roll, Yogurt Bread, and Baked Sweet Potato Mash.
Kitchen Princess 7 with recipes for  Fruit Cocktail, Madeleines, Neapolitan Spaghetti, Mille-Feulle, and Cheesecake.
Kitchen Princess 8 with recipes for Fruit Jam, Tea Sandwiches, High Tea, and Baci.
Kitchen Princess 9 with recipes for Cinnamon Rolls, Banana Bread, Chicken Doria, and Vegetable Potage
Kitchen Princess 10 with recipes for Salt Caramel, Paella, Cocktail, and Creme Brulee.

The girls have been too busy with end of the year youth-group activities, this week, to try any of the recipes from the first book, but I'm looking forward to comparing the Kitchen Princess sugar cookie recipe to our own, and in the meantime, I picked up some store bought flan for the girls to try.

It received mix reviews, but the girls loved getting a little taste of the story, all the same, and we spent a very productive few minutes looking up and reading the history of flan.

Needless to say, with all these great tastes and recipes to be tried, we're going to be needing a good exercise program to go along with our summer reading.