Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life is Learning and Learning is Life...

... and in MY life, I am learning a TONNE.  So much my head is spinning.  I'm exploring many new topics and interests and revisiting some old ones.  As my mind is full of new ideas, my homeschool research has taken a backseat for now.

Here are a taste of some of the ideas filling my brain lately.

1.  Life Learning (aka Unschooling).  I'm daily leaning more and more towards this philosophy of education.  I'm even (gasp!) playing with this philosophy of parenting - although I am nowhere near ready to call myself "radical"!  Oh and the amount of unschooling I need for MYSELF! - I don't think I'll ever be done!

2.  Yoga.  Meditation.  Being present in the now (which I so CAN'T do!!!).  Patanjali's Eight-Fold Path.  The idea of Christian Yoga.

3.  Vegetarianism and natural health.  Time to circle back to this yearly favorite!  I've been cooking LOTS of vegan meals, making my own raw almond milk, my own granola.  Buying Oil of Oregano, edible clay, Goji berries, Cacoa nibs, Coconut Oil, various green liquids and powders.  I haven't got the cold that the rest of the family has!

4.  Parenting.  Oh God - this is the hardest job in the universe!  How and when to discipline.  Learning to LISTEN to them and respect them as little people and not just kids to control.  Realizing the terrifying job of modelling life to them.  Noticing how much I swear, get angry, get irritated, am perfectionistic, disengage and what that *really* communicates to them.  Noticing how insanely task focused I am (and I do mean INSANE) - makes a great worker bee but a shitty mommy.

5.  Distraction.  TV. Internet. Radio. Media. Technology.  The creative process happens when we have a chance to be bored.  I never give myself that chance.  Time to keep the laptop in the basement for the mornings and focus on the kids, on the housework and cleaning, on writing, thinking and reading.  Time to turn the TV off so thoughts, ideas, creativity and LIFE can flow. 

6.  Gratitude.  ENJOY the life I have, right now, in this moment.  Enjoy the kids fighting - at least I have 2 kids to fight with each other.  Enjoy the dishes in the sink - they were just full of food and that is better than most of the world.  Enjoy the husband who is trying to quit smoking for the millionth time - at least he is trying (and meanwhile I can learn the important lessons of being patient, kind, compassionate and able to listen without opening my mouth while he tantrums about craving a cigarette). 

And there's more.  So, my mind is full.  I need to build the habit of getting up before the kids so that I have a chance to process and learn all that is in my head right now!

Reading This Week

I'm *trying* to let the kids choose more often what they would like to read rather than me choosing for them.  Previously, I would choose most of their books.  Now, we each get a turn - so three books, one Nate chose, one Anna chose, and one Mommy chose.  Funny, they enjoy reading much more now.

This week's picks.

1.  Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

We have been reading this book at least once every day this week. 

2.  Paddington Bear at the Circus
by Michael Bond

Both kids were fascinated with the whole circus theme of clowns and stilts and acrobats and trapeze and the ringmaster's top hat.  Nate's favorite part is Paddington imagining the Ring Master's hat full of marmalade.  Anna's favorite part was the ice-cream cone falling on the Ring Master's top hat. 

3.  The Important Book
by Margaret Wise Brown

I love the simplicity and beauty of this book.  The pictures by Leonard Weisgard are stunning.  The text is great for discussion - "what do YOU think is the important thing about rain, wind, sun, you?" etc. 

4.  The Dirty Little Boy
by Margaret Wise Brown

I don't like this book.  At all.  I don't like the illustrations of the "bad mommy" (Nate) and her super fat bum.  I don't like the mother in the story who tells her little boy to go watch the animals and figure out how to get clean and then later berates him for watching animals to learn how to get clean!  But, my kids love it.  They love the "bad mommy" and her ridiculous fat bum.  They love that the little boy tries to get clean like the animals because everyone KNOWS wallowing in a mud puddle like a pig won't get you clean!  They love the little boy's clean bare bum at the end of the book.  I guess that's why it is a kid's book and not a mommy's book.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Memphis vintage world war II letters

Here is a sneek peek at new work in progress. My project is being funded by Rhodes College C.O.D.A. program and the artwork I am working on is based on the lost art of letter writing.
The idea came from my old friend Alison Duffy who showed me her entire collection of vintage war letters that her grandfather wrote to her grandmother. The letters date from the late 1930's to the late 1940's and immediately struck me when I saw and read them.

I plan to make collage-type paintings using enlargements of the actual letters and envelopes. Here are some of the images.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Spend Cold Winter Days with Little People

1.  Sticker Books!

2.  Painting!

3.  Playdough!

4.  Puzzles!

We've also been doing a tonne of colouring, crafts, workbooks (Adrianna), cutting pictures from magazines, train sets, building mega-block towers and tunnels, racing cars on hardwood floor, making muffins, washing dishes and LONG play baths.  I've got to say, this is our best winter yet.

Shark Teeth!

Scott found a tall baby food jar full of shark teeth that his grandmother collected from the beach when she was younger.  He passed it down to Adrianna.  She spent a good chunk of time sorting, counting and examining the teeth.


Hummus has become a favorite lunch around here.  I've added a few variations in order to sneak a few more veggies into the kids.

We made spinach hummus last week.  It turns a wonderful green color ("monstor slime dip").  The kids gobbled it and didn't have a clue there was spinach (a hated veggie!) hiding in there.  Garlic flavor does cover over most everything.

This week, we tried roasted beet hummus.  Same concept, different veggie.  Make your regular hummus recipe but add some roasted beets (or spinach or pumpkin etc.).  This was our "Pretty Princess Pink Dip" and again the kids gobbled it up.  This is the only way I've ever found to get them to eat beets.

What We're Reading

Some of our favorites this week...

1.  Pierrot's ABC Garden
by Anita Lobel

Adrianna loves pictures of fruit and vegetables and she loves gardens so this is one of her current favorite books.  Typical ABC type book - except she runs out of vegetables by U, V, W, X, Y & Z and gets a bit creative.

2.  How Does Your Garden Grow
an Owl Magazine/Golden Press Book

Another gardening book for Adrianna.  A worm, ant and snail describe a garden from their point of view.

3.  The Runaway Bunny
by Margaret Wise Brown

SO cute!  I absolutely LOVE the illustrations by Clement Hurd.  The story line is adorable too.  A little bunny is trying to run away from his mother and she follows him wherever he goes.  I'm learning that Margaret Wise Brown is always a winner in this house.

4.  Paddington Bear in the Garden
by Michael Bond

Surprisingly, Nate enjoyed this story more than Anna.  He was mesmerized by the marmalade and kept asking "where's the marmalade".  Adrianna was mildly interested in the garden but since there were no obvious pictures of fruits or vegetables it lost her interest.  I look forward to trying more Paddington.

5.  The Kid's Guide to Monster Trucks
by Michael O'Hearn

Nate saw monster trucks at a local carnival in the summer.  Ever since he has LOVED them.  Monster Truck videos on YouTube, Monster Truck toys, and I finally found a Monster Truck book at the library and sure enough, he LOVES it.  He now knows all the names of the different trucks.  I'm not sure how I feel about my 2 yr old knowing words such as "Grave Digger" and "Dungeon of Doom"...

6.  Mr. Tickle
by Roger Hargreaves

Adrianna has discovered the Mr. and Little Miss books and she LOVES them.  She has just entered the silly age and the sillier the better!  It's fun to see her lighten up a bit. 

We found The Mr. Men Show - Mr. Tickle Presents: Tickle Time Around Town! DVD at the library.  The kids laughed themselves silly!  Of course, their favorite is Mr. Rude.

We discovered the website for The Mr. Men Show and they had a blast looking at each character and their unique traits.  This is silly childhood at it's best!

It's been a fun week.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Raw Almond Milk and Almond Granola

Lately I've been making my own almond milk.  It is super easy and much more affordable and healthy than the preservative-laden store bought type.  There are many variations but this is the way that works for me.

Raw Almond Milk.

1.  Soak 1 cup of almonds overnight in water.  In the morning, drain and rinse the almonds.  This does something with the enzymes to make them more digestible.

2.  Warm 5 cups of water (NOT boiling).  Add 3 cups to the almonds and grind up in a blender or use an immersion blender (that's all I have) for2-3 minutes.  Strain the almond water with a fine strainer.

3.  Add the remaining 2 cups of warm water to the almond pulp and repeat above step.  There is your fresh 5 cups of almond milk. 

You can add a splash of vanilla if you like.  Or, if you like it sweeter, add some dates to the grinding up process.

I keep mine covered in the fridge for up to 5 days and drink it warm on granola.  Homemade almond granola.  Because I know the next question is "what do I do with all that almond pulp?"  I've experimented.  I put it into muffins - not so successful.  I've used it as a facial and body scrub - MESSY.  My solution - homemade almond granola.


Base Ingredients:
2 c. quick cooking oatmeal
leftover almond pulp (from almond milk) - make sure it is as dry as possible
ground flaxseed
1/3 c. oil - I use canola.  Coconut oil would be good if I could afford it.
1/3 c. honey
some kind of nut
some kind of seed

Creative Ingredients:
This is where it gets fun.  You can personalize it however you want.
I always add coconut
Wheat Germ would be good

Mix the above all together.  Spread evenly on a pan and cook at 300 until you feel it is the right consistency.  I like crunchy granola and the almond pulp is somewhat wet so I find my granola needs to cook for approx. 40-50 minutes to get to the right consistency for me. 

After the granola is cooked mixed in whatever dried fruit you have on hand.  Ours usually has some combination of raisins, dates, cranberries and whatever else I have on hand - mango, apricot, apples, papaya, pineapple etc.

Store in a container for about a week.  Enjoy with fresh almond milk slightly warmed up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What We've Been Reading Lately

Time to get back into the "schooly" side of things.  haha.  (LIFE is school!)

Here are some books the kids have been enjoying lately.

1.  The Little Engine that Could
by Watty Piper.

Classic story.  I love the retro pictures.  Anna loves the fruit (she has a thing for food pictures lately) and Nate, well Nate just loves trains or anything else with wheels on it.

2.  Baa-Choo!
by Sarah Weeks.

A little lamb has a sneeze that just won't sneeze.  Kids love the suspense of sneezing stories.  Something about sneezes, hiccups and toots are insanely funny to little people.

3.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle

This book is PERFECT for us right now.  Adrianna can "read" the story based on the picture clues and Nate screams out the colors.  Quite the team.  Adrianna often "reads" this to Nate and he LOVES it.

4.  Whistle for Willie
 by Ezra Jack Keats

We spent a long time trying to whistle after reading this book.  It's pretty entertaining to watch toddlers/preschoolers try to whistle.  This book kept both kids full attention.

5.  Squirrel's World
by Lisa Moser
44 pgs.

I LOVED this book.  An ADHD squirrel is obliviously "helpful" to his woodsy friends.  It is just so darn cute!  (The squirrel reminds me of Nate)  :)

Spinach Hummus

I found a way to get Adrianna to eat spinach!!  Hide it in hummus.  It makes the hummus green but you can't even taste the spinach.  She gobbled it up.  Nate - not so much.


1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach, packed
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 lemons, juiced
salt and pepper

In a food processor add chickpeas, garlic and spinach. Pulse until combined, about 20 seconds. Turn off processor and scrape down the sides. Whisk together tahini, water, olive oil and lemon juice as well as salt and pepper. Turn food processor on and stream in liquid slowly. Once all liquid is added stop the food processor and scrape down the sides again. Taste and adjust for seasoning and pulse until fully combined.


Monday, January 3, 2011

I completely neglected to post about Christmas.  It was overwhelmingly wonderful and I didn't know where to start and thus I procrastinated to the point of ridiculousness and now it is redundant old news.

I'm a routine kind of gal - holidays mess up routines and I turn to a lazy lump.  Happily, it is time to get back with the program and on with the show.  ok. enough.

And, just for the record, I don't think I'll ever do "Advent" again.  I found the lead up to be tiresome and LONG and the post-Christmas crash to be BRUTAL.  No thanks.  (I'm assuming I must have missed the point of Advent entirely somewhere....).  Next year we'll try something new.

These are a few of my favorite pics from Christmas. 

Those are walnut shells on our noses - I think we look like muppets.

(and now that I've posted about Christmas, I can finally move on with my life...)