Outdoor Explore

The kids had been playing a make-believe game inside that involved sitting in their toy bins (which they had first poured out all over the floor, of course) and scoping out the landscape ahead with their binoculars. I sat nearby, observing but not interfering; I greatly enjoy the sound of their imaginations.
So it was that binoculars were on my mind as the kids and I took the dog for a stroll. As I came upon a curious mound of dirt I had seen the other day and forgotten about, I suddenly had an idea. First, I took the kids up to it and asked them what they thought. It was a tall mound with a hole directly on the top of it and continuing down into the ground. Now, usually the gopher holes are on the edge of a pile of dirt where they have been pushing it out. But this looks like an animal built a mound around a tunnel.
Everett’s first response was physical, he kicked it. I reacted to him initially with, “no!” until I saw the little black sunflower seeds he had uncovered with his foot and I changed my reaction to, “oooh, look!”
“I think it’s a muskrat. Because muskrats eat seeds and live in holes,” stated Everett with authority. I don’t know anything about muskrats, so I can’t be sure he is wrong, but personally I’m going with ground squirrel. However, I didn’t offer my opinion. I want to encourage their creative and critical thinking. Plus, I greatly amused by his thoughts.
We continued to stand there and I excitedly asked them if they wanted to go back and get their binoculars to spy on the hole to see if an animal would come out.
Binoculars in hand, we crouched nearby, focused the lenses, and waited. It didn’t take much time before spying was abandoned. We did theorize whether the animal was out collecting food or inside taking a nap. Food gathering was the unanimous theory.
We continued walking around looking at birds through the binoculars. Actually, let me correct that, Ember and I continued with the binoculars. Everett had abandoned his pair in favor of a folding pocket calculator. This calculator however was not a calculator. It was an “animal finder”, – a special computer that told him facts about animals. He followed close behind me shouting, “a bird can fly 15 million thousand miles” and “see, muskrats eat seeds”.
All the while, Ember paused at a plant, “can we eat this one?” I told her we could eat that type of plant, except this particular one didn’t look healthy. I reccommended we find a young healthy one. After some more bird watching, we wandered over to an area with more of the curly dock plants Ember had spotted. Her attention had wandered by that point away from the edibility of curly dock and was taken instead by the pleasing qualities of cleavers, which has tiny hooks under its leaves and will cling to your clothing. Both of the kids giggled as they pressed stems to my pants and watched them stick.
As we had made a complete circle through the yard, we found ourselves back at the front door. I was delighted by the flow of our walk, the leisurely time to talk, to explore, and to play.
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Winter Reflection

I thought moving to the outskirts of the city would make me into an instant homesteader. Ok, I will remind myself here that it is winter after all and it is fine that my garden is….well…some land covered in leaves underneath an inch of snow (at present). But I quickly noticed that homesteading (full on with animals and a thriving garden) takes an input of resources. The couple of straw bales I purchased didn’t get me very far. I had to think about fertilizer, garden plastic, fences, something to take care of those slugs I wasn’t thinking about until they ate my radishes and beets, and beans. As well as coops, cages, or ponds, if I was going to have chickens, rabbits, or ducks. And what about the sheep I was imagining and the loom I would then learn how to work, and the sheers I would need to figure out….ummm…anyway let’s not go on. Homesteading as it turns out, is a lot more than just living in the outskirts of a city and having a little land available to dream on.

Since we haven’t become a family of homesteaders, we can at least be a family that is present to what already exists on the land. We can listen for the owls, crickets, frogs and coyotes. We can watch the geese travel across the sky. We can collect caterpillars, splash in puddles, climb trees, and ride bikes.

And for the days we are too cold or too wet to be outside for long, we can read about wetlands and prairies. We can explore our world through stories. We can play the cooperative board game Wildcraft and begin to make sense of the wild plants that surround us. We can listen to a favorite song tell us “how the woods were made” and “how the mountains were formed”. We can watch a video over and over of a woman making pottery out of fresh earthen clay.

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Bananagram Phonics

About a year ago my sister-in-law gave me at set of Bananagrams for my kids. If you have never heard of Bananagrams before, they are the little tiles like you find in Scrabble, played the same way but without a board.

We never acctually learned how to play Bananagrams, the kids were only three at the time the set was given to us, but that didn’t stop us from playing with them anyhow!

At first my daughter mostly liked to line them up, either as a trail for one of her small animal figurines to follow or as a way to pick out her alphabet as she sang, “a….b…..c…..d……e….”. As for my son, he was happy to insert himself into his sister’s games.

Since the kids did infact enjoy playing with the letter tiles I kept my mind open for other opportunities to utilize them. This month, we have been participating in a “gameschooling” challenge with Cait from http://www.my-little-poppies.com, where each day we seek to play at least one table-top type game. I wondered how we could play with the Bananagrams together.

Lately, we have been reading books from the Biscuit “I Can Read” series and practicing some sight words. I decided to put out a handful of the sight words, phonics cards, one of the Biscuit phonics books, and the bag of Bananagrams on the table to see how the kids would engage with it all.

Right away, Everett found two “o”s to make the “oo” sound. We talked about some words with that sounds of “oo”, like “school”, “soon”, “book”, and “woof” (which Biscuit, the little dog in our books, says with frequency).

Ember began adding more letters to write “woof” and “Biscuit” as well as “This is”. The title of the book on the table was “This is Biscuit”.

Everett decided to place his letters directly on top of the sight word cards I had out, the ones that matched the title of the book “This is Biscuit”.

I was so excited for them to be forming words with the Bananagrams! Since they are still learning to recognize each letter individually as opposed to recognizing each letter only in alphabetical sequence, spelling with the letter tiles was a successful way to practice.  (I was also happy to finally find a way to put the phonics cards into play!)


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We are starting off the new year with a 31 day Gameschool Challenge from my-little-poppies.com. The challenge is to play a tabletop game every day.


Sine I don’t have any board games for the kids we have been playing with cards and dice.

I found a deck of Go-fish cards at Ace Hardware of all places and the kids love it. Each card has an animal and a letter but the kids have to match uppercase with lowercase. I am pleased to watch them practice letter recognition through play.

A second game we have been playing is what I have named “Cribbage Race”. My husband and I never ended up playing Cribbage yet we used the board to make up or own games.

For the kids, we simply roll a die and move our peg that many spaces along the holes all the way down to “finish”.

I decided to increase the complexity of our game by adding a second die. I am amazed at how quick my 4.5 year olds have picked up simple addition. When we aren’t playing they will do quick math in their head! 4 + 3, 3 +6, etc.

Next I was thinking we would try subtracting one die from the other.

I have seen several times the ease in which my kids learn when they are engrossed in an activity they enjoy. I am excited to continue exploring games and having fun with learning.

Posted in language arts, numeracy | 2 Comments

Sunflower Milk

I put off making sunflower milk for some time, because like sesame milk, it just sounded too bitter for my tastes, let alone my kids’. But I didn’t have any almonds. Or cashews. And the hempseeds sat abandoned in my fridge while had I come to the conclusion that I was not fond of their flavor as milk.

There I had it, my only other option was using sunflower seeds, which also sat neglected in the cupboard as I whined to myself, “but it will be bitter!”

I thought for a moment about my predicament before deciding I would simply add maple syrup. My end result was actually inspired from the way Matthew Kenney (“Everyday Raw”) makes his almond milk. Using coconut oil and lecithin I added to the recipe that called for only sunflower seeds, salt and water. Now with sweetener and thickener I was set. Well, with it being Autumn and all, I threw in a dash of cinnamon too.

I knew my milk would be great and set myself up to share a photo of it on my Facebook page. One of my friends “liked” it immediately and we began discussing the recipe and other alternative milks. From our conversation I went on the next day to make Chocolate Sunflower Milk.

Pleasantly both versions were liked by myself, my son, and my husband. My daughter did drink some without turning up her nose but also finished at the table before her cup was empty. She may prefer her milk mixed into porridge or a smoothie rather than as a stand alone beverage. Or maybe she just needs more maple syrup in it. 

¼ c of sunflower seeds makes two cups of milk.


Sunflower Milk

¼ c sunflower seeds, raw and hulled

2 c water (hot or cold depending on how you want your milk)

½ tsp lecithin

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1 Tbsp maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

Heavy dash of cinnamon


Chocolate Sunflower Milk

¼ c sunflower seeds, raw and hulled

2 c water (hot or cold depending on how you want your milk)

½ tsp lecithin

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 Tbsp maple syrup

Pinch of sea salt

Heavy dash of cinnamon

1 Tbsp raw cacao powder

Blend all ingredients together on high for one minute. Strain through a nut milk bag. If you used hot water than be careful to press the bag with a spoon against the container you are straining into rather than squeezing the bag with your hand. 

If you have a heavier sweet tooth you may be inclined to add extra maple syrup in the chocolate version as the cacao powder does carry its own bitterness.

Now as I snack on pumpkin seeds I wonder how they would fare as milk.





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The Read the World Summer Book Club — Simple Homeschool

This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of this site! Written by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool Last week I hinted that you’d want to get your copies of Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time in hand as soon as possible, so you’d be…

via The Read the World Summer Book Club — Simple Homeschool

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My Favorite Resources for Healthy Eating


Since my own cooking is heavily influenced by other people I thought it would be nice for me to share the people I reference the most in my kitchen.

Sarah Britton – My New Roots. http://www.mynewroots.org/site. She also has a cookbook of the same title My New Roots and an app for iphones. Sarah Britton is my absolute favorite food writer. I think she is brilliant and hilarious, plus she includes nutritional insights into various ingredients she uses.

Cherie Soria – The Raw Food Revolution Diet (book). This book was co-written with dietitians and gives menus that meet nutritional needs using her recipes. The menus have helped me create my own recipes and menu plans that fulfill specific nutritional recommendations.

Russell James – The Raw Chef. http://www.therawchef.com. E-books and online courses. I love watching cooking videos and enjoy Russell’s Weekday Raw course as well as his various free “mini courses”. I have made raw fermented nut cheese using his recipes. His food is flavorful and I have been complemented when serving dishes I made from his website.

Julie Piatt and Rich Roll – The Plantpower Way (book). This book is beautiful, inspiring and has delicious recipes. My favorite recipe so far is the veggie burger (definitely the best veggie burger I have ever made).

Who are your most referenced foodies? I would love to hear.



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When you just really want to start homeschooling — Simple Homeschool

Written by Kara Anderson of Quill and Camera The first time I tried to read Robin Hood to my kids, they were 1 and 4. A relative had given us a set of beautiful, bound classics from the 50s – books her own children read, and I was determined to share them all with my kids.…

via When you just really want to start homeschooling — Simple Homeschool

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Strawberry Dream


Have you ever tried a new food and thought, “wow, this would go really well with…(fill in the blank)”? Just such a scenario happened to me the other night. I was making tacos and didn’t have any quinoa so I cooked up amaranth instead. As I was putting the tacos together I noticed the amaranth was creamier and sweeter than quinoa. I imagined it would make a good breakfast poridge. I have tried quinoa  for breakfast and did NOT like it. Amaranth however seemed promissing.

Days later I was running out of time on the leftover amaranth. I hadn’t used it as poridge yet so I decided it would become dessert instead. Coconut cream, coconut sugar, pumpkin seeds, strawberries – mmmm.

I had one cup of cooked amaranth mixed with two tablespoons of coconut cream, two teaspoons of coconut sugar and a handful of raw pumpkin seeds. I layered about a pint of strawberries (sliced) on top. Over the strawberries I splashed a dollup of coconut cream, a sprinkle of coconut sugar, a trickle of pumpkin seeds for a quick and delicious dessert!

My son and I pretty much ate the entire dish ourselves. He was on the table ready for bites and I was hovered over scooping us spoonfuls. My daughter said she didn’t like it and my husband was “too full” from dinner to have more than a few bites. Woah for me and my sweet tooth.

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Mango Green Smoothie

There are few things on the vibrant health menu that my kids ask for (so far!). With this past week bringing several hot spring days, I have met the week with an abundance of smoothie making. They started out with a lenghthy list of additions but as the days passed my smoothie became simpler. Still, they were all based based on the key ingredients mango, lime, mint, honey and greens.

The first smoothie had all of the above, with spinach as the greens, an orange and a dash of apple juice. The next one also had spinach, an orange and some pineapple. The day after that it was kale instead of spinach (no orange or pineapple or apple juice). Today, when my kids asked me for the “green smoothie” I made the simple kale version. I had about one sip of it!

My estimated quantities are as follows:

2 C frozen mango

1 handful of fresh mint leaves

juice of 1/2 lime

2 dinosaur kale leaves (stems removed)

1 tsp raw honey

1 1/2 C water

Blend on high for about 1 minute. You can increase the quantities as you please or add more ingredients. My husband drank a whole quart of smoothie one day after mowing the lawn. Have fun!

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