Saturday, October 29, 2011

This is the Place Heritage Park

This past week we went on a field trip to This is the Place Heritage Park, which is a replicated village from the mid 1800s. Many of the buildings are authentic, and have just been re-located to the park, while others are replicas. There are many fun things to do, and we were very glad to meet up with two of the homeschooling families we know when we arrived, so the kids got to enjoy the park with their friends.We had a blast, even though the weather was particularly cold.

The first building that we went to was a small log cabin that was relocated to the park. The people working at the park act out the part of people actually from that time period. The woman in this first house had a baby and a toddler with her (both decked out in historical garments!). She told us that 13 people lived there. It was amazing how many people could fit into such a small one-room home. The older boys of the family slept in the attic space, which was only accessible by a ladder on the outside of the home. While we stayed there, the kids all got to try out there hand at some old time chores and games. Princess loved pretending to do the laundry, Gizmo had a fun time trying to walk on stilts, and I could barely get Spike to leave the plow. As for Squirt...since it was so cold he stayed bundled up in the stroller for most of our time at the park.
This building once housed a family of 13!
The ladder leading to the attic.

We were there a long time, and all of us had favorite things that we saw. Spike was enamored with the blacksmith shop, and watched with wonder as the blacksmith showed his skills. I loved the home that was devoted to wool. The woman inside showed the kids how to prepare wool for spinning (the sheep the wool was from were in the backyard!). In the back room of the home there was a large loom that she demonstrated using. Princess very sweetly whispered to me that she wished I had a sewing machine like that. All the kids in the group loved the school building. The school marm showed them what discipline would exist in the time period, and helped them write their names in the deseret alphabet.  The barbershop was very interesting with talk of leaches and bloodletting. The friendly barber explained the colors of the barbershop pole to the kids, which I thought was very interesting (red-blood, blue-veins, white-cleanliness).
Blacksmith shop.
Gizmo volunteered to get a shave.

Gizmo the dunce.
 Spike being punished for not having the correct answer.        

 The entire area was beautiful to walk through. It was just too cold for us to do everything, so we might go back in the future when it is warmer out.
A playgroup area with small homes and stores. We practically had to tear the kids away from here. That little guy in the middle is Squirt.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Bento Boxes - Part 2

It sure has been a busy month. Fall seems to be the time of year when field trips are extra plentiful, and being out and about means packed lunches, so here we go with another Halloween bento box post. These are some that I packed since we were meeting up with the homeschool swim club.

Finished Bento Box.

I assembled the bottom tiers first, which were filled with fruit. I put cantaloupe balls, green apple cubes, and black plum cubes on cute Halloween food picks that I got at the party store. Any food is funner to eat when you eat it off a stick...if you don't believe me, go find a kid and ask them. I was going to use blackberries instead of the black plums, but the store didn't have any fresh ones, and the frozen ones turned too mushy when thawed. Luckily, I had picked up the plums on a whim. In the little black muffin paper, there is honey-peanut butter fruit dip. Since Squirt is still pretty small, he did not get Halloween food picks. He absolutely loves cantaloupe though, so he was completely happy.

This is all the fruit boxes. You may notice that some of the containers are not bento boxes. I was watching my nephew that day, and also making a bento for my husband who was working from home since I was not going to be there to make his lunch. Unfortunately, I do not have any spare bento boxes, so I had to make do with boring containers.

For the bat boxes, I cooked some carrots and peas in a quick beef gravy using beef bullion and sweet rice flour. After ladling it into the boxes, I placed a bat cookie cutter on top and carefully spooned sushi rice around it. With wet fingers, I pushed the rice down flat, and then spooned black rice into the bat. And what exactly is black rice you may ask? I had never seen it until a week ago while browsing the bulk section of the nearby health food store. It also went by the name Forbidden Rice. I looked it up when home and found out that it is high in fiber, rich in iron, and loaded with antioxidants. The "Forbidden" name comes from the fact that in ancient China, the right to eat the black grain was reserved only for the emperor and a few lucky individuals. Pretty interesting considering I was only interested in it for the color at first. So anyway, after getting the rice all situated, I carefully lifted the cookie cutter out, and was left with this...

Since I was not sure just how well they would hold up, I asked the kids to try and not swing them around too much. During the car ride, Princess was playing with hers, and considering she had it upside-down I was sure that the rice would be completely jumbled up. To my surprise, when I opened it up the bat was still intact and looking pretty much like it did when I packed it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Black Island Farms

Yesterday we went to our annual field trip to Black Island Farms. Black Island Farms is a local vegetable farm. In the fall, they have a huge corn maze along with giant slides made of hay bales, a petting zoo, and all sorts of fun stuff. The kids' school arranges the field trip, and we have now been homeschooling long enough for them to start asking when we are going as soon as the cold weather kicks in. We spent several hours there, and I took many, many pictures. My apologizes if you are on dial-up....

The first thing we did for the day was wait for a big tractor to come and take us to the fields. The girls found a cozy spot to sit and wait.
On our first stop, our unconventional tattooed and ear-gauged farmer/guide, N8 (Nate), popped some carrots out of the ground to show the kids. Here he was showing them a carrot that had gotten confused and started going to seed. He did an awesome job of making it fun for the kids and parents. He said if we ever wanted to give the kids some truly hard work, to send them to the farm to work for a day.
And then we were off to the pumpkin field. Squirt found a pumpkin he liked. He even tried to bite it.

Princess found her perfect pumpkin. She specified that she wanted a small one, because she is small.

Gizmo and her friend.

The whole crew. This was seriously the best I could do at getting all four of them to look at me and smile.
Princess heading down a big slide.
The big kids and a homeschool friend heading down a big slide. I love Gizmo's face in this one.
While the bigger kids were going down slides, Squirt enjoyed one of the carrots that Farmer N8 had dug up. I don't remember the name of the variety, but whatever it was...he loved it.
One of the fun attractions at Black Island Farms is a big sandbox filled with corn....a corn box. It is amazing how something so simple can be so much fun.

Squirt could have played in it all day long.

Princess on the little train.
The boys on the train. Squirt was a little unsure, but Spike was in absolute big brother heaven.
Spike always pulls weird faces at me. :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Bento Boxes

 We needed packed lunches today, and I thought I would surprise the kids with Halloween themed lunches. They loved them!

In case you are interested in what everything is made of:
The ghosts are onigiri, made by squishing sushi rice into a cookie cutter to mold it into a ghost shape. I put the cookie cutter on a plate to do this, and frequently dip my fingers into a bowl of water to keep the rice from sticking too bad. After carefully removing the cookie cutter, the rice onigiri can be gently picked up and placed into the bento box. The eyes and mouth are made from black olives (since my son gave me grief about using nori), which I cut with a piece of drinking straw that I squeezed slightly to give it an oval shape. I then placed them in the general area of the face and used a toothpick to get them just where I wanted and push them into the rice.

Surrounding the ghosts are just some seasoned black beans and a bit of broccoli. I was trying to make it look like grass and the night sky, and I was not super happy with how it turned out, but it is only lunch after all.
The pumpkins are clementine oranges that I cut jack-o-lantern faces into. I had seen this idea before and was looking forward to trying it. It was really quite fun this morning before the kids got up, and the smell started off my morning nicely. You just poke an outline of the shapes that you want to cut out with a toothpick. Then, drag the toothpick around the outline like a knife, connecting all of the holes you poked. Finally, pry the shape out and scrape the pith away as much as you can, again using the toothpick. I made two faces on opposite sides of the oranges, and then sliced the orange in half so that I could fit them in the bento boxes. I added some of my leaf picks into them to make them look slightly more pumpkin-ish.

Surrounding the pumpkins is just plain blueberries.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


This past Wednesday, I awoke with a plan for the day. Pancakes for breakfast, a bit of school, playgroup, some much needed grocery shopping, and home in plenty of time to make dinner and relax. It is funny how life sometimes takes the plans that you make and jostles them around, especially life with kids. Spike got sick, and my plans changed from being productive to curling up on the couch with my 9-year-old, trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible. I think it was time well spent.

It can be rough sometimes for a list and schedule loving person like myself, to step out of my practical mind and just enjoy the moment. I am making it my goal to not stress myself out so much; to remind myself that is okay when my plans don't always work out. After all, we had planned to have three kids, and now I could not imagine life without Squirt.

I did accomplish my plan of knitting a soot sprite though. We really enjoy Studio Ghibli films, and when I ran across the knitting pattern I knew we just needed one in our house. And it only took me five days longer than planned.... :)
The kids have all found it's current hideout on top of the microwave very amusing.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Millet for Breakfast

When the fall weather hits, I am a sucker for a nice warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Unfortunately, oats are now one of those items on the "Do Not Eat" list for me, along with casein, gluten, and *gasp* chocolate. We have tried a few different items to fill the void that is left in our breakfast menus. Cream of Rice was one of our favorites, but I was not really happy about adding even more rice to our diet since that is now the grain we eat most frequently. What can I say....I am always just on the lookout for something new.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out at the library while the big kids were in their chess club. I was talking to one of the moms that I know from homeschooling activities in the area, and she mentioned that her daughter had made millet for breakfast. We have had millet flour mixed into baked goods, but I had never thought to eat it as a whole grain. I was pretty interested at that point. Millet went on my shopping list.

Cooking millet is pretty simple. I picked up a little instruction card when I bought the millet that said to simmer 2 cups water and 1/2 cup millet for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. I am still wondering if I could make it in my rice cooker....I bet I could.

I did find that the required 2 cups of water was not enough in my opinion. The millet still had a rather dry texture to it, so I added an additional cup of water and let it simmer a bit longer. When dished up, we added almond milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon to the millet. It was more filling than I had expected, so no one except for Squirt actually finished theirs, but they all assured me it was good.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Goodbye to Summer

The mornings lately have a crisp feeling that makes me want to snuggle up in a blanket with a mug of something warm and not do much else for the entire day. Many days are gray and overcast. I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it. I love fall. Noting the first few leaves that decide to shift to red on our maple tree gives me a thrill every year. And then there is always apple pie....delicious apple pie that is good anytime of year, but so much better in the fall.

Along with the joys of fall, there is always a little bit of sadness that summer is over. While we have been doing schoolwork for a while now, it suddenly feels more official. As a small tribute to the fun of summer, I decided to post some of the pictures we took while camping this year.


Princess playing with Squirt by running around his playpen, with him trying to chase her. We were constantly putting his pants back on as he had figured out how to quickly get them off.

Gizmo eating a fireball candy. She kept saying it was too hot.

This was a squirrel that stole a piece of bacon that fell while I was making breakfast. We nicknamed him Joey and saw him often throughout our camping trip.

Three kids on a funky tree.

Handknit socks and dirty Crocs.

Despite being confined to the playpen more than usual due to the dangers of camping, Squirt still had a fun time. The homemade gluten free graham crackers we gave him sure didn't hurt.

Playing in the water. The big kids were usually off exploring, but this held their attention near camp.

A stump. I just liked it.

One of our dinners in the Dutch oven. It was quite yummy.