Activities, featured, Parenting

Leaf Rubbings

LeafRubbings

It’s officially September! What does that mean??? It means that I can now shamelessly put up all my fall and Halloween decor without feeling guilty or embarrassing my neighbors! It means that I am now in full fledged “fall mode” despite the fact that it is still sweltering outside! Check out this little sneak peak of our fall mantle this year…

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I think it’s interesting that as a child, fall was my least favorite season. I’m certain this had something to do with school starting, and summer being over. As an adult, I simply adore the chilly air, the beautiful colors, fun recipes, and tons of holiday activities. As an adult, fall is now my absolute favorite time of year. I LOVE any excuse to decorate, and fall marks the beginning of “decorating season.” A mantle is a blank slate just waiting to be transformed. I used to be a purist when it came to fall decor. I never decorated with anything “Halloween themed.”I stuck with pumpkins, corn stalks, and hay bales.  I’ve always been under the opinion that Halloween decor was fake looking and somewhat “trashy.”  In the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate the addition of a few Halloween pieces to my own decor. I think i prefer simple and more classic looking Halloween decor for my own home, but I’m open to anything that’s done up right! Here I utilized dried birch branches offset at different heights on the left. I also purchased some cut out bats a few years ago from Big Lots. I always stick them to the walls and decor on the mantle to add some depth. They are also waterproof and I use them outside on my porch as well. I have a few old windows and pictures that I rotate on the mantle throughout the year. I generally pick the oldest & spookiest looking window for this time of year. The rest of the decor was picked up during yard sales, and post holiday sales. I always keep an eye out for things even out of season to score a great price!

After decorating, I let Neyland chose our project this week. She chose to do leaf rubbings! This is one of our favorite fall activities, although we actually do it several times throughout the year. It’s also a nice way to get some “fall artwork” up in your home!

We started out by venturing out in our yard to collect some cool looking leaves. You’ll want to take the time to pick ones that have super cool patterns and shapes. Here are the ones that we chose.

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If you can’t tell from the picture, she was pretty excited about this!

After you get your leaves, you’ll need a few sheets of white paper, some crayons, and a smooth surface. Let your little one pick a few leaves and place them on a sheet of paper. Next, place another sheet on top of the leaves and use a crayon to “rub” the pattern of the leaf onto the paper.

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You may want to help your kiddos hold the paper nice and still. Mine has a tendency to move the top paper around and lose her place on her leaf.

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Check out our finished products!

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We also took the time to identify and label what types of leaves we had collected and colored. She enjoyed learning that maple syrup actually comes from maple trees! Now we have some nice fall themed artwork to hang up in our home! Yay fall!!!

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Activities, attractions, Parenting, Trips

The Lost Sea

 

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Photo Cred: http://www.guideoftravels.com/the-lost-sea/

I don’t know if you guys have noticed, but it’s been pretty hot outside as of late. Whenever it gets like this, I have a hard time getting motivated to go outside and find fun activities for us to do. In these temps, a cool 58 degrees sounds heavenly to this gal. Thankfully, we have some AMAZING natural attractions right in our own backyard that offer these steady year round temps!

Recently, Neyland and I visited The Lost Sea. It has been years since I visited this cave, and it seemed like a great time to take Neyland! A big cave system offers a great place to “hike” in cool temps, and provides a ton of educational experiences for little ones. The Lost Sea has a great history that includes use by local Native Americans, soldiers during the civil war, and even a prehistoric lion! It is the largest underground body of water in the US, and the second largest in the world! The “sea” itself hasn’t even been fully explored! The tour includes a guided trip through the cave, lots of history and info about the cave, and a boat ride on the sea! If you live in the area, I highly recommend this little day trip! It’s a perfect activity when it’s really hot OR really cold!

Check their website for hours and prices here: The Lost Sea Adventure

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The entrance to the cave looks daunting! The temperature drops pretty rapidly! (I would recommend a jacket.)

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Some of the rock pools heading down toward the room where the sea is located in. It is really interesting that there is only ONE visible source of incoming water in the cave, though there must be many. The water in the sea empties out into multiple surrounding bodies of water, but those passages have never been located or explored!

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The “main room” of the cave is absolutely massive. Pictures don’t do it justice.

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This formation is known as “the bear’s paw.” If you hug it, you’re supposed to have good luck! Neyland didn’t care much about “good luck,” she just wanted to hug the paw!

Her favorite parts were:

-Hearing about the prehistoric lion

-The boat ride

-Feeling the water

-Seeing the HUGE trout in the lake

I thought I would also point out that the last time that I was at The Lost Sea, I did one of the wild cave tours. That is where they take you on a much longer “behind the scenes” tour through the cave. There are a BUNCH of cool areas within the cave to explore. Most notably, I remember “The Meat Grinder.” As it’s name suggests, it’s a tiny space you have to crawl through. I will advise you to wear old clothes and shoes as you will be COVERED in clay and mud, but it is absolutely worth it! I highly recommend this tour for older kids!

What cool attractions have you visited lately?

Activities, featured, Parenting

What Makes Leaves Green?

What Makes

Our Science Experiment Tuesday was postponed this week due to some pressing engagements. We were both pretty bummed about missing our weekly activity, so we held our first ever Science Experiment *Thursday* at my Grandmother’s house! This wasn’t an experiment that I planned on, so I didn’t bring any supplies…Thankfully Grandmas are ALWAYS prepared for any emergency, including scientific experimentation! (Seriously though- My Grandma could probably set a broken bone, mend some pants, lend you a toothbrush, and provide you a coupon to any restaurant, simply with the supplies in her purse!)

We’ve been focusing on plants a lot lately since summer is drawing to a close, and we’ll soon see the leaves beginning to change. I decided to focus this experiment on what exactly makes plants green. As adults, we know that this is chlorophyll. But how can we extract the chlorophyll from the leaf so that curious eyes can see it?

I remember doing this activity as a kid. If I’m not mistaken, I learned about it on a children’s science program on tv. It must have been pretty cool to stick with me all these years! It is fairly easy, and uses supplies that you probably already have at home! If you can’t already tell, it’s great for a quick unplanned activity.

Supplies(1)

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Step 1

Take your little one outside and collect your leaves. (Please don’t skip this step!) It is great to let them look at all the different shapes and textures of leaves in their very own yard! As you can see, Neyland chose a variety of shapes and sizes. We even found a “lamb’s ear” leaf (See title photo) that was fuzzy and super soft!

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Step 2

Use the scissors and cut a long thin strip of your napkin/toilet paper. It needs to be taller than the glass that you are using, and about twice the width of the pencil. The most important thing is that you are using a WHITE piece of toilet paper or napkin. We need it to be nice and white for the green chlorophyll to stand out.

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Step 3

Snip up the leaves into tiny pieces and place them into the clear glass. If your little one is old enough to use scissors, this is also a GREAT fine motor skill for them! We basically need to get to the inside of the leaf where the chlorophyll is contained. The more of the “inside of the leaf” you expose, the easier this will be. I chose to grind up the leaf bits with the flat handle of a screwdriver after Neyland cut them up, just to make sure we wouldn’t have any trouble.

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Step 4

Add enough finger nail polish remover to barely cover the leaves. We want enough to mix the leaves up into a little “leaf soup.”

*Remember that nail polish remover is highly flammable – do this in a safe location*

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Step 5

Lay out your strip of napkin/TP. Place your pencil at the top of the strip. Use a tiny piece of tape to secure the strip to the middle of the pencil, and roll up the strip around the pencil a few times. The pencil will sit across the top of the glass allowing the paper to dangle down into the “leaf soup.” Use the pencil to shorten or lengthen the paper to the appropriate length for your glass. It should look like…..

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Step 6

The paper should be touching the “leaf soup.” The nail polish remover will draw the chlorophyll out of the smashed leaves and it will “wick” up the white paper. While you can see some movement & color change right away, it is far more dramatic if you let it sit for a few hours.

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The finished product is pictured above.

We discussed how the chlorophyll uses the sun to make energy for the plant. This is why a plant’s leaves are wide and stretched out toward the sun. We also discussed that the leaves will soon be changing and eventually fall off of the trees because the days will be shorter & there won’t be much sun for energy.

I can’t wait to take this line of learning full circle as we continue to watch what happens to the trees and plants this fall and winter!

Activities, Parenting

Rainbow Flowers

RainbowFlowers

This week has been pretty busy. I had to finally embrace the whole “being thirty” thing, but it has been great thus far. Neyland and I did a lot of fun projects this week. She was a particularly good girl this week and worked really hard on all her homework, chores, and even memorized several scriptures from church. In return, we had a lot of fun outings and activities to reward her excellent work. For “Science Experiment Tuesday,” I pulled an old project out of my hat from when I was a kid. We decided to make rainbow flowers!

This experiment is one more geared toward preschoolers and older kids. The experiment isn’t instantaneous, and therefore won’t hold the attention of younger kiddos. Neyland is really into wanting to know how things work, so it was a great demonstration for her. We started off with a trip to Grandma’s flower shop to pick out the flowers for our experiment. The type of flower isn’t super important. We chose some daisy poms because they hold up well at room temp, and are overall, pretty resilient. Some of the more delicate flowers may wilt after a few hours. The big thing is to (obviously) get WHITE flowers so your little one can observe the color change.

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We also got three different stems of daisy poms. Each stem has multiple flowers, so we would get to see more action.

Next, pull out your food coloring and a few glasses of water. I let Neyland choose what colors we would make in each glass. It was also a good way to review which colors can be mixed to form other colors. She chose to make: Purple, Blue, and Green.

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We mixed up the colors, trimmed excess foliage off the stems, and then finally snipped the stems to freshen the ends. One trick to note is that the shorter you trim the stem, the faster the experiment will yield results. The colored water has a shorter distance to travel. Also, by getting rid of the excess foliage, you limit other areas for the colored water to be carried to. After cutting the stems and placing them in the water, we set them near the window.

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Within an hour or two we were already getting visible results! We used this to discuss how plants draw up water and use sunlight to make energy and grow! It was an exciting thing that she got to check on for the next few days. Our “blue” flowers yielded the best color. The green was very subtle and not easily noticeable.  The purple was very interesting. It yielded some purple spots, some red, and some blue. For whatever reason, the colors separated back out somewhat.

This is a super easy and cheap experiment to recreate at home! Even if you have never done it before as a kid. You probably have food coloring in your pantry, and you might even have some white flowers growing out in your yard! Get out there and have a great time with what you have!

Rainbow Flowers

Supplies

  • White flowers (that remain sturdy at room temp) – Rec. carnations, daisies, poms
  • Variety of food coloring
  • Glasses
  • water

Directions

Fill the glasses 3/4 full of water. Color each glass of water with a different color using the food coloring. Trim excess foliage from the flowers and snip the end of the stem before placing it in the water. (Snip the stem IMMEDIATELY before placing it in the water) Set the glasses in a sunny spot and monitor them periodically for changes. You can keep this experiment going for a few days! Just remember to trim the stems on your flowers fresh each day to maximize the amount of water they take in!

 

Activities, featured, Parenting

Ice Age Rescue

Most parents would agree that having a routine is really vital for kids. Yes kids are resilient, but they truly thrive when they have a routine. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. I try my best to keep a fairly basic routine with my little one on both a daily and weekly basis. As I mentioned last week, the two of us spend Tuesdays together. I do a lot of housework, but I always make sure we squeeze in some fun activities, and cook dinner together. One of the fun activities that I have had as part of our routine for well over a year now, is SCIENCE EXPERIMENT TUESDAY! I’m a science nerd at heart, and certainly want Neyland to enjoy it too! Science Experiment Tuesday allows both of us to do a fun activity that also has educational value. I have a blast researching and preparing, we both love actually doing the experiment, and then I try to tie it in to some other learning opportunities throughout the week to reinforce the idea.

Finding fun experiments to do with your kiddos isn’t a difficult task. A quick internet search, or even just thinking about some of the activities that stood out from your childhood can yield great results.

This particular experiment is super simple, but a LOT of fun. It’s great for toddlers and preschoolers, and even elementary school kids. There are a lot of learning opportunities for different age groups.

Ice Age Rescue

Supplies

  • Water safe/freezer safe container (Decent size)
  • A bunch of cheap/plastic/water safe toys (you likely have plenty laying around the house)
  • Water
  • Blue Food coloring
  • Plastic utensils
  • Squirt bottle
  • Salt
  • Sponges

The basic idea for this project is to fill the water safe/freezer safe container (I found a random plastic storage box at Goodwill) with water (about 3/4 full.) Add a few drops of blue food coloring and mix. Don’t skip that step, it really does add to the effect. Place a variety of different plastic toys in the colored water. It helps them spread out evenly if some sink and some float. This is a great time to let your little one see the water and touch it. Explain to them the differences between liquids and solids. Let them see you/help you place the container into the freezer. Check on it every hour or so. It’s important to let them feel how cold it’s getting and feel the ice start to form. Eventually (depending on the size of your container,) you will have a solid chunk of ice FULL of plastic critters that need your little one’s help to break free!

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At this point we moved our project to the bath tub to contain the imminent watery mess. I freed the giant cube from the plastic container and offered Neyland several options/tools to try and free the animals. I offered plastic eating utensils for her to chip away at the ice, sponges, salt, and a squirt bottle of warm water. We tried each item individually so that we could observe what effect it had on the ice.

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After trying each tool, I let her decide which item she thought was most effective. She quickly decided that the warm water squirt bottle was the best option! As the ice melted, it was really beautiful. The warm water carved out all kind of cool little passages through the ice, and made breaking the critters free even more fun.

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*As a side note- Not long after I first did this, a friend of mine tried it with her son. She added another educational aspect by waiting until winter and allowing the block to freeze outside over several days! Her son really enjoyed checking on it each day, and it was great to connect the actual weather outside with the experiment!*

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This is seriously simple and seriously fun. It’s a great sensory activity for toddlers and learning activities for preschoolers. You can teach each child as much or as little as they are capable of absorbing for their age. I guarantee they will be asking to do it again!

Activities, bigfoot, featured, Trips

The Great Outdoors

Neyland and I were fortunate enough to meet up with an amazing group of ladies for a little get away this past weekend! A short trip away was just what the doctor ordered!

It is so easy to forget the beauty of the mountains when we live in this amazing area, and the mountains are our back yard. I realize that I often drive around and overlook them completely even though I adore them!

As I have mentioned previously, I do a bit of bigfoot reseach in my spare time. I have made some of the most amazing friends that share my passion for nature and mysteries. We have just “clicked” ever since we first met. It is a rare thing to find friends with whom you can truly just be yourself. I have laughed with  these ladies, cried with them, traveled with them, camped with them, tick checked them, had midnight forest raves with them, eaten an unhealthy amount of cinnamon rolls atop a mountain at 3am with them, and much much more. I believe it suffices to say that we have a great history together with fantastic memories doing what we love to do. It seems that all of us have walked some deep valleys over the past few years, and have been unable to get together as often as we would have liked. This weekend we were thrilled to not only have a reunion of the “beaver squad,” as we often call ourselves, but to bring our two newest members along for initiation! We decided that since the two little ones were so small, we would stick to a cabin this time rather than though it out in tents.

Neyland and I were the last to arrive Friday evening. A quick game of “being shy” lasted all of 5 minutes, and the girls quickly became best buddies. It was so great to see all my favorite ladies! We enjoyed dinner and a dip in the hot tub out on our amazing deck. Check out that view!

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After a quick bath and a ton of play time, the little ones were off to bed. We enjoyed catching up for a few more hours before a wonderful night’s sleep. The AC was certainly more pleasant than the 90 degree temps outside!

In the morning, true to form, Ronie was up making enough food to feed an army.

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Breakfast tacos and hashbrowns….and lots of coffee!

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We got the girls dressed, packed up a picnic lunch, and headed up to our favorite spot on the mountain. An area affectionately known as “camp scream.” As it’s name suggests, we’ve had some pretty exciting sasquatch activity there in the past. It is WELL away from where most people go, and we’d certainly like to keep it that way. We were surprised to see that the camp area we had used in the past, was almost completely covered in fallen trees. Thankfully, we were still able to hike back and let the girls play in the creek for a bit. They had a blast clacking rocks and playing in the water.

 

We then had our picnic lunch and hiked for about 2 miles. The girls did great & had so much fun! Check out the video of them practicing their squatch calls!

 

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Perhaps we were even interesting to some forest spectators, as we did hear a few interesting sounds on our hike!

We continued to another location where the girls could play in the creek again. We were able to catch some salamanders and crawdads, and even saw some rainbow trout.

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On the way back to the cabin, we stopped at our favorite spot for ice cream. The picnic tables where we were eating were right by the water. We got to watch a few guys fly fishing, and even got to see an osprey! Between the guys and the osprey, only one was successful catching a fish. Hint: it was not the humans.

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When we returned Ronie cooked ANOTHER delicious meal complete with her famous homemade doughnuts for dessert!

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The master at work!

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We ended the day out on the deck DESTROYING these little jewels. The girls were COVERED in sugar. We were fortunate enough to hear an owl, and attempted to call back. Our owl calls quickly escalated into tiny squatch calls again. I’m quite certain the neighbors thought we were insane. These are the things that memories are made of.

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We said our goodbyes Sunday afternoon, and the drive home was bittersweet. It got me thinking about how I’m so thankful to share this life with such amazing people. Every day is an adventure if you chose to make it so.<3

 

Activities, featured, Food, Parenting

Princess Dinners

Tuesdays are generally “Mommy + Daughter Days” at our house. We only have one routine commitment, and the rest of the day we spend together. I generally use this time to catch up on housework that I can keep going while playing with my little one. I also do my best to keep a basic routine that she can look forward to. Each Tuesday she can look forward to Science Experiment Tuesday and it is also a night that we try to make dinner together. I want Neyland to enjoy cooking as much as I do, and to be independent and able to cook for herself in the future. She certainly already has the independence part down. She is constantly wanting to help me do the parts of the cooking that still aren’t safe for kiddos her age. To try and help bridge the gap between what she can and can’t help with, I got her some fun kitchen items for her birthday!

First, I purchased her a set of kid safe plastic kitchen knives. I was kind of skeptical about how much they would actually cut, and if they would really be useful. The price was pretty low, so I figured we would give them a try.

You can check out the set I got here.

Before I gave them to her, I ran them back and forth across my hand to see if they were, in fact, skin safe. No issues there at all. Neyland proceeded to try them on several different foods, and they worked great! I even used them a few times tonight, and I was pleasantly surprised. I guess my only gripe is that the 5 colored knives are exactly the same thing, just different colors. I thought perhaps they would have slight differences, but they don’t. I guess I can use the different colors to help teach her food prep safety?

Needless to say, she felt like a pretty big deal getting to use a knife like a big girl. She cut up butter, ham, and some veggies.

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I also purchased her a Princess Cook book. I loved the idea that the recipes were simple, and that each recipe is attached to one of the Disney princesses. She was STOKED to flip through the pages and pick  which recipes SHE wanted to make. I can tell that she will be more willing to try these recipes, simply because they are tied to a princess. If it gets her to branch out and try new things….I’m ALL FOR IT.

Check out the Cookbook here!

Tonight she chose to make Rapunzel’s Ham & Cheese Biscuit Braids. She helped me from start to finish. She did have a bit of trouble braiding the dough, but who wouldn’t? I found them to be a bit bland for my tastes. Solution: Cover in mustard. Yellow mustard works well for Rapunzel’s magic golden hair anyway, Right??? Lol.

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We ate our Princess dinner, watched Tangled (obviously,) and even ended our night with a surprise visit from a prince disguised as a frog. 😉

God certainly has a sense of humor when he graces us with his creation.

A hysterical game of Twister before bed, was the end to another lovely Mommy + Daughter day. Check out the recipe below to make Rapunzel’s Ham & Cheese Biscuit Braids with your little ones!

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Ham and Cheese Biscuit Braids: 

(From The Disney Princess Cookbook)
Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp cold butter, cut into several pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced ham
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1 cup milk

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Stir together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Use your fingertips to pinch the butter into the flour mixture until the bits are the size of peas.
Stir in ham and cheese.
Add milk and work the mixture with your hands until it starts to look like dough.
Sprinkle some flour on a cutting board or counter and place the dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on the dough to keep it from sticking. I also floured my rolling pin.
With your rolling pin, flatten the dough into a 12 inch square. The dough should be between a 1/4 and a 1/2 an inch thick.
Slice the squares into quarters, and then slice each quarter into 12 strips, each about 6 inches long.
Braid the dough like you would braid hair – gather 3 strips and pinch them together at the top. Take the right section and cross it over the center section so they switch places. Then, take the left section and cross it over the center section. Keep going until the whole strip is braided.
Pinch the strands together at the bottom.
Repeat until all the strips are braided.
Place each braid on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.
*They don’t really turn as golden brown as you’d expect, so check the bottom after about 10 minutes.