Thursday, November 2, 2017

October, Part 2

For the third year in a row our church and a public elementary school in downtown Reading have teamed up to host a trunk or treat for the kids from that school and surrounding area. This is a school where almost all of the students qualify for free lunch. It is soo awesome to see these kids and their parents enjoying a family afternoon, appreciating the simple games and candy. Last year a local police officer had a trunk.This year we had two police car trunks AND the Bomb Squad truck as a "trunk"!! Of course, they passed out fire balls as their candy LOL. It was so cool! And great to see the kids high 5'ing and fist-bumping the officers, and getting their pictures taken with them. 

Little Bit had planned to be a unicorn, wearing her unicorn jacket, but it was HOT! Much too warm for a jacket. Thankfully one of the trunks offered face painting, so she was a cat instead LOL. 
A friend was manning her trunk alone with her baby & almost 2 yr old. Needless to say, it didn't take much arm twisting to convince me to help her out by cuddling the baby. Between Lexie, Ashlyn, and me, we kept her most of the afternoon! I think her big brother enjoyed getting some extra mommy snuggles and we ate up all the sweet baby snuggles!
The next day our homeschool co-op had a field trip to Paulus Orchard. We had a wagon ride through the orchards, then each kid got to pick 3 apples and choose a pumpkin. After that we could enjoy the "play area" for as long as we wanted.  
There was a "bounce pillow" that everyone got a turn on, then there were slides, "hamster wheels", pedal cars, a play house, rubber duck races, a "sand box" of corn kernels, a spider web to hang out on, giant hay bales stacked up so they could be climbed . . . It was a very fun day!  We finished up with Apple Cider Donuts from the shop, yum!
Later that week my parents came up to replace our second garage door. The one we replaced in June was rotting away and definitely needed to  be replaced. The other one was starting to rot  but could have survived another year or so BUT the original doors were dark green and the replacement door was white so we wanted to go ahead and replace the second one so they'd match. 

After that was done the girls and I went back to my parents house with them and, on Friday, headed to Summer's Farm Corn Maze in MD. It's a big corn maze that I took the girls to when they were toddlers but we hadn't been back since we moved away the spring Lexie & Ashlyn turned 5. So, 10 years later, we came back! 
While the kids loved all the extra activities when they were little, the corn maze itself was a bit frustrating. The theory is that every time you come to a decision point there's a numbered sign and you can answer a question to know whether turn left or right but in actuality there are a lot of unmarked decision points. With two toddlers, that was a bit of a disaster. This year was much more fun. They were bound and determined to "beat" the maze so all I had to do was follow along and not worry about getting lost since, after all, we'd get out eventually. It took us about an hour to make it through the 12 acre maze, so we'll call it a success :) We also enjoyed the activities they had like the "hamster wheel" (similar to the ones at Paulus Orchard except those weren't built into a "house' they traveled back and forth on a track, which was more fun.
Jumping on the bounce pillow. There was a group of boys playing football on it at one point. But they did pretty good at not plowing into other people so everyone had fun :) Can't believe even my "baby" is too tall for the "little kid" jump pillow now!
The "big slide" doesn't look nearly as big as it did when they were 4 either, and Lexie declared it not fast enough but Little Bit had fun and went down several times. 
We finished our time at Summer's Farm by visiting the petting zoo. The cow was soo friendly, and happy to have Ashlyn cuddle it :) 
Saturday we went to Woodlawn Manor in Sandy Spring, MD to go on an Underground Railroad trail and tour. I had assumed, based on the website, that they would show us routes and hiding places that were documented as having been used in the Underground railroad, or at least were strongly suspected of having been used, but in reality, the original owners of Woodlawn Manor were slave owners so, in a community that was predominantly Quaker, and therefore anti-slavery, they chose the one site known to NOT have been sympathetic to slaves, as the starting point of their tour. It was mostly just a hike through the woods, and meadows, stopping occasionally for the tour guide to talk about how things might have been, and tell stories of specific slaves who escaped (but in most cases went nowhere near the area where we were). It was interesting, just not what I was expecting, and I didn't feel it was worth the price. The tour ended at the site of the historic Sandy Spring that the town is named after. Land development in recent years has re-routed the spring so it no longer flows from it's historic point, but the monument is still there. We then hiked back at our own pace, and visited the small museum that is a part of Woodlawn Manor. 

On our way back to mom & dad's, we stopped in Gaithersburg to walk around a lake there. We didn't make it very far around the lake because the Hero Dogs organization was outside a restaurant soon after we started. They had dogs from a 7 week old puppy up to a 3 yr old ready to be placed. And were happy to let us love on their dogs, and have those old enough to have at least started the training process show off their "tricks". The dogs are trained to do things like pull a wheelchair or crutches over to you (which involves training them to pull without shaking their head like dogs instinctively do) pick up your keys or their leash, open and close drawers and cupboards . . . and they are also trained to help with anxiety. So if the trainer tapped his foot like someone might do subconsciously if they were worried, the dog would put her paw on his foot to calm him. When the trainer put his hands up to his face like he was scared or depressed, she jumped up into his face to get his attention. It was really interesting and the dogs were all super sweet :) 

After talking to the Hero Dog people, we headed on up the road to make sure we got to South Mountain Creamery by 4pm to help feed the calves. This never gets old! Since it was the weekend it was busier than we're used to, but each of the girls got to feed at least one calf. Ashlyn was frustrated that the calf she really wanted to feed (an adorable, TINY, Jersey calf) someone else had "claimed" but then just put the bottle in the "bottle holder" and stood there watching it eat. 
Rodney joined us at my parents' house Saturday night and Sunday we headed down to his mom's house to visit with her and Rodney's sister and brother-in-law. 

In other October news, all three girls joined our homeschool co-op's Chorus, so we're immersed in the Christmas songs they're learning. Little Bit is once again taking art classes twice a month, and we're hosting an American Girl Club once a month. Lexie & Ashlyn joined the tween/teen book club at co-op which meets once a month . . . so we're staying busy.

Other schoolish stuff this fall:
Little Bit is enjoying Waldorf Essential's Second Grade Curriculum (adapted to fit our eclectic style, of course)
Lexie and Ashlyn chose a "Who Dun It" writing course for this year. We're having fun reading classic mystery books and watching classic mystery shows while they plan out the "who dun it" novel they will complete by the end of the course. 
We've cycled back around to Ancient History, using Story of the World Vol 1 as our spine. The older girls are digging deeper into the more "scholarly"books on the topic and I get to hear tidbits of what they read. I had figured we'd just use the Saint and hero stories included in the Waldorf Essentials curriculum for Little Bit's history, but she is enjoying picture books related to what her older sisters are learning about Ancient History. 
Lexie continues to be fascinated by genetics and read horribly long books on the topic :) 
We're finishing up the Little House series of audio  books in the car, in between CDs related to Ancient History.
We're introducing Little Bit to the earlier Harry Potter books. We're all enjoying listening to the audiobook of the Sorcerer's Stone for bedtime, along with audiobooks for the teen book club and/or the Who Dun It course.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October, Part 1

Obviously I'm better at remembering to blog when I'm traveling. So . . . we got home from our epic Little House trip in late September and spent the rest of the month getting settled back into our normal routines.   Tracy, the cat who's been banished to the front porch for repeatedly peeing everywhere but the litterboxes, was very glad to have us home again! Daddy wasn't willing to go hang out on the porch and give her love. Of course, 5 seconds after I took this picture she BIT my toe because I wasn't giving her ENOUGH attention! Silly cat.
As if we hadn't done enough traveling in August and September, the second week of October we headed to Pittsburgh for Rodney to work and the rest of us to play! Unfortunately, our beloved Carnegie Science Center was closed that week, so we didn't get to go there, but we did go to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum. Lexie and Ashlyn have "aged out" of it for the most part (I think someone their age who had never been there would still find it interesting, but after going so often when they were younger they mostly just found a corner and read a book. Little Bit still enjoyed most of it though. Painting, playing with water, and checking out the new (awesome) chairs they have in the "garage". These chairs are soo cool! I went hunting online to find them. I did, but they're over $700 each, which is beyond absurd for a hunk of plastic!!! Here's hoping someone makes a cheap knock-off LOL.

Can't go to the Children's museum without a picture of Little Bit next to the giraffe sculpture :)

We also got lots of swimming time while we were in Pittsburgh. Little Bit hasn't had as many opportunities as her sisters did to practice swimming since she's been tall enough to be in the pool without floaties, so this was a wonderful opportunity. She definitely took some solid steps toward being more comfortable in the water. Wish we'd had longer.

The next day we went to a small zoo near where Rodney was working. It was overpriced for what it was, but we had a fun day. They want you to buy food to feed the animals (can't bring in your own baby carrots, have to buy a bag from them for $4! I don't even know how much the bucket of "nuggets" were. After what I'd paid to get in, I wasn't paying anything extra. BUT because most people do, the animals tend to come running up to the fence in hopes of being fed, so we could see the animals closer than most zoos.

There was a baby giraffe that only came out at certain times, but we managed to get a "front row" spot to see it. Little Bit was over-the-moon :)

They also had "baby animal feeding time". There were several young animals in the pen (a Sabu, and I don't remember what else) but only the camels were still being bottle fed. They definitely knew when it was feeding time. So cute! Little Bit said the camels are easier to feed than calves. They don't butt at the bottles like the calves do. So all in all, it was a fun day :)

When we got home, Little Bit had a fun surprise! One of my parents' "National Park friends" is a geologist and posts pictures of rocks and minerals on facebook every day. When we were on our motorhome trip, mom was showing those pictures to Little Bit, and let the friend know that her granddaughter enjoyed his pictures. He asked if he could send her some rocks and they had arrived when we got home from Pittsburgh! She was very excited! It was really cool! A box of rocks, each marked with what it is and where it's from!!!

Monday, October 2, 2017

RECIPE: Tomato Feta Soup (Instant Pot)

It's been a long time since I've posted a recipe. While we were traveling, we stopped at a Trader Joe's and they were sampling their Tomato Feta Soup. We all liked it, even Ashlyn, who typically doesn't like tomato soup. So when we got home, I went online looking for a copycat recipe. And couldn't find one. I did, however, find the list of ingredients in their soup. I love using my Instant Pot for lunch. I can get everything in and then go back to doing school with the girls while it cooks. So I looked at different recipes and combined ideas and tweaked things, and considered the ingredients in Trader Joe's Soup and here's what I came up with.  I'm not going to call this a copycat of Trader Joe's because I honestly don't have a very clear memory of what it tasted like (and since there aren't any Trader Joe's stores anywhere near here, I can't buy some to compare), regardless, we all liked this soup and I'll be adding it to our lunch rotation!

1/4 c butter
1 lg onion,chopped
handful of baby carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes*
1 Tbsp each: dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 c whole milk
salt to taste
Crumbled Feta cheese

* I substituted 4 c cubed fresh tomatoes for one can

Place butter in instant pot and push the Saute button. Once butter is melted, saute onions and carrots until soft. Add garlic and tomatoes (If using all fresh tomatoes you might need to add up to a cup of water or broth. The canned whole tomatoes had plenty of liquid in them, and we prefer thicker soups). Add seasoning and bay leaves. Press cancel to turn off the saute feature. Lock lid in place and make sure pressure valve is closed. Turn on manual for 5 minutes (high pressure). Allow to pressure to naturally release. Puree soup until smooth with immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender). Stir in milk and salt to taste.

To serve, top each bowl with a spoonful of crumbled feta.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Last Day in St Louis

Today we went to the arch.

Between chance of rain and the weekend's protests being in that area we weren't sure we were going to be able to but today was sunny (and HOT) and things were quiet in the area, at least during the day, I haven't looked at news to see if there were any more protests this evening.

When my parents were here this summer there were long lines and you had to order tickets ahead but with school started, we had no waiting other than the unavoidable wait so everyone can board the pods at the same time.

Waiting to board

We rode up in a little pod. Little Bit was rather freaked out. Lexie and Ashlyn loved watching out the window at the infrastructure of the arch. They decided it would be the perfect setting for a Cyberman attack on Dr Who.

I thought Little Bit would be over her nervousness once we were at the top but she was still nervous. Her sisters were great at distracting her by pointing out various things out the windows but as soon as she wasn't distracted she was nervous again. The views were awesome:

I wasn't concerned she'd really freak out when we went down because it's faster. Takes 4min to go up and only 3 to go down. But she actually liked the faster speed, whew!

Once we were back down, the museum is closed for renovations but Little Bit and Dad got their passport stamps

And we watched the video about how it was built.

After lunch we went to the museum exhibits in the Old Courthouse to finish the Junior Rangers. One option was to stand in the middle of the rotunda and look up, then draw what you saw.

The girls and mom all earned their Junior Rangers.

We finished our day, and our time in St Louis, with supper at the Old Spaghetti Factory! Yum!!!

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, September 18, 2017

U S Grant National Historic Site

Today we went to US Grant's National Historic Site.

This site is the farm that was owned by Grant's wife's family, the Dents. Interestingly the house is called White Haven after Julia's father's family home in MD. Apparently the house was never white, but the awful green approximates the color Grant chose when he took over ownership.

We toured the house and out buildings including the summer kitchen

And chicken coop

The winter kitchen was in the basement. While the main living spaces were all plastered and finished, the ceiling beams in the kitchen were logs with the bark still on.

The large horse stables that Grant designed and had built is now a museum. This quote amused me.

And, of course, the girls and my mom earned their Junior Rangers.

We were planning to also visit "Grant's Farm" across the street from the historic site. It has the Anheuser-Busch Cleidsdales and other animals. But unfortunately, is only open weekends this time of year, so we'll have to skip it.

Next we enjoyed a yummy "lunch" of frozen custard from Ted Drewes. YUM

posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rocky Ridge Farm

Today was our last little house site of the trip.

Rocky Ridge Farm is the farm Laura and Amanzo bought when they moved from De Smet, ND to Mansfield, MO when their daughter, Rose, was 7. They lived here for the rest of their lives.

Today was Wilder Day, so it was a lot more crowded than any of the other sites have been. As I suspected, the museum here has most of the actual things that exist from her life. Unfortunately, they don't allow pictures inside the museum. So I'll just tell you about the things I was most excited about lol.

Pa's fiddle, obviously!!!! After all the entire point of our timing ever since Labor day has been based on being here TODAY to hear the fiddle!

Ma's pearl handled pen.
The lace that Ida Brown slipped into Laura's hand as a wedding present.
The little china box Laura got off the Christmas tree on Walnut Grove.

Also was fun to learn that Rose shared my love of BIG coffee cups and see a couple of hers.

After the museum we went up to the farm house to tour it.

When they first bought the farm there was a one room cabin. They lived there the first winter then added a second room. The following spring they moved to new room to it's current location and added a second room and an attic bedroom. That became the first phase of this farmhouse.

Again, no photos were allowed inside. The original 2 rooms eventually became the kitchen, with counters built extra low so they were easy for 4 ft 11 in. (or 5ft depending what you read) Laura. And a dining room with built in storage and a pass thru window from the kitchen. Later they added a bedroom, music room, and parlor with a very cool library nook to the main floor and a proper staircase and another bedroom upstairs.

After we toured the farm house a shuttle took us to the rock house.

After Rose was grown and successful she purchased a house plan or kit (depending who you ask lol) from the Sears catalog. She had the rock house built for her parents because she thought they needed a more modern house.

Again, no pictures allowed inside. It's a cute little house. Love the big living room windows and there are great built in shelves and wall niches throughout. After about 7 years Laura and Almanzo moved back to the farm house because this house didn't feel like home. I can't say that I blame them. The farmhouse has a bigger, nicer kitchen and the awesome library nook. And while they were living in the rock house Rose lived in the farm house and added a bathroom on so now it had indoor plumbing too. They spent the rest of their lives in the farm house. They used the rock house as a rental for awhile then sold it.

(Random picture of Little Bit)

Next we took the shuttle into town where there were street vendors and other festivities going on. Nothing too exciting . . .we did go to the town historic society museum. Saw a few more of Laura's things there, again no pictures allowed. As Ashlyn pointed out, while I totally understand no flash, the Smithsonian allows pictures why do all these little museum think they're more important? I especially found it absurd at the historic society where they provided free coffee that you could drink while wandering through the exhibits. So obviously the no pictures rule wasn't to keep from damaging historic items. Anyway . . . Lexie ended up talking to a lady whose parents knew the Wilders. Her mother worked at the bank. Said Laura took care of all their financed. And her father did some electrical work for them. Said Laura tried to tell him how to do the wiring and he said later that if he'd done what she said it would have caused a fire.

After lunch we went back to the farm house to see Pa's fiddle played! The man who played it said it was what was known as a seed fiddle because Pa won it for buying enough seed. Another site we were at, I don't remember which, said nobody knows where Pa got his fiddle, so nice to hear at least one theory lol. Obviously it wasn't a very fancy fiddle but it's held up well. He said the only thing they've changed is putting new tuning keys on it. I assume they've also replaced the strings, probably multiple times.

I also took a video of him playing but the app I'm using won't let me add a video so I'll do it as a separate post straight in blogger.

After he played Pa's fiddle they had the final part of the fiddle-off that had been going on all day. That was fun to watch.

And thus ends our Little House tour. The one major site we didn't go to was the Wilder home in NY. We're hoping to hit it during another trip to Boston and/or PEI.

In the morning we'll start heading north east with stops along the way.

posted from Bloggeroid

Video of Pa's Fiddle