Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Place for Precious Things

Making Your Own Nature Box:
OK, so it could be a box for anything your kids hold precious, but my kids are using them to store nature discoveries in, and they are REALLY easy to make!

All you need is glue, an old shoe box, some scrapbook paper, and perhaps some clear film (I have acetate sheets sitting around my house, but your mileage might just vary on this one ;))

Take a shoebox:
Cute pieces of your scrap paper to size, and glue onto the box. I used 3 of the 12 x 12 sheets... I could have used one more for this middle sized (women's shoes) shoebox. For a larger shoebox, use more paper!

Cut a hole in the lid to create a 'frame', and cover the frame with the paper. Do the sides first, then the top, for a neater effect... or do them in one go (I didn't have enough paper for this, but it would be my preference). Allow the kids to decorate with stickers.

From the inside of the lid, either tape (I used double sided tape) or glue your clear film or acetate sheet to the lid. This makes a 'window' so the finds don't fall all over the place when being looked at, but is not strictly necessary. You could also use plastic or glass if you preferred.

Finally place your nature finds or precious things inside it...
... and place on display! Voilà! A place for precious things...

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Happy Easter everyone! I hope you have a lovely weekend... whether you are celebrating Easter, or the spring equinox!

I just thought I would share my hot cross bun recipe. I found it on a British cooking guru's website, and adapted it for American directions :)

Take from Delia Smith's Website.

Hot Cross Buns

If you want to make more distinctive crosses, use a flour-and-water paste made with 4 oz (110 g) plain flour and approximately 3 tablespoons water. Roll out thinly and divide into small strips, dampening them to seal.


4 T (50 g) caster sugar, plus 1 level teaspoon (caster sugar is beverage sugar. I just used sucanat, or normal sugar)

1 level tablespoon dried yeast (I used rapid rise, but ordinary is fine)

2 C (450 g) plain flour plus 3/4 C extra

1 level teaspoon salt

1 rounded teaspoon mixed spice (usually a mix of nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves and allspice.

½ C (75 g) currants

4 T (50 g) cut mixed peel

1½-2 fl oz (40-55 ml) warmed milk

1 egg, beaten

4 T (50 g) butter, melted

For the glaze:

2 level tablespoons granulated sugar

First stir the teaspoon of caster sugar into 5 fl oz (150 ml) hand-hot water, then sprinkle in the dried yeast and leave it until a good frothy 'beer' head forms.

Meanwhile sift the flour, salt and mixed spice into a mixing bowl and add the remaining 2 oz (50 g) of sugar, the currants and mixed peel. Then make a well in the centre, pour in the yeast mixture plus 1½ fl oz (40 ml) of milk (again hand-hot), the beaten egg and the melted butter. Now mix it to a dough, starting with a wooden spoon and finishing with your hands (add a spot more milk if it needs it). Add the additional flour in quarter cup increments as needed, until you get a smooth, soft dough (about the consistency of bread/playdough). Depending on the weather, your buns may need more or less additional flour :)

Then transfer the dough on to a clean surface and knead it until it feels smooth and elastic – about 6 minutes. Now pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled plastic bag, and leave it in a warm place to rise – it will take about an hour to double its original size. Then turn it out and knead it again, back down to its original size.

Divide the mixture into 12 round portions, arrange them on the greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion), and make a deep cross on each one with a sharp knife. Leave them to rise once more, covering again with the oiled polythene bag, for about 25 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C).

Bake the buns for about 15 minutes. Then, while they're cooking, melt the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water for the glaze over a gentle heat and brush the buns with it as soon as they come out of the oven, to make them nice and sticky.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Stories from the Great Outdoors

The first day of spring, combined into a lovely day at the park for my kids and me… and about 2 dozen other homeschoolers, when we celebrated a spring picnic!

Not one to miss an opportunity, I took the moment to suggest to our Nature Club, that the meeting this month should take place then too… and boy was I right!

The kids are so focused when it comes to nature... Rebel concentrates while picking a sample of violet.

Our park, was blessed with a lovely creek… which, cool weather notwithstanding, the kids took off shoes and socks and proceeded to wade into, collecting fish, frogs, tadpoles, water striders, salamanders and crayfish.

The kids had a blast and I… got sunburned.

OK that was not too fun… I was fully covered (it wasn’t that warm), but my face got it. I couldn’t wear my usual hat (it was too windy) so, forgetful as I am, without sunscreen, the seemingly mild spring sun got me! And I had been doing so well this year too (this is the first time I managed it this year… last year I think I got burned in January :-o)

I just wish I had taken my camera down to the creek with the kids, that would have been a good move, but of course I forgot and left it up at the picnic site!

Never mind... here is the bone we collected, and for more spring like picture, you can check out the latest post at my nature blog, where the latest Green Hour Assignment is up :)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring at our House

It has arrived with a bang! Well... a bloom anyway :) Since it is more nature orientated though, I added the posts to the Nature Blog, with LOADS of pictures for you to enjoy... especially if you are Spring deprived!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Springing Forward

Well… at least that is the way the old saying goes. I never quite manage it here! It always seems like we are dragging behind, or lagging in some way. I wonder why they don’t just adjust the time permanently or do away with the time change… it is not really necessary anymore!

Be that as it may, it doesn’t mean we get out of things. Nope… school will go on until 1pm today, as it did yesterday and as it will until we manage to get past the time lag!

For now the plans are to listen to spring themed music and stories… and to spend LOTS of time outside!In the meantime, check out the spring happenings on my nature blog :)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Gardening With Children Book List

With the oncoming spring, of course my mind has turned to gardening with the kids. In fact, I figured that it would tie in beautifully with the Serendipity botany studies. Speaking of which, we are starting over with the Serendipity studies, just so that we can take advantage of Spring and Summer to do those botany pages :)

In my hunt for kid friendly garden stuff, I ran across several books I thought were lovely, and that all gardeners might just like to hear about!

Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy

This is a lovely book. It has several garden plans and ideas for educational activities with the kids. You will often see it recommended for these reasons :) Take for instance the pizza garden… made with pizza ingredients, looking like a pizza and with several follow-up activities to go along with it!

Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy

Another lovely book, it does cover a lot of the same ground as the one mentioned above. If you can only get one, just get Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots, as it is definitely the better one of the two… but if you can get both, definitely do so :)

Honeysuckle Sipping by Jeanné Chesanow

This book is extraordinary! It is a compilation of tales of childhood plant lore and activities. I am sure you will recognize some of the things you did with plants and flowers as a child… I know I did ;) It is a very charming read, highly recommended!

Gardening Wizardry for Kids by Patricia Kite, Yvette Santiago Banek

A cute book, full of experiments and facts and gardening fun. It is whimsically illustrated with cartoon like pictures, but don’t let that disturb you! The content is more than worthy of the purchase price. The experiments vary from the typical “watch seeds grow” to more unique ideas.

Hollyhock Days : Garden Adventures for the Young at Heart by Sharon Lovejoy

I love the Sharon Lovejoy books for her lovely watercolour pictures, and the charming folklore and ideas she brings back to life for the modern child. As always, her books are worth getting :)

Shanleya’s Quest by Thomas J. Elpel

This was a suggestion of Rebecca’s, but I was on board because I had discovered Elpel’s Botany in a Day a few years ago, and loved it. Shanleya’s Quest is more for the kids though :) Follow along with Shanleya as she learns about the different plant families.

The Burgess Flower Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess

The Burgess Flower book, is just as delightful as the other Burgess books. Like his Animal and Bird books, this is another tale of Peter Rabbit learning about the world around him... this time Peter notices the onset of spring through the world of flowering plants. Especially delightful are the plants that you will recognise from your own garden and nature walks!

I will try to keep this post updated with the new books I find ;)


Incidentally, you may wonder whether I have been drawing some more. I have. Not necessarily the ‘from life’ pictures I was doing before, but some more whimsical illustrations for stuff I have been doing :)

You see, I have been digging in the garden…

Walking in the rain…

And planting seeds…

Obviously, I am somewhat inspired by Sharon Lovejoy, Susan Branch and Tasha Tudor :) Well… not always obviously, but that is what has inspired WHAT I am drawing ;)

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Green Hour Week III

Green hour was a bit more successful this week, and you can read about it on my nature blog ;) It is filled with some lovely photos!

Sorry I directed everyone here, I forgot to change the addy ;)