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Monday, October 24

Mountain Time (Joe Bonnamassa)

When we told the kids we were heading to Colorado, the only place they really wanted to visit was the Garden of the Gods.  Granted, they didn't really know what else was out there, but they had a one track mind on this.  So it was our number one 'must do.'
At the entrance of our parking area, there was a trail guide pointing out all of the various geological 'structures,' like the Kissing Camels shown in the second photo.  We had fun renaming almost all of them!
This was one of our last stops on the Colorado trip, and we had told the boys that it may not happen...you know...keep them on their toes a little bit.  So they were pretty stoked when we got there!
Ah, but the disappointment quickly set in when we made them get down and stop climbing.  Without a permit and (naturally) the correct gear, climbing is not allowed.  We had not come prepared to climb, but we did spend a long time watching the ones who had.

We spent a lot of time walking the trails and exploring the plant life in the area.  It's pretty different from what we're used to seeing at home and on our east coast jobs.  It was morning, not too hot yet, and the day was shaping up to be a beauty!
As we were leaving, we discovered the area that is set up for climbing.  We had watched the rock climbers from the trail, and the boys were a little disappointed that they weren't able to climb, so we let them crawl all over this area.  All four of us enjoyed that hour!!
What you can't see in this picture is that the oldest has just fallen off a rock and disappeared into.....well, apparently a mini-cave that he found.  
Isn't the view stunning??

Rocks & Minerals Unit Study

Thursday, October 20

Gaming + Legos = October Fun at Brick Loot!

Brick Loot is a subscription box for people who love LEGOs.  It is designed for ages 6 and up and is $27.00/month, plus $6.00 shipping.  Each box is filled with Legos, Lego compatible products, and other brick items.  It is a very build-heavy box, meaning that there aren't as many minifigures or accessories, but there are a lot of different building ideas.

October's theme was Game On!, and all of the projects in the box revolved around gaming.  While most kids, especially boys, would really appreciate this theme, it fell upon deaf ears in our house.  We do not allow any sort of gaming, and the kids just couldn't relate, so it was a bit of a strike right out of the gate...

Each box includes a card that details all of the box's contents.  This month's box included :
  • Art print & Sticker - an exclusive print and sticker that are related to the theme
  • Gaming Minifigure - an exclusive minifigure related to the theme (made with actual Lego pieces)
  • Building Activity 1 - a Pac Man made of itty bitty bricks
  • Building Activity 2 - an exclusive arcade machine project, with stickers for two designs
  • Building Activity Cards - bricks not included, but various design ideas
  • Coupon Code - 25% off a MOCNation...whatever that is
  • Head Shaped Case - a large minifigure head for storing bricks (and my kids' favorite piece in the box)

So, in addition to the unfortunate theme choice for our first box, my kids are a little snobbish about Legos...they want the real thing, and these are not real Legos.  Which is not to say that they didn't enjoy the building activities, but that we won't be purchasing any more boxes for this reason.  Another thing you will want to be aware of is that these bricks are TINY.  If you have little ones in your house, you will want to be very very aware of their proximity to the pieces!

Just the Facts :
  • Cost: $27.00/month, $25.00/month for 3 months, $23.00/month for 6 months
  • Shipping: $6.00/month
  • What’s in the box? Monthly boxes can include unique items including LEGO, LEGO compatible products and brick items.
  • How do I cancel? You must cancel your subscription before the 25th of the month to not receive the following month’s box.
  • Website: http://www.brickloot.com/

Natural Woman (Aretha Franklin)

As I’ve begun making my own home cleansing products in the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a trend among all the ‘recipes,’ namely that they use castile soap.  So I got a bottle and decided to try my hand at it.....and it was really much easier than I had feared!!

Maybe you’ve heard of castile soap, but aren’t really sure what you can do with it?  Here are several different options of how to use this one simple bottle (see extra notes below) :

  1. General Cleanser :  Mix 2 cups of water, 1 teaspoon castile soap, 1 tsp borax, ½ tsp washing soda (NOT the same as baking soda), and lemon or other citrus essential oil (just a few drops) in a spray bottle.  Shake it up, spray it, and use as an all-purpose cleanser.
  2. Fruit and Veggie Wash :  Mix 1 tablespoon castile soap with 2 cups of water; shake it up, squirt it on, and use it to wash produce so that it will last longer and remove pesticide residue.
  3. Shampoo : Mix 1 tablespoon castile soap with 4 tablespoons of water (or mix up a spray bottle with that ratio).  Throw in essential oil (a few drops) for scent – rosemary is good for the scalp!
  4. Soft Scrub : Same ratio as shampoo, but without the essentialoils.  Sprinkle the spots you want to scrub with baking soda first and let it sit a minute.  Then, spray with soap solution and use a brush to scrub it all away.
  5. Carpet Cleanser :  Mix ¼ cup castile soap with  1 cup of water.  Scrub into carpet and let it soak, then scrub it out.  Does the same job, but without the harsh chemicals!
  6. Soap (for dish washing, body wash, or hand washing) :  Mix 1 cup castile soap with 2 cups water.  Shake up well and use as normal.
  7. Floor cleanser :  Mix 3 tablespoons castile soap with 1 gallon hot water.  Wash it suds up and work just as well as that harsh stuff you’ve been using.
  8. Laundry Soap :  Grab a gallon-sized ice cream tub for this one.  Mix 1 ¼ cups vinegar (white, not apple cider), 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda (NOT the same as baking soda), 1 cup borax, and ¼ cup castile soap.  You may also use a couple of drops of essential oil, if you want.  Mix them _in this order_ and stir, stir, stir.  At first, it’ll look like a big, goopy mess, but if you keep stirring, you’ll get a powdered detergent.  (And if you don’t keep stirring, you’ll get a rock hard mess when you go to use it.  Think of it as an upper body workout…)  Use ¼ cup for each load of laundry.  (No, I don’t know if it’s okay for HE washers or not.  But here is some information about that from someone who does.)
  • Two good brands of castile soap :  Natural Way and Dr. Bronner's
  • A note on spray bottles :  Glass bottles will not react with any of the ingredients, and just look nicer around the house.
  • A note on essential oils : As these are not going to be ingested, you can use a lower-quality one that is a fraction of the cost of the big name brands.  I recommend Plant Therapy, because they smell good, and we've had no skin issues from them.

Wednesday, October 19

Flat Foot Floogee (Benny Goodman)

For today's freezer cooking, we're celebrating all things flat!  (We will not be celebrating my mommy-tummy today.)

When I think of flat, I think :
  • Flat feet
  • Flat as a pancake
  • Flat tire
  • Western Oklahoma

What else do you add to this list??

 Our two freezer cooking projects today are homemade wheat tortillas and gingerbread pumpkin pancakes.  Let's get cooking!

Wheat Tortillas

  • 1 c warm water
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 c wheat flour

  1. Mix first four ingredients with two cups of flour.  Add additional flour until you have a stiff dough that is somewhat hard to work.
  2. Let rest 15-30 minutes.  Preheat tortilla press.
  3. Drop a 1" ball of dough onto pan, press 15-30 seconds.  Open, flip tortilla, and press again.  The longer you press, the crispier the tortilla will be.

We use these for freezer cooking burritos and enchiladas!  

Gingerbread Pumpkin Pancakes

  • 1 1/4 c old-fashioned oats
  • 1 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 c milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  1. In a blender or food processor, process oats until it makes a fine flour. In a large bowl, combine oat flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, pumpkin, molasses, maple syrup, milk, and vanilla. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until combined and mixture is wet.
  2. Heat a flat skillet/griddle over medium heat and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Once griddle is hot, pour batter onto skillet, using 1/4 cup measuring cup. Cook until edges start to harden and bubble. Flip to the other side and cook until medium golden brown.
  3. Make these pancakes super cute by using a gingerbread cookie cutter to cut out little men.  Let the kids decorate for extra fun!!
  4. To freeze :  Let cool, freeze in ziplock bags with wax paper between layers.
  5. To reheat :  Thaw overnight and microwave 25 seconds each.  To cook from frozen, microwave 50 seconds each.

Monday, October 17

Custer (Johnny Cash)

After leaving Mount Rushmore, we were hot and tired.  But in a good way!  We headed out just a little ways and came upon the town of Custer.  This is a cute little town that's perfect for an day stop!
PizzaWorks, in downtown Custer, has fabulously delicious, handmade pies!  We enjoyed watching the pizza makers throw the dough, and took forever to determine which of the umpteen toppings to select!  The air conditioning was pretty sweet, too!
The Custer Museum showcases the history of this region of South Dakota, all the way from the earliest Native American tribes to today.  We also loved walking through actual historic sites, each with their own little history lesson above the door...such as this one at a main street cafe.
Admittedly, the rock shop two doors down from the pizza place was the boys' favorite stop in this town!  They have all kinds of rocks.  Not only that, but they have educational information about most of them, and the shop owners are extremely knowledgeable about their goods.  They spent over an hour talking geology, rocks, and minerals with the boys.  If you have extra time, I recommend this rock shop over some of the others!  (Unfortunately, I can't remember the name, but it's two doors down on the same side of the street as the pizza joint.)  
Check it out - the Rock Shop even has a clearance table!!!  My husband can find Martin Luther King Jr drive in any city (seriously...and always by accident), but the kids and I can find the clearance table in any store.  It's a gift!  We also popped into the Naked Winery, across from PizzaWorks, but didn't take any pictures there....not for the reasons you're thinking!  They are actually set up for entire families to enjoy the atmosphere, with chocolates and juice for the kids.  

No unit study today.....just enjoying a small, South Dakotan town!  If you want to find a related unit study, check out the one on General Custer and the Battle at Little Big Horn.

Friday, October 14

Step Back in Time at Harn Homestead

Located near the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City, Harn Homestead is a breath of fresh air and a step back in time to early Oklahoman history.  We've taken history field trips here a couple of times, but our most recent visit was on a crisp autumn day!
The boys began our visit with a trip to the barn, where we collected eggs, milked the cows, checked the gardens, and prepared equipment for the day.
Just like at home, after morning chores were completed, we went into the small house for morning reading time and inside chores.  Today, we are repairing an old treadle sewing machine.
I love how hands-on this property is!  One of the boys found an old rug beater, but couldn't figure out what it was.  His solution??  A heinie swatter!  Who knows?  It just might have pulled double duty a century ago!
The 'big' house was actually a home kit from a catalog in the early 20th century.  It is beautifully made and has many wonderfully-preserved architectural designs, day to day artifacts, and stories kept inside.  You can only see inside this house if you take a tour (which is free with admission).
Behind the big house are the well, root cellar, and barn....all very important aspects of life a century ago.  While these are not all hands-on, they are beautifully preserved and offer a glimpse of living history.
Inside the barn, you can see where the hay was stored for livestock, how the barn was designed, and the windmill that was used to provide water for the livestock.  The tour guides are quite knowledgeable and love to answer all of your questions!  They have a lot of good anecdotes about the property and family that you won't find on any museum sign.  Also in the barn is this neat old car.
The view of the property from the upper loft in the barn is fantastic!  Couple that with a beautiful autumn day, and you've got a serene moment...
There are some other buildings on the property as well, including two homes and the schoolhouse.  While these are not original to the property, they are original to the Oklahoma City area and offer glimpses into different aspects of life at the turn of the century.  These are buildings that were slated for demolition, but were relocated to the Harn property museum instead.
Before you leave the museum, be sure to stop by the gift shop, where you'll find very reasonably-priced mementos...including 25c peppermint sticks!  

Just the Facts

Special Events at the Harn Homestead

  • Land Run Days 
    • See more about the Land Run Days, and pick up a free unit study, here.
  • Haunt the Harn - October 27, 2016
    • Enjoy Haunt the Harn, a family-friendly event for children of all ages. Kids are invited to trick-or-treat at each of the historic buildings on this site and participate in games and crafts, including face-painting, a cupcake walk and pumpkin bowling. Also enjoy sweets, a hayride around the ten-acre property and the roasting of marshmallows around a campfire.  Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the gate.
  • A Territorial Christmas - December 1, 2016
    • Experience the wonder of a truly old-fashioned Christmas at the Territorial Christmas Celebration at the Harn Homestead Museum in Oklahoma City. Bring the family out for a tour of the Harn Homestead, which will be fully decorated in traditional 1880s Christmas decorations. Enjoy a visit from Santa Claus, take a picture with him and enjoy complimentary treats. There will also be cookie decorating, ornament making and hayrides of the property. Visit the Harn Homestead and make new family memories at this annual holiday celebration.  This year, they plan to have more craft vendors than past years!  Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the gate.