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Thursday, July 30

Herbal Immune Boosters


With an immuno-suppressed child, our family is constantly aware of the fragility of the human immune system.  It doesn't take much to shut it down - stress, sugar, poor sleep, poor diet - and we strive to keep it going.  If you're taking care of yourself properly, these herbal remedies will help give your immune system a kick in the butt when you most need it!

Now, you might be asking WHY I'm writing about immunity boosters at the end of July...and the simple answer would be that, once you've mixed them up, it takes six to eight weeks for their yummy properties to fully integrate into the vinegar.  (ie, you're going to let them steep for nearly two months...which will put you right at the beginning of allergy and cold season.)

Fire Cider

Fire Cider is a remedy for upper respiratory infections with a deep cough and severe nasal congestion. It is extremely spicy, and I don’t think there will be very many kids who will want to take this remedy. Take a tablespoon full every day - it's a very potent remedy, so go slowly with it.  During times of illness, you may take a tablespoon full every couple of hours.
  •      1 part minced garlic
  •      1 part chopped whole onion
  •      1 part grated horseradish root
  •      1 part chopped & seeded jalapeno
  •      1 part grated ginger root
  •      ¼- ½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  1. Place all of the herbs in a glass jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. 
  2. Make sure to put plastic between the lid of the jar and the vinegar, or else it will create a slime due to a chemical reaction between the metal and the vinegar. 
  3. Steep herbs for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily, then strain and keep in a glass jar.
  4. If you don't feel up to making your own, you can always buy a bottle.

Elderberry Syrup

For the price of one bottle of elderberry syrup at the store, you could make ten to fifteen times that amount at home!  This is super easy, and anyone can make it. 

Start with good, organic elderberries.  We can usually find a good organic brand at Amazon, but would rather pay more to get them from somewhere else if Amazon doesn't have the organic brand available.  Typically, we triple or quadruple the recipe and participate in an herb swap...more on that later.
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer, and reduce liquid by about ½ (usually takes about 20-30 minutes). Strain out the herbs and add 1 cup of raw honey (optional).
  2. Store your syrup in a closed jar in the refrigerator.

Additional Information

Would you like more information on boosting your immunity?  Pick up a free copy of our sampler, Herbs for Autumn, or the complete course, Kitchen Fixes, which is designed to introduce the beginner to herbs and their uses, for both cooking and remedies.


One final word.....don't forget to eat a healthy, colorful diet. The foods we eat are the best immune booster of all!

Wednesday, July 29

Blueberry Hill (Louis Armstrong)

 
In the rush to avoid sugar, many people now are avoiding fruits.  They believe that because added sugars are bad, the same must apply to fruits, which also contain fructose.  However… this is completely wrong, because fructose is only harmful in large amounts and it is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.

Fruits are loaded with fiber and water, and have significant chewing resistance.  For this reason, most fruits (like apples) take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver slowly.  You want that extra fiber (adding Metamucil to a glass of juice will not create the same effect in your body!), and it helps your digestive tract.

In the fruit hierarchy, choose fresh fruit, then dried fruit, with sweetened dried fruit a distant third, and juice in fourth place.

Many of the fruit juices on the market aren’t even “real” fruit juices. They consist of water, mixed with some sort of concentrate and a whole bunch of added sugar. But even if you get 100% real fruit juice, it is still a bad idea.  There is actually a lot of sugar in fruit juice, about as much as a sugar-sweetened beverage, but  there is no fiber and chewing resistance to slow down consumption, making it very easy to consume a large amount of sugar in a short period of time.

A word about organics...
Organic fruits and vegetables are healthier than conventional because they exclude the use of genetically modified organisms and synthetic pesticides and minimize the use of other pesticides.  However, don’t let that stop you from loading up on conventional produce if that is what you have access to.
Take it to the Next Level
You've heard of Superfoods, but…Superfruits?  Not every fruit qualifies.  Those deemed "super" by nutrition scientists are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients that can help you live longer, look better, and even prevent disease.  Blueberries, oranges, bananas, apples, kiwis, grapes, strawberries, and papayas — take your pick and take a bite, because these fruits are superfruits!

Monday, July 27

Freezer Cooking 101 : July

 
This time of year, our garden is overflowing with plump and juicy tomatoes...too many for us to use before they go bad!  Last year, we made plenty of sun-dried, spiced tomatoes from our garden!  This year, we will still do that, but are making some soups and sauces as well.

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce Recipe

Ingredients
·        1/4 cup olive oil
·        2 large onions, diced
·        1 tbsp chopped garlic
·        Approx. 10 large tomatoes, peeled & diced
·        1 cup water
·        1 tbsp salt
·        1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tbsp dried basil
·        3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
·        1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions
1.   In large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2.   Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
3.   Add onions and the rest of the ingredients into slow cooker (no smaller than 5-quart) and cook on low for at least 4 hours. Adjust seasonings to taste.
4.   I store mine in mason jars and freeze them. Just make sure to leave room at the top for the sauce to expand when freezing!

Tomato Bisque Recipe

Ingredients
 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
 2 celery rib, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
8 cups (2 quarts) organic low-sodium chicken stock or broth
Approx. 8 large tomatoes, peeled & diced
6 tablespoons tomato paste (look for BPA-free cans)
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2-3/4 cup half and half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup croutons, for garnish (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Instructions

1.   In a large stockpot, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Then, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
2.   Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for 1 minute, or until flour is fully incorporated. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Season lightly with more with salt and pepper, to taste.
3.   Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover partially. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
4.   Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until fairly smooth. (Note: Please be careful during this step! Don't fill the blender full, and cover the lid with a towel and hold securely while blending so the lid doesn't pop off.) Carefully, return the puree to the saucepan.
5.   Add the half-and-half and cook over medium-low until the soup is just heated through. Taste and then season the soup with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to your preference. Swirl in the 4 tablespoons of butter. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with croutons, fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, and serve.


Friday, July 24

Vegas (Sara Bareilles)


Today we detour through the desert for some sin city fun!  Las Vegas, the oasis in the desert.....it was just a tad on the warm side.

We walked around the entire world as we traversed the strip.  It was a bit like hitting Epcot at Disney World.  Here we are taking a break on the Champs-Elysee by The Paris Hotel at about 2:30 AM.  We're from NY, the "city that never sleeps."  Guess what, V-e-g-a-s is really that city.  There was so much to see and do...I think it was 5 AM by the time we finally called it "a night!"
The next day we walked the strip, feeling right at home on the Brooklyn Bridge by the New York, New York Hotel.  We stayed at the height of Egypt-ness~The Luxor.

It's not a place I would take the kids back to until they were older, and not even one that I'm itching to visit again.  We ran into some undesirable situations...such as pamphlets for store-bought girls being shoved into the hands of our pre-teen boys, that reminded us Vegas is not called "Sin City" without cause...
     


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Today's guest writer, Chris, writes for Campfires & Cleats.  You can find her on Facebook.

Thursday, July 23

Build Me the Moon (Charlotte Sometimes)


Today, we are going to take a closer look at one Oklahoma City home.  Yesterday, we focused on our architectural unit studies...be sure to brush up on your stylistic background!!!

In a corner of Oklahoma City that time forgot, the Overholser Mansion stands as a testament to the state's earliest days.  Henry Overholser was an Oklahoma businessman, county commissioner, and important contributor to the development of Oklahoma City.  Overholser was already well-to-do when he arrived in Oklahoma Territory in 1889.  He quickly began buying lots, developing business buildings, and making capital improvements using his own money to what would become Oklahoma City.
Built in 1903, the Overholser Mansion is considered Oklahoma City's first mansion.  It was designed by W.S. Matthews, who trained at London's Kensington Academy.  Originally, the home was in the country and far from town, but today it lies in the heart of the city.  The Queen Anne and Chateauesque architectural styles were regarded as out of style, standing in stark contrast to the Mission, Craftsman, and Prairie styles of architecture that were prominent at the time.  Walking through the house, you can't help but step back in time and feel the opulence seep through your skin...
Full of original designs (such as the cute doorbell below!), the first floor of the house looks as if the family just stepped out for the morning.  All tours are guided, and the first three floors, open to the public, reveal intricately stenciled, painted-on canvas walls and eye-popping light fixtures. On the second-floor landing, pause at the stained glass windows featuring two musically inclined women, a piece that Mrs. Overholser, who started the Ladies Orchestra League in the 1890s, commissioned.  The third floor was the nursery, and is now full of toys and brick-a-brack that made its way into the attic storage area.
We fell in love with this home!  The oldest took about a hundred photos, trying to memorize every intricate architectural and interior design detail.  The youngest oohed and ahhed over the appliances and "latest and greatest" machinery found throughout the home.  As for myself, I simply adored the little pink turret room at the top of the house.  It was small, but large enough for a Mommy-cave!  Taking a tour here truly is like stepping back in time for a few hours!!

Home Details :
  • Tours Tues-Sat
  • Hourly tours from 10a - 2pm
    • 45 minutes long
  • 405 NW 15th St, OKC
Special Event :
  • Heritage Hills Home Tour
  • Sept 26-27, 2015
Less than a mile away, lies the Harn Homestead, where you can re-enact the Oklahoma Land Run and experience Oklahoma's territorial days...another integral piece in Oklahoma City history!

What we read today....


Wednesday, July 22

Build Me Up, Buttercup (Foundations)


It's a little-known fact that as a young girl, I dreamed of becoming an architect, but with zero spatial skills, it just wasn't in cards.  I still find old houses fascinating, though, and am enjoying watching my oldest go through his 'architectural phase.'  Which may not be a phase after all....I mean, we've all seen his Etch-a-Sketch pictures...that boy has some talented spatial reasoning!!!


We will be working on architecture more this year, since that is where his interests lie.  Here is the unit study that we will be working from throughout the year.  And never fear, mom, I've remembered to address the littles, too!  It's a considerably shorter unit, but let's get to them first...

Early Elementary Unit

First off... 

His love for architecture stemmed from his love of all things Greek and Roman (ancient, of course).  Hence our hands-on history units for ancient civilizations!  So we will begin with a review of the basic architectural column designs.
Of the three columns found in Greece, Doric columns are the simplest. They have a capital (the top, or crown) made of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has 20 sides. There is no base in the Doric order. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design. Doric, like most Greek styles, works well horizontally on buildings, that's why it was so good with the long rectangular buildings made by the Greeks. The area above the column, called the frieze [pronounced "freeze"], had simple patterns. 

Ionic shafts were taller than Doric ones. This makes the columns look slender. They also had flutes, which are lines carved into them from top to bottom. The shafts also had a special characteristic: entasis, which is a little bulge in the columns make the columns look straight, even at a distance [because since you would see the building from eye level, the shafts would appear to get narrower as they rise, so this bulge makes up for that - so it looks straight to your eye but it really isn't !] . The frieze is plain. The bases were large and looked like a set of stacked rings. Ionic capitals consist of a scrolls above the shaft. The Ionic style is a little more decorative than the Doric.

The Corinthian order is the most decorative and is usually the one most modern people like best. Corinthian also uses entasis to make the shafts look straight. The Corinthian capitals have flowers and leaves below a small scroll. The shaft has flutes and the base is like the Ionian. Unlike the Doric and Ionian cornices, which are at a slant, the Corinthian roofs are flat.
During our travels, we have visited and explored different styles of architectural homes, including :
Part of the fun of architecture is getting to express your unique individuality!!  Below are some fun activities for your students to explore their styles and do just that!
  • What Is Your Architecture Personality?
    • This quiz determines your architecture personality.   At the end of the quiz it tells you about the different styles of architecture.    This is definitely geared more towards adults than students, but the boys loved taking the tests lots of different ways to see what types of styles they could produce.
  • American House : Styles of Architecture Coloring Book
    • Crisp renderings of over 40 extant structures from Taos Pueblo to striking contemporaries. Spanish Colonial, Georgian, Stick, Gothic, many other styles. Rich and informative captions date, identify, and describe each dwelling.
  • How to Become an Architect
    • This page answers some of the most frequently asked questions about careers in architecture. The advice comes from several architects.
You can't learn about architecture without getting hands-on!  Here are some of the best kits and activities that we have stumbled upon so far.

  • Lego Architecture : Eiffel Tower
    • Lego has an entire line of architectural designs, ranging from $30 to $180.  The Eiffel Tower is on the lower range, and we spent a whole day studying France while building this one!!  (Double the learning, double the fun!)
  • Lego Architect Studio
    • This one is the mack-daddy of architectural sets from Lego...including a 300 page booklet and more bricks than any one child should own!
  • Young Architect Kit
    • Create a 3-dimensional design model in just 3 easy steps! Great for aspiring young architects, design and furnish your floor plan with templates and colored pencils that are included. To top it off, this building set is reusable, so you can start from scratch and redesign your floor plans over and over again for endless fun.

Finally, David Macaulay's Building Big series at PBS offers students a chance to work with engineering concepts on an interactive site.  This site is the accompaniment to his DVD series, which was fascinating for our entire family.  Ranging from age 6 to Dad, we all enjoyed watching these videos together.

Tuesday, July 21

Here Comes the Sun (Beatles)


I love spending time outdoors…especially when the weather is beautiful and warm!  It seems that in this digital age, we are seeing the outdoors less and less. (Case in point : I would like to be out in my garden, but am inside finishing up some articles to fulfill a contract instead.)   This week, I challenge you to go take a hike!
Being in Nature Helps You Spiritually
  • Disconnect.  If you found yourself suddenly transported into the woods, with nothing surrounding you except nature, you would likely have no idea what year it was.  Teleportation is unlikely to happen any time soon, so try taking note of this phenomenon next time you go for a hike or stroll outdoors.
  • Note to self.  When we spend time in nature, we are reminded that life is fleeting – plants and animals live and die, the life cycle is all around you, and human are no exception to the rule.  Sometimes we need that perspective in order to remember what truly matters - and to remind us of just how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
  • Calm.  People love views of the water, sunrises and sunsets, mountain ranges, etc. because they have a calming effect.  What’s on your computer wallpaper…?
  • Harmony.  Hundreds of species of plants and animals can live amongst each other in one small area - te way an eco-system is meant to work.  Humans could certainly stand to take note.
  • The Monet Effect.  Nature shows us that the farther you are from something, the more perfect it looks.   A wave crashing on the sand might look beautiful to us as we watch it from afar, but how do you think those little crabs feel when they get stuck in it?  Autumn leaves are gorgeous, but we don't think about the fact that those brilliant colors signify that the leaves are dying. These lessons can be applied to our lives, as well. You never know what kind of pain someone is hiding beneath a seemingly happy smile.

Being in Nature Helps You Physically
  • Vitamin D.   Getting some sunlight give your body vitamin D, which can help fight many conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks.  It can also make you happier.
  • Shutdown.  Screen time (tv, computer, iphone) is largely associated with depression.  In one study, time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death, and that was independent of physical activity!  Putting down your devices and getting into nature can help to reset your emotions and lead to better health.
  • Exercise.  If you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer, and more time walking and doing other things that put the body in motion.
  • Healing.  Exposure to natural light can lessen pain and stress.  They can also help to heal the hurts inside – the scars that stick with you.

Take it to the Next Level
Take the time to teach nature in your classroom or homeschool.  Or you could join other families to start a Nature Club for Families with this free toolkit and guide from the Children & Nature Network.  Not only will your family benefit, but you will help many others experience the wonders and health benefits of exploring the outdoor world around them!


Monday, July 20

Sandstorm (Darude)


Great Sand Dune National Park
Sand dunes in Colorado??  Isn't Colorado all things John Denver and Rocky Mountains?  Well, yes....and no.  In southern Colorado, waaaaaaay off the beaten path, and shockingly, quite crowded despite this, is a gem of a national park that is widely visited!  Look at that sky? Gorgeous, no?  The history and culture of this area spans The Stone Age through modern Native American peoples, and makes for a great living-history lesson.

After we read the displays at the interpretive center, watched the educational film, and listened to a ranger's fascinating talk on the diversity among the dunes, we set out to conquer that sand!  How hard could this be?  It's only sand, right?

Wrong.  Turns out, It. Was. Hard.  Like killer, borderline heat stroke, height of the afternoon sun (what were we thinking?) no clouds and 106 degrees hard.  I just had to give up about 3/4 of the way to the summit of the main dune's peak.  I insisted they go on because there was no way I could continue.  BUT, the guys had the camera and here they are At The Top.  Pretty cool, huh?

Come in, 1969...
Channeling Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin!

Back at the interpretive/visitor center, the boys got sworn in as junior rangers of 
Great Sand Dun National Park after completing a number of activities, plus hiking and participation in the ranger program.  Here are the dunes from a distance, as  we traveled away from the park and toward Monument Valley, UT/AZ, land of the Navajos, amazing fry bread, the setting of many movies and, of course, immeasurable beauty.

Sand Dune National Park unit

MAKE SAND JARS

  • Baby food jars or other jars
  • colored sand
  1. If not using purchased colored sand, combine the sand with the dry tempera paint. Make a variety of colors. Salt also works for white.
  2. Layer the different colors of sand into the jar. (Using small funnels to put the sand into the jars keep areas neat.) You can also use a straw or kabob stick to 'poke' through desired layers of sand to make designs.
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Today's guest writer, Chris, writes for Campfires & Cleats.  You can find her on Facebook.