Monday, September 12, 2011

August (and a bit of September) in Review

Before I can start blogging like I want to, I feel the need to share a bit of what we've been up to for the past month (and a half). Much of my time has been spent in the kitchen (hooray for harvesting season!) or outside trying to make some progress on my newly-aquired garden. Also high on my priority list since I (we?) decided to start home-preschooling Neven has been planning focused activities for him and I to do. I haven't been too strict about a schedule, but I've been aiming to have one activity per day (seems like a reasonable start, and makes sure we have more than just good intentions). So far, it is working out well, and I think the structure is beneficial to all of us.

Next week's post will be more interesting, for sure!

We go through granola (cereal) like its going out of style! A few months ago, I started making granola at home. I had no idea how simple it is to make, and it feels great to know exactly what's going into it. I've tried a few recipes, and this is the one I've landed on as my favorite combination (its actually a recipe from a card I found in one of the fireplaces at our La Posta house...!). In the end, I think making our own granola costs about as much as the generic, store-brand “granola with raisins.” But making our own not only tastes much, much better, but it feels healthier and we can customize each batch to the variety we want!
3 c regular rolled oats
1/3 c wheat germ
1/3 c brown sugar
1 apple, shredded
1/4 c water
1/4 c honey
1 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
1 c dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins, dates, dried bananas...)
1/2 c nuts (slivered almonds, sunflower seeds...)
Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, and apple in a large bowl. Combine water, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. Pour mixture over oats; mix well. Spray 10x15 baking pan with non-stick spray. Spread oats evenly in pan. Bake at 325 deg F for 60 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Cool. Add dried fruit and/or nuts. Store in airtight container.

Another recent discovery I've made is making our own yogurt, in the crock pot. How much easier can you get? I was a bit skeptical at first as to whether or not this method would work, but it does! It tastes fabulously simple, and costs about half of what the cheapest, store bough yogurt does.

'Tis the season to be buying in-season fruit in bulk, and preserving it for the winter. For us, this has meant buying many blueberries and strawberries on sale at the supermarket, and picking our own raspberries. Much was frozen, some was jammed, and we just purchased a dehydrator to deal with the rest. I'm pretty excited about the latter, to make on-the-go kid snacks! Neven has always been a healthy eater at home, but it was too easy for me to fall into the convenience snacks for when we were out and about – goldfish crackers, animal cookies, granola and cereal bars... (all pre-portioned in individual packaging, of course). Making our own dehydrated fruit and vegetable snacks not only means healthier, but it also means less packaging to toss in the trash!

What you need:
plastic coffee or yogurt container, with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage (I used a hammer and screwdriver)
seeds (we used green beans)
dirt (“yard” dirt worked fine for us)
a few straight twigs, about 12” long
Fill plastic container with loose dirt. Use finger to make a few holes, about 1 inch deep and 2-3 inches apart. Drop 2-3 seeds in each hole. Cover with loose dirt. Water seeds every day to keep soil moist. You should see sprouts in less than a week. As they start to grow, use straight twigs and twisty-ties to support the stalks. At some point, you may need to transplant your bean plants outside or to a larger pot.
Concepts: fine motor skills (planting), plant needs, responsibility (remembering to water them)

Initially, the idea came from here:
But we didn't use our ice cubes to paint – we used them for playtime in the bathtub.
When you make the ice cubes, consider using basic colors, which will mix easily to make other colors!
Concepts: colors, mixing colors, melting, ice/water phases

Another idea from the same website:
The best form we found to use was a piece of aluminum foil, molded into a trough of sorts. As the wax melted, I squeezed slightly and rolled to help the wax stick together.
Concepts: colors, sun/heat, melting, fine motor skills (coloring)

What you need:
colored paper
wire hanger
Directions (or, what we did!):
Cut out six fish shapes of different colors (while I cut fish, I gave Neven a pair of scissors to cut randome pieces). Use a marker to draw designs on the fish. Punch a hole in the top of each fish. Attach the fish to the wire hanger at varying lengths.
Concepts: fine motor skills (using scissors), colors, fun!

What you need:
containers or bowls
miscellaneous objects (buttons, beads, marbles, beans...)
Concepts: colors, shapes, motor skills

What you need:
pictures to color
crayons or markers
construction paper
clear contact paper
Print black and white pictures of animals, etc. Color pictures with crayons or markers. Glue onto construction paper and cut to desired size. Stick pieces of contact paper to either side of the construction paper and picture. Attach magets to the back.
Concepts: fine motor skills, colors, animals

What you need:
objects to pour (beans, rice, buttons)
containers of varying shapes and sizes
Concepts: fine motor skills, life skills

Last weekend, we went to Salman Raspberry Ranch just north of Las Vegas, NM. Had a great time, and picked 4 pounds of fresh, juicy raspberries free of pesticides and herbicides. It was a good day!

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