Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ruby Turned 3!!!

You can view more birthday photos at Mike's Flickr site. Click here.

On March 21st Ruby turned 3 years old - our baby is now a little girl, who seemingly became so almost overnight. She bounces about the house in her pigtails, clothed in pink (98% of the time) and chats up a storm & sings all day.

We celebrated her birthday by having a little family party (just us) and viewing the new film Horton Hears a Who... which was very entertaining and made all of us, from the very small to the very tall, laugh out loud with unbridled glee. My personal favorite line in the film was "In my world, everyone would eat rainbows and poop butterflies." Maybe you have to see it to completely appreciate it??? Anyway, a great "G" rated film that got the Amick "two thumbs up".
Back at home, the kids & I had spent the day making homemade pizzas and... VEGAN CUPCAKES from our new cookbook (see blog previous to this one). Lucky little Ruby was the first to get to choose her birthday delight... which were Cookies & Cream Cupcakes & Gingerbread Cupcakes w/ Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting. They turned out fabulously yummy!
Ruby opened her gifts, her favorites being a Hello Kitty outfit from Grammi, some Monkey hair accessories, a Hello Kitty beginning phonics reading set of 12 books, and a wonderful wooden memory game called I Never Forget a Face. It teaches multi-culturalism to young children in a creative way. Mom way digs it!

She also was given a copy of a book she has often enjoyed from the library called Pinkalicious, a story about a girl who eats too many pink cupcakes and turns pink! Hmmmmmmmm???? There is also a sequel called Purplicious we have had fun reading.

Ruby celebrated her birthday in Sabbath school today, which was great fun. She was one of 5 children I sang the birthday songs to, and had prayer for - it nearly took up half of the program time for the day, but was delightful.

A New Family Tradition...Special Occasion Vegan Cupcakes!

I love cookbooks and always enjoy looking over new ones. Currently I have The Complete Book Of Sushi checked out from the library that we enjoy looking over and getting ideas for making vegetarian Nori rolls and more.

A few days ago I got my very own copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule . I had seen it before and had wanted to own it to assist me with the frequent challenges of creating good vegan birthday cakes. I thought this would be a fun tradition to have an entire book of fabulous cupcake recipes for the family to choose from (with photos) for their birthdays and display them in a creative way... forget the big cake! (Exception being the long loved popcorn cake b-day tradition we enjoy.)

I purchased one of those cupcake tier stands to put all the little gems into and wa-lah! Better than a cake - you have a tree of cute little baby cakes. Genius!

The entire household is busy picking out their cupcakes to be baked for their birthdays - bookmarks galore in such a little cookbook!

By the way... the cupcakes are quite divine! No one would be disappointed with these, nor would they ever suspect they are vegan (shhh - don't tell) - they put your usual cupcakes to absolute, utter, and may I add, complete shame.

You just cannot leave a single crumb behind!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Departure of a Minnesota Winter...Perfectly Penned

The excerpt below is from Blue Heart Blessed, a Christian fictional novel I am currently reading. It is set in current day Minneapolis, MN. (You can learn more about it by investigating my book shelf on the right margin of this blog site.) I enjoyed this passage since it spoke so closely at my time of reading it, in relation to the current day & season... and my own life experience.

Some people say spring in Minnesota takes its time arriving. Winter --- that lovely white season that never wants to let go -- can hang around till after Easter. It can leave and then come back. There was many a time growing up when I wore a wool cap to church on Easter Sunday instead of a bonnet. I've played soccer with mittens on my hands. I've sat before a fireplace on May Day. I've put blankets on newly planted window boxes when frost was predicted. There are years when it seems like I live a mere stone's throw from the North Pole.

And just about the time you think you'll go mad, you see your first robin, and that's all anyone talks about because they've all just seen their first robin, too. The last of the snow --- truly disgusting stuff that's more brown than white-- finally melts away and the heads of tulips erupt from the ground like little green noses. May can begin with a lovely set of days that tease you into thinking you can put away your coat and gloves, but halfway through the month an arctic wind will leave you shivering at softball games, track meets, and outdoor graduation parties.

Then one day, maybe it's Memorial Day or the first of June, a lever will be thrown somewhere in heaven, and the climate will make an abrupt shift that has you fiddling with your heater one day and your air conditioning the next. That to me is not spring taking its time. That is winter taking its time. Taking its time leaving. Spring arrives in one day in Minnesota. And leaves the next.
It is abrupt, not sluggish.

The weather will be cold and blustery one day--- and then the next, warm and muggy. It can happen that fast.
Your world can change that fast.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Squirrels and More Squirrels - Homeschool Focus in Art Today

Today we combined many learning experiences we have enjoyed over the past few weeks into one fun project. Our work in our nature notebooks as well as attention to poetry have both been dismal these past months as we have focused our time and energy on more core subject material - so today we had a bit of a "homeschool holiday", and killed a few birds with one stone, as the saying goes.

This winter we have learned much, and found pleasure in bird watching/feeding to accompany our lessens in zoology. Part of this time has been spent observing a pair of squirrels visiting each day climbing the tree near our deck and forming a plan to get onto our deck to carry out their mission of stealing all the bird food and goodies. For weeks we watched the sly pair sit in the tree, which was ohh too close for comfort, eying the variety of birds with keen interest and us even more as we watched through the sliding glass doors. But alas! Last week the shifty duo managed to carry out their scheme and haul away all the birdy booty, but not good enough... the gluttonous ground squirrels check back daily for any fresh supply, eager to hoard it all until the arrival of better spring weather.

Incidentally, for Christmas this past year, a good friend of ours who knows we collect Christmas Nutcrackers gave us a gift that was a bit of a fun twist on the theme - a giant, functional, silver squirrel nutcracker called Davy Crackit. Our jolly rodent has been the centerpiece on our table next to a bowl of nuts since being welcomed into the home, and the kids have enjoyed many a happy hour cracking nuts open with him (and making quite the mess).

A few weeks ago, we came across a wonderful book at the library that possessed the most intriguing artwork: Squirrels by Brian Wildsmith. The illustrations were bold and colorful, and I immediately recognized some of them created by the wet-on wet painting technique that is popular in Waldorf schools and that we used to do with frequency when Christopher & Elliot were younger. I was inspired to renew the acquaintance with our long lost pastime and whip out the paints.

Thus today the children were assigned to write a poem about our squirrel visitors and then we used the artwork in the book by Wildsmith to inspire us in our watercolor paintings using the wet-on-wet technique (although some of the kids deviated from it into more traditional watercolor work). We will place the finished paintings and poems together in each of the kid's nature journals.

It was a refreshing day of creativity!

Christopher's Squirrel
(although we think it looks more like a kid dressed up in a tiger suit!)

Gabriella's Swimming Squirrels on A Sunny Day Among the Reeds

Elliot's Squirrel Duo

Ruby's Fiery Red Abstract Squirrel

Mom's Rendition of Brian Wildsmith's Squirrels

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Invasion Of Illness on the Homefront

Last week we were invaded with sick bugs of all kinds at our house. The first victim was MJ on Tuesday who was diagnosed with pneumonia, the next day Elliot got positive strep test results, and the following day Justin too was given positive strep throat results. Christopher threw in a bit of variety with a sinus infection, and all the little girls had varying levels of a respiratory illness... which now a week later I am lucky to have picked up.

All the boys continue on their meds and are improving. All are back at school and battling the last of their lingering symptoms.

Fun! Fun!

Elliot's 9th Birthday... Wolf Captures & Bonfires

On February 23rd Elliot celebrated his 9th birthday. It was an eventful day that began with a long awaited opportunity our entire family was excited about. We were given permission (along with some others) to accompany a research team into Camp Ripley to observe the yearly wolf capture there. There is a wolf pack (or 2) living in the woodlands there that are being monitored and researched by using radio collars. It was now time to find the wolves using an airplane to track their signals, then a group in a small helicopter go try to chase them out in the open enough to shoot them with a tranquilizer dart and bring them back to an area in the forest to measure & weigh them, put a new collar on etc. We were to be observers of this process and were on location early in the morning brimming with excitement. Sadly, after 4 hours outside and cold they were only able to bring in the alpha female, who shocking to all was dead, and had been so for just a few days. It was noticed that she had several bite wounds on her body that may have become infected and caused her death. The team planned to study her further. The remaining hours they had difficulty catching the wolves due to them hiding in culverts, tunnels etc - it was shared with us that this lack of capture success was very unusual and that all typically goes much more smoothly. In the end, the helicopter became damages when it nicked some heavy branches, so the project was ceased for the day. There were many adults and children who left in disappointment... including ours. Ruby is still praying for the "dead mama wolf"!

Upon returning home around 2pm, we cooked up Elliot's meal that he requested for his special day (our homemade vegan/healthier version of Taco John's Super Potato 'Ole) and had his popcorn b-day cake. Then Elliot opened his gifts and was glad to receive a watch that he had his eye on, and the audio book of Pilgrim"s Progress. After a short rest we all headed off to our friends home for a church social that included an evening outdoor bonfire (MORE outside time), sledding, crockpots of homemade hot chocolate, and good company. We returned home exhausted and collapsed into bed! What a day!

More Time on Austen....

Since the last writing I have read 2 more of Jane Austen's books and enjoyed them very much. Sense and Sensibility was the first, followed by Northanger Abby, which I just concluded.... I was surprised by the somewhat change of style and and alter of approach to topic that I found In the later of the two - I appreciated it greatly (a bit of variety ya know).

I also rented and viewed The Jane Austen Book Club last week, waiting for an evening that Mike was out of town so I could savor it all alone. It was very entertaining and witty.

Not sure which of her books I'll pick up next, I guess it depends on what the library has available tomorrow!