The Egg Dye Failure

Several years ago I started a family tradition of making hot cross buns on Good Friday. I think I have used a different recipe every year, but this years’ were my favorite so I need to record the recipe somewhere. I found it on a blog that I enjoy called The Pioneer Woman. Here is the link to her hot cross buns. We made plenty to share with our neighbors and also our friends who we were visiting that day.

 

Our family loves to dye Easter eggs and for a while now I have been curious about making natural dyes.  I have wanted to try this as much for the sake of experimentation and learning something new as for limiting our use of artificial colors and dyes.  I know people have had good success making natural dyes and their eggs look beautiful. I did a bit of research to find out what to use and how to do it. There are a ton of  resources online for doing this.

I boiled red cabbage which made a lovely deep blue color, but when I added vinegar it immediately turned an incredible pink.

I boiled spinach for green, and chili powder for orange. I though if I got good results with these, I would try some others the next day. Now, I am not a patient person, so I kept checking the eggs every 5 minutes and nothing was happening. I let them soak in their pots of natural dye for hours and when I finally took them out this is what I got- brace yourself……

 

So, it was a little bit disappointing and also kind of funny. My eggs clearly looked nothing like those lovely deep colored Easter eggs I saw on various websites. Obviously I did something wrong. I’ll probably try again next year, but fortunately  my friend Sarah had gone ahead and mixed up dyes using food coloring.  Lovely bright colors which made lovely Easter eggs.

 

Andy also loves to dye Easter eggs, so our family did another round of egg dying on Saturday morning using good old PAAS pellets.

Andy is kind of an expert over achieving egg dyer, so it fun to watch him. He is also ridiculously good at blowing out  eggs – when you poke each end of the egg with a pin and blow out all the innards so you have just the whole shell that you can dye and keep out as decorations. I had planned on making an egg dish for Easter brunch so we already had a plan for all those egg insides.

I washed off all the gunk from the failed naturally dyed eggs and we re-dyed those and they came out great too.

I know some of you have dyed eggs using natural dyes, so if you have any tips for me for next year, please do share them!

Mondays revisited

You might remember my post a few weeks ago with a desperate plea for suggestions on how to make our Monday school days less painful, and even a little bit fun! Thank you to all of you who responded with great ideas. My hope is that this blog isn’t simply a way for me to post pictures of my kids and “our perfect life”, but to be part of a supportive community that shares ideas, so thank you!

Last Monday I was sort of off the hook because it was Ila’s birthday and we had a day off school.  Yesterday was my first Monday with my new approach. I have decided to not even attempt to sit down at the table for school first thing.  I asked that the kids be completely ready: dressed, breakfasted, beds made and rooms tidied, and chores done by the time I got home at 8:30.  To my surprise they were actually ready so I took them out to Five Rivers Nature Center. We go there often so it is a place they are all very familiar with.

It was chilly and I wanted all the kids, including Kairav to walk the whole time, so we chose the short 1/2 mile Beaver Trail, which is loop around a pond, and then headed into the education center to watch the birds and look at the owl and the turtles.

We headed home around 10:00 to start the “school” day. I had laid out all of their materials before we left so the transition would be smooth. They had a quick snack  and got down to work with no complaining.

I think the fresh air and running around was a great way for everyone, myself included, to start the week.  We had a great Monday which I think will set us up for a good school week. The kids are excited to have a good week and keep reminding each other about staying focused so that I don’t yell. Even the little ones amused themselves and stayed (mostly) out of trouble.

In addition to starting the morning differently, I also spent about 1.5 hours at the library on Sunday afternoon laying out the whole week. If I start the week off with a solid, yet flexible, plan everything goes much better. I know exactly what I want to cover and have realistic expectations of the kids.  I decided to have a week of some inside reading and writing work, but a lot of outside hands on stuff.  The kids haven’t had a break week since Christmas, and I think we are all feeling a little bit burned out and ready for a break- which comes next week!

So this week we started the farming and gardening block with both Ishaan and Ulka. Ishaan will do a more detailed study of seed development, plant and flower structures, and pollination and both kids will keep a gardening journal and help with the planning and preparing of the garden. We started some seeds inside yesterday. Today we will turn the compost and start getting the garden ready for planting the greens and peas.

I am hopeful that this new way of entering into the school week will continue to work well for us. I feel bad that it took me so long to recognize that Monday mornings were a problem, but at least now I know and we can try to fix it.

Happy Spring to all of you.  Go plant a garden- in your yard, on your fire escape, on your window sill- where ever you can!

Earthling turns 5!

Five years ago our, Ila (meaning Earth), our tiniest package arrived. Three weeks early and a little pipsqueak.

She is still our little pipsqueak but she has a lot of heart and a lot of person in that little body!

Birthday anticipation and excitement was in full force last night at bedtime. I told her the birthday poem that I love so much and say to all the children on the eve of their birthday. I’m not sure where it comes from originally but it is one my friend, a Waldorf teacher, sent me years ago.

When I have said my evening prayer,
And my clothes are folded on the chair,
And mother switches off the light,
I’ll still be …… years old tonight.

But, from the very break of day,
Before the children rise and play.
Before the darkness turns to gold
Tomorrow, I’ll be …… years old.

… Kisses when I wake,
…, Candles on my cake!

I stayed up too late last night finishing up her birthday garland, which will become our spring garland when her birthday passes. I enjoyed making our heart garland so much I decided to try a flower one.

Ulka ran out and cut 5 daffodils and a hyacinth from the garden and we set the table for birthday breakfast- her choice, Daddy pancakes.

After pancakes was present time. We usually have the kids wait until after supper and cake to open gifts, but we decided to let her open them this morning. Ishaan made her an awesome necklace. He cut out little house shapes and drilled holes in them so he could thread them onto a thin wire. One each little house he wood burned one letter of her name and made into a necklace

A few weeks ago Ulka went up to my moms for a few days. While she was there she made a doll quilt of Ila’s doll Lulu. It is pretty amazing. She sewed the squares together,machine quilted it and then sewed the binding by hand. My mom was there looking over her shoulder, but she did it all by herself. Ila loves it.

Andy needed me to take Ila out for a couple of hours so that he could finish up a project that he has been working on. More than happy to oblige, I took Ila out on a big birthday date. Now, anyone who knows Ila knows that she is “passionate” about hair. If you have long hair and you come over, watch out. Ila will persuade you to let her comb and style it for you. Ila doesn’t have long hair and so wishes that she did, but it is so thin and brittle that it just doesn’t grow long.  I decided to surprise her with a trip to a hair salon. I have always cut her hair for her so I thought it would be a special treat. She was a little nervous at first, but I think in the end she enjoyed it (at least I hope she did).

Ta Dah!! The after shot. It was a bit to  little girl pageant-y for me with it all styled, but it’s a super cute cut that I think will look great once we let it do its own thing. Ila loved how puffy and shiny it was.

We went out for lunch at the local diner and I let her order anything she wanted. Mostly she was excited that she could have orange juice and hardly ate anything!

When we finally got home, Andy told her she had one more present waiting for her. While we were out, he (nearly) finished her new bedroom. Her room was damaged when 4 trees fell on it during the tropical storm last year. She has been sleeping in Ishaan and Ulka’s room since then. The renovation project is a very long story that will get its own entry soon.  Ila was so thrilled with her new room and just couldn’t stop saying thank you. It was worth every ounce of effort that went into it. It is an amazing room though- I would love it too. Tomorrow Kairav will join her in there, but for tonight it is just hers.

Mimi, Andy’s grandmother came over for supper and cake. I do the baking and Andy does the decorating. I think we are a good team- when I decorate it looks like a 4-year-old has done it.

Good night my little Ila. Sleep soundly in your new room. We are so happy you are here filling our lives with your sunshine.

The trouble with Monday

Today was a rough school day. It was a very rough school day. It started badly, with me frustrated and yelling and only got worse.

Ila was being difficult and annoying, Kairav was being clingy and annoying, Ulka was being obstinate and annoying, and Ishaan was completely unmotivated and annoying. I was incredibly mean and annoying.  A rough day.

By 1:15  we had barely accomplished much more than a bit of reading and a bit of writing and a lot of yelling. I gave up and told everyone to pack up their stuff, the school day was over.  It is not unusual to be finished with lessons and work by 1:00, but we normally have a whole lot more to show for it. Today we just had a lot of hurt feelings.

I complained to Andy that I was cranky and that the kids were uninterested. I was feeling like no matter what I do I can’t seem to make school fun and exciting these days. It feels like we are plodding through work just to get it done. I was feeling like I might as well buy a pile of workbooks, circle “to do” pages everyday and leave it at that. But I know that is NOT the way I want to homeschool. One of the reasons we are homeschooling is because we want the kids to enjoy it and we want it to be fun and interesting. So when I feel like I am failing at that it all falls apart.

Then Andy calmly said “it’s Monday”. Every Monday is just like this. You need to change the way school happens on Mondays. And it suddenly dawned on me. It’s true, every Monday is like this, especially if it’s been a busy weekend and I haven’t done enough planning for the week.

Now my challenge is to re-think Monday morning school. Do any of you have this same Monday re-entry issue? How do you handle it? How are your Mondays different?

With the warmer spring weather quickly approaching I am considering starting the day outside, giving us all some space to get our heads in gear for the week. There is plenty of yard work to do and gardening to get started. We could also head out to the local nature preserve and take a hike. I’ve thought about walking to the library and looking at books, but I think that might be too controlled for what we need.

I’d love to hear your suggestions! Now, Monday is finally over. On to Tuesday which is bound to be better.

Anticipating Spring

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like winter, but I know that I have also talked about how I like the change of seasons- that I need each season to prepare for the next. This year we kept waiting for winter to arrive.

Normally the snowdrops start poking their little heads out of the ground while still covered with a blanket of snow. When the snow melts, exposing the snowdrops, the end of winter is in sight and spring is just around the corner. Since there was no snow this year, the snowdrops seemed to emerge in the middle of winter. I didn’t know if it was me or the flowers that were confused about the seasons!

I wasn’t ready for spring, we hadn’t had winter yet! The thought of preparing the garden and spring cleaning overwhelmed me. I wasn’t ready for all that. I hadn’t had  my time of winter dormancy. I feel like I need that  sleepy time of cold, snow, long nights, and cuddling down by the fire to fully appreciate the excitement of the coming of spring. Winter is a time of planning, and wondering, and pondering before the flurry of activity that the change of seasons brings.

I had just about given up on winter and was starting to wrap my head around the idea of spring when old mother nature finally delivered us the winter weather I needed. Leap day brought us 15 inches of snow. We immediately commenced all winter activities- snow day, sledding, snowball fights, shoveling, and hot chocolate with whipped cream.

We managed to squeeze in a whole season’s worth of winter into 24 hours. Then it rained and warmed up.

A week later we were out in the mud in 60 degree weather. But I got my winter, and now I am ready and eagerly anticipating the arrival of spring.

I’ll end here for I’m  off to order my garden seeds!

Oh, cram!

We try to live as simply as we can in our hectic world. We really do. However, like everything else, our ability to accomplish this simplicity living seems to be seasonal. We are currently in a season of failing miserably at living simply.

 

I feel like everyday is a rush of school, running around, cleaning, cooking and working and we are missing the simple joys of the day.  By evening I am exhausted and just glad the day is finally over and hopeful that the next day will be easier, but the next day hasn’t been turning out that way.  Lately I have been overwhelmed by the number of tutoring students that I have. With the hours I spend with the students, prepping, and getting to and from the library I have had to carve out about 15 hours a week.  I just don’t have 15 hours a week to spare, so something has had to give. There must be something I am letting slide or not getting done.  At first it wasn’t obvious, but then I realized that what I am not doing is pausing for a moment to look around me and actually see things. Really seeing what my kids are doing, learning, and making. Seeing how Kairav is changing every day. Seeing how much Andy has been pitching in around the house to make it possible for me and pausing to say thanks to him. Pausing to have a quiet moment to thank God for all that is good in my life. I’ve been cramming every moment of every day full of doing doing doing that I’m missing all of it.

On top of it all, I just realized that Ishaan has to take the NYS 4th grade tests this year. I was under the delusion that he had to take them in 5th grade. So now, we are cramming for that too. I always promised myself that I wouldn’t stress out about these tests and that I would never  “teach to the tests”. But here I am stressing out and teaching to the tests. We are doing this test prep on top of all his other, more interesting school work, so the school days have become significantly longer.

I am confident that Ishaan is learning as much as he should be and that school is going well for us, but I feel all this pressure for him to do well on these pointless tests. Pressure from people in my life who question our decision to homeschool, pressure from the school district, and pressure from myself to prove to all of those others that we are doing a good job and that Ishaan is a bright kid and a good student. I wish so much that I wasn’t this way, but I am.

Lent starts today and it seems like the perfect opportunity to give up some of this rushing around to pause and be thankful. I know that is not going to happen right now though and I’m not going to pretend that it is. Last year Andy and I gave up Netflix for Lent. We don’t have a TV but watch our fair share of Netflix nonsense.  Giving it up “forced” us to spend that hour in the evening with each other- talking, playing Sequence, and just being together in a more meaningful way than staring at the computer screen together. When Andy first proposed that we do it again this year I was annoyed. My days are crazy and having a beer or a glass of wine, knitting, and turning off my brain is what I think I need at the end of the day. I realized though, that right now in this crazy season of cramming what I really need to do at the end of the day is pause, give thanks, and just be.

 

Fibers Wrap Up

A couple of weeks ago we finished up our Third Grade Clothing and Fibers Block. It was one of our best blocks so far. Both Ishaan and I enjoyed it and maintained our momentum for the whole 6 weeks. I find that too often I am super gung-ho and organized at the beginning  of the block and we dive right in and get a lot done everyday. As the weeks go by my enthusiasm wanes a bit and sometimes it becomes just about getting through the material.  It can be disheartening because I really want all of our school days to be fun and exciting and full of learning. I realize that is completely unrealistic however.

These are the books I found most useful for this block. All were available at our local library.

Unraveling Fibers  by Paticia A. Keeler and Francis X. McCall, Jr.

Warm As Wool, Cool as Cotton: Natural Fibers and Fabrics and How to Work with Them by Carter Houck

Fibers by Irving and Ruth Adler

For each different fabric/fiber I had Ishaan read about the history and the process of making the fiber. He then had to write it out in his own words. This is still something he struggles with because he doesn’t like writing, but he is improving all the time. Once the tedious part of writing it all out was done, he got to do a hands on fun project.

We started with leather and I did a long post about our leather moccasin project. 

Next we learned about wool. We borrowed a drop spindle from a friend and Ishaan had a go at spinning pre-made wool roving into yarn. We have a sheep fleece that we skirted and washed, but it isn’t carded yet. I wanted to get some carders and make our own rolags, but carders are not in the budget right now so that will have to wait. It’s ok though because then we will have something new to do with Ulka in a couple of years.

After wool we went onto linen. Coming up with a linen project was a little more difficult. My friend suggested a simple embroidery project. I found white linen napkin so he is embroidering a little heart design on it to give away as a gift.

Finally we learned all about silk. I knew the least about how silk is made so it was really interesting for me. Last October I got a silkworm cocoon at the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck. We boiled it to see how the fibers unravel. The silk fibers are so very thin and delicate that we didn’t have a lot of success unraveling a very long length, but it was still pretty neat. Once we got sick of pulling apart the fibers we cut open the cocoon to see the dead silk worm inside. Ishaan wanted to eat it, but I convinced him that was probably not a great idea.

dead silkworm

After a week of block crayon drawing as a little breather we are starting our much-anticipated Native American History and Folktales Block. Ishaan is very much looking forward to it and I have some fun ideas planned so hopefully it will go well.

Soup of the Week- Quick and Easy Lentil

I didn’t post a soup of the week last week. I was in the middle of a fun Week in the Life project and was blogging every night. I just couldn’t bring myself to do a second entry with a soup recipe.

This soup recipe was given to me years ago by my dear friends Bonnie and Josh. It had I had it taped up in our kitchen in Brooklyn for a very long time. The actual recipe got misplaced but I make it so often that I can just remember it. It might not be exactly the same as the original, but it’s pretty close I think

Ingredients:

1 celery stalk (chopped)

1-2  onions, chopped

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

cinnamon stick

salt and pepper

cumin (of course)

chilli powder

2 carrots chopped

2 potatoes cubed (I think this is my addition to bulk it up a little bit and make it go a little farther)

2 cups orange lentils

6 cups of water/ stock/ broth- whatever you prefer. As I’ve said before I like “Better than Bullion” as stock base. I really really need to start throwing all the veggies ends and peels into the freezer to make my own. All in good time I guess.

1 large bunch of swiss chard or spinach. (i prefer chard here)

How to:

1. Saute onion and garlic in enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of you pan. cook until the onions are going clear.

2. Add celery, carrot, potato and cinnamon stick. Cook for a few minutes.

3. Add lentils (rinse them well first) and cumin. stir to coat the lentils.

4. Add water/broth/stock and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are soft. This usually takes about 20 minutes. Keep an eye on it though- you may have to adjust the amount of water.

6. When the lentils are done, season to taste with chill powder, salt and pepper.

7. Lastly, add the chopped swiss chard. Cook until the chard is just wilted.

I like to serve it with yogurt, some homemade bread, and sliced cheddar cheese. I also usually make a huge amount of this soup- it freezes well. You can take out a portion to freeze before adding the chard if you want to and just add fresh chard when you heat it up. I don’t usually do that- I like my meals from the freezer to be totally ready to go.

Bonnie, if this recipe is way off the original, let me know!

A Week in the Life – Day Seven

I wish we could sleep in or at least laze around in our pajamas drinking  coffee on Sunday mornings but that is not the case in our house. We have to be up, dressed, breakfasted, and ready to be out the door by 8am for church. We could go to the 11:15 service but then we don’t get home until 1:30 and we feel like it’s a waste of our day. We are late for church about 100% of the time, but hey, at least we make it.

When we get home we get some lunch on the table, put Kairav down for a nap and proceed with a relaxing but hopefully productive Sunday afternoon.

It’s blood orange season!

Lately with my increase in students I’ve had to go out in the afternoon to tutor for an hour or two which I don’t usually mind. Today I really really really did not want to go, but I just kept reminding myself that every hour of tutoring is a cello lesson for Ulka, or a month of YMCA membership, or part of an iPad. A little motivation goes a long way.

I did get to squeeze in some cuddle time with my favorite 4 year old before I left.

Ulka, my own little live-in mother’s helper, got Kairav ready  and put him down for his nap.

Ulka does not have any idea how to relax and be still. For her doing gymnastics is relaxing.

On her beam that Andy made her for Christmas.

Ishaan could literally read all day if we let him.

While I was out at the library Andy and Ishaan made a shelf for Ishaan’s bedroom wall.  Ishaan is a collector of treasures and he needs a place to keep them where they are not in my way and out of the reach of curious little hands. It came out super great and he is thrilled with it.

Sunday night is pizza night. No pizza here even approaches real Brooklyn pizza and frankly it’s just not worth buying.Andy has become an expert dough maker, though he hasn’t yet mastered throwing it up the the air and catching it to stretch it out! Although our homemade pizza doesn’t really come close to Brooklyn pizza either, it is it’s own thing and we quite like it. It’s fun to experiment with toppings. Today we made a leek, mushroom, and garlic with herbs and feta (no red sauce) and a spinach, garlic and tomato for our family. We also made a pie for our neighbors who just had a baby and delivered it piping hot.

After dinner the kids watched the 1950s version of Cheaper by the Dozen on the computer. Movies for them are a real treat so they were super excited.

I spent some time working on those blasted colored pencil rolls. Ulka’s is almost done and Ishaan’s is well on it’s way. And now after I’ve finished this post I think a glass of wine and an early night is in order.

I am sure that over the last seven days you have noticed a pattern to our little life here. Homeschooling, making stuff, cello, gymnastics, reading, and cooking. That is how we spend most of our time- at least in the winter. I am planning to make this a seasonal project so watch for the spring edition!

Well friends thanks for tuning into my little experiment here. I appreciate every one of you and all your kind and encouraging comments. It’s been a little bit exhausting documenting everything  and blogging every day for a week and I’ll be glad to have a little break!

Good night!

A Week in the Life – Day Six

I find that when we are out of milk and bread, we often have a more hearty filling breakfast because we cannot resort of bowls of cold cereal which the kids all love. Usually by Saturday we are pretty low on groceries but we almost always have dry grains and beans on hand, so it was steel-cut oats with lots of yummy toppings. Sounds great, but it would have been better if I hadn’t stormed off in the middle of breakfast because I couldn’t deal with the nonsense. Not a great way to start the day.

The kids have been in 4H for a couple of years and the leader moved away over the summer. I took over the position, not at all because I want to be the leader but because I didn’t want the group to die out.  I’ve got to be just about the worst 4H leader around. I have plenty of plans and ideas but I fail miserably at executing them. All my organizing and planning faculties are used up on school and home duties and the group is falling apart a little bit. I finally asked another mom to take over the administration part of the group- arranging the meetings and e-mailing etc. She is super motivated and organized and much better at it than me.

We had a meeting today and we are making wren houses. The kids were all pretty excited about the project and Andy took charge of it since it is much more his domain than mine. He cut out the pieces but the kids used the drill press to make the holes and to hammer and screw them together. They came out nicely. Next time we will paint them and research more about wrens for our group project for the county fair.

The afternoon was pretty low-key. Ishaan read for hours, Andy split some wood, and I studied Physics. After a lunch of leftovers we went out  to the local DEC Nature and Education Center which is less than 10 minutes from our house. It is a lovely place to go for a half an hour or a whole afternoon. There are lots of trails and a visitors center with some neat stuff including a rescued Barred Owl named Aries.

There are lots of photos from our little afternoon hike/walk. What the pictures don’t capture is Ila crying because she got soap in her sleeve when she used the bathroom, and then crying because she couldn’t put her mitten on her wet hand, and then crying because she couldn’t walk very fast. They also don’t capture my frustration with her crying and my lecture about how she is not a baby and she has to start acting like a big girl. Nor does it capture her glee when she climbed down the big hill all by herself because she actually is a big and very brave girl now.

Ishaan found a dead raccoon on the trail and after poking it with a stick to make sure it was really dead, there was much discussion and speculation about how and why it died. Kairav just kept asking if it was lost.

We returned home to find a package from my mom with an awesome new vest for Kairav and her heart shaped cake pan that she’s passing on to me. We had a quick hot cocoa (mine had Kirsch in it!) and off to Andy’s parents for dinner. Yay! Off the hook for dinner!

Somehow I had enough forethought to take the kids pajamas with us, so they all got ready for bed over there. All they had to do was brush teeth, have a quick story and fall into bed.

Not a bad Saturday. I really should either clean the office- which has become a pile of my tutoring stuff and craft stuff, or work on those pencil roll ups but I know that I will end up crocheting more hearts and watching something mindless on Netflix.