Sunday, July 31, 2011

Chicken Left-overs Replevin

Whoever said left-overs didn't make for great lunch should be charged with fraud. There are many ways to put a creative spin on last night's meal, especially when it comes to chicken. Here are two of our most recent (and most simple) examples of making good use of left-overs. When I pick up a whole fresh chicken, I usually buy two, as it's cost effective and non-time-consuming to cook more than one at a time. One we eat for dinner, the second I save in the fridge and use for days after. With minimal effort, it goes into several types of meals. The possibilities are endless, with wraps, quesadilla, salads, soups, etc.

Chicken Caesar Salad Sandwiches: Toast up some bread, spread a little dressing on and add the fresh romaine mixed up with some chicken and Parmesan. Serve with veggie of choice.

Chicken Drumsticks with a side of shells and cheese: Yum, need I say more?

Reclaim your leftovers! Your budget will thank you!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Museums and Nature Centers: The importance of exposing the arts, science, nature and creative exploration

The last few Fridays we delighted in some day trips to the museums in Grand Rapids and with the area Nature Center. The value in these explorations and exposure to art, nature and creative expression is priceless. I'm convinced it will instill a life-long appreciation from a young age when these opportunities are used to our advantage.
Recently we fit in a morning trip to the Grand Rapids Art Museum with some of our homeschool friends. GRAM is featuring an excellent John Audubon exhibit on the seocnd floor--there is a kids scavenger hunt they provide that automatically helps engage the kids in studying each painting up close. Love it! My daughter took in a lot as we evaluated what it was like when they didn't have cameras to take a picture of the birds they observed outside. After a quick lunch we strolled down the Grand Rapids Children's Museum for the afternoon---always an awesome adventure. If you've never been to the GRCM, you don't know what you are missing. Two floors of creative, imaginative, hands-on fun for kids of all ages, and they always have something new in store as well as the stand-by classic favorites.

The following Friday we attended an amazing Geology Rocks! class at the Howard Christensen Nature Center. It was our second trip out there this month (see our trip for the JND here) and it was phenomenally amazing. The dedication and passion the volunteers have are beautiful and the resources they have are great. We had one-on-one attention to the interests of my kids as they explored and discovered, it was a spectacular day of blissful education.

I always am amazed when I ask my children afterward what their favorite part of the day was. Not only is this giving them the opportunity to practice reflection and review, but it shows me how much they are taking in---it's always more than I suspect they are at the time.
"Education is all a matter of building bridges." -Ralph Ellison

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fresh scallions wrapped in cream cheese and ham

These wraps make for a great appetizer or summer snack. My husband and kids love them. The scallions are fresh from our garden this year, but any green onion will do. Simply spread some cream cheese on sliced ham and wrap it around a small handful of scallions. It's super easy and tasty.

Today's picks from the garden...

We are still getting a ton of strawberries in our garden, which is awesome! Here is the bowl of tasty fruits and veggies I got this morning from our backyard: Snap peas, tomatoes, green peppers, strawberries and blackberries. We also harvested more broccoli and our first head of cabbage! Summer tastiness at it's finest! Yum!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Junior Naturalist Day at the local Nature Center

The Howard Christensen Nature Center in Kent City, Michigan, has had it's share of funding ups and downs. It has closed and been re-owned multiple times over the years, most recently shutting it's doors this last January due to lack of funding. Lucky for nature-lovers (and area homeschoolers!) they found a way to re-open in May and maintain management by a new independent non-profit group, Lily's Frog Pad, Inc.

They featured a free Junior Naturalist Day for all ages, July 14, and we picked up a fellow homeschool friend to join us for an afternoon of adventure. It was a wonderful day. Their Red Pine Interpretive Center was filled with various stations of exploration. The kids got to move at their own pace for hours as they studied salamanders, bug specimen, animal exhibits and more. They had great activities, such as using various tools like tweezers, staple removers, pliers, droppers, etc. meant to represent the different beaks and bills of various birds to pick up fish, worms and stuffed mice, and to break open seeds.
We signed up for some future classes and really look forward to returning soon. If you live anywhere near the area, I highly recommend spending a day there, even just to visit the amazing trails they have featured throughout the 135 acres, or to check out some of the fantastic educational programs they have lined up. It is an exciting blessing to have this establishment available to the public. It needs support from those who value environment, education and God's design in nature to keep it alive for good.

A Volunteer Work Day at HCNC/Lily's Frog Pad is scheduled on Saturday, July 23 from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Volunteers are needed to do work both inside and outside the buildings. Games, food and drinks are planned as well as the work! The event is scheduled rain or shine. Contact Cindy Perski at the nature center to sign-up or find out more. Call 616-675-3158 or

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

3, 2, 1: Blastoff to an Astronaut Afternoon!

Inspired by watching the last shuttle launch over the weekend, we stocked up on library books and planned space travel activities to do with friends at the park. The best books we picked up were What Do Astronauts Do, by Carmen Bredeson, World Book's Human Space Exploration and Exploring the Solar System; A History with 22 Activities, by Mary Kay Carson. A lot of activities in the latter were a little on the bland side, except they did give a recipe for creating your own comet with kitchen ingredients, which we tried. In addition to making our meteorite, we dressed the kids up like little astronauts with tin-foil space suits and sponge space shoes. We made foam-paper-cup rockets and enjoyed launching a real rocket model that shot up over 500 feet in the sky and parachuted down. The kids had a blast, especially mixing up the comet/dry-ice concoction and yelling their countdown before chasing down the rocket after it started it's descent back to earth.

Kitchen Comet Recipe: *(Please remember dry ice is dangerous and adult supervision is extremely required so the kids don't touch it! Only handle with protective gloves)

2-3 pounds dry ice
3 plastic trash bags
Protective gloves
Old towel
Large plastic mixing bowl
2 cups water
2 tablespoons dirt (or more)
Ammonia-based window cleaner
2 tablespoons honey or syrup
Large mixing spoon
Shallow pan

Directions: Keep the dry-ice well wrapped in a freezer or cooler filled with water ice. Make a two-layered bag with 2 of the trash bags and carefully move the dry ice into it, fold it over and set it back in the cooler. Cover with a towel and crush the ice with a hammer until you have about 2 cups of well-crushed dry ice.
Line the mixing bowl with the third bag, mix all the ingredients in and stir until well mixed. Mix in the dry-ice. It will be slushy at first but keep stirring until it's nearly frozen solid.
Wrap the bag around and shape the comet like a snowball through the bag. When ready, place it carefully out of the bag and onto the shallow pan. Enjoy watching it sublimate and steam just like a real comet in outer space!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Treasure Hunting, Archaeology and Unearthing Fun Discoveries

My kids have been treasure hunting in the fields and woods with their grandma recently. My mom has a metal detector and they've been unearthing random "junk" along with a few treasures (including some pre-buried items, like a Gold Dollar coin which subsequently sparked a new interest in Sacajawea for my daugther). Along with magnetism and electricity lessons, it has my kids excited about archaeology and continuing their interest in fossils as well. Here are a couple great websites geared toward kids about archaeology. Archeology Facts- Dialogue for Kids, is a great resource, as well as Archaeology for Kids, which has loads of games and activities like Dirt Detective, sending a buried message and more! As my kids get older, I plan to do more in-depth studies into archaeology as we study and learn all about Pompeii and other fascinating sites. The book, Hands-on Archaeology: Real Life Activities for Kids, is a wonderful resource I found and intend on using in a few years as we explore the science and adventure of underground discoveries.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Backyard Broccoli

Our garden broccoli is ready and gracing the table. Another health bonus? They say Broccoli is the New Means to Reduce Cancer. Aside from the homegrown vitamins and fiber we're enjoying, broccoli has always been a favorite veggie of choice here. Like peas, it's good raw, steamed or mixed in pretty much any kind of pasta. Yum!

Note: because our garden is organic, we did get some of the cabbage loopers hanging out on the harvested broccoli, (they are sneaky little guys!) but if you give the broccoli a short salt-water bath they'll all die off it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sassy Summer Sleepover Craft

Jazz up some white flip-flops from the Dollar Store with some paint markers, puffy paint and feather boa! My daughter and her friend had fun feathering these flip-flops during their recent sleepover. They painted them first with flowers and silly toe-spots. My son decorated some too, I cut up small, 1-inch strips of camouflage bandanna for his and we tied it along the straps--about 4 strips to each side. For the girls' pairs, we cut up the boa to fit along the straps and hot-glued it on.

The following morning we puffy-painted shirts to go along with them. Left out on the picnic table in the summer heat and they were (mostly) dry in no time. Fun!