Adriana, Food

Ways to Boost Your Immune System for the Upcoming Fall and Winter Season

*Image of Fermented Foods from Real Pickles

Fermented Foods:

Long ago in a time before modern conveniences like refrigerators and freezers, fermented foods were in everyones diet. Heck – most of our grandparent’s probably had more fermented foods in their diet than we do today! Fermented foods contribute to a strong gut flora which in turn contributes to a strong immune system. For all of us, our immune health starts with what we eat and what is in our gut. Even if you aren’t fermenting your own foods, there are plenty of ways to get some good old-fashioned fermented fun into your diet. Pickled Beets, Sauerkraut, Gingered carrots, pickles and Kimchi are all fermented vegetables that can be purchased at most food stores and if you’re really lucky, you may live in an area where you can buy fermented goods from your local farmers! Eating a tablespoon size amount of fermented foods 1-3 times a day can aid in building a strong deep immune health.

One of my favorite small businesses to buy good organic fermented food from is Real Pickles. If you’re feeling adventurous, next step will be to start fermenting your own foods right at home. I’d recommend starting with homemade pickles, sauerkraut or gingered carrots. Fermented foods definitely aren’t for those with sensitive taste buds, but once you give it a try, the rewards far outweigh the taste and you may even grow to like it!

Some beef bones from our local dairy

Bone Broth:

It sounds a bit intimidating, but really all you have to do is make your own chicken/beef/turkey stock using the bones. The important thing about this is that you are buying good quality meat, preferred organic, free range and/or grass-fed and not treated with antibiotics or other hormones. Bone Broth is Wonderful for strengthening your deep immune system. Easiest way to make it is to use a slow cooker and add your meat bones and any other veggie scraps you have saved up; onions, garlic and the skins, herbs, carrot tops, stems from greens, ginger – anything that will add to the flavor and nutrients, add 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and enough water to almost fill the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 24-72 hours. Let the broth cool, strain it, add salt and pepper to taste. It can be refrigerated for up to a week and you can freeze it for up to 6 months. You can drink the broth as you would a cup of tea or use it to cook rice, pasta and as a base for your soup. Getting one cup of bone broth into your body every day is extremely nourishing for your immune health.

Brands we use and really like

Elderberry Syrup:

Elderberry Syrup is a great addition to your diet especially when you feel run down or are starting to fight off a cold. During the Fall and Winter I give my family Elderberry Syrup Daily. This one is definitely easy to add to your diet because it has a great taste.

Egyptian Black Seed Oil: The Miracle Black Cumin Plant “Nigella Sativa

This is a new immune booster that Mike and I have recently discovered and researched. To me, it’s like a miracle drug because it is a go to for numerous ailments, especially used for strengthening your overall immune health and well-being. Black seed oil comes from the Black cumin plant’s seeds. The historic evidence shows Black Cumin, or Nigella Sativa, was grown from the rich soil of the Nile River Delta in Egypt and has been used for over three thousand years to aid in digestion and overall well-being. I add a tablespoon to my oatmeal or smoothies and sometimes to my tea or a glass of switchel. You can also use the oil on dry, irritated skin. The oil has many health benefits. For further reading you can explore this text by Doctors Schleicher, and Saleh:

“Black Cumin: The Magical Egyptian Herb for Allergies, Asthma, and Immune Disorders” by Peter Schleicher M.D., Mohamed Saleh M.D. Start reading it for free: https://a.co/7mQcOuY
Download Kindle for Android, iOS, PC, Mac and more
http://amzn.to/1r0LubW

Exercise:

The benefits of getting outdoors and moving your body are immeasurable. It isn’t always easy to do, but a little bit of exercise every day goes a long way for your mental, physical and especially your immune health. Ride a bike, take a walk, go on a jog or hike, kayak, swim, play a game of catch or kick ball in the yard with your kids. Take a walk with your kids or partner when you can – it is a therapeutic experience for you all to share together.

Mindfullness Exercises:

Finding time for yourself and moments of quiet are extremely important for recharging and resetting your mind and body. We all need moments of quiet and calm in our day to reflect on what we’re doing and what we’re feeling inside. Research shows that relaxation exercises minimize chronic pain, lower blood pressure, sharpen concentration and even improve the function of the immune system. Let go of the stress and appreciate the beauty of the present. It is nourishment that only you can make time for, but is so important to your health.

Sleep:

After having four children, I don’t feel that I’ve slept much in the past 11 years, but whenever I can get rest – I do! Sleep is so essential to your health. It is your brains way of recharging and preparing for the busyness of the day ahead. Sleep is also essential to your immune health. All things are handled better after a good nights rest – encourage it for yourself and your children. When one of us in our household doesn’t get a good nights sleep, we all pay for it – so work together and all your immune systems will benefit!

Wising you all Good Health!

If you’re interested in doing any more reading on ways to fight viruses – Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections by Stephen Harrod Buhner is a great resource.

Adriana, Garden, Projects

Rhubarb Leaf Birdbath for the Garden

Years ago I saw this idea in a gardening magazine and loved it! It is simple to make and such a beautiful addition to the garden landscape. All you need is a giant Rhubarb leaf (you can really do this with a leaf of any size so feel free to get creative – Elephant Ear also works great too), a bag of cement, a bag of sand and a tarp or something to protect your cement from the elements while drying.

Instructions:

  • Make a mound of sand in an area that will not be disturbed as it will be the base for your leaf to dry.
  • Place Rhubarb leaf face side down on the mound of sand
  • Mix cement and apply to bottom side of leaf
  • Cover with tarp and let dry
  • Once cement is fully dry – flip it over and peel off the green leaf – Now your leaf is ready to place in the garden!

Get creative and try out some different leaves of all shapes and sizes. We have also used smaller leaves and used them outdoors and in our house. We’ve also tried adding powdered tempera paint to the cement mixture to give a color to it. You could also water color the cement when dry and use a sealant to keep the color from washing away. The finished product is a lovely addition to any garden space and the birds love it!

Wishing you a Creative Day in the garden – Making some Lovely Garden Art!

Adriana, Food, Garden, Italian Roots

What to do with all that Zucchini!

I love summer squash and zucchini. To my great fortune, this year my garden is plentiful of it! Thankfully, both of these vegetables can be cooked and eaten so many different ways. I love to sauté some zucchini on the stove top with olive oil, chopped garlic and a little salt and pepper. I also love roasting it in the oven tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and some parmesan cheese. Currently, my kids two favorite summer squash and zucchini recipes are squash fritters and zucchini bread- no surprise there! We’ve added our personal touch to some pretty basic recipes that we thought we’d share with our fellow gardeners who are also trying to figure out what to do with all that squash! Enjoy!

I have found these freeze up nice once shredded and stored in a freezer bag. Quick and Easy!

Summer Squash Fritters (We use the yellow squash for these)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Yellow Summer Squash or Zucchini shredded
  • 8 Tablespoons Flour
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
  • Chopped fresh Basil leaves
  • Half an Onion shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesean cheese
  • Vegetable oil and 2 Tablespoons Butter for frying pan

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in one bowl
  • Heat oil and butter in large frying pan (enough oil to cover the fritters half-way)
  • Scoop a small pancake size dollop of batter into the pan once oil is heated
  • Cook on one side about 2-3 minutes until browned then flip and do the same on opposite side
  • Once done, move fritter to a plate with paper towel to absorb extra oil

My kids love these served hot with ketchup and fresh sliced tomatoes!

Lemon Zucchini Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Zucchini shredded
  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Ginger
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil – or Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter for Pan

Directions:

  • Mix all dry ingredients and wet ingredients separate then Combine
  • Butter a 13 x 9 inch pan
  • Pour batter into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

Icing:

Mix juice of one lemon with enough confectioners sugar to make an icing consistency to pour over cake when cool

Enjoy!

This Zucchini Cake Recipe is adapted form a Wonderful Italian Cook that the kids and I like watching on Youtube. She reminds me very much of my own Nonna and has some authentic Italian dishes you might enjoy checking out.

Adriana, Family, Food, Garden, Home School, Italian Roots

Victory Garden 2020 August Update: Be Careful What You Wish For!

About six months ago after our first family adventure in our camper and gaining a new appreciation for living in a simpler way, I wished for a slower pace to life. Fast forward a couple months and I got it! Never could I have imagined that it would be forced upon us! And never would I have wished for a global pandemic to bring this slower pace. But, with a slower pace and more time on our hands we were able to pursue another wish of mine, a big garden with lots and lots of tomatoes! Thankfully to a very hearty compost delivered by our local dairy farm and to the hard working hands of my husband, kids and myself, the tomato dream has come to us in bucket loads!

We planted numerous varieties of tomatoes this year; Brandywine heirlooms, Early girls, Sun Gold cherries, Fourth of July, Big Boy Brandywines, Plum tomatoes and lots of cherry tomatoes. Little did we know how prolific the plants would be and how good a growing season we would have. The kids and I are out there every day inspecting the tomatoes and gambling on which ones are ok to leave for tomorrow hoping the slugs and other small hungry visitors won’t eat them before we get to them. It’s a risk we’re not always willing to take, but Our tomato storage capabilities are reaching their max. I feel more and more like my Italian Nonna everyday as I care for my tomatoes with the tenderness I do my children and trays fill my house with upside down tomatoes spaced apart and covered with linens in order to prolong their lifespan. Like us, the tomatoes are also better off social distancing to insure their health and longevity.

I Have been making sauce, canning, jarring, freezing, sun drying and roasting tomatoes daily. We’re eating many tomato sandwiches with fresh pesto and mayo. There is nothing quite like the amazing taste of a vine ripened tomato. It’s a simple thing that can bring so much joy. The tomatoes seem never ending and the garden is beginning to feel a bit like Big Anthony’s garden from the Strega Nonna storybook! For those not familiar, his garden is a bit out of control, but the unwieldy magic of a garden continues to be truly delightful and exciting! We keep finding new surprise plants that have sprung from our dirt and are now bearing fruit. We have butternut squash trellising across our fence, an unknown squash growing in the pumpkin patch and compost bin, cucumbers growing in our pot of Canna’s and a giant gourd plant taking over a flower bed!

Every meal seems to be a new creative adventure. We have roasted some of Leo’s giant pumpkins and made lasagna size pumpkin pies! With plenty pumpkin purée leftover to fill our freezer for later use. We can’t get enough squash fritters, zucchini bread, fresh garden salsa and cucumber salads! We’ve even gotten pretty creative with our pesto recipes and made beet green, kale and basil pesto with almonds and walnuts. We’ve gone Greek and made home made Tzatziki along with feta, tomato, cucumber wraps. The magic of the garden keeps on giving and continues to renew and recharge our mind, body and soul!

Some Arugula seedlings springing up in the garden

We have harvested all the carrots, beets and lettuce and have started new plantings for an early fall harvest. There are so many great vegetables you can plant in August for most planting zones that will allow for a crop before winter. We have put in bush bean plants, arugula, spinach, mesclun salad mix, kale and broccoli rabe (a bitter green similar to broccoli). Some other vegetables that you can plant now are radishes, carrots, beets (for beet greens and small beets), Swiss chard, and garlic.

The kids are drying out seeds from the tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, banana peppers and pumpkins to save for next year.

To Plant a Garden is to Believe in tomorrow.

Audrey Hepburn

There is something so therapeutic about working the earth, growing your own food and cooking and eating together. It is a tradition I hold dear to my heart that I am grateful to pass down to my children. Sunday dinners at my Nonna’s house packed into her tiny kitchen with my Aunts, Uncles, Great Aunts and Great Uncles, cousins and friends eating a home cooked meal from the garden while listening to them debate over who found the cheapest grapes and broccoli rabe – are some of my dearest childhood memories. As a young girl I didn’t quite understand why my grandparents worked so hard when you could buy everything at the food store? Yet, there was something special about what they did that struck me even at an early age. Both my grandparents have since passed, but I feel their presence shining over me each time I set foot in my garden and get lost in the rows of tomato plants. They were two very hardworking people who lived very simple and always shared the fruits of their labor with those they loved. They were the original ‘Farm to Table’ farmers. The way they have shaped my life to appreciate the simple things, to know where my food comes from and to respect the earth that feeds me, is profound. They have gifted me with the secrets to the true riches in life, good food, family and friends- and for that I am ever grateful.

If I am so lucky to be granted a third wish, It would be that – All who have tasted the pleasures of the earth work together to preserve it. Be that in the garden and in life.

Buon Apetito Tutti!

Adriana, Home School

Same Sun Here: An Inspiring novel about Resilience, Resistance, Having a Voice, Shared Humanity and the Joys of Friendship

This year, My 11-year-old daughter Ava, was part of a wonderful book club that explored so many fantastic novels about life’s hardships and resilience. The last book of her book club series was, Same Sun Here, an inspiring novel that explores resilience, resistance, having a voice, shared humanity and the joys of friendship. An Indian girl who has emigrated to New York City and a coal miner’s son from Kentucky find they are kindred spirits through their friendship as pen pals. Both are facing hard times, fathers working away from home, a close bond with their grandmothers, and an interest in social action. Through the kids correspondence with each other, the story captures how two people that live far apart are fundamentally the same despite racial and cultural differences. Their friendship inspires each of them to have courage and make their voices heard.

So many art projects and different topics sprung from Ava’s reading this novel. Which are great examples of where you can go with homeschooling and reading a book.

  • Creating Change. Empowering Kids. Ava was very inspired after reading this novel about taking action to create the change she would like to see in this world. We had a lot of conversations about the environment and climate change and what actions she can take to create change right now.
  • Deforestation. In the book, the character is dealing with the effects of deforestation in his community and with courage learns how to make his voice heard. We further researched deforestation in our country and in the Amazon and Africa. We looked at both sides of the story as to why land is being cleared and an argument for both sides. We also looked at how these actions relate to climate change and what other actions could be taken to meet the needs of those clearing the land and those concerned about the harmful effects to the environment.
  • Write Poetry. Ava has always been interested in poetry, but after reading this book, I saw her interest in free writing poetry spark a little more. A favorite place to write is out in nature, taking in the beauty of her surroundings and penning them on paper.
  • Nature Art. Ava’s book club continued to meet throughout the year on zoom. The kids always have some lively discussions and do some creative crafts. For this book, the kids made mountain collages out of scraps of colorful paper inspired by the book’s message about the mountains and deforestation.
  • Pen pals. Another wonderful activity from book club inspired by the novel was to pen pal with each other. Ava has had two very close pen pals that she has been corresponding with since she learned to read and write. They are friendships that she cherishes. She is so excited to have some more pen pals that are close girl friends from her book club! There is something very classic and precious about writing a letter and sending it in the mail. It is an art that hopefully won’t disappear completely with modern technology. All of my children have pen pals and they also write letters back and forth with their grandparents. During this time of social distancing, letter writing with pen pals is a great way to continue socializing with those you love, to practice spelling and grammar with your children and to brighten someones day who might be feeling alone.

*You could also contact nursing homes in your community or across the states to see if there are seniors who would like to letter write with your children. Since those in nursing facilities are so closed off from family and friends, it is a great way to be a friend, to spread some love and to maybe make a new friend of your own!

We are All In This Together Under The Same Sun!

Adriana, Home School

Homeschool Curriculum Ideas and Resources

Learning is Natural, School is Optional

Kenneth Danford

Wether you are a seasoned homeschool family looking for some new resources and ideas, or are new to homeschooling because of a pandemic and decisions to keep your kids home this coming fall – Below you’ll find some Basic Homeschool Ideas, Advice and Resources that I hope will inspire you in your upcoming school year.

I have four children and no background in teaching. My oldest daughter is 11 going into 6th grade, my second daughter is 8, going into 4th grade, my son is 6 and going into first grade and my youngest daughter is one and a half going on twenty! I have been homeschooling them all from the start, but revisit it with them and myself each school year. For each of us, homeschooling is a journey and an adventure. It is at times Wonderful and exciting along with being overwhelming and crazy! There are days that are easy and times of complete struggle. I have learned that being creative and having confidence in the natural learning process is more rewarding than trying to check lessons off my list as a way of determining if they have been accomplished. Children each learn in different ways and no matter what we do or how we do it, they are always learning. I don’t have a strict routine and I don’t completely unschool. I find we all need some sort of a routine to function, so we usually spend most mornings after breakfast and before lunch with our studies in some shape or form. It can be book work or group learning projects, independent reading and writing or independent lessons. We always incorporate outdoor time, free time and usually some one-on-one time throughout the week. The kids all practice math in their workbooks at least three times a week along with spelling and writing. Science, History, Art and more are usually organically weaved throughout our week in a natural learning process. Most books we’re reading or topics of interest take us naturally into studying different subjects. Learning takes place throughout the week and even on weekends because naturally, we’re always learning and everything you do counts!

The Short List of Advice:

  • Integrated Learning: Teach topics to all your children together and create assignments for each of their abilities
  • Purchase either a Curriculum or some workbooks to supplement your child’s learning. This will allow for you to have some days where the kids can just have the work ready for them when you need it.
  • Instill a love of Reading. Turn every book into a learning experience and activity beyond the actual book. This will instill in your child an independent love of learning and seeking out information for life.
  • Create a Routine that works for you and your family. Learning and schooling doesn’t have to take place at a certain time of day in a certain room of your house. Some children are more alert and eager to learn later in the day, while you may find some are better learners in the morning. Sometimes it’s easier to set times to work during the day, but you also might find that working with your children and how they learn will create a better work flow for you all.
  • Follow your Child’s Interests. If your child is interested in oceanography, use that as a main topic that you branch off with other lessons. Incorporate math based on the sea, sea creatures, amount of rainfall. You can definitely google search for ocean math ideas geared toward a certain age or make up your own. You can do an art project of the ocean, it’s seabed, it’s creatures… you can incorporate science, history and geography all with this one topic or any topic that interests your child. This type of method helps engage your child in subjects they want to learn more about and teaching them how certain subjects are necessary to learn and applicable.
  • Get Outdoors, do things you love together, play games, cook, bake, learn something new, go on field trips, have time together with friends and family, join a co-op, take classes – look at all experiences in life as learning and you’ll find homeschooling is just a way of life. *All these social pieces may not be suitable for the upcoming school year because of the pandemic, but be creative and you’ll find you can still explore new interests and socialize!

My best advice is to keep things simple and follow your child’s natural interests and create learning experiences from them. There are so many fantastic resources out there and lists and lists of what children should be learning that it can be quite overwhelming. When I work on the kids education plans for the school year to send to the Superintendent of our schools, I get so excited about all the things we can cover, but I also feel a bit of anxiety over how I can possibly cover all that material with each child that is expected of me. Integrated learning is what works best in our house and I find its helps us cover more material and subjects than we could have imagined. There are so many topics you can read about and teach to each of your children’s learning levels through art, science, history and math. I have found that this approach makes homeschooling and learning so much more enjoyable for us all.

An example of this idea is a topic we covered this year with Simple Machines. We got a couple books on Simple Machines and read them together – My six, eight and eleven year olds. We then researched the history of simple machines, which allowed us to explore other countries and history. Then we re-created our own simple machines – a catapult and a pulley. We watched some great video clips about Rube Goldberg machines and then I had the kids create their own designs. With some of our designs and experiments we used the Scientific Method – My older two children were able to work on this independently and record their own data, while I worked on my 6 year old’s hypothesis and findings with him in his journal. The kids worked on their own machines and presented them to each other and the girls wrote creative stories about their work. One topic, three different grade levels and for each student we were able to explore, science, math, reading, writing, art and history!

Materials, Curriculums and Resources:

My favorite and most helpful resource book is Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool through High School. This book is a fantastic resource for what to cover and when along with suggested material. It is easy to use, full of useful, clear written information for each grade. I use this book when working on my education plan for the upcoming school year and at many different times throughout the year to check in with what material we can cover. I don’t cover all the material that is suggested at each indicated grade. Sometimes I find that we naturally cover certain topics just out of interest and instead of revisiting them again, we may decide to go with something else. You also can call your local public school and request information for what is expected of your children to learn at each grade level.

When working with each child and teaching them to read and write I have truly loved using Reading Reflex, a book recommended to me by my friend who is a reading specialist. The lessons are simple to follow and fun. All my children have learned to read through our work with this book.

For each child I purchase a BrainQuest Workbook for their grade level. BrainQuest is aligned to state and national standards to assure that your child covers the required basics for each particular grade. Covering a variety of subject areas – math, phonics, science, social studies, spelling, vocabulary, and more – that help children learn and practice basic skills. My kids all love working in their BrainQuest Workbooks. For some of the subjects I usually add a supplemental work book to cover more material like Spelling and Math.

I have used Spelling Success Workbooks and Spectrum Spelling Workbooks as a supplement to the work we do in our BrainQuest Workbooks. These are great to have on hand to practice both spelling and math work a little deeper and to have some easy independent work on hand when needed.

I haven’t yet used a specific math curriculum with a teacher’s guide. I instead have always used Spectrum Math Workbooks for each grade level. I have found Spectrum Math workbooks simple and easy to follow. Each workbook has examples and clear explanations of the math topics being covered with answers in the back. It doesn’t have a teacher’s manual, but I have found that it works just fine for me with elementary math – thankfully I still remember how to do that! What I don’t remember, I just google it to find explanations or youtube videos that can help explain it to the kids and myself if needed. I have decided to continue using it for my oldest’s first year of middle school this year, but as we progress, I may need to seek out a program or material that includes a teacher’s manual or is independently taught to her as the math may get more complicated.

I have also used Oak Meadow’s 1st Grade Curriculum which I purchased used on eBay one year. The program is loosely based on the Waldorf schooling style and has a nice integration of art, science, nature and storytelling.

Five in a Row is another great, inexpensive curriculum you can use in an integrative way with different age levels at the same time. The books and lessons are geared towards children ages 2-12 years of age. Five in a Row is an easy-to-follow, instructional guide for teaching Social Studies, Language, Art, Applied Math and Science using children’s literature as the basis for each weekly unit study.

The greatest resource any homeschooler can use and it doesn’t cost a thing is your public library. This may be trickier during a pandemic, but there are still so many e-books available online to read along with audio books. Reading and encouraging a love for reading is the best education and gift you can give your child. So much of our homeschooling revolves around books the kids are reading and books we read together as a family. Anything the kids take interest in can be learned about from a book. We read a lot in our house. I usually have the kids read or read to them the books suggested for their grade level, but I also encourage them to find reading material and subjects that interest them. This year My oldest daughter has taken a keen interest in Oceanography and Environmental Sciences. We have explored many different books on these topics and turned them into great lessons on Geography, History, Science, Math and Art! That is the beauty of homeschooling. So much can be covered in such simple ways.

The social piece. Many people are turned off to the idea of homeschooling because they think it is isolating for children and that they only have their teacher as a parent and may not have many friends. When my husband first brought up his interest in wanting to homeschool our children, I was completely concerned about their socialization. I didn’t know much, if anything about homeschooling and it seemed like the type of thing a parent would do because they didn’t want to let go of their children or wanted to control them. The more I read about homeschooling, the more I discovered that the opposite was completely true. Homeschool kids were found to be more social, more outgoing and self-confident. Now, it’s not to say that school children don’t display these characteristics, because so much does come from how you’re raised, not just your schooling. But, what was being written about was how children who were homeschooled were in more situations that allowed them to take responsibility, to socialize with friends (most free time in school is limited and kids are very often being told what they should be doing at certain times by an adult). Homeschool kids are also learning in an integrated way that allows them to pick their friends not because they are the same age, but because they like each other and have things in common. One thing about integrated learning and not having my kids in school is that they never go into a situation saying, “you can’t be my friend because I’m older or younger than you.” Integrated learning takes away those barriers. My children have friends of all ages and learn from each other.

I also like for my children to have independent space to learn and grow from other people and situations. During a normal homeschool year my three older children are involved in numerous extracurricular activities like dance class, homeschool games class, pottery, art class, book clubs, drama clubs, sports and also attend a weekly homeschool science and environmental class at a nature center. You can make your homeschool experience look any way that you like with endless opportunities to learn and experience life in a hands on way. This is what I have grown to love about homeschooling, I see that my children love to learn. They love to be challenged, they like figuring things out for themselves and being independent, they don’t look at learning something new or different as a burden, but as something exciting.

Rainbow Resource Center https://www.rainbowresource.com has a fantastic site full of everything you could ever dream of when homeschooling and more. It was created by a homeschool family and is a family run business. Their catalog and website have a great selection of resources with detailed descriptions along with great prices.

Additional Resources:

  • A laboratory for great hands on stem projects for all ages that arrives monthly in the mail – we always enjoy getting our Tinkercrate, Kiwi Crate, and Koala Crate https://www.kiwico.com/tinker
  • Reading Rainbow: Available on Amazon Prime and Youtube; Fantastic show incorporates books, reading and great topics to explore deeper supplement topics you have covered
  • Nurture Store https://nurturestore.co.uk Cathy Jaymes has a fantastic website for children pre-school age to 12 years old – great activities in all subjects
  • Give your Child the World Book: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin. This book has reading recommendations for diverse books and topics for students of all ages. This book is a wonderful resource.
  • DK First Human Body Encyclopedia. Great resource for all ages when studying health and the human body.
  • The Everything Kids Science Experiments book by Tom Robinson

Know that whatever decisions you make for your children’s education, nothing is permanent. They can always go back to school or you can try a different homeschool design that might work better for your family. There is also no right way to homeschool there is no one way to learn!

The best experience is to nurture a love of learning, to open their eyes to the world, to instill self-confidence in your child and to create a joyful experience for you all!

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

–Benjamin Franklin

Adriana, Food, Garden, Home School

Homemade Pickles

This pickling project was spearheaded by Leo. He loves pickles and was so excited by our surplus stock of cucumbers coming out of the garden that he requested we give pickle making a try. I’ve never made pickles before aside from what I call my lazy way of adding cucumbers to the pickle brine of empty pickle jars we bought from the store. It’s worked in the past, especially since we never really had a lot of cucumbers left over to jar. The ‘Homemade Refrigerator Pickle’ recipe we followed from A Spicy Perspective https://www.aspicyperspective.com/best-homemade-refrigerator-pickles/ was easy, simple and the pickles taste great!

Homemade Refrigerator Pickles:

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 cucumbers
  • 1/4 cup Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pickling salt or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds
  •  Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Fill a clean pint-sized jar with 3 to 4 sliced cucumbers, onion slices and fresh dill sprigs. Leave a 1/2 inch of space at the top of the jar for liquid.
  2. In a small pot heat the vinegar, water, garlic and spices until the mixture comes to a simmer and the salt and sugar dissolve.
  3. Cool the brine down to a warm temperature and fill the jars so that everything is covered with brine.
  4. Close the lid tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating.

Homemade pickles should last for two months in the refrigerator in a jar.

Enjoy!

A Cucumber Lemon in the garden

I planted a different kind of cucumber in the garden this year along with the other pickling cucumbers. This one is an heirloom Cucumber Lemon. If you haven’t ever tried it, they are delicious. Crunchy, sweet and can be eaten right off the vine or pickled. Another great addition to the cucumber garden!

Adriana, Food, Garden, Home School

Victory Garden 2020 July Update: Some Unexpected Visitors and the Joys of a Garden

The Garden

One beautiful gift in my family’s life that has come from this ‘great global pause’ is the time we took to expand our garden. It has been something Mike and I have been dreaming of doing for years and because of the need to remove trees, clear the land from lots of overgrowth, make beds, a fence and bring in some good compost – the task at hand was very labor intensive and time consuming. It was a team effort and we are thoroughly enjoying the fruits of our labor which I am grateful for each and every day.

With the warm July weather, the garden has truly exploded with bounty – and with that, we’ve had some unexpected visitors. One morning, Vivi (my 20-month-old) and I were sitting in the living room playing, when she pointed out the window and said, “Mama, Neigh, Neigh.” I looked and saw these adorable fawns in our yard eating some fresh buds off the stumps of trees we cut down. “But where is the mama?” I asked. “Oh, there she is mom,” said Leo. “She’s in the garden!” In the garden! I jumped to my feet and opened the screen door and there she was happily enjoying my beet greens! I started walking over to the garden as if to kindly ask her to leave and not frighten her babies and as peacefully as she came, she left, jumping over our garden fence. I discovered that the beet greens weren’t all that she likes, she throughly enjoyed our green beens too!

About a month ago, when Mike was working on the fence, he asked me if we should make it higher than 4 feet because deer can jump 6 feet high. I told him that the likely hood of a deer jumping over a fence to get into our garden seemed funny, entirely unlikely and not to worry. Well, rather than eating my beet greens, I’m now eating my own words! Since then, we added a wire addition to the fence so that it now stands at 6 feet tall. The deer keep visiting, but fortunately they haven’t attempted leaping this fence.

The garden fun doesn’t stop there. The kids are always so eager to pick the ripening vegetables, even before they’re ready and bring them into the house to show me with excitement. We have eaten some small, hard, orange tomatoes, very small and bitter cucumbers and some baby eggplant. No problem, it’s all edible, some vegetables really just taste a heck of a lot better when they are ripe! It has been a good lesson in patience. Fortunately, the kids have now pretty much got the hang of picking fruit when it’s reached its peak, aside from Vivi who still loves those big green tomatoes she calls apples! We check the garden daily scoping out with excited anticipation what we can pick next. Unfortunately, we had another little visitor that was also watching our tomatoes, eggplants and carrots as closely as we were and decided to taste test the fruit too! Instead of eating it all or taking it with him, he just took bites of whatever he liked and left the rest there for us. So, again, we were back to the fence, searching for a spot that the little bugger was using to get into the garden. We found the hole and found another, made some repairs and found out the hard way one night that it was a skunk who was paying our garden a nightly visit.

Now that we have put the garden on lockdown from all visitors except for those that work in it, we have seen things start to flourish again and are having a hard time keeping up with all the goodness. We have been enjoying summer squash, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, early girl tomatoes, green beans, eggplant, cucumbers, cucumbers and more cucumbers! The kids and I have been trying out many zucchini/squash recipes and have been enjoying zucchini fritters, saute’d zucchini, squash and eggplant, and some great zucchini bread along with many cucumber and tomato sandwiches. Leo and I also made homemade refrigerator pickles and as we were packing them into our refrigerator, we realized it was broken! Yes, all my pandemic frozen goodies went with it! Didn’t realize they had all thawed and could only save so much since my oven broke earlier in the week and I was only working with a stove top! Just feel like it was all adding to the slower, homesteading pace of life to be without my appliances! Had to try and go with it, otherwise I may have broke down too! Fortunately, we had a back-up fridge in the basement and were able to save what we had in the refrigerator – especially those pickles!

Yes, Believe your eyes, it is an Orange Pumpkin in July in New England!

Leo has decided to celebrate Halloween in July and has been having lot’s of fun carving summer squash, cucumbers and even one of his pumpkins from the ‘Great Pumpkin Patch!’ Can’t help but smile looking at my little guy and his missing two front teeth next to his toothless pumpkin!

I hope you all are enjoying the joys of gardening and celebrating the beauty and bounty of life. The gifts of life are so precious – meant to nourish, to be preserved and above all, Enjoyed – True to the garden. True to life!

Wishing you all Good Health, Good Food and Good Company.
Life is Good!

Adriana, Food, Home School

Switchel- An 18th Century Energy Drink!

Switchel, it’s easier to make than it is to pronounce! Although, my kids really get a kick out of saying it, especially Leo now that he’s missing his two front teeth! First time I ever had this old-fashioned energy concoction was years ago on my father-in-law’s farm. After a long day working in his garden, he had mixed up his own switchel and offered me a taste. It definitely packs a punch, but as I’ve learned through experimentation, there are so many ways to mix it up so that it’s pleasurable to most tastebuds.

Switchel is an 18th century energy drink that restores the bodies electrolytes while also boosting the immune system. It is easy to make and allows for some creativity. Your standard Switchel is a 1/2 gallon water, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup molasses (not black strap), maple syrup or honey and a tablespoon ground ginger or minced ginger (first steep minced ginger in water and then add just the liquid to the drink filtering out the ginger pieces). This really is a much healthier version of the energy drinks you buy today and cheaper to make! It is an excellent summertime drink that helps rehydrate your body and build your immunity for the fall cold season to come. In the cooler weather I like to add 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey and a pinch of ginger to a favorite hot herbal tea like green tea or echinacea.

Even Vivienne at 20 months enjoys a little Switchel!

We have played around with our Switchel concoction at our house and have come up with some great recipes!

Our Favorite Switchel Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Gallon Seltzer Water or Sparkling Water (You could even use a favorite flavored sparkling water)
  • 1 Tablespoon local raw honey and 1 Tablespoon Molases – heated in a little water so they dissolve before adding to the drink
  • 1 Pinch Sea Salt or Hawaiian Pink Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 Cup lemonade, orange juice or cranberry juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced and steamed in some water (only add the flavored water – filter out the ginger pieces)
  • 4 drops Elderberry Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Egyptian Black Seed Oil (This is excellent in building your immune system, calming inflammation and aiding in healthy gut flora and digestion – you may want to leave this out initially for the kids because it has a very strong taste).
This is the Elderberry Syrup and Egyptian Black Seed Oil that we use

Mix it all together and Enjoy!

Here’s a Great Educational video from the Townsends on making Switchel!

Adriana, Home School

Queen Anne’s Lace – A Favorite from my Childhood and a Lesson in Capillary Action

Strolling down my road on long walks as a young girl I would love to collect Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a very common white, flat-topped flower that resembles lace and often has a solitary purple flower in the center. It is found in fields, meadows and along roadsides from late spring until mid-fall. Its name is derived from a legend that tells of Queen Anne of England pricking her finger and a drop of blood landing on white lace she was sewing. Queen Anne’s Lace is also known as “Wild Carrot” and its roots are edible. Early Europeans cultivated it using the root in soups, stews, salads and teas! As for me, in my youth, I never dreamed of using the flower this way! I had other magical ways of turning this common weed into a wonder!

For me, Queen Anne’s Lace was magical. I would look forward to collecting these beautifully elegant flowers to bring home and transform into a colorful display. My favorite thing about these flowers was to put them in jars of food coloring and watch the colors magically change before my eyes! It was amazing! It sparked so much curiosity. Little did I know the science that was involved. This flower experiment was something my mom started with us as kids and is a tradition that captivates my own children today.

Coloring Queen Anne’s Lace is a fantastic and simple lesson for children in capillary action. All you need are some flowers, some small jars or vases, food coloring and a little time and patience. Add a handful of drops of food coloring and a flower to each jar of water. Depending on how much water and food coloring you add, you will most likely start to see your flower change color over the course of the day. How does the water travel from the roots to the rest of the plant? Tiny tubes inside the stem called xylem draw the water up from the roots like a straw by a process called capillary action.

Leo and I cut the stem in half so we could try and see the xylem tubes

Capillary action is what happens when water travels up things like small tubes. The water molecules stick to one another and to the walls of the tube which allows it to move upward. The molecules that stick to each other pull more water after it as it climbs. Capillary action lets water travel up to all the different parts of a plant through the xylem tubes in the stem.

You could also try this experiment with stalks of celery. Place a stalk of celery into a jar of food coloring and water. After about 20 minutes you can cult the stalk in half and see the tubes changing color. If you leave the stalks overnight you will also see the leaves at the top of the stalk change color.

Wishing you some Beautiful summer strolls in nature that bring you Wonder and Amazement!