Fall is a Wonderful time for snuggling with the kids on the couch and reading some really great books! Here are some of our fall favorites!
Wishing you all some Cozy Days of reading some Favorite Fall Stories with your children!
Fall is a Wonderful time for snuggling with the kids on the couch and reading some really great books! Here are some of our fall favorites!
Wishing you all some Cozy Days of reading some Favorite Fall Stories with your children!
Pumpkin bread rolls, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin pie, Pumpkin Soup and Pumpkin Carving- Oh My!
“Once I had a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin…” This tune is a favorite of Vivi’s, my 22 month old, right now as she dances around the house singing “pa-kin, pa-kin” and encourages us all to join in. She too is getting into the fall spirit! Fall is here! – and our household is busily making the shift from summer into fall. We are pulling our fleece apparel out of the closet and searching for our fall bin of decorations. I always have a hard time saying goodbye to summer, but living in New England over the years, has helped me fall in love with Fall! Getting outdoors in the cool, crisp air, hiking the mountain range taking in the warm autumn colors, picking apples and pumpkins and eating them! It is now a season that I truly look forward to and especially love sharing its beauty with my children!
As we prepare for the Fall Equinox on Tuesday September 22nd, the kids and I have been putting together our fall nature table, doing some fall decorating and nature crafts and putting together idea’s for our fall festive feast with local ingredients for Tuesday. As you may have guessed, the menu includes lot’s of pumpkin recipes! Fortunately, Leo’s pumpkin patch has been very rewarding this year. We have already carved and roasted 12 pumpkins! With more still to be picked! My little pumpkin farmer has carried his pumpkin interests into the kitchen and we’ve been busy making some of our pumpkin favorites.
Beyond its delicious taste, pumpkin is nutritious and linked to many health benefits. It is good for your heart health, your immune system, and contains a variety of nutrients that can improve your overall health. There are so many ways you can use pumpkin purée. I add it to our oatmeal, to our tomato sauce and put it in our smoothies. The kids love fresh pumpkin butter on a slice of bread. We’ve also enjoyed pumpkin soup, pumpkin ginger quick bread, and of course, giant pumpkin pies! Surprisingly, no matter how big we make them, we never seem to have leftovers!
One of our family favorite pumpkin recipes are Pumpkin Rolls from The Artful Year by Jean Van’t Hul. These rolls are easy to make and taste fantastic. They don’t last long in our house!
Wishing you all a Festive Fall Equinox Celebration! Enjoy the Autumn Sunshine, Go on a nature hike, Make some fall themed nature crafts, have a fall harvest feast, watch the leaves turn, make a bonfire and roast some marshmallows – Reflect upon your gratitude for nature and the earth!
I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.Nathaniel Hawthorne
Still baking bread? Why not try making homemade butter too – it’s super easy and tastes great!
Making our own butter has always been a favorite science experiment at our house. The kids never seize to be amazed at how shaking cream in a jar with a marble can turn into a delicious treat we spread on our bread! Making butter from scratch is super easy and so much fun for kids of all ages. All you need is some heavy cream, a mason jar with a lid, a marble (optional) and a little patience!
Ingredients and Materials:
The Science Behind Homemade Butter
When whole milk is left uncovered in the refrigerator tiny fat molecules float to the top, forming a layer of heavy cream. This cream can be separated from the milk and used to make butter. When you shake heavy cream in the mason jar, the agitation causes the fat molecules in the cream to clump together. During this process, the water molecules separate from the solid mass and create buttermilk. The cream goes through a physical change when it is churned into butter.
Some Great Informational Books for younger kids on Dairy Farming:
Here’s a great educational demonstration about making butter in the early 18th century by the Townsends.
Have Fun In The Kitchen Making an Edible Science 18th Century Treat!
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!
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!
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.
*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!
This was a new experiment in our house. Each year we go to a living history museum where they dye wool with ingredients from nature. It has always been amazing to see the beautiful colors that come from some surprising ingredients! One way that the early colonial settlers dyed wool was with onion skins. The yellow onions will give your wool a yellow -orange – beige – brown look and if you use Red onion skins, you will get a reddish purple coloring. Colors can also vary depending on the yarn color you are using. Leo and I decided to give dying yarn from onion skins a try!
It’s a simple and fun project to try. We used the skin of two yellow onions, brought them to a boil in a pan of water on the stove top and simmered it until it reached a dark orange color. Then we added our acrylic yarn. If you are using actual wool, be sure to only add it once the water has cooled down, otherwise you can felt the wool with the hot water. We let our yarn sit until it reached our desired color. Kind of like dyeing Easter Eggs. Just check it periodically to determine how dark you’d like it. Then we put it outside to dry in the sun. Once dry, Leo used it to work on a ‘God’s Eye’ craft!
Another interesting way of dyeing the yarn is putting it with the onion skins in a mason jar full of water and let it sit in the sun for a couple days. This process takes a lot longer, but is fun for the kids to see how the sun warms the water and extracts the colors from the onion skins. If they are inspired, they could try other objects from nature to put into a jar with white yarn; flowers, green leaves, dandelion roots, berries and even mushrooms!
Learning is Natural, School is OptionalKenneth 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:
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.
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
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:
Homemade pickles should last for two months in the refrigerator in a jar.
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!
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!
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!
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.
We have played around with our Switchel concoction at our house and have come up with some great recipes!
Our Favorite Switchel Recipe:
Mix it all together and Enjoy!
Here’s a Great Educational video from the Townsends on making Switchel!