Thursday, June 30, 2011

You are on the Map - Smart Summer Challenge - Week 1

Every Friday starting on July 1st through the middle of August, there's a Smart Summer Challenge going on at Pink and Green Mama,  Naturally Educational, and Teach Mama.  The goal is to do daily educational (yet fun) activities with your children. 

As the challenge says, "The learning activity can be as simple as reading a book, or doing a simple science experiment, or as involved as packing up the crew and visiting a museum or hiking your local park. It's as involved as you want it to be, and our focus is to help parents realize the important role they play in helping their kids avoid the summer learning slump."

They have daily suggestions for ideas if you need inspiration, and each ties into a weekly theme.  This week, the theme was "You are on the Map." 

During the past week we did the following activities:
Sunday - Did 4-H projects for the county fair.  Both the girls finished their embroidery projects - Olivia made an embroidered pillowcase and wall hanging; and Sophia made an embroidered stuffed dog.
Olivia's embroidered elephant.

Olivia embroidered the first letter of her name
as well as flowers, leaves, and vines.

At 8 and 10 years old respectively they've been doing embroidery for a few years now and enjoy it.

Today's map location:  home (to do the project).  Embroidery, itself, though is believed to have originated in the Orient and Middle East at about the same time. Chinese embroidery dates back to at least 6,000 BC. (Source)

Monday - Olivia learned to do papercutting with an exacto knife for one of her 4-H projects.  This was a challenging project because the knife has to be held a certain way in order for it to cut properly.  After cutting the image of the horse, she layered black and blue paper behind the cut-out sections to create the picture.

This is the paper cutting that Olivia made. 
She cut the image out of white paper with a knife and
then punched holes with a paper punch along the top and bottom.
She put black paper behind the horse and
then blue paper behind the entire picture.

Sophia spent the majority of the day preparing food for her 4-H demonstration about using herbs in cooking/baking, medicines, and personal care products.

Sophia doing a 4-H demonstration about herbs.
She showed how to make cucumber-basil-ginger herbal water,
sage tea, and lavender spray. In addition to these items,
the club members and parents could sample
chocolate chip mint cookies and iced mint tea.
All the herbs used were from our garden.
Both the girls did a demonstration in front of about a dozen people on Monday night. 

Olivia loves to do puzzles, so she did a demonstration titled
"How to Eat a Puzzle."
She showed the 4-H members and parents how to make
a puzzle sandwich, and then
invited them to eat their first puzzle piece. 

Puzzle sandwich that Olivia and I made together.

They will do the same demonstration at the County Fair on July 13th.

We also visited two farms where 4-H members live.  One had rabbits, horses, dogs, and cats.  The 4-H member focused on sharing information about her rabbits and showing them at the fair.

The girls listening to a presentation about rabbits.
Rabbits are on their list of animals they'd love to have.

The other place we visited was a dairy farm.  The girls both learned a lot about raising and showing dairy cows; and now want to do the dairy project. 
Olivia is taking a look at a three-year old cow.

They would start out with a spring calf to show next year (one that is born in March-May 2012; and show it in July 2012).

This is the size calf that the girls would work with:
about 100 or so pounds.  Not the huge 1,500+ pound ones.

Today's map location:  three different rural towns in Minnesota (including home).  Olivia's paper cutting projects has ties to China.  More information about paper cutting is HERE. 4-H began in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio.  More information about 4-H is HERE.

Tuesday - The girls enjoyed having two friends over.  They introduced them to Bailey and Hoss (the pony and miniature horse), played a game, climbed trees, had a picnic in the fort, and searched for and found lots of frogs and toads. 

In the afternoon and evening, we spent time reading.  One of the books we read was Arabian Nights: Three Tales by Deborah Nourse Lattimore.

Today's map location:  Today was spent at home.  One of the stories we read takes place in ancient Cathay (known today as China). The other stories were set in fictional locations.

Wednesday - We picked strawberries at a nearby patch and learned about strawberries.

Sophia holding some strawberries that she picked.

We also went to a buffalo farm and were so excited to see lots of young ones in the pasture.

Buffalo in the pasture.

In the late afternoon, we had a backyard picnic while enjoying the sounds of nature.  The strawberries and picnic tied into our on-going nature study that we do (we try to do at least one nature study per week using the Handbook of Nature Study).

Having a picnic on the deck.

Today's map location:  two small towns in Minnesota (one for the patch and picnic; and the other for the buffalo farm.

In addition, we can add Brittany, France (where the garden strawberry was first bred) to the places we "visited" this week.  The garden strawberry is a cross between two varieties - one from North America and the othe from Chili.  The former is noted for its flavor while the latter was noted for its larger size.

For the American bison (also known as the American buffalo), the location is North America.  At one time, their range was roughly a triangle between the Great Bear Lake in Canada's far northwest, south to the Mexican states of Durango and Nuevo León, and east along the western boundary of the Appalachian Mountains. Due to commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century, the bison nearly went extinct. Today, buffalo can be found in reserves, on farms, and a few national parks.
Thursday - Sophia had a harp lesson in the morning; we went to the library to return some books and check out more books; and learned about Vietnam a bit in the afternoon.  We are finishing up our multi-year around-the-world geography study. 

Some of the postage stamps from Vietnam that
Sophia has in her geography book.

We skipped ahead from U to W back when Prince William and Princess Catherine were married (since Prince William's mother was from Wales)...and then continued on with X, Y, and Z (Mexico - since no countries in the world start with the letter X; Yemen; and Zambia). 

Realized we didn't do we began learning about Vietnam today. 
Today's map location:  two cities and one rural town in Minnesota for the harp lesson, library, and at-home study.  We also learned about Vietnam we "traveled" back to the east.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Birthday Picnic - Outdoor Hour Challenge #10

I was looking at the Handbook of Nature Study website, and came across Outdoor Hour Challenge #10 -

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
- Bold - are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
- Italics - are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
- Regular - are my own words.

The website said, "Picnics don't need to be fancy. Wrap up a sandwich in a cloth napkin, grab a piece of fruit, and some water and you are set. Venture outside even if it is only to your own yard to sit on a blanket and enjoy your lunch. Afterwards you can make time for a short period of nature study."

So, that's what we did today...on my 45th birthday. 

1. The challenge is to have a picnic. No need to go far or to even have a picnic table. Food always tastes better outside and if you don’t want to commit to a whole lunch, why not just a snack?

“…When the weather is warm, why not eat breakfast and lunch outside?
…Besides the benefit of an added hour or two of fresh air,
meals eaten outside are often delightful, and
there’s nothing like happiness to convert food and drink
into healthy blood and bodies."
~~ Charlotte Mason, Outdoor Life, page 43

We ended up having a light dinner and dessert outside on the little deck.  The girls brought out pillows and blankets to sit on. 

Olivia and Sophia having dinner on the deck.

After dinner, we enjoyed French silk pie.  Sophia wanted to put candles on the pie.  They were lit in the home and mudroom, but slowly went out one by one by the time the pie got to me.  "You can still make a wish, and pretend to blow out the candles!"

Sophia bringing out the French silk pie.

Pretending to blow out the candles I said, "Oh, wow!  Look at that!  I got them all out! The best I've ever done!"
After you eat, sit and listen to the sounds of nature.

“Given the power of nature to calm and soothe us in our hurried lives,
it also would be interesting to study how a family’s connection to nature
influences the general quality of family relationships.
Speaking from personal experience,
my own family’s relationships have been nourished over the years
through shared experiences in nature-
from sharing our toddler’s wonder upon turning over a rock and
discovering a magnificent bug the size of a mouse,
to paddling our old canoe down a nearby creek
during the children’s school years,
to hiking the mountains.”
~~Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

We listened to nature before we ate and at times while we were eating.  The birds were singing (especially the wrens who have a nest near the deck), the swallows were flying around the backyard and then under the eaves of the barn, and the wind was blowing lightly.  It was a beautiful night to have a picnic.

The pine tree next to the deck and back of the house.
It is now taller than the house.

We spent some time looking at the vegetable/herb garden, flower garden, strawberries, and clover - all of which are subjects of other nature studies that we have done/are in the process of doing during the upcoming day or so.

The first tiger lily of the season bloomed on the 29th of birthday.

2. After your picnic, spend 10-15 minutes observing your surroundings. Add anything new to your list of items observed in your focus area that you are keeping in your nature journal. Make note of any additional research that needs to be done for things your child is interested in. Make a journal entry if you wish.

We didn't spend time after the picnic outside because the mosquitos were getting progressively worse.  The girls get rather significant reactions to mosquito bites, so it was better to go inside at that point.

The girls are interested in the tiny toads that they have been finding.  At 1/4" long, they are very small; in fact, the smallest we've ever seen here.

Strawberries - Outdoor Hour Challenge - Crop Plant #5

This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Crop Plants #5 - Strawberries that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
- Bold - are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
- Italics - are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
- Regular - are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work

1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 608-611.

Here are the parts that I found interesting that I shared with Sophia and Olivia:

- The strawberry's five petals are little cups of white held up protectingly around anthers and pistils.

The five cup-like petals of a strawberry plant.
This one is growing in our garden.
You can see the many pistils that are each lifting up a stigma.

- At the every center of the flower is a little, greenish-yellow cone, which, if we examine with a lens, we can see is made up of many pistils set together, each lifting up a little circular stigma.

- The strawberry leaf is beautiful; each of its three leaftlets is oval, deeply toothed, and has strong reular veins extending from the midrib to the tip of each tooth.  In color it is rich, dark green and turns to wine color in autumn.

Strawberry leaf with its three leaflets.

- As the strawberry ripens, the petals and stamens wither and fall away.

Strawberries in various stages of ripeness.
By this stage, the petals and stamens
have withered and fallen away.

- The strawberry is not a berry, that definition being limited to fruits having a juicy pulp and containing many seeds, like the currant or grape.

- The strawberry is a fleshy fruit bearing its akenes, the hard parts which we have always called seeds, in shallow pits on its surface.

Holding some strawberries that were just picked.
The akenes (what we call seeds) are easily seen
in shallow pits on the surface of the strawberries.

- The root of the strawberry is fibrous and threadlike.

- The runners begin to grow after the fruiting season has closed.  Each runner may start one or more new strawberry plants.

Sophia holding a runner from a strawberry plant.

- After the young plant has considerable root growth, the runner ceases to carry sap from the main stem and withers to a mere dry fiber.  The parent plant continues to live and bear fruit...but the later crops are of less value.

2. The lesson suggests that each child have a strawberry plant with roots and runners attached to observe in person. This may not be possible but perhaps you can find a plant that you can observe with its leaves and a green or ripe strawberry.

The girls each went to the garden to take a look at the strawberries as well as went to the berry patch to pick strawberries.  They found some runners in the garden.

Olivia found a runner on one of the strawberry plants.

Outdoor Time

3. For this challenge, spend 10-15 minutes outdoors. This would be a great time to check up on any crop plants that you have been growing in the garden. If you don’t have any crop plants growing, spend your time observing in your own backyard looking for a subject that interests your children. Perhaps you could bring along your magnifying glass and inspect leaves or flowers or insects. Enjoy this time together.

We split the outdoor time into two different parts - one was at the strawberry patch where we picked two flats of strawberries with my sister, Mary (the girls' aunt); and the other was taking a look at the vegetable and herb garden and seeing how everything is doing.

The girls with their aunt picking strawberries
at the berry patch.

We enjoyed picking strawberries and came home with two flats of berries. 

Sophia with some of the berries she picked.

The girls were so excited when they found large ones or unusually-shaped ones.  Sophia found a heart-shaped strawberry which was neat to see. We have found heart-shaped rocks before...but never a heart-shaped strawberry.

After picking the strawberries, we came back home and showed Mary the vegetable and herb garden.  Things that can be harvested include: a few small strawberries, lettuce, rhubarb, and herbs.

A cucumber starting to grow
with the blossom still attached.

Things that are growing, but not yet ready to harvest are: a variety of  small tomatoes, a zucchini, some tiny cucumbers, onions, beets, raspberries (black and red), onions, leeks, and peas.

The tomatoes are starting to grow.

Things that haven't yet shown any blossoms or small vegetables include: beets, carrots, peppers, cabbage, and cauliflower.

Follow-Up Activity

4. Allow time for discussion and a nature journal entry after your outdoor time. Follow up any interest in any subjects you observed during your outdoor time either in the Handbook of Nature Study or in a field guide.

We talked about picking strawberries and how there seemed to be fewer berries than in past years.  The strawberry season is very late this year due to unseasonably cold temperatures and lots of rain.  When we started picking strawberries, there were very few.  However, as we spent more time and went further down the row, we found larger berries. 

The girls have been finding lots of tiny toads in the garden area this year.  When the 4-H club visited on Monday night, a few people were talking about them and saying that due to the amount of rain we received this year so far, there have been more frogs and toads than in past years. 

Tiny toad that Olivia found in the garden.
The girls collected more than 80 of these the other day.
After observing them, they released them back into the garden.

5. Have some fresh strawberries on hand for observation and then eating.

We will be taking a closer look at the strawberries and observing them tomorrow.  We have several recipes that we will be trying over the next few days. 
Here are some ideas for careful observation:
  1. Notice the strawberry's color, shape, size, seeds, hull, and stem.
  2. Smell the strawberry.
  3. Take the stem in your right hand and the berry in your left hand and pull. What happens?
  4. Look at the seeds on the outside of the berry. What are their size and shape? (use a magnifying glass)
  5. Cut the berry vertically and notice the colored layers. (some red, pink, white, or green)
  6. Are there seeds on the inside of the berry?
  7. Cut a cross section and describe the inside of the berry.
  8. Eat the strawberry and describe its taste.
6. Your journal entry could include:
  • Drawing of the whole berry, showing the shape, stem, and the pattern of seeds.
  • Drawing of a vertical section, showing the shape, stem, and the seeds on the outside. (cut the berry in half lengthwise)
  • Drawing of the horizontal section, showing the seeds, and the colored ring. (cut the berry in half crosswise)
  • Drawing of a strawberry leaf if possible showing the distinct shape.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

L is for Literature - ABCs of Homeschooling

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there's a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week's letter is "L." 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted  Letter L for Literature

Literature is written or spoken material that is the work of the creative imagination, including works of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction. Through the current curriculum I'm using with the girls (Sonlight), we've been introduced to wonderful literary works in each of the genres mentioned.

Girls Reading on Box Day
Sophia and Olivia on "Box Day" - when the books
for the upcoming school year are received.
They enjoy looking at all the books they'll be
reading or listening to during the upcoming year.

In addition to using the books that are part of the Sonlight curriculum, I'm also using several lists of books to introduce the girls to a wide variety of literature (e.g., Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal). 

The Association for Library Service to Children has a website that has information about different awards that are given each year to children's books that are of high quality.  Each award has a different focus.  The ones that we're focusing on include:

- (John) Newbery Medal - honors the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

- (Randolph) Caldecott Medal - honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

- (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Medal - honors the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished contribution to the body of American children’s literature known as beginning reader books published in the United States during the preceding year.

- (Laura Ingalls) Wilder Award - honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

Reading is such an integral part of homeschooling for us.  Since the girls were young, I have read to them daily. Once Sophia began reading on her own, she spent more time being able to read independently which expanded the number of books she listened to/read each day. The girls both listen to books on CD as well.

In addition to reading inside, the girls enjoy reading outside - on blankets on the ground with the clouds and trees as the backdrop...or in one of the climbing trees in the backyard.

Reading Aloud Outside
Sophia reading outside on an early-fall afternoon.

Literature has introduced the girls to historical facts, given them insight into different cultures; and provides the inspiration to learn more about different times and traditions other than their own.

Some of our favorite homeschool memories center around literature-based unit studies.  The first series we did was the American Girl one that focuses on ten year old girls from a variety of ethnicities and time periods in the United States. 

We started with the Kaya series which was set in the 1700s with the Nez Perce and finished with the Julie series that was set in the 1970s and had a Chinese-American sub-theme (this was nice for the girls who are both Chinese-American).

Olivia Reading Outside
Olivia taking a look at one of the American Girl books
under the willow tree on the nature trail
in the back part of the farm.

The girls and I did crafts, cooked/baked food that tied into each series, and took field trips to places to bring alive what they were reading in the American Girl Series.

Field Trip to Fort Snelling - Food Rations
The girls learned about rations, the Victory pledge,
and Victory Gardens when we did the Molly unit study.
Here, at Fort Snelling, there was a homeschool day
focused on WWII (when the Molly series took place).
This display shows rations at the time (e.g., food, gasoline, shoes).

The other series that we enjoyed was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Starting with Little House in the Big Woods and ending nine books later with The First Four Years, we not only read the books but did hands-on activities and took a trip to Pepin, Wisconsin (where Laura spent the early part of her childhood).

We visited Pepin once when we started the series and were reading Little House in the Big Woods to see where Laura's childhood home was located, saw the cemetary where some of the people mentioned in her book were buried, and visited a museum focused on the Ingalls family/Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

In 2010, we went back to Pepin with the girls' grandparents; and stopped at the lake and went through town.

Lake Pepin
Sophia, Olivia, and Papa (the girls' grandpa)
on the shores of Lake Pepin (Wisconsin).

Children's literature also has opened up the girls' imagination and fostered an enthusiam for learning about things that they normally wouldn't have thought or known.  For example, I read to the girls a long time ago a book called Mailing May in which five-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff begs to visit her grandmother, but her parents cannot afford to send her.

In Idaho in 1914, the train is the only way to make the 75-mile trip over the mountains. The Pierstorffs come up with an unusual solution - mailing May. Sending her as a package is a third of the cost, and since her mother's cousin Leonard handles the railroad mail car, she does not have to travel alone.

So, we were on a trip up north a few years ago, and visited a train museum.  There happened to be an old, restored mail car at the Duluth train museum. This brought to life this book which the girls clearly remembered and made the connection to; making the visit such a fun experience for the girls.

Old-Fashioned Mail Car in a Train
The girls in a restored mail car a train museum
in Duluth, Minnesota.

Another way that literature has been a part of homeschooling is by sharing the gift of reading and quality books with others.  We have donated many books to the local second-hand shop.  All the proceeds from the sale of the books help fund programs that serve those in need in the community.

The girls also donated some books to Books For Africa through the 52 Weeks of Giving program that we're doing this year. 

And, perhaps, most meaningful (on a personal level) is seeing the gift of reading and literature shared between generations.  One of my father's favorite books that his mother read to him when he was a boy was The Story of Ferdinand.

The story, written in 1936, is about a bull who would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. He sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight.

Sophia Reading Papa His Favorite Book
Sophia reading Papa one of his favorite childhood books.
At the time (August 2010), he was able to still read the book.
Now (June 2011), with Alzheimer's Disease,
he struggles with reading,
but enjoys being read to and listening.

Literature has been and will continue to be an important and central focus of homeschooling for us. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to Stay Cool in the Summer Heat - Link-up Party!

Welcome to the fourth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here's the line up:
1st Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer activities"
2nd Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer crafts"
3rd Monday of each month: link up your "Kid-friendly summer recipes"
4th Monday of each month: link up your "How to stay cool in the summer heat"


During the past week we've had temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s - very unusual for this time of year...even for Minnesota.  Trying to stay cool this week wasn't a was trying to stay dry with all the rain and thunderstorms. 

So, we ended up doing what we do on some of the hottest days of summer: we stayed inside where it was a comfortable 68-70 degrees.  Thinking of the traditional ways to stay cool on hot days (e.g., playing at the beach, running through the sprinkler) didn't sound interesting to the girls when it was 59 degrees and overcast outside.

Here are some ways that we stay cool...even when the temperatures aren't over 100 degrees like they were a few weeks ago:

Visited the zoo, conservatory, and Japanese gardens - alternating between being inside (with air conditioning) and outdoors (in the "heat")

The day we visited the zoo, there were many volunteers who had hands-on learning stations and stations where there were small animals that you could see close up.  We were very excited to see the new area for the polar bears - 15 year old brothers. 

One of the polar bears enjoying being outside.

The zoo also is holding thee polar bears from the Minot zoo since there is flooding in the area.  They are quarantined for 30 days, and then they will see if the Minot zoo can take them back (if it isn't damaged) or if the bears will be able to be let outside.  We're going to check the zoo again in a few weeks and see if there will be more polar bears out. It'd be nice to see them.

Since I homeschool the girls year round (with a modified schedule during the summer), the zoo was a wonderful way to learn about animals and plants.

Olivia listening to a volunteer talk about the
gecko he was holding.
This was inside near the tropical exhibit.

After spending some time inside seeing a quail, tortoise, and other small animals, amphibians, and reptiles, we headed back outside to walk through the Japanese garden.

Then we finished the day by heading back inside to the conservatory and the summer flower display.  It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!

Overlooking the summer flowers in the conservatory
under the glass ceiling.  The fragrance from the flowers
could be smelled even before entering the room. 

The flowers were so beautiful - the lilies and roses were very fragrant, and seem to invite visitors in to enjoy the flowers.  Many of the flowers seemed to be so large for their type - particularly the lilies and hibiscus.
This hibiscus was at least 5-6" wide. 
The plant was covered with beautiful flowers
just like this one.

Ate cool dishes (rather than hot ones)

Even though it hasn't been particularly hot recently, one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer is by eating "lighter" or "cooler" dishes.  Making salads with fresh, organic vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways to cook on hot days. 

Below is a recipe that I made this week that we all enjoyed (except Olivia who doesn't like spicy food).  It is from Ross Turnbull, Executive Chef at the Princeville Resort (on the island of Kauai in Hawaii).  It isn't a salad, but it reminded me of a place that gets hot (Hawaii) and the lighter, "cooler" fare they serve during the hot months.

Pineapple Salsa.

Pineapple Salsa


2 Cups diced fresh Maui gold pineapple
1/2 Cup fine diced red bell pepper
1/2 Cup fine diced red onion
1/2 Cup fine sliced scallions
Pinch fine chopped habanero pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl and allow to marinate one hour before serving.

Drink lots of water and fresh lemonade to stay hydrated

I've made quite a few beverages during the past week - all with lemon in them:  honey gingered lemonade; cranberry lemonade; watermelon lemonade; and rhubarb strawberry slush. 

Out of the beverages, the favorite one was rhubarb strawberry slush that used rhubarb from the garden and strawberries that we picked at a local berry patch. 

Below is a picture and recipe for the Rhubarb Strawberry Slush that we enjoyed. What I like about this is that the frozen rhubarb-strawberry juice can be frozen and used anytime throughout the summer - particularly the very hot days when a refreshing beverage would be needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slush
(Taste of Home magazine)

Makes 22 Servings/Prep: 40 minutes + freezing


8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened strawberries
3 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1/2 cup lemon juice
11 cups ginger ale, chilled
Rhubarb curls, optional


In a Dutch oven, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar,and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Press through a sieve; discard pulp. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice until dissolved. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze, stirring occasionally, until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: I froze the liquid in a 9"x13" pan.  After it froze, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit.  Then,  I cut it into 24 pieces.  Next, I placed the pieces onto a cookie sheet and re-freeze.  At this point, they were placed into plastic bags and kept in the freezer to use for individual servings.

To use frozen rhubarb mixture: In a punch bowl or several pitchers, combine equal amounts of rhubarb mixture and ginger ale. Or for one serving, combine 1/2 cup rhubarb mixture and 1/2 cup ginger ale in a glass. Garnish with rhubarb curls if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 22 servings (1 cup each).

Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Set up a birdbath

Birds enjoy taking a quick dip on a warm day just as children do.  Either use a birdbath that's available at a local store or make your own by inverting a garbage can lid in a base of flat stones or bricks.  Fill it with some water and a few small rocks (for a landing place).

The birdbath is near a birdfeeder (with seed) and hummingbird feeder.
There's a bird drinking water from the birdbath, and
a robin in the background in the flower garden (it has a small pond in it).

The birdbath is near the hummingbird feeder and birdhouse that the wrens are using, so we can watch and hear the birds.  The baby wrens were born within the past couple of weeks, and both wren parents are flying back and forth non-stop to find tiny insects and worms to feed the babies. 

Now it's your turn!  What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

Red, White, and Blue - UWIB Blog Hop

Each month the Unique Women in Business (UWIB) team does blog hop. This month's theme is "Red, White, and Blue."

What immediately comes to mind for me is the 4th of July (also known as Independence Day).  There are plenty of parades, picnics, fireworks, and other events to celebrate the day.  But why are we celebrating it?

According to the website:

July 4th has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83).

In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

What are some ways to create a festive environment at home to celebrate the 4th of July? 

Reusable Fabric Bunting

This year, I made some red, white, and blue buntings to decorate the home and yard.  I made some extra ones that are available in my shop, Harvest Moon by Hand.

Red, white, and blue bunting
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

Table Runner

In a past issue of Home Companion magazine, there was a picture of a table runner made from kraft paper that had flowers and circles cut from decorative paper sewn on with red thread.  I thought it would be nice to have something special for the table that is a bit more permanent.

So, I picked out tan linen fabric, red thread, fabric in red, white, and blue patterns. I cut out different sizes of circles and then sewed them randomly onto the fabric.  After that, I hand-embroidered each circle onto the fabric using the blanket-stitch.

Hand-embroidered table runner
with red-thread accent lines.

Origami Centerpiece

My daughters and I made this centerpiece by making origami cranes from scrapbooking paper, and punching circles from red, white, and blue scrapbooking paper.  We hung the cranes and circles on branches that were placed in a vase.  There are red and white glass pieces at the bottom of the vase.

Vase with Origami Cranes
Vase with origami cranes and
red, white, and blue paper ornaments.

Window Stars

I also like to decorate with red, white, and blue window stars.  There are many different patterns available at Harvest Moon by Hand including the trio of stars below.

The red, white, and blue window stars are available here:

If you would like to see what other women on the UWIB team created for the Red, White, and Blue Blog Hop, please visit the websites below: