Sunday, April 26, 2015

Our Home Made Pantry

The list of things we make completely from scratch and pretty much never buy from the store is getting longer and longer. I'm pretty proud of this as it has been one of my goals to gradually increase the pantry staples that we make at home. Making your own has several advantages including that it is usually more economical and tastes better. It also gives you the chance to control exactly what goes in to your food. For example we don't like sugar in our pasta sauce and store bought varieties without sugar can be pricey. The downside of making all these basics from scratch is that then I feel pressured to never buy them again and always make them from scratch. Sometimes I have to be reminded to give myself a break!

For the most part however I really enjoy being able to make a lot of our condiments and other pantry staples. The things I currently make from scratch instead of buying include pasta sauce, bread, apple sauce, yogurt, hummus, granola and most recently salad dressings and ketchup. Well we are now adding one more thing to the list and that is homemade vanilla extract! (See photo above).

I know we might be a little late getting in on the home made extract thing but I was originally concerned that it would be more expensive than store bought since vanilla beans are so pricey. But after finding a good deal on bulk vanilla beans on Amazon we decided to give it a go. Our first batch was made with vodka which is what most tutorials will tell you to use and it turned out splendidly! We were so excited by the superior flavor (and the large amount of extract we were able to produce) that we decided to try two more batches, one with rum and one with bourbon.

Making your own vanilla extract couldn't be easier, you just split the vanilla beans and submerge them in your alcohol of choice. Then just let them sit for a few weeks, giving them the occasional shake, and strain before using. I think we left our vanilla beans sitting in the vodka for about 3 or 4 weeks but I'm sure you can leave them much longer if you like.

Once you get going on this kind of thing and see how easy it is it's really pretty addicting. You get to feel really proud of yourself and it's really not that much work when you come down to it. I'll definitely be looking for even more items we can make at home in the future!

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Dying eggs

We had a fantastic easter this year visiting with our long time friend (so long time that she's basically family) Neil and her family. Her son is just turning two so between him and Echo we had quite the epic Easter Egg hunt!

We also dyed eggs using natural plant based dyes and they turned out lovely! The night before Easter we had a cook out at our backyard fire circle and made hobo dinners, yum!

Dad made his foil packet all fancy :-)

Hobo dinners cooking away

The finished product, so tasty!

Playing peekaboo

Neil and Will

Easter morning was cold and windy but the kids had a great time hunting eggs! The Easter bunny may have overdone it a bit, there were a ton of eggs to find! Clover even got in on the action a little bit and found a few toys she could keep.

We also had confetti eggs which is a tradition in our family, it's always a blast to have an excuse to break eggs on each others heads.

It's impossible to get a family picture where everyone looks good, oh well!

Bunny fruit platter from brunch
We finished off Easter with a lovely brunch at my parent's house. My mom made an epic Easter bunny fruit tray! Holidays are so much more fun with kids and having good friends visit made it all the more special.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Project Books

As an unschooling mom it is really exciting to see some of the things that I believe in start to happen with my kids. Echo is getting to the age where she is just interested in everything! Something that many unschooling parents do as a way to spark interest is something called strewing. This involves leaving interesting materials around for your kids to stumble upon in the hopes that they will find something that fascinates them. The materials you strew could be books, art supplies, building supplies, dress up clothes, a science kit, anything really! It seems as though strewing is starting to pay off in our house even though I didn't even do it intentionally.

Lately Echo has been really in to what she calls "project books".  You see, I am starting to collect a lot of books on projects and activities for kids. Echo saw me reading one of these books one day and she has been obsessed ever since. Our favorite of the project books is called Tinker Lab and it is great for younger kids (while also having a ton of projects that would appeal to older kids). If you have kids I highly recommend this book! The projects start out very simple and build in complexity, I think we will use it for many years to come. Lots of kids activity books seem to be mostly things that kids need a ton of supervision with which means that the parents end up doing the projects while the kids watch but this book is great about having projects that kids can actually do themselves!

Practicing drawing circles on a circular form (paper plates)

I tend to gravitate toward the art projects (obviously) but there are a lot of science and engineering type projects as well that we are starting to delve in to a bit. Some of the projects are very simple (like drawing with sidewalk chalk) but it's nice to have the suggestion written down with pretty pictures next to it because when Echo sees it she gets excited and wants to try it!

Echo has been practicing tracing shapes with sidewalk chalk

Echo regularly comes to me asking to do a project from her project book. Then we take some time to flip through the book and pick out something she wants to work on. Seeing how excited she gets about this is extremely gratifying. Her enthusiasm for learning new things is amazing and it's easy to see how her unschooling educating is coming together.

The projects can be messy, for example the goop we made in the above pictures (a cornstarch and water mixture that she loved playing with!), so it's nice that the weather is warming up and we are often able to work outside.

Monoprinting was a big hit!

The Tinker Lab book also has a huge section on how to set up your project space that I found really helpful. We ended up moving a desk down in to our living room so that Echo would have a place to work where Clover couldn't mess up what she is working on (now that Clover is crawling she is in to everything!).
Finished prints
We have a lot of good "project books" but so far Tinker Lab is our favorite. I have done a ton of different projects with kids over my years as a teacher but I love having these books on hand for inspiration. I think the best benefit of having the books out and available however is that the projects don't come from me. I don't set something up and say "this is what we are doing today". Instead, Echo can peruse the books at her leisure and choose the projects that excite her most. This is what unschooling is all about!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

March Photos

Sister bath

March was a great month with temperatures starting to warm up and flowers starting to bloom. Here's some of what we were up to.

Clover is not actually crawling here but she did learn to crawl this month

Visiting the zoo

Petting zoo

Petting zoo

They love each other so much!

Making waffles with daddy

Some of my house plant collection. I'm up to 27 house plants right now!

Echo and I found this frog in our living room. We released him and looked him up in our identification guide. We think he's a common gray tree frog. 

Tulips randomly came up in our back yard! So pretty!
That's it for March, stay tuned for Easter photos!