Friday, May 31, 2013

Our 10th Anniversary

This past weekend I had the opportunity to photograph this beautiful couple....

 ...and this upcoming weekend will be 10 years since Nathan and I said, "I do."  Doesn't seem like it could possibly have been that long already! I am so grateful that God brought him into my life, and that he chooses to spend every day with me.  I certainly don't think he has it too easy either. I have a tendency to be overly emotional about things and to worry and to not be so trusting; really the list goes on and on. But despite all of that he is here.

So today I wanted to share our engagement story with you all. Not only because it demonstrates very clearly what Nathan deals with, but it should also give you all a laugh (I know it always does us).

It was a normal day, I went to classes in the morning, and came home in the evening. (At the time I lived in a a studio apartment with my 2 cats.)  I don't remember seeing Nathan's car there when I arrived, or if it was I thought nothing unusual about it. Then I walked inside to see little lit candles making a winding trail through my apartment. Occasionally there is a larger candle with a little card next to it. Normal girl reaction would probably be something along the lines of how sweet or how romantic; my reaction is to freak out thinking, "WHERE ARE MY CATS!" Seriously, this is what is going on in mind. Obviously by now I know Nathan is there somewhere, but the cats are no where to be seen and there is fire all over the apartment!  I go racing through the apartment to the bathroom (which is the only door in a studio apartment) still completely freaking out! My heart was racing as I banged on the door demanding to know where my cats were. Nathan opens the door and looks at me, with slight annoyance, and asks, "Did you read the notes?" My response, "NO! There are candles everywhere, and I can't find my cats!" Very sternly he says, "They are in here. GO BACK AND START AGAIN!"  I am sure I had a bit of a pouty face at this point, but I calmed down and  went back. I found several sweet notes each with a reason he loved me on one side and a single letter on the other. (I still have them all too.) At the end, all the letters spelled out "MARRY ME." Of course I said yes, and we have been laughing about this ever since.

8 months later we were married, and we have been pretty happy ever since; even though I do still worry about where my cats (and now my kids) are! I hope this little look into a small part of our story has made you smile!

Now back to the wedding this past weekend. Since I have loads of pictures to sort through and edit, I will not be posting much, personally, the next couple weeks. I do however have some great guest posts from some amazing bloggers to share with you! I hope you enjoy them, and we will get back to normal very soon!

Texas Task Force 1

Rescuing two dogs and carrying
them down the pile to safety.
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
As the recent events in Moore, Oklahoma and West, Texas remain fresh in our minds, we must remember the brave responders and volunteers who came to the aid of those affected. One such group deployed shortly after the fertilizer explosion in West and the tornado in Moore was Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1).
Justin Todd of the Killeen Fire Department and Disaster Medical Specialist for TX-TF1 told KBTX that “Just the damage that I had to witness down there I will never forget. I've lived through two tornadoes before in Central Texas but nothing, nothing, compares to what I saw and experienced in Oklahoma.”

Returning back home from
Moore, Oklahoma
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and has deployed more than 90 times since 1997, including the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. TX-TF1 can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 28 sanctioned urban search and rescue teams.

Sifting through the rubble after the fertilizer
explosion in West, Texas
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
Members of TX-TF1 range from firefighters and medical personnel, to structural engineers, and come from all areas capable of reporting to College Station within a five-hour window. The task force consists of three separate units of approximately 80 members each. The teams rotate on a monthly standby, stand down or on call status.

Brian Blake, Communications Director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, said “Texas Task Force 1 is the most deployed of the FEMA search and rescue teams all across the United States. These really are the best of the best.”

Bud Force captured the spirit of these remarkable responders in his book Texas Task Force 1: Urban Search and Rescue.

Surveying the damage after the fertilizer
explosion in West, Texas
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
Responder Susann Brown stated “There's a feeling in the room when I walk in and I see the faces of the other responders I work with. My stress level drops because I know that whatever happens, we'll figure it out and do what we need to do to get the job done. I know that because I know the people in that room can do it.”
Responder Matthew Minson followed by saying “The principle of helping others is as fundamental to the search and rescue members I know as is breathing.”

For more on this remarkable search and rescue team, check out Bud Force’s new book on shelves now or order your own copy here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Causes a Thunderstorm?

It's springtime, and here that means thunderstorms! Last year when we talked about weather we made our own weather in a jar.  This year we decided to talk a little more about why storms actually form.

While in St Louis, we saw this fun demonstration at the Science Center that showed what happens when a thunderstorm occurs.  So what does happen? A cold air front runs into a warm air front forcing it to go up and causing unstable air. Then you get a thunderstorm. Back to the experiment, we are using colored water to represent the warm and cold air masses.  Now I tried this exactly how I remembered it with warm and cold water, and you know what I got? Purple water. So I tried hot and cold water and got... purple water. So I tried hot water and ice and got... purple water. Finally I tried warm water and ice and got a thunderstorm! Well not exactly, but you can see the general idea of how that unstable air is formed.

So start by adding some blue food coloring to water in a ice cube tray and freeze. Once the cubes are frozen fill a plastic shoe box half full with lukewarm water (remember the lukewarm part or you will end up with purple water).

Put a few drops (3 or 4) of red food coloring on one side of the shoe box. Then add two ice cubes to the opposite side. Watch what happens!

The water soluble food coloring disperses into the surrounding water while the ice slowly melts sending very cold blue water into the container and chilling the surrounding water.

As they meet you can see the colder, blue water forcing the warmer red water up. Right at that point, where the two are meeting and the blue is pushing the red up, is where you have your thunderstorm

And if you want to see it again you just dump it out and start over! I know my girls and I did it 4 times, and that was after we got the right combination! Definitely a fun, simple way to study thunderstorms!

Learning About Food and Much More from Chef Jesse Griffiths

Posted by Pam Walker on on May 30, 2013

Chefs have long been leaders in seeking out local food and enlightening people about what grows locally and when, proving plate by plate the difference that freshness and thoughtful preparation make in flavor and nutrition.  Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due Austin, however, goes much farther than most chefs go, and leads people beyond the locally farmed to the locally feral and wild.

“Go out and get it” appears in big letters on a T-shirt that Griffiths, tall and tattooed, red-haired and red-bearded, sometimes wears.  And indeed, Griffiths is a very “out there” sort of guy.  He hunts deer, feral hogs, and game birds in the central Texas Hill Country, fishes in local rivers, lakes, and along the Texas gulf coast, and he forages at local farms for fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and eggs.  But you won’t find him or his charcuterie and fruit and vegetable preserves in a restaurant.


Too “out there” to own a restaurant or work in one, Griffiths does his butchering, cooking, and preserving in a rented commercial kitchen, and sets up shop every Saturday and Sunday morning at two of Austin’s busiest farmers’ markets.  There, he sells his kielbasas, wild boar chorizos, and longanisas, his kimchis and chutneys and pepper sauces, and on a portable grill and stove, he makes biscuits, hashes, pan sausages, and tacos for breakfast and beef burgers and wild boar bangers for lunch.

Each Monday, Griffiths and his small staff send an email to a list of about 6,500 people, listing all items available for pre-order by Thursday, to be picked up either at the kitchen on Friday or at the farmers’ markets on the weekend.  The ingredients, provenance, and general preparation methods for the items are described in each email, and so these messages are short primers on how to enjoy what local farmers are currently producing, as well as ways to enjoy charcuterie from wild-caught local fish and overly abundant and environmentally destructive deer and feral hogs.

For the past three years, Griffiths has offered several hunting schools in the late fall and early winter at Madrono Ranch, a large property in the rugged hill country southwest of Austin.  Its perennial spring-fed creek, canyons, and wooded terrain provide habitat for marauding herds of feral hogs and for many wildlife species, including whitetail deer.  Griffiths describes the three-day schools as “a focused environment aimed at teaching both novice and seasoned hunters how to utilize their game to the fullest, from the field to butchering to cooking, and to enjoy the harvest in a celebratory, respectful and frugal way.”

As of last September, you no longer have to travel to one of his hunting schools to learn how to make the most of fish and game. You can buy his beautiful book Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, with photographs by Jody Horton. A finalist for the James Beard award for a single subject book, Afield is a collection of stories and recipes based on Griffiths’ frequent forays into the countryside and along the coast, and includes step-by-step instructions in cleaning fish and fowl and in field dressing and butchering deer and hogs.  As Griffiths notes in the introduction, “Afield is germane to any place game or fish are found.  We emphatically encourage experimentation and substitution with these recipes depending on the geography and seasons.”
To eat Griffiths’ food, though, you do have to go to Austin or to one of his hunting schools, and it’s well worth the trip.

Pamela Walker lives in Houston and is the author of Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas:  Profiles of Organic Farmers and Ranchers across the State, published by Texas A&M University Press, 2009. She is currently working on a book about local farm and food communities in Texas, under contract with TAMU Press.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Exploring Texture with Floral Play Dough

We had fun exploring textures with homemade Floral Play Dough and cute little wooden tools by Melissa and Doug! Visit Gummylump to read more about it!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mom's Library Music and Math

Welcome to Mom's Library!

Filled with parenting tips, activities for young children, devotionals, crafts, recipes, and more!
Check back again and again to see the new posts!

(This post does contain a giveaway as well!)

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Featuring Music and Math this Week! 

I decided to try a collage this week; what do you think?

House of Burke shows how to make a Musical Sensory Shaker Bottle.

And Next Comes L has a fun idea to teach musical notes outside with a sidewalk chalk keyboard!

Meaningful Mama gets into rhythm with the help of some straws.

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom (through a guest post from The Usual Mayhem) shares a fun game for telling time 

Gift of Curiosity did some fun Pom Pom Graphing.

Pragmatic Mom shares 25 Games to Help Improve Math Skills!

If I have featured you please feel free to grab my featured button!

For more great features visit my fellow Librarian (Please follow them too!): True Aim Education 

Want to see all the great posts added last week? Click HERE to see the whole collection!

Want to see even more featured posts? Follow the Mom's Library Pinterest Board!

Also this week we are giving away a copy of Reading the Easy Way from 123 Homeschool 4 Me! Check out the review of it over at Ready-Set-Read! And  everyone can use the promo code readysetread20 to get 20% off Reading the Easy Way Preschool. 

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parents as teachers

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Coffee Filter Peacocks

Remember the coffee filter art we made for our N is for Nurse post? We used them to make peacocks!
Not only are they cute peacocks, but they make cute sun catchers! This is why you want the colors to be vibrant!

Once we had soaked our coffee filters with the syringes, we left them to dry over night. I think they would have been dry sooner, but we put it off. The next day I cut the filters in half. I tried to use my scrapbooking cutter, but it tore the filters (guess I need a new blade), so the easiest way I found to cut them was to fold them in half and in half again cutting along your second fold.

 Using dark colors, we had purple, blue, and black, cut out bodies for your peacocks. Ours don't look exactly like peacocks because I used my cricut to cut quails and then I cut off their tails and feet. You could certainly cut out your own bodies or purchase a cricut cartridge that has one in it. Whatever you choose, just cut peacock bodies.

Now it is super simple for the kids to do because they can just glue the bodies on the coffee filters which become the tails!

Once they finish gluing the peacock bodies on, display them in a sunny window! We actually only had cloudy windows today, but they are still pretty peacocks!

 Amazing how versatile coffee filters are! What have you made with them???

Baby & toddler friendly hotel? Felbridge Hotel & Spa review

Soo. We were looking for somewhere baby and/or toddler friendly to stay near Horsham, Haywards Heath, that kind of area. Apparently searching the words 'baby friendly' and 'hotel' doesn't bring up many results. For some reason it seems though people with toddlers don't use hotels much?! I can't think why. Perhaps the whole lack-of-sleeping (through the night. Or in general) puts parents off. But we were brave. Or foolish maybe. But it was our wedding anniversary so we thought we'd give it a go.

We found Felbridge Hotel & Spa by a search result for a ' family break'. A good start we thought. But typing the word baby, or family room into their website didn't yield any great results. Even in room type it doesn't mention a family or triple room. But don't be put off, we called and found out their Suite room is effectively a triple, with a pull out single bed. For £139 inc breakfast and use of spa facilities it wasn't too bad. I say this lightly as hubby forked out for this one. Something to do with a cricket match en route…

Anyway the hotel was easy to find, with lots of parking, even if we had to move our car to make way for a bouncy castle upon arrival... The staff were polite, and waved hello to the toddler, which together with the presence of some fish in a tank in the lounge area made him as pleased as punch. The room was easily big enough for 3, and allowed us room to pop the bed mattress on the floor for bubba. 

Fish. Always a winner.
Unfortunately due to poor planning on my part we hadn't booked a table at the restaurant, which is pretty family friendly with dinner starting at 6. The bar, whilst a little bit of an unusual toddler teatime setting did bar food and sandwiches early enough for us and staff weren't fussed by the toddler's insatiable appetite for ice cubes. No children's menu was offered but luckily bubba was happy enough to share daddy's duck wrap.
An atmospheric setting for sandwiches
Bedtime was always going to be more tricky given we were all sleeping in one room. After a bath and a feed bubba nodded off in his bed (we took his toddler duvet and pillow as weren't sure the adult version would be OK). Here's the best bit though - I was able to sneak off for a quick swim, sauna then a hot choc and the paper in the bar! Hubby volunteered to stay with bubba, reading by the light of the bathroom! An early night, but possibly not quite what it should mean on one's wedding anniversary!!

Rearranging furniture... toddler style
Whilst bubba was keen to let daddy know a double room would've sufficed by sleeping mostly in our bed, we definitely got our money's worth at breakfast. The food was fantastic, exceptional amount of choice both cooked and continental. We all stuffed ourselves, starving after a 5am wake up call. No one wants to pretend to be a plane that early in the morning. 

Creating a toddler haven in the bedroom
So feeling rather full, we pottered around the pretty courtyard garden (after we'd looked at the fish for the 15th time). With a generous 11am check out we were able to spend an hour and a half in the pool and spa. Though a little chilly for bubba he especially enjoyed the steps into the pool, and watching the bubbles in the Jacuzzi. Its rare (although I've only been to one other!) to find a spa happy to accept babies, toddlers and children in both morning and afternoon (11-4 is adults only). Whilst somewhere to change bubba might've been a help, others were happy to use the loungers in the spa, and no one batted an eyelid.

The real testament to its success was that bubba, well-fed and well-exercised, fell soundly asleep as soon as we turned out of the car park. And thankfully, we were too early to stop at another cricket match on the way home!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Poppin's Book Nook #3 - Skippyjon Jones, Dinosaurs, and Erupting Oobleck

Welcome to the Third Edition of Poppin's Book Nook! This months theme was Prehistoric or Dinosaurs! I personally, have always loved dinosaurs, so far my kids seem to too!


There are soooooo many great books about dinosaurs that it was really hard to choose just one, and well, we really didn't. We read lots of them! We focused on Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones because my girls LOVE Skippyjon Jones! (Why else would we have a kitten with the same name?)

If you aren't familiar with Skippyjon Jones, he is a Siamese cat with extremely large ears and an overactive imagination. He disappears into his closet and goes on adventures as a sword fighting chihuahua. They are very clever stories that remind me way too much of my oldest!

Since they do take place in the imagination of a cat, they are not always accurate, but definitely entertaining!
In Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones, Skippy goes back to the time of dinosaurs. He and his buddies, Los Chimichangos experience a Rumba with the dinosaurs and a volcanic eruption. Then Skippy causes all the dinosaurs to go extinct (and become fossils) with nothing other then his bad breath!

The volcano is one of the girls favorite parts, so I decided we would make our own volcano. I wanted something a little different then the normal baking soda and vinegar reaction, so I actually decided to try making Oobleck with vinegar instead of water. It worked!

So I combined cornstarch and vinegar to make my Erupting Oobleck, and I colored half a reddish color for lava and half a grayish color for the area around the volcano. The lava was put into a bottle that I constructed a volcano around. I was hoping to use play dough, but I didn't have time to make it, so poster board and a plastic drinking cup worked just fine (never mind the blue cup).

Placed our volcano on one end of our bin, with extra oobleck around it, and baking soda on the other end with dinosaurs (similar to the one I saw on 123 Homeschool 4 Me)! The kids added some greenery for fun too!

It doesn't show very well in these pictures, but when dinosaurs were placed in to the oobleck from the baking soda little bubbles formed around their feet like they were sinking.

Then we added baking soda to our volcano. It didn't erupt as easily as it had when I tried it in a cup, less surface area I guess, so I had to mix it a bit to get it going. It did go though! 

And the girls had a great time putting the dinosaurs in the bubbling lava!

After burying the small dinosaurs in oobleck for a while they washed them off and moved on to the large dinosaurs. I added more vinegar and cornstarch to mix in the extra baking soda too. The big dinosaurs gave them more of a chance to see the properties of the oobleck coming through. It you pushed them into the oobleck you could feel resistance as you tried to pull them out (the oobleck acts similar to quick sand).

Then they left the dinosaurs behind to just play with the oobleck!

After we cleaned up, and washed the kids and dinosaurs really well we made some fossil cookies. They are actually just peanut butter cookies, but instead of using a fork to squish them we used a dinosaur! Even Eli had to get in on it!

 We ended up with lots of tail and footprints, but they had fun making fossils (and eating them)!

Here are all the other great Dinosaur books we read!

Make sure you stop by the other Poppin's Book Nook bloggers and check out their fabulous posts! Then come link up your own Prehistoric Fun! 

Next month we are on the move with Travel and Transportation!