Where Our Cats Ruin a Perfectly Good Science Experiment

I saw an intriguing picture on Facebook this week.  It was of a plate with butter, margarine and reduced fat margarine on it.  It was covered with ants, all of whom were happily devouring the butter and staying well away from those evil margarine products.

The lesson?  Well, ants are far smarter when it comes to nutrition than we are and we should follow their leads, I suppose!

It made me wonder, though…

  • Would we get the same results here?
  • What if we gave the ants healthy butter substitutes, like Earth Balance (all natural) margarine and all natural coconut oil?
  • What if I put sugar in the middle?  Would they skip the buttery stuff completely and just take off with that?

So we made up a buffet of options for our little creepy crawly friends.  I labeled them all (butter, butter flavored Crisco, Blue Bonnet Lite, Earth Balance, coconut oil and sugar) and we found a nice shady spot with lots of bugs nearby to leave it.

And then I returned.  To find this:Where our cats ruin a perfectly good science experiment


Our cats had decided it was an experiment meant for them!

The results were interesting, too.

The cats ate half of the butter flavored Crisco (it seemed to have been chewed and spat back out!), every speck of the Earth Balance, all of the Blue Bonnet Lite, and they merely licked the butter.  The sugar and coconut oil were completely ignored.


This leads to all sorts of new questions, we think, such as:

  • Why didn’t the dingbat cats prefer the real butter?
  • Where can we put the plate where no wildlife other than ants and bugs will find it, and what will they choose?
  • What would the dog prefer?
  • Do we really want to base our nutritional advice on the culinary tastes of various small creatures?

In any case, we have way more butter experiments to do now.  And I think some graphs will be in order…

Folktales, Freebies and more

Jason snatches the Golden Fleece. Greek Vase from the 5th century BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Here’s a round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to share…

Fairy Tales, Folktales, Fables, and Folklore

This great web site contains hundreds of stories from mythologies around the world.  From Finnish folk tales to Anderson fairy tales to parables of Buddhism, there’s something for everyone.  This would be great to combine with studies of countries or family heritage.

70% of science fair winners are children of immigrants

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.
Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.
“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.
…”Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.
Pinterest pages
I’ve heard about Pinterest, where you “pin” web sites you like and can see what others pin, but I wasn’t all that interested.  Until I saw this mom’s homeschool pins and realized what fun this site could be.  I could lose a lot of time here!
Newest homeschool writings
Here’s what I’ve been churning out in the HS front lately at the examiner, on everything from free transcript templates to how Montessori changes from middle school to high school years…

And here’s the latest in other subjects…

And a little sap…  🙂

The Never-Ending Parent

On the personal front, the baby is now very, very wiggly.  He/she doesn’t have a certain time of day or night to bounce around.  It seems to be most of the time!  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound next month and finally get to know whether it’s a girl or boy.  I’m so impatient to know.

Victoria is visiting homeschool friends a few hours away this week.  I’m impatient for her to come home, even though I’m sure she’s having a blast.

Anna is taking Irish step dancing lessons for a performance she’ll be doing with a small group of girls in the pageant this year.  The teachers are local homeschool graduates who taught themselves to do Irish step dancing years ago and have performed all over through the years.

Jack and Alex are currently helping Daddy at the cabin and museum.  They’ve been spending much of their time outside and generally end each day covered in mud, sand, scrapes and who knows what else.  I do like summer!


10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Oh what a busy week!

Jack is now 8, Victoria is now 13, Alex is now 4 and I am now really tired!  🙂

Here’s a few ways we’ve been learning and playing lately…

1.  We had a joint birthday party for the boys in Mankato.

The kids were in charge of most of the cake decorating!  So much for my usual all natural cakes!  😉

2.  We got together with some of Victoria’s best friends at the mall for her 13th birthday. Grandma also took us out to dinner and I took her shopping at a trendy consignment store for teens to round out the fun.

3.  The girls got their white belts and their uniforms for Tae Kwon Doh (I have no idea how that’s spelled!).  They are really enjoying the classes!

4.  I cooked up 8 jars of apple peel jelly and 3 1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce from goodies in the deep freezer from last harvest.

It helped heat the house (we went without heat during April and it has been down to the 30’s!) and it’s also so satisfying to make bunches of tasty food for nearly free!

We get organic apples every fall from friends and neighbors who don’t spray their trees (they’re not intentionally organic, they just leave them alone) and this year I had Daryl save two gallon bags of apple peels and cores for me to try making jelly.  I hadn’t ever gotten around to it until now and it worked marvelously.  There is a ton of sugar involved though!  Yikes.  As with most jelly, this is not a diet food.  🙂

For the spaghetti sauce, I tossed in bags of tomatoes that I froze whole at the end of the season, along with frozen green and red peppers, garlic, onion, sea salt, herbs and the usual goodies.  I cooked it all day long and then put it all through the food mill to get the sauce.  The peels and seeds stayed behind and went into the compost pile.  Jack helped and had great fun milling!

I really want my kids to grow up knowing that healthy and organic food can be incredibly inexpensive, so part of our homeschool life definitely involves gardening, preserving, cooking from scratch and other skills to help them in that regard.

Besides, it helps the house smell heavenly and tastes fabulous!

5.  Anna finished Script Frenzy and wrote her screenplay, even though she joined with only 10 days left to go. She just finished in time just before midnight on the last day.  Her certificate of participation is proudly hanging on the fridge!

6.  Jack and I have been playing PyraMath. He loves it and asks to play constantly.  Even I like playing it, actually.  The company sent me three decks of math card games to review and I’m going to try the next two with the girls next.

7.  Daryl and the kids auditioned for the Wilder Pageant and all got cast. Daryl is once again playing both Reverend Alden and the mayor.  The boys (in it for the first year ever) are playing some of his children as the mayor.  The girls have small parts in other families.  They get to sing, dance and be in lots of scenes, but they really love the bigger roles.

On the bright side, it gives them lots of time to visit with friends on set.  😉

8.  Daryl is still taking the kids bird watching and for other nature studies. They see some pretty amazing birds and animals on their jaunts and they’re really good at identifying a huge number of birds, from waterfowl to birds of prey to song birds.

9.  Victoria had an appointment with a dermatologist. She had some questions about a couple of moles last time we were at our family doctor, and she sent us to a specialist in Mankato.  The doctor wasn’t worried, but as the perfect family doctor for a bunch of homeschoolers, she told us, “It’ll be fun to go talk to a specialist!”.  😉  The dermatologist checked everything out, ruled everything fine, gave Victoria a book to read about and answered questions.

She also invited Victoria to come shadow her sometime if she liked!

10.  Daryl, Anna and Victoria went to see a CSI director speak at the local school. They really liked the talk and the slides.  It’s very cool to have a little bit of Hollywood keep coming back to our tiny town!


I am still plugging away with the pregnancy and so far “Sticky” seems to be defying odds left and right and hanging in there.  I have Braxton-Hicks contractions constantly and they don’t let up, but the nausea is very slowly getting easier to bear.  I am even feeling little bits of movement, which is great fun!

Here’s a few articles I’ve put up lately…

10 Ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week

Homeschool 101: What is deschooling?

Art Day for homeschoolers scheduled for May 10 at the Jeffers Petroglyphs

25 Green gifts for Mother’s Day

Fun and easy ways to get little ones to cooperate

What’s on the baby screening test for autism?

Ten edible flowers and how to use them

From capers to pesto to flavored vinegars: Great ways to cook with nasturtiums

Oh yes, there was also our little adventure to the emergency roomLuckily that turned out okay too!

I am definitely ready for a little down time. I think the odds are pretty slim that it’ll happen, but one can hope!





The Eat Local Challenge

We’ve joined in with the Eat Local Challenge from August 15 to September 15 and it’s been fun so far.

We’re not doing it that we have to eat *just* local foods, but that we have to eat at least one local food per day.

So far, our local foods have included…

  • Japanese and heirloom corn on the cob from the Worthington Farmers’ Market
  • Sliced tomatoes from Grandpa’s garden
  • Pesto made from basil picked by our back door
  • Sliced cucumbers from a nearby family farm
  • A taste test of yellow, pink and orange heirloom tomatoes from the Mankato Farmers’ Market, plus gobbling lots of colors and types of cherry and grape tomatoes also from there

We’ve also enjoyed melons, herbs, peppers and lots more.  It’s a great way to make sure that we are even more mindful of using the fabulous local foods that are all around us right now.

Today, we’re making salsa from a huge assortment of colors of tomatoes and types of peppers with cilantro, onion and lime.  No, the lime isn’t local but otherwise we’ll be doing pretty well!

What local foods do you eat this time of year?

5 Fun Ways to Learn This Week

Stuck in a homeschool rut yet?  Here’s 5 ways to have some educational fun with the kids this week….

1.  Play Nutritional Let’s Make a Deal. Take various foods and line the kids up at the table, game show style.  Give them each a pad of paper and a pen, and show them each food.  Have them write down their guesses for how much of something is in the product (how many calories, how many grams of sugar or fat, etc.).  The contestant who gets the closest without going over gets a little prize (a marble, a dragon’s tear, etc.).

2.  Make factor trees. Who knew division and prime numbers could be so fun?  Victoria loves doing these and I plan to start doing them with Anna this week too.  If you like, make colorful ones with colored paper circles like this or play online.

3.  Turn a favorite poem or fairy tale into a Mad Lib. Print out a poem or fairy tale and highlight most of the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.  Call out each category like “noun– person, place or thing” and “adjective — describing word” (specify things like numbers, animals and sound effects when possible, too) and write down what the kids answer.  Afterwards, read back your silly new version.

4.  Check up on the weatherman. Each day this week, watch the news or check the paper to see what the weather forecast is for the next day.  What’s the predicted high?  Will there be precipitation?  At the end of the day (or the next morning) check to see how close the forecast was to the weather.  If you like, figure out how far off the forecast was from the real result and assign grades.

5.  Have the kids make up timeline cards and invent a game with them. For instance, have each child find 10 important events and write the event on one side of the card and the date on the other.  See if they can scramble them all and put them in the right order.  (Thanks Tiffany for suggesting Chronology, which apparently does something like this and looks really cool!)

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

We’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to post half the fun stuff we’ve done.  Here’s a bit of it though…

1.  We hand fed some kittens at Nancy’s.  Their mother had abandoned them and Nancy has been taking care of them.  She taught us her recipe (evaporated milk, corn syrup and an egg yolk I believe) and showed us how to dribble the formula into their mouths.

2.  We tried to break an egg with our bare hands, since I challenged others to try it on the Magical Childhood blog.

Unfortunately, Anna found a way to easily do it!  She missed the part about squeezing it and rapped it with her knuckles.  She was so surprised!  Poor thing!

3.  We went to the 2nd annual Not Back to School breakfast picnic in Mankato.  We got there very late (it’s an hour and a half drive and it started at the unholy hour of 8 a.m.) but there were still plenty of fun moms and kids and even some tasty treats to gobble.  We had a blast!  I forgot my camera so you’ll have to just imagine it.  😉

4.  Anna has been writing a screenplay for her and her friend Logan to produce and star in.  It’s very elaborate.  It has to do with a movie star and her castmate who are filming a movie and then suddenly are attacked by real ninjas.  She updates Logan with rewrites and emails him her latest drafts.  She’s really into it!

5.  Victoria caught this fabulous toad…

…who then proceeded to try to catch her!

She was so surprised!  Then it got tangled in a strand of her hair and she and Nancy had to work for several minutes to free its back leg.  It was a delicate operation.  They finally got him taken care of and they helped him find a nice safe place to rest up afterwards.

6.  We found these beautiful doves under our lilac bushes when we came home from a walk.  They let us come to within a foot of them!  They finally flew up into a tree in the back yard, but they still stayed close.  It was pretty neat!

7.  Jack has been drawing the most marvelous little creatures. He’s also been cutting snowflakes, designing clothes (can you tell Project Runway is back and we watch it?), coloring, making cartoon monsters and drawing lots of other nifty stuff.

8.  Anna had an appointment with an optometrist to check her eyes since she’s been having headaches.  He said she had perfect vision and he gave her a great lesson about eyes, complete with photos of her retinas!  How cool is that?

9.  We’ve been doing more apple picking and apple prepping. We’ll have apple goodies well into winter!

(I love how Logan is holding Anna’s pink backpack for her!)

10.  We’ve been making crab apple goodies. We harvested some bags of crab apples at Nancy’s and then tried making crab apple bread.

It was just all right.  I suspected I wouldn’t like it since it was made with shortening and not much sugar, plus an awful lot of baking powder.  Then I read up a bunch of recipes that all sounded very difficult and finally decided to just make one up myself.  I made crab apple cider and we’re all in love with the stuff.  It’s easy, it’s tasty, it’s beautiful colored and I’m sure it’s loaded with vitamins and phytonutrients with all that color.  And it’s virtually free!  I have a feeling this will be an annual tradition.  🙂


So much of our learning and playing is nature based right now, and I think that’s perfect.  The kids are learning so many life skills — how to harvest, how to put away food for winter, how to cook various recipes, how to care for animals and so on.  These are all important life skills that will help them live healthy, frugal, happy lives.

Plus, the weather is so divine I can’t imagine cooping ourselves inside to do math pages or write reports.  This is a good time to keep our bodies healthy with fresh air and play.

Soon enough it’ll be cold and white here in Minnesota and we’ll move on to history read-alouds, factor trees and workbook pages.  Right now I’m so happy that our school consists of things like kittens and cider!  🙂

Farmers' Market Haul

I’ll post pics from the Wilder Pageant and updates and all of that ASAP but I had to jump on first and say just how happy I am to have our Farmers’ Market again!

Today’s haul for the grand total of $19.75…

  • One bag of purple beans
  • Two pounds of broccoli florets
  • 4 sweet onions
  • 5 beets
  • one basket of banana peppers
  • one giant bag of basil
  • one bunch of carrots
  • one giant head of napa cabbage
  • 3 dozen eggs from free range chickens
  • one green pepper
  • one purple pepper
  • one bundle of lemon grass
  • one grocery bag of green apples
  • one eggplant

Daryl also picked up 10 cucumbers, one zucchini and two bundles of zucchini blossoms for me to make deep fried zucchini blossoms.  Oh, and one maple frosted scone.


I love summer.