Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Some Science-y Stuff

While we don't homeschool, per se, we do engage in some (very informal) "supplemental" schooling. And, since there's an interest in science from the household small person, we're trying to encourage that. A few science-y things from the past week or so:

- We watched the solar eclipse on May 20. Poked a hole through a sheet of white printer paper and held it over another, intact, piece of paper until we could see the glowing dot of the sun -- and the shadow of the moon moving across it. My mom was visiting that weekend, so she, Nora, and I were all outside doing this for a while -- we kept having to move to slightly different spots around the yard/neighborhood due to trees and the process of the sunset. We also got a neighbor girl involved for a little while after she came home from dinner with her family while we were all standing outside.

- When I repotted the ever-bearing strawberry we purchased at this spring's plant sale into a larger pot, I found ants herding aphids within the soil it had come with. While we had a brief discussion of the concept of ants herding aphids -- like the uncles in our family raise cows (sort of; the uncles raise beef cattle, while the ants drink the aphids' excretions -- which would be more the equivalent of dairy farming), the upshot is: we want to eat the strawberries. Not feed them to aphids. Which led to some methods of natural pest control: spraying the plant and the soil for a few days with a mixture of warm water, dish soap -- and cayenne pepper. (So far, it seems to be working.)

- We discovered, as a result of a 5-year-old kindergartener performing self-designed experiments with the equipment from the science kit she received for her last birthday, that
a) one good reason to have hummus containers (and their well-fitting lids!) on hand in the "plastic containers" cupboard is that they are clear, so they make a decent substitute for test tubes in which to grow the polymer crystals that have been mixed into a solution of water, red cabbage juice, citric acid, baking soda
b) regular spray stain remover will not remove red cabbage juice from a pale purple shirt; you need to use something like "Goop" -- or possibly another enzymatic cleaner
c) when the 1 tablespoon measuring spoon is missing from the kitchen, perhaps Mommy should check the baking soda supplies in the science kit

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Thursday Report on Wednesday's Cleaning Activities

Today’s outfit is a cool contrast to yesterday’s. Today I am attired in dark lime-greenish slacks, lime green sandals, a faux-wrap style white T-shirt, with a three-quarter sleeve white cotton jacket, with a scarf with a lime green and white geometric design threaded through the lapels.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was sweaty and sticky, in a stripey T-shirt and capris. The sweat and stickiness was partly due to the humid, muggy weather -- the predecessor to last night's and today's pouring rains -- and also partly due to finally getting to some of the tasks on the spring cleaning list. I did a major clean of the master bedroom, which also involved doing my seasonal wardrobe switch. (I took advantage of this opportunity to dust and vacuum the closet. Which has really scratched-up walls and will some day need to be repainted. That day is Not. Today.)

Of course, now that I have the summer clothes at the ready, the temperature dropped along with the rain. Sigh. I also purged a few items from the wardrobe, made notes of things I need to add and/or replace (for both winter and summer), and began the process of washing and drying sweaters. (This would not take as long if I actually remembered which ones I had previously washed during the course of the winter wearings. Maybe I should make a checkoff list or something for next year.)

Plus, I took all the drawers out of my dresser and dusted the interior recesses -- and found an earring that had been missing for months!! Score!! I took down and washed the curtains, and spent some time trying to remove a piece of hardware on the curtain rod that belonged to the blinds that we got rid of, I believe it was last year. Unfortunately, not having a sledgehammer on hand, I think I'm stuck with that darn little bit of metal for a while.

I moved (some) furniture and vacuumed behind/under/the spaces that don't normally see the light of day. There is some furniture, like our headboard with built-in nightstands, that I don't think has been moved since we moved into the house. Because I am not moving it. And, seeing as I feel I need to remove the mote from my own eye -- or, more specifically, the piles of papers I'm supposed to be organizing in the household -- before attacking DH's mysterious piles of paper in the bedroom, I choose to let that sleeping dog lie. (Currently, I just vacuum the dust bunnies they attract, and think that some day, in the future, we really could get rid of that paperwork from an insurance company we don't even use anymore...)

I also stripped the bed down to the mattress -- and beyond. I washed the dust ruffle, mattress pad, and bedding, then remade everything without the extra blanket for winter and with the summer bedspread. (And without the dust that probably accumulated on the bed while I stacked things on there during the whole cleaning process.) And I did move the bed to vacuum under it (luckily, it's on wheels), and I flipped the mattress.

I also, yesterday, managed to get some salmon grilled for supper before it started raining, and served it with mashed potatoes heated up in the crockpot from a container that had been in the freezer. (I'm trying to get the freezer contents down so I can defrost it before stocking up on Memorial Day meat sales, this year's berry-picking season begins, etc.)

Plus, I sewed and/or ironed on patches to a Girl Scout uniform. Oh, and I stopped at a neighborhood garage sale run by a family with a girl two years older than mine. Nice when they have clothes for 50 cents or a quarter; I bought some winter pajamas and a few long-sleeve shirts for next winter, plus a Care Bears Christmas book and a Disney princess towel set.

And, today, it was back to the daily grind. Where I discovered that a bunch of things I typed into a file on Tuesday did not, for some reason, save, so I had to retype them all. over. again

Monday, May 21, 2012

Comestibles from the Kitchen

While, at the moment, we're in a season of not doing a great deal of decent cooking (everything either seems to wind down in May for the end of the school year, or gear up for the summer), there have been a few comestibles of note lately for one reason or another.

For one, I used up the beets that had been preserved in our freezer from last year's CSA produce boxes. My original intention had been to use them as borchst, but I think I missed the winter window for that. But, since I don't actually like beets, I needed to find another option. (I know: I don't like beets, but I do like borscht. Or at least, I have liked the borscht I've eaten that was actually made by Ukrainians. It's entirely possible that if I were to attempt to cook it myself, it would have been a different story.) I ended up making them into a Chocolate Beet Cake. It's similar to the idea of replacing some of the liquids in a cake recipe with applesauce, except this uses pureed beets. Some people might use it to hide veggies from their kids. I told the kid upfront; I just wanted to hide the beets (or at least the taste of them) from myself. It worked! I liked it, ate it, and now know of at least two useful uses for beets. (Plus, I got to use the Tupperware cake keeper my grandma gave me when she cleaned out her house: always a bonus getting to use some fun specialty kitchen item.)

We're still using up some other CSA stuff, too: some garlic went into a spaghetti and shrimp dish recently, and tomatoes got unfrozen (in boiling water) to be plopped into a cheeseburger pie. It's possible the tomatoes may have come not from the CSA, but from the generous neighbor. My attempts at growing tomatoes myself have been fails, so I didn't even buy any plants this year. Perhaps the neighbor will again be generous? I had intentions of using the raspberries thawed from the stash from last year's raspberry picking in some sort of recipe, but they got eaten plain. I find them rather tart served so, but apparently the kindergartener who complained after I quit putting them in her lunch (because she'd eaten all of them) disagreed.

And we've had a couple of fun opportunities to review foods, too. I received a free sample of Knorr Homestyle Stock from Smiley 360, and we cooked it up as part of the broth for a dish of pork chops baked atop stuffing mix (yes, this was back in the cold spring -- you know, a couple of weeks ago). It's little packages of dried broth ingredients that you reconstitute with boiling water. The idea, I guess, is to replace cans of broth. It does take up less storage space -- and I imagine would hurt less than a can if you dropped it on your toe -- but I'm not particularly happy about the relatively high sodium content in the ingredients list. When I do buy canned broth, I generally opt for the low sodium type. And the taste was just OK - I didn't find it spectacular, and I don't think the rest of the family even noticed. Still, it's nice to have some broth on hand (we have one more package we haven't used yet.)

I also received a coupon from Kraft First Taste for their new Teddy Graham Soft Paws. It's a snack item in their Teddy Graham line, except instead of being tiny teddy bear-shaped graham crackers, it's a larger, bear (cub) paw-shaped softer pastry, with filling in either apple cinnamon or oatmeal raisin flavors. We tried the apple cinnamon, since the kid has decided that her growing palate now rejects raisins (grrr!). It was actually a pretty tasty little snack, had whole grains -- and was hugely convenient for packing in the lunchbox.