Monthly Archives: January 2016

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Activity: Weaving

Pipe cleaner weavingOftentimes when I sew Cam really wants to join me. Unfortunately she needs lots of help and doesn’t quite have the running stitch down. To help her develop the concept of the running stitch (where you put the needle down through the top, up through the bottom, down through the top, up through the bottom…) I set up a little provocation with plastic canvas and pipe cleaners.

I figured the pipe cleaners are stiff enough that it will be easy for her to push them through and not have to deal with a needle. The plastic canvas (which is available in all kinds of shapes and sizes) has holes all ready for her to put the pipe cleaners through. It will keep her stitches straight and she can practice not looping over to the other side (creating a whip stitch). 

I set the tray out last week and she started it, but didn’t come back to it. I decided to leave it out for another week even though I’m trying to get out a new provocation each week. Today it’s raining and I have some cataloging to do for the library so I think I’ll invite her to sit next to me and help scan barcodes and weave on the canvas. I also started a rainbow example, something I hadn’t done last week and think may have made it less flexible, but more inviting. 

This would be a great activity for kids practicing their fine motor skills as well as for patterning, counting (count the holes), and as a start to sewing. 

 

Cookbook Review: Good & Cheap

Good and CheapGood and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown

Through a local interest show on the public radio station I came across this cookbook Good & Cheap. I was more drawn to the message that author designed the cookbook to be used by people who live on the SNAP benefits program (food stamps). As I’ve talked about before we give to our local food bank once a month in an effort to help the community around us. I looked the book up and was enticed by the recipes for our own home. 

Brown developed the cookbook as a capstone project for her master’s degree. Using averages data she figured out how much each recipe would cost to make and keeps the costs down enough that you could eat three meals a day on the allotted $4 a day per person that the SNAP program gives you. Moreover, the cookbook is available as a free pdf download on her website. As someone who does not need to worry too much about the grocery bill (within reason, of course) I bought a copy of the book on Amazon. For every copy she sells she donates a copy to someone (or probably more accurately organizations that can reach someone) who needs it. 

The majority of the recipes are vegetarian since meat is expensive and ups the cost of most of the recipes. She also offers lots of good advice for those just learning to cook and those not super comfortable in the kitchen. While she uses ingredients that don’t cost a lot it’s easy enough to purchase more expensive organic ingredients if that is what you prefer. We have made at least a third of the recipes in this and not a single one has been bad. In fact they have all been incredibly good.

The best part? The vast majority of these recipes only take about 30 minutes to pull together and cook. There are a few, like the beef stroganoff, that take more time, but are well worth it. But most of them you could easily make on a weeknight when you’re feeling overwhelmed and have something healthy and inexpensive on the table for dinner (or lunch or breakfast).

I highly recommend seeing if your local library has a copy or downloading the pdf and trying out a few recipes to see if you like them. Then, if you do, be sure to purchase a copy (it’s only $10!) so she can donate copies to food banks and other service organizations.  

The Diverse Bookshelf: Sail Away

Sail AwaySail Away pictures by Ashley Bryan, poems by Langston Hughes

From Goodreads: The great African-American poet Langston Hughes penned poem after poem about the majesty of the sea, and the great African-American artist Ashley Bryan, who’s spent more than half his life on a small island, is as drawn to the sea as much as he draws the sea. Their talents combine in this windswept collection of illustrated poems—from “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” to “Seascape,” from “Sea Calm” to “Sea Charm”— that celebrates all things oceanic.

I’ve said before how much I love Ashley Bryan’s work, so when I saw he had a new book coming out I bought it without even getting from the library to preview it. I was not disappointed. 

The poems are absolutely beautiful and give you a lot to discuss about symbolism, metaphor, and forming a picture in your mind using words. Bryan’s pictures are also intricate and beautiful and do a wonderful job of pulling out important images from the poetry and splashing them across the page. If you love Lois Ehlert’s cut paper then give Bryan a try. 

I highly recommend reading through these once with your child then returning to the ones that really speak to you. Ask your child if they understand what is being said and help them form a picture of the poem in their mind by defining difficult and new words and asking them questions that get them to think deeply about what is being said. You could also pick one to say at night before bed. There’s a beautiful one about April showers that would be perfect for April nights. You could also get out some scissors and colored paper and ask your child to recreate one of the poems with the materials. 

Pair this with Ocean Sings Blue, another collection of poems about the sea or Water Rolls, Water Rises

Garden Plan 2016

I spent the last few weeks planning out the garden because, as it turns out, some of my seeds need to be started inside this week. We are very fortunate to live in a mild winter climate, meaning we are in the 50s during the day through the winter (with a few days in the 40s) and nights hovering in the upper 30s. Until a few years ago we seemed to only have a handful of nights that dropped to freezing or below, but I’ve noticed the last few years we’ve had a couple weeks worth of nights that drop down into the upper 20s. Brr! It does not snow where we live in California (although contrary to popular belief there are places it does snow in the state) so once the weather starts warming up in early March we are home free for planting. 

The bigger challenge for our gardening is how hot it gets in July, August and September. There are several stretches of days where temperatures reach 105 and while there is often a delta breeze to cool us off in the evening we have a week or two of airless days. This causes even some of the hardiest plants to wilt and requires a lot of extra watering to pull the food crops through. And water is scarce out here in the West right now. I’m hoping to get some rain barrels and fill them this winter (we almost never get rain in the summer months) to supplement. 

Last year we ripped out our lawn (too thirsty!) and put down bark and a number of other ground covers like lantana and various ornamental grasses. This also freed up space in our sunny front yard for a real garden. Our house faces due north and the backyard is blessedly shaded by an enormous fruitless mulberry all summer long. Excellent for cooling bills, terrible for vegetable gardens. I can grow cooler season crops in the back and occasionally I’ll get some sun-loving plants to limp along. We never got tomatoes. Last year, with the lawn gone, I tried out straw-bale gardening and it worked incredibly well. I’ve never gotten so many peppers and squash and beans and tomatoes. This year I want to expand it and plant more of the crops we tend to use while keeping a few crops and the bee hive in the backyard. 

Here are the layouts/plans for my front and back gardens (to see them larger and more clearly, click on the image to open it in a new page):

Front Garden Plan

Back garden plan