Monday, December 14, 2009

Birding or Burglerizing

We were running a few errands around town when we spotted a hawk. We quickly pulled over to watch. The kids noticed that the hawk was diving near a bush that had sparrows flitting in and out of it. We hoped to get to observe that behavior closer, so I pulled around a building and inched forward slowly (in our honkin' big suburban). It was pretty exciting. All of us were whispering (inside our honkin' big suburban). All of us were trying to be inconspicuous (in our honkin' big suburban).

As we poked forward from behind the building enough to see, I put it in park. The hawk was perched on top of the chimney, watching the shrubbery below. We were parked near a dumpster, watching the hawk above us.

After we had been there only a few minutes, a man was dropped off for work. As he walked into the building, he stared at us and (in the words of my children) gave us mean looks. I didn't worry about it. Less than a minute after that a woman with her arms crossed came out and peered our way. She kept peering. Finally she started walking towards us. The hawk flew away up into a tree.

I realized that we were not wanted.

I pulled forward to leave. As I did so, I rolled down the passenger window. I smiled and explained to her that the children and I were birding. We had been observing a hawk, but that he had flown away now so we would leave. She started smiling and looked for the hawk. She then explained that they often have people who use their dumpster without permission. She was checking to see we weren't doing that.

So... our first confrontation during birding. We never even left the (honkin' big) suburban and we still made a stir.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cacao & Cocoa

We have been studying the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans the past two weeks along with our study of Renaissance Europe. Fascinating people groups! So advanced in many ways. One wonderful way they were ahead of the white people across the pond is that they had cacao beans. Suh-weet!

For a little historical taste lesson, we tried some roasted chocolate covered cacao pieces (because I couldn't find any whole raw cacao beans locally and I don't plan ahead sometimes). While the chocolate covered cacao was yummy, I had a different lesson in mind: making the drink the Aztecs made.

So, we sucked all the chocolate off so we could start out a little closer to the original gig (Don't worry, each kiddo had their own bowl of slurped and then dried cacao. We didn't 'share'!)
A day later (so the cacao could thoroughly dry or because Mama was busy until then... whatever), everyone decorated their drinking vessels with either Aztec or Incan style artwork. (I didn't insist that they stick to the typical Aztec and Mayan colors. Or artwork. My bad.)

We ground the bits to bits (I'm hilarious, I know). We poured boiling water and rice milk (Ok, ok, the Aztecs and Mayans didn't use rice milk. Just water, usually... man, you all are sticklers!)over the bits and let the mix soak awhile, then we strained out the solids. Each student then chose how to flavor their drink. Their choices:vanilla, honey and/or ground chili. Everyone picked vanilla and in the end chili too!
We "whipped the drink until it was frothy".

We drank. We were not impressed. I think the roasting of the cacao beans before we started or experiment/recipe altered the taste. Thankfully, I had a chunk of Abuelita's Chocoate on hand. So, we supplemented our drinks with some finely ground chocolate chunk.

In the end, we made frothy drinks just like the Aztecs and the Mayans (ok, maybe not just like, but ya' know... pretty close), discussed the difference between cacao, cocoa and coca (an Incan thing, I'll tell you about that later... no worries, we're not going to be doing anything illegal even if it does involve the plant that cocaine is made from).

It was entertaining and memorable!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Freezing Temps

We had a little impromptu lesson on the temperature for freezing liquids. And a little impromptu lesson on refrigerator temperature and how to adjust it. Lastly, a lesson on the beauty of a frozen egg.

Homeschooling is grand.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Crafts

This year I decided to do a little craft during Thanksgiving week school days. If you know me in real life, you know that this is outside my comfort zone and right into the "I love my kids and want to do more fun things with them" zone. Nothing too fancy. Stuff I mostly had here at the house. It was fun and put a little holiday in our days, especially since we had school Monday through Wednesday (what a mean teacher...they'll thank me when we're done mid May, though). The kids enjoyed the fun and I did too! Whodathunk it?

Thankful Turkeys using our hand shapes
Popcorn Balls (since the Wampanoag tribe introduced popcorn to the Pilgrims and covered it with maple syrup) Chocolate Pilgrim Hats (since they look stinkin' adorable)
(Wee Babe found an unattended Pilgrim hat)

Our homeschooling neighbors even joined us for some of the fun.

Did you make anything during Thanksgiving with your kids (besides the meal, I mean)?