Friday, October 31, 2014

Our Halloween!

What started off as having some friends over (Emma, Sadie and family) ended up with an impromptu Halloween bash!  We are SO lucky to be surrounded by our family and friends.  What a treat to be able to host such a fun group. 

GranMama and GranPapa made it up in time for Trick-or-Treating.  They were our 'surprise' guests of the evening.  Brad, Auntie Carrie, Uncle Sam and Baby Vera were also able to join us, too!  It all made for a spectacularly fun (and crazy) few hours.
(Justin in his 'box turtle' costume.  This was the one he designed and constructed HIMSELF.  However, he decided at the last minute that being a construction worker would be more fun.  At least I have this one documented!)
Justin wasn't the only costume change.  Alex designed and sewed herself an angel costume, but quickly changed her mind when this STUNNING Egyptian queen costume and Grandma Mary-made cape arrived in the mail.  It was perfect for a chilly night!  Who could blame her?  Plus, my Mom was quick to point out that I was Cleopatra for Halloween when I was seven, so it was absolutely perfect!)
In order to save on trying to fix something fancy, I made it a grilled cheese bar--  a loaf of nice Italian bread (and a loaf of gf stuff too!), and a tray of assorted fancy cheddar cheese from Sam's Club was perfect.  I also served tomato soup, clam chowder and lots of chips/dips for our appetizer-driven horde.

The Mulders came up and brought their own pumpkin to carve (throwback posts- 2010,2011, 2012,  such a fun tradition!?!).  The girls and Justin got to work.  Then it was time to get dressed and hit the streets.
A blurry but accurate picture of the activity level in the house!
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This year we were a teal pumpkin house-- we had an assortment of early reader workbooks (thanks, GranMama) and small pumpkin erasers as a non-food alternative for all of those kids with food allergies (and Mamas and Papas who would rather not bring candy home), along with the requisite candy for the traditionalists out there.
A note about Kolachi:  I was so impressed with her behavior.  Even with a house full of people, she was polite and non-obtrusive.  She behaved appropriately with the little ones and was a complete joy to have underfoot.  We had a minor setback the first time the door rang.  She hurried to her "place" on the stairs to greet our guests, but was completely shocked and alarmed when the guests turned out to be a gang of masked 4 feet tall 'spidermen'.  She went into full-out 'protection' mode.  It was way too intense for her.  So, as Dave and the other adults got our kids ready for trick or treating, I armed myself with a baggie full of steak and chicken tidbits and took her out to the street.  Pretty soon she was able to relax and see that all the masked kids were 'ok'.  I am so proud of her!  She not only joined the family walking door to door, but also appropriately greeted (and kissed) quite a few kids who stopped for a visit.  Whew!  Raising a well-adjusted puppy is a LOT of work!  Also, I dare you to show up at my doorstep wearing a mask.

 The final four:  Ready for Halloween. 
 And my God-daughter.  Because she crawled away during the porch pic, but she's too cute to not include!  I love how her pacifier matches her petals!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Nature Expedition

Justin hadn't yet seen our new favorite fall spot, so we all headed to Sunfish Lake Park this morning for a nice nature walk/ picnic/ foraging exercise. 
We're having a Halloween party tomorrow night, so we gathered some more sumac berries to share with our guests.

 Alex found some interesting fungi to sketch while Justin and Kolachi tried to flush out some more frogs (to no avail).  We sure had fun trying, though!

 They're predicting some winter weather in the next week.  Looks like it might happen a bit sooner?  Let's hold off for Halloween, okay, Mother Nature?

 Picnicking in the wild.  Dog wants the Doritos (leftover from our grocery store trick or treating-- what a treat!).


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sewing-- Halloween prep!

My two trick-or-treaters ready for a practice round at the local Grocery Store.  Justin opted for his costume from last year, as to keep this year's work under wraps until the big day...

 They were hard at work sewing this afternoon.  Alex put the finishing touches on her angel costume and  Justin is obsessed with making pillowcases. 
I need another simple project that he can do on his own, though....he has made about seven different cases already!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sumac Lemonade

On our nature walk the other day, Alex and I foraged some sumac berries.  According to my wild edibles book, we could make a sumac lemonade from them.
 These are most likely Staghorn Sumacs, and although we are technically beyond the 'prime harvesting' season, we decided to give it a good try.  I'm glad we did!  They were delicious!

After consulting both my book and this website, we decided to just infuse the berries in cold water.  Alex and I took turns hand 'bruising' (smushing) the berries and then we let them sit for the duration of our morning excursion (about 45 minutes).

Strain with a cheesecloth and voila!  Sumac Lemonade.  I tried it straight up and enjoyed the tart berry taste.  The kids definitely preferred a spoonful of sugar in theirs.
 I think if we harvested closer to 'prime time', we'd get a much deeper pink color.....we were pretty conservative with our 'bruising' as well.  The taste is reminscent of rosehips-- lots of vitamin C!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Vera Visits

We had an overnight visitor in the form of an adorable 3 month old Baby Vera.  The kids were very helpful (Justin even volunteered to feed her....he changed his mind after she started kicking and fussing in his lap, but it's the thought that counts, right?).  Kolachi continues to amaze me with her innate sense of family/pack.  She jumped into her role as Nana-Dog immediately, and even gave an extra-intimidating stink-eye to a random person and dog that approached the stroller when we were all out on a walk together.

Both kids were very cooperative when it came to bedtime routines being a little 'off'.  Since there were three children and only one Mama, they both understood that the Baby needing to be fed trumped their storytime.  It was only a short while ago that I had an infant, but I still can't believe how much work goes into them!  Auntie Carrie and Uncle Sam are very, very, very busy people!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Exploring Sunfish Lake Park

My intrepid explorer and I  (and our adventurous pup) dropped Justin off at Farm School today and went to find an adventure of our own.  We decided to visit our favorite sledding site (Sunfish Lake Park in Lake Elmo) to see what it looked like during the fall.  Even though there were a few other vehicles in the parking lot, we didn't find anyone else there!
We started off with a good tramp.
 And some deep, deep sniffs!
 Sometimes tramping and sniffing uncover new friends--
   Then Alex decided she wanted to draw some sumac berries.
 "I will wait patiently for you to be done.  Sort of.  If you count wandering aimlessly and wanting to follow every scent trail I come across as waiting."
 Nature observations are a huge part of our curriculum.  It's amazing what a kid-directed science class will uncover.  We discovered that sumac berries are edible (if they're the red kind), and we foraged for a few bunches.  Tomorrow we'll soak them and make what is described as a 'pink lemonade' in our wild edibles book.  Updates to come!
 Oh-- by the way, my nature trekker also lost another tooth last night.  Check out that jack-o-lantern smile, just in time for Halloween!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rock Tumbling Results

Take a gander at these true 'gems'!

Granite from the beaches of Lake Superior-  Justin calls these the Dalmatian rocks.

Lake Superior Agates!  I am so excited to tumble our next batch.  The patterns in these are absolutely amazing-
Some of the provided 'gems' in the rock tumbling kit.  This was a LONG process, but it was immensely rewarding.  Now Alex is trying to figure out which ones she wants to make into jewelry!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Alex's Big Race

We headed down to Des Moines this weekend for the IMT Des Moines Half-Marathon.  The big event was on Sunday, but Alex signed up for her OWN run on Saturday morning.  The Kids Run was slated for 9am, so, of course, we got there at 8am to make sure we were in the right place at the right time. 

This instance of being chronically early, however, DID pay off.  We managed to nab a much-coveted photo with Spike (The Drake University Bulldog) and walk down to the race with him!

Alex waited patiently for her heat to begin.  We had discussed race strategy beforehand, and I told her to not shoot out of the gate like a cannon, even if the other kids did.  She was to pace herself and finish strong!.....This was when I thought she was running a full mile.  Little did I know that the race was only 1/4 mile long!  She paced herself beautifully, however, and was a little surprised and disappointed when all of a sudden it was over.

She was cheered on by her adoring fan base.
And earned a quite hefty bronze medal!

And a HUGE hug from a very proud Daddy!