Thursday, April 20, 2017

April 21 - John Muir's Birthday

As we are working on trimming trees and weeding around flowers up in the mountains, this seemed like a fitting birthday to celebrate! John Muir, also known as "John of the Mountains", devoted his life to conservation of wilderness areas, particularly in the mountains of the western US.


100 years ago, most Americans looked at the vast expanses of wilderness and thought it couldn't possibly all disappear some day. Some, perhaps, even wanted it to, in the name of progress. Two men, fortunately, one with a great deal of power, were a little more far-sighted.


Caldecott medalist Mordicai Gerstein captures the majestic redwoods of Yosemite in this little-known but important story from our nation's history. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

A classic children's book about the interdependence of animals in a different type of wilderness:


Exhausted from his labors, a man chopping down a great kapok tree in the Brazilian rain forest puts down his ax, and, as he sleeps, the animals who live in the tree plead with him not to destroy their world.

And, one a bit newer:


Because of an acorn, a tree grows, a bird nests, a seed becomes a flower. Enchanting die-cuts illustrate the vital connections between the layers of an ecosystem in this magical book. Wander down the forest path to learn how every tree, flower, plant, and animal connect to one another in spiraling circles of life. An acorn is just the beginning.


Let's graph it! In 1760, the US had approximately 1 billion acres of forest land. In 1860 it was down to 900 million, and in 1960 it was 750 million. What would that look like in a bar graph? 

The US has 2.3 billion acres of land in all. Use a pie chart to show how much of that is made up of forest land (currently holding steady around 745 million).

Check out this web site for more interesting stats and charts related to forest land in the US.


Web it! Look at the ecosystem in your area, and find out how the different plants and animals depend on each other. Create a poster showing the web of life. Illustrate with pictures you drew or cut out of magazines.

Social Studies

Loss of forest lands has slowed down considerably in the last few decades. Why is that? Research laws that have helped slow that number, and find out which laws may be changed in the near future.

Language Arts

Discuss some of the pending legislation with your kids. Are there bills or laws you especially support or oppose? It is never too soon for kids to make their voices heard. Talk about the format of a formal letter, and help them draft one (or more) to their local politicians. Let them use their own words!


Create your own nature journal! There are ideas for book making all over Pinterest, or check out these at Green Kid Crafts. Then go on a hike, in your own neighborhood or elsewhere, and see what plants and animals you may not have noticed before. Bring a camera so you can take pictures, but try not to disturb things otherwise! Remind your kids that for every flower they pick, that's a dozen or more seeds that can't fall to grow into more flowers next year.


On the other hand, there may be more than enough of something for you to harvest a bit for food. Here is a long list of edible plants - just be very, very sure of their identity, please! My kids love finding the wild asparagus that grows near their grandmother's house. Steamed with some butter and salt...mmm! I once came upon a very sheepish woman who was picking something (I forget what) in the creek near my house, and had just fallen in. Oops! Who knows, you may find a new (to you) delicacy, and acquire a useful skill for the zombie apocalypse.

Other Web Sites to Explore

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reality Check


I started off really well, and then there was vacation, and then I got sick, and there are a million other projects going on, and summer reading coming up, so...

for now this blog won't be every single day, although I will keep posting a monthly list of holidays. I'm sure you can think of some great ideas on your own, and I would love to hear them! In the meantime, I will try to have full posts at least three times a week, and then next year fill in the holidays that were skipped! Hope you are all enjoying your grilled cheese yumminess today!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April 12 - Grilled Cheese Day


Well, I don't have any books about grilled cheese sandwiches, but I do have:


A wonderfully funny book that I could have sworn I reviewed at A Mom's Spare Time, but I can't find it anywhere! If you make some of the yummy sandwiches listed later, and one disappears, this book will tell you exactly who is to blame...maybe.


"One summer day in Itching Down, four million wasps flew into town."

One of my absolute favorite books growing up! What can a town do when it is overrun by wasps? The only logical solution, of course, is to build a giant jam sandwich to trap them all! The rhythm makes it a fun read-aloud, and the plain silliness makes it a kid-pleaser. Readers will also learn about making bread from scratch, and have to think about the other logistics of making such a monstrosity.

Extension: Offer a crazy (or real-life) problem, and see what off-beat solutions your kids can come up with. make them go into detail! Examples: an oil spill in a river, deer causing traffic accidents, or the gophers digging up our city parks.


Lily and Salma are best friends. They like doing all the same things, and they always eat lunch together. Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus-but what's that between friends? It turns out, a lot. Before they know it, a food fight breaks out. Can Lily and Salma put aside their differences? Or will a sandwich come between them?

Make sure your kids notice the author's name - I became fascinated with her many years ago, when she became the youngest queen in the world. She has had quite an interesting life, and works hard to balance different worlds.

As far as the story itself: Extension: Have your kids tried hummus? I know it is becoming increasingly popular here, so if they have already sampled it, find another food with a different ethnic background that your kids may not have eaten, and give it a try. You might even try a different dish each night this week, and let the family give their verdict on each!


Sandwiches are great for practicing fractions and shapes! 

- Can you cut a sandwich into squares? Rectangles? Triangles? What other shapes?
- Can you cut yours into halves? thirds? fourths? 
- How many ways can you show fourths? (4 squares, 4 equal rectangles, 4 triangles)
- How many squares or triangles can you cut yours into before it's a crazy mess?


We had our grilled cheese sandwiches for supper last night, but everyone was so hungry I completely forgot pictures! This is one of those things that has a right and wrong way for every step - and your childhood probably determines what the right way is. For us, an electric griddle is preferred over the stove top (although a cast iron skillet on the wood stove is good in the winter!) Bread buttered on both sides, toasted golden brown and then flipped so the cheese melts on one toasted side while the other browns. That way it doesn't get soggy in the middle.

Here is where we part ways. Daddy and the kids are happy with two slices of processed American cheese. Here is my eloquent assessment of that 'recipe':


I generally do shredded sharp cheddar, but if I have it, I will add some pepper jack, When I was younger, adding bacon bits was a special treat. I also salt the outside of the bread and flip it one more time.

All of that is still pretty simple. If you want to fancy yours up, I am going to send you to the Grilled Cheese Academy. From the Bloody Mary to the Wilbur, there is a sandwich here for even people who think they (blasphemy alert) don't like grilled cheese sandwiches! Now I am hungry for grilled cheese, and I just had grilled cheese. So I'll leave you with these words from Fluffy here...

How do you like YOUR grilled cheese?