Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Redwall Feast

Caleb and Jonathan are taking a writing class through Potter's School.  They've been reading Redwall (well, rereading, since they both went through a huge Redwall phase several years ago), and they had an assignment to do some special project relating to the book.  They could have a feast, make a sword and shield like Martin the Warrior's, or weave a tapestry (? not even an option in this house, lol).  The obvious choice was a feast, since we do cook around here.  Another boy in their class lives close to us and is also in Rivendell, so the 3 boys decided to have the feast together.  We checked out The Redwall Cookbook from the library, and the boys picked out some likely dishes one Tuesday afternoon.
Last night, Caleb, Jonathan, and I did some of the cooking.  We were making "Abbot's Special Abbey Trifle", which needed a custard sauce, so we made that.
Here is an over-dramatized shot of Jonathan doing it all. Ha!
Gabe and his mom came over this afternoon at 2:15.  We had finished the trifle as well as made 2 different kinds of scones this morning.  The light brown ones are from the cookbook, "Afternoon Tea Scones with Strawberry Jam and Cream".  The ones with specks (actually dried blueberries, which we happened to have in a bag in the pantry) were from this recipe.  We just used the blueberries in place of the raisins and added a squirt of lemon juice.  The blueberry ones were better, I think.  Don't tell anyone, but we used canned whipped cream on top, instead of clotted cream.  For shame!  We did make homemade whipped cream for the top of the trifle (and that was on top of the homemade custard sauce, instead of vanilla pudding for the layer below), so I guess that was authentic.

When they came, we were finishing up the "Golden Hill Pears", which were pears simmered and then covered with a syrup.  We used pretty big pears, so it took longer to cook than I was expecting.  They turned out really well though!

Gabe made a delicious "Squirrelmum's Blackberry and Apple Cake", as well as some "October Ale" for them to drink.  We were supposed to make "Summer Strawberry Fizz" to drink as well--but it kind of fell through the cracks, and it didn't get made.  Since we have everything for it, I told the boys I would make it for Rivendell on Tuesday so everyone can sample it!  Emily brought over her electric tea kettle so they could also have some authentic tea, since we were having more of a "tea" feast, than a "main course" one.  I had bought some disposable goblets for their ale, as well as some festive fall paper plates.  Just like at the Abbey, I'm sure!
Jonathan is a fine connoisseur of afternoon tea foods.
Caleb just enjoys good food--and it was all delicious!
Here are all 3 boys, diligently reading Redwall . . .

It was a super fun afternoon.  There was enough of everything for all the very interested younger siblings (and Luke) to sample. I said I thought we should definitely bring back afternoon tea as a tradition, like the British.  So much yumminess! 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fort McHenry

Today we took a Rivendell field trip to Fort McHenry!  I've wanted to visit here for many years.  Back in 2002, on the 1 year anniversary of 9/11, Bob was on a longer TDY to DC, and the kids and I joined him.  He took leave for the day, and we went to the Inner Harbor.  We had planned on visiting Ft. McHenry as well, but somehow we got distracted and couldn't get over there before it closed.  Oh well, we'll go back sometime, and we especially thought that when we PCD's to DC in 2004.  Ha!  We never made it.  We had another field trip scheduled several years ago, but there was some tropical storm or something on that day, and so we cancelled.  FINALLY we made it there today!  We were worried about the weather, but it was an absolutely gorgeous morning!

We immediately headed over to the fort so we could be there for the changing of the flag at 10:00.  They selected a Civil War era flag to fly today.  It was big--about 120 square feet--but that was nothing compared to the size of the flag that was flying on Sept. 14, 1814, which was over 1,000 square feet!  The kids got to help unfold the flag before it went up the pole.  It flew nicely in the brisk wind!
Then we headed back over to the visitor's center to go through the exhibits and watch the short movie, which was really well-done.  I loved hearing the Spar-Spangled Banner at the end of it, and watching as the screen was raised so we were looked out a wall of windows at the fort with the flag flying high.  Very moving!

There was a huge group of 5th graders watching the movie with us, and we purposed that we would leap out of there at the end so we could get a jump on them in the actual fort.  We did, and we had a lovely time visiting the buildings.  Most of the time, we were the only ones in a room, and there was plenty of room for the kids to run around on the ramparts.  It was perfect!
Here we are in one of the barracks rooms for enlisted guys.  Ten beds, but 20 men slept here.  Tight squeeze, because the beds weren't all that wide!  The men slept on hay mattresses, which reminded me our our tour of VMI.
Verity had been crabby all morning, and here she demonstrates that what she really needed was a nap, although maybe not on a hard bed like this.
Here is Drew with a statue of Major George Armistead, the commander of Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812.  He was the one who commissioned the huge flag that flew the morning Francis Scott Key saw it.  He wanted "a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance."  I love that quote!
Next the kids ran around all over the ramparts.  This was really a great field trip for boys, because unlike a museum, they could run and jump all over the place, especially with the beautiful weather.  I could have stayed a lot longer, enjoying the view out over the water, but it was actually quite warm out there, even with the breeze, and I was roasting.  I felt bad that I had told the boys to wear pants because for some reason I had though it was going to be cold.
They had these cool "hobbit holes" behind where the cannons were.  There was another hole on the other side of this big mound, so they probably connected in a tunnel, but there were no plaques or anything to confirm that.
Verity obviously didn't have that great of a time, even as we were finishing up.  Poor grumpy baby!  She was not ready to wake up this morning!

Interesting side note:  as we were walking back, we saw several women who had head coverings and dressed in long skirts, but it didn't look like Muslim covering.  Then we saw that their boys had yarmukles, and even some boys had the really long front (side?) locks (the ones right in front of the ears), so obviously they were Jewish.  Later I saw a rabbi too, so I assumed it was just a field trip of a Jewish school or something (and that might in fact have been what it was).  But once we got home I was reading something on a message board posted by a Jewish woman.  She was apologizing that her answer was so brief, but it is the Feast Of Tabernacles right now, and the custom is to take children on outings!  So maybe that's what we were seeing!
One last group shot in the visitors center.
We finished up with a picnic lunch overlooking the harbor behind us--and this lovely statue of an almost naked giant man in front of us.  He had the barest of a leaf over his critical parts, and since he was 24 feet tall, on top of a 15 ft. tall pedestal of marble, it was really something.  We googled who he was when we got home, and it turns out that he was supposed to be Orpheus, the Greek god of music and poetry, and NOT a representation of Francis Scott Key.  That would have been a little too familiar, and I'm sure Key's descendants are all relieved, lol.  Apparently it was more of an "allegorical approach" to honoring Key and his writing of the National Anthem.  Interesting.  Here is a post I found with pictures of him closer up, in case you are now really curious.  LOL!
Ahh, Verity is finally happy--after lunch and Oreos.  She did take a nice nap on the way home!
One last picture of Ft. McHenry from behind, from where we were having our picnic.  It was a beautiful day!

As we were driving home, there were dark clouds amassing over D.C.--a very fitting picture for right now, I think.  It rained on the way home, but thankfully it stopped, because Luke, Caleb, and Jonathan are all running in a cross country meet this afternoon, and I was hoping they could not be miserable!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ancient Egypt

Today I'm starting what will hopefully be my busiest period this year.  I started teaching a unit on Egypt for my elementary unit.  I taught this unit 7 years ago, so even though I knew this month would be really busy, I thought it would be okay, since I could just reuse the lessons I had already planned.  I asked for either 1st/2nd grade, 3rd/4th grade, or 5th/6th grade, which of course meant I was given the K-4/K-5 tier.  Ah well.  So I had to make new lesson plans, since what I had before was a little too complex for them, and it definitely was not easier for me.  But Micah was super excited to have me teach in his K-5 class!

Since I taught the first week of the unit, I figured we needed to start with a big picture of where Egypt is in the world.  Then we talked about the Nile River, and how important it was.  I made this lovely salt map to show them the desert, the Nile, the higher land to the south ("Upper" Egypt), the delta, and so on.  They colored a map themselves (some more enthusiastically than others, lol).  I'm sure they would have loved making a salt map themselves, but I just couldn't deal with the potential mess.  All the ideas I could find for Nile-related crafts involved dirt in foil pans with grass seed, and then flooding the dirt from a foil "river" in the middle, and I just didn't see that working well for this age either.  My friend Stephanie taught the first/second graders, and she did do this craft with them.  She said it was a stretch for the first graders, so I was glad I didn't attempt it!  We talked about the flooding, but who knows how much they will actually remember.
We talked a lot more about the Nile, and all they used it for--fishing, transportation, etc.  I had made a little reed boat out of bundles of raffia, which turned out well.  We floated that in the classroom sink, but honestly, I think the K-4 kids would just as soon played in the sink all morning long, boat or no boat, lol.

I had wanted a coloring page that went along with what we were talking about, and I searched and searched online for an appropriate one.  I could not find a single one.  The only one that was absolutely perfect was a picture some lady posted on her blog that her son had colored!  But it was exactly what I wanted, showing some boys fishing on a reed boat (like the model I had made!), with reeds on the shore line, and fighting off a hippo.  So Caleb suggested I print off that already-colored image, which I did, and then I sort of traced it onto a new piece of paper.  It turned out pretty well!
We ended up by talking about Moses, and I read the story from our Maxi and Mini Muffin Storybook Bible (Micah:  "Why did you read a night-time story to my class??").  Then we went on and talked about the plagues, especially the plagues of water turning into blood, and the frogs, since those 2 dealt with the Nile River.  The kids got a big kick out of the pictures I printed off to show them of the god of the Nile, with his crocodile head, and the god of fertility, with her frog head.  

It was fun, but I talked for 3 straight hours.  Then I came home and talked for 3 more straight hours because I had to teach life science and then biology.  I need to remember that I absolutely can't teach at TNT in the fall semester in years when I am teaching biology or AP biology.  All the difficult concepts are packed into this semester, and there's too much prep work for me to add in other teaching on top of it.  Today for biology I had to cover mitosis and meiosis, which can be tricky concepts.  I had to do a ton to prepare for that class, not to mention all the Egypt prep.  We only covered half the chapter, and we'll work on a ton of genetics problems on Thursday.  I aide at TNT next week, have one week off, teach again, and then co-lead the big 5th week activity, all while keeping up with Rivendell classes (and hoping everyone else keeps up with school as well around here--probably not Micah though, realistically).  Gah.

While all that is going on, Luke's college applications are due November 1.  This was my first time with the Common App, so there was a learning curve with that.  I think the only thing I have left to submit is the counselor's letter, but there are some other loose ends with other applications to tie up as well.  I'm taking him on an overnight college visit next week that we scheduled a long time ago.  Again, of course it would end up being during this busiest of all times!

And other random things are happening in these next few weeks as well.  I have to submit Box Tops by Nov. , which involves trimming them and packing them in baggies of 50.  I'm having the annual moms' pasta dinner at our house in 2 weeks.  It seems like everything is happening in the next few weeks for me!  I keep thinking that if I can just make it to Thanksgiving, I'll be good.  But that means Christmas is right around the corner, and I haven't given one single thought to presents!  Trying not to stress . . . just breathe . . .

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Introducing Pikachu

After Bruno died so unexpectedly, we talked about getting another bunny maybe after Christmas or something.  But we found that we really missed having a little furry body in the schoolroom to talk to, so we started looking around.  I knew we wanted another mini-rex, so I googled for them in Virginia, and I found an ad online for some bunnies born Aug. 12.  I started texting back and forth with this person (we didn't know if it was a male or female, although I suspected it was not an adult based on grammar and punctuation, lol.  The person sent some pictures of bunnies, and we finally were able to make it work today to drive out to see the bunnies.  They were about 1 1/2 hours away, not too far from Montpelier, actually.

We had already fallen in love with a little bunny who looked really yellow in the picture we received, but is actually more cinnamon-colored.  He was a male, too, which is what we wanted.  We were sold!  We bought him from what ended up being a girl, probably junior high or early high school, who was really nice.  She has handled her bunnies a lot, and this one seemed very friendly and good-tempered.  We named him Pikachu, and we brought him back home with us!
Pikachu was a very good traveler.  He just settled in and looked around during the long drive home in the rain.
Here at home we put him in Bruno's cage (that I had thoroughly cleaned out before).  We got a new little wicker tunnel for him to chew and to have some privacy.  He is so tiny compared to Bruno!  His fur is not as soft as Bruno's--but maybe that's because he's still so young?  He could definitely have some other breeds in his genetic past, for sure.
He seems to have settled in just fine.  I had ordered litter and juvenile bunny food, but I completely forgot hay!  Now that's on its way, thank  you Amazon prime.
We noticed that Pikachu is actually the same color as our couch--perfectly camouflaged!  He is so light and easy to hold.  Even Micah got a short turn.  Hopefully he'll fit in just as well as Bruno did--and hopefully we'll remember to call him Pikachu and not Bruno!  We've all made that mistake a few times today! 

Monday, October 03, 2016

College Memories

I had a super-fun and relaxing weekend--I took a quick trip to Ohio!  I flew out early Friday morning, and had an absolutely peaceful, quiet flight.  I started reading The Boys in the Boat, which we gave to Nathan for a Christmas present last year.  He brought it back to me when he came home in May, and I haven't gotten around to it until now.  I figured it would be the perfect book for a weekend like this, and it really was.  What a fantastic book!  I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it.  Something tells me those boys would not be crying about safe spaces, refusing to honor the flag and national anthem, etc.  Such a good book!

My parents picked me up from the airport.  Then Amy picked me up from their house, and we had a long, long lunch at Panera where we caught up on as many things as we could think of, and then we rambled around Half Price Books for a bit.  Then it was off to Youngs!
At Youngs we met Tim and Amy P, and their 2 girls, plus Amanda L.  It was so fun to see them again!  It was also really, really weird to not have any little kids at our table.  Can you even really go to Youngs without kids?!?  I felt like we needed to borrow one from someone else, lol.  I ate all my onion rings and ice cream without sharing any, and I didn't need any wet wipes.  Weird!
Afterwards Tim took some pictures, but we did NOT visit the animals.  We did, however, stop off to see this big pumpkin, "Humongous Gus".  He was big.  Also really ugly.
Saturday morning I did not go to the homecoming parade because I opted to sleep in.  I should have, because Amy's mom was the grand marshal, being honored for her 30 years of teaching at the university, since she is retiring at the end of this year.  I did make it there in time for a special alumni chapel, which I really enjoyed.  Then Amy and I toured Amanda's room, since she lives in the same dorm we used to live in, all those years ago!  Then we went out for pizza with Amy's husband Jason and her mom.  Lunch with the grand marshal!!
The university was having a special reunion for the science and math departments.  I double-majored in biology and math, and Amy and Jason were both biology majors, so after a quick trip to the bookstore, since I no longer have any clothing with the logo, we headed over to that building.  It was a sparse turnout, but it was fun to talk to some of the current professors and get caught up on where all our old professors had gone.  Then one of the chem profs volunteered to take us on a tour of the newly built building of chem labs.  Of course we took him up on the offer!  Wow, what a nice set-up they have now!  Amy and I are in the organic chem lab, where there is a hood for every student!  Jason was interested in all the lab machines, since he sells those for a living.
We even peeked in the stock room.  All those neatly organized shelves--be still my heart!  Clearly I need to turn a room into a stock room, and forget the old armoire I currently have everything in!

After we finished, we headed over to a different building where there was a reception honoring Amy's mom, as well as the professional communication program that Amy's mom built from the ground up 30 years ago.  There were a lot of alumni there, and during an open-mic time, it was truly special to hear their testimonies of how Amy's mom had been a mentor and spiritual leader/mother for them during their time there, and even after they graduated.  Her students have always been like her own children, and you could really sense that.  It was just a really special time!
Afterwards it was time to say goodbye to Amy after a much-too-short visit!  I didn't decide to come until about 2 weeks ago.  It just seemed like too much of a hassle, but I'm really glad I came.  I've never gone to any homecoming activities for my university because October just is never a good time (is there ever a good time to get away, lol??).  But it was really good to be back on campus, and especially in chapel.  And of course it was great to see my parents!  

Bob held down the fort at home.  He didn't even have much help because Luke was away in Connecticut for a mock trial tournament, and Saturday morning Caleb, Jonathan, and Anna had another far-away cross-country meet.  Fortunately another parent could drive them, since they had to leave at 5:30 AM!  

It's taken me all day to get back in the swing of things.  I had the best of intentions of getting this week's lessons for Rivendell all finished before leaving, but that didn't happen.  Sigh.  In fact, I need to go finish up an outline for biology . . . back to real life, for sure, but it was certainly nice to have a brief breather!