autumn days

Monday, May 23, 2011

recycling old tires

Our yard has several spare tires hanging around, and in the spring cleaning we knew they had to go.  My husband's first idea was to chop them up, spray them red, and use them as yard bark.  When I didn't approve of that plan, we agreed to photograph them and post them on  Who was willing to purchase old tires from our yard?  Or pick them up for free?  Nobody, apparently.  

My recycling friend directed me to contact Environmentally Conscious Recycling to find out where to recycle the tires and at what price.  This organization can help people recycle a variety of goods.  Most of our paper and metals are picked up by our curbside waste service, though we still have many materials that need to be recycling elsewhere.  We make a trip every few months to Far West Fibers to recycle plastics (separated into push-your-finger-through-it plastics, bottles with necks, and hard plastics) and a variety of other goods.  They even recycle shoes!  Styrofoam is recycled nearby (signs posted at Far West).  

In our spring cleaning, we've chosen to rid ourselves of most of our plastic kitchenware (with hidden BPA and pthalates).  I spent days (honestly, weeks...) debating where to send the tupperware.  Finally, we settled on passing it on to my mother's local homeless shelter's food kitchen for daily soups.  These containers will be sent out with daily soups and brought back for refills.  The other plastics, such as sippy cups, now reside on a shelf at the local Value Village.  As for the tires in our yard, they will soon be recycled and hitting the road as either new pavement or shoes.

* I chose not to post photos of our tires here, as there were no cute Michelin babies bouncing on them.

Update 10/2001: In the end, we simply dropped off eight used tires at a local tire store.  They will sell them at a discount to someone who can use them.

homemade beeswax lip balm

My friend Holly and I undertook the challenge of making our own lip balm.  You may ask, like a friend of ours did, "Why?!"  Well, we do love a challenge, making household goods, and using basic ingredients to make products we would otherwise buy in plastic packaging produced in far away places.  We love making gifts for our friends and trying these new projects with our children.  

For lip balm, we thought of giving friends bee-themed baskets, such as beeswax lip balm, local honey, and beeswax candles.  First, we collected the ingredients and containers for making our own lip balm.  Holly rendered her own beeswax from last year's hives, along with making her own vanilla from rum.  She purchases a gallon of coconut oil at a time, as she uses it for many home-assembled goods.  Her honey came from Zenger Farms, where she knows it is locally and sustainably produced.  We were ready to put it all together once we'd gathered supplies and children. 

1 cup (225 g) shredded beeswax 
14 oz coconut oil
5 T (100 g) honey
5 T pure vanilla extract

Heat the wax in a saucepan over low heat to 150 degrees.  In a separate saucepan, heat the oil to the same temperature.  When both are heated to the proper temperature, add the coconut oil to the beeswax, remove the pan from heat, and stir steadily until well blended.  Then add the honey and the vanilla extract, and continue to stir until well blended.  Pour into tubes or tubs, allow to cool overnight, and then cap the containers and store at room temperature, out of direct sunlight.    **Fills 100, .15-ounce lip-balm tubes**
(This recipe wax taken from The Backyard Beekeeper by: Kim Flottum and then from

half-ounce tins, rendered beeswax, and local honey
a math lesson in measuring by weight and volume

Hannah was especially helpful with opening and sorting all the balm tins.
We followed the directions, measuring things out by volume.  It turned out that the recipe's equivalent measurements (cups verses grams) were not truly equivalent.  When cutting the recipe in half, we needed two cups of shredded beeswax (as opposed to the half-cup suggested by the recipe) to get the 115 grams for our recipe.  We made this recipe a second time after finding the differences in equivalents during the first batch.  For both our batches, there was severe separation of the oil and water-based ingredients.

Some containers had a liquid (vanilla honey) mixture in the bottoms.

The honey and rum vanilla are quite delicious, but they make for a very messy lip balm.
Some of our lip balms came out with just the waxy top (wax and oil), though many of them have liquid trapped underneath or floating to the top.  I separated the successfully solid balms from the ones containing liquids.  The solids I am able to give to others, and I have made use of the separated tins for myself.  Hannah and I drained the liquid and will use it in later recipes as vanilla, as it is mostly vanilla and honey.  We melted the solids down again to make our own container of lip balm.  Hannah and I are enjoying our new lip balm and I feel good providing my child with a healthy homemade way to moisturize her lips.  This activity has provided her the opportunity to learn some chemistry while helping to make lip balm.  Someday, when we attempt more lip balm, she will have more of a hand in the assembly and we will surely use a different recipe.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

When It Starts to Snow (preschool book club)

With our refreshed excitement for extending stories, Hannah and I are first tackling our winter-based books before moving to the warmer weathered stories.  When It Starts to Snow is a simple book about where animals go when the weather gets cold.  Hannah's favorite part of the story is identifying all the animals and their habitats on the last page.  Here are some activities we've enjoyed through this book.
another winter book and red rectangular house

standing in the brick house she built for herself

When It Starts to Snow Activities (courtesy of Itty Bitty Bookworm Curriculum):
  • look at the pictures, predict what the story is about
  • build a birdhouse
  • make popsicles and check on them every ten minutes as they start to freeze
  • spray water on black construction paper, freeze it all, then look at the ice formations
  • hide acorns in your tactile box for children to find like squirrels
  • dress up in winter clothes
  • make a birdfeeder with pinecone or bagel, peanut butter, birdseed, and string
  • Read related stories
    • The Big Snow by Berta Hader
    • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • discuss real/non-fiction versus pretend/fiction
  • choose a favorite part of the story and explain why it is your favorite
  • sprinkle glue and hole punched holes onto a picture to make a snow scene
  • look at geese flying in a row, kids walk in v formation, discuss how geese fly in v for two reasons: easy to keep up and less wind resistance so they can fly farther without having to rest
  • make a red brick house out of red rectangles for the boy and other animals
  • cut a hole in a shoe box and child makes a little mouse house
  • complete the sentences: 
    • When it is windy, I fly a kite.  When it is cold/hot/rainy...
    • A shell is a home for a turtle.  A... is a home for a...
  • the deer looks for moss and grass; go outside and find them yourself, identify different types and why the plants choose to be in that climate/habitat
  • count piles of cotton balls and write the total number for each pile, add and subtract with them, writing out the number sentences (4+2=6), or ask child to place a certain number of balls in each spot
  • talk about gray skies in book, mix black and white paint to make gray, paint your own gray sky or a painting of what the sky looks like right now
  • animals seek shelter inside fallen trees, go outside and carefully find where animals may live in little hidden areas
  • draw a picture of what you like to do in the snow, write about your drawing
  • discuss how and why beavers live in their lodge in the water, collect twigs and sticks and make a beaver lodge in your yard

Peanut-butter Sandwich (preschool book club)

the girl who loves a peanut butter and jam sandwich
While working on other story extension ideas, Hannah came up with this one over lunch.  She loves the Shel Silverstein story from Where the Sidewalk Ends about the king obsessed with peanut butter sandwiches.  In fact, she sometimes resembles that king, except she drinks lots of water while downing sandwiches so her jaws don't clamp shut.  I think this particular king comes up over lunch almost every time we have these sandwiches.  I am thrilled my daughter is embracing Shel Silverstein's poems, as they were my favorites throughout childhood.  There is something nostalgic and exciting about watching our children enjoy the same things we did as children.

Hannah's ideas for Peanut-Butter Sandwich:
  • homemade bread from Jon and Holly
  • make homemade strawberry jam from her uncle's strawberries
  • grind up our own peanuts
  • throw a party to celebrate making our own sandwiches
My ideas on the same story:
  • all the things above, plus:
    • make the ingredients at the party
    • "What is a sandwich?  What's your favorite sandwich and why?"
    • read about the history of sandwiches
    • use a variety of breads, nuts, and toppings (kiwi, banana, pickle, apple, cinnamon, honey)
    • plant ingredients together: strawberries, grains, nuts, etc.
    • read a passage from a children's book that talks about the importance of and care put into food preparation, such as "Little House on the Prairie"
    • "What have you learned about sandwiches today?  Do you like a new kind of sandwich now?"
the king who had one sandwich too many, and then another

The Snowy Day (preschool book club)

Hannah and I finally found time to work on some homeschool book extensions.  We started with The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.  Baby Liam was down for a nap and we had free hands for painting and cutting and strutting with our toes pointing out.  We have been reading the Spanish edition of this book for the last couple years ago, and only recently incorporated the English book version and a Mandarin video.  Here is a rough list of what we've included in our extensions of this favorite story.

Hannah's hypothesis on which containers will thaw first

The container with no neck came out first.

dipping bananas into melted white chocolate yields snowy fruit

extra melted chocolate becomes nut bars

Snowy Day Activities (courtesy of Itty Bitty Bookworm):
  • "Do you like snowy days?  Why or why not?"
  • mix primary colors to water color paint coffee filter snowflakes
  • Don't Break the Ice game
  • t-chart differences between summer and winter
  • make a list of what Peter did in the snow
  • pretend to do activities from book (climb mountain, slide down, throw and hit by snowballs, stuff snow into pockets, snow angel, walk with toes out or in or drag a stick, etc.
  • illustrate My Little Book of Snow Words, read it to others
  • make letters and numbers with (popsicle) sticks
  • white sponge paint onto wax paper for a window pane
  • child explains favorite part of story and why they love it
  • draw a picture of and act out favorite part of story
  • make a collage as bathroom floor (Hannah chose all shapes instead of just rectangles)
  • trace (round objects) and cut circles to make snow people
  • discuss real/non-fiction versus unreal/fiction
  • melt white chocolate, dip fruits in to make it look like snow
  • freeze water in variety of shaped containers, guess which one will thaw first and last, check them every 10 minutes as they melt
  • throw some ice into a warm bath to see how fast it melts
  • collect sticks outside, talk about their different sizes/colors/colors, then paint geometric shapes with them
  • paint snow people onto construction paper, dry, decorate with colorful details
  • play hot potato with a "snowball"
  • put food coloring and water into spray bottles and write in the snow
  • bean bag toss with "snowball" bean bags
  • when it snows, make a snowman and let him melt, see what his puddle looks like, recreate the puddle by pouring some white glue onto wax paper and adding the detail pieces on top
  • make a snow day scene with white chalk on blue construction paper
  • dough snow people
  • other story extensions:
    • A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman
    • Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson
    • Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
    • The Big Snow by Berta Hader
    • The Mitten by Jan Brett
    • All You Need for a Snowman by Alice Schertle
    • The Biggest Snowman Ever by Stephen Kroll
    • The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
    • When It Starts to Snow by Phillis Gershator
    • There Was A Cold Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow by Lucille Colandro
primary color coffee filter snowflake painting

Don't Break the Ice game, favorite scene of Peter in the bathtub

 observing water's change from liquid to solid to liquid to gas

summer winter t-chart

little snow words book and yet-to-be-cut coffee filter snowflakes

mixing primary colors to make new colors

bathroom floor collage for doll house bathroom

snow people from traced circles

white sponge painting onto wax paper for snowy window scene

stuffing snow into her pockets like Peter

Saturday, May 14, 2011

homemade toothpaste

My dad has used straight up baking soda to brush his teeth for years and it has worked well for him.  My friend tells me baking soda is hard on the gums.  Well, we tried another recipe for homemade toothpaste.  Why try another homemade thing I can simply buy at the local store?  Reason number one: I don't really know what chemicals are in the store toothpaste, if they contain sugars, and if they are safe for my family.  Reason number two: I ran out of toothpaste and didn't want to run to the store to attempt to make a healthy choice.  Reason number three: My friend Holly tried it and said it wasn't bad.  So, Hannah and I dove into another chemistry experiment and made our own toothpaste.

Recipe from Simply Resourceful:
almost 1/4 c. baking soda
almost 1/4 c. coconut oil
4+ drops of peppermint essential oil (more or less as needed)
about 1.5 Tablespoons of honey
1.5 teaspoons hydrogen peroxide

I made the recipe as above, except my inability to follow any recipe exactly made me attempt to solidify the paste by doubling the baking soda.  I also added a few tablespoons of peppermint extract instead of essential oils, as I used what was on hand and had not planned ahead.  With admitting these modifications, I feel like a haphazard chemist in the kitchen, but perhaps that is what I am.  As the mixture hardened, the coconut oil separated and rose to the top.  Hannah enjoyed adding ingredients, mixing up the layers, and now enjoys using her new baking soda toothpaste a few times a day.  She seems more interested in this paste and in brushing her teeth more often because of her ability to make her own toothpaste.  This homemade toothpaste has a pleasant flavor and keeps our teeth and gums feeling clean, though it doesn't have the flavor or foam of store-purchased toothpastes.  

*Updated 5/26/11: Our first batch lasted three weeks (we brush a lot) and we've made a second batch without coconut oil (the store was out when I attempted to buy it).  My love-the-foamy-minty-paste husband even tried it and was mildly impressed.  Hannah still loves brushing her teeth with her homemade toothpaste after meals.
the toothpaste mixture calling out for more baking soda

the premixed toothpaste mixture in a small canning jar

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Milwaukie Farmers Market

Mom's Day is the day we finally made it out to the Milwaukie Farmers Market.  What a great way to celebrate both motherhood and the spring bounty from our mother earth!  At this market, we said hello to friends, pet the plants, admired butterfly and bat boxes, wrapped our goods in our fabric bags, called out the colors on all the beautiful spring flowers, chomped carrots and spicy pickled asparagus, and left 25 pounds heavier.  Baby Liam slept in the stroller while Hannah and I perused the colorful delights of the market.

After strolling around the market once, we went back around to make some purchases.  We started with asparagus.  The farmer told us how he likes to prepare his asparagus.  "Fry it up in a pan for about seven minutes with onions and garlic, and then put it on the barbecue.  That gives it that tasty crunch!"  We will definitely give that a try with our asparagus.

We moved on to a very colorful stall filled with mountains of veggies.  After choosing our favorite kales, chard, and carrots, we had a lovely conversation with the farmer there.  He talked with Hannah about how it is hard work to be a big sister.  When she told him her baby is six months old, the farmer told her he has a three month old son at home.  

Then we were off to talk with a dairy farmer whose milk is "all natural" and "grass fed."  Of course I had to ask, "What does that mean?"  All natural to him means no hormones or antibiotics.  (When we return I can ask him what he does when a cow has an infection.  The answer I am looking for is he removes that cow's milk from the rest until antibiotics are out of the cow's system.  Organic farms butcher cows when they have an infection.  I learned how to question farmers from Growing a Farmer.)  We purchased a quart of the glass-bottled milk.  We paid about $1 for a bottle deposit, which we'll get back when we return the bottle.

My parents visited yesterday and took me to Al's Garden Center to choose some delicious plants for a belated birthday gift.  (A gift with minimal packaging!)  My purchases reflect my love for crafting my own tea.  My choices were two lavender bushes, an Echinacea plant, and a chamomile plant.  Hannah chose lemon cucumbers and pumpkins.  Now our plants need a little protection from the slugs.  Therefore, our next stop at the market this morning was to pick up a bag of hazelnut shells.  We'll lay the shells around the perimeter of our garden and its garden boxes to keep out slugs.  The hazelnut farmer said shells are about 90% effective at keeping out slugs.  The shells are great mulch, can be used as a child's tactile box (like a sand box), and are comfortable to walk on.

When Liam finally awoke, we stopped to listen, clap, and dance to the musician's songs about vegetables and children.  And then made our final stop: egg rolls.  Our friends recommended we try the egg rolls, so we chose a couple to take home for lunch.  And that is where I finally got out the camera to take a picture of Hannah, after she devoured the pork egg roll and a glass of local glass-bottled milk.  She can't get enough of the carrots.  This bunch will be devoured before dinner.  What a lovely way to spend Mom's Day with my children, outside taking in the sights and sounds of the local farmers market.  We can't wait to get back!  

The market is (by Ledding Library) on Main, between Harrison and Jefferson.  It is open Sundays 9:30-2:00.   

milk mustache and crunchy carrot provided by the Milwaukie Farmers' Market