Saturday, April 30, 2011

Jaunt to the Parthenon, Nashville, TN

Sorry for the delay in updates here...had some technical difficulties uploading posts from a laptop in rural Kentucky!  Watch for some more posts coming soon covering the rest of our tour!

So Wednesday was my chance to exercise the inner geek in me and take the kids to The Parthenon in Nashville.  It's a life size replica of the "real" one over in Greece (of course!)  As we left Jellystone it was pouring rain and the kids were pretty grouchy about having to get in the car again.  The whole way there I was thinking to myself, "Why in the world am I doing this???  Why am I bothering to drive 100 extra miles for one building?"  Then we pulled into Centennial Park and the kids got their first glimpse of the Parthenon, and I knew why we "bothered".  They were in awe.  I had been there before and they looked at pictures online, but it didn't prepare them for just how cool this building is.  They eagerly raced out of the car and ran (still in the rain!) to check it out.  They counted the pillars (46 around the outside) and marveled at the huge stone steps and intricate carving.  Inside we took a quick look at the art museum in the basement, then headed to the main floor for the "main attraction"...the 45 foot statue of Athena.  The looks on their faces as we emerged from the elevator were enough to make my day!  And I was happy to see how much Lancelot (my oldest, age 8) remembered from our studies of the Greeks this year.  He read the information on the plaques and even knew quite a few things before he even looked at them.  The statue itself is painted with 8 lbs. of gold...we were all pretty impressed with that, and the main doors are solid bronze, weighing 7.5 tons each!  Believe it or not, I think The Parthenon has been their favorite stop yet (except maybe for "The Olde Gener'l Store" we went to this morning...think every KY stereotype all wrapped up in one glorious tourist shop!) 

The most important thing I wanted my kids to understand from this stop, though, was not just how impressive the building is, but what the Greeks built it for.  As beautiful and glorious as Athena may be, they know she is only made of rock and metal.  They know how sad it is that an entire culture would lavish so much time and so many resources on this "thing", and even build temples for it.  We are blessed to know and worship a Living God who does not dwell in statues or temples, but in our own hearts.  

"Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Aereopagus and said, 'Men of Athens!  I see that in every way you are very religious.  For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it is the LORD of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else...'"  Acts 17:22-25

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our American Cave Museum Experience

Courser family vacation Day 2 included a trip for the kids and I to the American Cave Museum in Horse Cave, KY while Dan was at work.  I was pleasantly surprised by the museum.  So many of the things to do around here are so "tourist-y" that I wasn't sure just what we were going to get, but this museum is very nice and professional.  There were several hands-on type exhibits that the kids enjoyed, ranging from the history of cave exploration to cave animal life and ground water conservation.  Many of the exhibits, however, required lots of reading, so we made our way through the museum pretty quickly.  The highlight, of course, is the tour of Hidden River cave.  Our tour was quite a bit shorter than usual since the river is flooded right now...but this turned out to be great for us because the kids were all pretty nervous about being "underground".  (Look for pics coming after we get home...I got a good number of shots of their backs as they high-tailed it OUT!)  We had our own personal tour guide since we were the only people in the museum!  She seemed quite knowledgeable and tailored the tour to my kids' interests.  (Most of their questions were things like, "Do caves ever collapse on people?  What if you got stuck inside?  Will we fall in the river?"  Things of that nature...) 

Sorry for the lack of pictures so far...I didn't pack lots of computer gear, so photos will have to come after we get home.  I must admit, Kentucky is absolutely beautiful this time of lush and green!  I could see myself living here, if I could pack up all my family and bring them here too!  I'm sure I would miss the winter Michigan snow, the Great Lakes, corn and wheat and brilliant shades of fall.  But in a year where the snow didn't all melt until mid-April, a week of balmy spring is a welcome change of pace:)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kentucky Family Vacation, Day 1!

We made it!  A full day of driving and we are happily settled into our lovely 2-bedroom cabin at Jellystone Park.  I'm too whipped to write much, but here's the highlights from the day...

Sir Percival keeps taking more steps!
My husband is an expert packer.  All our stuff stayed dry in an open trailer through hours of rain thanks to plastic storage bins and ratchet straps.
When traveling with a one-year-old, pack suckers.
"Ice Age 2, The Meltdown" is cute the first time.  The second time is really annoying.
Our kids are so amazing...they did so well during the LONG drive!  We're so proud of them and blessed by them!

More to come tomorrow...The American Cave Museum is on the agenda.  Good night everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

We're almost on our way to Kentucky!

This coming week our family will be taking a bit of a "surprise" vacation to the Mammoth Caves area of Kentucky (thanks to Dan's employer who is sending him there to work in their plant for a few days!)  We'll be driving down tomorrow and staying in a lovely two-bedroom cabin at Jellystone Park:)  So stay tuned throughout the week for "live blogging" from the Courser family vacation...hopefully not bearing too much resemblance to a Griswold family vacation...haha!  On the tour agenda: the American Cave Museum, a day trip down to Nashville to visit the Parthenon, the Creation Museum in Cincinnati, and of course a cave tour of the Mammoth itself.  This will also be my first attempt at cloth diapering on vacation.  Jellystone has its own laundromat...we'll see.  I may end up making a run to WalMart.  We're looking forward to sharing our little time away with all of you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Naturally dyed Easter Eggs

Easter has totally crept up on us, once again!  This post may be a little last-minute, but hopefully you'll find it in time to maybe give this a try!  We're planning on coloring our eggs on Friday, so these pics are from last year (at our old coming soon of our new house!)  This is really simple and I thought the eggs turned out quite nicely!  The procedure is basically the same for both blueberries and cranberries:

1.  Put 1 bag/1 lb. fresh or frozen berries in a sauce pan
2.  Add 2 cups water, bring to a boil, and cook and stir for about 5 minutes.
3.  Strain, cool
4.  Add a few tablespoons vinegar to help the dye adhere to eggs
5.  Dip away!  We found it helps to leave the eggs in the dye a little longer than with regular food dyes.

The yellowish eggs were dyed with tea.  Just steep it nice and strong and add a little vinegar.  This year I would also like to try using onion skins...I think they might give a deeper yellow.  We didn't find the tea dye to be very effective...

Let me know if you try any of these...simple, cheap family fun!  And please, whatever you do to celebrate Easter, make sure you share the real meaning with your children.  Easter eggs are fun, but they are only a reminder to us of the real thing: new life in Christ.  Jesus died for us, was buried, and rose again to save us from sin, death and the devil.  Take some time to read about it straight from the Bible and talk about it with your kids.  Your family will be blessed!

Eggs before...

Eggs in process...definitely best done outside!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Music Unit Study, part 1

This is just a rough outline of ideas for a week-long unit study on the basics of classical music from a biblical perspective.  Feel free to use my ideas, tweak them, and give me suggestions too!  We did this a few weeks ago in place of our regular history/science stuff because it seemed like music was always getting overlooked.  And to a music major and music lover, that's just unacceptable:)  Eventually I would like to turn this into a full-blown music of those "someday" ideas!

I should preface this by saying that we're studying ancient history this year and have talked a fair amount throughout the year about ancient music, Hebrew worship, ancient instruments, etc., so we had already covered Hebrew words of praise and things like that.  Maybe I'll put up a post of that sometime soon too, if anyone is interested!

I have broken the unit into 5 days of material; some days heavier than others depending on the amount of "other stuff" we had to do that day.  Of course you can feel free to schedule it however you want!

The Story of the Orchestra
The Bible
Noah Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament

1.  Song: "Shabach" (words can be found here, a video is here)
2.  Review Hebrew words for praise
3.  Read pages 42-43 in The Story of the Orchestra for an overview of the string   section
4.  Listen to the corresponding track on the cd

1.  Sword drills from Eph. 5:19-20, Psalm 100:1-2
2.  Review "Shabach"
3.  Read pages 44-45 in SOTO about violins and listen to the cd
4.  Color a violin

1.  Write a song of praise.  This turned out to be a tougher assignment than I expected.  We read a few Psalms and then I explained to my 8 and 6 year olds that they were going to get to write their own "psalm".  They panicked.  So we spent a few minutes writing words that described God on a dry erase board.  I then told them to use those words to write down what they wanted to say about God.  The results were not particularly "song-ish", but still a profound expression of the faith of children.
2.  Read pages 46-47 in SOTO about violas and cellos, listen to the cd
3.  Color a cello

1.  Word studies on "psalm", "hymn" using Webster's 1828 Dictionary and Vine's Dictionary.
2.  Read pages 48-49 of SOTO about the double bass and harp, listen to the cd
3.  Color a double bass

1.  Review string family instruments
2.  Make flipbooks to hang on your orchestra poster: String family mini-books
I laid out our poster in the same configuration as the diagram on page 43 of SOTO.  
3.  Sing songs of praise!

My goal is to continue doing a special "music week" maybe once a quarter until we get through all the instrument families (woodwinds, brass, percussion, and keyboard instruments).  From there I hope to begin working our way through the composers in The Story of the Orchestra.  I hope this is of some use, and I would love to hear your feedback!

American Dictionary of the English Language (1828 Facsimile Edition)

Our orchestra layout chart!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

...and here's the hat to match!

The little shoes from Amy Butler's Little Stitches for Little Ones turned out so cute that I just had to make the military-style cap to match.  And I must admit, the directions for this one were a leeeetle bit tricky.  I got turned around between all the right sides, wrong sides, linings, exteriors, and turning and ended up stitching it with the bill stuck in between the hat and the lining.  Oops.  But, it turned out ok in the end.  It only involved ripping off the bill and lining and redoing the second half of the instructions...

The sizing was a little off.  The hat definitely fits my 3 year old better than Sir Percival, but that was ok too because Percival would not keep the hat on for more than a second, but Sir Gawain loves it!  (Sorry about the picture quality...he was pretty excited about the hat.  Made it hard to "shoot" a moving target.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to make dandelion jelly

It's almost that time of year again...dandelion season!  At least the snow has all melted finally.  I think the last trace in the yard disappeared sometime this afternoon.  Hard to believe that last year at this time I had already made a batch!  But it's definitely not to early to start prepping.  This recipe is really so easy and the kids love to help.  The same procedure can also be used for violets, lilacs, or just about any edible flower.  Dandelion is delicious though.  The taste is a lot like honey.  Big thanks to my friend Jennifer for giving me the idea last spring!  Here goes...

1. OK, pick about 2 quarts of dandelion flowers, try to get as little stem as possible. Some recipes I read said to actually cut off the petals with scissors, but I didn't bother and it was fine! 

2. Put all the flowers in one big jar or container and pour boiling water over all of them, just enough to cover. Let it "steep" (like tea!) for several hours or overnight.

3. Strain through a jelly bag, pillowcase, coffee filter, whatever...then add enough water to equal 3 cups of liquid.

Combine in large sauce pan:

Dandelion "water"
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 package powdered pectin
couple drops yellow food coloring, if you want

Bring to a full boil to dissolve pectin, then stir in 5 1/2 cups sugar. Return to a full boil for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Ladle into 1/2 pint jars, screw on lids, and boil in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. That's it! Makes about 5 jars.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My favorite breakfast smoothie yet!

I'm always on the lookout for easy, nutritious, energy-boosting breakfasts, and smoothies are one of my favorites (and the kids love them too!)  Yesterday morning I hit on a real winner.  Sorry there's no picture.  We drank it all up before I had a chance!

1/2 bag frozen mixed fruit
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2-3 T. raw honey
juice of 3 oranges (somewhere around 1 cup or so?)
enough milk to cover the fruit (we use raw milk, but that's another whole post...)
2 eggs

Combine it all in the blender and puree until smooth.  Made enough for me and 3 kids.  For an extra kick of energy and flavor you could add some grated fresh ginger, and I really want to try it with coconut milk.  So delicious!

Monday, April 4, 2011

I just had to sew something...

so here they are!  I decided to go for the "Cutie Booties" from Amy Butler's adorable book Little Stitches for Little Ones.  I made them in the 9-12 month size and they barely still fit Sir Percival at 11 months...I guess he must have big feet.  Or I wasn't being very careful with the seam allowances:)  I'm not quite sure why I chose to sew booties for a baby that won't keep anything on his feet for longer than 3 seconds (I had to stick him in the high chair where he couldn't reach his feet just to get the photo!), but it sure was fun.

This was the first project I have attempted from the book, and it was really easy to use.  The included patterns were simple to read and all the directions were very understandable.  And in usual Amy Butler fashion, the pictures of the completed projects are just so beautiful that it's pretty much impossible to say no!  My next project is going to be the "military-style cap" to match the booties...