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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu Plan Monday 10/31/11-11/6/11

Meaty Monday: Slow Cooker French Dip with fresh fruit and veggies

Tasty Tuesday: Simple Slow Cooker Picante Chicken (I always add extra veggies to the slow cooker) over rice with fresh fruit

Wild Card Wednesday: Mommy and Daddy are eating out before Bradley class with the Bowmans; kiddos are eating organic chicken nuggets, green beans and fruit

Spaghetti Night: Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter only with green beans, since hubby doesn't like asparagus, and without Parmesan, since the big one (Ellie) and I aren't supposed to have dairy

Free-for-all Friday: Leftovers if we have any, freezer raid if we don't

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spider Web Weaving

Today we wove our own spider webs.  I would have preferred paper plates and yarn, but I don't have paper plates, and string was handier, so our webs aren't so fancy.  I cut notches in the cardboard, making them triangular to make them easier for small hands to control.  Ellie got frustrated pretty quickly because she thinks there's a right and wrong way to do everything.  Mikey doesn't quite have the skills to do this, so I had him point to where he wanted the string to go.

For the spiders, I frantically grabbed whatever was near (pom poms) because the kids were getting antsy.  Apparently I need to stock up on spider-making supplies.  Eh, well...we made fuzzy jumping spiders apparently.  At least I found the small googly eyes before bed; the kids were about to riot.

I didn't wait for the glue to dry before taking pictures, so ignore the extra white around the eyes.

Ellie's I'm-done-with-this web and color-controlled spider (so unlike her)

Mikey's I-prefer-red-orange-and-pink spider that we accidentally glued on the wrong side
My rainbow spider with different color eyes

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5-a-day books

A preschool blog I follow and love introduced me to the 5-a-day book plan.  When I found out about the 5-a-day book plan, where you read the same five books every day for at least a week, I knew it was perfect for our family.  I love themed story times, and anyone who's ever had a toddler or preschooler knows that children love to read the same books over and over and over and over and over...

Since Ellie is obsessed with spiders of late, I choose books about spiders this week.  I also had to include books containing spiders, since our library is surprisingly light on children's stories about spiders.

The three story books in this picture are The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle, Itsy Bitsy Spider (my kids love books that can be sung and songs made into books) and Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin, which is very entertaining.  I'm also reading "Little Miss Muffet" from a treasury of stories and poems.  I added Fuzzy Bee and Friends to get to five books.  Yes, I'm desperately in need of more spiders in our home library.  The three books featuring pictures of real spiders are just reference books we picked up while seeking out stories.

Wordless Wednesday

Handprint Spider and Crayon Resist Web

Ellie has been obsessed with spiders lately, probably because spider decor is everywhere this time of year.  She has been asking many questions, so I decided to focus on spiders this week.

I love handprint crafts because their little hands grow so quickly.  I got some inspiration from the many handprint spiders I've seen on Pinterest, and I gave the spiders and webs my own spin, no pun intended, based on the supplies I have on hand.

I have construction paper, googly eyes and glitter glue, along with crayons and watercolors, so our spiders are festive and our webs rectangular.  First, we drew the webs on white paper with white crayon and then painted over them with lots and lots of very wet watercolor.  The paint doesn't stick to the crayon, and Ellie sure tried to prove the physics wrong.  Mikey needed more help with drawing the web, so you see a giant asterisk on his that I drew holding his hand.  Neither child cared much for looking at one color for too long, so their webs are - well - what's another word for festive?  Ellie seemed to feel sorry for me when she saw that mine was not "rainbow."  The wet construction paper takes hours to dry, by the way.

While the webs were drying, I traced the four fingers and palm of one hand for each child on black paper.  I folded the paper and cut out the hand, yielding eight finger-shaped legs.  I then cut out ovals for the bodies.  I helped the children apply glue to one of the palms and press the other palm onto it.  Then I helped them apply glue to the other palm and place the body.  I applied the glue for the eyes because they aren't quite good enough with the glue yet.  They very capably affixed the eyes, though, both kids!  I let them go to town with the glitter glue, but - thankfully - the glues were low and hard to get out.  Mikey wanted to affix eyes to all his glue marks, but I convinced him he wanted to be able to see the colors and glitter.  When we got home from swimming class and dinner, I helped them glue the spiders to the webs.  I placed books on the spiders so they would dry flat.  Ellie insisted on hanging the spiders in the family room first thing this morning.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Appreciating the Red-tailed Hawk

We see Red-tailed Hawks almost daily because they prefer deserts and agricultural areas, in both of which we live.  They are easy to confuse with Common Ravens when they are silhouettes soaring above, but if you can get a good look at the shape of the wings, you can tell the difference.  This website has good pictures of both that will show you the difference.

I get a kick out of these raptors because they are actually very goofy.  Not only do they look goofy when they sit on street lights like pigeons, they like to yell at people in whose yards they are trying to hunt.  My parents had a juvenile that sat in their trees screaming at anyone who came outside, usually in the morning.  As it got older, it would squawk at us while waiting for bunnies and mice to put down their guard.  We were even lucky enough to see it dive for a mouse 20 feet from us, catch the mouse and then, lucky for the mouse, drop the uninjured mouse from its talons.

The monogamous Red-tailed Hawk may breed for life.  The last link below talks a lot about their courting and breeding.  Mating season is in the spring, so I'll try to keep my eyes open in a few months and see if I can catch any images of their dance.

Fun trivia: When you hear a raptor's cry on television, regardless of which bird is depicted, the call is usually that of a Red-tailed Hawk.

The first picture you saw in my post about the Baylands.  The second was also taken at the Baylands and represents well how I usually see these birds: sitting and waiting.  The others I took at Veterans Oasis Park, about which I will post another day.  One flew not ten feet above my head, but my silly camera wouldn't focus, so I missed the shot.  Still, we could see every feather.  It was really cool.  Below the pictures I've included some links if you'd like to learn more about this wonderful bird and see some great photos.

Update: These last three pictures have been called into question because they look like a Turkey Vulture.  While I admit they do, I also admit to a great deal of confusion.  At first glance in person, these birds looked different than Red-tailed Hawks, but I honestly couldn't see them well because of the sun.  The sun was above them, and every bird that flew over me, including the White-winged Dove, looked like a black silhouette.  The reason I concluded this particular bird was a Red-tailed Hawk was because he did a fly by.  He is the one who flew right over my head and was most definitely a Red-tailed Hawk.  Now, I have done some research into Turkey Vultures, and these pictures do appear to be of a Turkey Vulture.  So I will say this: if this is a Turkey Vulture, he and the hawk are masters of illusion.  My eyes never left this bird as he circled and eventually flew over my head.  So take it however you want.  It may be a tricky Turkey Vulture; it may be a poorly-lit Red-tailed Hawk.  This birding business is all about learning more about God's winged creations, anyway, right?


Backyard Birding

I recently signed up to "Celebrate Urban Birds" through The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in an effort to learn and teach my children more about our winged neighbors.  We enjoy backyard birding because the birds become so familiar.  We have yet to make our yard appealing to a variety of birds, but we are not wanting for variety if we venture out our front door.  We have, in fact, a resident Greater Roadrunner who occasionally runs alongside us on walks and often perches like a pigeon on less-than-dignified objects.  One day I found him on a storm drain.

Bounding through the Baylands

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to spend a couple days with my very best friend who I haven't seen in two and a half years.  Since she and I (and our husbands and children) are tremendous geeks, and proudly so, we knew a trip to the Baylands Nature Preserve in Palo Alto, California, would be perfect for our families.  Although we didn't get to see the Golden Eagles and Burrowing Owls we'd hoped we would, we still got a nice show.  I don't have much to say other than we'd be there every week if we lived there.  I will share some of my pictures.  The trip completely rekindled my love of birding that I'd abandoned in high school.  If you are in the area, be sure to stop by and give yourself a couple of hours, at least, to explore.

Red-Tailed Hawk
Needs no words
Gorgeous White Pelicans preening and stretching
and fishing
Before we made the drive to Palo Alto, we spent a few days in the San Diego area.  Even though my obsession with birding had not yet been rekindled, my love of photographing nature was alive and kicking (wow, that's a lot of metaphors), and I got a couple of shots of birds I don't see every day, if ever.

These first two are a Brandt's Cormorant that was diving and resurfacing so much and so fast that I had a hard time getting a good closeup, but it did stop to rest on a buoy.
If you've never seen a pelican up close, you don't realize how big they really are.  The Brown Pelican has a wingspan of over six feet.  This one made the loudest splashes every time it landed!
At first glance, thanks to the light, this Rough-legged Hawk appeared to be a Golden Eagle.  Another birder, who drew my attention to it in the first place, thought so, too.  Even though I was slightly disappointed to find out it wasn't when I blew up the picture, I was still excited to find out I saw a bird I've never seen before.
P.S. I gave picture captions a good test today (I normally just type them manually under the picture), so let me know what you think of the format.