Monday, September 21, 2009


Just as Sarah and I were about to sit down for lunch today, we saw a hawk with the same idea. He was on the swing set, 60 feet from the kitchen window. E's good lens allowed us to not only capture the moment but see his magnificent body in more detail. If you click the image, you'll view a 1000-pixel version.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

King Tut and the Honey Farm

©2009 - Sandro Vannini (photo courtesy of National Geographic)

Now Matt is out of diapers, the choices for weekend fun seem endless. In the last 4 weeks we've visited: Eagle Creek Park for canoeing, a street art fair, an unusually cool farmer's market and the circus. On Friday night Sarah and I attended the celebrated King Tut exhibit (much thanks for the tickets, Stacy!). On Saturday, the kids and I took in a fall festival at a local honey farm.

Tut was more interesting than I expected. I'm not a huge Egyptian history buff but seeing the artifacts in person was dramatic. The gold and inlaid artistry was amazingly beautiful. What I appreciated most about the exhibit was how simple it was organized. It was easy to read all boards and the information was both fascinating to me, as an adult, and attainable by Sarah (age 8). While I loved the hands-on opportunity to educate Sarah about the ancient culture, she seemed most absorbed in the "spooky" aspect. Recipients of a special pass, we viewed the exhibit after the museum closed. This was very exciting to a child who's seen Night at the Museum too many times. However, she didn't seem disappointed that a mummy didn't chase us back to the parking lot.

Getting to Hunter's Honey Farm was half the fun. The trees were starting to turn and we saw a lot of them––we essentially had an hour's worth of back, snaky, hilly country roads to reach the Farm's annual Festival. It was worth it though. The farm owner (a teacher/beekeeper who is the son of a teacher/beekeeper who was the son of a teacher/beekeeper) first gave us a very informative demonstration of the hive. The 30-minute bottling tour was also fascinating. We saw honey removed from the hive, clarified, and packed for distribution. I often bake with honey and was disappointed to learn that baking depletes all nutritional benefits BUT I learned about additional by-products like pollen and tincture which we may try some time. [Pollen has 96 nutrients and is the most "perfect" food; it has more antioxidants than any other food.]

At the Honey Farm, Sarah and I remarked how different the Tut trip was from the trip to rural Martinsville. What a funny coincidence though––5 minutes after we said this, the Honey Farm tour guide said, "Anyone heard of King Tut?" He proceeded to tell us how honey never spoils and how archaeologists discovered edible honey in his tomb. Go figure.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Little People

Our house is into "little people" lately. Matt can't get enough of his Fisher Price Little People. Once I showed him the Playmobil and Lego websites. Now he thinks my laptop exists for the purpose of showing him "the sets." Good thing his imagination is more abundant than my pocketbook and he also loves using blocks and cardboard boxes with his Little People.

Sarah's imagination has been stirred lately with The Borrowers. We've been reading it together. The vocabulary is more expansive than I remembered, the characters more complex. The story must be in Sarah's head a lot as she's always pointing out small household items that would work well for Pod, Homily and Arrietty. [Does anyone remember the British film version from the 1970s?]

Little people books would not be complete without mention of Mary and the Mouse, a charm of a book we discovered this year (from the words to the illustrations it's total candy) and Beatrix Potter's Tale of Two Bad Mice. The latter was a childhood gift from special family friends. I loved that book although I remember being absolutely horrified when the mice broke items in the dollhouse. I need to find it soon and read it again to both kids.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple-Oatmeal Crumb Cake

I have two notebooks overflowing with recipes collected over 30 years. The thing is, I ignore many of them––I seem to stick to my favorites. Here's one we tried recently. I cut it from Cooking Light years ago. The recipe makes a small cake––good for a day or two of snacking before moving on to another new-old recipe.

Apple-Oatmeal Crumb Cake

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. regular oats
1/3 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 c. chilled stick margarine or butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. apple juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg (or egg substitute)
1 1/2 c. coarsely chopped peeled McIntosh apple (about 2 apples)
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350º.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Combine the flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a bowl, and cut in the margarine with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Reserve 1/2 cup flour mixture for topping; set aside.

3. Combine the remaining flour mixture, baking powder, and baking soda, and add the apple juice, vanilla extract, and egg. Beat the mixture at medium speed of a mixer until blended, and fold in the chopped apple.

4. Spoon the batter into an 8-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup flour mixture over the batter. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool the cake on a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Abraham Lincoln

I have a weakness for children's books with pencil illustrations. Since my own childhood, I've adored the work of Garth Williams and Lois Lenski. Last year Sarah and I enjoyed discovering the books of Wanda Gág and learning about her life. This summer, while at the Abraham Lincoln Museum in IL, we discovered the partnership of Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire. Right now we are reading their book on Abraham Lincoln. The pencil drawings are fascinating and approachable and the book, which focuses on Lincoln's childhood and personality, would appeal to children age 4 and up. We are looking for more by these authors.

And, Happy International Literacy Day!