October 15, 2009

Science at the Kitchen Counter

Science comes naturally in the Leone household, with dear ol' Dad being a beaker-head and all. (That's actually how he referred to himself when we first met.)

Depicted in the following photos are two of our latest science endeavors...

1) Kathleen's two cell model replicas.

The first represents an animal cell.
The second represents a plant cell.
The cells are edible delights, the primary ingredient being the ever-useful Jello brand gelatin.
It did not take long for enthusiastic kids to gobble up said yummies.

2) Assorted bones found in a small pile on our property. (On our rural property, this is not unusual, given the agressive coyote population.)

Joe helped the kids piece together the bones to reconstruct the deceased. Using the internet for assistance in identification, they determined that the unlucky guy was an opossum.

October 10, 2009

Another Andrew in the House

When Uncle Andrew (my brother) came to visit, we suddenly had two wacky Andrews in the house. And two grown men sitting on the front porch talking earnestly about how to save the world.

Duathlon Boys

Charged up from their Kids Triathlon earlier in the summer, William and Andrew decided to enter the Fitchburg Kids Duathlon—a run-bike-run—event. What a ball they had! Eliminating the sport that was most difficult for the two of them (swimming) resulted in a truly pleasurable race event.

Both boys were extremely competitive and did exceptionally well in their age groups.

William had a neck-and-neck photo finish where he and another boy fought for third place. In the end, William earned fourth place (losing third place by just an inch).

He also learned a tough but valuable lesson in sportsmanship. We learned, after the finish, from witnesses on the course (we were stationed at the finish), that the boy who won third place had been purposely pushing and elbowing William the whole way. It's a shame that a third place trophy was won in this manner (causing William to miss the trophy), but it provided us an opportunity to talk about the challenges that life places in front of all of us and how we handle those challenges with grace and good sportsmanship, no matter the outcome.

I think Joe and I wanted William to win more than he did. So we had to bite our tongues and walk the good-sportsmanship-walk as well. There will be other races, and we look forward to them.

We are very proud of our running, biking boys. These two are going to be some competitors to reckon with in the coming years.

Healthier Eating

In an effort to improve our eating habits and drop our grocery bill, I've been doing some experimenting in the kitchen.

After years of "primal" eating where I've avoided sugars and processed foods, I'm trying to slowly move the rest of my family in that direction. (I also avoid grains, but Joe and the kids are not so interested in that whole idea...) I feel better and am certainly healthier and stronger as a result of these changes. I'd like to ensure the same for my family.

To achieve some of these healthy goals, I've started baking whole grain breads regularly. I highly recommend Baking Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This method has made regular bread-baking something that is do-able for me, despite my zany mothering, homeschooling, and chauffeuring schedule. I'd retitle the book "Baking Artisan Bread in Ten Minutes a Day" (and then it wouldn't sell so well), but seriously, this is a ten-minute a day thing. Pretty do-able!

Additionally, I've been experimenting with naturally fermented foods, such as kimchi. I made our first batch of kimchi with a plethora of cabbage that came from our garden. I zipped it up with some jalapenos (yes, I'm mixing Mexican food with Asian), and it was de-lish!

Recently, I perfected two recipes that I'd been trying to turn sugar-free for some time: Baked oatmeal and granola bars. The kids love the recipes, and although we sweeten the granola bars with dried fruit and add maple sugar to the baked oatmeal for a little sweetener at the table, the resulting foods are much more nutritious than your granola and oatmeal recipes.

Some of my favorite books that have kick-started us toward healthier eating include Nourishing Traditions, Primal Blueprint, Eat Clean, & Wild Fermentation.

On that note, I'm off to start some sprouts in our little sprouter thingy...

Homemade pita bread.

Fermenting veggies, on their way to becoming a big batch of kimchi.

Six jars of kimchi!

Therese Keeps Us in Stitches

Therese came up to me yesterday and said, "Mom, did you know that Sally* is old enough to wear bras now?"

I said, "Yes, Honey, I did know that. But how did you know that?"

Therese responded, "Because I saw her put one on."

Just to be silly and to keep the interesting conversation going, I said, "Do you wear bras, Therese?"

Therese laughed and responded that no, "of course" she does not wear bras.

I was kind of chuckling, and I asked her why not.

She responded with utter seriousness, "Oh, for goodness sake, Mom... Because I don't have any ARMPITS yet!" :)

* Named changed to protect the easily-embarrassed older sister.

October 4, 2009

Dolly Delectables

When Anna Marie and Kathleen were wee ones, they had a little book that provided numerous food-for-dolls ideas. Ideas for creating soups from mud and berries. Sandwiches from leaves and grass. Drinks from rain steeped with spearamint, served in leaf cups. The foods were elegant and intricate in their back-to-nature sort of way. The girls spent hours at a time concocting feasts for their dolls. The book (the name of which I can't recall, sadly) is long-gone, having endured too many days, even weeks, left out in the rain. Oops.

Nevertheless, the memories and the creativity remain, and the girls have passed down their love of making doll food to young Therese. Even the boys, though they be loathe to admit it, find themselves curiously drawn every so often to the foods upon which these dolls will feast.

On the menu, pictured below:
  • Chive, Mushroom & Clover Soup in Savory Mud Broth
  • Mud Doughnut with Poisonous Berry Jelly Filling
  • Marinated Mushrooms with Berry Delight
  • Mashed Queen Anne's Lace (aka: Mashed Potatoes)
  • Mud Butter & Berry Sandwiches with Whole Leaf Bread
  • Spiced Wood Chips and Dip

Does this look like your church?

Some cute kids and their magnificent church. (Check out that choir loft.)

Tween to Teen

Anna Marie is now a teenager! For years, she's been calling herself a "tween." At the ripe old age of 11, and then 12, she proclaimed that she was technically a teen, having advanced to that second decade of life. At long last, however, she can call herself a teen, and no one will debate the merits of that statement.

The teen years brought a milestone birthday gift: Anna Marie's very own laptop computer on which to do her schoolwork in the coming years. With online classes now a part of Anna Marie's school routine, the portability of a laptop (read: the ability to get away from noisy siblings during class hours) was becoming fairly essential.

Anna Marie avoided the emergency room on this birthday—a very good thing. Swapping the emergency-room tears of Birthday 2008 for jalapeno-induced tears of Birthday 2009, Anna Marie dined on the hottest foods that La Hacienda has to offer on her birthday dinner. YUM!

On our way home from La Hacienda, eager to eat Anna Marie's own homemade rhubarb crisp for birthday dessert, we were surprised by fireworks at the local country club. We are convinced that Anna Marie's entrance into the teen years provoked the fireworks spectacle by our fine locals.

Happy birthday, sweet TEEN Anna Marie!


My pal Barb recently compared our uber-serious, ever-crafty little scholar, Andrew, to Egghead from the ol' Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. The comparison had me me rolling on the floor laughing—for its utter aptness.

What do you think?

I say... I say... I think I do... I DO detect a resemblance...