Saturday, September 27, 2008

Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

This plant started sprouting up all over the yard last month, especially along the creek. I figured it must be some kind of weed, but the hummingbirds like it, so it's a good weed. Restoration Place, another blogger who's doing the 100 Species Challenge, had it in her list. So, now that I know what it is, I can list it as one of my 100 species!

I'm up to seven:
1. Poison ivy
2. Virginia creeper
3. Wild blackberry
4. Lamb's Ear
5. Great laurel
6. Fireworks Goldenrod
7. Orange Jewelweed

Bathroom renovations

Here are the before shots of our upstairs bathrooms.

The wall between the two bathrooms was knocked out to combine them into a big hall bath for the girls.

Coming soon: pictures of the master suite-to-be.

It's Fall!

We had a cold snap last week. Well, at least it felt cold to us relocated Floridians. I bought mini pumpkins for the kids, and Mary and I collected some fall leaves and sketched them. We tried to identify them, but so far no luck. To celebrate the fall (okay, to use up some left over sweet potatoes) Audrey and I made sweet potato bread. It smelled delicious while it was baking.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Apple Challenge

I found a new blog, Think! which posts weekly contraption building challenges. This week's was to:

Put the following items on the table:
3 drinking straws
6 toothpicks
3 large marshmallows (if you don't have any use 3 bandaids)
3 round plastic tops (size doesn't really matter -- we used the tops to bottled water)
18 lifesavers (or cherrios or fruit loops)
small apple

Tell students to raise the apple off the ground as high as possible for as long as possible. This time, they may use scissors during "construction" but may not use them to elevate the apple. Remember, the focus is the thinking part so if you don't have the exact materials, don't worry about it, just go with what you have. It is supposed to be fun and require no planning!

Mary's first design went for stability rather than height. We didn't time it because it looked like the apple would stay there forever, or at least until the marshmallows compressed enough.

Her second design held the apple about 2 inches off the table for 1:34.

Audrey enjoyed making contraptions with marshmallows and toothpicks, too. This one is a pufferfish. It's the only one of hers that doesn't have bites taken out of it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fireworks Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks')

When I was out shopping for a big bag of vermiculite for my square foot garden, one of the garden centers had a plant that looks just like the one that recently started blooming in my yard. I borrowed a pen from one of the employees so I could write down its name. Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks' or Fireworks Goldenrod. I asked the lady if goldenrod was what so many people were allergic to, and she said, "Goldenrod gets a bad rap. It's ragweed that causes most of the problems." She told me that bees and butterflies use goldenrod as a nectar source, and birds like the seeds. Some people consider it a weed, but it's a good kind of weed.

Now I have six:
1. Poison ivy
2. Virginia creeper
3. Wild blackberry
4. Lamb's Ear
5. Great laurel
6. Fireworks Goldenrod


I spent the weekend building a square foot garden. You start by making a 4x4 foot box, then fill it with good dirt (a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost), divide the box into 16 square-foot sections, and plant each square with something different. Last weekend I started assembling my materials: wood, screws, long strips of plastic for the grid, and my dirt ingredients. Audrey was eager to see what was in the big bags I brought home from the garden center. After I dumped the bags onto a tarp in the driveway, she helped me mix the ingredients by pulling each corner toward the middle. Then we decided the most effective way to mix the dirt was by turning it over and over with our "mama and baby shovels." She had a great time playing in the big dirt pile. She got a nice, long shower afterwards!

Today Audrey helped me plant and water broccoli, romaine lettuce, and pansies. She likes scooping, pouring, digging, and dumping, so gardening is a lot of fun for her.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nothing Artificial

According to Mary, nothing artificial is really artificial, because whatever it's made of is natural, even if you have to go a long, long way back to find the natural thing it's made of. After we told Scott about her observation, he told her about some PBS science shows he watched recently, and they got into an interesting discussion about how you get extra neutrons into atoms, how helium gets out of balloons, and how scientists discover smaller and smaller bits of matter. So, I'm off to visit the Real Science 4 Kids site to check out their Chemistry curriculum.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


While I was sweeping off the porch after the tropical storm that came through, I saved some acorn caps, leaves and bits of moss, and Audrey and I made clothespin fairies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Audrey likes to write letters. She can write her name (I have to help her spell it). She hasn't figured out spacing yet, so when she runs out of room after AUDR, she just puts the E and Y wherever there's room. She writes words and asks me to read them. R is one of her best letters, so her words sound like I'm clearing my throat or revving an engine.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mary's Carnival

Mary decided to host a carnival in our yard. She picked out 5 big kid activities and 5 little kid activities from a book called Unplugged Play, made invitations, and delivered them to all the kids she knows in the neighborhood. Everything required for the activities was stuff we had around the house. I helped Mary gather everything and set up. We were worried Tropical Storm Hanna would force us to reschedule, but she blew over, and we were able to go ahead with our plans. Here are some of the highlights:

Blindfolded Drawing