April 22, 2014

Bread Roses : a Ridvan Snack

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It's officially Ridvan!  For 12 days we celebrate and remember the 12 days that Baha'u'llah spent in the Garden of Ridvan, where He declared His mission and met with friends and loved ones before His exile. It is in large part because of Ridvan that when the kids think of Baha'u'llah, they think roses.

There was apparently no doubt that Baha'u'llah loved roses, and in the Ridvan story, we read about how the gardeners would cut all of the roses from the garden each day and pile them in Baha'u'llah's tent, where the pile became so large that the people who came to drink their morning tea with Him couldn't even see Him over the pile of roses.  It's a rosy story!

We buy fresh roses every year during the Festival of Ridvan and we make rose themed art.  This year, though, I had the idea for making bread roses. My initial thought was to sculpt dough and then bake it, but we just baked bread for Easter, which was no big deal to clean up because no home buyer is going to ask to tour the house on Easter Sunday. But Ridvan? Yeah, your typical home buyer doesn't much care about Ridvan, and a buyer was scheduled to walk through this afternoon, making the whole dough thing was out of the question.  

But have you ever seen kids mash up a piece of sandwich bread into a little dense cube or ball?  I did it all the time as a kid and it becomes sort of like clay if you smoosh it enough. Each summer, in children's classes, we make clay roses and spray paint them red using a sculpting technique I learned many years ago at Girl Scout Camp. I thought maybe we could roll out some sandwich bread out flat and see if it would work like clay.  It did!  


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Just roll out a piece of sandwich bread with a rolling pin and then use a measuring cup to cut a circle or oval our of the slice.  A cookie cuter would do, but I already boxed up our cutter collection. I used a small, 1/4 cup to get my oval, and for the middle petals, I sliced that in half and rolled it with the rounded sides up.  After about 4 half ovals for the inner bud, I used 3/4 or full ovals for the outer petals, just wrapping them around and pinching really hard at the base. The outer petals look nicer if you roll them outward at the top a little.  

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the inner bud of 4 half ovals.
When your rose looks awesome and you're done, you'll want to lay it on its side and slice the big bulge on the back off with a sharp knife and then dip the new bottom in water for a split second. The pressure of the cut coupled with a little moisture will keep your rose in tact.

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complete bread rose bud
If you want to crisp it up and brown the edges, you can bake it on your oven's lowest setting for just a few minutes until the edges are golden.  Then you're ready to snack! Pull off the petals and dip them in honey for a delicious little treat that adds one more layer of roses to the day.  

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Hannah Jane has made the clay roses a hundred times, but she struggled a bit with her first bread rose. We discovered that once you cut out the circle, it helps if you mash the edges with your fingers to keep them smooth before you start rolling them into shape.  The more mashing, the better!

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Happy Ridvan, friends!  May your festival be filled with joy!

April 21, 2014

Kids Cook Monday : belated Easter bread


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We haven't cooked real food in our kitchen for weeks.  Keeping the house ready for buyers to walk through at any given moment has resulted in a lot of sandwiches and eating out or at friends' houses.  But for Easter, we needed a little something special.  Plus, meal times seem to be the most popular time to tour a home.

As you may have heard, we have historically stunk it up when it comes to cooking anything with yeast.  But this year, thanks to a lesson from some friends, we're sitting at about a 70% success rate.  So we decided to give this Greek Easter bread a try.  I knew within minutes of kneading the dough that it wasn't going to work.  Don't ask me how.  Call it a bread failure's intuition.  So while the kids kneaded some more, I made a back-up dough using the only bread recipe that has ever worked for me.

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As I suspected, after an hour to rise, the listed recipe dough was just sitting in a dense lump and the back-up dough was high and full of air pockets!

I used the better dough to make the shape of the Greek ring while the kids made the eggs.  We have never dyed eggs without those little Paas dissolving tablets, but the kitchen is almost completely devoid of food, and there in our empty lazy Susan stood a lonely box of food dye.  We added vinegar to that and it worked out just fine. Weird that I never thought of using what was on hand and always bought the kit.  

The kids each chose one of their eggs to tuck into the bread ring and we baked that baby up wit a a light egg wash.  
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It turned out lovely and the kids collected green, leafy bits from around the property to garnish it.   I wasn't sure what all the greens were, or if they should touch food, so I made a little foil platform to put the bread on so that it didn't actually touch the greens, and then we put the dandelions in the middle because those we knew were fine.  

My dear friend Barb invited us over for Easter brunch since we're away from Joe and half of her family is away too.  It was so nice to have something lovely to contribute to the amazing spread she prepared. The eggs were supposed to hard boil while the bread baked, but I was worried about being late, so I rushed the bread a little and the eggs were only soft boiled, which the kids have never seen before, so they freaked out a little about the weird egg texture.  But whatever. It was gorgeous and we will totally make this every year because it has a wholesome wow factor. 

Hope you had a wonderful Easter!

To see what other kids are up to in the kitchen, pop over to the Kids Cook Monday and check it out!

April 16, 2014

Math Takes All Kinds


Math

We pulled out some folder activities for school work today just to do something a little different and because almost everything else is packed in a box.  Including the batteries for my camera, so please excuse the poor quality of my phone pics.   Folder activities have a way of feeling like more fun than regular school work just by virtue of being in a colorful folder, and the kids feel a little bit like they're getting away with something when we do them.

With the perimeter folder, I had a really fun time just observing how very different their approaches are to math.  The boys, when handed the same stack of materials, use them in completely different ways and still come to the right answer.

Yesterday I allowed the boys to just tinker with the perimeter folder.  Basically, they take a card that tells them how many bricks around a rectangular building should be, and then they take that amount of bricks and make the rectangle.  Sounds easy enough, but when you just randomly go at it, pretty much every time you'll either close the rectangle and have bricks left over or the ends will never actually connect.

I let the boys try and fail as long as they wanted yesterday, huffing that it just never quite worked out and determining to try again.  Today, however, I guided them with some questions.  "What do we know is true of all rectangles?"  They agreed that they all have two sets of same length sides and that those sets are not the same length, or else it becomes a square.

I just randomly grabbed a handful of bricks from the pile and gave them to Hunter, and gave Haven what was left.  "So, if Hunter's pile of bricks make up one set of sides and Haven's make up the other, what should you both do to determine how long your set of sides will be?"  Again, both boys agreed that they needed to divide them equally.

But how they went about it was so different.  Haven immediately started counting his bricks.  Hunter watched for a second and the rolled his eyes and got busy dealing his like cards into two equal piles on opposite sides of his pencil.

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Doesn't he look like he's talking you into buying a car?

Haven said, "I have twenty-two bricks.  Now I just need to know what number I can add to itself to get twenty-two!"  Haven was proud of himself for his plan, but Hunter huffed, "You mean you want to divide twenty-two by two and then the answer will be eleven. Okay?"  I explained that those were two ways of saying the same thing, so technically Haven was on the right path.

Haven wasn't at all bothered by this kind of interruption.  In fact, he looked wowed by his brother's quick assessment and just said, "Hmm, I think you're right!  Eleven!"  and began to count out eleven.

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Hunter just counted the bricks on one side of the pencil and called it a day.  I would normally consider Hunter's approach of just sorting out physical objects and counting them later to be a lower order approach, but he clearly demonstrated that he understood Haven's way, and just preferred not to use it.  Haven tried Hunter's way on the next round, didn't like it, and went back to his way.

Once they had both come up with the size of their walls, they put their bricks together to make a rectangle on the table.  They both seemed a little shocked that it worked out after all of the trying and failing to construct a simple rectangle with a given perimeter the day before.  They stayed at the table and did a few more and Haven came into my room and said, "Mom, it works like every single time! Isn't that weird?"

"Nope!  It's math!  It really works every time once you figure out how to approach it instead of just guessing."  He beamed a super proud smile, puffed his chest out a little, and exited with a little more swagger than he had when he came in.  He was feeling all math proud and that made me feel all Momma proud.

It got me thinking about the trend to have kids solve every math problem 4 ways.  I think it stems from the very positive realization that there is more than one way to get to the right answer and that all ways to that answer are valid.  Still, if we understand that kids all think differently, maybe we should allow them to arrive at the answer in their own way without forcing them to learn everyone else's way.  I mean, for some kids, we're just lucky if they find one way that works for their brain.  Why then burden them with an obligation to get the right answer 3 other ways that are less intuitive for them?

I'm feeling happy that the boys have the luxury of doing it how they do it without worrying about having to do it some other way.  I did mention to them, though, that with the Common Core testing, they'll probably be asked to do it several ways, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to just make mental note of what the other one is doing.

Hands-on lessons like these always teach me so much about how the kids learn.  So much fun!

April 14, 2014

Kids and Consumerism

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The kids have been flying through their core academics lately and we've got all of this left over instructional time to fill.  It's been a lovely problem to have. The kids voted to spend our extra time on self-improvement type classes to get ready for a completely new life in Oregon.  I'm on board with that!

Today we tackled the issue of consumerism.  I think we talk a fair amount about this on a pretty regular basis, but I don't feel like it has really sunken in for them. They know the language of non-consumerism, but they live in a world of stuff.  Everything is easy to come by and plentiful.  They have no notion of anything being irreplaceable.  They live in a disposable world.

We had a year of no spending that ended in February, in which the kids' meager allowances accrued and went unspent for a full year.  We didn't go to the Dollar Tree for random junk, we didn't buy toys or clothes that were unnecessary, and we didn't buy junk for the kids just because they didn't have their own money to spend.  I had hoped that they would experience how fine they are without bringing new stuff into the house all the time.

But stuff still came in at a pretty steady rate because you can't make everyone else stop giving your kids stuff.  It is just a fact of American life.  How do you raise a non-consumer in a world that gives your kids major piles of junk on so many occasions?  It's never ending!  You'd have to be a hermit to avoid it.  

Consider birthdays.  Why does there have to be a gift for every guest?  And for siblings?  There's only one birthday kid at the party and it seems kind of crazy that now it's considered a lousy party if every kid doesn't come home with their own gifts.  And kids go to so many birthday parties that the house quickly fills with small, unnecessary plastic objects that get stepped on and thrown out. What a waste!

 Hannah Jane even asked this past year for her guests to bring a small donation for her favorite charity instead of a gift and all but a few guests brought a gift and a donation.  The idea of no gift was unimaginable.

My dear friend recently saw some dinosaurs that made her think of Hunter.  She bought them for him, but then felt like she had to give Hannah Jane and Haven something of equal value, so she pulled out the receipt, calculated the cost and decided to give the other two the cash value of the dinosaurs.  But then she worried that Hunter would wish that he had gotten cash as well, so she added five bucks to everyone's gift so that he would also have what they had.  I mean, very sweet and clearly thoroughly thought out gift.  But completely unnecessary.  If anything, kids should really learn that in life, nothing is handed out in equal portions all the time.  I'm pretty sure Hannah Jane and Haven would have been happy for Hunter and I'm pretty sure he'd have shared the dinos.  But instead, a kind gesture turned into the kids making bank on a random Friday afternoon because my dear friend had clearly stressed a great deal over the fairness of this transaction.  In the end, it felt unfair to the gift giver that she felt she had to consider so many issues just to give a kid a dinosaur.  

Long story short, consumerism feels almost unavoidable.  Like there's no real polite way to opt out. 

So today when our regular school work was done, we watched this really great video called the Story of Stuff.  We paused it regularly because some of the concepts that were mentioned in passing were over the heads of the 6-10 crowd, like the fact that you can't sustain a linear model in a finite system.  But overall, I thought it was very kid friendly and engaging.


In the end, Hunter's response was, "I already figured all of that out.  That's why I tell you not to drive so much.  We should just ride our bikes everywhere.  Then we wouldn't pollute and we wouldn't have time to buy so much stuff."  He's a simple, cut to the chase kind of man.  I like it.  I'll never be sure, though, if he cares about the planet as much as he claims to, or if he simply sees it as a reasonable excuse to spend more time on his bike.  Either way, I like the plan!

Hannah Jane expressed a great deal of shame and the feeling that she might not be strong enough to do the right thing in a country of super consumers.  This is when Haven mentioned his new plan to run for president, ban commercials and limit what people can buy.  This is always his solution to every problem.  When he was just 3, he started saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to be the government," and he still says that at least weekly.  "That's wrong!  I'm going to be the government and fix it!"

We had lots of great discussion after the video and I encouraged the kids to not just feel bad about the situation, but come up with practical ways to step out of the consumerism cycle.  Haven added, "If you feel bad about yourself because you're a consumer, then you'll just go out and buy something to try to make yourself feel better!  And then it will never end!  Stop it!  Stop it!"  Hannah Jane laughed and said with his enthusiasm, maybe he really should run for president.

Tomorrow we're going to work on a family list of kid friendly ways to resist participating in super consumerism.  These kids are pretty interested in this topic, so I expect we'll get a pretty good list.
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