Monday, April 27, 2009

Homeschool Musings

We've been fortunate to have experienced mostly positive responses from folks we've met, when they realize we are homeschoolers. Some have expressed surprise or amazement, while others have seemed respectful, even awed. Then there are those who just appreciate it, and are encouraging. Public school teachers, both current and retired often fall in the last group, as well as Librarians. We've even had Public School Teachers comment that if they had school age children they would never send them to public school, opting to teach them at home instead.

We've had people run to meet us at the beach, saying they could tell at a distance, by the way our children were acting that we were homeschoolers. Those are some of the more fun interactions, as well as those who immediately take it on themselves to perform a verbal mini test on our children. That bothered me in the beginning, but then I began to appreciate the reactions when my children passed those "tests" with flying colors,then proceeded to explain related factors that were way beyond the level they were being quizzed on, leaving the questioners shaking their heads in amazement.

Some of the comments we receive are disturbing, even in their positive tone towards us. Those who say they "could never do that!", then proceed to explain how their children are beyond their control, or how they could never get their children to sit down and listen to them, how they wouldn't be able to keep their children from deciding to go outside and play rather than doing their schoolwork.

The comments I find most disturbing though are those that are made right in front of these people's children. One father actually told us how much he looked forward to sending his children off to school so he wouldn't have to deal with them for the day. That just made me sad.

I find it interesting to note that the few truly negative comments we've received have been from those folks who feel they have no control over their own children, or those like the father mentioned above. Then there are those we've received from the children of those parents. One notable in that group would be the children of parents who were amazed at our children's knowledge in a particular subject, the father commenting that he'd had to go to college to learn what our then 8 and 9 yr. olds knew. It's instances such as these that make me wonder if jealousy may play a large part in those children's attitudes.

Although it can be challenging at times, we enjoy our homeschool experiences. We appreciate the freedom to work individually with each of our children, making the most of their interests and skills, working to increase their skills in those subjects they may struggle in. We also make the most of the opportunities to teach our children (and learn from them!) in a manner which works the best for them.

We have the utmost respect for Public School Teachers! I can't imagine trying to teach to a whole classroom full of students from so many different backgrounds, and to somehow manage to get across to the majority of those students, in spite of their varying personal optimum styles of learning. How frustrating it must be for those educators to be bound by government regulations to "teach to the test". Where's the room for creativity, and personal growth for those children who don't quite fit the mold? There are those who are being held back from their potential by grade level, then there are those who need a little extra help, or just a different style of teaching, that will be left behind, or merely pushed on to the next grade level with their peers, never quite able to grasp the concepts. Obviously, with classrooms consisting of dozens of children there needs to be some way of measuring success. After all, it would be difficult at best for a teacher to be able to evaluate each student on performance outside of tests.

This is but one area that homeschoolers have a great advantage. Not only do we know our children better than anyone, but we have a much smaller teacher/student ratio. We are able to evaluate our children on a more personal, and I believe more effective, level than formal testing. This is one reason I would like to see Oregon take the long over due step of creating a more homeschool friendly environment for those of us who have chosen to educate our children at home.

Homeschoolers have proven themselves in Oregon (and across our nation!). We deserve to have more freedom with our children's education. We should not be forced to "teach to the test". Mandatory testing, as well as mandatory reporting of intent to homeschool creates an unnecessary expense, both for individual homeschoolers, and for tax payers. Rather, we should be given the option to test our children ourselves, in our own way, including the option to have them tested by the general education standards, but without government oversight. Our children are not all cut from the same cookie cutter. That's one reason we choose to teach them at home. We've been teaching them from the time they were born. We know their unique learning styles better than anyone. We have the time, the patience, and the desire to rise up, meet, and conquer any challenges those learning styles may present. What we need to complete the equation is the freedom to pursue the tools available for those learning styles, without fear of repercussions from our state government. Give us the freedom to teach our children in a manner which we know is the very best for them!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Author Search..And A Movie In 3-D!

We went to town on Friday this last week. The kids got a great assortment of books from the library, and we managed to make it to the Grocery Outlet, which we missed doing last week, so stocked up a bit this time. I just love seeing how much we save at that store! This time we spent about $64, and saved about $52. Not bad!

Regarding Library books, we're looking for new Authors for Nathan to discover. He really enjoyed Jean M Auel's books, but wasn't crazy about all the "romantic stuff". I have to say, I agree with him there. Although in general I enjoyed the books as much as he did, I thought she went into a bit more sexual detail, and repeated those details too often for my tastes. Fortunately, Nathan is real good at picking those portions out, recognizing when she's leading into it and skipping over it, but still, it would be nice to find something that didn't include all that in the first place for him.

Another Author Nathan really enjoys is Michael Crichton, although it wouldn't hurt my feelings in the least to find an Author that didn't use quite so much "adult" language for his reading pleasure.

I guess his reading interests tend towards Historical Fiction and adventure. He reads at the college and adult level, but also enjoys "young adult" books, especially when they are in a series. He's not really into Sci Fi, and definitely not into "Romance". He does like Nonfiction, but likes a bit of adventure and/or animals involved. Any ideas?

Saturday Night At The Movies

Last night we watched the most entertaining film! The 2008 version of Journey To The Center Of The Earth was a visual delight. Fortunately, we still had our 3-D glasses from the big Superbowl event, so we donned those and enjoyed the movie in all it's intended glory. We did find it a bit irritating, trying to determine when we wanted to wear the glasses, and when we would get more out of it without. It seemed that the appearance of the glowing bird was an indication that a 3-D moment was nigh. If you watch this film, be sure to grab some glasses, and have them ready for use, starting with the scene when they're looking up at the ceiling they notice is "Moving". I also thought the cart ride, prior to the "moving ceiling" was good with the glasses, though Pa thought it was just as good without. Although, at some point we will probably get one of the earlier versions of this film to watch, I think the bits of more current technology, such as the cell phones, made this movie more relevant to the kids than the earlier versions might, and of course the 3-D aspect was cool ;-) Honestly, we all agreed the best of the 3-D was the very end, when they run the credits. Really a fun movie for families with preteens and older!

Hope you all are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meatloaf (no tomatoes!) On The Barby

Last nights dinner turned out great!

As you may recall we purchased a new range a couple years ago. We have since learned that the new "improved" technology doesn't necessarily get along so well with our area of the boondocks. Our mini region is well known in the greater area as one that is prone to power outages and brownouts. We've learned to live with that to a point, but we've found the newer electronics are rather dependant on a more steady flow of power.

While I did enjoy our new range, especially the oven for a time, it didn't take long for us to realize that it just wasn't cost efficient to keep it in working condition. Every time we had an outage, or worse, a brownout, we found ourselves having to shell out better than $100 to replace the "brain" so the oven would work again. Seeing as this happens several times a year, we finally just gave up. At least the stove top still works...

Being without a workable oven can be frustrating at times, especially for someone like me who likes to bake! Therefore, I have found myself searching for alternate ways to prepare those items I would normally pop in the oven. There are some things I'm guessing I'll never quite manage to accomplish. Sweet items are at the top of that list. Slowly but surely, I am managing to come up with solutions for other things, such as meatloaf!

I've been wanting to play with meatloaf for some time now. After our success with the Easter ham, utilizing indirect heat in our kettle grill, I figured why not try a meatloaf using the same method? And so, I did! Naturally, considering I was experimenting both with new flavor combinations, and a new to me cooking method, I was nervous about the outcome. By the end of our meal last night, I was just tickled with how successful my experiment turned out to be! The only negative was... everyone liked it so much, there was only a wee bit left over. There's just enough for the kids to each have sandwich for lunch today. That means no meatloaf omelet for me! I guess I can live with that, just this once ;-)

There were a few detours between the beginning of my latest experiment and the end though. It started out simple enough, though I did make the mistake of requesting Pa's input on the amount of one ingredient. I thought I might go with 1/4 cup of the sweet chili sauce. He thought 2 Tbsp. would be plenty. I went with his suggestion and continued on.. I had everything all mixed up, and popped it in the pan, carefully molding it to the desired shape when Pa mentioned I might want to throw some bacon underneath it. *sigh* I dumped my carefully molded creation back in the bowl, placed bacon in the center of the pan, and repeated the shaping process. I covered it and popped it in the fridge to hang out until cooking time neared.

It was fortunate I decided to do things up ahead of time as, perhaps 30 minutes later I realized I had forgotten to add the garlic! Alrighty then! Back to the kitchen. Once again I dumped the whole mess back in the bowl, fished out the bacon slices, placing them back in their rightful place in the baking pan, and added the garlic to my mixture. It was then I realized Pa wasn't watching. Ha! Opportunity! I quickly snuck the bottle of sweet chili sauce out and measured another Tbsp. into the bowl before mixing it all up again. I figured it was only right. This way it was a compromise, half way between our original ideas ;-) Back in the pan it went, carefully formed into yet another loaf shape, topped with two more bacon slices, sitting in the fridge looking pretty, until the magic moment when it came out and was lovingly placed on the grill.

I had a hard time coming up with a name for this creation. After thinking about it for a bit, I realized my inspiration came from two culinary lessons from homeschool. The first being German, the second being Asian. Of course my more American tendencies are represented as well, and so I came up with a name....

East Meets West Meatloaf

1 lb. grnd. beef
1/2 lb. mushrooms. sliced
1 onion, chopped
about 1 cup shredded carrots
OR 1/2 cup each shredded carrots & shredded zucchini
1 cup applesauce
3 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
OR 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 sleeve saltines, crushed
6 ginger snaps, crushed fine
2 eggs
2 slices bacon (optional)

Mix everything except bacon until well incorporated. If using bacon (recommended if using kettle grill method), cut the strips in half. Place 2 half slices in bottom of pan*, form loaf over the bacon, then top with other two slices. Bake in oven at 350º for about an hour, or til done, or bake in covered kettle grill over indirect heat about 1 1/2 hours, or til done.

Note: Naturally, if cooking this out on the grill, the cooking times are going to vary. We checked it every 45 minutes or so. Once the juices were running clear, I pulled out my meat thermometer and inserted it. It read between 170º and 180º, so I figured it was done. We used the bacon as a sort of "insurance" as we didn't want it to burn. Although the meatloaf turned out incredibly moist, it did show signs of wanting to stick on the bottom, and so I would suggest using the bacon on the bottom.

* Rather than using a loaf pan, I opted to form the loaf within a 9" square pan, with good results. If you decided to try it in a loaf pan, please let me know how it turns out!

As noted, it was wonderfully moist. However, this also resulted in a texture that was not perfect slices friendly. More of a scoop it out thing. I'm thinking a bit less moisture, perhaps cutting the applesauce back to 3/4 cup, might rectify this if you're looking for slice ability...

The flavor in this was wonderful, but, I was going for a family friendly dish, so I held back a bit with the sweet chili sauce. Pa and I ended up drizzling extra chili sauce over our portions. If you're cooking for more grown up taste buds, you may want to add 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce, rather than the 3 Tbsp. I'm also thinking a combination of half beef/half pork would be good in this.

One more thing! Bell Peppers! Unfortunately, I had none for this experiment, as I used it up on Sunday, but I really think it would be a great addition. Red, green, or both!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kitchen Experiments And A Movie!

It was a busy weekend at our little home in the boondocks!

After our shopping trip on Saturday, I had plenty of goodies to choose from for ingredients for Sunday's dinner. Among all the other goodies we acquired was a 2 lb. bag of jumbo shrimp. With that calling out to me, it wasn't difficult to decide what to play with for our Sunday meal! I chopped up an onion and a red bell pepper. Then I crushed and minced a couple cloves of garlic, and I finely minced about a 1/4 cup of fresh ginger. I popped all that in the pan which had been busy heating up a a bit of vegetable oil. I cooked and stirred all that until the onion started to turn opaque. I then scooted the whole mess off to the side and added the shrimp I had cleaned and shelled. I cooked that, turning it once, until it was pink, and removed it.

By this time the wonderful aroma I'd been enjoying in the kitchen had filled the whole house and was drifting outside where it reached my children's noses. They began visiting me more often then, checking on my progress, asking when dinner would be ready. Not long now...

Once I removed the shrimp I added a cup each of coconut milk and unsweetened pineapple juice to the pan. I hesitated for a moment to enjoy the new scents, then proceeded to add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. It was then it occurred to me that the sauce was going to need something to add some "body". I removed a bit of the liquid, stirred it up with a couple teaspoonfuls of cornstarch, then added it back in with the sauce in the pan. That thickened things up a bit more than I wanted but it worked. Next time I think I'll stick with 1 tsp. of cornstarch to make it more of a light sauce than a gravy consistency...Anyway.... It was pretty much done now. I just popped the shrimp back in and stirred it a few minutes to heat through.

While all this was going on I had some rice cooking on a second burner, and broccoli steaming on a third. Amazingly it all was finished at the same time! I served the shrimp & sauce over the rice with broccoli on the side and lime wedges.

This little experiment actually turned out pretty good, considering it was all kinda put together as I went along. Pa and I both thought it was missing something, but we like things a bit more "kicky" than the kids do. They thought it was great just as it was. Pa and I found squeezing the lime over it all really perked it up for us. Next time I think I'll add a green bell pepper, and maybe something else...I haven't figured out the something else yet though. Any ideas? It needs just a wee bit of a "kick!"

Yesterday was another beautiful sunny day. I decided to take advantage of the sun and get some laundry done. It's so nice to smell that sweet fresh aroma on our clothes again! I really miss that during the winter months.

Saturday Night At The Movies

This week the kids chose something a little different than the "usual" fare for the Saturday night viewing. I found Enchanted ,narrated by Julie Andrews to be amazingly entertaining. The kids loved it, and Pa and I had fun picking out the classic story lines it was borrowing from. The kids even noticed a few, and got quite a kick out of that. I don't think this would be a good movie for younger children to watch, at least not without their parents close by, as there are a few scary scenes. Think Snow White, but more realistic, as well as a bit of King Kong, only subbing a really mean dragon (or serpent of some sort) for the big ape. My 10 and 11 year olds both thought it was great though.

This evening, I'm having fun with another kitchen experiment. This time we're utilizing the outside grill though, so Pa gets to help! The grill also adds another element to the experimental aspect so...Keep your fingers crossed it turns out. After all, there's no pizza place nearby to call in case of emergency in the boondocks ;)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fun Friday = Tardy For Library Day

Somehow, we managed to put off our weekly trip to town for two whole days this week. Thursday, Pa was busy with things that he didn't manage to finish until late in the afternoon, so we decided to put it off until Friday. Friday, school lasted much longer than we anticipated, so we put it off once again.

Friday, which we have dubbed "Fun Friday", was just that. Pa had spent several years in Thailand many years ago, during the Vietnam era, and had chosen to live off base with the locals. This enabled him to make friends, and experience what to us would be a rather unique lifestyle. It also enabled him to get some really great pictures!

Friday, the end of our lessons on Thailand, Pa treated us to a fun, interesting, and quite educational lesson. He brought out all the really cool statues, figurines, and musical instruments he had brought home with him so many years ago. He also passed around oodles of pictures, of his neighbors and friends, their children, and of the countryside. We all thought the pictures of the rice paddies were interesting, as well as the market places, and the homes. Lindsay was quite taken with the instrument that resembled a guitar, while I liked the one that reminded me of a violin, and we all thought the Kaen was way cool. The Kaen is an instrument made of a bunch of bamboo pieces, with tiny little holes on either side of the "mouthpiece". Very cool, although I have to wonder how in the world one would manipulate all those holes, especially considering how many "tubes" there are on this particular Kaen. I think I counted 16? It would be fun to try though!

Throughout Pa's demonstration, and again afterwards, he was peppered with all kinds of question. It was near 4 PM by the time school was dismissed for the day. No way were we going to make it into town that day!

This afternoon, after the kids' Saturday morning shows were finished, we got ready and headed into town. First stop was the Library, where we were almost immediately stopped by the Librarians, letting us know this was not Thursday, nor was it Friday. What were we up to?? Hehe. I told them we were just trying to keep them guessing. They laughed, and informed us that they had even talked it over, wondering where we were, amazed we hadn't shown up as usual. Maybe next week we'll really shake things up and decide to go in on a Wednesday for a change...

Fortunately, we managed to leave early enough, that we were also able to make it back home in time for the kids to enjoy the beautiful sunshine. They're having a great time outside, as Pa is heating the charcoal up in the barbecue for tonight's dinner. The cats are also enjoying the extra attention they get when the kids are spending the day outside. I think the cats are probably also getting excited to see Pa messing with the barbecue. They do seem to enjoy that show. I wonder if it might have anything to do with the aromas that are inevitably emitted shortly after he fires it up?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hold The Salt And Pass The "Round-Up"

It seems the chemical companies are a tad upset with our First Lady.

Michelle Obama has planted a garden. Rumor has it she had some help. She invited a group of 5th graders to help her out, as a school project. It is also my understanding that the produce from the garden is to be utilized in the White House meals.

The chemical companies don't have a problem with Michelle Obama growing a vegetable garden. I'm assuming they don't have a problem with the First Family consuming the produce from the garden, or serving it to their guests.

What the chemical companies do have a problem with is that Michelle has chosen not to serve a "healthy" dose of chemicals along with the fruits and vegetables she is growing. It seems Michelle has chosen to go organic. The chemical companies are concerned that she is sending consumers the wrong message. They seem to think she should be out in her garden with a plastic jug, fitted with a nozzle, and a brightly colored logo depicting one of their companies prominently displayed on the side. In order to be fair, I suppose she should also don a big floppy straw hat which has also been affixed with a logo, of yet another chemical company. Perhaps her children could be pictured waving little banners with the logos of any other chemical companies that may want to be included in this homey little display. But no, this First Lady has chosen to forego the chemicals.

How dare the First Lady of our country deprive her family of the chemicals so readily available, so conveniently packaged for the general public's consumption? Has she not heard and accepted the wisdom in the phrase, "Better living through chemistry?" Perhaps she is unaware that "chemistry" and "chemicals" are interchangeable in that phrase.

Then again, maybe Michelle Obama just missed the memo stating it was our patriotic duty to do everything possible to support big business, especially those that abuse our environment, even if that means willingly ingesting the poisons they offer.

Hasn't she heard? It's the American way!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Day!

It's interesting how our young'uns change their ways as they grow older. There are two holidays in particular that we have noticed some pretty big changes.

In years past, Christmas and Easter Eves have found Pa and me anxiously awaiting droopy eyes, signalling the time when our children might be finally wearing down enough we could send them off to dreamland so we could get busy with our preparations for the following morning. Since that rarely happened in good time, we usually ended up sending them off to bed still wide awake and excited. Then it was a matter of doing our best to be patient, hoping at some point the darkness, and lack of activity as they lay in their beds would finally take over and cause them to fall asleep.

Last night, unlike those significant nights of the past, the kids surprised us by announcing, a full 10 minutes before their usual bedtime, that it was time for bed. They both headed in with their books and settled in, awaiting the nightly "tuck in" ritual. An hour later, they were both still awake, but quietly reading with their booklights.

Since we had been informed, once and for all, that they knew who the Easter Bunny was, and that "he" actually consisted of two adults they were both quite familiar with, we felt it was safe to proceed, with little fear of being surprised by a child wandering out of their room.

The table was cleared, freshly wiped down, and covered with the Easter table cloth. The baskets came out and were filled with green paper "grass", saved from last years festivities. Various packages of candy were opened, and emptied into reuseable plastic eggs which were lovingly placed within the "grass" lined baskets, along with a stuffed critter for each and bookmarks which I had created from pictures taken of the kids, cropped in "paint", printed onto glossy paper, and cut to size before being slipped into two plastic bags, packaging left over from some earlier purchased items. Two large chocolate bunnies were placed between the two baskets, which were happily discovered by our two eager munchkins this morning.

The eggs the kids colored yesterday were hidden and found, along with a few more pieces of candy, and all the goodies have been sorted, counted, and resorted multiple times. Of course, each time they are sorted the count becomes lower ;-)

We're trying something a bit different with our Easter ham this year. Pa's cooking it outside on the covered grill. We are using our TNT Kahlua glaze though. We've tried several other glazes over the years but have never found another we like as much as this.

Kahlua Baked Ham
10 lb. precooked ham
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. Kahlua
1/2 c. Kahlua
2 Tbsp. dry mustard
whole cloves
Place ham in roasting pan, fat side up. Roast in 300º F oven, 18 minutes per lb. During last hour, trim rind and stud fat with cloves. Sprinkle with brown sugar and then 3 TBSP> Kahlua. Pour 1/2 c. Kahlua mixed with mustard into bottom of pan. Baste with pan syrup.

Another benefit of getting older for the kids is that they get to have more say in the menu choices. This year they chose tossed green salad for the green vegetable, and mashed for the potato dish. In addition to the usual cherry tomatoes and olives, we're adding sliced cucumbers at Pa's request. Naturally, no Holiday meal would be complete without cranberry sauce and deviled eggs. so those will be included as well.

Dessert will be a variation on strawberry shortcake, utilizing angel food cake rather than the more traditional shortcake. My hope is it will be a "just right", not too heavy, not too sweet finale for what is sure to be a rather filling meal.

Saturday Night At The Movies

Last Saturday we watched Beethoven's Big Break. It was a really fun movie, with plenty of laughs, which I would recommend for all ages. Last night we watched Nim's Island. Another fine film, which I guess would probably be classified as a "dramedy, basically, a family friendly drama adventure with a few chuckles thrown in. It also included some great visuals, and, again, I would recommend this film for all ages, although it may not hold the attention of the very young, at least not for the whole thing, although even they would enjoy several of the scenes.

I need to get busy with dinner preparations and so I will leave you with wishes for a most wonderful Easter day !

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yet Another Sleep-Out...When Will I Learn?

For a month or better Lindsay has been asking when we could have another sleep-out in the living room. Thursday evening I gave in and honored her request. You'd think I would have learned my lesson last time around...

Last time we pulled out and made up the hide-a-bed for our sleep out, Lindsay warned me that she is a kicker, and I may get kicked during the night. As you may recall, that was not a problem. However, she did keep me up at least half the night with her tossing and turning, talking and talking....

Evidently she remembered last time too, and decided to give me a bit of a break in that respect. Perhaps her memory of last time, and the surprising revelation that she had not kicked me that time is the reason she neglected to remind me that she is a kicker.

Thursday night, once we got over our initial girly giggles, and settled down to sleep, she did not wake me repeatedly to ask me something, or to relate some truly astonishing fact she had come up with. Neither was I awakened by constant tossing and turning. I did not, however, get a good nights sleep. This time around I was awakened by sharp jabs to various parts of my increasingly sore body. Yes, Lindsay's kicking tendencies were in full evidence Thursday night. As if that wasn't enough, I woke up several times wondering why I was so cold! I knew the covers we had chosen were more than big enough to cover both of us, as well as being more than warm enough to do the job. But I was cold! Once I shivered myself awake enough to comprehend what the problem was, I as gently as possible pulled the covers back over to cover my body. For all the good that did me. I found myself shivering awake several times during the night. The next morning, as I did my best to force my sleep deprived eyes open I was amazed to note that not only was I once again lacking covers, whereas my daughter was not but... the floor on her side of the bed was being kept toasty warm as well, by the covers which were oddly lacking on my side of the bed.

Next time Lindsay and I have a sleep-out in the living room, things are going to be situated a bit differently. We will pull out the hide-a-bed as usual, only this time I will have plenty of covers for my side of the bed. Lindsay, on the other hand, will have a nice, cozy slumber bag on her side of the bed. The slumber bag will be zipped securely, all the way up. Lindsay will be inside the slumber bag so she will have no reason to steal my covers. As an added bonus, I am hopeful being zipped up within the bag will protect me from at least a portion of her kicking tendencies.

If that doesn't work, well, hopefully I'll have been tortured enough times by then that I will finally learn my lesson!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Walk On The Wild Side

Last night we had another culinary treat.

Pa had been craving liver and onions for a bit now, and that's something that always appeals to me, especially when Pa makes it, as he does it so well, so that's what we had last night. It's probably not a big surprise that our young'uns don't share our enthusiasm for this delicacy, and it is one of the few things we do not insist they partake of. Fortunately, we had some leftover chicken from the night before so they finished that off, along with some mac 'n' cheese. The one item we all shared was the Fireweed stalks Nathan had harvested. This is something none of us had ever tried before and we were pleasantly surprised by the results.

Nathan went out and harvested as many of the young shoots as he could, while still leaving plenty to continue growing and replenish themselves. He then stripped them of their leaves, washed them, and cut them in approximately 4" lengths before handing them over to Pa. Pa dropped the prepared stalks in boiling water and let them bubble away for about 10 minutes.

We all learned a bit from this experiment. First off, when it comes to wild edibles, young is a relative thing, and when it comes to Fireweed, the younger the better. We also all agreed that in the future the stalks would be cut into shorter lengths. Once we bit into our wild vegetable we discovered the younger, more tender stalks were quite tasty, almost sweet, amazingly similar to asparagus in taste, and were of a pleasant consistency, while the only slightly older stalks were crunchy, stringy, and a bit difficult to eat, and although not bad tasting, not nearly as good as the younger ones.

We also tried the leaves of the Fireweed, cooked in lightly salted water. While they weren't bad, especially with a pat of butter melted into them, we all agreed the stalks were the star of the two. We're all looking forward to our next experiment with this locally bountiful wild edible.

Speaking of "wild"....Today is April Fools Day, and that is a day our little family seems to find necessary to "celebrate" in one way or another. As the years have passed, and our children have grown older (and bigger) the tricks have become more of a challenge.

Past years we've gotten fairly creative. One of my favorites, when the kids were still young, small, and light enough to pull it off, was to wait until they were fast asleep and carefully lift them from their beds, transferring them to each others beds where they awoke the morning of April 1. As they grew older we opted to simply switch their top bedding. They would wake in their own beds, but Nathan would be surrounded by pink, while Lindsay would find herself peering at blue surroundings. This year, we just switched their dogs, which somehow had the desired effect.

Of course we always have to do something food related as well. A couple years we filled their milk cups with whipped cream. The first year we did this was great. They both went to take drinks and couldn't understand why their milk remained stationary. This year, we opted to place several drops of food coloring in the bottom of their cereal bowls. They each poured their choice of instant oatmeal packets into their bowls. Pa added the hot water and they began to stir. Amazingly, the colorful results actually did take them by surprise. It was even more fun for me to listen to their good natured groans as they consumed their cereal, Nathan's a lovely shade of blue, and Lindsay's a bright pink. There was an added bonus with Nathan, as he ended up with blue lips and teeth.

My shoes were hidden, and a large rubber spider was gently (and effectively) placed upon my shoulder. A rubber lizard was stashed in my jacket sleeve, and the kids switched the placemats around on the table. I need to come up with one more real good trick for the day. I think I'll hold off 'til later on though. The less time they have to figure out a come-back the better!