Our Own Little Walden

June 1, 2016 at 4:01 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This spring has been all about chasing sunshine, growing green things, and avoiding floodwaters.  Since moving to Walden we’ve been attempting to create something closer to Thoreau’s version than the golf cart variety of Houston… But mostly we’ve been tackling our Classifications of Living Things, getting our kitchen garden going, learning to fish, and  dipping our toes into the world of museum membership at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Kiddo helped me plant teeny tiny tomato plants, acorn squash seeds, cucumbers, and green onions.  Marigolds galore, mints, parsley, basil, lemon balm.  We’ve got lots of blooms for the butterflies and the hummingbirds, a variety of lilies, roses, and snapdragons.  We’re in love with our little patch.

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All this, but we’re not yet living the heaven of the picture book we just discovered this week: On Meadowville Street by Henry Cole; because, frankly, I want my backyard to look like this:

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How cool would it be if everyone’s back yard looked a little bit more like this? Ponds, birds, trees, overgrown grass and wildflowers… yes, please.

We also fell in love a little with Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails.  Kiddo is pretty fascinated with bees, so even while surrounded by gorgeous butterflies around the world in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, she finds the bee hive and watches them the most.

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So now that spring has passed and summer is upon us, we’ve burned up all the vacation days I possibly could trekking around, established our garden, and purchased a fishing license for my days off.

Fishing mostly looks like kiddo playing with a pole, naming earth worms, sinking our toes in mud, and me lounging lazily in the sun, but we pretend we care about catching things – sometimes.

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Springtime Means Seed Time

May 1, 2015 at 4:19 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

We are kind of in love with our librarians at this “new” library branch.  We loved our librarians at the old house, don’t get me wrong, but these ones have definitely weaseled their way into our hearts.  Case and point – there’s this adorable seasonal bin one of the children’s librarians puts together, and of course, we find the *best* things there.

P1030750 This week, it was Flip, Float, Fly and Strega Nona’s Harvest, both perfect stories to read during planting season.  Flip, Float, Fly talks about seeds and how they work, blowing dandelions, and the nature of sticker burrs and such.  Strega Nona, of course, in Tomie dePaola typical fashion, covers not just gardening season – but an entire culture of a family and their village and what fresh vegetables can mean to people.  (More typically, the nature of their rituals to ensure that they get an abundance of these fresh vegetables.)

Of course, when we’re not reading and planting ourselves… we’re out and about playing in creeks and inspecting the forest.

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Oh The Holidays of April…

April 20, 2014 at 11:12 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

4-20, Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, Spring Equinox, Earth Day (on the 22nd)… so many things to celebrate.  Today, we hid from them all and took to the woods after doing some spring cleaning and moving of furniture.

So as we practiced the catechism (“Who made you?” “God made me.” “What else did God make?” “All things.”  And so on), we gathered wildflowers in an ‘Easter’ basket and frolicked in the sunshine.

It looked a bit like this:

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This time in the woods was refreshing, as always.  And much needed after the exciting week we had.  All day yesterday I was out celebrating Earth Day with S. Smith on her last day in Houston, while kiddo was with her Grandmom dyeing Easter eggs (a tradition I can only get behind because I love eating hard boiled eggs).

Below are pictures from the Earth Day Celebration Seed Savers Signings at HPB Humble and then HPB Montrose.

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There’s more celebrating to be had.  S.Smith will be touring San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas before she heads back to Oregon; and HPB Humble will be giving away reusable bags to the first 25 customers Tuesday morning.  Next Saturday (HPB Humble) there will also be a seed presentation by the Mercer Arboretum volunteers!

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Earth Day Reading With Little People

April 17, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo

Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun.  Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week.  Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.

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Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books.  We love these.  They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal.  Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best.  (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)

Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.  It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.

Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening.  Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden.  It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.

That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us.  It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.

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When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.

P1010629Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend.  The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.

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When I’m Not Reading – Riders of the North

July 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Riders of the North

Riders of the North is a Social Bike Ride in the northern suburbs of Houston in an attempt to get a Critical Mass going.  Our first run was last night (Thursday) from 7:45 pm until… well… much later.

First Riders of the NorthWe had our first ride last night and at any given point in time had between 15-20 people.  Not bad for a first run.  We met in Old Town Spring and traveled to The Woodlands, hung out in Market Square at Bar Louis, and headed back to OTS again.  Depending on where you were coming from, whether you rode your bike or drove your car to OTS, the ride was between 20-25 miles.  My legs feel AWESOME, aka this is one of the best work outs ever.

We’re going to be doing this weekly until we get enough people interested in doing a formal Critical Mass at the end of every month.  We’d love to have more riders join us, just hit up our facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/610444132308669/

We stopped to eat at Bar Louies where I downed a Chicken Caesar Salad, a crap ton of water, and Angry Orchard Beer.  That beer was phenomenal and extremely refreshing after cranking out ten miles on my bike.

So while I’m not reading, come join me for a bike ride.  Even in the Texas heat, after dark with the wind in your face, the world feels great.  There are some great peeps on the ride and despite a few kinks along the way (people riding at WAY different speeds, two flat tires, and a spill), I think we all had a blast.  I certainly did.

If you know of any great bike books, leave me a comment.  I’ll read them.

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The Wild Girls – A Review

March 14, 2013 at 3:58 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

WildGirlsTitle: The Wild Girls

Author: Pat Murphy

Publisher: Speak (an imprint of Penguin Group)

Genre: Young Adult

Length: 288 pages

Dear Publishing Companies,

Allow me to tell you something you probably already know: Take a book, add a matte finish to it, trace some swirly-like-ivy lines about, and add a garden or forest scene – I will most likely take the book home on the spot.

At least that’s what happened with Pat Murphy’s The Wild Girls.  And despite having an equally girly and gardeny looking book on my night stand (The Distant Hours by Kate Morton), I started reading The Wild Girls that day.

Even if the cover had not been so fabulous, the first line is:

“I met the Queen of the Foxes in 1972, when my family moved from Connecticut to California.”

How do you pass up a first line like that?

It’s a story about twelve year old girls for twelve year old girls, but at twenty-nine I was still dying to know all about the Queen of the Foxes and how interesting a girl would have to be to have the honor of meeting her.

My own wild girl, running, after we read in the park and took a boat ride, but before we had our picnic in the grass.

My own wild girl, running, after we read in the park and took a boat ride, but before we had our picnic in the grass.

Joan meets Sarah in the woods behind an old orchard and immediately takes to her even though Sarah is malicious and contemplating throwing rocks at her.  She can hit a kid dead on from about thirty feet away, too.  Soon the girls are fast friends with woodsy aliases Newt and Fox, telling and writing stories together as they each escape their lives in the comfort and enchanting beauty of the woods and its wildlife.

In the spirit of Bridge to Terabithia (without the inevitable water works), The Secret Garden (without the invalid), and a dash of How to Buy a Love of Reading (or writing), The Wild Girls is a great coming of age story for girls harboring an inner Josephine March (Little Women).

I loved it.  I read a lot of it to kiddo outside and she loved it as it served for a great book to welcome spring.  I can’t wait to read it again when she is older and see what she thinks of it then.

In the mean time, I’m looking for more Pat Murphy titles, reading Kate Morton, and writing a novel.

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Great Books to Read Outside With Kids

March 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – March 12, 2013

loraxTitle:The Lorax

Author: Dr. Seuss

You know you’ve read The Lorax a few too many times when your two year old steps outside and says, “Look Mommy, the trees,” then breathes deep and continues, “they smell like butterfly milk!”

The Lorax is an oldie but a goodie.  It follows the tale of the Once-ler and how he destroyed all the trees for the sake of industrialism.  Ignoring the warnings from The Lorax, the delightfully curmudgeonous beast who speaks for the trees, all that is left of a once beautiful land is a small truffula seed.

The Lorax is a fantastic way to enlighten your kiddo to the environmentalist ideals and introduce them to be mindful of their world.  We love reading it on the porch swing and inhaling the sweet smell of “butterfly milk.”

Wild_about_book-330Title: Wild About Books

Author: Judy Siera

Illustrations: Marc Brown

Follow the tale of bookmobile librarian Molly McGrew introduces all the animals at the zoo to the wonderful world of reading.

“By reading aloud from the good Dr. Seuss,

She quickly attracted a mink and a moose,

A wombat, an oryx, a lemur, a lynx,

Eight elephant calves, and a family of skinks.”

Kiddo likes to find all the animals mentioned in the story illustrated out on the page.  To the right of this segment, you can find Molly McGrew in a chair reading from The Cat in the Hat.

Later, the animals discover that they like books so much, they even start writing them!  The Insects dive in with poetry and the scorpion offers “stinging reviews.”

We read this one outside on the porch a lot, but we also read this before bed at night too.  If you don’t have a copy, check out your local Half Price Books, I purchased mine off a generous stack in the kids section at the Humble store.  No guarantees that you’ll find one too, but it’s worth a shot.

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Hurray for Spring! And Elephants!

May 3, 2012 at 2:54 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Weekly Low Down on Kids Books 5/03/12

Title: Hurray for Spring!

Author: Patricia Hubbell

Illustrator: Taia Morley

Publisher: NorthWord

Genre: Childrens, Picture Books

Ayla has a wide assortment of books of her own, she can’t help it with a compulsive book buying mother.  But going to the library and picking out special books for just the week is always fun.  At a year and a half, she already loves books and spends a lot of time pretending to read or browsing illustrations.  ‘Shopping’ at a library, however, is so much different than shopping at a store.  For starters, there’s the Dewey Decimal System to contend with, something I honestly haven’t used in about ten years.  Then, there’s the lack of beautifully merchandised end caps – you can ask my best friend, I’m a complete sucker for a pretty display.  (That’s probably why I enjoyed making them so much in my merchandising days.)  Still, we manage to find precious gems and exciting reads every week.

This week we haphazardly pulled Hurray for Spring! off the shelf.  The poem tells of all the adventures one can have throughout the season and is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations of kids playing and dragon flies and flowers.  There’s mice playing in the weeds, beautiful blue skies, and the book is an all around treat.  We read it four times in a row before bed time Tuesday night because Ayla kept demanding, “More” as she turned the book back to the first page and patted the title, indicating a re-read.

I’d like to buy a copy to use to celebrate Easter every year.  Its fresh, lively, and is a good way to get kids excited about playing outside, but if read softly the cadence of the words can still put a baby to sleep.  We love Hurray for Spring! Even now Ayla discovered it in my hand and is hopping around, rummaging through the book bag, and begging me to read it again.

Title:
Busy Elephants

Author: John Schindel

Photographs: Martin Harvey

Publisher: Tricycle Press

Genre: Childrens, Board Books

In the past, we’ve tried Busy Penguins, which I loved, but Ayla had little interest in.  This time, Busy Elephants was all the rage.  Each page contains a photograph of elephants out in the wild, eating, running, bathing, etc.  And after months and month of every blessed furry (or even some non-furry) animals being called ‘Dog’ its nice to finally see her point with recognition at the elephants on each page, listen to me say elephant, and then try the word out on her own mouth.  So far, all we get is “lphn,” but that’s enough for me this week.  She’s excited to learn new words, even if she can’t quite pronounce them properly.  That’s what makes these kinds of books so great for babies: real photographs, repitition of a word, until by the end they’ve seen the world and added something to their vocabulary.

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