On our last couple of outdoor adventures, we found so many things to bring home and investigate; Sumac Berries, clam shells, moss, a very old & empty turtle shell, a Coot's foot, deer antlers, and an owl pellet. My favorite was the owl pellet.
An owl pellet is: Owls eat their food whole and since they don't have teeth, they can't chew their food. They use their strong and sharp beaks to rip their prey apart and then swallow large chunks whole. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials (meat) from the harder material (bones). It then regurgitates the harder material along with indigestible items like feathers and fur in the form of a pellet.
(See what we found below)
Sumac Berries: These "berries" are really seeds covered with a thin coating of flavoring substance and hairs. Late Summer is the right time to harvest Sumac or as soon as they are ripe (dark purple in color) and before they have been rained on. This is when they will have the strongest flavor. The rain will wash off the sour flavor. Sumac berries make a great sour lemonade type drink or sumac-ade. This yummy drink is so easy to make: harvest 6-8 ripe "berry" clusters, taste them to make sure they have the sour flavor, put them in a pitcher and pour cold water over them. Let them sit in a cool place for awhile, taste drink to see if it is sour enough. When ready to drink, strain the drink through cheese cloth. This will remove all unwanted seeds and hairs. Some people add sugar, but we think it is great without. (I will remind you of this yummy drink when we actually do it later this season)
Just a note: sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, anyone allergic to those foods should avoid it and/or be very careful. Also, there is a poisonous Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix or Rhus vernix) but according to Wikipedia: "Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swampa and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada."
Happy exploring and foraging!
Our findings: owl pellet, rabbit fur, sumac, moss, clam shell
Investigating the owl pellet
I gave the kids a tweezers, magnifying glass, and pokers and had them open up the pellet to see what this owls last meal was and see what he left behind. They got a kick out of finding tiny bones and teeth and separating them from the fur. Based on our finds, we decided the owl had eaten a mouse.
The findings from inside the owl pellet
Old, empty turtle shell
A Coot's foot: A bit creepy, but really neat to see up close
Our new nature table. Where all of our nature finds, and nature scrapbooks are kept.
One of the places that we order essential oils from also sells synthetic fragrance oils and they often send us samples with our order. Since we use essential oils exclusively in our products the synthetic fragrances never get put to use, but the fact that we get samples for free and have never received essential oil samples is telling. It's the reason synthetics are used so much in the first place; they're cheap. So why don't we use synthetic fragrances in our handcrafted soap and other products?
There are a few reasons. The first one is that they don't smell as good. This might seem obvious since creating a lavender scent in a laboratory is naturally going to fall short of actual lavender oil. But there are some things you can't get with using natural oils. For example, it would be difficult to achieve a good popcorn scent, or "ocean mist" or lilac etc. But I find that there are so many wonderful scents that can be extracted from nature that it seems unnecessary to use synthetics. Some include: Natural peppermint, lavender, rose, patchouli, eucalyptus, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, clove. The simple fact is that synthetics are used because they are cheaper and easier. Which is generally a good reason to use something provided that they aren't also worse. Which brings me to the second reason we don't use synthetic fragrances. They are not healthy to work with, or put on your body. Not only do they lack the therapeutic properties of essential oils, but they also have many irritating and harmful properties. When you look at the ingredients on a lotion bottle and it says "fragrance" or "perfume" that one word can represent 200 different ingredients that aren't specifically listed. Many people have an allergic reaction to synthetic fragrances that can range from a skin irritation to headaches and nausea. Here is a short list of scents that you know are synthetic when you see them because they don't exist as essential oils:Cucumber
, lilac ( I get a lot of people looking for this kind of soap), Apple, April Showers, Melons, Bubble Gum, Rainforest
. The list can go on and on, but this is just an idea of what to look for when avoiding synthetic fragrances. Some companies also use a mixture of synthetic fragrances and e
ssential oils. There are synthetic peppermints and synthetic lavenders. Also, when you see a product scented with vanilla, jasmine, rose and/or sandalwood they are most likely synthetic. These are all available as essential oils too, but are so expensive not many companies use them in their pure form. The price depends on how much plant matter is needed to extract a decent amount of oil. For instance: you need 1,000 pounds of jasmine (3 million flowers) to make a pound of jasmine essential oil and
you need 2,000 pounds of fresh rose petals to make a pound of oil. In comparison, you need 100 pounds of lavender flowers to make a pound of essential oil.
I have found a reliable source who sells pure jasmine and vanilla oils at a reasonable price so I am able to use them in some of my products but keep it to a minimum because of the price. When buying beauty products it can be hard to know what are essential oils and what are synthetic fragrances. For the most part, avoid any products that list "fragrance" or "perfume" as an ingredient.
Look for products only containing essential oils. After awhile, your nose will know what to avoid.I have found a great company who makes and sells 100% natural and organic f
lavor oils. I have been experimenting with these oils and currently use some in my products. They are raspberry and coconut. These flavor oils may not contain the many therapeutic benefits essential oils do, but a lot of my customers and my family, love the way they smell. And it is good to know they don't contain the harmful ingredients like synthetic fragrances do. But I love that I have the option to offer these to my customers.What is your favorite scent? Is there a synthetic scent that you wish was available in an essential oil?
This is why Minnesotans talk about the weather so much.........
Morning of April 23rd 2013:
We have had a total of 17.5 inches of snow this April.
But the good news is 70 degree weather is in the forecast and the Mankato Farmers' Market starts May 4th!!! Hope to see you there!
Yesterday, here in Southern MN we enjoyed a beautiful Spring day! The kids were out all day playing with bubbles, jump roping, playing with chalk, digging up worms, biking, and picking pussy willows. It was great. We will be starting peas this week outdoors and Clare will be starting her flower seeds indoors. We are all so excited to be able to spend more time outdoors. Our plan is to transform our whole yard into a garden with a pond, and little bridge, fruit trees, and an outdoor kitchen. We want pretty much everything we grow to be edible. With many beautiful flowers to pick! I say whole yard, which really only amounts to 50x40 feet in the back. Not much, but we have BIG plans. I will keep you posted on the progress.One thing we have already added to our backyard is a deck. And on this deck we have had our buddies, duct tape dad and duct tape Clare, hanging out there all Winter long.
So far they have attracted squirrels, sparrows, juncos, robins and blue jays. While the kids were out in the garden right behind our porch, Clare heard something, looked up and noticed there was a robin trying to get out of the porch through the closed window. "Why is there a robin in our house" she asked. We run inside, after a little struggle, John catches the robin, we took a little peek at him while John held him and then set him free. He must have been looking for food on our deck and snuck inside (we had our door open.) So, I hear there is snow in the forecast. That will be a funny thing to see since we just enjoyed a day of Spring at 60 degrees. Life in MN, gotta love it!
Rebecca holding her jar of rooms while Clare tries to feed the scared robin.
I might have went overboard, but enjoyed every single minute of creating gifts for my kids for their Easter trays. It was a bit hard to sneak it in to my schedule while the kids were awake, but my hubby knew how important it was for me to do it. I hope that this is the beginning of a new tradition.The wooden tray: I purchased these from Hobby Lobby and used to use them for soap displays at the
market. We don't use them anymore and have a lot of them.The peg dolls
: I made a gnome, fairy, and a baby for each kid. The embellishments are made out of felt. I had printed felt with butterflies on them and that worked perfectly for the wings. After Easter, the kids added clothes and wings to their gnomes and babies. They made little houses and food for them.The felt eggs
: These are made out of felt and a glue gun. I was going to sew them, but my machine isn't that strong. They fit a little candy and/or treat in them. Now the kids are using them as blankets for their peg dolls.The nest: Stick wreaths I had in my craft closet just waiting to be used for the last 2 years. Perfect for fairy nests!
I added a couple of star anise for a decoration.The kids loved all of it! The best part was that there was
nothing to clean up. No plastic wrapping, no twistie ties, no plastic grass, no last minute filler toys with teenie tiny pieces that would eventually end up in the garbage. Read my post here about no plastic: http://www.nakedbeautybathandbody.com/3/post/2013/04/i-shook-on-it-no-more-plastic.html
Aren't they just adorable! I think I have a new obsession......
I included our painted wooden eggs and our felted eggs.
A fairy holding a tiny flower bouquet next to her tea set. I found the tea sat at the thrift store! A perfect fit!
It's not like I have a shopping problem, far from it, but I do love to buy things at the thrift store and occasionally at the Dollar General, mostly because that is all we have in our small town of 2500 people. I usually find great things at the thrift store, like wooden, felt, and fabric toys. But then there is the plastic toys that I stumble upon and think, "Hmmm, the kids would love this!" The plastic toys never last long, they usually break within a week and end up in the garbage and some of the pieces are so small, not good for a baby who is just learning to roll around on the floor! So, I shook on it, No More Buying Plastic Toys!
There are a lot of reasons why parents avoid buying plastic, but my main reason is this: they limit my creativity. It is easier to buy new things to give as gifts, but my dream has always been to make the gifts I give to my family and friends. Here is my chance to fill that dream.I did a quick clean up of the plastic toys we currently own and if they were falling apart, I threw them out. I will be keeping all the toys my mom gave me from my childhood like our huge collection of My Little Ponies and all the kids' favorites that I knew they would miss.
It was neat to find out that we actually don't own very many plastic toys. During my last visit at the Dollar General and Thrift Store, I picked up some plastic toys/items and really thought about whether or not we need them, would my kids enjoy them in a week, would they even last that long? No, no, and no, so l but put them back.
I told my 4 year old daughter about not buying plastic and she was all about it. We had fun searching for cute little wooden crafty items and toys at our last thrift store visit. Check out this post about my plastic free Easter basket: http://www.nakedbeautybathandbody.com/3/post/2013/04/handmade-no-plastic-easter-trays.html
How about you? Do you avoid plastic toys? If so, why?
Since we own our own business and order A LOT of supplies, we get A LOT of boxes filled with PACKING PEANUTS!!! We had bags of packing peanuts stored up to re-use for shipping but we had way more than we needed. So with the kids in mind, as always, we decided to make a packing peanut pool! We have a couch in our porch and moved it out from against the wall and dumped them in the space. We had the kids take their clothes off and let the fun begin! There was jumping, swimming, hiding, and wave building. The coolest part about it was how warm it was in there. Like a warm bath, you didn't want to get out. And if you are wondering, yes, both John and I took our turn and it was AWESOME!
This week I will be featuring our body oils. We offer both nut-free
body oils and regular
. In the nut-free blend we have lavender, orange, and unscented. In the regular body oil we have lavender, peppermint blend, and jasmine/patchouli blend. The jasmine/patchouli blend is my personal favorite and our best seller.Ways to use our body oils:
lotion. They are great to use right after showering/bathing.
add to homemade baby wipes
I love to use our body oil in replace of lotion during the dry winter months.Some of the ingredients we use in our body oils:Sweet Almond Oil:
A light oil that absorbs quickly into your skin, it is an emollient because it softens your skin rather than hydrates it. Also a humectant, these help prevent the loss of moisture. Vitamin E:
Protects our skin from damaging ultraviolet lights. Great for relieving discomfort from sunburn and psoriasis. Reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.Purchase body oil online and receive a $1 off! Include $1 off in comments box or email me.
We have a room designated to all things crafty. You would think there would be room for one little table for this momma to craft on. I was wrong! What did I expect when I was competing with 3 crafty kids?! Well, I moved out and it is the best thing ever! I don't care if the craft room is a mess all day and I know they aren't getting into my things. My craft corner is my little piece of heaven. I keep it tidy so it is ready for me whenever I get an itch to create. It is in the corner of my favorite room, our porch with yellow walls and lots of windows. This is also where I will dry herbs and work on all things herbal in the summer months. I can't wait!
My sunny craft corner. Just a table, books, little sewing machine, craft utensils, and storage. I picked up the cute metal baskets on the wall from the local thrift store, of course.
Once a month I will be updating you all on what we are doing for school. Hopefully you can get some ideas and I would like to use it to look back on for ideas for my younger kiddos.Every now on then my hubby and I decide we have to set a new schedule so our days run more smoothly. This meeting usually happens when we have just been through a rough day. I love having us both home, but it seems like the way we do things often conflict. I like a bit more order and scheduling, he is ok without it, I function better in a tidy house, he is ok in a mess. It is good though, he has helped me learn to relax even in a mess.
It helps to know what our daily and weekly goals are. But, back to the scheduling part, we are closer to finding our rhythm. More of a block schedule concept. It is still very loose, but it helps us all know what we need to focus on during those hours. Of course, this doesn't happen everyday, but it is a start. Baby Basil is more predictable when it comes to his napping schedule, so this has been helpful.Mondays are still our cooking day. This is usually pretty exhausting so we don't do much else other than cook, clean up after ourselves and the regular school work. Tuesdays are full of ECFE, preschool,
and play dates and again our typical schoolwork. On a normal day, I start my mornings alone, well I guess with a hot cup of coffee, and have until
about 10:30 to accomplish what I need to: business, bills, household stuff. The stuff I wake up with on my mind and doesn't leave until it is completed. When I am done working, we pick the leader of the day. The kids wanted to start this up. It is great because the leader picks out snacks, movie, and if we have a formal story time, (this is when Clare sets up blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and chairs and the reader sits in a chair) picks the book out. We also do our thankful circle. This is where we go around and name 3 things we are thankful for.
This is a great way to start the day. Around 11, I take the girls to the library for 2 hours. Here we read a lot, (obviously) and finish our school work for the day. This is new to our routine, but we love it. It is nice to have some peace while doing school work. And if there is something I want to teach them on the spot, I can just grab a book. I use to use the internet for this, I prefer books now, less distracting and more hands on. After the library, (if we have time) we sneak over to the thrift store....shhhhh, don't tell! We come home and have lunch with the family. After lunch is when John spends time on his music and his recording project. After supper we tidy up, prepare for bed and sometimes we watch a movie. Then we do it all over again!
A little bit more detail on what we are learning:*In the kitchen: Every Monday is cooking for the week day. The kids are pros at rolling out tortillas now. We also bake almost daily, sometimes the girls will make up their own recipe. We have tea parties on a regular basis. We also started a project on where our fruits and veggies are coming from this days.
We hung a piece of paper on the fridge and anytime there is a sticker on a fruit/veggie, we put it on the paper. This has been great! Usually those little stickers are so annoying to me but now I look forward to finding them. *In the craft room
: Out of the dozen or so rooms in our house, we really only use 3 of them. The craft room is one of them. It is dedicated to all things crafty and educational. The kids can pretty much use anything in there, even the glue gun! I usually don't have a set craft to work on, they create what they want and make a heck of a mess while creating. This is why I decided to move out of the craft room. (more on this here
.)The girls learned how to braid in one sitting! I was impressed! Clare is also hand sewing on a daily basis. She uses the blanket stitch. We are making peg dolls, a cardboard box doll house, tiaras, paper airplanes, cardboard kitchen,
mini books, cards, and everything in between.*At the library:
We read about our five senses, the days of the week, winter, snowflakes, & our body. Then whatever else the girls want me to read to them. *Science:
Recent experiments we have done are: the naked egg, celery in food coloring, taste test, smell test....can't think of anymore at the moment*Reading:
Clare (6) is almost done with the reading program Reading Eggs. She can pretty much read anything these days. She will plop down on the couch with the other 2 kiddos on either side and just read to them. Rebecca (4) said "Mom, Clare is reading this book and it isn't even an I can Read Book." A fun one I picked up from the library is an I read to you, You read to me book
. This is great! I read a paragraph, Clare reads a paragraph and so on. The stories are so cute and funny. We have also been in to poems, thanks to a Fancy Nancy book. We also read aloud a lot through out the day.Rebecca
is doing well on her Reading Eggs and reading a bit more everyday. She gets so excited when she can sound out words.Miles
knows most of his letter sounds now. Back when Clare was about 3, we decided it makes more sense to teach them the letter sounds instead of the letter names.
John will spend a bit of time in the morning with him looking at flash cards or playing with a alphabet puzzle. To make things more fun and engaging, Miles will hold a stuffed animal and let the animal answer questions or teach the animal his letter sounds. He is also loving nursery rhymes. 1, 2,3,4,5 once I caught a fish alive......is always in our heads around here. In fact it is right now. And probably in yours, too! Sorry!*Math:
We aren't really into worksheets but do them if I am not in a creative mood or have little time to work on math. We love to read books about patterns, shapes, alike or different, the Anno's Math Games book
, play Uno, measure and weigh things, work on graphs (sometimes using smartie candies) and skip counting. I like to show the kids that there is more to math then just adding and subtracting. *Outside:
Yup, this is part of our curriculum! I think it is so important to get out on a daily basis. John made a fort, sledding hill and we love to watch the birds and squirrels eat the food we set out by the bird feeder dummies.
I can't forget about Baby Basil
! He is just loving life! He rolled over for the first time a couple of weeks ago, loves to watch his hands, starting to grab for things, and starting to baby talk. Hmmmm, what else are we up to at the moment
.....the girls love setting up beauty salons and doing our hair and setting up little shops to sell their creations at. Oh, the girls really love ballet and want to take a class. Since there isn't one in our town, I have committed to be their teacher. It has been fun. I don't know much, but we have cards that have all the different moves and positions on them. We follow these and just dance to classical music. Oh, and Clare just learned how to snap!
Alright, back to my day I go!Do you work better with a schedule to follow? Is it strict or loose? How about your kids?
The craft room on a daily basis, Miles holding a brain while Clare is baking, Clare reading to the younger kiddos, the sliding hill John made in our backyard. I am happy to say that this is what our school day looks like.