Saturday, May 26, 2012

A house of dreams

My first-grade friend Ashley Miller had the Barbie dream house. A three-story mansion. For a little girl living in a ranch, it was incredible. And I had to have it.
I asked for it for Christmas. I asked for it for my birthday.

My baby sister got one years later.

Instead, my homeless Barbies got to improvise. The cardboard cases of Girl Scout cookie boxes became the building blocks of some serious square footage. Our Barbie's homes would stretch in custom communes that covered my bed and bedroom floor. And each time it had a new look.

Flash forward 30 years, and my daughter tells me she wants Barbie dream house for her birthday.

But you already have a Barbie house your uncle bought you at Christmas, I remind her.

But it's not a dream house. It's small.

I sigh. The "starter home" tucked away in the corner truly hasn't seen much play time, and she's asking for an expansion.

So I tell her the story of a little girl, whose imagination, a little brother and a lot of cookies made for great memories of building Barbie mansions. Her eyes light up. "That's a great idea!" she says.

Here's hoping that her dreams create that "dream house" of her imagination. I can't wait to see what they bring.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Not your mama's Gardening badge

I realize many kids don't realize that a carrot comes from anything but a plastic baggie, and that many others have never had the thrill of playing with those "helicopter" leaves. But I had to admit, for our soon to be second-grade girls, the Plants badge for Brownies was just too rudimentary. (Particularly since they did the gardening journey series in kindergarten.)

The great thing about our Girl Scout council is that they encourage adaptation of badge requirements to fit the girls' needs. So we took advantage of the idea, and tossed the whole Plants Try-It on its side. (I should note: This badge was being retired and nothing remotely was taking its place, a miss I think for the Girl Scouts!)

Instead of seed starting and plant rubbings, here's what our Brownies are doing this month:

Planting a vegetable garden for the sisters who live at our church's convent. The girls got a huge kick out of starting their seeds last year and planting the garden, which fed the nuns all summer. So much so that we're having another planting night later this month, after the risk of frost has passed.

Growing their own mushrooms. Thanks to a very kind donation of mushroom kits from Back to the Roots, the girls are growing their very own oyster mushrooms. The kits themselves are being divided into sections of 4 to 6 mini-mushroom kits.

Experimenting with seed paper. After getting a cute wildflower seed paper from the University of Kansas during a fundraising campaign last month, I contacted the alumni association about getting seed papers from envelopes with bad mailing addresses for the girls to try out. (If that fails, I'll make my own homemade seed paper to share with the girls. Making homemade paper during a Brownie meeting can be the epitome of mess!)

Making pressed flower and leaf cards. I found this great activity on that we'll be sure to try!

What other great ways have you found to teach children about plants and gardening?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mushroom fail (or success...)

Mushroom growing has been a fun adventure for my kids ever since we got a kit at Christmas.

I figured it'd be a great activity for my gardening-loving Girl Scout troop. We were blessed to receive a donation of mushroom growing kits from Back to the Roots. I started a demo one, which went like gangbusters.

Today, as I went to divide up the packages and prep the sample for next week's gardening night, I realized that the others did as well!

It is a really cool example of seeing how mushrooms develop; it's just disappointing the girls won't get to enjoy it! They're right -- truly no green thumb is required! ;-)

Back To The Roots Mushroom Kits are actually pretty affordable experiments in gardening - they retail for about $20 on Amazon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mama made compost!

Composting may be nature's fertilizer, but I'll be the first to admit that I'd been a bit scared by the concept. Close neighbors and the possible smell of rotting produce put me off for years.

My husband finally pushed me over the edge with a gift of a compost bin two Christmases ago, and we discovered the results of our first attempt at composting this spring!

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I'm sharing my initial foray into composting. It's even easier than I'd thought...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chole's Kitchen: A review

Vegan anything and my husband. Seriously, it's not two things that go in the same sentence easily. But I was surprised to see his willingness to go out of the box recently.

I had the chance to review the vegan cookbook Chloe's Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way . I fully expected to see this be one of those things that mommy does when daddy is working late. After all, I married a good Midwestern, beef-loving boy.

After flipping through the cookbook, I was impressed by his willingness to try out vegan recipes from the book. Truthfully, vegan isn't a large step from meatless, anyway. I loved the idea that we're a few cups of almonds away from mock mac and cheese. (Something I haven't yet tried because of my cutting back starches.) The stray and hay pasta was fabulous - subbing almond milk for a more fat-laden substitute. If I hadn't had the audacity to include the sub-dried tomatoes, it would have been a huge hit.

Chloe's Kitchen got us off the fence into doing what we've been meaning to do anyway: Introduce healthier, more varied options into our diet. It's given us a fresh inspiration as we head into farmer's market season.