Making marshmallows!

Picked up a wonderful book at the library: A Kid’s Herb Book for children of all ages. Delightfully written, it has stimulated a new interest for me. On page 27, we discovered that we could make our own root beer using sarsaparilla! How fun! We set out on a quest to several different natural food stores to find this root. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any of it; however on the same page we saw that we could make our own marshmallows if we found some marshmallow root powder. Yah! Only one store carried it and it was not root powder, but the root itself. So borrowing a mortar and pestle from our friend (thanks Robyn!) we crushed and ground the root up in order to make our marshmallow root powder.

Today we mixed the ingredients and baked the ‘marshmallows’ for an hour at a low temperature. The marshmallows were basically little meringues. The marshmallow root added  … well… a unique flavour, shall we say. My husband described it as a cross between a “moldy” and “the smell of an old person’s home” kind of flavour.  The verdict? We will not be making our own marshmallows anytime soon, however we are glad to have had the opportunity to try it!

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Ice Fishing

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  We continued our look at states of matter by doing a fun little experiment – ice fishing! Each child received a glass dish with water (the colours were just for fun!), several ice cubes, and a “fishing line”.  After laying the fishing line across the top surface of an ice cube, we sprinkled salt on top, counted to 10 and then checked our lines to see if we ‘caught’ a cube! The salt caused some melting of the ice cube, and as it refroze again, it trapped the fishing line.

Maple Sugar Shack!

Today we spent a beautiful spring(ish) morning at the Maple Sugar Bush. We took some of our visiting Mexican students along to have the ultimate Canadian experience!

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Easter Eggs, the paper mache way!

This morning I felt a little bit frazzled by all the mess surrounding me on all sides. I didn’t have a well-thought-out plan for the morning either, besides our usual music, math and phonics time. One of the kids suggested making paper mache balloon eggs to celebrate Easter! My first thought was, “Ugh! Mess! Do we really need more mess??!”  and my second thought was, “Hey, why not?!?” I had not attempted paper mache since my own elementary school days, so after a quick Google search we began. We used flour and water to make our paste. It was goopy and goo-y and so much fun!  The only catch is that due to the necessity of creating several layers of gooped-up, pasted-on newspaper strips, we have to dry our balloons in between. This means several days of goopy, messy, pasty mess before the layers will be done. But, as I’m just along for the ride here, may as well enjoy it, right? 🙂

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Family Road Trip

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

We were blessed to be able to visit our friends who live in Redding, CA this past week. We took the scenic route, visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and travelling up the very beautiful and picturesque highway 1 along the Pacific coast. Lots of memories. Lots of pictures.

All in all a wonderful trip!

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This morning we were all antsy for some outdoor fresh air and activity. We have been reading this book, Gold Rush Fever by Barbara Greenwood, in preparation for our upcoming trip where we will be panning for gold. We were reading about the Gold Rush of 1897-98 when everyone rushed to Dawson, Yukon territory to stake gold claims. The “stampeders” (as they were called) had to ascend the mountains, carrying all their goods and supplies for a year with them. They went up 3km of Long Hill and from there up a set of 1500 stairs, called ‘The Golden Stairs‘ to reach Chilkoot Pass. In order to simulate this experience of the Golden Stairs, we headed for the longest set of stairs in Guelph. We packed a bag of 10lb potatoes in the knapsack to carry. And we climbed the stairs (100 in all). Dawson decided to climb 1000 stairs, so he went up (and down!) 10 times. It was a great way to remember a bit more about some history in a very physical way. As well, it was a great way to burn off some cabin-fever energy! 🙂

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Dancing Raisins

…. otherwise known as “The Great Gas Experiment” took place at our kitchen table today. The kids had fun watching the raisins “dance” in the glass of ginger ale, as the bubbles of gas carried them to the surface. When a few bubbles burst at the surface, the raisins would then sink to the bottom of the glass to begin their ‘dance’ all over again!

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For the birds

Another cold day. Another winter hike! 🙂   We headed out of town a little way to a hiking trail nearby, with our friend from Brazil. Look at the little friends we found! They were pretty hungry so we had lots of visitors to our seed-filled mittened hands. Feeling their little feet on our hands was amazing and their feathers were so delicate and beautiful.

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Winter Walk and an unexpected find

P1060109The winter sun shone weakly through the clouds. The temperature hovered just below 0. While our van was getting oil sprayed we took advantage of a nearby path P1060110to explore some nature. We saw tracks (mostly dog, some cat, some bunny… did I mention this path is in the middle of the city?). One person whined about being thirsty. Another decided his legs were too tired to walk any further.

But as we rounded another corner, we came across such a strange sight that all complaints and whining ceased immediately.

We followed a trail, clearly made by an animal. But I had never seen a trail such as this – circles?

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We finally came across the source of the curlicue trail.


The poor striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) had clearly seen better days. I felt sad to see his demise clearly portrayed across the snow. He had staggered in circles, fallen, gotten up and staggered around some more before his final resting place. At first I wondered if he had been scared to death by dogs, but the only tracks there were his own. After a bit of research online it looks to me as if the poor striped skunk suffered from either rabies or distemper.  Both of these diseases attack the neurological centers, causing, in the final stages, disorientation, stumbling, clumsiness, staggering, and finally, seizures and death.


Here are a couple of links to articles about diseases causing death in wild skunks:

Still, it was quite the interesting find. I had never before seen a skunk so close up before!

Liquid Cryogenics

Now that the insects and bugs have all but disappeared from the backyard, the boys haven’t been able to attempt more cryogenic experiments involving these poor, hapless creatures, and our kitchen freezer. One cold day one of the kids initiated the idea of seeing what would happen to oil if left overnight in the sub-zero temperatures. Knowing the outcome, I decided to add more variables so that a comparison could be made. We put out a bowl of water, a bowl of canola oil and a bowl where we mixed the two liquids. We then recorded what we discovered the next morning!

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