Saturday, June 30, 2012

Political Portraits

Abe is a benevolent dictator

For our Art class, Sam taught us about political portraits. We talked about propaganda and realism/accuracy/flattery in portrait painting. Sam also showed us lots of examples of symbolism in various portraits of rulers and presidents through history. The kids had to put symbolism in their portraits too (I like the fleur-de-lis in Seb's picture; symbolizing, he says, "Royal Bananas.")

Democracy, Republics, Voting, The Constitutional Convention

Everyone loved Voting Day and they were VERY secretive about their ballots. We voted on a bunch of things like what activity to do Saturday ("Have a campfire" won by a landslide), the menu for our picnic, what job to work on for clean-up night, etc. Even the little ones had very decided opinions, and were pleased to be able to express them. :) (Our voting booth is made of our laundry drying rack covered with a blanket, and a box on top.)
Another thing on our ballot was what flavor of cake to bake the next day. I was going to pick the top two flavors and make a marble cake out of them to illustrate compromise.  It ended up being a tie between chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, so luckily I found a recipe for this Neapolitan cake. We called it "Compromise Cake."  Everyone was really happy about being able to make all of the flavors at once!  This activity was a good companion to our discussion about "The Great Compromise" at the U.S. Constitutional Convention.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Government unit, Monarchy, Crowns

Lesson plan

"Types of Government" wall chart (we filled this in throughout the week)

On the Monarchy day, we made crowns. This was a great chance to get out every scrap of ribbon and spare button I've been saving for "some project." The kids loved making their crowns symbolic and representative of themselves.
We wore these again later when we talked about sovereignty, and to make the point that in our country, the PEOPLE are (supposed to be) sovereign.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wildflower Hike

We've been to Silver Lake in the Fall before, but not in the summer. I was hoping the wildflowers would be good there, though I think their peak time is more like late July. (We'll be back!) But this was such a fun field trip! It was a hot day, but pleasant enough in the canyon, and we brought a picnic with us. We also brought this outstanding little book:
The Wildflower Guide to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons, which I love because it's so specific and manageable! We had other wildflower books, but they were so extensive as to be overwhelming. You can buy this book right at the little visitor's center (?) by Silver Lake, and it shows you flowers specific to the Cottonwood Canyons. We also had three little even less extensive pamphlets that the boys carried with them and referred to. (Daisy wanted one also, but too bad for her.)

The book is spiral-bound and organized by color. Awesome.

It was such a gorgeous day.


Our favorite wildflower---it's called Elephanthead. Can you see why? It's so cute!!
Of course we never pick canyon wildflowers---but Abe just couldn't help himself from nipping off one tiny elephant head.

This koala bear looks like she's falling off. I couldn't get this carrier adjusted right; she was hanging too low. Just like your ears.

Seb assiduously consults his wildflower guide

My other favorite flower. These are called "shooting stars." Aren't they cool?

Mountain bluebell

This isn't a flower, but we love this "scouring rush" horsetail (We learned that the pioneers used it for scrubbing pots and utensils)

Heartleaf bittercress

Leafy Jacob's Ladder

Marsh marigold

I love this bog orchid. Each of the blossoms looks just like a large orchid you'd see in a corsage or a flower arrangement, but teeny tiny. So delicate!

Sticky Geranium (the purple one; the yellow is what my book calls "Slender cinquefoil" [for its five leaves], but it looks like what I've always called "buttercup.")

Wasatch Penstemon (for "five stamens"---we observed these)

Anyway, we had a great time and definitely want to repeat this trip again. It's so rewarding to know the names of plants and wildflowers! Identifying flowers something I've always aspired to, but I just haven't been able to as much as I've wished. But the kids really love it too---it's fun to come across something on a hike and know what it is! Having a concise field guide is very helpful, as was our study of plant shapes and anatomy earlier in the week. Everyone got really excited each time we found something we recognized!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Edible Flowers and Recipes

The day we talked about practical uses of flowers was my favorite day (and maybe everyone's!).  We had a book of recipes using edible flowers, and we looked up some online too. We gathered everything from our own yard, except for the pansies and violas which came from a kind neighbor (thank you Laura!).
They were so pretty I just wanted to take pictures of them.

We've made sugared violets before, but the recipe book opened our eyes to all the other options we had. Rose petals were the easiest and most fun to do because they aren't quite so delicate and fiddly. The violas look gorgeous, but it was harder for the boys to keep the petals from creasing while they painted the egg white on. The mint leaves were fun to do too. Everything smelled heavenly! We made crystallized violas, pansies, rose petals, lavender, and two kinds of mint.

We also made lavender sugar---or a different method of crystallized lavender where you just blanch the blossoms in boiling water for 30 seconds and then toss them with sugar. It was easier than the egg-white painting, but less elegant, I thought. I'm still looking for the perfect thing to use this lavender sugar on/in. Possibly this?

The jelly and syrups we made were awesome. I was quite surprised how well the rose-petal jelly turned out, as it felt too simple. You just blend up rose petals and lemon juice and water in the blender, then blend in some sugar. Add pectin and boiling water, and let it set overnight. It is DELICIOUS. We had it on buttermilk biscuits for dinner and it was amazing. Such a rosy, delicate taste. Yum! It's a lovely color, too. The jelly recipe we used is here.

We also made rose and lavender syrup, using the easiest method possible: you make a simple syrup (sugar+water), add rose petals or lavendar, and simmer on the stove for an hour. (Recipe here; we didn't add any food coloring.) Then you strain out the flowers and you have flavored syrup! We ate it on pancakes the next morning and it was awesome, but my favorite thing we did with it was make Italian cream sodas. You put ice in a glass, cover it with seltzer/club soda, add a healthy amount of the syrup (aren't the colors gorgeous?!), and then top with a splash of cream. They were SO good. I can't decide which I liked better---maybe the lavender, but only barely. They both had that subtle, exotic flavor that flowers add to things. It tasted vaguely Indian to me (I think I've had Indian dishes made with rosewater before).

We also used daylily petals and whole pansies in our salad at dinner time (it's this salad, but we added the flowers). Flowers are good in most salads, really. The pansies taste kind of fresh and grassy (kind of like lettuce) and the daylily petals are just . . . good. The daylily buds taste like peas. Yum.

Lastly our lovely cake. We made orange juice cake because we thought the citrus flavor would contrast nicely with the soft floral flavors on top. For this cake, you make an orange syrup which you pour over the cake when hot. I was very tempted to use one of the flower syrups instead (the rose or the lavender) but finally decided it might make the cake too sweet. I still half-wish I'd tried it though---it may have been good. Anyway, we liked it the regular way. Everyone wanted more of the crystallized flowers. They really are so crunchy and sweet and good! We put some on Sam's Father's Day Cheesecake too. They keep for up to a year (I read) and we still have a few more I'm saving for some special occasion. :)
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