Friday, September 25, 2015

Mushrooms 101

Before you get all excited that I have this wonderful bout of information to teach you about mushrooms, let me just start off by telling you that I just took a Mushrooms 101 class with my son at Rice Lake State Park. I thought that I would share what I have learned, basically so I don't forget about it. I am pretty stoked to learn more about mushrooming and identification and even more specifically foraging.

Let's first start off by telling you that our guide suggested that in the beginning when we are foraging, we stick to the Safe 6 Mushrooms in Minnesota. The above picture is Hen of the Woods, which is on the list of Safe 6 and some of this was sauteed up below in the picture of the spaghetti. It was delicious. It has a nutty flavor to it. He said that Hen of the Wood like to grow at the base of a tree and particularly like Burr Oak, but also grow on other oaks and trees.

This is a picture of the bottom side of an oyster mushroom (also on the Safe 6), but it is old and has gotten moldy, so we would not be harvesting it for consumption.

Just another picture of the oyster mushrooms. Sorry the picture quality isn't the best as I just had my phone with to use. Another mushroom on the Safe 6 that I have hunted for on a few occasions (but really it's only available for a couple weeks in Minnesota) is the Morel Mushroom (I had always heard that morels grew on dead elms, but our guide claims to find them on dead locust trees and to start hunting for them at the south end of a hill.) The other 3 Safe 6 mushrooms include Shaggy Manes (we did find some of these but I didn't get a picture and they were small ones which they said not to eat because with they are little they can be confused with something poisonous), Chicken of the Woods, and Puffballs. On our excursion we did not find the edible white puffball (which my kids have found before but we didn't know it was edible), but we did find the poisonous Pigskin Puffball.

Now, is the section of mushrooms that are not edible, which is actually the majority of mushroom you will find. This is a coral mushroom.

Here is my son showing off what our guide liked to call "Little Brown Jobs". LOL! My son really enjoyed going out looking for mushrooms.I actually think between the two of us, we found the majority of the mushrooms our guide wanted out group of 17 to find so he could show us the edibles and teach us about the different structures of mushrooms. I have some lingo to learn!

To be honest, I don't remember what he called these red ones but they were all over the place. We didn't forage any of them so I presume they were poisonous and they ar not on my Safe 6 list so we'll leave it alone.

 Some more that I don't know what they are. This top one has a honeycomb pattern instead of gills, like the one below. The one below has a thin dark stripe (or stem) that is different from a lot of the other mushroom we found. I did find one to show the group that had a veil, but I didn't take a picture of it before I handed it to our guide and he started staking it apart to show everyone.

Another thing he had told us is that honey mushrooms have a look-a-like poisonous mushroom, but if you take the stem and try to peel it, the edible honey mushroom will peel like string cheese and the poisonous one doe snot.

We did attempt to do spore prints, which he said is a really good way to help identify mushrooms and said to never eat anything with white spores. He showed us how to make spore prints with white & colored paper and covering the mushroom with a glass.

He also told us we need to be looking for edible mushroom when they are young and usually 3-5 days after a big rain is a really good time to go looking for them and the mushrooms will have bloomed.

 Our class split up the Hen of the Woods, so we didn't have a lot to saute up, but my son and I did enjoy some spaghetti with sauteed Hen of the Woods with zucchini (from our garden), garlic, onions and tomatoes.

He highly recommended we get the National Audubon Society  Field Guide to Mushrooms. I came home and promptly ordered this one from Amazon. He mentioned a couple other books worth picking up and I have requested those from the library to see what they are like before purchasing, since he only had these for us to look at during our class.

This was a pretty informative class and it was FREE! You should really check to see if State Parks near you offer events and class. Often they are free or very affordable

Thursday, September 24, 2015

25 - 4th Grade AR Books about The Planets & Space

AR Books about The Planets and Space

Earth's Crust by Conrad Storad
Mars: The Red Planet by Patricia Demuth
Planet by Melvin Berger
Rocky Planet by Kyla Steinkraus
Saturn for My Birthday by John McGranaghan

Eclipses by Nick Hunter
Greetings from Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley

Exploring Exoplanets by Deborah Kops
Meet the Planet by John McGranaghan
Our Solar System by Amanda Davis

Saturn by Susan Ring
Space by Chris Oxlade

Earth by Susan Ring
Uranus by Susan Ring

Giant Gas Planet by Kyla Steinkraus
Solar System by Sue Hamilton
Uranus by Larry Brimner

Earth's Layers by Jason Nemeth
Neptune by Larry Brinmer
Neptune by Susan Ring

Jupiter by Susan Ring

Saturn by Larry Brimner

Planet by Lynda Sorenson
Pluto by Larry Brimner
What's So Special About Planet Earth by Robert Wells

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gluten Free Raspberry Chia Seed Muffins

Gluten Free Raspberry Chia Seed Muffins
1 C Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1 C Brown Rice Flour
1/3 C Sucanat
1/4 C chia seeds
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 C unsweetened almond milk
1/4 C coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp pure almond extract
1 C frozen raspberries


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Combine flours, sucanat, chia seeds, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside'
  • In a small bowl, mix together egg, milk oil and extract
  • Mix wet mixture in to dry mixture
  • Fold in raspberries
  • Bake for about 20 minutes

Thursday, September 17, 2015

FREE Lowe's Build & Grow: Firetruck

This month you get to build a Firetruck at Lowe's. My children have each built ones similar to this one in the past, so we will skip this one, but if you want to get in on this FREE activity for your children you better register asap, as these can fill up fast.

Our local Lowe's has worked with fire department in that city and they have been on site the past few years when they do this Build & Grow. I can't promise that each one does this, but there might be more to do than just build something, possibly even including a firetruck and meeting firemen.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

DIY Paper Plate Masks (2 per plate!!)

This is the one that my son made. He wanted it to be scary but also have long eyelashes. I came up with the idea for this project last year as something to do with my son's preschool (he's in kindergarten now!)

I just bought some paper plates and Halloween stickers and used a bunch of straws we had sitting in a drawer and also some markers that we have.

I drew out the mask free hand and then cut it out. After i made that first one then I used it as a template to cut out the rest. Then I just stapled a straw to the edge so that they can use it to hold up to their faces.

We know that some kids don't like to wear a mask close against their face and I thought this would be a fun way to make a mask that they could easily remove and not have to fuss with straps or strings.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Southwestern Chicken Stew

This time I am serving the stew on it's own, although you can also have Southwestern Chicken Stew over Rice. Plus, this recipe also makes a good freezer meal and I have included it in my post 10 Paleo Freezer Slow Cooker Meals.

Slow Cooker Southwestern Chicken Stew

2.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 C cilantro, minced
1 med red onion, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, chopped
15 oz can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz can corn, drained
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 C tomato juice
24 oz salsa


Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on Low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with 2 forks before serving.Enjoy!

Friday, September 11, 2015

DIY Pottery Nativity

I am SOOOOO pleased with how this turned out. After last Christmas, I knew I wanted to make a small nativity scene for our cabin. We have 2 different nativity scenes with stables for our home (one is quite large and was made by my great grandpa) but I wanted something at our cabin as well.

Joseph in this display is only about 6 inches tall and about 4 1/2 inches wide.

I started out by slab rolling out some clay. I cut out my Joseph body first (I did it free hand) and then shaped it. I set it aside nearby so that I could use it to figure out my Mary size. I allowed the body pieces to harden a bit before I attached the heads (which are just rounded balls).

To make Mary, I cut a section of clay to the height I wanted her body to be, then I turned the clay in a circle to find out how much I needed to make the size around I need and then cut it while laying flat. While it lay flat, I fut the slanted side. I cut a circle that I would mold in to the bottom circle body that would be her lap.

I started out with a round flattened piece of clay for baby Jesus and placed the circle head about a 1/2 inch inside the circle, then I just shaped the clay up and around the head to look like swaddled blankets.

Finally, I attached the ball heads on the other 2 pieces.

When it came time to glaze the pieces, the colors I used were Navy Blue and Firebrick Red (they are currently 2 of my favorite glazes we have at the Art Center; I am also very fond of Metallic Green.)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

FREE Games for XBOX 360 & ONE

Just to clarify right away - This is NOT a sponsored post and none of my links are affiliate. I am posting this on my own to tell my readers about this deal and we have purchased our own XBOX Live Gold membership.

Each month members of XBOX Live Gold get 2 FREE Games for both XBOX 360 and XBOX ONE. So, I suppose if you have both systems you could really get 4 games free. The games are usually ones that have been out for a while that would retail (on average $20) $10-$30.

So, if you or someone in your house likes to play new games often, this could be the way to go because you are easily $480 on the purchase of 2 games a month.

Yes, you do have to purchase the membership and it $59.99 through the Xbox website and they seem to offer a promotion once in a while, but I suggest buying it through Amazon where right now the purchase price is $44.46 (but we all know how often Amazon prices change, so you might need to add this to your wishlist and keep an eye on the price.)

To give you an idea of what is available this month:

8/16-9/15 : How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition (RV $20)
9/1/-9/30 : The Deer God (RV $10)
9/16-10/15: Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (RV $30)

XBOX 360
9/1-9/15: Battlestations Pacific (RV $25)
9/16-9/30: Crysis 3 (RV $20)

Usually it is my husband using this membership, which you can also use for online multi-player experience, but we also use it to stream Amazon Prime Video and Netflix through as well. If I think of it, I may try to remind readers every month of the free downloads.

As you can see, you pretty much break even with your first 2 free downloads and then it's free after that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Space Needle in Seattle, Washington

This Wednesday I will start sharing pictures from our trip the West Coast and I am starting with the Space Needle, since that is where we started our trip.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Crystals Experiment in the Classroom

I did this experiment at home a couple years ago, and then again this year with my kids. But I took it a step further this time and did it on a larger scale with each of my kids' classes.

You can see the original experiment to make snowflake crystals in this post and read all the directions there, but basically you need a ratio of 1:4 or borax to hot water.

I used a plastic shoe box and filled it with 12 Cups of boiling water and 3 Cups of borax. We were able to hang lay 11 rulers across the top to hang the creations with (I used ornament hooks to hang them) and we did place a label with each child's name on the ruler.

And then in my daughter's classroom I did read the book Crystals by Connor Dayton, which is a 5.0 Level Accelerated Reader book, worth .5 points. It was above the level of many of the kids in there when I did this with her class in 3rd grade, but it really helped introduce a lot of concepts to them and think about all the crystals they see every day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Heart Pinch Pots

Pinch pots are a fun way to make pottery without having a wheel or slabbing out the clay.

I made these heart pinch pot containers for my kids as a little present for them to put coins or trinkets in on top of their dressers.

To make a pinch pot you start out with a ball of clay and start by pressing your thumb in the center. You have now started your pot. Continue to press and pinch your thumb in to the clay and against the sides until you have created the size and thickness of a pot you want. Next you can continue you to shape it how you desire.

I flattened the bottom of my pot my pressing the bottom of it on the table. Then I began shaping the tops of the heart and pinching in clay to make the crevice at the top. Finally I pinched at the bottom to shape the point at the bottom of the heart.

The colors of he glaze I used was Navy Blue and Firebrick Red.

You can easily use air dry clay to make pinch pots and then paint with your own acrylic paints and use and acrylic glaze if you want it to have a shiny look.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

FREE Milk and Snacks for Kids from Kwik Trip

Kwik Trip Gas Stations offer a program for kids call the Milk Moovers Club. You can pick up a brochure at a Kwik Trip location, or print it off here. It is completely free to join for kids ages 2 to 12. You will get a coupon for free milk after you join and some coupons on their birthday as well, plus every time you buy a pint or more of Nature's Touch milk you can get a free bakery item, apple or orange. 

We just sent in our applications and my kids are looking forward to getting their own club card to keep in their wallets. Also, don't forget that Nature's Touch has Milk Moola on them that your school may collect to raise money for the school, I know know our school collects it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Paint Party at Upper East Side

Summer is wrapping up for most and the kids may be back at school already or next week. So, why not think about a fun MNO and plan a paint party like the one I did with a bunch of friends at The Upper East Side in Faribault, MN.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Easy Strawberry Art Project and AR Book Freckleface Strawberry

I did this during this past school year with my daughter's class. Our high school was putting on the musical of Freckleface Strawberry and I wanted the kids to know the story and get excited about seeing the play. Her classmates love when I comes in and read to them (even if the book is below their grade level) and I am pretty sure they love it even more then I bring in a project for them.

To make these strawberries I just created a couple of templates so that those who wanted to trace the shape construction paper could. I cut up green construction paper in to squares (6 per strawberry) and rectangles (1 for the stem) in advance. To make the seeds, I just gave them q-tips and a little black tempera paint.

It was a relatively quick project, but it was fun for them and I think make the book and musical even more meaningful for them.