Another Winter Afternoon – Natural History Museum

Ender has been really interested in skeletons lately.  I don’t even remember how we started talking about skeletons, but he is constantly asking to see pictures of skeletons on my phone.  A few Ender quotes:

“Can I see a fish skeleton?”

“I want to see my skeleton!”

“Mommy, my skeleton is inside my body!”

So, when my parents wanted to get together this past weekend, I thought Ender would really enjoy a trip to the natural history museum about an hour from our house.

The trip went well.  We had Japanese for lunch and Atlas tried sushi (Ender refused all food).

Ender was pretty sick still at this point and he ended up falling asleep at the museum and getting carried around.  But overall, I’d say the trip was a success and I’d do it again.

This is how I feel about them - the whole world is theirs if they want it!
This is how I feel about them – the whole world is theirs if they want it!
We were looking at some rib bones and he was showing us his ribs.
We were looking at some rib bones and he was showing us his ribs.
Great picture of Atlas and Daddy!
Great picture of Atlas and Daddy!
He wanted to crawl right in there.
He wanted to crawl right in there.
Atlas was tracking Darwin's journeys.
Atlas was tracking Darwin’s journeys.
Ender loves owls.  It was really neat for him to see an owl skeleton.  He was also excited about the owl egg.
Ender loves owls. It was really neat for him to see an owl skeleton. He was also excited about the owl egg.
My mom bought the boys each a gift.  Ender's was the ice cube tray which was taking a ride in the dugout canoe.  He'd get really mad if you took it out.
My mom bought the boys each a gift. Ender’s was the ice cube tray which was taking a ride in the dugout canoe. He’d get really mad if you took it out.
This was the possum display.  I love it.  I can't explain why.
This was the possum display. I love it. I can’t explain why.
Advertisements

Our Candid Week: January 18 – January 24

I missed this update last week and this week’s update will be really short.  I was sick and then Ender was sick.  So we haven’t taken very many pictures.  I will do better next week!

Atlas and Zoe - he loves her, she tolerates him
Atlas and Zoe – he loves her, she tolerates him
This is how Ender takes your temperature.  He sticks his wrench in the neck of your shirt, then reads off a bunch of letters and numbers.  For example, your temperature might be "435LMR2WX".
This is how Ender takes your temperature. He sticks his wrench in the neck of your shirt, then reads off a bunch of letters and numbers. For example, your temperature might be “435LMR2WX”.

Winter Afternoons – Kid’s Museum

We have a great little kid’s museum near our house.  It’s the kind with kid-sized stores, hospitals, banks, etc.

One great thing about the community we live in is that each month, a local business will sponsor a “free” day at this kid’s museum.  So last week, we took advantage of one of these free days and spent the chilly afternoon at the museum!

Ender had actually been sick at school but perked up in order to enjoy the museum.

I think the boys’ favorite part of the museum was the little grocery store.  It had the packaging from real food items.  It also had little tiny grocery carts, little mini conveyor belts, and working cash registers that provided real receipts!

One of the hits of the day was the grocery store.  Here are the boys enjoying a shopping trip together.
One of the hits of the day was the grocery store. Here are the boys enjoying a shopping trip together.

 

Atlas thinks we need some onions.
Atlas thinks we need some onions.
Ender didn't know what several of the food items were (for example, frozen pot pies).  When asked what an item was, he'd happily say "I don't know!".  That certainly didn't stop him from adding the items to his cart!
Ender didn’t know what several of the food items were (for example, frozen pot pies). When asked what an item was, he’d happily say “I don’t know!”. That certainly didn’t stop him from adding the items to his cart!
Cashing out with the very realistic cash register.  It even had a scanner to scan the barcodes on each item.
Cashing out with the very realistic cash register. It even had a scanner to scan the bar codes on each item.
When Atlas took the money out of the cash register, Ender said "that's daddy's!".  Because apparently only daddy holds money.  haha
When Atlas took the money out of the cash register, Ender said “that’s daddy’s!”. Because apparently only daddy holds money. haha

The first time we visited this museum, the hospital (complete with ambulance) was the runaway hit for the boys.  This time, they weren’t quite as into it.  Ender was giving the doll a shot in her eye, which sounds pretty horrifying.

We have no idea what this stuff is!
We have no idea what this stuff is!

Another big hit is the water table.  The water table has pegs into which you can slide these plastic rectangles in order to direct the flow of water.  This is useful for creating areas for Atlas where his toys won’t float away.  Ender really loves the fishing toys (magnetic poles and fish).

Ender trying to get his brother to fish with him.
Ender trying to get his brother to fish with him.

The museum has quite a few agricultural displays.  For example, they have a gardening plot, a display about farm animals, this really neat grain conveyor belt, and several pieces of farm equipment you can climb into.  Ender just wanted to try to lock Atlas in the barn.

Waiting for his change to lock Atlas in the barn.
Waiting for his change to lock Atlas in the barn.

This was a really great to spend the chilly afternoon and I hope we can do it again next month!

Making the most of 30°F

It was significantly warmer than it has been this past Sunday.  We took advantage of the warm weather to try out the awesome sledding hill near our house.

The hill is actually super huge.  It starts out as a very tall hill (like 100 yards up maybe?), then flattens out over a road, which is closed in the winter, then finishes with a much smaller hill (maybe 25 yards).  We spent most of our time on the smaller hill at the bottom.

Ender LOVED sledding.  He just laughed and giggled the entire time.  At one point, he got sick of walking back up the hill after sledding down and started crying.  I mean, I totally understand.  Walking back up the hill after sledding down is a real bummer.

Ender's first sled, then walking back up
Ender’s first sled, then walking back up

Atlas sat in our awesome wooden baby sled, which was a gift for Ender’s first Christmas from my parents.  It’s got a back and a cushion, so it’s great for pulling kids around in.  I did try taking Atlas down the hill once, but he seemed scared and cried as we were going down.  So maybe he’s a bit too young to enjoy sledding!

Baby Baby

The only mishap of the day happened when a Ender’s sled collided with another kid’s sled.  Yeah, he cried.  But he got over it and still wanted to sled after that.  Oh, and when we were pulling the kids to the hill from our house, the sled tipped over TWICE, sending Atlas face-first into the snow.  He didn’t seem upset, though, just confused!

We came home afterwards and enjoyed some warm chamomile tea to warm up!

Herb Profile: Calendula

800px-Yellow-calendula-pot-marigold

The Basics

I’ve chosen calendula as the first featured herb in my new series on medicinal herbs. Quite simply put, my first forays into the world of herbal medicine involved calendula, and for that reason, I thought it should be featured first.

Calendula is a bright and sunny herb that can also be known as “pot marigold”. Please, however, do not confuse calendula with one of the many other varieties of marigolds commonly found in gardens. The scientific name for the herb calendula is Calendula officinalis.

Medicinal Qualities

Calendula has been a known medicinal herb since the twelfth century. It is thought to be of Mediterranean origin, however, it is now grown worldwide. Our ancestors used calendula both internally and topically. Today, however, calendula is used primarily as a topical treatment.

Calendula flowers contain a high amount of flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant based antioxidants which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal effects. Flavonoids also help to protect cells from free radicals, which are unstable molecules thought to be directly involved in the aging process and which may contribute to a host of medical conditions.

Most often, calendula flowers are used to make topical treatments including tinctures, balms, salves, ointments, creams, or bath teas. Note that the entire head of the calendula flower may be used, not just the petals. Calendula has been used to treat a plethora of skin conditions including cuts and scrapes, chapped skin, stings, rashes, and other minor skin irritations and infections.  Calendula is very gentle and has been used on babies, children, and those with skin sensitivities.

In the Garden

Calendula is easy to grow in most USDA hardiness zones. It grows best in full sun. Calendula will tolerate any soil type, including clay, sand, and loam, as long as the soil as good drainage and the plant is watered evenly.

It is easy to grow calendula from seed. It tends to do best when directly sown, however, it is possible to start the seeds indoors and then transfer them outdoors when the weather allows. Calendula prefers cool temperatures, and for best results, should be planted in early spring or early fall. Note that calendula can tolerate some frost. If planted in the spring, cut back calendula before the hottest days of summer and allow it to grow again in early fall for more blooms.

Calendula typically grows to about one foot to two feet tall. It is resistant to most pests. It is even considered deer resistant! Calendula blooms range from very pale cream to bright orange. It is a happy and bright plant which will bring both beauty and function to your garden.

Harvesting and Storing

The flower heads (not just the petals) should be collected on hot, sunny days, if possible. The flower heads should be picked on a regular basis in order to prevent the plant from producing seeds. This will allow you to harvest the largest quantity of flower heads. It is best to collect the flower heads in the morning, before they have fully opened. Flower heads may be pinched off or cut with scissors.

Dry the flower heads completely before storing. Calendula may be dried by placing the flower heads face down on a dish towel out of direct sunlight. The flower heads must be completely dry before storing them. If they are not completely dry, they will mold and the harvest will be wasted. The flower heads should feel warm, fragile, and crispy. If they feel cool, that indicates there is still water present. Once completely dry, the flower heads should be stored in water tight jars outside of direct sunlight.

Using Calendula

Please see the following links for ways I use calendula.

Basic Calendula Oil Infusion

 

Basic Calendula Oil Infusion

I’ve found this very simple calendula oil infusion very helpful in treating a variety of my family’s ailments. It is incredibly easy to make and may be stored for up to a year in a tight-sealing jar out of direct sunlight.

Recently, I used my calendula oil infusion to treat a rash my son came down with at daycare. I wanted to make a more comprehensive balm to treat his rash, however, I knew making the balm would take all night (allowing the herbs to infuse via the heat method) and I wanted to provide some immediate relief. I applied calendula oil infusion to his rash. Within an hour, the rash had disappeared.

I’ve also used this calendula infused oil to treat mild diaper rash, dry skin, and minor cuts and scrapes. It is easy to make, stores well, and is extremely effective.

Sun Infusion

This is the best way to make calendula infused oil. By not heating the calendula flowers, you are ensuring that none of the qualities of the herb are destroyed. The downside to this method is that it takes several weeks.

Supplies

  • Dried calendula flower heads
  • Liquid carrier oil (olive, sunflower, or castor are good choices)
  • Glass jar with tight sealing lid
  • Cheesecloth

Instructions

  1. Ensure your glass jar is clean and completely dry.
  2. Fill the glass jar with flower heads. Leave roughly one to two inches of head space above the flower heads.
  3. Pour the liquid carrier oil on top of the flower heads. The oil should cover the flower heads by about an inch.
  4. Place the lid on the jar and ensure it is on tight.
  5. Place the jar in a sunny location. Allow the infusion to sit for at least four weeks.
  6. Strain the oil infusion through cheese cloth to remove flower heads. The resulting oil should have no visible flower head parts in it.
  7. Store the infusion for up to a year in a tight-sealing jar away from sunlight.

Heat Infusion

This method for creating an infusion is not as effective as the sun method. However, it has the benefit of being much quicker. Although the heat may destroy some of the beneficial qualities of the calendula flower, it will still have many healing properties.

Supplies

  • Dried calendula flower heads
  • Liquid carrier oil (olive, sunflower, or castor are good choices)
  • Glass jar with tight sealing lid
  • Cheesecloth
  • Small sauce pan

Instructions

  1. Ensure your glass jar is clean and completely dry.
  2. Fill the glass jar with flower heads. Leave roughly one to two inches of head space above the flower heads.
  3. Pour the liquid carrier oil on top of the flower heads. The oil should cover the flower heads by about an inch.
  4. Dump the entire contents of the glass jar into the small sauce pan. Use a spatula to get all of the oil out.
  5. Allow the infusion to simmer on low heat for at least two hours. The longer the infusion is allowed to sit, the better. Stir the infusion occasionally.
  6. Strain the oil infusion through cheese cloth to remove flower heads. The resulting oil should have no visible flower head parts in it.
  7. Store the infusion for up to a year in a tight-sealing jar away from sunlight.

This recipe represents my first attempt at using herbal medicine.  However, it is a recipe I go back to again and again as it is so versatile as well as effective.  I love the way making these medicines makes me feel connected to the earth and self-sufficient!

Summer

So we’re officially missing summer over here.  With weather in the single digits on a daily basis, it’s just too cold to spend any time outside.  We have a great sledding hill up the street from our house, but I think we’ll hold off on trying it until the weather goes above 15 degrees or so.

This spring, we have a new swing set to put up (that I won in a Christmas raffle, yay!), a new sandbox to fill (thanks Uncle B!), and many gardening projects to plan.  This will be our first summer in our new house and I can’t wait to take nature walks, play at the playground, and walk downtown on warm summer nights.  Sigh.

Last summer, we weren’t able to do many of the things we normally like to due to the fact were were trying to sell our house, adjusting to new work schedules, family commitments, etc.  But this year we’re going to be all about summer.  Camping!  Kayaking!  Sprinklers in the yard!  Beaches!

Only 158 more days.  We can do this!