What We Did This Summer

Let’s give this (“this” being using this blog as a record of our learning activities in order to easily be able to write my end-of-year report) another try! I thought I’d start off our school/not-school year by recapping a few neat things we did over the summer.

We started off in June by taking a little day trip from Calgary to Blackfoot Crossing. It’s about an hour’s drive from Calgary, east on the Trans-Canada. I have wanted to go for a couple of years now, but we made more of an effort this time and actually set a date, as I had already started our learning plan for fall (in June?! What has gotten into me?) and it included learning about the First Nations of Canada and especially our region. I wish we had gone sooner, and we will definitely go again! It’s an absolutely beautiful site, and readily apparent why it has been a sacred site for centuries. You’re driving through dry prairie, nothing too exciting, and suddenly the prairie gives way to a lush valley and the scenery is gorgeous. Above it sits the interpretative centre (top righthand corner of the photo).

The view of the river valley at Blackfoot Crossing.

The view of the river valley at Blackfoot Crossing.

In the interpretative centre, we learned about different aspects of the Blackfoot culture, such as dances, migration, dwellings and traditions. We learned about residential schools (I added a bit of my own information to the write-up, which was very diplomatic) as well.

Our favourite part was strolling around outside, checking out the stone mounds, noteworthy sites and the traditional dance competition area. There is a walkway up to a lookout point (the vantage point of the photo above), and from here we could see pelicans circling, deciding where to land on the river below.

Blackfoot Crossing 2

In July, Neko spent a week in Edmonton with friends of ours. She was lucky enough to attend Odysseo, the Edmonton Science Centre, and the Alberta Legislature. She took the full legislature tour, which, happily, is in the Grade Four curriculum.

August was a blur of day camps and swimming. She can now jump off the diving board and swim to the edge, and dive all the way to the bottom of the pool, both of which are huge for her.

And the day before school started (September 15), we attended Homeschool Day at the Telus Spark. Neko attended the Junior Architects class and the tour of the building which covered all the aspects of their LEED certification. Great options for a little girl who dreams of being an architect or designer!

Junior architects building a wobbly tipi from PVC pipe at Telus Spark.

Junior architects building a wobbly tipi from PVC pipe at Telus Spark.

She also experimented with gears on the gear wall in the Creative Kids Museum (and later in the week went over gears and pulleys in her workbook), and of course the crowd favourite was the new Brainasium outdoor playground! The 63-foot slide was a blast.

63-foot slide in the Brainasium park

63-foot slide in the Brainasium park


On the climb up.

Next up! Back to school! It’s been a hectic week!


So This One Time, We Went to Cabo…

… and I wrote about it! And then I let the post sit for ummm… eight months. Yep. I really did. But it was already written and the whole point was that although I really dislike Cabo San Lucas (boo, hiss, throw the rotten tomatoes), we managed to somehow make our trip affordable, fun and educational. Now, how was that?! Let me tell you…

Our Trip to Cabo and How We Made it a Homeschooling Win

When Justan told me last fall that we’d be going to Cabo for a destination wedding, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. Cabo San Lucas isn’t exactly the type of destination we would choose for a family vacation – or a trip at all.

I had been there 13 years ago when I was 18 years old, right in the middle of spring break. Now, I was 18 and reasonably happy to just spend my two weeks in Cabo taking advantage of cheap and free drinks, but even at that point I found the pursuits of choice in Cabo a bit a) vapid or b) expensive. Justan first told me that he felt confident in my researching skills to find us more authentic attractions and a richer cultural experience. I was sorry to break it to him that these things are extremely hard to come by in Los Cabos.

But, he was asked to be the best man in the wedding, and it was important to us to be there for these friends, so we started planning. Here is how we made the best of it and had a great (and even educational!) family vacation in Cabo San Lucas.


We started by searching out an apartment. Resorts are really not our thing, especially resorts that are located along a tourist strip outside of town, like many of those in Los Cabos are. On the recommendations of friends, we first tried Air B’n’B, a website that matches up travellers with locals who have a room, bed or flat to rent out. We quickly found a one-bedroom apartment along the main roadway in Cabo, for $50 CAD per night. For one week, this little suite with a kitchenette and room to sleep four would cost us $400. Sign us up!

When we arrived, we were pleased to find that our flat was on the ground floor of the complex and opened directly onto the courtyard and pool deck. We discovered that the complex used to be a suite hotel, but in the economic downturn it had been sold off as condo apartments – there was a clover-shaped swimming pool with a defunct swim-up bar to prove it.

The pool outside our room with the swim-up bar.

The pool outside our room with the swim-up bar. (We really should have bought some drinks and taken turns serving them to each other, haha.)

This suite turned out to be really great, as we could buy our own food at the local market and eat a lot of our meals at home, and Neko could play around the pool in the morning and at other times when we were busy, because it was right outside our door. There were also a couple of families with children living in the complex, and Neko spent some time playing with the kids, who didn’t speak much (if any) English.


To save money, we booked flights on the way down and back with one stopover each. This was a bummer, but not so bad. Neko is seven now so the wait times weren’t awful. She even did well getting up at 4 am for our trip down.

Waiting at the Calgary Airport, 5 am.

Waiting at the Calgary Airport, 5 am.

For amusement on the flights (and for downtime in our flat while we were there), we had a colour-by-numbers book from Melissa and Doug; a word search book and a book of mazes; several comics and thin chapter books; blank notebook paper and pens; and her LeapPad with a couple of new games (the Eye Spy game went over well, as did Finneus and Pherb). I also packed lots of snacks – Goldfish crackers, beef jerky, fruit bars, Larabars, and Emergen-C, powdered coconut water mix and tea bags to liven up some water along the way. We were very thankful to have all these snacks along the way.

While in Los Cabos, we traveled mainly by bus. Don’t be afraid to try the local transit – we actually found it nicer than the public transit back home (we mainly took the Subur Cabos buses and avoided the old school bus-style buses), and it was affordable and very convenient. The buses will stop if you flag them down, even anywhere along the highway, and they will let you off anywhere you want. This made it easy to hit out-of-the-way beaches along the InterPeninsular highway. We did have to take cabs a few times, such as home after the wedding, but it was a much nicer experience to be on a bus with locals and have to figure things out for ourselves.

Day One: The Improbable Sunset Dinner Cruise, Humpback Whales and Flying Manta Rays

Mostly a travel day, we were scheduled to land at the Los Cabos airport outside San Jose del Cabo at about 2:30 in the afternoon. We found out after we booked our flights that the bride and groom had booked a sunset dinner cruise for all their guests as a part of their wedding package – at 4 pm. We didn’t hold out hope that we would make it in time, but when everything went according to schedule, we decided to try. We dropped our luggage in our room and took off on foot for the marina, flagging down a bike taxi before long so we might just make it in time.

We did end up getting there just in time, and it was a good thing. This cruise would have cost us almost $200 for the three of us, though even at that price it might have been worth it. Mid-December to mid-March is whale calving and mating season in the Sea of Cortez, and it’s easy to spot humpback and grey whales breaching, even from many of the resorts along the coast. We followed one family of humpbacks (cow, bull and new calf) for about an hour, and they breached countless times – though we didn’t get to see them jump, nor see their tails. This was really neat, especially considering that we had only been in the country for a couple of hours and this was basically the first thing Neko saw.

She relished riding on the small boat on rough seas, although she made me nervous getting so close to the rails. This was her first real ocean experience.

Neko enjoying the choppy seas on the dinner cruise.

Neko enjoying the choppy seas on the dinner cruise.

Near the end of our cruise, someone mentioned that there were fish jumping. I looked just in time to see a couple of manta rays sail through the air, flapping, then splash back into the sea. This was something I had read about while researching our trip (have a look at my Pinterest board of pre-trip research if you’d like), but I hadn’t been able to find more information on how or when to view this show for ourselves. Scientists say they can find no reason for the rays to display this behaviour – not mating, nor evading predators – and have surmised that it’s purely for fun. We discovered on this trip that the reason you can’t find more information on how or when to see the rays “flying” is that it’s so common and easy to see. It might only be during a certain time, but when we were there in early March, they were visible from some beaches (we saw quite a few off Hotel Beach in San Jose) and in the sea near the shore (if you take a cruise, whale watching tour or fishing trip, for instance). This was definitely the highlight of my trip – so cool to see!

A manta ray jumping at sunset.

A manta ray jumping at sunset.

Day 2: Day at the Beach and a Sunset Wedding

Neko was itching to get to the beach, so after an unsuccessful attempt to get to a restaurant called Campestre Restaurante (18 blocks from the marina on Hidalgo – through some fairly “authentic” Mexican streetscapes) and a much more successful trip to Cabo Coffee (sorry, but we don’t travel outside of the country just to hit up a Starbucks), we headed for Robin and Jenni’s (the groom and bride) resort to check out their beach. Justan needed to be there early to prepare for his best man duties, so Neko and I dropped him off at Robin’s room and we went down to the small beach below the hotel. We took the bus to get to the resort and walked about half a kilometre past vacation villas and desert scrub to the entrance.

The beach was fairly nice (below the Sirena del Mar by Welk Resorts), and here we saw crabs scuttling over the rocks at each end. The water is quite rough (and not safe for swimming) at most beaches in Los Cabos, because of the merging of the Sea of Cortez with the Pacific Ocean, so I mostly asked Neko to stay back from the water. In my opinion, this is a major strike against Cabo as a family beach holiday destination, though there are beaches you can visit that boast calm, shallow waters. There are also not many shells here, because the Sea of Cortez doesn’t send much up onto the shore. There are lots of small pieces of white coral to be found though, thanks to the nearby coral reef. Neko didn’t mind too much, though she did hope to find more, and bigger shells.

Neko after just being hit by a wave on the beach.

Neko after just being hit by a wave on the beach.

We didn’t ever have a problem walking through resorts, so if you need to cut through one to get to a beach, don’t worry about it. No one ever questioned us.

We had fun at the wedding, and Neko had a ton of fun at the party, dancing with the other guests. Being one of two kids (the other was Robin and Jenni’s son, who is almost three) didn’t bother her as long as she had adults to talk to, joke around with, and dance with.

Neko dancing with the bride.

Neko dancing with the bride.

Day 3: Chileno Bay and Authentic Tacos

The two beaches I had seen recommended for families were Playa Santa Maria and Chileno Bay. The former supposedly has pink sand beaches, and calm waters perfect for snorkeling (we didn’t plan on snorkeling as Neko is afraid of swimming and of sticking her face in the water), while the latter is great for calm waters and tide pools. We took the Subur Cabo bus to Chileno Bay with no issues and walked down the road to the parking area. This beach is fairly nice, and at low tide I think the tidepools would be great. We were there halfway between low and high tide and saw lots of spiny sea urchins and crabs, as well as some other small creatures we couldn’t identify. There are beach umbrellas here for shade, as well as a bathroom. We brought our own snacks and drinks, though.

Looking for crabs at Chileno Bay.

Looking for crabs at Chileno Bay.

The gulls and pelicans were also amusing here, and we spent about half an hour watching children feed them before we left. It was pretty easy to get to Chileno Bay, so even though it’s not all that spectacular, it was still worth going. Neko had a good time while we were there and it was nicer than some of the main beaches.

That night we trekked across town to Gordo Lele’s for some authentic tacos, a recommendation I found on Trapper’s List. Trapper’s List is a list of eateries in Cabo, created and maintained by a longtime gringo resident. The tacos were very good, and the whole experience was worth it even just to see the proprietor serenade some other customers via karaoke. The prices were also much more reasonable than the tourist joints in town!

Neko enjoying a taco while the proprietor sings to other patrons in the background.

Neko enjoying a taco while the proprietor sings to other patrons in the background.

Day 4: Crashing the Resort

If you’re looking for a resort experience but don’t want to stay in (or pay for) a resort, I recommend crashing one for a day. We were there legitimately (to visit our friends), but no one blinked an eye at us walking in and using the pool. I was thinking that you could probably look up resorts online to find the one with the most spectacular pool, then just walk in like you’re staying there. Keep a friendly look on your face and act like you belong and chances are, no one will care. Oh, and remember that the resort supplies towels, so don’t bother stuffing your own in the backpack!

Crashing the infinity pool.

Crashing the infinity pool.

In the evening, we paid about $100 for an “all-you-can-eat” buffet and “authentic Mexican culture” entertainment. I recommend this less highly – the idea is to feel like you’re getting the resort experience without having to stay in one, not to feel like you’re paying out the butt for nacho chips.

Day 5: San Jose del Cabo

Word on the street was that nearby San Jose del Cabo was much more authentic and quiet than Cabo San Lucas. I had never visited, even on my previous trip, and a day in a different town (perhaps with less pushy/overpriced vendors) sounded like a nice change of pace.

We took the Subur Cabo again, which only cost us a few dollars even though it’s a 40 minute drive. Once in town we made our way toward historic town centre. It’s not the most spectacular historic town centre as far as such things go, but it was definitely a nice place to spend the afternoon. There were plenty of shops to check out, and the quality of the goods was better than in Cabo, and the vendors were less pushy (most things were still just as overpriced though). Even though online sources had suggested there might be a festival happening, they were only just setting up a stage in the town square. There is also supposed to be a good farmers market in San Jose but judging from the map, it looked like we would have to walk quite a ways to get to it and then we would be even further from the bus, so we decided not to attempt it.

We did, though, make our way from the town centre toward the estuary park. It’s a bird sanctuary, and we weren’t disappointed. The estuary itself was quite pretty, and there was an egret and tons of ducks and other birds hanging out. The estuary is right next to Hotel Beach, the main beach in San Jose (yep, you read that correctly – Hotel Beach). This beach is very long and not all that interesting, and the water is very rough. The one great thing about this beach was that we saw more Manta rays jumping – lots of them! They were very close to the shore and easy to see.

Neko playing near the estuary.

Neko playing near the estuary.

Day 6: A Tour of Land’s End and a Night Out

We started the day by walking down toward the marina with the goal of catching a water taxi to Lover’s Beach and Land’s End. We had aimed for low tide so that we could walk under the arch (El Arco). We had a price in mind – 30 pesos or $24, in a glass-bottomed boat, both ways for all three of us, including a tour before they dropped us off. Right away, someone stopped us, and Justan immediately said “No,” but I asked how much… and he was offering exactly what we wanted, at the price we wanted! This may be a sign that we should have haggled. It probably is. We don’t like to haggle much (though it is the way in Cabo, as in many other tourist locales).

This tour was definitely worth the money for all the things we got to see, more for Neko’s sake than ours. Before we had even left the marina, we saw funny pelicans hanging out on moored boats, a “pirate ship,” and sea lions following tour boats as their passengers threw fish. As we passed Pelican Beach, we moved in close to the shore and could see all sorts of colourful fish through the glass bottom of the boat. Neko loved this! Further out past the arch, we saw the colonies of sea lions basking in the sun both on the rocks and in the water, which was also neat. We toured around on the rough water on the Pacific side, and our captain pointed out different caves and beaches of note. After about half an hour or a bit longer, he dropped us off at Pelican Beach. We spent about two hours walking around between Pelican, Lovers’ Beach and Divorce Beach. In my opinion these weren’t the best beaches, unless you plan to snorkel (in which case Pelican is great), though Divorce Beach is worth seeing for the wild surf – just don’t get anywhere close! People are snatched by rogue waves and killed by the ocean here every year.

The family on the glass-bottomed boat the The Arch.

The family on the glass-bottomed boat the The Arch.

Also worth noting – you normally cannot walk under the Arch. In fact, the tide only goes low enough to allow access every four years. So don’t get your hopes up like I did.

This was the night that my best friend’s mom had offered to take Neko for a sleepover so that Justan and I could go out and do some adult things. We had a nice seafood dinner and then went out to a couple of dance clubs and were reminded of just how extremely disturbing spring break is.

Day 7: Swimming With the Dolphins

Finally, the day came that we could take Neko for our big surprise. She didn’t even know there was a surprise coming, and we walked to the marina without telling her that anything was up. We actually made it right inside the dolphin swim centre before she realized that we would be swimming with the dolphins ourselves.

The dolphin swim was pretty great, though very pricey. I would advise against booking the swim from home, and instead book at one of the tourist booths in town and haggle the price down. We paid nearly $500 for the three of us, which is way more than some other people in our group had paid. And then afterward, they want you to pay $25 per photo to get prints of your swim, which also sucked. It was still worth going, and we’re glad we did. Neko got over much of her fear of water after swimming with the dolphin in the deep tank.

Neko gets a kiss from Andie the dolphin.

Neko gets a kiss from Andie the dolphin.

Also, I feel that as an animal activist, I need to say that I feel really guilty about going. I don’t even have a good excuse. Between the price and the fact that they are captive dolphins, I personally wouldn’t have chosen to go. But, my husband was so excited to do it, and I didn’t really fight it.


Accommodations: I definitely recommend Air B’nB, and finding a place where you can cook some of your own meals. The eggs are great here, and so are the avocados – what more does one need, really?

Food: Look no further than Trapper’s List! I wish I had known about it sooner! I spent literally hours trying to find restaurant recommendations that went beyond overpriced American chains – and Costco.

Transportation: if you plan to tour around a lot (like, say, to check out Todos Santos), I’m sure a rental car would be worth it. But frankly, roads there terrify me. The public transportation was great, and super cheap! Just don’t expect them to speak a lick of English nor understand your attempts at flailing sign language.

Attractions: Honestly – there is just not a whole lot to do here besides sit on beaches where you can’t swim; shop at expensive stores you could find anywhere in the US; haggle over overpriced souvenir tchotchkes; or drink till you can’t see straight. My best advice is to not make the mistake of planning your trip to be too long. If you can be amused by simply wandering and exploring, or if you like water sports (or any of those things I just listed), you’ll be fine. Otherwise, at least you can look forward to napping!


When I wrote “Alphabetization” on Neko’s Learning Plan, I found myself amiss under the heading of “Resources.” Ummmm… I don’t know. How does one teach alphabetization? She’s not a Virgo, like me, compelled to organize all her books by either alphabetization or colour. And I’m not about to have her sit down and do worksheets on alphabetization.

But only a week later, Neko has announced that she’d like to do a research project. She didn’t use those words, of course, but there it was. She wanted to learn all about the rainforest, and write about it. Great!

So, we pulled out some reference books from her shelves, and she asked how she was going to find rainforests in any of them. “Well,” I responded, “You use the index.”

Bingo! As if sent by the Universe, here was my first lesson in alphabetization! I showed her how to use the index and explained how the entries are alphabetized. For the rest of this research project she has embarked on, she’ll have to practice this new skill.

I love how sometimes, the answers just come to you.

(For the record, I mostly just left that part of the learning plan blank… trusting that we’d figure it out. 😉 )

What We’ve Learned Lately: Compound Words, Regrouping, Harvest, Dewey Decimal

Compound Words

This week, one of Neko’s favourite games has been Compound Words. We’ve been having a lot of fun playing it in the car. I don’t remember how it started – for some reason, I explained to her what a compound word is, and before you knew it, she was brainstorming compound words. We chucked around compound words for days! Some were confusing – they seemed like compound words, but were actually two words. Some were only one word, but didn’t actually contain two words within. Others, I was unsure of and had to look up. It was actually fun to see how many we could come up with, and we congratulated each other regularly on our brainstorming. Compound words – check!


Neko also had a really good time with a worksheet on regrouping numbers in subtraction – what you do when you try to subtract 18 from 23, for instance (steal a one from the 20 place, creating a 13 from which you can subtract the 8…). She was confused at first but soon she was really pleased with herself and did the whole page. Regrouping – check!

Harvesting Root Vegetables and Winter Keepers

We were lucky to attend a free harvest at a local CSA. Neko and some of her friends spent a couple of hours digging potatoes, pulling greens, plucking carrots, playing hide and seek in the dill, and more. They had more fun that we expected, and we came home with so many pounds of produce! We’ve been eating them all week. I consider this a very important part of her education – knowing where our food comes from, what grows here, how to store it, and how to prepare it.

Dewey Decimal

At the library on Monday, I gave Neko an introduction to the dewey decimal system and the electronic catalog. I know she doesn’t get it yet, but she knows the basics of searching by subject, and a general idea of how to use the dewey decimal system to search for books on the topic she’s interested in. She’ll need help with it for a long time to come, but it’s nice to have introduced it!

Kitten Care

And lastly, our other ongoing project is kitten care. We adopted an 8-week-old kitten named Olive from my parents’ ranch last week, and Neko has claimed her as her own. She is a very sweet little kitten, but of course keeps us busy. Neko has seen her vaccinated and has seen deworming medicine administered, she has been attempting to litter train her, she has fed and watered and snuggled her, and learned how sharp those claws and teeth are. She has also learned a lot about kitten proofing, and facilitating a friendly relationship between a kitten and an older, very grumpy male cat.

What This Blog Is Now

I wish this were an update, fully documenting what we’ve been up to, or how awesome homeschooling has been going (for the record – it has!). However, I’m just writing a quick post for now to update and say that this will be one of my primary forms of record-keeping for Neko’s Grade Three homeschooling year.

She has begun a blended program that is half public school, half unschooling – she will be in a school setting one day a week, with a second day every other week, and some Friday sport days and field trips as well. The rest of the time, she is unschooling as she has been so far.

Neko's first day of Grade Three. So thrilled!

Neko’s first day of Grade Three. So thrilled!

While not a full update, I’m happy to report that her reading and writing are up to grade level, and I would say that her math is close (more importantly to me, she finds it fun and we don’t fight about it. She has no context for math as punishment nor difficulty. And that is my longterm goal.). Science and social studies are not a concern, as they never have been. Phys ed, music, art and all the rest are going great (how could they not be? So fun!!).

Our learning plan for the year is complete, though I freely admit that I’m not beholden to even my own plans, and these are nothing but loose goals. That said, we’re aiming for the following this year:

Math: units of measure, charts and graphs, describing quantities to 1000 using different methods, multiply to 5×5, beginning division concepts

Language arts: proper spelling (moving away from just phonics), learning to access reference materials (dictionaries, encyclopedias), punctuation, capitalization, alphabetical order, story-telling (describing characters and setting), using electronic library catalog, typing skills

Science: build and test structures, describe and classify rocks and minerals, explore the nature of sound, plant growth and changes, waste and our world, magnets

Social studies: nothing specific aside from Hawaiian culture (we’re going to Maui this winter) – we generally wing it with social studies.

Physical education: improving swimming skills, winter sports – downhill skiing or snowboarding, gymnastics, hiking

Fine arts: guitar basics, appreciate different styles and media in visual art, experience the performing arts, create art using different media and techniques, understand and appreciate rhythm, explore a variety of folk dances

We’ll be tracking Neko’s progress through this blog, her personal student journal, a portfolio, and of course parental observation and even the odd worksheet.

Boats! (Or, Oh How I Love Spring)

A love of running water, or so the story goes, runs on my mother’s side of the family. My grandmother, my mother, I and now Neko all have the utter inability to resist running water of any sort – melting snow creating rivers, melting ice creating paths through the still-frozen ice, springs, creeks, rivers, anything. I’ve been known to stop on the side of a mountain road just to inspect a spring runoff creek running in the ditch.

So when a spring dump of snow brought a big melt the following day, sending rushing rivers through the gutters, I could only think one thing: BOATS!

What is more fun than building boats, then floating them down streams? I would argue, pretty much nothing.

My recipe for boats? Styrofoam meat trays (we don’t have many, but I save the ones that pass through our house), toothpicks or bamboo skewers (to be the flagpole of course!), wine corks (for this… we must drink more wine!), string (to retrieve the boats when they go off course), and anything you have around that is light and might be nice for decorating the boats.

In the end, we discovered that the streams didn’t exist in our own neighbourhood (we were in a different quadrant of the city when we spotted them in the morning), however, all you need is a bit of a puddle to have a satisfying boat-floating experience.

We ended up with Neko’s styrofoam-basket-boat with a half, popsicle stick roof, and a flag; my wine cork and popsicle stick boat; and a styrofoam meat tray each for Mairead and Finn.

My best tip? Use hot glue. Seals up the holes, holds things in place, and of course, impervious to water. Fantastic!

Happy spring, everyone!

Here’s What Happened While I Was Gone

Oops, bad blogger. So, Justan (that’s my husband) went away for about seven weeks. He came home for 1-4 days a couple times in there for a total of about six days, but mostly, Neko and I were on our own. I had all these work engagements scheduled (classes, speaking engagements, trade fairs and so on) during the first couple of weeks, so those two weeks were really stressful. But mostly I just didn’t feel like doing anything by the end of each day, after being “on” all day. So, I didn’t write blog posts. Sorry about that! I’ve got a little rundown here of some fun things that we did, some of which I wish I would have blogged at the time. In fact I might still do separate posts for some of these because there are lots of photos and I want to write more detail.

On February 10th, we made personalized muffins. Mairead and Finn were over, and I made a basic muffin batter and let them each choose two fruits to put in (we had a variety of dried and frozen).

The muffin making process.

We ended up with blueberry-strawberry, strawberry-apricot and blackberry-raspberry. Yum!

On the 13th we were up in Red Deer, where Justan was working on a Hellman’s TV ad. It was a TV spot about a Red Deer school that had decided to get rid of their deep fryers and only serve fresh foods in their cafeteria. If you’re not getting this, Hellman’s pitch right now is that they are mayo made with whole ingredients and therefore… a health food? Anyway. We won’t get into that. It was fun to see the commercial being filmed, because it featured a monster truck crushing a deep fryer, which is something that is, of course, on everyone’s bucket list. It was a neat morning out for Neko and for me. I would have done a blog post just about this, but my mother in law doesn’t have WiFi, so I felt a bit lost while we were there and didn’t get around to accomplishing anything online when we got back.

The deep fryer in its final moments.

I wanted a somber feel for this photo. This is immediately after they killed the deep fryer. Death by monster truck.

While we were at the school, Neko took the opportunity to play for a while. There was a big stack of strawbales that they had initially used to conceal the monster truck, and first she played on those. Then, she used the teeter totter to catapult her stuffed animal and we learned about levers and fulcrums.


As some of you may have heard, winter skipped Canada this year. February 16th felt like April. So, we invited friends over and went for a walk. We have some really beautiful river parks in our neighbourhood, and we love to spend lots of time in them. We see wildlife like beavers, bald eagles, deer, assorted other birds and coyotes.

Can anyone out there tell whether this is a bald eagle? I find it easier to tell when they’re flying.

We checked out Homeschool Day at the new Telus Spark Science Centre, and I won’t include much on that here, because it deserves its own post, especially since there are lots of people out there interested in reviews. Sure, it was a month ago, but it’s still worth writing about. But here is my favourite shot from that day:

Neko watching the marble as she and her friends test the marble run they built. They did a great job!

Another favourite activity of late was Sharpie tie dye. A friend posted it on Facebook, and I’ve also seen it on Pinterest. It was a huge hit! We’ll definitely be doing this again. Find detailed instructions here: http://theartgirljackie-tutorials.blogspot.ca/2011/10/tie-dye-t-shirts-with-sharpie-markers.html.

The girls tie dyeing their shirts with Sharpies and rubbing alcohol.

Random Fun Round-up

I’m going through pictures today of fun things we’ve done lately and I’m feeling too lazy to group them into separate posts by topic. So, this is  a quick round-up of fun things we’ve done lately.

Last Friday, our friends Jessica, Madison, Annika and Emily came over while Mairead and Finn were here, and we all made meringues. It was a first for all of us, and lots of fun. Technically, we were doing it as a science experiment (learning about how beating the egg whites creates air bubbles which make the meringues fluffy), but it was a darn tasty one.

Beat egg whites, add sugar, and maybe some colour, and maybe even flavour.

They have to bake for a long time at a low heat, so the wait before we could enjoy them was difficult for the kids.

They had fun, though, hanging out with each other.

We all enjoyed them after they were cooked. Here is Finn trying a vanilla meringue.

From the truly random file: Neko staged an epic battle between good and evil in our bathroom, then laid it all out for me and explained just who was whom.

Best quote (as she was picking “teams”): “Spongebob: always evil.”

A big highlight of our month in January was when our great friend Andie stayed with us for a week, on a visit from her home in Australia. Neko loved having someone around who would play “store” with her, and Andie and I went out dancing and stayed out late too many nights on the weekend. We had a ton of fun and we were all exhausted!

We all played Just Dance 3 one night, and worked up a sweat. Andie went right home to Australia and bought herself a copy.

While Andie was here, we had to take her to my store, Babes in Arms, so she could see it. Neko got ahold of the camera and took some photos of me while we were there.

Talking about cloth diapers!

And then I tried Neko in the Boba to see how a 43 lb kid felt in it on my back. The verdict? Super comfy! (This photo, by the way, caused some controversy on the Babes in Arms Facebook page!)

Not that I normally wear her on my back… but hey, as the owner it’s my job to test these things out!

On Andie’s last night here, we learned to play Le Havre (we’re suckers for nerdy German board games). Not Neko… we were confused enough as 30-somethings.

Justan and I are a little befuddled over this shipping and receiving business.

And one last random, fun shot. Last week I realized that, because Neko has a loft bed, I could take two sheets and tuck them between the mattress and frame at the top, so they would hang down and make one giant fort. I had considered it before but for some reason thought that because it would just enclose the space under her bed, where they can always play, that they wouldn’t be interested. But they happily (and quietly!) played in there for a couple of hours! Awesome!! The only caveat? They demanded I keep delivering them carrots to eat. Consider it done!

My eager carrot consumers peek out from their castle.

Bringing Colour to a Winter Day

Although true winter was still three days off, as we know now thanks to the magic of hindsight, Thursday was a bit wintery and greyish feeling. Though it was warm and sunny, something about it felt very…. January. Maybe we could feel the cold snap that was about to roll in from the west.

The night before, I had flipped through science experiment cards from Usborne Books that my mom had given Neko for Christmas, and picked out a couple of projects for the day.

50 Science Things to Make and Do – science experiment cards from Usborne Books

I realized, as I was getting the supplies ready, that these were both going to be really nice, bright, colourful activities! This made me happy.

The first was musical bottles. We all did this as kids, and I was excited to revisit it. Neko helped me dig through our recycling for glass bottles, and we filled them to varying levels with water. I apologize for what will appear to be a bright, shiny Coca Cola ad. My husband has a habit. We added food colouring to the water so that we had a full spectrum of bottles.

As it turned out, only Mairead was really interested in this. Neko and Finn were each off doing their own things. But that’s okay. Mairead, Andie (our Australian visitor) and I spent quite a while experimenting with blowing across the mouths of the bottles, tapping them in different spots with different materials (metal, wood) and arranging the bottles by colour, size and water level.

Our rainbow of musical bottles

Mairead took to the musical aspect and decided that she would like to perform a concert for Nicole (her mom) when she came to pick her up later that day. Mairead spent a lot of time practicing so it would be just right.

Mairead practices her concert in preparation for performing for her mom later.

Still practicing.

Our next activity was planting seeds. Neko and I picked out seeds from our dry food storage the night before – we chose dry kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, barley and peanuts. Each child got two small Mason jars, into which we stuffed colour tissue paper. The card called for napkins, but we don’t have paper napkins. I love the colours the kids chose – each of them ended up with two jars with layers of brightly coloured paper. After watering the paper down, we stuffed various seeds around the edges, between the paper and the jar.

The kids’ seed jars

The jars will live in a warm, dark cupboard until the seeds sprout, at which point we will move them to a sunny spot so the sprouts can grow. Hopefully I will post a photo once the sprouts are growing!

Edited to add photos:

Our big plants! Check it out!