Critter Count 2014 : a spring tradition

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For many years now, we’ve gone to the Critter Count event organized by Vancouver Water Resource Center.  I think we’ve been going for maybe 8, 9 years? Not sure.  I’ve lost track without my digital and online journaling.  But it’s been a very long time.  I think Lucas was not even walking the first time he went.  That would make it 8 years ago.

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It’s a fun tradition.  This year, we talked about not going, we were all a little tired of the beginning of the spring busy-ness.  Lucas had had a small sidewalk injury and was feeling a little sore. The garden and yard was calling us.  But that morning we decided to go for it.  And we were all glad we did.  It is so much fun.  Every time.  Every time is different.

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We have new experiences.  We love seeing the people who organize it each year.  We enjoying learning from them, their experiences, their time, their knowledge.

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This year we went back to Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. It is such a pretty place.  We had sunshine too.  What a treat it was.

DSC_0054-small DSC_0056-small DSC_0055-small DSC_0057-small DSC_0059-small DSC_0081-smallOnce it started to warm up a little, we saw tadpoles.

DSC_0064-small DSC_0071-small DSC_0066-small DSC_0072-smallWe found one tree frog.  I think they are my favorite!

DSC_0086-small DSC_0059-smallWe looked everywhere.  It seems like we didn’t see as many critters as we have before.  Maybe it’s because it had been very cold up until then.  A late spring.

DSC_0087-small DSC_0090-small DSC_0091-smallWe found a second garter snake.

DSC_0093-small DSC_0096-smallWe measured it and let it go.

DSC_0108-small DSC_0110-small DSC_0100-smallAnd found a bull frog we had to catch, because they are invasive here in the Pacific Northwest.

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Headed towards another wetland.


DSC_0131-small DSC_0128-smallAnd in the middle of the grasses, yet another garter snake.

DSC_0133-small DSC_0132-small DSC_0135-smallOak galls.

DSC_0142-small DSC_0137-small DSC_0138-smallTall Oregon Grape.



DSC_0147-small DSC_0148-smallAnd oh the view.


And I do believe these kids had the best seats.

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As we are walking out…

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We stopped by to see the longhouse, and remember that we had studied them just last year.

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We’ve seen it before, and I love seeing it every time.


We had such a beautiful morning. ‘Til next year, then.


The World : France : Lascaux Caves

We started a new study unit earlier this month.  This time we are studying France, as part of a World Unit.

My kids laugh when I tell them as a kid (well, all through high school) I really, really disliked history.  Yes I did.  I had to take all the formal big tests at the end of my senior year, as everyone else in Chile, only to get scores to see if you could go into a certain university, into a certain career you had chosen early in your high school years, to take all the electives necessary to get into the career you thought you wanted. History of course, was one of those tests.  And I did not like it.  I guess history, probably because of my terrible memory, was never my thing.  It never has been.

But this time around, when we study together with the kids, it is much more fun.  Maybe because it is up to us.  Maybe because it has more meaning or there is a reason behind studying it.  I love studying any history the kids decide to study.  And even though we look up years and names and try to memorize them, it doesn’t really matter too much.  Between the three of us, we can remember most of the details we want to remember at a certain time.  Not bad I say!  Especially since today, everyone has access to instant information whenever you need it.

For us still, our instant information are our heads.  We are still working on that.  And if someone doesn’t remember something, I know someone else will.  And if we don’t, we are only few steps away from the computer where we can look it up.  And yes, we also have a history encyclopedia we like to look at.  Really!  A real encyclopedia.  It is not like those books lining up the bookshelf in our wall, from A-B, and C-E, and F-G and so on, that we had in our homes growing up.  This one, is a much smaller kind.  I like it how easy and simplified it is.  When we want to get more information, then we can dig deeper.  But his has something to get us started.  Do you have a history encyclopedia you like?


I really didn’t know much about France.  I’ve never been there and I don’t have family living there.  But I do have a couple of friends living there now.  But really, I think I never paid attention in my history class in high school, so I don’t know if we even studied it or not.

This time around, I am paying more attention.  It is more fun too.  Nothing against my history teachers I had growing up, it’s just that this time, I am learning together with my own kids.  And we’re studying something we’ve decided to study together, something we think would be fun to learn.  And in this case, we have a good reason to learn a little more. It makes it that much more fun.


So, together with learning about the geography of Europe, we looked at first, the Paleolithic cave paintings from Lascaux Caves.  Oh my!  What a story that is, and how amazing it is.  Caves found by teenagers chasing after their dog back in the 40’s.  How amazing. We loved the story a lot.


We did our own cave paintings.  We tore and wrinkled some brown craft paper.

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Drew some lines with white chalk (like the cracks of the walls) and then we drew our designs.

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We used chalk and kept to the colors they would have used back then.  Reds, browns, black and white.

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Maybe we’ll get to see these paintings one day.  I know now though, thanks to Rick, that the caves that they have for the public viewing today are an exact replica of the real caves.  It makes just a little less interesting, but still, amazing to know that these still exist, just next door.

I have some links in my Pinterest page too, if you’d like more resources.  There are lots out there.  So much fun to be had.  As always, if you have any other resources you’ve used and liked, we would love to know.  Thanks for going on this tour with us.

popcorn : the most important food… ever!

Growing up in Chile I remember having popcorn once in a while.  I don’t have vivid memories of having a lot of it.  I do remember it was sweet, I think it was caramel popcorn.  And I do know though, the few times I had it, I liked it.

So, when I first came to the US, as an exchange student in high school (let’s just say I’m rounding up to… let’s say… 28 years ago… oh man! Time passes.) and I tried popcorn (probably with movies), I was surprised to taste the buttery saltiness.  Just different as the first time of it, a new beginning.

Then, fast forward 8 years later, I moved back here to the US, and I see my father-in-law making popcorn at home.  To me, right there, I thought that was an invention worth inventing.  A popcorn maker.  I had never seen one.  I guess I’ve always bought the popcorn from the popcorn store, and I had never seen it being made.  Actual corn, being popped right in front of my eyes (and ears!) Wow.


For some reason I don’t really know, once we moved into our own home, few weeks into my new popcorn discovery, I never tasted popcorn in my own home.  I always tried it somewhere else, and loved this new salty popcorn.

Ten years later, I met a friend through a playgroup in our neighborhood, when Siena was just a baby.  She showed me you can actually make popcorn with a pot on your stove!  That was the next great invention, after the popcorn popper itself, of course.  Making popcorn on your stove.

So by the time Siena was old enough to eat popcorn, I made it at home in our pot.  But few years ago I got scared.  Scared that I was going to burn my nice, big pot.  So I bought one of those twirling popcorn makers.

I’ve had three of them.  They are great to make popcorn, but the last one I had, I had bad luck with it.  It got burned many times in the bottom.  Not all the kernels would pop.  It wasn’t as reliable as the others it had been.  I don’t think there was anything wrong with the popper itself.  Mark and the kids all three of them, had made popcorn with it, just fine.  I think I just had personal issues with it.  So when the plastic thingamajigger broke last week (that makes the wire blades turn inside, to move the popcorn around) I debated.  I debated if I should buy another one, or use that same old pan that now it’s not so new and special anymore.  Or even if we should get an air popper.  Crazy decision!

This is funny, because we are a family that tries to own few appliances.  Our kitchen is small.  We own two big pots (that we use a lot in making apple sauce each fall and other canning goods).  A small pot.  Two pans (a big one and a small one.)  A crock pot.  Most of these very versatile.  A teapot (to boil water). A coffee maker.  A tea pot (to make tea).  A blender.  A toaster.  I think that’s about it.

So, having a popcorn maker, it’s a big deal.  It’s an appliance, a pot, with only one reason of being. To make popcorn.  And it takes its own space just to have one job.  But you know.  It is a very important job.  It makes popcorn.  The most important food in the food pyramid. It makes a meal on itself.  It can be snack too.  It can be lunch or dinner if I talk it up.  It is popcorn after all!


In my debating, for few days (which is a long time without a specific popcorn maker now a days), I wasn’t sure which kind we should get.  But so it happens, that one of Mark’s coworkers is moving out of the country and she was having a garage sale last week.  And lucky me, they had an air popper for few bucks.  So I brought it home.  It took few days for us to need popcorn. We were all excited to try it and have some.

Oh my.  It is so pretty! The popcorn.  Not burnt.  All of them kernels popped.  A beauty.  And so I think it is a keeper.  I first thought I’d give the air popper to Mark who wants to try to roast his own coffee beans in it.  But I think this popper is meant to pop corn instead.  Not coffee.


I first started with that not good for you popcorn (the one you put in the microwave with all that salt and who-knows-what-else stuff.)  Then when I learned to make it in the pan, I added parmesan cheese. Then, soon after, I learned of nutritional yeast, and that my friends, has been the common ingredient, together with corn, for many years.

I own a couple of popcorn cookbooks.  Really! And I’ve made few recipes, from them.  But I also enjoy Amanda’s (SouleMama) recipes.  I think this is my favorite so far.

We have popcorn all the time. We even make it during camping. This week we tried a new recipe, after making the baked kale chips.  It was really good in it!


Oh popcorn.  A delicious food.

Do you have any popcorn recipes to share?  Any stories or suggestions?  Would love to hear about them.  I think we’re having popcorn today.

spring has sprung

The shadows are getting shorter.  The days are getting longer.  It is amazing how the days and daylight changes within months, in this part of the world.  We are actually measuring the shadows, since last December, and it’s fun to see how much they’ve shorten in just short few months.

DSC_148-small DSC_0169-small DSC_0172-smallFiddle heads are unfurling.


DSC_0256-smallThe rhubarb is growing.


Flowers all of all colors and shapes are starting to bloom.



The bleeding hearts that we planted last year in our little special corner of flowers, have grown so much already.



The glass mushrooms Siena made last year look so cute in the cleaned flower bed.  I think we should make a few more.


Blooming rosemary.

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Our dogwood is beginning to bloom.


And just a week later…

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And this is how it looks this week.

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This is the spring color, the spring sight I will always remember.  Our beautiful, huge, I don’t know how many decades old, blooming dogwood is what makes spring for me.

Our Body : the muscular system

After studying the senses, we began the body’s system.  We started with the Skeletal System that I’ve already posted here.  Then we continue studying the Muscular System, and then the Digestive System.

These are some of the activities we did to learn about the Muscular System of our body.

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We wanted to see if we could have our arms levitate. They took turns pushing the arms down while the other was trying to lift them up.

DSC_0016-smallIt worked!  And it was really funny to feel them go up.



Remember that we used the books from the first post I did about Our Body Unit for our whole Body Unit.  The activities we did specifically for this system are in these books:

If you have any other resource to add to this list of activities to study the Muscular System of our body, let us know by leaving a comment here in this post.  Thanks!

making : another (upcycled) bag + doilies

After I made the other bag last month, I found one I wanted to cover up the words and add a little “something” to it.


As you can see from my pile, I have this thing for doilies.  Crocheted one, or tattling, those little hand stitched pieces that no one really uses anymore.  I know.  They gather dust, they get stained, they get wrinkled and buried under books…

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But if I see them at a garage sale or at the thrift store I want to bring them home.  I don’t know how to make them, but I have lots of them.  A lot of them from my mom and my Omi.  But these… these that I’m using to sew into bags are going to be taken to a thriftstore and if no one saves sees them they’ll head to the landfill.  A terrible thing for many reasons.

Some are handmade, and so beautiful.  Others are store bought, but they are still good for working with.

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They do a great job at covering the words of those bags with stores, businesses or conferences I’ve never gone to but I like the bag.


And because there’s plenty of them in my stash, both sides can get covered easily!

And because doilies are… well…. doilies after all!  They made me think of this episode of Portlandia.  Funny!

this week in my kitchen :: blog hop

I’m playing along with Heather from Beauty That Moves sharing photos of our kitchen this week.

“A weekly collection of photos from the center of my home.”

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This is my chai.  Morning or afternoon. Mostly when it’s cold. It’s based mostly on Heather’s chai recipe and her great idea of making a concentrate for quick making later on.  The best idea ever! (Thank you Heather)

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DSC_0239-small DSC_0248-small DSC_0251-small DSC_0260-smallMargarita with my rhubarb syrup.  A sure sign of spring.

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Join in if you’d like. Have a beautiful Thursday!

last week…

Yes, last week was filled with doing, making, excitement, playing, and lots of catching up. Last week:

… I was sadden with yet another tragedy in Chile.  A second time around for Michelle Bachelet in presidency, and she continues having to deal with major natural disasters.  But I know Chile is strong and people help each other when there is a need.

… it was sad to hear also that Gabriel García Márquez passed away last Thursday.  I saw this beautiful post and art by Lisa Congdon in his honor.  And she happily let me post her drawing here in my blog (Thank you Lisa!)  Look at how beautiful it is!

Posted with permission from Lisa Congdon.
Posted with permission from Lisa Congdon.

… I found this video.  A much uplifting one.

… we had swimming and baseball practices.

… I found that either the fairies visited or they are doing spring cleaning too.


… we finished the kidsswap. With more than a dozen of packages being mailed throughout the country to different ages of kids, from 18 months until 12 year olds I feel like it was a success and I’ve heard from most moms and they had a blast participating.  I think we’ll have to do this again.

… I cleaned some drawers in the kitchen, trying to clean up and declutter a little.  My spring energy is getting me to have a little more wiggle room around here.

… I noticed the different colors in the foods we are making.


… and I aso noticed the colors outside my window too.  With the dogwood blooming right now, almost at its peak, the pink hue pours through our kitchen window making it a beautiful pink inside.


… we have the rosemary bush blooming purple flowers too, and Mark’s new plant he put right outside our kitchen window last year, is blooming for the first time.  Beautiful!DSC_0253-small DSC_0254-small

… and I noticed the colors on the table as well.


… Mark planted a little.

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… I saw my kids lift up to the sky… I wonder if it feels a little free, and light up there… I wonder.


… went to the amusement park.

… Siena made daisy necklaces.


… there was lots of playing.


… had a special visit.


… we stayed up late playing with my Scrabble partner.


… we celebrated.  Can there be a better way to celebrate all these kids’ hard work in a swim team than an ice cream banquet?


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These beautiful words sum up what the coaches see on Siena on this, her first year in the swim team.

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And we were there to celebrate with her.

a new hike in the city : Lower Macleay Park

We wanted to take a new hike the other day.  We didn’t want to drive too far.  We just wanted to get out.  It was a rainy day, you know… it’s Portland!  You just need to get good shoes and a coat if you feel like you need one.  My Lucas likes to get wet, and he’s never really cold, so he goes how he feels comfortable.  I guess he is our true Oregonian!

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This hike is in Forest Park.  Lower Macleay Park.  We’ve never been.  We ended up at the Audubon Society of Portland.  It coincides with the Wildwood Trail.  When we started it was cloudy and sprinkling some.  By the time we were coming down from the Audubon Society, it was pouring, but under the canopy of the trees we didn’t feel it too bad.  Besides it is much nicer when you have a little someone telling you how much they enjoy the rain and getting wet.  It’s all on how you see it, right?

DSC_0040-small DSC_0038-smallIndian plum.

DSC_0045-small DSC_0053-small DSC_0044-smallBalch Creek.  Named after the man who owned this land and the stone house (pictured down below.)  But also known as the first man legal execution in Oregon in 1859.  He had nine children and after one of his daughters left with one of his hired man from Vancouver (Washington) he shot him “by accident” one day he had come to the city for goods. (Read more of his story here.)


Wild Rose.

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The largest tree in the park is this Douglas Fir, over 240 feet tall.

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Then we found this stone house.

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It is a great hike I recommend you visit, if you are in town.  I think during a hot summer day, this would be a great way to get cooled off under the shade of these giants.

Happy Earth Day to you, today.

spring cleaning


Every spring, the first few sunny days, brings me the energy for cleaning and de-cluttering, and fixing and getting rid of what we don’t use or need anymore.

DSC_0151-smallBy then, we’ve been inside for many months, cleaning and using every little corner of our home inside.  Finally, in those fresh spring days, I get to breathe a little longer, breathe new air.  Spring air.  I feel the need to bring that air inside too.  Making room for new things, but mostly, taking out what we don’t need anymore.


Though this shelf might look still a little cluttered… you should have seen it before this photo!


And this shelf, looks like I can actually find what I am looking for, now. 


We cleaned books throughout the house.  Returned those we are not reading anymore to the library.  Made a pile of those we don’t want anymore.  Changed some of the blankets for those a little lighter and less hot.  Cleaned the floors.  Took the Christmas cards down from the wall and left the space for new ones.  We like looking at our friends’ photos and reading their greetings, even though it is not Christmas anymore… But oh… it feels so good to be cleaned up a little more.  Like a new beginning.

I know some of our cleaning won’t last very long.  We will have piles of new books on the floor.  Our new interests, our new plans, our new intentions, takes us to the library once more.  We’ll also have new games and more cards and new drawings to hang.  But this is what life is all about.  This is what our home is all about.  Living and learning.




Outside was cleaned too. Old toys were given away.  Broken chairs and non-working anything were taken away too.  Oh… it feels good.  Here and there, a little at a time.



We put new bark chips in our paths, and it makes it look so beautiful.  I know it smells good, it’s cedar.  This is one of the smells I wish I could smell, but I can almost imagine it. I think I’d like it.

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We are looking for a new wooden table and chairs to put out here.  Ours is broken and can barely last few more gatherings.  They’ve done their job being part of our days for over 8 years.  I’ll keep looking.  


Now, with these new bark chips, some weeding and trimming done, we are ready for the next months ahead of us, where we mostly spend our days out here.  Sometimes by ourselves, sometimes two, three or the four of us.  Many times with friends.

Playing, talking, sharing, learning, gardening, napping, camping, knitting, reading, sitting by the fire, watching movies, hanging out with friends, resting, creating, planning, or having breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Spring, summer and fall.  We are here together.  It’s home.