Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hurstville, IA Pit Stop

Cruising down the highway, somewhere between Dubuque and Davenport, in a town I'd never heard of, I see this:
Traveling too fast in the wrong lane, I was unable to make the turn off to investigate. I decided that I'd turn around. I needed to stretch my legs anyway. The next turn on the divided highway brought us here:
We visited the Hurstville Interpretive Center first, which gave a little background of the area, before heading back to take a closer look at the kilns. The Center included a great interactive display of beekeeping plus a viewable, live "bee box", a bird display, information on area wildlife and plants, and information on how the kilns where used. Very cool.

After visiting the interpretive center we headed back to the kilns.

Isaiah, also ready for an adventure, disappears up the flight of stairs. I follow....

At the top of the stairs and down a little path I find this building hiding behind the trees...

following another path I find Isaiah tucked into a hiding spot.

 Legs now well "stretched", I was ready to get back on the road. Next stop - Springfield, Illinois!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MEA Field Trip, First Stop: Dubuque, IA

Although we (my son and I) home school, we take advantage of the public school's first school break every year and take a three or four day field trip. This year I decided that we should make the trip to Petersburg, KY to visit the Creation Museum. Since I knew that I would have a hard time staying awake for the eleven hour trip, I decided to break up the drive with a few stops. I usually try to have motels booked and an itinerary planned in advanced but due to a crazy busy month, I had no time for planning. We hit the road with only two must-see stops, the Creation Museum and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. The rest was in God's hands and as always, He provided and we had a great trip.

Our road trip began after work on Wednesday evening with the hope to travel until we reached Davenport, IA. I figured that would get us close enough to Springfield so that we would reach the Lincoln Museum on Thursday. But after winding through the country roads with corn field walls on either side of the road and waiting for children to wander out of the corn fields (it reminded me of a scene straight from the horror flick, "The Children of the Corn"), dodging skunks, getting stuck behind slow moving tractors, not to mention that I had worked eleven hours before hitting the road, I was exhausted. We only made it as far as Dubuque. As we checked into our hotel, I was disappointed that I didn't drive further but later I would realize that this was a great blessing. We now had something new to explore in Dubuque.

The National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, a great place for a field trip. In fact the multiple school buses in the parking lot confirmed this.
We learned that you don't need a fishing pole to catch a catfish...
You could use your head....

but your arm works better.

We also learned that bats don't like their photo taken................... 
This guy was not happy when my camera flash went off. I'm thankful for the glass wall that was between us.

But the fake bats hanging from the ceiling of the fake cave didn't mind my flash at all.

We learned a little about boats.

 Keel boats were used by Lewis and Clark
Clam Boats

Leisure Boats

Paddle Boats

The Boy acting up in the boat workshop

The Boy with his buddy, Mark Twain

Unfortunately my camera didn't pick up the true, magnificent emerald green color of this scorpion. The Boy asked if we could get one. I answered with a big fat NO!


 Water PLAY!! I think everyone loves water.

As Isaiah generated a rainfall, I chanted our water cycle song, "Evaporation. Condensation. Precipitation. CO-LECT-TION."

Fabulous first day and I was so happy that we ended up in Dubuque. After we spent the morning at the aquarium/museum, we continued south. Our next stop would be a place we just happened upon at just the time I needed to get out and stretch my legs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This Weeks Harvest

 Last week I had an abundance of tomatoes and peppers to harvest from my garden. Although I could of let the peppers ripen into their reds and yellows, I decided that I should get them picked just in case October began acting like October. Thankfully it is still unseasonably warm and I'll be able to get more produce from my garden this week. Even the green tomatoes that I decided to leave on the vines are turning red. My tomatoes were late producers this year so I am so thankful for the warm, sunny October days that we have had. The tomatoes were stewed into spaghetti sauce.

I had so many peppers that I decided to try dehydrating them. My freezer is already well stocked with diced peppers from earlier in the season. A friend (bless her heart for being so generous) gave me a dehydrator this fall and I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with it. I sliced up the peppers and let them "cook" for 24 or more hours. So simple as I just sliced up the peppers, loaded the trays and forgot about it. Once dry I crunched the red, yellow and green peppers into a glass jar (a recycled coconut water bottle). I tried using a spice grinder but that didn't work so well. Plus it was taking too long to grind. So I dumped them into the jar and used the handle end of a butter knife to do a little squishing and squashing. A mortal and pestle probably would have worked best but since I don't have one I just improvised with what I have. Besides, I kind of like the varied sizes of the peppers chunks...and I love the colors. I will use these peppers as a seasoning in soups, stews, skillet potatoes, etc. The flavor of the dried peppers is wonderful! I could just munch on them like potato chips. Maybe that's what I need to work on next.....sweet potato chips, beet chips, carrot chips! I'll let ya know if I get around to it. Right now the dehydrator is full of apple..CHIPS! :)

I had a bunch of strawberries that I knew we wouldn't be able to get eaten up before they started to spoil. Usually, when I freeze strawberries, I slice and flash freeze on a cookie sheet. I decided to try something different. My cookie sheets were baking, well, cookies of all things. I also thought the muffin pan would take up a little less space yet accommodate more strawberries. I sliced and loaded up the compartments of a muffin pan, put the pan in the freezer (after a little rearranging) and forgot all about them until the next day. I took the pan out of the freezer and got distracted (this happens often in a house full of littles) for long enough to permit a slight thaw (about 10 minutes), I worked a spoon around the edges and the strawberry clumps popped right out. Now I have a freezer bag of strawberries (perfect for smoothies!) that aren't all stuck together...this does make life a bit easier. And I'm all about adding a little easy to my busy days.