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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Making Butter August 4, 2010

You know how when you cook a special recipe that requires ingredients like heavy whipping cream and you never use all of it? Well, I made such a recipe recently. I’ve been wondering how to use up the rest of the whipping cream before it would expire. I suppose an obvious answer would be to whip it…and make whipped cream…but I had nothing to eat whipped cream on. Though don’t think I’m above eating whipped cream by the spoonful. I mean…no, no, I never do fat-tastic things like that! Never.

Anyway, I was browsing activities to do with preschoolers and came across these instructions for how to make butter. The only required materials were whipping cream and a jar with a lid. I had all of those. Perfect!

Supplies: Whipping cream with a lidded container

Now all I had to do was pour the whipping cream into the container and shake. In about 10 minutes time, the directions said, we would have butter. And, I’m not gonna lie, these are the thoughts that went through my head, “Wow. Only 10 minutes. Why don’t people make their own butter more often?” And I was also imagining it would turn out all lovely and smooth, like a tub of Country Crock or something. Um. No.

This is what we started out with

After 10 minute of shaking, there's some butter

After 20 minutes, still has liquid in it

After 30 minutes. Dang. This is why people don't shake their own butter. It's still liquidy (though you can clearly see the butter)

And here is what Zach looked like, shaking the butter, during all of this time.

Beginning shakes, enthusiastic

After 10 minutes, a little tired out

20 minutes?? Mom...I'm all done shaking...I'll just sit here and sip my milk while you finish up. Kay?

Don’t worry, we alternated shaking turns. And while we were shaking, of course we had to sing shaking appropriate songs. Like “Shake your booty” (except I changed it to “Shake Your Butter”…clever). At the thirty minute mark I decided to call it done. We could see that there was, in fact, butter in the container. No need for a whole tub! So, we did a taste test.

Getting a small sample

Yep, tastes like butter

Then I drained the rest of the liquid and put the butter in the fridge. Maybe we’ll use it on toast tomorrow morning!

It looks like cottage cheese, but it's butter

What did Zach learn? About physical changes. Shaking up the cream churned it into butter. It was a little science experiment. I asked him what he thought the cream would do (he didn’t know, obviously). He did say it went poo poo on the potty. Um…can you tell we’ve been talking about THAT lately?? Then, as we were shaking it up, I asked him to feel the differences in how the cream felt in the container. It was pretty interesting, at about 3 or 4 minutes into shaking, I could tell we had probably produced whipped cream, the container felt much lighter and you couldn’t hear liquid sloshing around. Then after 3 or 4 more minutes, the liquid sound returned.¬† The fat particles from the cream were separated out from the liquid, the fat was sticking together in the butter. At least, that’s my explanation for it. Pretty neat. Oh–and tasting the butter adds a sensory experiment to the learning. We didn’t do this, but it probably would have been a good idea to taste the cream before making it into butter, to talk about the differences.

What did Mommy learn? All of the above. Plus…use a lot less cream next time! And shaking butter is hard work. THAT’S why people just buy it pre-made. Though, maybe I could whip it in my Kitchen Aid? Maybe I’ll perform a mommy science experiment some other time when I have about to expire cream to waste.

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Day 34: Abacus May 23, 2010

Today I spent the day with some girlfriends at a teeny little store we like to call Ikea. OK, so it’s not so teeny. And it’s pretty much impossible to go there and not get sucked in for a good 4 hours. And besides carrying the world’s greatest selection of particle board and wood veneer furniture, Ikea also has an impressive display of educational, reasonably priced kids toys, like the wooden abacus I bought for Zach.

Zach's new "toy"

According to the New World Encyclopedia (whose website looks suspiciously like Wikipedia, so take this definition for what it’s worth), abaci have been “in use centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system and is still widely used by merchants and clerks in China, Japan, Africa and elsewhere.” In other words, a really long time.

I basically bought it because I knew that Zach would have fun sliding and rolling the beads under his hands, so it’s a sensory toy. I also knew he’d like to count them. The beads are colorful, so I can use it to teach him colors. They are also grouped in 10’s, so we can learn to count by 10 (up to 100). It’s all sorts of usefulness. It also looks like part of the playscape at our local playground and Zach loves to play with that.

So, when I got home from the Ikea-fest, I unwrapped the abacus and put it in front of Zach. He took to it immediately. He slid the beads back and forth. He took the palm of his hand and spun them around (this made him laugh because it kind of tickles). He counted them one by one. And he even told ME the colors of some of the beads. Yellow and Green specifically. On his own. Yay Zach!

Moving the beads over one by one

No. We have STILL not painted that wall. It'll happen. Someday.

Of course, you know that we can’t do anything here without enlisting the help of the front loader and/or dump truck. Zach said, “Yellow tractor. Here tractor, yellow.” I assume the last yellow as for the beads. And then he made the tractor play with the abacus.

Tractor + Abacus = Fun

What did Zach learn today? The abacus was good for all kinds of things: sensory play, color learning, counting practice, imaginative play (with the tractor) and motor skills.

What did Mommy learn? Occasionally I hit the nail on the head in the toy department. And this is great for long-term use as he gets older and learns more math.

 

Day 16: Flowers May 5, 2010

Filed under: colors,flowers,patterns,planting,sensory,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 12:14 am
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s that time of year. The time where flower boxes are being planted in a frenzy to complete some NEED within us to beautify our spaces. This is more challenging for me than others. I have what is not the opposite of a green thumb, but close to it. This will be the 3rd summer of flower box planting for me. The first summer was pretty near disastrous. It got so bad that I pretty much gave up on my flowers and then¬† my father in law came over for a week and replanted for me! I was equal parts embarrassed and grateful (thanks Wally!).

Last summer, it went better. Not awesome. But better. I planted a few varieties of flowers in each box and they were colorful and lovely. But in the end the ONLY flowers that survived were the Geraniums. I think those things could survive nuclear war. So this year, I just went with what works. ALL Geraniums. Pink and Red.

Given how much Zach likes to play with dirt, and that I still can’t share our super secret craft projects yet this week, we have another planting/playing in the dirt activity today.

To begin, Zach was helpful. He was there with shovel (and dump truck, of course) to help me take the dirt out of the bag and get it into the flower boxes. These pics will probably look a lot like when we planted the marigold seeds!

Home Depot's finest Geraniums

Getting the dirt (he looks a lot like Pete in this pic, I think)

It's like we have our own excavating company!

After a little while though, this was a “been there, done that” situation for Zach and I still had 2 more boxes to plant. So, I set him up with his next favorite thing: bowls of water. I thought this was a good idea because it was kind of hot sitting on the deck in the direct sunlight and the water would be nice. Well, I should have SEEN where that would get me. Dirt. Water. 2-year-old. There is only ONE place it COULD go…MUD! But mud is fun, right?

In this one I showed him what happens when he uses the old flower pots w/ the holes as a "scoop", all the water runs out like a shower. He was AMAZED and delighted by this.

And then the good, "clean" fun turned into MUD

He is completely covered.

As dirty (and possibly scary looking) as that was, I’m glad I let him do it! One, he loved it, obviously. But two, it was kind of a science experiment for him. I talked with him about what was happening to the water when the dirt went in. About what happened to the dirt when it got wet. We talked about how different the mud felt from the water and the dirt. Luckily he kept it pretty much contained and didn’t fling it! Now that I think of it, his brother and sister were sleeping dangerously close by this little experiment!

While he played away, I continued on with the other 2 flower boxes. And well, they honestly got done much quicker without his assistance. I also tried to point out to him the colors of the flowers and their leaves. I planted them in a pink/red/pink/red pattern and tried to talk about that too. But at this point in time, mud had his full attention (and that’s OK!).

At the end of it all, the flowers were planted and one dirty boy got his second bath of the day. Oh yeah, and we tested out the “super secret Mother’s Day project” and it works fabulously.

With Aqua Globes and all

All clean again. I asked him to smile, this is the look he gave me. At least he's looking at the camera!

What did Zach learn today? What happens when dirt gets mixed with water. Some color and pattern lessons.

What did Mommy learn today? If you give a boy dirt, he WILL make mud. And that I could probably have squeezed one more plant into each flower box, but I didn’t have the flowers and wasn’t going to wait to get more!