Homeschooling Science Fair

We’ve been homeschooling for a very long time, long enough that my oldest is now in college. As the years have gone by we have become more and more relaxed with what we do and expect from the kids. We were pretty relaxed to start with so you can maybe imagine how loose things have gotten. Some would call it unschooling but we’re not quite there yet, I’m not able to completely set aside my worries and embrace the unschooling philosophy 100%. I still have that nagging voice in the back of my head that they need to do math everyday (even that has been dropped as this year has progressed, but the voice is still there.)

Benign neglect is a phrase I read in Homeschooling Magazine years ago that has always stuck with me. The kids don’t need me interfering in everything they do. Jokingly I described our type of homeschooling as negligent homeschooling when talking to a friend recently. I did say it in jest and I don’t say it negatively, a lot of good things can happen when kids are given the freedom to explore life and create on their own. Or a lot of time can be wasted, which is a rut we often get stuck in.

All that to say we have been participating in an interest/ science fair for as long as I can remember. My kids have put together a variety of displays in the past;

Last year we had just returned from a trip to St. Louis so Thomas did a display board about the St. Louis Arch.

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A few years ago, after Dan had his back surgery and Beth had a couple surgeries and lots of x-rays, Beth & Thomas worked together on a board about x-rays.

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This is the actual X-ray from Dan’s back with the bolts & rods that are holding it all together. ewww!

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While Daniel put together a hands on experiment and board about magnets. He had been working on a hands on cart for COSI on magnets so he used the supplies he had been putting together for that.

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Then there was this year; we had a 2 week trip to Seattle (Thomas had planned on doing a board about the Space Needle) and my nephew came home with us so the kids still think they’re on vacation. Which means the only research getting done around here was how to get to the next level of whatever video game the boys may be playing.

And while Beth started out the year with intentions of creating and sewing a line of clothes then presenting a fashion show, only later to give up on that idea. She then thought she would present a book making booth with skills she learned from a book making class we had been taking, which was scrapped due to ambivalence. Then finally deciding to bring her sewing machine and work on some sewing projects during the fair, ultimately forgetting to even do that.

So what did my 2 kids plus their nephew do at the science fair? Thomas & BJ taught kids how to play Texas Hold’em while Beth hula hooped.

It was very sad for me to lose this piece of our previous homeschooling life. In my mind I say next year will be different, we will find something they are excited about and we will work together to research it. I hope that is what happens, I hope this year was a fluke and not a new precedent.

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BJ was videotaping Beth running in circles while hula-hooping. This was after Beth briefly attempted to break the world record for hula hooping, while hooping she was looking up the record on my phone. Unfortunately, the record was 72 hours, so unless we left her at the church for 4 days that was just not going to happen. She did make it 11 minutes before someone came and grabbed her hoop.


Bethany has a flock of little girls following her where ever she goes.


Then all the kids went outside for a game of kickball to celebrate the end of another school year.

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Kick ball is a great way to end the year and welcome summer. Hopefully, we will be rejuvenated over the summer and next year will be a bit more productive.

This week’s CSA and market purchases

This week we got spinach, kale, bok choy, green onions, lettuce and more mint. So what are my plans for these veggies. Well Dan never put together his kimchee from last week so I’ll probably get that started and add this weeks bok choy along with last weeks (and the daikon radishes we bought from the market.)

We’re going to a memorial day party and I was asked to bring Caesar salad, instead of going and buying Romaine lettuce, I’ll use the green lettuce mixed with some of the other lettuces I have in the fridge. Here’s a link to my Caesar Salad dressing recipe.

The mint replaced what was left of last weeks mint in the vase in my kitchen window. I did add some to a strawberry/ lemon smoothie last week and it was very yummy, so I’ll do that again.

And last but not least, my favorite, the kale will be added to daily smoothies.


We also bought 4 pints of organic strawberries, so juicy and sweet!


And Dan wanted to try some bison so we bought bison hotdogs (no nitrates or MSG’s added) and bison burgers. Dan made the bison burgers last night and very much enjoyed them.

We also usually buy cheese; this week we got baby Swiss and habenero cheese.


Plus I bought 3 white creeping thyme plants to plant in between my stones in the walkway going to my neighbors house. That plant is supposed to survive being walked on, if it works it will make the walkway much prettier.

My plan for this year is to take $40 with me to the market and not spend any more. Yesterday we spent $10 on strawberries, $10 on cheese, $10 on my 3 plants, and about $9 on the meat.

For more information about this CSA please contact:

Ben and Lisa Sippel

Sippel Family Farm


Making Hula Hoops

My friend Kristen over at Pepper Paints has been talking a lot about hula hoops; making them, learning to use them, doing tricks with them and it all has inspired me to make and learn how to Hula. So I went and picked up the recommended supplies at Lowes, invited a bunch of friends over and had at it:


Making the hoops was really easy, only takes a few minutes and ends up costing about $2.00 per hoop. You just need irrigation tubing, connectors and some pretty tape for decoration (all can be found at Lowes.) You can also put rice inside to make a nice noise or water to make it much easier to spin.



While Thomas had no problem picking up a hoop and spinning away, I just couldn’t get the hang of it.



I did a little bit better with some help from Beth, but I’m still pretty pitiful. The water hoop really does make it much easier! The bigger and heavier the hoop the easier it is.


Now Thomas is just showing off, 6 hoops, really?

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Beth also had no problem with it. She hardly moves her little body and it just keeps going forever. She likes to challenge people to see who can keep it going the longest.



Thomas, being a typical boy, has to battle even while he’s using  a hula hoop. Hula Hooping is not a contact sport!



Fun was had by all!

Planting our organic garden

We came home from a 2 week vacation to a garden that had been over run by weeds and rogue sunflower plants but no veggies. We weren’t able to get the garden planted before our trip so our little seedlings had to wait for us to get home to be planted. Our garden will be loaded up with lots of tomatoes for eating and canning, sweet and hot peppers for yummy fresh salsa and freezing, lots of kale for green smoothies and freezing, squash, cabbage for sauerkraut & kimchee, brussel sprouts, broccoli, basil, parsley, cilantro, onions, garlic, swiss chard (this will be planted in the flower beds because its so pretty,) radishes, beets and lettuces. I think that’s it.


The last several years we have been planting our veggies in mounds with walkways in between. In theory you should be able to walk in between the rows but once the tomato plants take over it’s hard to get through.


To help cut back on weeds we lay a layer of newspapers then some type of mulch on top. In the past we’ve used straw, or bags of hardwood mulch but this year we’re using leaves that we pilfered from other people’s yards. This also helps keep some of the moisture in the ground.


These are the leftover seedlings that just didn’t fit in our nice mounded rows. Now Dan will start sneaking them into my flower beds and clay pots all over the yard plus the neighbors yards. He’s just like Johnny Appleseed!


Here’s our temporarily messy compost area:

In the back corner are more bags of pilfered leaves, and underneath them, all of last years compost covered up and left to cook all of this year. We used the compost that had cooked the previous year when we planted the garden.

In the middle, underneath the umbrella, is the working compost pile where I throw all my fruit and veggie scraps, old bread, coffee grounds, egg shells, everything the vacuum picks up, and plant debris from around the yard. It is full right now with layers of leaves and manure but that will shrink down to make room for a years worth of compostable stuff.

Then next to that is the compost tumbler that we really don’t use too much. It’s about to be filled up with all the weeds that we pulled from the garden. We keep the weeds out of the regular compost because Dan doesn’t think it gets hot enough to kill off the weed seeds. Ideally the tumbler should kill them off while making lots of great compost for the garden.


And last but not least Dan with Ann drinking a beer that Daniel left behind from his time alone at the house.


weekly CSA

I had written a past post about how I grocery shop, one of the big contributors to our summer shopping is going to the local farmers market and picking up our weekly CSA (community supported agriculture.) We belong to the Sippel Family Farm CSA, it costs us $620, that we pay through the winter months, for a full share and that gives us about 26 weeks of produce.

This year I plan on sharing our weekly bounty so others can see what exactly we get from our CSA and also so I know what I don’t need to plant in the garden next year.

This past Sat was our first CSA pick up, it usually starts out and finishes off with smaller deliveries but it really grows in the midst of summer.

This week we got a head of red leaf lettuce, some Kale (flat leaf with purple stems,) Bok Choy, and a few sprigs of Mint:


The biggest chicken coop I’ve ever seen

When someone says they want to build a chicken coop images pop into my head. When my sister mentioned that they needed Dan to help with her chicken coop while we were out visiting I had those same images. Something kinda long and narrow surrounded by chicken wire with a chicken wire top to keep hawks out. Her husband is a chef and his dad worked at Boeing his whole life so when they plan a project they have just enough knowledge to get them in trouble but apparently not enough to put limits on a task.

Those that know us, know how much Dan has been working for the last few months. Besides his regular job that keeps him away from home quite a bit he has also been helping out a friend by building his new restaurant. Since Dan has all the knowledge, skills and tools, work at the restaurant could only get done when he was there. Which meant all his weekends and non work time have been spent at the restaurant. So we have been really looking forward to this vacation for a break and to spend a little time together before he headed out on his week long fishing trip.

Back to the chicken coop; this is not the chicken coop that I (or Dan) imagined. This is a chicken palace, large enough to house, well us, next time we head out to visit. But Dan being the good sport and blinded by the vision of catching Halibut dove right in and spent quite a bit more time than we all expected building a chicken coop.

Here’s Dan and big Larry surveying the site. The posts had already been cemented in (which was the first clue that this was not going to be a small chicken coop)


Dan and Larry are working on the roof, as we all know it rains a lot in Seattle and that grass won’t last long once the chickens move in. So to help cut back on the muddy mess that is sure to happen they are putting a regular roof on the coop.



Here’s proof that the boys, Thomas and BJ, did help just a little bit.

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Here’s the roosting box that Shauna did pay some else to build. She had a feeling if left up to her hubby it may not get done in a timely manner. The boys painted it with a little help from various adults.IMG_8900

and here’s 1 of the 5 chicks that will be making the coop their new home. I am so jealous, if I could figure out a place to squeeze them into my yard I would totally get some chickens. I love the idea of fresh eggs from my yard every day!


Sophie also seems to like the idea of fresh chickens but for a whole different reason.


The boys were being silly climbing into the roosting box.


So of course Isa also had to give it a try!


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Those are some good looking doors! The other thing you have to worry about out here is all the wild life. The chickens aren’t just prey for the hawks. You have to protect them from ‘coons, possums and rats. So you have to use hard wire all around the open spaces so varmints don’t chew their way in.


And finally the completed coop, just in time for us to head back home to Columbus. What you can’t tell from the picture is that the hard wire is wrapped all the way around the coop at the top and bottom. The bottom is also cemented into the a trench in the ground to prevent creatures from burrowing under the coop and getting in. These are some well protected chickens.

Dan’s fishing trips

One of the big parts of our trip to Seattle was Dan, Larry (my sis’s hubby) and big Larry’s (Larry’s dad) planned fishing trips. They had a 4 day trip, home a day, then a 3 day trip.

The first trip was to Westport (3 hours away from home) where they had 2 days of fishing for Halibut, Ling Cod and Rock bass. Both Dan & Larry caught their limits and got to keep fishing to catch the boats limit.

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On the way there they also had to battle the Fat Smitty. Little Toe (Little Larry) and Dan killed the Smitty while Big Toe (Larry’s dad who the rest of us call Big Larry but Dan for some reason has taken to calling Big Toe) couldn’t quite finish his.

For those that don’t know the Smitty is a monster hamburger and Fat Smitty’s restaurant is apparently a travel destination for people all over the country.


The second trip was to Neah Bay (6 hours away from home) where they had 1 long day of fishing for Halibut & Ling Cod. They were up at 2:30am, at the docks by 3, then they steam out for about 3 hours to get to where they’ll fish, a day of fishing, 3 hours back to shore, then back to the cabin at 8pm.

This was the trip where Dan caught the biggest fish that he’s ever caught, a 50# Halibut! While he was excited about the halibut they enjoyed fishing for the ling cod even more. In Dan’s words they’re easier to hook up with and they fight like mad while the halibut takes more skill to hook and comes up like a brick (whatever that means.)

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They’re already planning next years trip; fishing for tuna which is further out and a 2 day trip spending the night on the boat. I love rare cooked tuna so I’m really looking forward to this!

Pho fascination

No matter where we travel the country seems to be the same. The same chain restaurants and stores are in every city. I don’t want to go shop at Target or Wal-Mart when I’m on vacation I want to visit small local shop that are actually selling something I can’t find in Columbus. I also don’t want to eat at the same restaurants that I can eat at any day of the week.

I’ve managed to try a few things during this trip that I don’t normally see at home. Conveyor belt sushi, chicken teriyaki, king crab legs, fresh fish & chips straight off the boat and Pho.

The Pho was calling to me, probably because there is a Pho restaurant in every strip mall we drive by. In the years that I’ve been gone from Washington the Asian population has grown dramatically in the Seattle are. And because of that you see more Asian restaurants and Asian grocery stores than anything else. Its fun to be in such a culturally diverse area especially since I’ve grown accustomed to Columbus, OH which isn’t really known as a Mecca of diversity.

So Pho is basically a noodle soup with some type of protein (chicken, beef, brisket or tripe; which seemed like strange choices to me) in a broth with a few scallions floating on top. There was an accompaniment tray that had basil, bean sprouts and peppers to add to the soup. The sprouts did add a nice crunch. We went to Pho Hoa which gets good review from friends but honestly I wasn’t that impressed. The Pho (that I didn’t realize was Pho) that I had in Columbus at the North Market was much better. It had rice and veggies added with just a little broth so it seemed more like a meal in a bowl than just a noodle soup. My sister is now inspired to check out more Pho restaurants to decide which one is her favorite. She has plenty to choose from!

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Just one more of the Pho restaurants; Pho Hut (instead of Pizza Hut?) we also saw a place called What the Pho. I wish I had a camera with me all week to record he many Pho restaurants we drove by.


Conveyor Belt Sushi

How had I not heard of this culinary pièce de résistance. My sister and I had to check it out, and luckily there was one right down the street; Genki Sushi, the original conveyor belt sushi restaurant.  Everyone sits around the center island where the sushi is being made and placed on the conveyor belts. Then as it slowly passes around the restaurant you grab the plates that you want. It’s like a sushi buffet that comes to you.

It was so much fun and very inexpensive. We got 11 small plates of sushi for $22. Some were better than others; the ones we liked were pot stickers, California roll, sockeye salmon, Zuke tuna, surf clam, tempura shrimp, spicy tuna roll and the tempura roll. The broiled eel or Unagi was not nearly as good as what I usually get and the Inari (rice rolled in some type of shell then deep fried, ending up soggy & sweet) and the salmon cream cheese roll were just gross. A chunk of creme cheese does NOT belong in a sushi roll. The plates cost either $1, $1.50 or $2 depending on what you get. Each plate has about 3 bites on it. Our 11 plates more than filled us up.

It’s definitely not high quality sushi more like fast food sushi but it was a fun experience.

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