Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thrifty Organic Vegan Skin/Hair Soap, Moisturizer, and Hair Styler

My new favorite soap and hair shampoo is the all-in-one raw African black soap/shampoo bar. I have wavy to curly fine dry hair, and this works wonders at getting the hair clean without drying. It also holds my curls, so that I don't end up with flat hair or frizzy hair. Fine curly hair will do that - go flat against your head or frizz. The flat-against-the-head look happens sometimes in the dry winters, and then it clings to my scalp. At times, it's quite frustrating to get a proper moisture balance. Thankfully, this soap has given my hair a good moisture balance without having to use a conditioner, and it's convenient as an all-in-one product for body and hair. It had a minor drying effect on my aging winter skin when I first used it, but my skin seemed to adapt to it after about two weeks. It has a reputation for being good for acne and rash prone skin. Again, I think it's the moisture balance and gentle thorough cleaning.

It took some getting used to because it is unscented and smells a little different - a bit smoky. The smell does not linger on the hair or skin. The lather is fabulous, and it takes only a small amount to wash your body and hair. I never put it under the water, just use my wet hands to form a lather. It is a soft milled soft, so will dissolve quickly and get soft if left wet. I store the soap on a raised rubber soap mat (outside the shower stall) to let it dry properly between use. I don't bother cutting the soap into pieces. The one pound bar fits on a soap mat just fine.

To style my hair, I now use a little pure raw unrefined Shea butter from West Africa. It comes as a solid and is unscented. I scoop a little out with a tongue depressor, melt it between my fingers and hands(melts at body temperature), and scrunch my hair with it. Surprisingly, it is not heavy or greasy and can be use sparingly as a curl/style shaper. In small amounts, I can get my natural curls to keep together rather than frizz, and the style stays in place without looking unnaturally stiff. If I scrunch from underneath, I can get big hair with lots of volume that stays. It just looks and acts healthy. I've put more of it in my hair for deep conditioning, and it washes out well.

In the winter, I used the raw unrefined Shea butter on my face with great results - no blemishes, and it made my skin soft. It's too heavy for me in the summer, but great around the eyes for wrinkles. Because it's an all natural gentle vegetable product, I use it on the children as well.

Because a little goes a long way, both the African black soap and Shea butter lasts a very long time. This place sent me good quality fair trade raw African black soap($14.00) and 14 ounces of unrefined Shea butter in a jar($12.00) . I thought the prices had risen, but I must have purchased the sample sizes, which are really quite large! I purchased these in the winter, and I've still got about 3/4 of the soap left and around 80% of the Shea butter left. I think mine was from Ghana, but they currently have these items from Togo, a less economically advantaged country to the west of Ghana.

I would Google "Fair Trade Unrefined Shea Butter" in order to find authentic products. If the Shea Butter is yellow, it may be Kpangnan Butter, often erroneously marketed a golden Shea butter. I took down an Amazon link on this post because I think the Shea butter was actually Kpangnan Butter.

Another favorite:

Ten Thousand Villages fair trade Shea butter in a clay gift bowl with recycled glass bead.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Low Light House Plants

House plants greatly improve air quality inside a home. They take in gases, give off oxygen, and add much needed humidity in the winter. We've got low sunlight in the house, especially with the new energy saver windows which are tinted. I've really been limited to which plants will survive in these conditions.

Here are a few hardy plants which have done well for me in low light conditions:

Cast Iron plant, a popular plant in Victorian times(and the 1970's) - hard to find in stores, but seen on ebay recently. These are tough plants which do great in low light. We've had them in the past, and are planning to buy some for our current home.

Mother-in-Law's Tongue or Snake Plant. I really like these sculptural looking plants - look great in decorative bowls. These really tolerate low light, especially in corners.

Pothos Very tolerant.

Chinese Evergreen, sort of good in low light. I've had a bit of trouble with this one. Mine does better in filtered light. I have it in a western facing window which is covered by sheers. The link mentions a north facing window as ideal. It did really well in the bathroom(humidity) until winter, and then wasn't getting enough light(I guess).

Peace Lily - new plant in our home, so far, so good.

Dwarf Umbrella Tree - a bit fussy, but surviving in low filtered light(eastern exposure). Doesn't like corners. I had to place this in front of a wide set of windows so that all sides get light.

Some of the above plants are not suppose to be sprayed or misted with water(leaf spots), but I do it anyway with no ill effects. This is a good way to keep the dust off them.

Plants are an inexpensive way to decorate. They fill in spaces beautifully and function as living sculpture. I find inexpensive pots at the Dollar Tree and decorative pots at thrift stores. Inexpensive plants can be found online at places such as plant swaps, Freecycle, Craigslist, or ebay.

Do you have any favorites for low light conditions?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ten Free Trees for $10.00

Ten free trees with a $10.00 membership and affordably priced trees and bushes at the Arbor Day Foundation(.org). We've purchased many of our shrubs and trees from this foundation for a great bargain. For birthdays and Christmas, I plan to use the Gift-a-Tree program. There is also an option to donate your ten free trees to our National Parks. For the past few years, I've gotten cute pre-printed freebie address labels from them which I use on my Christmas cards. They offer other freebies from time to time as well.

He who plants a tree plants a hope. ~ Lucy Larcom

Photo a picture of pin oak trees in our backyard.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Exploring Caves

I'm getting antsy to travel this summer, and thinking about visiting some caves. I found a list of five commercial "show" caves in our state. There is also a link to caves in the United States and around the world. We are considering the Skyline Caverns and Luray Caverns.

Student educational materials for cave visits:

Exploring Caves(K-3). Story form with questions and links to extended learning. Printable(HTML or PDF)

Geological Information(PDF)

US Geological Survey Educational Resources
for Secondary Grades Middle School and High School

Selections from vintage public domain books:

Why Man Wanted to live in Caves(Elementary), 1904.

The Cave Men, (Elementary), 1897

Caves(Elementary), mentions Kentucky's Mammoth Cave, 1899.

Caves in the United States, fifth grade reader, 1863

Elementary Geology

How Caves are Made, 1916(elementary-middle school)

The Great Valley -Virginia, 1902(middle - high school)

The above vintage book selections can be saved by right clicking on the images of the pages at the links.

We'll be grabbing some books from the library as well.

Also nearby:
Shenandoah River State Park(tubing!)
Shenandoah National Park
George Washington National Forest
The Appalachian Trail

I'll add more resources as I find them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Free Online Children's Art History Lessons

Short lessons here at Art History for Kids cover five elements of art: line, color, space, shape, and texture; followed by a visit to a virtual art museum for an application of lessons.

Also see Art Encyclopedia to browse artists, art movements, and featured exhibits.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vintage Paper Toy Making


John Y. Dunlop, Greenfield, Tollcross, Glasgow. 1915

"The child's desire for constant and fresh amusement must be catered to in the classroom as well as in the home. Thus the teachers of very young children should always be on the look out for new material and new models for the most of children are keen on experimenting with unusual material and they often create new results from new material close at hand.

The first model in this series is a child's parachute which is made from a square of paper.

Make a hole in each corner as shown at Fig. 1.

Pass a piece of cotton through each hole, knot the end and see that the knot don't pass through.

Tie a large thread to the four collected ends of the string, and when flung up in the air, the parachute will open and descend slowly, or even float in the air.

This toy may be made in all colors which add very much to their bright appearance when floating in the air.

The construction of a balloon[hot air] is a more difficult model for young children. Procure an ordinary child's balloon, and cover this with an old hair net from home, or a loosely knitted light string bag.

See that the balloon is blown fully up. This part forms the gas bag. The balloon basket is made from a piece of square paper Fig. 4. Fold as shown, open out, fold up the sides, Fig. 5, then turn the corners round to make a complete open box.

Attach the basket to the gas bag with four pieces of cotton, Fig. 6.

Fig. 8 shows a pattern of a hanging basket. Fig. 7 gives the plan.

The paper which we use is usually six inches square.

Fold on the diagonals, cut on the solid line, Fig 7, and pass A part behind B part. Fix at the corners with wool.

Group the threads, knot and hang up.

Fig 10 and 11 shows a folded model of a flying bird. This handwork lesson is given with the spring lesson on happy birds.

Fold a piece of square paper into sixteen squares.

Open out, fold on the diagonal, open out.

From the windmill form fold into the vase, Fig. 11, fold backward and bring C down for the head along the dotted line.

Fig 10 shows the complete model."

Friday, May 20, 2011

K - Elementary Picture Study: Millet's Churning Butter

Churning Butter, 1866-68, Jean-Francois Millet(Image source - includes biography), located at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, France.


"Do you know what butter is made of? No not milk exactly, but cream. The milk is poured into jugs and pans, which are set upon those shelves just behind the woman. After a good many hours—perhaps all night —there is a layer of cream on the top of the milk. All the oily part of the milk rises to the top and this is the cream—hundreds of the tiniest globules of fat. Yes, the cream you have on your oatmeal is just like this...Do you notice how very careful and tidy this woman seems to be? Her clothing is well protected, and her cap, which she wears all the time, is pulled closer than ever over her hair on churning day. She could not stop to make herself tidy if her hair became loose, for the butter wouldn't come if she stopped moving the dasher. Her quiet, thoughtful face shows us that she thinks about her work and plans the best way to do it."

Page is printable here, pages 278-279. To download or print, right click on the image of the pages at the link. Free and in public domain from Kindergarten-Primary Magazine, 1915.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Vintage Home Life in Mexico

Interesting tidbits of home life in Mexico found in an 1897 Good Housekeeping magazine:



That Mexico ladies never flirt.

That the Mexico women have not yet adopted the bicycle.

That good household servants are paid from $4 to $8 a month.

That one may listen for a year and never hear an angry word spoken in Spanish.

That it is quite the proper thing in Mexico to take a little nap after the midday meal.

That the departing lady kisses her lady friends on both cheeks at the door or on the street car.

That you can buy all the beautiful flowers you can carry home in a half-bushel basket, for an American half dollar.

That even the peon's (laborer or bondman) wife has a piece of drawn work to cover her husband's dinner basket.

That babies and children all wear half socks, and are happy with bare legs, when Northern visitors require overcoats.

That white paper is one of the things that is expensive. Ordinary news paper costs about ten cents (silver) a pound.

That one of the favorite sweets for children is sugar cane. It is sold in pieces about eighteen inches long for one centavo each.

That everybody shakes hands both at meeting and parting, even though the visit may be on the street corner and lasts only two minutes.

That the politeness the common people show each other and their affection for their children, are a never-ending source of pleasure to foreigners.

That every one is required by law to keep a bowl of water in the entry of his house, for the convenience of dogs, so that they will not go mad from thirst.

That the waiter will give you a complete change of plate, knife and fork with every separate order of meat or vegetables, and the style is to eat but one thing at a time.

That a gentleman would almost feel disgraced to be seen carrying a two-pound package or his satchel on the public street. Servants and carriers are so cheap that such work is always left to them.

That fires are almost unknown, cooking being done with a little charcoal in stoves made of masonry, and as the houses are universally built of stone and bricks, and have no chimneys, there is little chance for conflagrations.

That aside from fresh fruits, which are always served abundantly, dessert is almost unknown on the average home or hotel table. A dulce, or simple sweet of some kind, is served at the end of the meal, but it rarely consists of more than a very small portion of preserved fruit, or one little tart about the size of a dollar.

Image source.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Shore

We had a great time at the Jersey Shore with family, and despite walking many miles on the boardwalk everyday, my husband and I still returned packing some extra weight in the middle section(oink, oink) - too much ice cream, pizza, and soft pretzels. Time to get back to a proper diet; it was fun though! The weather was a little cold, but we still braved the beaches. Last year we did more site seeing; this year we spent more time on the beach and walking the "boards".

What struck me as especially relaxing was the joyful demeanor and smiles. Everyone was truly enjoying themselves at the shore this year. There were many tourists from all over the world as well as tons of cute 70+ aged visitors during the week, when the rates were less expensive. They were so friendly and loved talking to us about the children. I came back feeling so positive - joy is contagious!

We visit Lucy every year. This year they had an illustrated Lucy the Elephant book which is now my daughter's favorite book. A little about Lucy of Margate, New Jersey:

A National Historic Landmark in New Jersey, Lucy the Margate Elephant is an elephant-shaped building located on the beach at Margate. The elephantine structure stands 65-feet high and weighs 90 tons. Since its construction in 1881, Lucy the Elephant has enjoyed several different "careers." Originally intended to encourage real-estate investment on the Jersey Shore, Lucy the Elephant has been, at one time or another, a restaurant, a tavern, a house and a tourist attraction. In 1970, the famous landmark was moved to its present location, where it underwent extensive restorations of its exterior. Several years later, Lucy the Elephant reopened for public tours. Today, visitors are allowed to enter Lucy the Elephant via a spiral staircase in one of the hind legs and to climb up to the howdah (or seat on Lucy the Elephants back) for a refreshing view of the ocean.

We also got to the fabulous well kept Cape May County Zoo which is free of charge. I like it because they have a huge savannah for the giraffes, antelopes, ostriches, and zebras. It's great to see them have all that space to roam.

Places of interest in New Jersey for field trips.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'll Be Back...

I will be taking a little time with family. I'll return with pictures and saltwater taffy(well, virtual at least). Have a super week.

Image source.

Vintage May Blackboard Story Starters/Drawings

Vintage drawings for blackboard, May1910, Primary Education teacher's periodical. Click on image to enlarge and save, if desired. Free and in public domain.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Recycled Plastic Bottle Planters Using the Sub-irrigation Planter(SIPS) Method

Tutorial and many images for plastic bottle inspirations here.

Image source here.

This is super for young science students learning capillary action.

"How Sub-irrigation and Automatic Indoor Self Watering Containers Work

Water is added to a reservoir; the plant pulls moisture upward through the entire root ball through capillary action, like a sponge. The amount and evenness of the water movement from the sub-irrigation reservoir to the growing medium depends on the growing medium mix and its degree of compaction and/or breakdown."

A simple way to do this with house plants is to put a potted plant with drainage holes within a larger pot with no holes; raise it a bit off the bottom with some random stones or an upside down bowl(anything that lifts it up), and add water to the outer pot only. The water should be higher than the potted plant within, about 1/4 of the way up. You can add more water, but I've found that the water stays fresher if you fill it more often, and not let it sit for long periods as it would with a higher level of water. I've done this successfully with an African Violet.

More on garden SIPS here.

Recycled Plastic Toy Planters

Such a cute idea!

Image from the Plaid Pigeon shop at Etsy.

The Decline of the Paper Road Map

Image source

Mapmaking in Decline:

As a result of public reliance on digital navigation systems, traditional cartography jobs are being downsized, and in many cases eliminated. For example, the California State Automobile Association (CSAA) produced its last paper map of highways in 2008. Since 1909, the had created their own maps and distributed them free to members. A near century later, CSAA had eliminated their cartography team and produce maps only through the AAA national headquarters in Florida. For organizations like the CSAA, mapmaking is now seen as an unnecessary expense. Although the CSAA is no longer investing in traditional cartography, they realize the importance of providing paper maps, and will continue to do so. According to their spokesperson Jenny Mack, “free maps are one of our most popular member benefits”.

Some Downsides:

A downside to the outsourcing of cartographic skill is the lack of regional knowledge. In the case of the CSAA, their original cartographic team personally surveyed local roads and intersections. The accuracy of survey and cartography from thousands of miles away is questionable. In fact, studies show that paper maps are more accurate than GPS navigation systems. In an experiment done at the University of Tokyo, participants traveled on foot using either a paper map or GPS device. Those using the GPS paused frequently, traveled greater distances, and took longer to get to their destination. Paper map users were more successful.

While digital maps are helpful in getting from "Point A" to "Point B," they lack topographic details and cultural landmarks, among other details. Paper maps show “the big picture”, whereas navigation systems only show direct routes and immediate surroundings. These shortages can lead to geographic illiteracy and dissipate our sense of direction.

~ What is the Future of Paper Maps?

More map information here: "What is a Map?"

Free Blank Outline Printable World Maps of the Countries and Continents of the World

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Vintage May Children's Calendar(Blackboard Calendar)

From a 1910 Primary Education teacher's periodical:

Click to enlarge and save, if desired. Dates are the same as 2011.

Friday, May 06, 2011

DIY Scrap Wood Pallet Toy Shelf

We made this out of some remaining scrap wood pieces which were leftovers from another project. The wood was found free at a big box home improvement store in cans, discarded near the wood cutting and lumber area. They are a type of shipping pallet - end pieces. We've been taking these with permission for various projects. The wood is usually weathered and interesting looking. Some of them have stamps on them making them look extra rustic. A few have grooves down the middle making them an excellent ball run. I plan to put together a maze with these pieces soon.

This modified A-frame shelf holds a good number of baskets and wooden boxed toy sets. We used the wood pieces that extend from the top to display and store puppets, and toy laces and ribbons. It would be handy for draping costumes and dress-up items as well.

The entire thing is screwed together with long deck screws. There are no rules here - just make a shape and screw it together. We didn't even bother to cut the shelves into even lengths. I puzzled it together on the floor, marked with pencil, and my husband screwed it all together. The pallet pieces came pre-sanded, so there were no rough areas which might cause splinters.

Click on picture to enlarge.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Spring Garden

May flowers - tall white iris(ebay) in our backyard


Radish(Dollar General seed)

Tomato (Dollar General seed) and sage(over-wintered)

DIY silver plated spoon garden markers.

DIY spring wreath - lily of the valley.

Better Home and Gardens: Free Admission to Botanical Gardens 5/6/11

Nice freebie! I guess Friday will be field trip day. These printed out easily from a PDF download. See here for link to coupon and list of participating botanical gardens(nationwide)

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Printable History of May Festivals for Children(Vintage)

From Our Boys and Girls children's magazine, Oliver Optic editor, Lee and Shepard, 1870:

Have any of our readers been "a-May-ing," as the common expression is? Have they found any of those sweet-scented May-flowers that are among the first of Nature's harbingers of green leaves and bright blossoms? But kings and princes went "a-May-ing" many generations ago, and with them went, as the old poet Chaucer says, "all the court, both most and least, to fetch the flowers fresh." In those early years, when Henry VIII. of England and Catharine of Arragon rode from their palace in Greenwich into the country to meet the people, and join with them in their festivities, there were jolly times on May-day, and, in fact, the whole month was joyful. Our May is colder and more disagreeable than that of England, and therefore our celebrations of May-day are usually very uncomfortable; but our ancestors brought the custom with them across the ocean; and, ever since, we have tried to have a good time with paper flowers, blue arms and noses, chilly processions, and bad colds.

Entire page here. To save and/or print, right click on the image of the page at the link. Free and in public domain.

Take a peak at the Table of Contents.

2011 Entertainment Coupon Books Now $15.00

I just purchased an "Entertainment" coupon book for South Jersey(vacation) and one for my area. The first book was only $15.00(retails for as much as $40.00), and the second book was only $10.00 with free shipping. Depending upon your area, these usually have some very usable coupons to local stores, entertainment, and dining.

The books probably have the best coupons in larger metropolitan areas and/or in tourist areas. I know for South Jersey there are some great discounts for museums, historical sites, fun parks, and family restaurants. These are all places we usually go, so the discounts will be worth the price of the book. This is the first time that I've purchased a book for my area. I'm hopeful that the coupons will at the very least cover the cost($10.00). We don't dine out much at all, but there are quite a few attractions and family fun activities near us where a discount would be a help.

I noticed that once you sign-up, they offer online coupons, a membership card for more discounts, and phone apps.

I'll update this post after I receive the booklets.

Printable Royal Tudor Family Paper Dolls

See more here. Click on images to enlarge and save.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A Few Children's Newspapers Online

New York Times Learning Network(We use this one - middle school and up)

The Learning Network provides teaching and learning materials and ideas based on New York Times content.

Teachers can use or adapt our lessons across subject areas and levels. Students can respond to our Opinion questions, take our News Quizzes, learn the Word of the Day, try our Test Yourself questions, complete a Fill-In or read our Poetry Pairings.

Weekly Reader(brief coverage) See top tabs for news by grades pre-K - grade six, and teens.

Scholastic News(elementary)

National Geographic for Kids(science: elementary-middle school)

Time Magazine for Kids/Classroom(K-6)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Amazon's Trade-in Program

I recently noticed that Amazon has a trade-in option! My son had been cleaning out his media, and I thought I'd check to see if I could list them on Amazon. The items were too common and selling for pennies; however, they were offering trade-ins for no less than a dollar each. So, I printed out the pre-paid label they provided, mailed the books and DVDs, and very soon had about $6.00 deposited into my Amazon account.

To find trade-in items simply enter your item in the Amazon search box and look for the "More Buying Options" window on the right. In that box, you'll see a button labeled "Trade in Here" with a price. It is located under the "Sell Yours Here" button.

Hereis an example listing.

I used my last balance to purchase a non-Amazon gift card.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Waning Interest in Cursive Writing

Students nationwide are still taught cursive, but many school districts are spending far less time teaching it and handwriting in general than they were years ago, said Steve Graham, a professor of education at Vanderbilt University. Most schools start teaching cursive in third grade, Professor Graham said. In the past, most would continue the study until the fifth or sixth grades — and some to the eighth grade — but many districts now teach cursive only in third grade, with fewer lessons.

“Schools today, we say we’re preparing our kids for the 21st century,” said Jacqueline DeChiaro, the principal of Van Schaick Elementary School in Cohoes, N.Y., who is debating whether to cut cursive. “Is cursive really a 21st-century skill?”
Read more here.

I gave up on cursive with my son. He prefers print, and we didn't pursue cursive past fifth grade. I was the same way in giving it up in middle school for print. I do miss seeing it, but not enough to pursue it in our homeschool. My parents and older sister still write letters in cursive. Sometimes it's difficult for my son to read the letters. We just don't see it enough in our everyday life to keep it as a practiced skill.

Family Circus Classic

More here.

About Me

My photo

I'm a homeschooling mom of two, a teen and a little. I hope this collection of mine helps you as much as it has helped us. I have an Etsy shop here:http://www.etsy.com/people/Alexandra66 And a blog: http://happyheartsathome.blogspot.com/