Friday, December 30, 2016

Falling Waters State Park

A couple of days after Christmas we headed to the panhandle of Florida to get away, see some sights and attempt to find old man winter. I made reservations 2 months ago at the only state park I could find with a site available for multiple consecutive nights - Falling Waters State Park in Chipley, Florida a six hour drive away. We haven't camped in the panhandle area and figured this was as good a time as any for a longer excursion.
Falling Waters State Park is a compact gem of a park centered around the highest waterfall in the state. Florida is commonly considered an oddity among the 48 contiguous states - it quite literally sticks out. Consistent with this oddness, Florida'a highest waterfall doesn't drop into a river or stream but a sinkhole and not just any sinkhole but a 73 foot circular pit and then disappears underground.
While not large, Falling Waters State Park is a quality destination perfectly adequate for an enjoyable  family camping experience. The park is fire managed with a good portion restored to a longleaf pine savannah. The campground feels a bit small with only 24 sites, but it is well cared for and the bathhouse feels new. There is a small lake in the park that helps give a consistent water supply to the water fall while also providing a swimming and fishing area. There are a couple of trails and boardwalks near the main attraction and the requisite picnic shelters and playground makes this a superb day-use area as well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Homemade Crystal Ornaments

We enjoy crafting and cooking during the holidays, but this is the first year that we have made these homemade crystal ornaments. The key ingredient is Borax which I found in the detergent area of my local grocery store. We already had a few shiny pipe cleaners in our craft bin. I used my electric tea kettle to heat the water and then poured the hot water into a large measuring cup. For each cup of boiling water add 3 tablespoons of Borax and stir until dissolved. Pour the mixture into whatever size glass containers you have that will allow your pipe cleaner creations to hang freely. I suspended our creations from craft sticks using gift ribbon. We let them set overnight, but the smaller containers showed crystals sooner after a couple of hours. (The glass containers allow you to watch the crystals form). Supposedly, adding food coloring makes for bright colored crystals, but I did not try that this time around.
As a homeschooling mother, I was hoping to turn this into some kind of science experiment or class on crystals. Time and energy constraints prevented that this Christmas. When we do get around to learning about crystals, we can site this experience and do it again. During busy seasons of life, building context for future learning is the best I can do. I'm okay with that, because the ability to connect the dots between knowledge and experiences is, I believe, the most efficient way to actually learn. We can add more knowledge in the New Year!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Cartier-Brebeuf National Historic Site: Parks Canada Explorer Program

View of downtown Quebec City from Cartier-Brebeuf National Historic Site
The kids enjoy the spinning device while others the splashpad in the background
We visited the Cartier-Brebeuf National Historic Site during our stay in Quebec City. In addition to steles commemorating the history of the site, there is a splashpad and playground as well as walking and bike trails run through the site.

Here one can also find a Parks Canada interpretive center with displays of the Iroquois way of life along with information on Cartier and the first Jesuit mission in Quebec established near the site in 1625. The kids completed the Parks Canada Explorer Booklet for the site where Jacques Cartier is believed to have wintered on his second voyage up the St. Lawrence in 1535. At the time, a village called Stadacona existed in the area inhabited by the Iroquois.

Outdoor art representing one of the ships that Cartier left behind when he returned to France.
With their completed Explorer Program booklets
One astounding thing I learned from our visit was that the 16th century natives of the area had a remedy for scurvy that essentially cured Cartier's men of symptoms within 24 hours. Somehow that remedy, a tea brewed from elements of the "tree of life,"seems to have been altogether unknown 75 years later by Samuel de Champlain and the founding families of Quebec who continued to suffer from scurvy during numerous harsh winters. Even today, the exact species of tree used by the natives in their medicinal tea is not known for certain. The main ingredient could of been one of several native evergreen trees. Many believe it was a species of Eastern White Cedar as noted on a display inside the interpretive center. Outside, on another interpretive display, the species is listed as the Balsam Fir.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Milestone Moment: My Child Emailed Me - Thank You Kahn Academy

Before leaving home yesterday, I asked my 10 year old son to read two chapters in the book he is currently reading and to do one Mastery Challenge on Kahn Academy Math on the IPad. (If you haven't discovered Kahn Academy yet, I highly recommend it regardless of how you choose to educate your child.) Typically I give a timeframe of 30 minutes for Kahn Academy, but since my daughter and I were going out for errands I thought I'd go easy on him. Mastery Tasks as the term implies are selected questions assigned by the program that represent the level of the student and are offered as a means of determining skill mastery. Unfortunately, the Mastery Tasks don't always show up on the students dashboard on the Kahn Academy IPad Application.  (From my experience, it does consistently appear on the laptop version.)
Therefore, while Elisabeth and I were at Target, I received my first email from Jonah ever. He didn't bother typing anything other than the subject line as there was no need: "There's no mastery tasks😕"
I have to admit, that I was amused and proud.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Jonah is 10!

Happy 10th Birthday to my darling boy! Upon his birth, I was thrust into a greater understanding of the depths, heights, and width of unfathomable love. He has shown me what true joy looks like. His creativity is inspiring. His sensitivity warms my heart. I am so proud of the young man he is becoming. Here is to my fun-loving, sweet-spirited first-born. I thank God for him.
Ann Gedes Baby - September 14

Monday, August 15, 2016

A Walk in a Quaint Quebec Neighborhood

We are staying in an Airbnb, a row house two blocks away from the Museum of Modern Art in the Montcalm neighborhood of Quebec City. The area is picturesque this time of year with flowers filling window baskets, door stoops, and side yards of quaint historic buildings. All this and walking distance to some great attractions and parks. This morning I took a walk to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste church and neighborhood and took a few random photos along the way.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

2016 Antigonish Grand Street Parade

We thoroughly enjoyed the parade that preceded the 153rd Antigonish Highland Games, especially the pipe bands. During this parade and at the games themselves, we heard more bagpipe music than ever before and that includes our trip to Scotland. The bagpipes, the drums, the flair of the drum beaters combined with the kilted uniforms intrigue the senses and make for quite a show.