Monday, April 30, 2012

You know you homeschool if...

IMG_1030 rolling down hill in a square box

. . .your children try rolling downhill in a square box.

Just a little humor poking fun at ourselves. They were actually crawling downhill while the others helped to roll the box, like a hamster in a wheel. I have no idea what they were thinking.
Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Friday, April 27, 2012

Return of the Chats

A few years back Stonechat were a common sight, perched on the scrub and gorse of the coastal strip, along the north of the Wirral peninsula. These birds always raised a smile with their rusty round bodies giving them the appearance of a large bumble bee in flight as they dash between prominent perches.  I have also always really liked their characteristic call that sounds like two pebbles being tapped together.
The Stonechat have been nearly completely absent for the last couple of years locally, and I suspect the population of these very small birds were probably hit hard in the long harsh freezing winters of the last three years. The general rule is the smaller the animal the quicker it loses body heat due to its volume to surface area ratio which creates a need to consume more food in order to maintain itself and body heat. This is the reason that an animal such as the tiny shrew has such a voracious appetite. You can obviously see why a prolonged very cold winter could easily impact on these birds when energy demands are high and food becomes scarce under the freezing conditions.
So finding a pair of Stonechat had returned to the coastal area was very welcome after their prolonged absence. These birds are generally quite approachable which always helps with photography and on this occasion I concentrated my efforts just on the male as it was in such perfect condition. The main difficulty with photographing these birds is getting the photo exposure correct and retaining feather detail in the combination of the black head and bright white 'collar'. It is very easy to overexpose the white area.
With certain species of birds I tend to associate then with particular types of plants. For example a Grasshopper Warbler on brambles or Goldfinch on teasel. For Stonechat I always associate them with gorse as this is where they are most commonly perched in our local area. Despite having an extensive library of Stonechat images I have never managed to photograph them on flowering gorse and so was pleased to finally capture some images.
It also pays to sometimes switch to a shorter lens to give a wider angle of view to give a greater feel of the bird in its habitat. The difference between the image above and below is the result of switching from a 500mm lens to a 300mm lens.
These birds were only present for around a week and seem to have disappeared once again. It may be that the pair were just moving along the coast looking for suitable habitat to set up a breeding territory. However, the brief visit gives some hope that before long they may hopefully become once again a regular and welcoming sight along the local coastal strip as it has certainly been a poorer place for their absence.

Knock, Knock Anyone There?

April has gone by so quickly! I only posted 10 times and, I'm not going to lie, it was kind of nice. BUT I am ready to get back into the swing of things. I can only take a break for so long before I start to go insane. Here are a few things/changes that will be taking place with this ol' blog. I'm open for suggestions too!

The "walk through history" apron tutorials will start back on May 8th. They will take place the 2nd Tuesday of every month. Doing an apron tutorial every week proved to be too much. Once a month will be just about right I think.

Wordfull Wednesdays and the Friday homeschooling posts will resume. I have a few crafts and projects up my sleeve as well.

dandelion crown
The first dandelion crown of the year!

What I would like to know is what YOU want to know. Do you have any general questions you want answered? Here's a few that have been asked already either in previous posts' comments or on Facebook

Family Life:
How is our grocery budget?
How do we discipline our kids?

What foods does your family eat for breakfasts that's not just cereal?

How do you post pictures from Flickr on your blog?

Are there other things you've been dying to ask or are curious about?

Ask away in the comments, provide feedback, etc, etc.

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Monday, April 23, 2012

Joy in Spilled Milk

On Sunday I learned a simple little lesson from Hershey...or more accurately several lessons.

One: Dancing and singing {to her little brother} can bring joy and laughter, even to those {her little brother} who are crying.

Two: Dancing and singing while holding a cup of milk also brings laughter.

spilled milk

Three: Dancing and singing energetically while holding a cup of milk results in an abrupt stop to the dancing and singing.

licking spilled milk

Four: Spilled milk still tastes good even when on your face.

Five: There is joy to be found everywhere in everything.....and having a little bit of humor really helps.

Six: Baths a great!

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Friday, April 20, 2012

There is Sunshine in my Soul Today

{Taking a cue from my friend who titles her blog posts from lines in music}

What do you do when your children say, "Come play with us, Mom!"

enjoying the sunshine

You obey!

Yesterday {and today} have been gorgeous! We have been soaking up the clear skies and 70-80 degree Spring weather. Next week temps will probably be back in the 40-50 range, this is Northern Nevada after all.

I & J resting

We basked in the sunshine,

crawling race

had crawling races,

crab walk race

crab walk races,

rolling race

rolling races,

wheel barrow race

and wheel barrow races.

We also laughed, enjoyed each others company, and built a memory.

Sometimes the best things really are free...and easy to do.

What have you done with your children lately? 
Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2012 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flighty Twitters

The most common view of a Linnet is of a small flock of about a dozen twittering small 'brown' birds in characteristic 'bouncing' flight across an area of grassland. There is quite a good population locally that use the habitat of the coastal rough grasslands and nest in clumps of gorse. However, the status of the national population is not great with the birds showing a 57% decline between 1970 and 2008 and therefore afforded a 'Red Status' of conservation importance.
From a photography point of view they are generally a difficult bird to get close enough to as you need to get past the many keen eyes of the flock. Therefore they tend to be a very flighty species often disappearing before you have got anywhere near them. The exception to this is very occasionally when you find a solitary bird in the Spring but it still takes a good deal of crawling and using any available cover to get close. This is how I have managed to photograph most of the birds in the past although crawling around through spike-laden gorse bushes in not recommended.
A couple of friends have been working hard to try and get Linnet feeding in one area through daily and liberal feeding. It has taken a lot of effort but finally the birds started using the area and free food supply regularly. This has probably helped these slim small finches through the lean times of late winter and early spring when seed availability is generally in short supply. Once you get birds feeding in an area like this, then the photography suddenly becomes much easier and you have much more control over the situation in terms of light direction, backgrounds and perches.

It is not until you are up close to these birds for a while that you realise that they are actually very beautiful and not just the plain brown bird that you thought. The black and white wing and tail feathers, chestnut coloured back and streaking across the breast all add up to a very striking bird.
The males in particular can be particularly attractive as they develop a reddish pink blush to the breast and forehead feathers. This red colouration shows quite a bit of variation and as you can see is not particularly well developed in the photograph above. However, in some birds the red gets stronger through the year as the light tips of the new feathers wear revealing the red breast below. There were two well coloured males visiting the feeding area and I was particularly keen to try and get some photographs of these birds.

The other point that a close encounter reveals is that their calls are much more complex than the twitter of the birds in flight and they have quite a repertoire of call and song. They were once a popular cage bird back in the times when such practices were legal and definitely sound a bit canary like in elements of their song.
Hopefully this has given you a bit more insight in to the Linnet and may give you a greater appreciation of them the next time you see a passing twittering flock of these wonderful little finches.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fishing Tackle Barrel Swivel Bracelets

barrel swivel bracelet 01

Did you know fishing tackle can be used to make some of the easiest bracelets ever?
barrel swivel bracelet 02

We used barrel swivels with interlocking snaps and added seed beads for color. Barrel swivels come in different sizes - the smaller the number the larger the size. No matter what size you get all of the packages contain the same number of swivels for the same price so its a better deal to buy the larger sizes. We made two adult size bracelets with one package of 12 barrel swivels that cost us $1.25.
barrel swivel bracelet 03 copy

Make sure you get the barrel swivels with interlocking snaps. They open and close like a safety pin.
 barrel swivel bracelet 04

To make the basic bracelet just connect the interlocking snap of one barrel swivel to the bottom loop of another swivel. It only took four swivels to make bracelets for the younger kids {ages 7 on down}, five swivels for the tweens, and six swivels for adult sizes. It's easy to add more swivels if you need to.
barrel swivel bracelet 05 copy

To add seed beads you'll need to first straighten the curved end with pliers to allow the seed beads to slide on. They don't want to go around that 90 degree curve!
barrel swivel bracelet 06

Add half the beads, then add the next swivel before adding the rest of the beads.
barrel swivel bracelet 08

Easy, cheap bracelets that look more expensive than the 60 cents worth of supplies it took to make them}!

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2011 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Thursday, April 12, 2012


little voice singing primary songs

After I helped her put on her shoes and jacket, Hersey {2}, threw open the door and announced to her older siblings {and the world}: "Here's me!"

Special Dark {5}: "Mom's a genius!" after I fixed his marble run so it sloped properly.

Special Dark: Mom, truth or dare?
Me: Dare
Special Dark: Give Dad a piggy back ride and jump over the couch.
{I did give him a piggy back ride but definitely did not try jumping over the couch.}

Hershey: It's your favorite man! {as she holds up my phone with a picture of Mr. Ferrero Rocher}

brown eyes

Special Dark on Easter Sunday: Are Guelito and Avi resurrected yet?
Me: No, not until Jesus comes again.
Special Dark: You know how Dad is getting gray hair? I don't want him to die.
Me: He won't die because he's getting gray hair.
Special Dark: Yeah, but that means he's old!

Filed under "Makes Perfect Sense....NOT"

Hershey: I need my jacket on because Giddy's fat.

Hershey: Please change the basketball in my diaper.

Hershey: Mom, I'm tired. I want to lay on the treadmill.
Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2011 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

and my busy season has begun!

April is going to be a doozey of a month for me. I have several major projects I am working on.
{I didn't make this quilt but will be making one like it}
A quilt is being made as a special gift for someone who is moving. I'm following the easy tutorial for the Patchwork Chevron quilt pictured above.

I'm also putting together a video/slide show for a stake Relief Society fireside the first Sunday in May.

Seeds have been started indoors and the garden boxes are getting their first plantings of lettuce, spinach, carrots, and peas. I have a goal to have a very bountiful harvest from the garden this year! Last year's wasn't but I had a good excuse as Ganache was born the middle of July.

My blogging will be sporadic at best. I still have plans in the works for an apron walk through history complete with tutorials. And there are still some homeschooling questions that were asked in my Q&A post that need to be answered. There are also several posts that I didn't finish relating to the Relief Society 170th Anniversary Celebration. There are no guarantees to when those will be posted. Wordfull Wednesday will be put on hold for the month.


You can still get a glimpse of what we are doing as I post my "daily gifts" on my photography blog.

IMG_0459 exploding washing machine 03

The past week we've blown up a dishwasher.

IMG_0577 kissing lips

Learned to make fish lips,

IMG_0534 hotdog cookout

and had a little campfire cookout.

Stop by and visit!

Cocoa Signature with Candy 2 © 2007-2011 Chocolate on my Cranium, LLC all rights reserved

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter 'Bunny'

To put the record straight, the original Easter Bunny was not supposed to be a rabbit but a hare. Hares are mostly commonly seen in the spring as the males energetically pursue the females. Their hormone driven pursuits have given rise to the phrase 'Mad as a March Hare'. If you have ever watched a male hare catch the scent of a female you will see how they become possessed and it is a common sight watching them sniff along the ground in pursuit during the Spring.
Hares were believed to lay eggs, which was probably a case of mistaken identity with Lapwing nests which share the same open field habitat. However, I suspect the giving of eggs at Easter has more to do with a symbol of fertility and renewal.

At this time of year hares will often sit up, as shown in the following photograph, presumably to give them a better view as the look out for females.
I love to photograph hares throughout the year. In fact my preference is actually to photograph them in late summer when the bird photography is poor and hares much more relaxed.  The only relaxed hare in the Spring is one that is taking the time to groom its fur. The one below was having a quiet moment.
Once the scent of a female is picked up a hare will follow it anywhere including across roads. Fortunately at the site where I photograph them traffic is virtually non-existent which is just as well as they will often pause mid-way across to try and get a better bearing on the direction of the scent trail. Obviously if there was traffic the consequences of this behaviour could be deadly.
Whatever they are doing they are wonderfully enigmatic animals and its worth taking some time to go out and look for them in the Spring which offers your best chance of seeing them. Unfortunately they are also a species which is under a great deal of pressure in the UK and one that is sadly in decline. However, on there side are a number of organisations such as the Hare Preservation Trust. Our countryside would be a much poorer place without them.
So I will finish this post with an image of Spring as a hare runs past a patch of daffodils and wish you all a happy and peaceful Easter break.