Milking Cows

One of the kindergarten classes that I work with has been studying the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder after reading Little House and the Big Woods.  The class indicated certain aspects of that time period that they found interesting and wanted to explore more.  For example, two students were particularly interested in the whole living off the farm, raising animals that produce milk for drinking and cooking.  They wanted to know what the process is for milking a cow.  We were able to find a local farmer that was willing for us to come out and visit him and his cows.  I loaded up these two students and the three of us traveled to Efland.   [Sidenote- This is a great example of the child centered philosophy at our school… following the curiosities and natural eagerness of our students and allowing the students to learn from real-life experiences to shape and educate them.]  Farmer Chris let us step right into the pasture and watch him milk several cows.  I was able to try a hand at this milking business.  After seeing me try, one of our kids wanted to try it out as well.  It was a wonderful experience.  The vegan in me was delighted to also find out that this farmer doesn’t kill any of his cows.  He raises them in a compassionate way, and never has too many at a time.  Here is a clip from our experience:

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As I drove away, I asked myself if I had cows and was able to do what this farmer does… would I drink or cook with the fresh milk?  Still thinking about it.  I do know that I was very inspired by the peacefulness of that farm.

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Aaron’s Class with Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott

It was truly a night to remember.  But, let me back up and tell you how it came about.  Kalen’s 4th grade teacher, Aaron, teaches his class a new song each week.  The songs vary in genre, but always have some type of connection with what the class may be studying, a period in history, or just a song that means a lot to Aaron.  Aaron has many instruments in his classroom.  He pulls out his guitar and will play simple chords to the song of the week, leading the kids after lunchtime in a time of community building singing.  Two of the songs Aaron has happened to teach the kids this year were sung by two of Aaron’s favorite bluegrass and folksy musicians, Darrell Scott and Tim O’Brien.  Aaron knew these two musicians were coming to Raleigh this January and decided to send some emails and see if there was any way to join forces.  Well, Tim and Darrell invited Aaron’s class (from last year and this year) to go sing with them on stage in front of a sold out crowd at the Fletcher Opera Theatre in Raleigh!  The invitation alone was a huge deal as these two musicians have won a Grammy and written songs for lots of folks.  Tim and Darrell were excited about what these kids were doing in their class with music and the fact that last year, Aaron’s class raised money and made their classroom solar powered.  The kids were invited to sing Paradise and Keep Your Dirty Lights On, both songs that they had learned this year.

Our family was so delighted to accompany Kalen to this event.  We met up with the class and excitement was in the air.

Down below you will see the kids just before their first time on stage, before the sound check.  Now, if you remember, I said that the kids would be performing in front of a sold out crowd.  So, we couldn’t sit in the audience during the show.  But, we were able to watch the sound check/warm-up and we were able to stand on the side of the stage while our kids performed.
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Now, here they all are on stage with Tim and Darrell.  Tim is the gentleman facing the kids on the left, then there is Darrell in the red plaid shirt on the right.  Our Kalen is front and center beside the girl in the pinkish purple pants.  DSC02143

During this long sound check period, I sat there and just had tears falling from my face.  It was one of those parent moments when you look up at your kid and you are overcome with emotion.  The music was just amazing.  The joy on the kids faces was so pure and sweet.

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So, pardon the recording at the first start of this clip.  I was focusing on Kalen only.  I actually do get Tim and Darrell in the shot after awhile.  🙂

Kalen was looking up at the lights in amazement.  🙂

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We took a break after the warm-up and went to ZPizza in downtown Raleigh.  They have great vegan pizza!  We basically filled their whole place.

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I love this photo below.  Kalen is looking up to Aaron just before they head out on stage.  Aaron is giving the kids encouragement and setting his expectations for them.

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So, Scott, Julian, Madelyn, Brayden and I, (along with several other proud parents) were hiding out here on the side watching our kids perform.  Tears were streaming.

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Vegan Twice-Baked Potatoes

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I found a great recipe on PETA’s (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) website.  It has been such a hit with our family that I thought I should share it here on my blog.  Tonight, I made them with portobello mushroom steaks and carrots.  What a delicious vegan meal!

Vegan Twice-Baked Potatoes

4 Idaho baking potatoes, scrubbed and dried
1/2 cup nondairy sour cream (try Tofutti brand at Tofutti.com)
3 Tbsp. margarine (Earth Balance), divided
2 Tbsp. faux bacon bits (try Bacos)
1/4 cup nondairy parmesan “cheese”
2-3 Tbsp. chives, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika

• Preheat the oven to 450°F.
• Poke a few holes in each potato, or wrap in aluminum foil, and bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Alternatively, they can be microwaved for 5 to 10 minutes. Allow them to cool slightly, cut open the top of each, then scoop out most of the insides of the potatoes, leaving about 1/4 inch in the shell.
• Put the scooped-out potato into a bowl, add the nondairy sour cream and 2 Tbsp. of the margarine, and mash or whip until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the faux bacon bits, nondairy parmesan, chives, salt, and pepper and then fill each potato shell with this mixture.
• Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Melt the remaining 1 Tbsp. of margarine and brush or drizzle it over the top of each potato. Sprinkle the potatoes with paprika, and cook them in the oven for another 10 minutes until the tops are browned.

**  The Morrison family made this recipe with 7 potatoes and doubled the ingredients for the scooped-out potato part.  We did not use the faux bacon bits.   Also, I may have added a bit more Earth Balance than suggested.

Some of Our Hopes for the New Year

We have a huge chalkboard that we made on the wall upstairs with chalkboard paint.  Lately I have been writing questions on it to try to stir up some creative and expressive responses within our, now completely literate, family.  I asked, What are your hopes for the New Year?  I found them to be rather simple, but sweet.  Here were the responses….

I hope to play outside!!!

Have a clean room.

I hope to be with family.

Have a good year.

Foster a little one.

To be on the gold team.  (soccer)

Eat better.

Be less stressed.

Have a good birthday.

Read better.

I hope to eat more fresh and local foods.

I hope to foster again.

Exercise 3 times a week.