Monday, March 31, 2008


A lesson in vocabulary, grammar, geography, and civil service all in one. The site is called free rice and here's how it works; you're given ah word and four possible definitions. You choose right, and they donate 20 grains of rice to hungry people throughout the world. Amazingly simple and simply amazing. As you play, the 'game' adjusts to your skill level so that anyone can participate, whether you have very limited knowledge of the language, or are an english professor. In this way, your vocabulary begins to expand noticeably.
Dudo loves to play freerice. Of course there's the obvious vocabulary lesson, but also, as we play, we talk a bit about other parts of the world which don't have access to everything we do, thereby adding a geography aspect. And then there's the best part of all, the fact that this organization actually donates 20 grains of rice for each correct answer. We have donated 2,000 grains in just one sitting before. Civil service without ever leaving your desk.
When we play, we make up a sentence with each word that we are given. Dudo takes on this really funny voice, kind of like a narrator, and starts all of his sentences with "One time. . ." Heh, I guess my words are insufficient in portraying the cuteness of it.
I highly recommend playing freerice. You'll find yourself speaking more eloquently and feel good about all of those less fortunate who you have helped.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wooden Stackers

After at least half a dozen prototypes, I finally am satisfied enough with these stacking toys to offer them in my Etsy shop. They're alot of fun to make, and even more fun to play with. We like to use them as homes for our toys when we set up 'play scenes'. Patience, persistence, precision, playfulness, (and) purposefulness (are) practiced (when) placing and perching pieces (atop one another). Without the alliteration, I mean that stacking them in interesting ways is a fun challenge : )

Although............... the more I look at the cave one, the more it reminds me of nipples.......

maybe I'll remove that one........

UPDATE: I'm glad I didn't remove the 'nipples', they sold just two days after listing them!!

Wishing You Many New Creations,
mama randa the woodworker

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happy Easter!

This Easter, we tried dying eggs using natural dyed from foods. Here's what we tried and how it turned out;

red cabbage-- didn't work
grape juice concentrate-- bluish
cranberry/pomegranate concentrate-- didn't work
turmeric-- beautiful deep yellow
blueberries-- purplish

so we only got three colors, but it was really great seeing that we really could dye eggs without the use of artificial colorants. Unfortunately we didn't get to take any pictures. . .

The eggs were hidden before I went to bed, and when we woke in the morning, we found piles of egg shells instead of eggs. Here is a picture of one such pile and the guilty party in the background.

Luckily, everything in the Easter Basket was inedible. All of the goodies are from wonderful Etsy artists. Thanks to TGreen Bean Boutique, Green Mountain Wee Woolies, and Amanda Moon for the great handmade goodies. Dudo loved it all-- the pink 'grapefruit baby' was (is) a particular favorite.
wishing you goodness in all your days, holidays and otherwise,
mama randa aka the easter bunny

Kid K

Saturday, March 22
Every year our local natural foods co-op sponsors a 5 K Race. While the big people are running the 3.2 miles, the little ones can take part in the Kid K-- a race around the looped park road. Last year Dudo heard a friend talking about the race, so this year he got to participate. It was a very very cold morning which took us by surprise and as a result we were quite underdressed. At one point while we were waiting, Dudo was in tears wanting to go home. But after some hot chocolate and running around with a friend, his spirits lifted and he was ready to race. Many parents ran with their kids, but I was really curious to see what he would do on his own. The "Oompa Man" tooted oompas on his tuba while semi-jogging around the track behind the kids--- simply hilarious! Dudo did very well, he ran the whole way around and finished within the top 6 or 7. All the kids were so cute!
After the race we went home to warm up and rest for theother 2 events of the day (an egg hunt in the afternoon at the same park-- it was chaos! And a co-op owners meeting at night-- fun music and cute dancing kids even though only a handful of people stayed for the music). Hectic, yet fun day.

wishing you the enthusiasm of a child,
Mama Randa

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I know it's been two whole weeks since I last posted. I really would like to be able to post regularly, but I'm finding it difficult at the moment. Maybe it's because my computer is not running well-- it takes FOREVER to upload photos from my camera, if they upload at all (anyone have any info about a virus entitled "Trojan.Vundo"?) Maybe it's because my body has been feeling very fatigued lately (any have any thoughts on fibromyalgia?). Maybe it's because I'm overwhelmed by my home child care business (anyone have any tips on filing taxes when you're self-employed?) .

Perhaps it is due, in part, to feeling that my writing is anadequate. As a young child, I remember providing silent narration for everything that was happening, as if my life were an autobiography. Once I reached Junior High and school became very boring for me, I began to fill notebooks with strange stories, crazed ramblings, and silly poems reminiscent of Louis Carrol. This continued all through high school and partially into college. My notebooks rarely contained class notes. It didn't matter, I could spend all class period drawing or writing and still get A's. I could write a paper the night before it was due (or even the mornign of) and still get a good grade. That's how proficient my writing was. The writing flowed. Such is not the case anymore. Now, I have to think about how I want to word something for minutes before I write each sentence. My vocabulary is not as extensive. I fumble for the right word. These are things I wish to remedy. Hopefully writing in this blog will be one way to practice my writing skills and maybe bring them up to the level they once were. From the days when I aimagined my life as a story to now, I have often envisioned myself as a writer in some professional capacity. I still know this to be true, there are articles yet to be written, children's books to be completed, craft how-to's to be published. They are there, just waiting for my writing proficiency to catch up with them. As I write this, these dreams seem closer, more attainable, even as I pause between each word to think about what the next one should be.

wishing you small steps toward personal goals,
Mama Randa the someday writer

Monday, March 3, 2008

Geocaching at Cove Hollow

Sunday was an absolutely beautiful day (though sadly the temperatures dropped suddenly and drastically by Monday and has snowed/rained/iced on and off since then), so we went out geocaching for the first time in about two months. If you're not familiar with geocaching, check here Basically, people hide "caches" all over (it's wordlwide) and post the latitude and longtitude coordinates online to You then use a GPS to find the cache, which usually consists of a small waterproof container with a log book to sign, and various trinkets and things that other cachers have left. You can take something from the cache, but you also have to leave something.
I received a GPS unit for Christmas and our geocaching journey had begun! I was (and am still) amazed at how many caches there are, just in my area. Some of them I have passed dozens of times and never had a clue about their presence. Some of them are even in high traffic public area. There are half a dozen caches hidden on campus at the University in places where hundreds of people walk through every day-- every hour even. The fun part about caches like this is the secrecy with which you must act. You can't let non-geocachers see you with a cache. Most cahces, however, are in natural area where there are fewer people around. Geocaching is so much fun, and I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially homeschooling families. There is no area of study that you can't address with geocaching.

Anyway, so we went geocaching today, as I said, for the first time in months. In fact, it was the first time that we had been out in the woods at all for a few months, and BOY did it feel good! We went to a place called Cove Hollow, a beautiful area only about a 15-20 minute drive away. Cove Hollow is one area of a loop trail that circles Cedar Lake, just southwest of Carbondale. There are several points at which to access the trail, and I still have yet to see much of it. At Cove Hollow, the trail starts up high and winds down to beautiful scenic overlooks from high rockly legdes. The trail follows the ledge, leading toward the lake via a rockypath downward. Dudo is very cautious in such areas, and I never worry about him when climbing, but our little dog, Burundi, is a different story. It scares me to death to watch her strutting, apparently without concern, along high ledges.

wishing you many adventures,
mama randa the explorer

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Setting the Scene

This week we have received great new wooden toys from two great Etsy sellers. The trio of birds, seen gathered around the 'pond' are from Amber at woodmouseloveswood ( and the carved mushroom with tiny carved gnome are from Lizz at ZooLooNaturals ( What great additions to our play scenes!
To be honest, I've been feeling very overwhelmed lately and the house has been in a state of chronic disorder so we hadn't set up a story table or play scene in a LONG time. But today, with the energizing freshness of Spring, came the motivation to get things done. So the 'school room' is ready for use again after being out of commission for what may have been weeks. Ari and I spent a lovely chunk of time setting up this play scene with our new toys along with some old favorites. The snakes invited the emperor, his dog, the gnome, the mother and baby, the duck, and the girl (did I forget anyone?) over to dinner and everyone had a wonderful time!

Just as Ari sets the scene and gets everything organized so that the characters can have their adventures, I too must continually set the scene of our home-- organizing and re-organizing things so that we may have a peaceful environment from which will blossom many adventures and opportunities.

Wishing You a Freshly Set Scene
mama randa the homemaker

Operation Workshop Overhaul

My workshop is a small room attached to the back of the house (though accessible only from the outside). I'm so grateful to have that space, but it sure is hard for me to keep it organized. The biggest problem is all the surplus STUFF that has been dumped there until I can have a yard sale (three weekends from now is my tentative yard sale date). Within the past few months, I have greatly simplified my home, purging it of many of the uneccesary things that don't get used very often or just take up too much space for what they're worth. I usually take stuff to the thrift store, but right now I have so MANY things to pass on, that I just can't bear to take it all anywhere. There are alot of very nice things; wooden toys, board games, movies, not to mention the HUNDREDS of books that are stashed in my closet, Ari's closet, Art Room closet, the workshop, the art room floor. . . . Yes, hundreds. No exaggeration.

Anyway, it was a beautiful day today (the first beautiful day of the whole year was yesterday!) so I was greatly energized and set out to clean up the workshop a bit. Above are the before and after photos. I'm pretty happy with the results, especially considering I actually ADDED stuff to the workshop from the house. Yes, there is still a ton of yard sale stuff in there, but at least it's all pretty organized. Once all of that is gone, there will be space enough for me to set up a work table just for Ari. He's very excited!

Goodbye Winter Stagnation, Hello Spring Freshness!
wishing you the same fresh energy in your lives,