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Friday, May 25, 2018

Preschool Fun: World Bee Day (Svetovni Dan Čebel)


Welcome to a new holiday!  May 20th is officially the first World Bee Day - started and promoted by Slovenian beekeepers.


Surprisingly, Slovenia is the bee capital of the world!  The have the largest number of beekeepers/capita!  Here is a link you can go to to find out more about it!  Here is the Facebook page for the World Bee Day, and here is their website.  Slovenia's honey is world-class, there is a long history of beekeeping, and as someone who likes bees, this is great news to me!


Honestly, on actual bee day, pregnancy got the better of me, but I've been making up for it since!  

For starters, here are some "bee" products we love.  These are not all local, Slovenian, but it is all part of supporting bees!


Products

1. Honey - duh.
Or, "med", in Slovene.  The bees in Slovenia are the Carnolian bees.  My personal favorite Slovenian honey is acacia honey.  YUM!  I put honey in my tea, on pork loin, in yogurt, and if you're having a traditional Slovenian breakfast, you have it on butter bread.  Yeah.  It's awesome.  Here's an added tip.  When you use honey, make sure you lick the knife or spoon - apparently that's approximately how much honey ONE bee makes in its life - you wouldn't want to waste a who life's work!


2. Bee's Wax Candles
There's a stand at our local market that sells bee's wax candles, and we have a couple in our bedroom.  For a fun family activity, you can find "make your own candle" kits on amazon.com.  In school in Hungary, we had a "tradition and heritage" class, and we made bee's wax candles, and it was loads of fun!



This single-use plastic alternative food storage item is cotton fabric, which has been dipped in wax.  you can wrap it around things, or as a lid on a bowl.  It seals because of the warmth of your hands.  It is perfect for fresh produce, cheeses and bread.  Each wrap can be used for about 100 uses - you clean it with cold water and soap.  It's may seem a little expensive up front, but if you're truly cutting out that much plastic wrap and ziplocks, 1) it does end up being cost effective, and 2) obviously it's better for the environment.  I got a set of them for Christmas, and have LOVED using them!


Dan can't live without his Burt's Bees chapstick.  He's one of those people who has a car chapstick, a bedside table chapstick and a pocket chapstick.  He swears by it!  I've been using their belly butter against stretch marks, and we plan on using their products on our baby.  (On a side-note, their baby clothes, burp clothes and bedding is SO soft.  It's totally one of our favorite baby product brands.)

I showed Aidan each of these products, and we talked about how important bees are.  Without bees, there would be no fruit, no coffee... it would be a sad, sad world!

Activities

1. Plant a Bee friendly garden
When we lived in Florida, we sowed some seeds in the corner of the yard, in the hopes of growing some flowers for bees.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out.  Here in Slovenia, we have a balcony, so we came up with this way to have an herb/flower garden.  There are some specific plants that attract bees, a few are: lavender, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and parsley.  Of course, there are pretty, colorful flowers you could use too, but we were more interested in a "functional" garden.


2. Recycled Bee Craft
 For this beeeee-autiful craft, you'll need two toilet paper rolls, yellow and black paint, newspaper, scissors and a black marker.  
First, you have your kiddo paint a toilet paper roll yellow (for the record, IKEA has great kids' art supplies).  Then, you have them paint a couple black stripes with black paint (I drew a faint line each time to help him stay straight all the way along).
Then, you help them cut out the wing shapes out of newspaper (watch those fingers!!), cut a strip of toilet paper off, cut it in half, have them paint them black, glue them in for antennae, and draw on a face.  Ta-da!!  So cute!








3. Bee Worksheets
 It can be (really) hard to get Aidan to sit down and color, or write, or do much of anything that wasn't his idea.  But he got a HUGE kick out of writing the B-s, and was super excited at how well it was going!
I found this, and a couple other sheets on pinterest.  I looked at them, and tried to pick the ones that were age-appropriate, and that I thought he would like.  This one had a fun, identify-the-letter section, that we used a stamp on, which of course made it tons more fun!








Snacks


1. Honey Lollipop
 Like I said, Slovenians love their bees and their honey.  There's this great Honey House shop in Ljubljana.  They have honey, honey spreads, candies, lotion, candles, etc.  I bought myself a blueberry money spread, and yes, it is as yummy as it sounds!
 I found this fun honey lollipop for Aidan...
which of course he loved!













2. Honey Comb Snack
For this snack, I used a banana, half a strawberry, some blueberries, and cashews.  Oh, and candy eyes. :)
We talked about how all of these foods (minus the candy eyes) need pollinators, like bees, and how important they are!







Watch

1. Wild Kratts Season 1 Episode 10 - Honey Seekers - this episode is about the honey seekers - lions, honey badger - in Africa, and of course the African killer bee!  So much fun!

2. Wild Kratts Season 1 Episode 32 - Flight of the Pollinators - this episode is all about what different pollinators there are - bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.  I seriously always learn something new when we watch Wild Kratts!

3. More Than Honey - this is a really interesting documentary currently (or at least last time I checked) on Netflix. 




Sunday, April 22, 2018

Preschool Fun: Earth Day, 2018

Earth Day!

With Aidan being in school full-time, and adjusting to life in a new country, we haven't had any of our school days at home.
But, today we were home, and it happened to be Earth Day!
So, here we go:

Activities

1. Bird Feeder
 For this activity, you'll need a toilet paper roll, some twine, seeds/nuts and peanut butter.
You'll need to thread the toilet paper roll onto the twine.
This is a great exercise for "reusing".  The toilet paper roll, obviously had a previous life, and the twine was from a tag on something I bought. :)  Also, I only had a tiny bit of peanut butter left - not really enough for anything else.
 First, you slather the toilet paper roll in the peanut butter.
And roll it in the seeds/nuts (we used sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds and some crushed up nuts that we had.)








 Then, you hang it up in your backyard - or in our case balcony. :)
Ta-da!!














2. Watering Plants
We have an herb garden on our balcony, so we made sure we watered them while we were out there!












3. Active Recycling
 Living in Slovenia, recycling isn't really an option - it's just what everyone does.  Which, of course is how it should be.  Our trash can is already divided into sections, and Aidan is really good about always double-checking where his trash is supposed to go.
After we used up the peanut butter, he rinsed out the glass jar, and set it to the side with the other glass things for recycling.











4. Reducing
Throughout the day, we talked about the different ways we could "reduce" the resources we have - like water or electricity.  For example, not letting the water run while we brush our teeth, not wasting the water while we wash our hands, and of course turning the lights off after we've left a room.  We also walked to the grocery store - a pretty common thing in our home honestly, but we talked about why it's important. :)




5. Poster!!
We used a big paper shopping bag for our "poster", and then collected all the things we did under the "Reduce", "Reuse" and "Recycle" tabs.










Food/Snacks

1. Earth Pancakes
For this breakfast I had Aidan help me make pancake batter, then I made up the pancakes, and arranged the grapes and blueberries on it to sort of make out the continents. And of course, a strawberry heart. :)









2. Earth Sandwich
I made Aidan's sandwich on a Kaiser roll, and then cut out some green bell pepper (which was the first thing he ate off the plate, I might add, woohoo!) to - again - make sort of continent shapes, and used cookie cutters to cut out apple slices to write out EARTH.





Arts/Crafts

1. Upper/lower case letter "E" coloring
Now that we've mastered the upper case letters, it's time to get started on the lower case ones!  This coloring page was great - all the water shapes that needed coloring had an upper case "E" on them, while the land ones had lower case "e"s on them.  After he was done, he wanted to cut it out - and who am I to stand between a boy and his fine-motor skill practice, lol?





2. Q-Tip Painting
 I found this coloring page on Pinterest.  All you need is some paint and Q-Tips, and you're set!  For the record, we bought our art supplies at IKEA, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised!
Such concentration...














3. Art Out Of Recycling
 We used that same shopping bag from earlier as a back, and since we didn't have any newspapers lying around, I used what I had - tons of IKEA instructions - for our paper.
 Aidan made a handprint, with a heart in the middle,
And then colored a blue and green border around it! :)












Books/Media

I have not braved the Ljubljana public library, so the books I had on hand were just that - what I had on hand.  But this is a great book that shows different sides of our world, and that we're not all that different.  I'm particularly in love with the illustrations!





While not strictly about the Earth (and of course, it can be taken to be meant in a more metaphorical way), it is about using up resources, until there are none left.







Of course, this is an Earth Day classic, but it's always worth reiterating.  Honestly, I probably say "I speak for the trees" more than my husband finds amusing, but it does come to mind a lot. :)









4. The Magic School Bus Rides Again
(and the original too, of course!) Aidan and I both really enjoy this reboot, and of course as always, I learn something new from each episode!




And that's pretty much it!  That's how we spent our Earth Day this year, how about you?
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Sunday, April 8, 2018

What's In A Name?

What's in a name?
Names and their meanings are important in our family.  I'm not really sure why.  It probably has to do with the importance of names in the Bible, or maybe it's because the person being named is stuck with it forever, or maybe they're not even that important, I've just always been interested in it.  Whatever the reason, I've always known all our names' meanings.  Now, people don't always reflect their name's meanings, I get that.  But in my family it did seem to go that way.

Paul (my dad): humble, small.  Now, the "small" part was always funny, because he's 6' 7''.  But he definitely is humble, and always puts others' needs before his own, willing to make himself "small".

Abigail (me): Father's joy.  When my mom was pregnant with me, I would go BANANAS if I heard my dad's voice.  I came into the world in love with him, and except for some hormone-fueled years there in the middle, that hasn't changed.

Jonathan (my brother): God has given. Which is funny, because we all were told we were getting a girl, and my parents didn't even have a boy name picked out, my dad gave the name to the nurse just as a backup, and... God gave us a boy!  Also, Jonathan in the Bible was the best friend anyone could've wished for, which has always been true of our Jonathan.

Stephen (my brother): Crown.  Also, his middle name is "Andrew", which means manly.  Stephen was born a little prince in our family, with everyone carrying him, reaching things for him, etc.  Also, he is now a junior at West Point.  So the manly thing is pretty accurate too, I'd say.

Daniel (my husband): (Only) God is my judge.  I'll just leave that there, lol.

Aidan Judson (our son): Aidan means little fire.  And he is just that.  Every time I wonder why he does the things he does, I remember what we named him.  Judson is Dan's middle name, and the family name that gets passed down on his side.  I love it!

??? (baby girl on the way)

So.  Clearly, we don't take names lightly in this family.  
As I've mentioned in a couple other places in my blog, strong female literary characters are what I feel shaped my childhood, and young girl-hood the most.  So, who do we go with?

Anne - with an E?  Jo from Little Women?  Elinor from Sense and Sensibility? Emma?  Laura (Ingalls Wilder)?  Hadassah from Mark of the Lion?

As I sat there thinking about who I would like my little girl to emulate most, I couldn't help but think of the woman who introduced me to all of my heroes.  My greatest hero, my mom.


Jocelyn.  
She grew up on a farm in North Dakota, in a family of Kathys, Nancys and Susans - an anomaly, a Jocelyn.  She had dreams to see the world.  She had/has style.  She has endured more heartache than a life should be able to hold, and yet has perpetual joy.  She has an infectious laugh, and can tell a story like no one can!  She loves fiercely (fierce being the opportune word - you get it whether you asked for it, or not, lol).  She bravely followed God's call on her life, and left the comfort of the known to live and raise her family in a new culture.  She is solid in her convictions.  She doesn't waver.  She is honest.  She is the absolute most creative person I, or anyone who knows her has ever seen.  She's an insane book-lover (like, read us all, out loud the entire Anne of Green Gables series, Narnia books, The Lord of the Rings, Little House on the Prairie and many others).  She has a tender heart.  She gives everything her all.  She tries new things.  She admits her fears, but faces them anyway.  She's my best friend.
She is everything anyone could hope and dream for their daughter.  There is no one else in the world I would want my daughter to be more like.
Jocelyn means "Joyful".  She is that, unfailingly.  It also means "one of the Goths".  A warrior.  An overcomer and overthrower.  

And so, there is no greater name, as far as I am concerned.


Jocelyn.  

3 Easy Ways To Support Your Community - Financially

I've lived a few different places in my life, and each place that I've lived, I've made an effort to pour back into my local community.  I try to do this on many levels - of course spiritually, by working at/volunteering at my local church; socially - again, by volunteering, trying to notice the needs of those around me; and financially.  This is the part I'd like to talk about a bit.

The old adage "put your money where your mouth is" fits aptly.  We spend money on things that we find important.  So, let's talk about where we spend our money.  None of these points are going to be earth-shattering, but I will be giving you some practical ways of actually doing them, and examples of what we've done.



1. Support local businesses

Most of us in the States are familiar with "Small Business Saturday", the day after Black Friday.  It's a day when people are encouraged to shop at their locally owned stores.  This is a great idea, but I think it needs to go beyond one day of the year.  Here are some of the practical things we've done.  

 In Jacksonville, when I became a stay-at-home-mommy, I was desperate for a place to let Aidan play, and meet other moms.  Some people suggested My Gym, or Gymboree, but we decided to become members at Bay & Bee.  This place was not only amazing (it fed the wanna-be-crunchy-mom inside me, with cork flooring, cleaning with essential oils, etc.), but it's a business started by two local moms, and I made some lasting friendships!


Because of how much we loved this place, we also ended up having two of Aidan's birthdays here.  Do you see that beautiful cake?  That was from a local bakery, too, Sweets By Holly - instead of say, Costco or Walmart.


Here in Ljubljana, for example, we've found an adorable hole-in-the-wall (although not unknown) coffee shop, Črno Zrno.  The owner/operator's name is Alexander, he's Colombian, and his wife is Slovenian.  He knows our names, coffee preferences, and asks us the types of questions an acquaintance would.  I never had that kind of a relationship with my barista(s) at Starbucks.  We love going here!



2. Support local artists

One of the times we were at Bay & Bee, they had this wonderful music time, and the singer was a local artist, named Mere Woodard.  Again, I especially loved that she was a mom, going out and doing what she loved, but beyond that, she had a great bluesy/folksy voice that spoke to me - and Aidan couldn't stop dancing!  So, after we went home, I went on iTunes, and bought her album.  There.  It can be that easy!  Now you're a patron of the arts, lol!  Jacksonville has a really fun event annually, called One Spark, where they feature local artist, people with great ideas, and of course good food.  Events such as these are great ways to find out who is out there beautifying your city, and find ways to support them!

Now, I realize that we travel much more than the average family, but I've made it a point, that whenever we go somewhere, instead of buying a souvenir, I buy Aidan a book either by a local author/illustrator, or about something significant in that area.  One of the examples is this book about Congo Square in New Orleans.  We also have a book by an author in Key West, the Poet Laureate of Springfield Missouri, and one about a dolphin found in Galveston.  I also glue a picture in the front of the book about our time in that place.  It has become a really nice keepsake!

When we moved to Slovenia, I knew that I wanted to buy dishes from a Slovenian potter.  It was just something I'd decided ahead of time.  I can't explain how much I love these dishes!  They're made by an artist, named Jasmina Verbič.  I love that each piece is unique, that it's hand-crafted, and I love the relationship we've built with her, and her son who runs the shop that sells her pieces.  Again, I would have bought dishes anyway, this was not an unplanned purchase - but instead of giving even more of my money to IKEA, I was able to put money back into my community.

These tea towels are also by a local artist, whose creations I keep coming across in different places, and love each one.  Her page is Kukamkuro, and you can find her on Etsy, too.  Again, she is a mom, who is finding a way to making a living out of her passion - which I 100% support!  Slovenia is making a big effort to support their local artists, so many/most of the shops downtown carry exclusively Slovene products, which is exciting!

This one isn't local to me, it's local to my parents, but it still fits into the small business category.  When we were buying furniture for our apartment, we bought this table and two benches, all made out of repurposed wood from a giant cask, by a Hungarian father and son carpenter team.  Now, I know what you're thinking, but it actually cost less than the sets we were looking at in IKEA.

3. Eat/buy local produce

Now, I am not saying you can't shop at regular grocery stores, of course you can, I know how busy life gets.  BUT Local Fare Jax couldn't be easier, or more friendly to busy families!  It's like a subscription, you set it up for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly delivery, they bring it to your door, and it's all locally grown, usually organic produce, and a loaf of bread.  You can even add local meats.  WHAT?!?  We loved this service so much, and if you live in the States, chances are there is something similar to this in your area too.  

We are very lucky, because here in Slovenia shopping at the local market is normal, it's not really an "event" like in the States.  It's comparable, if not cheaper than at the grocery stores, we're getting to know the grocers, eating local and in-season produce, and even getting some fresh air while we're at it.  Aidan loves to go, because all the grocers like to give him snacks (this country adores kids), so it's even fun for him!

There's the outdoor, produce and floral section, and then an indoor section with dried fruits, nuts, honey, breads, dairy products, butcher shops, and an amazing cookie stand.  Something good to remember about local honey - honey can be great for allergies, but it has to be local honey, because the local bees use the pollen from local plants/flowers, ergo the anti-allergen properties!

So... why shop locally?  There are many reasons, one of them being, that local business owners put their money back into the community as well - they use local suppliers, local companies for advertising, etc.  It boosts the economy in your area.  Regarding artists, it might be a personal thing for me, but I love when people pursue their passions, and I want to be a part of it.  Also, it's often artists who make festivals and streets such pleasurable places to be - and they should be appreciated for those efforts.  As for produce, when you buy locally, you're getting produce at the best possible time - they weren't pick too early, only to ripen on a boat.  Also, you are supporting local farmers, which as the granddaughter of a farmer means a lot to me.

And there you have it!  Some practical suggestions on how to support your community - financially!