Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Gobble Gobble Day in the USA!

Well, today is Thanksgiving here in the United States of America and one of our great traditions is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, held in New York City and broadcast on television across the country.  One of the key mascots of the parade has long been Snoopy from the Peanuts comic strip.  I adore Snoopy!

Until this year, I had never considered actually *going* to the parade! But, we live just about half an hour from the parade route now, so why not go?  SO MUCH FUN!  Next year we'll head out earlier so we can get a better view...we could see the major balloons and tip tops of some floats.  We could also hear the bands but it would have been nice to see everything!

After the parade we walked through Central Park. It was such a wonderful day!

We had to be up bright and early in order to even have a chance at getting close to the parade route! The parade began at 9am.  We were up and out the door at 6:45 and at our spot by 7:45!

Big crowd! And, it got even more packed! Over time, people got fed up with standing and many people left, allowing us to move in closer (but not much).  It was still packed though!

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving too!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan

JP and I both have food allergies.  Thus, we tend to obsess a little over food - where does it come from, how is it processed, is nutritious, and so on.  So I was very excited a couple of years ago to pick up The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  But, I got about halfway through the book and had to put it down.  It was getting a bit too heavy and gross.  A couple of my other mom friends and I had been trying to read it together and maybe only one of us got all of the way through it....but, we all seem to have changed our habits, at least a little, as a result of whatever portions we did read.

Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

THEN....I was walking through a big-box book store and spotted a purple book with fun, bright fruit on the cover.  It was The Omnivore's Dilemma - the YOUNG reader version!  WooHoo!!!!  I bought it and read it in just a couple of days.  I then set it aside with all of the homeschooling materials JP wasn't quite ready for and sort of forgot about it.

Two weeks ago, I pulled the book back out and JP and I began to go through it.  At first we went through a few chapters together but eventually JP wanted to read on his own, so he could read it FASTER because it was so INTERESTING!  He often forgot what page he was supposed to read to and went far beyond (which is fine by me!).  But, I didn't stop with just the book...

Omnivore's Dilemma - Young Readers Edition

To make the information in Omnivore's Dilemma have a more direct relationship to our eating lives, I created a few activities for JP.  These could be stand alone projects, but tied to the book, they seem to really have a greater impact.  I encourage you to read this book with your kids (JP is 12, just for reference) and use it as a jumping off point to discuss your eating habits, grocery habits, what's at the local store and more.

Our projects and how they fit into different academic subjects:
Investigate ingredients - Subject: Health and Nutrition
Go through the kitchen cupboards, fridge, and freezer and create a list of everything containing a corn ingredient (Pollan provides a list of chemical names that are actually corn ingredients).  Did you think there would be more or less on your list?  How do you think your list might compare to your neighbor's or a friend's?

Where does food come from? - Subject: Social Studies (Geography and map skills)
Head to the grocery store with pencil and paper (a clipboard is a good idea too!).  Make three columns on your paper:  MY STATE, MY COUNTRY, OTHER COUNTRIES.  In the produce department, go through several items (we decided to check 20 items) and write the name of the item in the column where it comes from.  For "MY COUNTRY," write the name of the item and the state/province of origin.  For "OTHER COUNTRIES," write the name of the item and the country of origin.  Do the same for eggs, beef, chicken, and anything else that strikes your fancy.  ...but, be careful of major producers who are national companies that may be getting produce from many different areas.  We avoided big-name companies and packaged produce like bagged lettuce and bagged salads.  We stuck with basic fruits and vegetables, eggs, beef from a small farm, and chicken from a small farm.  We also compared free-range eggs with conventional eggs.

More about where food comes from - Subject: Social Studies (Geography and map skills)
Print out a map of your country with the states/provinces marked.  On the map, label YOUR state.  Write the items from the "MY COUNTRY" column of your grocery store list on the map with each item in the state of origin.  Do the same for the "OTHER COUNTRIES" items on a map of the world.  We also found it useful to draw a straight line from each origin to our city.  It gave us a good visual sense of the path these foods had to travel in order to get to us.

How far does food travel? - Subjects: Social Studies (Geography and map skills) and Math
Look up the distance each item had to travel to get to you.  For those that did not list a specific city, we used either a major city in the state or country, or the capital city.  Then, arrange your list by distance.  What had to travel the farthest to get to you?  What was closest to you?  How do you think these things had to travel (air, train, truck, rail)?  How long do you think it took to get to you and what does that do the the nutritional value of the food?

The book itself fits into literature/reading, social studies, health and nutrition, and even science.

We also watched a number of movies based on food, food-related ecology, and nutrition.  Our favorites are "Food, Inc." (but this one can get a little gross....) and "What's on Your Plate?"  The second was especially appealing because it is from the point of view of two girls about JP's age - 12 years old or so.

What's On Your Plate?

There are a number of other projects you could tie in with Omnivore's Dilemma, but these were the ones that seemed to be the most meaningful for us.  Hope they are able to provide your family with some fun and learning!

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Blog tweak day...what colors do you see?

So, I love the way my blog looks on MY computer monitor.  But, I was looking at it on someone else's computer and it looked A-W-F-U-L!  On my monitor it is nice pale shades of tan and a touch of brown.  On her computer? poop green, mustard yellow, and brown...

So, what do YOU see?  What colors?  Are they OK, or offensive?  Thoughts????