Monday, October 31, 2016

Butterflies on the Lantana

It's Halloween and it feels like spring.  I don't mind though.   Especially as it bring SO MANY BUTTERFLIES to visit our lantana bush (the one nature planted outside our front door several summers ago).  Here's my son trying to lure one onto a flower we cut.  That one didn't take his bait, but another did...a little brown jet like butterfly I didn't get a picture of, which I think was a Little Glassywing.

There were 7 types of butterflies that came to visit--the four shown here, the Little Glassywings, a pretty little yellow butterfly who I didn't catch a photo of, and a Monarch who stopped to visit for the briefest of moments, and made my sons day (he's a little obsessed with Monarchs ever since learning about them on the Wildcrats).    He drew this picture afterwards...

With the help of some friends online we found the names for most of them...

Tawny Emperor

These brown pretties are a frequent visitor to my yard.

Gulf Fritillary

This is a Gulf Fritillary...a male one, to be specific (the people in my local garden forum are amazing...that's the only reason I know this).   These have been in my garden many times before, but I just now learned their names.  Isn't "Fritillary" the best name for a butterfly?  Sounds positively Victorian.

Giant Swallowtail

The caterpillar form of these beauties LOVE my dill and parsley, and are just as fascinating to watch as they are in butterfly form.

Pipvine Swallowtail

But this blue/black stunner stole the show.  What a beauty!   She was always in motion so it was hard to get a good picture of her, though I sure tried.  And every time she moved she shimmered!    I had never seen this type before, but several have visited since.

Here's a picture of her in flight.  I didn't realize when I took the picture that this butterfly nearly became dinner.  Can you find the giant green spider in this picture?

No?  Keep scrolling...

Still have trouble seeing it?   Keep scrolling...but warning, it's creepier up close.

This is a Green Lynx Spider, sitting on it's egg sack, which looks pretty close to hatch.  This one, as most I've seen, are over an inch long.  (Click picture to see it larger, if you dare!)

My son drew a picture of it too....

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Secret to Saving on Spices

I have a secret to save 50% or more on spices!   Buy them "loose" from the bulk spices section at HEB.

The bulk herb section of the HEB in Hewitt

It takes a few seconds more work but the savings are phenomenal.  All you do is grab a baggie, scoop yourself some spice, take note of the number on the jar, then go down the aisle to a scale, weight your baggies, type in the number, and print out a sticker with the price.

Above is some cumin I purchased--two small scoops.  Notice the price, 69 cents!   The bag doesn't look big, but it filled up the whole spice jar below.

And yes, that jar was EMPTY.   So $0.69 filled up a whole jar which usually costs around $6.  But then, that jar was organic*, and might have been a little pricier than most.  But even compared to of the LOWEST priced jar I could find of bottled cumin ($1.99 for 1.7 oz of HEB generic cumin), my bag of cumin was 1/3 the cost!   Guess you pay a lot for that jar!

And yes, I've tried similar comparisons with other spices.  You get an even better deal with some bulk herbs (bay leaves ESPECIALLY).

*(SIDE NOTE:  If you are concerned about GMO, you should know that very few herbs have ever been genetically modified, probably because they tend to be naturally critter resistant.   The only ones I'm aware of, most of which you would not find on the HEB spice aisle anyways are sugar cane, alfalfa, chicory, flax, eucalyptus, rose and chrysanthemum [edible flowers], and tobacco if you count that.  You could check back for changes on the GMO crops list on wikipedia or this list at the International Service for the Aquisition of Bio-Tech Applications.)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fiddler On the Roof

This Tuesday our family, and some other homeschoolers, got to see Fiddler On the Roof (yes, that's right...before it opened!  We got discounted tickets for the dress rehersal.)

So, so fun!   Loved the dancing, and the music is great...but beware, you'll be humming these tunes the rest of the week.  I especially liked Tevya's performance, which I thought was exceptionally done.

My kids did well, though it kept them up late and they were having trouble towards the end, which is a little less up-beat and funny than the beginning.

I've seen Fiddler once in high school (it was one of our high school plays).  I enjoyed it then, but the end bothered me...and my oldest had the same reaction (he HATED the end).  I didn't so much this time.  I saw the hope in it...maybe the acting carried that a little more, or maybe I was able to understand the symbolism of the fiddler a little better as an adult.

“A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!”

Other things hit me differently as well.  I thought the "Sunrise, Sunset" song was boring when I heard it as a teen.   This time, with my youngest in my lap and my teenager beside me, it brought tears to my eyes.

Overall, excellent performance.  I highly recommend it!   Fiddler is playing now through Ocober 9 at Baylor University (more info here).    If you are bringing children I suggest going to the earlier times on the weekends. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fall Homeschool Events In Texas

Below is a list of Homeschool Days and and other fun special events and discounts for homeschoolers in Texas (the ones I know about).  May also include some "mid-school day" events not especially for homeschoolers.    Events in or around Waco are in bold.  Ones a little further but still in driving distance (1-3 hours away) have an orange star* next to them.


LegoLand - Grapevine, TX*
Homeschool Week September 12-16th - Includes a LEGO® Education Workshop. Tickets will be $10 per day plus tax for both children and adults. Reservation Required

Sea Life Aquarium - Grapevine, TX*
Homeschool Week September 12-16th - Each ticket will include entry to the SEA LIFE Grapevine and a special Amazing Discoveries educational scavenger hunt. Complete the scavenger hunt and receive a SEA LIFE Guidebook to continue the fun at home.  Tickets $10.  Reservation required.

Austin Zoo*
Sept 23.   Science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics activities for homeschool families including activities from partner organizations, keeper talks, and a special education animal presentations!

Houston Zoo*
Sept 15, 10:00am – 1:15pm.  Eco Experiments - A day of science fun and experimental engagement where students will take part in hands-on investigations and deepen their understanding of scientific processes. Registration includes access to hands on experiments, 3 exclusive animal encounters, and general admission to the Houston Zoo.  $30 (or $20 for members).


Houston Zoo - OFF SITE, Texas City
Oct 5, 9:30 - 1:30 PM.  Field Researchers Day is an interactive event which allows students a first hand feel of a day in the life of a field researcher.  We will use field testing techniques to determine the health of an endangered coastal prairie ecosystem.   Registration includes exclusive access to the Texas City Prairie Preserve where you will be accompanied by Zoo staff.  General admission to the Houston Zoo is covered in the price, however all activities are held in Texas City.  $30 (or $20 for members).

Skate Country - Bellmead
October 6, from 2-4pm. Homeschool skate is a private party event for Waco area homeschoolers! Location - Skate Country in Bellmead 500 Texas Loop 340, Bellmead, TX 76705 Cost of Skating - $5  Children's playground (for children under 7) - $3

Space Center Houston
Oct 5    Oct 5th from 4:30 - 9:25
Space After Dark Program includes
• Live briefing about Mars.
• Dinner served at Space Center Houston.
• Exciting, grade-level appropriate, hands-on activities.
• Private guided tram-tour to NASA Johnson Space Center.
• Second-day admission to Home School Day 2016.

Space Center Houston
Oct 6.  Homeschool Day. Meet retired NASA astronaut Mark Polansky and hear from NASA Johnson Space Center experts on a variety of topics including the Cassini Mission to Saturn and NASA inventions that have improved the lives of ordinary people. Engage yourself with Sphero and Vex Robotics Challenges. Get hands-on in our interactive Pop-Up Science Labs where you can see demonstrations of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, make a small bulb light up, discover the destructive force of meteors and so much more!

The Game Closet - Waco
Oct 18 - 1-4 pm.   Play various board games.   Over 100 games to choose from.


Texas Renaisance Festival* - Todd Mission TX (2 Hr from Waco)
Nov 1-2, 8 am - 4 pm.   Day for educators, students, and homeschoolers only, with reduced price of $9.  Students step back in time as they enter the sights and sounds of New Market Village, an authentic recreation of a 16th century European village. Students will interact with hundreds of costumed characters representing the courts, culture, art, science, and literature of the Renaissance Period.

Houston Zoo*
Nov 8, 10:00am – 1:15pm. Scavenger Hunt Safari Day includes stations set up around the Zoo to provide students opportunities to connect with animals and create meaningful memories.  Registration includes access to the scavenger hunt, 3 exclusive animal encounters, and general admission to the Houston Zoo. $30 (or $20 for members).


Hill Country Science Mill  - Johnson City*
Monthly - 2nd Wed each Month.   In addition to museum exhibits, there will be  special demonstrations, activities and/or guests.  Children $6.  One parent/educator free with attending children. $4 - 6 extra for Learning Labs. 

Dr. Pepper Star Center  - Farmers Branch*
Various Times/Days.  Ice Skating Homeschool Skate Days happen on a regular basis.  Please call the Group Event Coordinator (Brittany) at 214-432-3131, ext. 227 for information on day, times and cost.

Sea World - San Antonio*.
Home School Days programs are available on select non-operating dates in November and December - reservation required.   This guided program includes family-focused, appropriate, and interactive experiences centered around animal adaptations and educational activities throughout the park. Students will explore and learn about animals, conservation efforts and stories relating to SeaWorld. $18 per participate (including supervising adults...children 2 and under are free).  Admission to SeaWorld is not included and is not required.   Reservartions must be made 14 days in advance. 

Also try these sites...
(Some may be for previous years)
Homeschool Days and Field Trips in Dallas

If you know of any other events, please, please share them in the comments below and I'll add them to this list. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

GUEST POST: My Daughter's Drive Through Dallas

Thanks so much Donna Fitzgerald for sharing this post about her's daughter's scary experience driving through Dallas.

Recently, my oldest daughter went on a college tour in Dallas. If it were up to me, she’d decide to study here, at Baylor, but we have to let our children have their own adventures some time. As a family, we’ve been to Dallas numerous times, but my daughter has never driven through Dallas on her own. When she was starting to plan her trip, I insisted that I accompany her, but after much deliberation, she had convinced me that traveling with 3 of her “very responsible” friends would be just as safe (it was only for a weekend and they were staying with a relative in the Dallas-Fort Worth area).

Before the girls left on a Friday morning, we mapped out their trip and checked out TxDOT’s Traffic Map and I encouraged them to pull over and look at it before they reached Dallas, so they knew what kind of delays to expect. I reminded my daughter that the traffic can be very congested and is nothing like the “gridlock” we experience, here, in Waco.

A few hours later, my daughter texted me, told me that they arrived, and said she’d call later. That evening, my daughter called, her voice sounded tired and quiet, not like that of an almost high school graduate scoping out prospects for her exciting future. “Mom, it was awful,” she said, surprisingly without her typical dramatic flair.

“What was awful? Which college?”
“No, Mom, the drive. It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“I thought Amber drove through Dallas. She said she’s done it before.”
“She did...and it was terrible.”

She proceeded to explain that her friend, Amber, who had driven through Dallas many times ended up texting and driving through most of I-35 East, during a very congested time of day. When my daughter and their other friends asked her to stop, Amber snapped and said that it was legal and she had her license for over a year (so it was fine). My daughter continued to tell me that many of the drivers were either texting, talking on their phones, or doing something else while driving. “Mom, one guy was shaving his face and eating a hamburger at the same time. I don’t even know how he managed to stay in between the lanes, let alone merge in front of us.”

I was ready to tell my daughter that “Sadly, that’s the way it is” because traffic congestion in Texas has been a problem forever, but then I realized why she was so upset. My daughter is a good driver. She’s responsible. She’s never been in an accident, has never been given a citation, and has never even been tempted to text and drive (even though it’s still legal in Waco). I attribute some of her responsibility to our own good driving habits, but even as a young child, she had caught me looking at myself in the visor mirror and she told me to get my eyes back on the road.

These days, when young drivers are some of the road’s most riskiest motorists, I know how lucky we are to have such a responsible driver in our family. After I encouraged her to drive on the return trip, we laughed about the man who was shaving and eating. When I asked her if she had made any decisions about college, she replied, “I can always ride my bike to Baylor.”

Pictures by Pixabay