Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Salamanders

Did you know that the Smoky Mountains is the salamander capital of the world? I didn't until I started researching our trip! So we decided it was appropriate to study salamanders.

After reading a bit about them, we went hunting after a picnic our first day in the park. Found nothing.

Fortunately Jack was gung-ho about our salamander hunt, and asked a ranger LOTS of questions about finding them. And find them we did! Most that we found were on our Grotto Falls hike, but we saw a few more out and about.
Little guy!
Grotto Falls
Lots of fallen tree climbing on this trip
The rain storms kept us from hiking as much as we wanted, so we didn't see as many as we hoped and never did find a brightly colored one. Next trip!

Homeschool resources we used to learn about salamanders...




Smoky Mountain National Park

After Mammoth Cave, we drove to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed for 5 nights in a little camping cabin at the KOA in Townsend. The cabin was super cute, but the "free wifi" didn't reach to our location. That was a bit of a hiccup because we had planned to do a significant bit of online homeschool work there. The other bummer for this part of our trip was the rain. Usually I don't let a little rain get in our way, but it was stormy enough that we spent a little extra time in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area (so many tourist traps - I hated it... the kids loved it!!)
Our little cabin
(makes me want to join the tiny house movement!)
Fighting the Goblin King
on a rainy day
The great thing about homeschool travel is that I usually choose a few relevant subjects to study while we our on the road, but we also let what we discover guide our studies. For this trip I had planned to study the Smoky Mountain NP, salamanders and monarchs, so we had plenty of resources from the local library. While we were there, we discovered that the Cherokee Indians and the Trail of Tears were significant to the area, so we touched on that also. And you can't visit the Smoky Mountains without reading about the bears!
There is a bear WAY up at the tippy top of this tree.
The best view was from the sunroof when we drove under
Just some exploring
Pretty view
A sampling of what we did during those 5 days: hiked, explored the visitors' centers, visited the Mingus Mill, went to a ranger elk program and observed the elk, went to a ranger talk a the Little Greenbrier One Room Schoolhouse, drove Cade's Cove, saw a bear in the tip top of a tree, tagged monarchs (I'll blog more on that), hunted salamanders (also will blog more later), did homeschool at Starbucks (see above lack of wifi in cabin), went to the Rainforest Adventure Zoo during rain storm, and made TWO visits to MagiQuest (again during the rain - I so did NOT want to go there, but Jack was dying to go. It ended up being super fun!)

The Mingus Mill engineering was fascinating
Highest point in the park is the same
elevation as where we live!
General and miscellaneous homeschool resources we used in conjunction with our visit to The Great Smoky Mountains NP (salamander and monarch resources I'll list separately when I blog about those parts of our trip) 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mammoth Cave

I'm going to quickly do a few posts about our recent road trip. For going 3000+ miles, I didn't take many photos.

We left on a Wed afternoon, drove to somewhere in Kansas and spent the night, then drove hard all day Thursday. Due to rainstorms and closed interstates, we didn't arrive at Mammoth Cave NP until late Thursday. We stayed in a cute little cabin (the bed was a little snug for the 3 of us!) close to the visitor's center. On Friday we explored the visitor's center, went on a cave tour, completed the Junior Ranger program, and did a short walk to Stephen Bishop's gravesite.

Our visit was great but too short. Like most national parks, there is always so much more you can do/explore with just a little bit more time. In retrospect, I wish we had spend 2 nights there. Just a wee bit more time for another tour or a longer hike. We'll just have to journey back again someday soon.

Not many photos cause it is kinda dark in a cave...
Going through Fat Man's Misery was by far
the favorite part of the tour

Homeschool resources we used in conjunction with our visit to Mammoth Caves National Park

DayBook 10.20.14

FOR TODAY

Outside my window... sunny! I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that the only time I've been outside yet today is to take out the trash.

I am hearing... a nail gun. Someone's getting a new roof.

I am feeling... eh. Not 100% today.

I am thinking... about everything I need to get done and how I really just want to take a nap. I woke up at 5:30am this morning.
I am thankful for... my freezer
From the kitchen... oh boy! Have I been busy in the kitchen! About once every 4-6 weeks, I have a day where I feel the need to cook and cook and cook (and then I don't feel like cooking again until the next manic cooking spell). Yesterday was that day, and the aftermath of finishing up and cleaning up are still lingering today. Yesterday I marinated and froze 4 flank steaks, made a veggie dip for a dinner I went to last night, roasted and pulled the meat from 2 chickens, made a batch of chewy chocolate Halloween cookies, cooked beans/chopped onions/peeled & chopped potatoes for a double batch of black bean and sweet potato chili for the freezer, chopped potatoes for cheese soup and chicken pot pie filling, made refrigerator dough for thyme rolls, and made 2 batches of pie crust dough. Today I have the sweet potato and black bean chili simmering on the stove, chicken broth in the crockpot, and I need to do a grocery run so I can finish up the pot pie filling. Hopefully I'll have those assembled and frozen today. But I have NO IDEA what we'll have for dinner tonight! :)
I am wearing... must I admit that I am still in my flannel PJ bottoms at almost 1pm?
I am creating... huge messes but at least we will have something to eat the next month or so
I am going... to get a puppy soon!!!!
I am reading... I have so many books going that I'm not even sure what I'm reading! About midway through The Absolutist - I think it is going to be good. I'm also about halfway through the last book in the Fifty Shades trilogy. I'll finish just to finish. I've also opened multiple nonfiction books.
I am hoping... to win the lottery. Not the mega jackpot. Just a *small* million dollar jackpot. I just really would like a spare million right about now (this is going to be difficult since I don't buy lottery tickets)

Around the house... well, the kitchen is a disaster. I've pulled out a few Halloween decorations, but we need to get them all out. I think we'll do that today.

In the homeschool room... Jack isn't feeling great today. At first I thought he was faking it, but he's pretty blah about doing even the subjects he enjoys. I'm letting them watch a little educational TV and calling it homeschool today.

How I'm exercising... I'm not. I'll play a little tennis this week. I did a hike/run with a friend over the weekend. I think I'll try to get out for an easy run this afternoon.
Something that irks me... social climbing.
One of my favorite things... cumin!

A few plans for the next week: normal stuff mostly. I do have a massage scheduled. That can't come soon enough!

Here is a picture I am sharing: Deer in the backyard. I've often found the evidence, but this may be the first time I've seen an actual deer back there. This is neighborhood deer with some kind of palsy. Her tongue is always sticking out funny.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

Fort sleeping! Jack & Matt spent the night in there. Jack is still buried in there somewhere

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Books Before Movies 2014

Now I'm working on watching all the movies. Funny that it's going to take me longer to watch the movies than read the books! So crossed off means I've read the book and highlighted means I've seen the movie.
  1. Labor Day (waiting for it to arrive from Netflix)
  2. The Monuments Men (chose to skip reading this one, waiting for it to arrive from Netflix)
  3. Winter's Tale
  4. Vampire Academy
  5. A Long Way Down (edited: I guess this is out & I can stream it on Netflix!)
  6. Divergent
  7. The Fault in Our Stars (just finished watching this one... I'm a blubbery mess!)
  8. The Hundred Foot Journey (not out on video yet)
  9. The Giver (not out on video yet)
  10. Dark Places (not releasing until 2015)
  11. This Is Where I Leave You (not out on video yet)
  12. The Maze Runner (not out on video yet)
  13. Gone Girl (not out on video yet)
  14. Unbroken (comes out in December)
  15. Wild (comes out in December)
  16. Serena (sounds like this one won't be out for awhile, if ever)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Homeschool Moment

Finding inspiration on the same rock as Carl Sandburg
Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

This Makes Me Happy

We tagged monarchs today! So cool. So fun! I'll share more info after we get home.

I tagged THIS butterfly!
See him behind me after I released him?
#monarchselfie