Monday, April 20, 2015

How to Build A Solar Oven

While studying thermodynamics, we decided to build a solar oven, so see how solar energy, light reflection and household items can combine to help you cook (and survive) in an emergency situation.

Step 1:  Gather supplies:
- one small box
- one slightly larger box
- a cook pan or glass jar with a lid that is either black, or that can be painted black
- old newspapers
- aluminum foil
- plastic wrap
- scissors, glue/tape

Step 2:  Line the inside of the smaller box with aluminum foil, with the shiny side showing.   The smoother you keep the aluminum foil, the better. Tape/glue loose sides/edges to the box.


Step 3:   Place pot/jar in smaller box, and then place smaller box into larger one.  There should be a couple of inches of space between the sides of the two boxes.


Step 4:  Crumple up old newspapers and fill in the gap between the two box sides, and also fill in the open areas in the smaller box, surrounding the pot.


Step 5:  Cut one of the top panels from the side of the box and tape it to the other top side panel.  Cover this two part panel in aluminum foil (shiny side showing).  This will be your sun reflector.


Step 6:  On a sunny day, sit your solar oven outside.  Place it so that the sun is directly hitting the reflector.   Allow time for the oven to “warm”.

Day #1:   It was a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the mid 70’s.   We put a raw egg in the pot around 10:30 am.  We checked the egg every 30 minutes; and saw no change for the first 2 hours, although I did burn the dickens out of myself when I grabbed the lid bare handed around 1pm.   By 1:30 the egg had turned into a rubbery thing with a funny smell.   We called it a fail.


Day #2:

We got rid of the cast iron dutch oven and replaced it with a black, teflon coated sauce pan, and a glass lid.  We set the oven outside in the sun for an hour to “pre-heat” while we went on our morning walk.


When we returned, Olivia did the honors of putting the test egg into the oven.


At 20 minutes, the egg had cooked to a poached egg consistency.


It took about 45 minutes to cook the egg to a “hard egg stage” (the white and yellow were fully cooked).


The temperature on this particular day was around 74 degrees.  A hotter day would of course produce a hotter oven and quicker cooking.   Admittedly, we did not consume this egg…however in an apocalyptic situation this knowledge may come in handy.

Pin It!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up–Back to the Grindstone

This was our first week back after a pretty busy spring break.  I admit that I thrive on the routine of our school day. 

Our homeschool support group held the annual business meeting on Tuesday. I was once again voted in as President, so I’m knee deep in planning the upcoming year for 125+/- families.

We are almost finished for the year.  Both girls have finished their language arts curriculum.  Before break we wrapped up our last history unit study of the year.  We have one more week in science and both girls have a bit more writing.   The girls have less than 20 lessons to go in math.  They each have to complete at least one math lesson a day, but a free to do as many as they’d like beyond that.   I anticipate we’ll be totally finished by the end of the month.

In other news, Olivia’s glasses arrived on Wednesday.   She’s quite happy with the selection she made (although I still say this 70’s flashback look isn’t my favorite).


Olivia also received her farm assignment for the John Lewis Society.   She will be spending the next year working in the Indian Village.  She loves learning about Indians, so this is a great fit for her, although she was a bit bummed to find that the Indian Village doesn’t have costumes for the JLS team like all the other farms have.

I found out last week that both girls are performing next weekend at a benefit for our local Cinderella Project.   The Cinderella Project is a non-profit organization that provides prom/formal dresses to girls who can't otherwise afford them, so that they don’t miss out on attending prom.   This is very exciting, but the performance is at the exact same time as Olivia’s birthday party on Saturday, so we’ve had to do a lot of shuffling of schedules.

Speaking of ballet, we were able to see the Richmond Ballet II perform on Saturday night. I loved the classical ballet, but honestly the contemporary dancing was not at all appealing (not to mention a bit inappropriate), and the music grated on my nerves like sandpaper. 

Now that our academic load has lightened, and the weather has turned, we’ve started back into our morning walk routine.  Hopefully this will mean that I’ll lighten up some too, grins.   Rain has hindered us several days this week, but we’re heading out in a few to go see the refurbished duck pond and the swans.   I’ll have photos to share next week.

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up and Collage Friday.

Pin It!

Monday, April 13, 2015

World War 2–Unit Study

The core of our study was the World War II workbook by McDonald Publishing.   As always, we did a LOT of reading.  We also watched a live production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and had a wonderful interview with a survivor of Occupied Luxembourg.


We traveled to the VMI campus in Lexington, Virginia to visit the George C. Marshall Museum. Read all about our trip here.


Online Resources:

Jimmie’s CollageWorld War II Lapbook
St. Nicholas Center The American St. Nicholas

Library Resources:

Smithsonian, World War II Timeline; by Elizabeth Raum
World War II, A Primary Source History; by Colin Hynson
America in World War II; by Michael Burgan
Timelines: World War II; by Nathaniel Harris
World Ward II; by R. Conrad Stein
World War II; by Cathy Senker
Life Under Occupation; by Charlie Samuels
Joseph Stalin; by Jeffrey Zuehlke
Adolf Hitler; by Brenda Haugen
Douglas MacArthur, What Greater Honor; by Janet & Geoff Benge
Douglas Macarthur, America’s General; by Brenda Haugen
Corrie Ten Boom, Keepers of the Angel’s Den; by Janet & Geoff Benge
Corrie Ten Boom, Her Story; by Corrie Ten Boom
The Hiding Place; DVD
Franklin and Winston, A Christmas that Changed the World; by Douglas Wood
War Dogs, Churchill & Rufus; by Kathryn Selbert
Hitler and the Nazis; by William W. Lace
The Holocaust, Hitler, and Nazi Germany; by Linda Jacobs Altman
Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Holocaust; by Linda Jacobs Altman
The Battle of Iwo Jima; Tom McGowen
Hiroshima and Nagasaki; by Barbara Silberdick Feinberg
Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb; by Wallace Black and Jean Blashfield
World War II Kamikazes; by Earle Rice Jr.
The Making of the Atom Bomb; by Victoria Sherrow
World War II in the Pacific; by Don Nardo

Pin It!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Wrap Up–Spring Break

We’ve been on spring break since Thursday, April 2.   As you’ll see, we’ve been VERY busy during these nine days.

On April 2, we went to Cyrus McCormick’s Farm, and then to the George C. Marshall Museum in Lexington, Virginia.  

We also visited Lee Chapel while in Lexington.  I was floored by the amount of detail in this 10,000 pound marble sculpture of Lee napping (not dead, napping…that’s what the tour guide said).


Friday we took the girls to the waterpark for the day.  After 8 hours of water play, they were exhausted.


Resurrection Sunday we had a small breakfast before getting ready for church.   First the bleary eyed, just out of bed photos:


Followed by new Easter dresses.



Monday we went on a field trip/service project with our homeschool group to help a local ministry.   Lindsey and I spent half a day sorting clothing, while Olivia and company worked on cleaning used appliances.  We all had a really good time, and the kids are asking when we can go back and work again!


Tuesday we had tea and a living history lesson with our neighbor, Ms. Kay.   She told us about her childhood in Occupied Luxembourg during World War II.

Wednesday was a visit to the optometrist.  Lindsey’s eyes are perfect, mine staid the same, and Olivia was fitted for glasses.  we’ll be picking those up next week.

Thursday we completed our year end testing.   This satisfies the state requirements, and gives me an idea of where we are.

Today (Friday) the girls and I will be cleaning house and getting ready to get back to school next week.  I hope you’ve all had a great week!

Linking up with the Weekly Wrap Up and Collage Friday.

Pin It!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Occupied Luxembourg–A True Story

Around homeschool circles you’re always hearing about “living books” and we love those.  However, we also like “living history” or at least the history that goes with those living around us.

Our lovely neighbor, Mrs. Kay Nimax is a living history lesson.   Born in Luxembourg in 1935, she lived through World War II.   Luxembourg, a nation smaller than the state of Rhode Island is nestled in between Germany, France and Belgium.    The capital city (also named Luxembourg) was built on top of a castle, so there are tunnels and travel ways beneath the city.

Bulge Map

Mrs. Nimax was 5 with Luxembourg was invaded by Germany, and 10 when the Allies arrived bringing liberation.   She said her most vivid memory was the day when the Germans arrived.  They arrived by the thousands, marching up a steep hill, with cannons and artillery being pulled behind the troops by horses.   They then blew up the bridge they’d marched across to enter the city.  She said it was the most terrifying things she’s every seen.

Everything in young Kay’s life changed that day.  Two Jewish playmates from down the street just disappeared over night with their family.  Food and supplies became scarce as the Nazi’s took over.   Natives of the country were given identification cards with their names, address, dated of birth, and the swastika on it.   Everyone was required to wear these at all times.  

Ration cards were issued.  Kay’s mother didn’t use butter and sugar, so she sold the families rations cards for those items to others.  The family spread shortening on their black bread and sprinkled salt on top.   Potatoes were easily available, so much so that the Nazi’s called the Luxembourgers “potato heads”.

At school, her teachers were replaced with harsh Nazi’s wearing high boots and carrying heavy rulers to reprimand the children.   All textbooks written in French and Luxembourger were heaped into piles and burned and replaced with books printed in German.  Students were no longer allowed to speak in their native tongue, or French while at school.   Each school day began with the mandatory “Heil Hitler!” salute, and those not complying were punished.

Young men in their teens and twenties were expected (demanded) to join the Nazi forces.   Those who refused were sent to concentration camps.  Kay’s two uncles were among those who refused to join the ranks of the Nazi’s.  In the middle of the night troops burst into their home and charged up the stairs looking for the young men.  The family was made to stand outside in the night air in their nightgowns while the Nazi’s searched the home.  The boys were later found at another aunt’s house.  Both were sent to concentration camps, one died there, the other died shortly after liberation from disease he picked up at the camp.

Near the end of the war, the American’s arrived in the city of Luxembourg.  Hidden Luxembourg flags were brought out and waved and people cheered “The American’s are here!”   Soldiers, tossed out chocolates, gum and oranges to the children in the streets.  It was the first time Kay had tasted chocolate.

Pattons Statue

 photo credit: Betty Dorschner

It was here in this quiet little country that one of the bloodiest and most important battles of the war took place, the Battle of the Bulge. The fighting was so close that Kay remembers seeing airplanes dropping bombs from above. Laying in bed at night she’d cover her head with her blankets trying to drown out the sounds of the bloody battle just over the hill. The upper 1/3 of the country was bombed the worst.

Below are newspapers that Mrs. Nimax has, showing the end of the war.  The headline below reads “Luxembourg is Free!”




The photo below shows the Nazi’s leaving the city.  Kay said the Germans stole bicycles, horses and anything else they could find to speed them up as they left.  Even her step-father’s bicycle was stolen by a Nazi.


Mrs. Nimax’s  husband, Pierre (now deceased) and his family often entertained American soldiers in their home. Whether it was the good cooking of his mother, or the fact that Pierre had attractive older sisters, nobody knows.  However, it was through that kindness that a doorway for Pierre and Kay would open years later.   One of the soldiers who frequented the Nimax home in Luxembourg had offered to sponsor Pierre if he wanted to come to the United States after the war.

Pierre took that soldier up on his offer.  He became a United States citizen, served in the military and later became a prominent writer and photographer.  Kay Nimax arrived in the United States in 1958, great with child and unable to speak English.   She too became a United States citizen, and an amazing seamstress.   Together they started a family and built a life that has impacted untold numbers of people.

Our family did not have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nimax.  However “Ms. Kay”, as she is called by us and our children, has become like family.  


Books from Mrs. Nimax:

Milly’s Story: A Young Girl’s Memories of the Second World War; by Milly Thill
Freed A Leed zu Veinen 1939-1945; by Veiner Geschichtsfrenn

Pin It!