Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mighty California White Oak Tree

Over the summer we loved sitting under the shade of a Coast Live Oak tree in our neighborhood park.  Well, as nature study goes, you start to notice all the details of what becomes your subject.  Not because your told to but because you are near it so much that you can't help but explore all it's intricacies.  An image has been set.

The school year activities began and so did my running around.  One Thursday afternoon for a particular choir practice; the boys and I ended up at a park near our church while we waited for the girls.  Mind you, we've been to this park plenty of times, but this day was a little different...the boys really paid attention to the Oak trees.  They knew they were oaks, but they didn't look like our summer shade tree at all. 

California White Oak or Valley Oak - Quercus lobata
The leaves were certainly different:

But yet, it still had acorns ... different shape and color though:

Needless to say they got busy doing what they do best: explored, played and stuffed their pockets with take home treasures.

Forward to this past weekend, while on a hike with friends, my kids noticed both the Coastal Live Oak and a lonely California White Oak on the same trail.  We brought home a few branches of both and put them in some water (because our previous treasures were of course pretty dried up).  Their enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn't help but want to look up more Oak trees.  We found a site with a nice comparison page of Common California Oak Trees at HastingsReserve.org.  Look around there is some pretty neat information.  (the site names it Valley Oak, notice the acorn is longer than the Oregon Oak mentioned on the page with a similar leaf) Here's the Wikipedia link for Valley Oak (my husband and I are used to calling them White Oaks rather than Valley, but that's just the name we grew up with). 

What can I say...Oak trees are on our radar now!  There is another trail we've hiked in which I'm pretty sure I've seen Black Oak trees.  I'm hoping to go there soon ; )

Friday, November 2, 2012

On All Soul's Day: a little Dia De Los Muertos

Last year my oldest daughter requested that we please observe All Soul's Day Latin style; meaning with some Dia De Los Muertos traditions.  I thought that with our Nana, now in heaven, the kids would appreciate the significance this year.  I've heard of the traditions all my life, but, honestly, never participated because I didn't understand loss. 

So, early fall I ordered a sugar skull making kit from MexicanSugarSkull.com.  We stayed up one night to mold our sugar skulls, all 30 of them:

And then over the weekend we invited some friends and cousins to join us in decorating our skulls:

They turned out pretty neat:

Now, you can't eat these and you know kids...so I decided to use last year's All Soul's Cake recipe to make skull cookies.

We let them decorate and eat these!!!

Everyone had a wonderful time and we did talk about the significance of the tradition and the ties to All Souls Day.  Our Dia De Los Muertos Altar has sat all week as we remember our Nana and all the other soul's who have passed.