Mary Poppins: book vs movie. 

This is going to be the most controversial thing I have ever posted and I just can not believe the words that are about to come out of my mouth (…more like from under my thumbs.) 

I finally read the book and…the movie was better…I have NEVER said it before!
What book/movie am I talking about? Marry Poppins.

<I’ll wait for the rain of rotten tomatoes, shoes and other random items to die down before elaborating.>

Disney is famous for taking dark and gruesome fairy tales and changing them into family friendly stories full of sunshine and singing rainbows.  Knowing that, I should not have been surprised that stern, but loving and fair Disney Mary Poppins was slightly different in the original story. Just slightly. Like night and day!
P. L. Traver’s Mary Poppins is rude, vain, jealous
and not  likeable character.  

After inviting herself into Banks’ family life, what us the first thing she does? She gives all 4 children a mysterious medicine. “Why is she making them drink the medicine, mommy? They’re not sick!” wondered my 5 year old. “Maybe it’s some kind of hallucinogenic drug to make them like her, sweetie,” I thought to myself as I replied “I don’t know, honey.”

The most bizarre part of the book didn’t make it into the Disney musical version of the book. Jane and Michael “…dreamed [that they] were at the Zoo and it was Mary Poppins’s birthday, and instead of animals in the cages there were human beings, and all the animals were outside.”

When we read about Mary Poppins’ birthday  celebration at the zoo, my son shrunk in his seat and insisted we skip that part. 

Ok, the movie wasn’t better than the book, it just was different and unexpected. The book is skillfully written and I enjoyed it (even though I had to pick my jaw off the floor a few times) and will probably read the sequels in the future. 

Now good luck getting “The Spoonful of Sugar” song out if your head!  

​STEAM from trash! DIY Hovercraft.

Most of the experiments performed at the School For Peculiar Children are either free or very low cost. We try to use recyclable materials, odds and ends from my husband’s wood shop, clever tricks and substitutions. We are incorporating things most of us already have in our homes.   This air cushion vehicle (ACV) demonstration is no exception. Let’s  explore the science behind ACV, also known as a hovercraft. 

Hovercraft glides over the flat surface on a cushion of air.  Because of the thin layer of air between the surface and the hovercraft, it doesn’t matter whether it is over (flat) solid ground or water: it is amphibious. 

 ^This will never be not funny (double negative, I know. It’s here for comedic effect.) Pat Venditte is ambidextrous, not amphibious.  Hovercraft is amphibious: suited for both land and water. 

For this experiment you will need:

– CD or a paper plate 

– pop-up bottle top

– baloon

– glue

We used a mystery CD (paper or plastic plate can be used instead), sports drink pop-up top,  hot glue (epoxy or super glue work just as good) and a baloon bought for a birthday 3 years ago. 

Step 1. Glue the pop-up bottle top to the CD (if you’re using a paper plate, cut a 1″ diameter hole in the middle of the plate.)

Step 2. Make sure that the pop-up top is in closed position. Blow up a balloon and place it over the closed pop-up top. 

Step 3. Open the pop-up valve. The air from the balloon will rush down throught the hole in the CD and create a cushion of air. 

Play around with the size of the balloon (will it go faster or slower if we increase the size of the baloon?), surfaces (wood floor? Carpet? Countertop? Does it make difference?)

Our entire family enjoyed this demonstration and I’m contemplating building a bigger hovercraft. Should we do it?

Babushka’s pickles and science behind it. 

In the previous post I mentioned that trying to avoid artificial food dyes is tricky: even pickles have them! 

I want to share my family’s pickle recipe. Going back to my roots!


Pickling cucumbers 2 lbs

Water 2 cups 

Vinegar 2 cups

Salt 2 tablespoons 

Peppercorns 8-10

Garlic 4 cloves

Mustard seeds


Black tea leaves

  1. Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.
  2. Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar. 
  3. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 
  4. Combine water, vinegar and  salt and bring the mixture to a boil. 
  5. Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 
  6. Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator. 
  7. Fourty eight hours later, enjoy crunchy dill pickles!

    Every summer my parents’ kitchen would turn into a jam and pickle factory. They never used written down recipes, but the jams, jellies, apple sauce, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut always turned out great. 

    This is my attempt to recreate the dill pickle recipe. 

    Step 1. 

    Wash cucumbers, cut off 0.5″ from both stem and flower side. 

    But why?

    Thoroughly wash the cucumbers, cut off stem about 0.5″ from both ends.

    The flower end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will lead to limp pickles. 

    Step 2. 

    Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and black tea leaves in the jar. 

    But whyyyyyyy?

    Place dill, garlic, peppercorns and tea leaves on the bottom of a jar.

     This was the biggest mystery of my childhood: why do we have to put these weird leaves in pickles? 

    White oak, horseradish, black tea, grape, currant and raspberry leaves contain tannins, naturally occurring phenol compounds that keep pickles crisp. 

    Step 3. 

    Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic.  Pack the cucumber as tight as possible without damaging them.

    But why is the jar laying on it’s side?

    Pack the cucumbers into the jar, add more dill and garlic. 

    It’s just easier to pack cucumbers into a tall jar when it’s on the side.

    Step 4. 

    Combine water and vinegar, add salt and bring the mixture to a boil.

    Step 5. 

    Pour the brine over the pickles,  filling the jars to within 0.5″ to the top. 

    Steps 6.

    Once it cools down to room temperature,  put the jar in the refrigerator.
    Step 7. 

    After 48 hours in the refrigerator,  pickles are ready! 

    Side note. 

    Don’t be alarmed if pickled garlic turns green. It’s normal! Acid in vinegar ruptures the cell membranes of the garlic cloves. Amino acids and sulfur compounds mix, and as a result enzyme isoallin is released. Isoallin reaction with aminoacids results blue pigmentation.  

    Side note 2. 

    To make sure that added tannins help make crispy pickles, I made 2 jars: one with tea leaves and one without. 

    School day

    Our days rarely go as planned, but we try to follow a blueprint. Sort of. 

    Every day routine includes read alouds, board games, more books, 1 topic we’re obsessed with at the moment (that usually spirals into deep rabbit holes,) at least 1 writing activity and taking care of the house.

    Once a week we try to do one community service or hospitality project, one or two field trips and one outdoor excursion. 

    Popular morning baskets aren’t a good fit in our family: we only have a few hours before overexcitabilities kick in and attention span is gone. Instead, we read a few books or magazines during breakfast.

    1. Today  Breakfast and Books (modeled after My Little Poppies’ Coffee and Books) turned into Books in Bed. We snuggled up together in little guy’s room and read whatever kids wanted. 

    2. September is the most popular birth month in America, and it’s definitely true for our family. Big kid made birthday cards for everyone, he practiced handwriting, spelling, vocabulary ,  tracing and drawing. 

    3. When your kid is as literal as Drax (Guardians of the Galaxy,) math is fun. 

    Caffeine didn’t kick in yet, and this is the best my scrambled brain could come up with on the spot. “Yuri has 2 red books. His friend has 4 blue books. How many books do the boys have?”

    The answer:

    We are juggling Math-U-See, Life of Fred and Khan academy math and anxiously checking the mailbox for brand new Beast Academy 2A. Squeeee!

    4. After years of refusing to learn Russian, my kids are finally warming up to it. First lesson  went better than expected!

    We counted letters in Russian and English alphabets, found letters that look and sound the same, read Репка (The Turnip) and learned a new song, Мишка Косолапый (Clumsy Bear.)

    5. “I’m so tired, I need to relax a little with Rush Hour!”  And Jenga, and Shape by Shape, and…a screwdriver? 

    Schoolwork is done! And now it js our favorite time, laundry time! Cleaning time! Cooking time!
    I would love to hear what your typical homeschooling day looks like! 

    There is artificial dye in…whaaat?

    When we slowly started eliminating dyes from our diet, I imagined it would be an easy process. “We’ll just remove brightly colored foods, and we’re good to go!”
    Unfortunately,  it’s not that easy. While most foods containing dyes are heavily processed and should be avoided anyway,  I was shocked to find out that food dyes are added to some farmed salmon, cereal bars,  vitamins, pickles, salad dressings, cheese, cereal marketed as “healthy,” toothpastes, potato chips, pastas, fresh oranges, meats, the list goes on.

    Food dyes add NOTHING beneficial, they just make things look brighter and more visually appealing.

    This is how we reduce use of dyes:

    1.  We read ALL the labels. It’s exhausting,  but so is the kid bouncing off the walls.
    2. Buy minimally processed food  by mainly shopping the perimeter of the store for foods that grew from the ground or had a mom.
    3. Check labels on health/beauty products. Dyes in toothpaste, shampoo, body wash or lotions get absorbed through our largest organ, skin.
    4.  Growing your own food and making everything from scratch is an option. Please excuse me while I read up on dye free salmon farming. I’m kidding…mostly. I started this post with an intention to share homemade pickles recipe my grandparents and parents use, but got sidetracked.

    What other products with sneaky artificial food dyes am I missing? Please, share in the comments.

    Coming soon: Babushka’s recipe for homemade pickles and science behind the pickle.

    Freeze your water instantly in 10 easy steps

    1. Place 3728 water bottles in the freezer (seals broken, label removed for better visual effect) for 2-2.5 hours in horizontal position.

    2. Try an experiment in exactly 2 hours. Waste 50% of your water bottles.

    3. Wait few more minutes. Drop 50% of remaining bottles in the floor triggering crystallization process before anybody has a chance to see the experiment.

    4. Treat remaining bottles as if they are the most unstable element known to humanity and carefully pour super chilled water over some ice cubes in the bowl.

    5. Ooooh and aaaaaah

    6. Pix or it didn’t happen. Remember that you forgot to record a video.

    7. Use the remaining bottle of liquid gold to record the video. Make sure that your toddler is demanding a popsicle and your dog if barking at his own shadow.

    8. Attempt to be clever and use this ringtone as a background.

    9. Throw in 4827 more bottles in the freezer.

    10. Forget that water bottles are in the freezer. I’ve blocks inside the plastic bottles will be useful during your next hiking of camping trip.

    Gluten free dye free playdough recipe for 50 students? Challenge accepted

    Co-op science class studied structure of the Earth. Kids  started by creating an inner core from playdough, then they added outer core, mantle and crust.  All we need for the activity is playdough, 4-5  different colors. Sounds easy enough, right?

    Plot twist: playdough should be gluten free and dye free.

    After trying several recipes, I finally found one that’s super easy and makes right texture playdough.

    2 cups of rice flour

    1 cup salt

    4 tbsp cream of tartar

    1.5 cup if boiling water

    2 tbsp coconut oil

    *natural food dyes – optional.

    Mix all the dry ingredients,  add natural food dyes, then boiling water.  Mix thoroughly. If playdough is still crumble, add more water 1-2 tbsp at a time.

    *Extra step. Add too much water (2+cups instead of 1.5 that recipe calls for) and to go to the store to buy more rice flour*