The Adventures of Science Mom: Raising Silkworms

It’s SPRING and in our house that means it is SILKWORM time. There is still time for you and your family to embark on this fun adventure for less than $10 (that includes shipping!) You can order yourself 50-eggs at this website http://www.ladysilkworm.com/silkworm-eggs-for-sale.html

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Raising silkworms is fun and easy, especially if you have a mulberry tree in your neighborhood. I live in Southern California and they are abundant in our area. If you are unsure what a mulberry tree looks like, here is a Google images search. The only thing that is challenging about raising silkworms is that you need a CONSTANT supply of fresh leaves because the worms get their water from the leaves. The link above where you can buy your eggs also has something called Mulberry Chow that you can feed your silkworms in case you don’t have trees in your area. Here are the steps to raising your silkworms.

  1. Hatch eggs: When you get your eggs if you live somewhere warm you can sprinkle them onto a piece of tissue paper, if  you live somewhere cold you should allow them to hatch in the plastic bag or petri dish that they arrive in. It is important that worms be in warm room temperature conditions (77-85-degrees-Fahrenheit) for them to hatch and for the first week of life.
  2. Grow worms: When they hatch they are TEENY, about the size of a small eyelash. What is amazing to watch is that they will grow to be about the  size of an adult finger!!!    Once they hatch move them into a cardboard box (the lid of a large pair of shoes or from a ream of printer paper is perfect). You want something that is flat at the bottom so that the worms don’t get lost crawling under flaps. I used a small wooden tray with a lip of about an inch. If you have 5-worms that make it to full adulthood, they will need all of the space available in a shoebox. It takes them about 4-weeks to get to the stage where you spin cocoons. As they are growing, you need to give them new leaves once or twice a day.
  3. Cocoon: I try not to move my silkworm box at all, but ESPECIALLY when they are cocooning and inside their chrysalis it is VERY IMPORTANT to not disturb the worms. They will be malformed moths or they will die if you jostle them during this period. It is FASCINATING to watch the silkworms during this phase. Their cocoon is made from a SINGLE THREAD that they wind around themselves in a very trance-inducing neck movement. I can watch them for a long time. They will emerge out of their cocoon after about 10-days
  1. Moth: When they emerge from their cocoon they are now silk moths. They have been bred to be too large to fly, so you don’t have to worry about them taking off. If you are lucky and more than one hatches around the same time, then you will end up with more eggs that you can refrigerate and use next year!

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More care information is available here.

Here are a bunch of awesome silkworm life-cycle diagrams for kids of all ages to describe the process. For pre-schoolers I use the one that allows them to color the different stages.

#Homeschool

#ScienceForKids

#EmberLiving

Health and Fitness: 21-Day Fix and Easy Food Portioning

Hey y’ll…in my quest for optimum health that is also optimally easy (so I can be mom, wife, friend, entrepreneur and have time for myself too!) I came across a new tool that I absolutely can’t do without. It’s these cool color-coded food portioning containers. Back when I was younger, I developed a bad habit of never paying attention to portions, because I always had more than enough time to exercise off whatever I ate. But now that time is my most precious resource, I’ve struggled with how to maintain my calorie intake/expenditure equation. I’ve tried food journaling (that is just cruel and unusual punishment!!!), I’ve tried counting calories (who has the time for that??) and I’ve tried being totally ignorant and pretending that as long as I eat healthy whole foods the quantity doesn’t matter (that DEFINITELY doesn’t work, it IS possible to overeat sweet potato!)

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I was introduced to these cool containers about 6-weeks ago and it has proven to be the missing piece in my fitness equation! I learned about them via an exercise program called 21-Day Fix which was conceived by a trainer that I had the pleasure of working with about a decade ago. Even 10-years ago, Autumn Calabrese stood out to me as an amazing trainer. I met her through a boot camp that I organized for my neighborhood, and she was one of 3-trainers we worked with. I still remembered her after all these years because her workouts were always the ones that left you the sorest the next day, even though you might not have thought you were working that hard DURING the workouts. I also liked that she incorporated a lot of different types of exercise (plyo, pilates, traditional boot camp stuff) into her routines. The color-coded containers were also a new twist on portioned eating that I hadn’t seen before which also caught my attention.

After doing some research I decided that Autumn’s program might be just the thing to take my health/time management/portion control quest to the next level. I read a ton of reviews and decided to purchase her 21-Day Fix EXTREME program instead of her 21-Day Fix Essential because I’ve been an athlete my whole life and I wanted a

21-Day ESSENTIAL package

physical challenge. From the reviews I read, the Essential program is good for all levels of fitness, but people with an athletic background said that the Essential routines lost their challenge. However, most reviewers said the Extreme program was a bootie-kicking good time for even the most advanced. I’ve really enjoyed the full body workout Autumn put together in under 34-minutes (includes warm-up and cool-down) a day, perfect for a busy parent squeezing in an early AM workout! And the fact that Autumn is a parent herself is proof positive that a bikini-bod and child-bearing are not mutually exclusive. Be sure to “FOLLOW” my blog with the links at the bottom of the page (mobile) or on the right-hand side (desktop).

21-Day Fix EXTREME package 

Here is what I really like about her program:

  1. No thinking required: there are 7-workouts and each is given a designated day which means I don’t have to make any decisions. I just pop in the DVD and do the video I’m commanded to do. Easy peasy.
  2.  Variety: each day is different with a combination of plyo, pilates, yoga and boot camp. Wednesday and Sunday are the “easiest” workouts and they are nicely spaced because you are DEFINITELY ready for the mini-vacation by the time those days roll around.
  3. Short workouts: All workouts are under 34-minutes (including warm-up and cool-down.)
  4. Autumn herself: I love her spunky form of tough love (“I don’t care if it hurts, this is extreme!”), it’s just what I need to keep me pushing myself from the comfort of my own home.
  5. Sore but not incapacitated: Even though it’s been over a month, my muscles still haven’t adapted to her workouts. If anything I’m getting sorer as I get stronger and my form gets better. But I’m never incapacitated the next day like the workout videos from the 90’s that left me unable to sit-down the next day.
  6. Built-in ab work: There is a bonus 10-minute ab workout that is optional, but I’ve only done it once because ever since having a baby I have this “floating rib syndrome” issue which makes concentrated ab work painful. However, I’ve never had a single ab spasm doing her workouts (I did have a spasm doing the 10-minute ab workout though which is why I’ve avoided it.) However, I feel like my abs are getting a good workout with the total body movements included in every other workout.

The 21-Day Extreme program is designed for people who are trying to get super-ripped, in shape for a competition or special event. Because that wasn’t my goal, I wasn’t as strict with the nutrition portion of the plan although I did follow it about 80%. However, after doing my first “round” of the program (the full 21-days) I still shaved off 7-inches and 3-lbs. I’m not going to post any before/afters because that’s just not me. But the bottom line is that I feel stronger and more “in control” of my nutrition than I ever have before, and that’s been an awesome take-away.

My three points of feedback  on how the program could be improved are 1) 10-second countdown: I love it when an instructor counts down the last 10-seconds. Knowing when the pain will be over always motivates me to push through the end. 2) I’d love an optional 20-minute cardio workout for days when I want to double-up and burn more calories. 3) Maintenance program: what am I supposed to do on days when I don’t want to do 21-Day Extreme and avoid adaptation? I guess that will be my next learning hurdle. For now I can still tell that I have a long way to go before I master her program. Especially the Thursday/Friday/Saturday bit…those 3-workouts 3-days in a row are an accomplishment, let me tell you!!! All-in-all, it’s a solid program and definitely my favorite workout videos ever (and I’ve purchased probably about 50+ over the last 20-years as my athletic interests and theories on fitness have changed.)

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A final note on those color-coded containers…I’ve never found it easier to keep my eating within healthy limits than with these little guys. They are so easy to use, and have given me a great way to “eyeball” portions even when I don’t have them around. I use them in conjunction with the 21-Day Fix app (which is free) that allows me to “game-ify” my portioned eating experience by checking off how many containers each meal or snack used up. By the way, you just use the containers for measuring, I don’t actually eat out of them (because even though they are BPA-free, in my opinion, food and plastic never mix!)

Yay cardio day done!

Be your best and Be a Spark!

 

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#21DayFix

#21DFX

#AutumnCalabrese

#EmberLiving