Composting 101

This blog has had many posts celebrating Mother Nature and the outdoors, as well as recipes using the fruits and veggies grown in our gardens.  In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and enrich the garden soil, here is the low down on starting a simple compost pile.  I’m not talking about anything time consuming or expensive to maintain. This is just a simple way to reduce household waste and provide you with free fertilizer for the garden.

There are three basic components to COMPOST: Browns: which include dead leaves, shredded newspaper, used coffee filters and wood chips; Greens: These include grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds; and Water.  The interaction of these components with beneficial bacteria produce a nourishing substance that enriches the soil and improves your garden.   Using organic scraps that have not been sprayed with pesticides will ensure that your soil is in even better shape for growing food.  Avoid such things as meat and fish scraps or dairy items since they cause odors and attract pests.

You can collect the scraps in a small covered container you keep under the sink or on the counter. If you eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruit like I do, you will empty it into the compost bin several times a day.  I use a simple chicken wire cage that is set at the edge of the garden to corral the scraps. 

To get the basic idea on how to set up your own system and what proportion of ingredients to use, consult some online sites such as: http://www.EPA.gov   or    http://www.planetnatural.com

There are many options on how to collect and store scraps, so check out the sites for specifics.  There are even options for apartment dwellers using small patio containers that will produce enough compost to enrich your potted plants.

Chicken wire cage with vegetable and fruit scraps and grass clippings.

Chicken wire cage with vegetable and fruit scraps and grass clippings.

So why not give COMPOSTING a try?   Your garden will thank you by producing some delicious food and beautiful flowers. And, you’ll be minimizing your contribution to the local landfill.  Mother Earth will be proud!

Celebrate July 4th With Fruit Salads, Play and More.

Many of us will be hosting or attending parades and picnics to celebrate our nation’s birthday this July 4th.  Besides the usual burgers, hotdogs and salads that are part of every picnic, why not have you and your children add a delicious FRUIT SALAD to the menu?  There are so many tasty summer fruits available now and what better way to get those good vitamins than with sweet and juicy fruit? 

Here are two that I mixed up after a trip to my local farm market.

Strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries.

Strawberries, kiwi, and blueberries.

 

Strawberries, mango, blackberries, cherries and coconut.

Strawberries, mango, blackberries, cherries and coconut.

Try what ever combination you like…there is no wrong way to make a fruit salad.   And while you’re enjoying some salad, here are some sights that have plenty of holiday games and activities for kids of all ages. 

 

From How Stuff Works: http://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/crafts/holiday-crafts/fourth-of-julycrafts-for-kids.htm

 

From Teach Preschool http://www.teachpreschool.org/2010/06/preschool-ideas-for-fourth-of-july/

From Enchanted Learning: http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/july4/

Have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!

ALA SAN FRANSISCO ROCKS!

I just returned from an amazing event:  The Annual American Library Association Convention which was held this year in San Fransisco.  Thousands of people from all over the country gathered together to celebrate books. It was a thrill to be part of it all as an author, spectator and fan of other renown authors of children’s books.  While it is impossible to capture the whole spirit of the event, I hope these photos will give you an idea of the excitement and high energy the comprised the weekend.

It was my first visit to the beautiful city and especially memorable since it was also Pride weekend.   I didn’t get a chance to see the GLBT parade but felt the love, support, and good will that was everywhere.  

Outside the Moscone Center.

Outside the Moscone Center.

t the Creston Books Booth.

at the Creston Books Booth.

With Fellow Creston Books author Georgia Lyon.

With Fellow Creston Books author Georgia Lyon.

Star Spotting! Dan Santat signing BEEKLE. (Wanted a copy, but the line was soooo long)

Star Spotting! Dan Santat signing BEEKLE. (Wanted a copy, but the line was soooo long)

With Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi

With Author Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Rainbow Flags outside the Moscone Center where the ALA event was held.  Rainbows and goodwill was everywhere.  SOMETIMES WE HUMANS GET IT RIGHT!

Rainbow Flags outside the Moscone Center where the ALA event was held. Rainbows and goodwill were everywhere. SOMETIMES WE HUMANS GET IT RIGHT!

Author Laura Sassi's new book on display

Author Laura Sassi’s new book on display.

Breakfast with uber librarian John Schumacher AKA Mr. Schu, Marissa Moss, Robin Newman, Marcia Goldman and Lola at TRACE Restaurant.

Breakfast with uber librarian John Schumacher AKA Mr. Schu, Marissa Moss, Robin Newman, Marcia Goldman and Lola at TRACE Restaurant.

Fellow Creston author Muon Van and Illustrator April Chu.

Fellow Creston author Muon Van and Illustrator April Chu.

Mouse detectives, Wilcox and Griswold were out in search of missing food...

Mouse detectives, Wilcox and Griswold were out in search of missing food… 

Walking to the FERRY Building for the Book Passage signing.

Walking to the FERRY Building for the Book Passage signing.

Signing Books at BOOK PASSAGE in the FERRY BUILDING on the SF waterfront.

Signing Books at BOOK PASSAGE in the FERRY BUILDING on the SF waterfront.

With Katherine Applegate, author of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, and CRENSHAW.

With Katherine Applegate, author of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, and CRENSHAW.

With Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery winner for BROWN GIRL DREAMING.

With Jacqueline Woodson, Newbery winner for BROWN GIRL DREAMING.

With Paul Czajak, author of SEAVER THE WEAVER.

With Paul Czajak, author of SEAVER THE WEAVER.

Summer Trips to Channel Creativity.

If you’re looking for a summer vacation or weekend trip that’s a bit different, why not try one with an art focus?  Get creative with your children by visiting a museum art program.  Here are four:

CRAYOLA EXPERIENCE, Easton, PA: Spend a day at the 60,000 square foot factory in the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania.  There are 25+ hands on exhibits where kids can doodle in the dark on a backlit board, name a crayon color, visit a color playground, and be a star in their own coloring book page.  http://www.Crayolaexperience.com

DALI DOCENT PROGRAM, ST. PETERSBURG, FL: Here children ages 9-13 will have a chance to experience the legendary artist Salvador Dali during the junior docent program.  They can participate in the Breakfast with Dali program.  Graduates share impressions of their favorite Dali works as well as participate in story time and various interactive programs throughout the year.  http://www.Thedali.org

PEANUTS, SONOMA COUNTY, CA: If you’re a peanuts fan or your kids like cartoons, try a visit to the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.  You’ll get to meet professional cartoonists and watch their techniques. You can watch some of Schulz’ cartoon strips in animated form.  http://www.schulzmuseum.org

ART OF THE SOUTH, AUGUSTA, GA: Visit the first museum dedicated to art and artists of the south at the Morris Museum of Art.  There are family-friendly programs throughout the year, as well as weekday Mommy & Me programs, and special exhibits. http://www.Themorris.org

 

Welcome Summer Solstice.

Sit back and enjoy this simple explanation of why we have summer by Shiela Fuller.  Then be sure to check out the link to 101 great summer activities for kids, as well as a link to our National Parks and the wonders found in these national treasures.  Here’s Shiela:

Ah, sweet summer. We long for the hazy days of summer when we can go outside to play in bare feet, read what we want, and eat ice cream all day. Well, maybe not all day. Summer is one of the four seasons that we experience here on earth, but do we know why?

This year at precisely 6:51 AM, eastern daylight time (EDT), on June 21, summer will begin in the northern hemisphere. Our earth is divided into imaginary long lines that run from top to bottom, longitudinal lines, and lines that run side-to-side, called latitudinal lines. The latitude line that divides the earth from top to bottom is called the equator. If you live in a place above the equator, you live in the northern hemisphere and if you live below the equator, you are in the southern hemisphere.

Our planet also has an imaginary line that runs straight through the center from top to bottom. It’s called its axis. The axis is tilted at 23.5 degrees and it is because of this tilt that we have four seasons. From June through September, the earth is tilted toward the sun and that is why the northern hemisphere has summer. The opposite side of the planet is farthest from the sun and brings winter to the southern hemisphere.

Solstices-and-Equinoxes-The-seasons-are-about-to-changeThe earth spins around the axis and is hit with different amounts of direct sun depending on the date on the calendar On June 21, the earth appears to have stopped in the sky giving those in the northern hemisphere , the largest amount of daylight hours in the whole year. This is the day of summer solstice. Solstice comes from the Latin word, Solstitium: “sol” meaning sun and “stitium” meaning stop. Although it is the longest day of the year, it is not necessarily the warmest. That won’t happen until late July when the land and sea warm up as it absorbs the increased daily sunshine.

It’s summer! Take precautions from sunburn and mosquito bites and get outside for some fun adventures.
Follow these links to find some warm weather activities:

101 fun Things to Do from Parenting Magazine
http://www.parenting.com/article/fun-things-to-do-summer
Read the Wikipedia page to find out about National Parks. You’ll find all 59 listed here.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_national_parks_of_the_United_States

Shiela Fuller has been a Cornell University Project Feeder Watch participant for many years and an avid birder since 1988. Currently, she enjoys writing picture books, yoga, chicken raising, wildlife photography, and is the legacy keeper for her family.

Easy To Make Father’s Day Treats

Whether you’ll be having a barbeque or take out pizza for Dad’s big day, homemade desserts are always a great way for kids to show dad their love.  Here is a recipe for Cream Cheese Cupcakes that will be a hit.

CREAM CHEESE CUPCAKES
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese ( I used Neufchatel)
2/3 C sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Vanilla wafers

1. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set a vanilla wafer in the bottom of each.
2. Mix all other ingredients until smooth.
3. Fill cups and bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees F.
4. Chill overnight. You can eat them like this, or top with a variety of fruits such as crushed pineapple, strawberries, cherries.        cheesecakesAnd, speaking of strawberries, it is peak season for these delicious bits of heaven.  Make a few chocolate covered ones by: 1. Melting morsels  in a microwave-safe dish for 60 seconds.  2. Stir and repeat for 30 second intervals until smooth.  3.  Stir in 1/2 tsp of vegetable oil to make the mixture thin enough for dipping the berries into.  4.  Hold the strawberry by the green cap and dip it into the chocolate mixture.  5.  Set onto waxed paper and refrigerate until set. 

Want some NO COST gifts?  Try making some “coupons” with jobs the kids will do for dad such as, back massage, car wash, weeding flower beds, etc.  Any time your child can pitch in and help Dad  it will be appreciated.

There are also some great websites that have crafts kids can make for Dad on his special day.  Here are a few:

Parents Magazine: http://www.parents.com/holiday/fathers-day/crafts/fathers-day-crafts-kids-can-make/

Better Homes and Gardens: http://www.bhg.com/holidays/fathers-day/crafts/fathers-day-crafts-for-kids/

Martha Stewart:  http://www.marthastewart.com/274629/fathers-day-crafts-for-kids/@center/307033/spring-holidays

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

NJSCBWI Rocks!

I had another informative and inspirational weekend at the annual New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Princeton, NJ this past weekend.  Lots of opportunities to reconnect with writer friends and make new ones. Workshops on perfecting craft, Keynotes from Author/Illustrator, DENISE FLEMING, Agent/Author JOHN CUSICK, and a report on the state of children’s publishing.  (doing well, we’re happy to hear). Plus lots of time for sharing success stories.  An exhausting but always motivating event.  Here are some highlights in photos.

With Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth

With Annie Silvestro and Kim Pfennigwerth

Signing books with Charlotte Bennardo, fellow KIdLIt Author's Club author.

Signing books with Charlotte Bennardo, fellow KIdLIt Author’s Club author.

Musician and author Jonathan Sprout

Musician and author Jonathan Sprout

The LRA crew: Laurie Wallmark, me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Robin Newman

The LRA crew: Laurie Wallmark, me, Agent Liza Fleissig, Robin Newman

With Jennifer Reinhartz

With Jennifer Reinharz

Hanging out on Friday evew. with Jody Staton, Laurie Degman, Corey Rosen-Schwartz, and Robin Newman.

Hanging out on Friday eve. with Jody Staton, Laurie Degman, Corey Rosen-Schwartz, and Robin Newman.

Finally meeting blogging friend Katey Howes.

Finally meeting blogging friend Katey Howes.

Another new friend Katya.

Another new friend Katya.

Books for sale...

Books for sale…

With Marilyn Ostermiller

With Marilyn Ostermiller

The LRA Club

The LRA Club

Another awesome weekend of writing and social connection.  Thanks NJSCBWI.  You Rock!

With Eileen Holden

With Eileen Holden