Easy Peasy Party Pumpkins + Wheelchair Costumes.

Last year I volunteered in a Kindergarten classroom for a Halloween party and the room mother made these simple, festive snacks to celebrate the season.  You know your kids will get tons of candy.  So these CLEMENTINE PUMPKINS  are a welcome break from all that.  Better still, kids love easy-to-peel-and-eat clementines.

pumpkinYou can have a clementine decorating party of your own.  Be sure to use WASHABLE NON-TOXIC markers.  Happy snacking!

I came across an amazing article in the October 2016 issue of Family Circle Magazine that featured a dad who makes wheelchair costumes for his son.  He decorates the entire wheelchair to look like a pirate ship, dinosaur, or superhero. When his son went trick or treating, people saw past the wheelchair to the boy  in it.  Since then, Ryan Weimer launched a Kickstarter program with chapters around the country to build costumes for other children each Halloween.  Magic Wheelchair now has chapters in 10 states.

For more info or to donate to this worthwhile cause check out: http://www.magicwheelchair.org

Check out some of the amazing costumes here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelzarrell/this-nonprofit-creates-whimsical-halloween-costumes-for-kids?utm_term=.dur5owMka#.bjXyGEKA9

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‘Tis the Season For: Pumpkin Picking Tips.

  • One of the most abundant and popular items seen everywhere this time of year is the PUMPKIN.  It comes in lots of sizes and shapes and is used to flavor everything from desserts, to coffee, and even soup.  Here are some FUN FACTS about this seasonal favorite as well as tips on how to choose a good pumpkin:
  • Pumpkins originated in Central America.

  • Pumpkins are really squash… members of the squash family.

  • A pumpkin is a fruit. Most people think of it as a vegetable.

  • Pumpkins are 90% water. 

  • The largest pumpkin ever grown is 2,323.7 pounds.   You can see it here:  http://www.pumpkinnook.com/giants/giantpumpkins.htm

For more fun PUMPKIN facts visit: http://gardenersnet.com/fun/pumpkintrivia.htm

How to Select Perfect Pumpkins:

Select pumpkins that are completely orange. A partially green pumpkin might not ripen any further.  Be sure it is not too heavy to carry safely.  You might want to bring along a wagon to carry your pumpkin(s).

Use medium pumpkins for carving into a Jack O Lantern. Small pumpkins are better for cooking and baking.   

A ripe pumpkin has a hard shell that does not dent easily when pressing on it with a thumbnail.  Examine the entire pumpkin carefully for soft spots. If you find even one soft spot, try another pumpkin.

If you don’t plan on cutting your pumpkin into a Jack-O-Lantern, it will last well into Thanksgiving and beyond.   

Going Green? Ten Easy Ways to Make a Difference.

With the recent news about efforts to haul away the mammoth pile of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean, some of us may wonder how we can possibly make a difference and help keep our earth and environment healthy. So many things we might do seem feeble and often futile.

I’m here to say that EVERYONE can do something – no matter how small – to reduce the impact we have on planet earth. Today I begin a series of SIMPLE STEPS you can incorporate into your life to help keep our earth home healthy.

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store and reduce use of disposable plastic bags.
  • Buy local to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  • Install low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers.
  •  Use a water filter pitcher or install one on your sink to refill water bottles.
  • Instead of driving, ride a bike for short distances. or take a train or bus to work.
  • Don’t let the sink faucet run when you wash dishes or brush your teeth.
  • Unplug electronics when you’re not using them.
  • Wash clothes in cold water. Today’s detergents clean just as well in cold water.
  • Line dry clothes if and when possible.

There are MANY more ways to go green.  I’ll share them in coming weeks. Got any favorite earth-friendly tips of your own you’d like to share?

 

Got Museums? Go For Free.

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22  is Museum Day.  You can take the WHOLE FAMILY out for a free day at a museum, zoo or cultural center near you.  SMITHSONIAN Magazine has paired up with museums in almost every state to encourage families to explore local museums and cultural centers. 

Check out http://www.smithsonianmagazine.com/museumday to find a museum near you and to get your tickets.

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Fit Kids=Smart Kids.

A recent study of 70 kids aged 9-11, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, found that strong muscles in children correlates to better memory.  Other studies found that aerobically fit children have better thinking ability, attention, memory, and academic performance.

Bottom line: Getting kids moving with strength-building and aerobic activities during their school years will lead to an overall better school experience. Kids don’t have to join a gym.  Just make sure your child’s school has a playground with lots of equipment and that recess and gym classes are a regular part of the schedule.  Set an example by doing active things together as a family.  Taking after dinner walks, dancing to favorite songs, jumping rope, using a hula hoop, skipping and swimming.  Try crab walks, wheelbarrow races, pillow case races, and soup can arm curls to build muscles.

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Activity can be fun when parents set the tone and participate as well.  The rewards are better health and a smarter brain!

Host a Movie Night…Outdoors!

Even though summer is fading fast and kids are going back to school, there are still a lot of great evenings with pleasant weather for hosting an outdoor MOVIE NIGHT.  And you don’t have to make yourself crazy organizing one.  Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind.

  • Be sure to select a good movie that appeals to everyone and doesn’t have a lot of quiet dialogue or dark scenes.  There are plenty of “family” films that appeal to kids of all ages as well as adults.  You might want to buy a few glow necklaces for the little ones – to keep track of them in the dark.
  • Have a test run of the equipment BEFORE the event to make sure it all runs smoothly.  This goes for sound as well as video.  Loud enough for guests to enjoy without disrupting the neighborhood.
  • Secure and cover any cords so folks don’t trip over them in the dark.
  • Have bug spray to ward off unwelcome guests.
  • Set up a table of drinks and snacks with a light on it so everyone can help themselves to treats during the show.
  • Have guests bring blankets.  As fall approaches, evenings can get cool. So much fun to snuggle under a blanket while watching the movie.

How simple is that?  Movie night doesn’t have to be complicated. And, as dusk arrives earlier in the fall, you can even enjoy a light supper of hotdogs or burgers while watching the latest blockbuster.  Happy Movie Watching!

Barn Swallows: On the Fly by Shiela Fuller

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Every May, the barn swallows return to my farm.  While I do have a barn, I have about ten nests attached to my house.  These mud constructed homes for baby birds are found on top of ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, built in to the corners where walls meet, and in one location, attached to the siding. These active, cheerful birds call my house, home.

Chattering and darting every which way through the summer air, barn swallows are identified by their blue metallic back feathers, their cream to reddish underbelly, and their most striking field mark is their forked tail.  Barn swallows catch and eat insects on the fly. They also drink on the fly while skimming low over a marsh or pond.  They typically eat moths, flies, dragonflies, and other flying insects. Swallows are found throughout the world, but barn swallows are most common.  They are usually found in open habitats, farm fields, beaches, and over water.

Barn swallows are migratory birds leaving my property in late September and returning in April. To me, they indicate that spring weather is close to follow.

It is the male barn swallow that typically arrives at the previous year’s breeding location. The swallows build cup shaped nests using mud as the glue while attaching feathers, horsehair, grass, and other found materials.  Reusing nests year after year, the swallows apply a new mud covering. Both male and females are stern defenders of their nest and will “mob” intruders like cats, hawks, or people.

In North America, it has been observed that barn swallows will sometimes build nests on structures underneath an osprey nest.  The swallows receive protection from the fish-eating osprey (they don’t eat swallows) and the swallows protect the osprey nest from intruders with their warning chirps.

Barn swallows are very often found in backyards but do not eat at backyard bird feeders.  It may be possible to attract them by putting up manmade nest cups long before the birds’ migration north.  A supply of mud is also helpful.  It is nice to have a healthy colony of swallows living nearby as they help in keeping the insect population down.  Anything that eats mosquitoes is a win on my farm.

Photo 1: This is the barn swallow collecting nest building or rebuilding supplies

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Photo 2: you can see the mud constructed nest with babies and the nest placement on a fan blade.

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Photo 3: In this photo, you can see the babies being fed by a parent thanks to the clearly identifiable forked tail.

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“All of the photos were taken from a respectable distance, some from inside my home, with a high zoom lens.”

To learn more about these fascinating birds visit:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barn_Swallow/lifehistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_swallow

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/barn-swallow

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Hirundo_rustica/