Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints

Go Take a Hike: by Marilyn Ostermiller

If you need a reason to enjoy the great outdoors, why not take a hike?   With more than 60,000 miles of trails in the National Trail System across the 50 states, there is no lack of opportunity to go for a walk.   The benefits of walking are well documented: eases stress, great for cardio/vascular and joint health, improves mental function and helps maintain or even lose weight.  There are even locations that are open for hiking year round.

To find a hiking trail close to home or in an area you plan to visit, enter the zip code at www.Trails.com. It list locations and the length of each trail.

To set off on the right foot, the Wilderness Society offers 10 tips, among them:

  • Keep it simple. Select a hike that isn’t too long or too strenuous. If you are introducing children to hiking, pick a trail that has an interesting feature, like a lake, stream or waterfall, to give them something to look forward to.
  • Plan for frequent energy stops because hiking requires a lot of energy.
  • Leave no trace. Take a ziplock plastic bag large enough to hold all the trash you are likely to generate.

For the full list, visit http://wilderness.org/blog/take-your-kids-hiking-10-tips-make-adventure-fun-whole-family

Be prepared. Take the 10 Essentials including:                  file0001233456056

  • water and electrolytes
  • food and salty snacks
  • flashlight or headlamp
  • first aid kit
  • sunscreen
  • hat
  • sunglasses
  • rain jacket
  • spray bottle
  • good attitude

Learn what makes each item essential, at the National Parks Service website  https://www.nps.gov/grca/learn/photosmultimedia/hike_smart-02.htm

What you wear depends on whether you are hiking around town or someplace more ambitious. Basic apparel includes sneakers or boots, socks that aren’t going to cause blisters, long pants to avoid scratches and poison ivy, and a light weight, long-sleeved shirt that will wick away perspiration.

Among the books that will introduce children to hiking:

The Book on Hiking by Andy Dragt. This is a basic introduction to hiking for youngsters 10 to 18 years old. The focus is hiking in the Canadian Rockies and the preparation, gear, and knowledge required to do so. Also included are wildlife, survival techniques and the benefits of hiking with a club.

Walk on the Wild Side, written and illustrated by Nicholas Oldland, is for children 3 to 7 years old. One day, a bear, a moose and a beaver go for a walk in the mountains. To make the hike more exciting, they decide to race to the top. But soon the friends fall into deep trouble and one of them must find a way to save the day.

 

Marilyn OstermillerMarilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

Happy 50th Birthday Great Pumpkin!

Can you believe that this year marks the 50th birthday of that iconic Halloween special: IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN CHARLIE BROWN?  To celebrate such a milestone birthday, why not “get lost” in a pumpkin-patch inspired corn maze.  THE MAIZE INC has created Great Pumpkin inspired corn mazes on more than 80 farms across the US.

Visit: http://www.parade.com/cornmaze  to find one near you.  You can also see a gallery of Halloween mazes from around the country.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREAT PUMPKIN!                  IMG_1022

Shiela Fuller Gets Corn-Y.

CORN FOR ALL SEASONS:  by Shiela Fuller

Originally cultivated in Mexico, corn was transported back to European countries by early explorers.  It was a plant that had the ability to thrive in a variety of climates, turning corn into a versatile crop.

In the northeast, corn is planted in spring after the last frost for a mid-summer harvest, but corn, in its many forms is enjoyed year round.

img_9853SUMMER 

Purchase whole corn on the cob from local farm markets or roadside stands. Bring it home, boil the water while you husk the corn. Drop the whole cob in the rolling water for about 4 minutes.  Carefully remove, and smear with grass-fed butter.  The quicker the corn goes from field to pot, the sweeter it will taste as corn loses it sweetness over time.

There are so many fun corn recipes to try. Here are a few suggestions to google:

*Make homemade salsa.  So easy, especially with added peppers, onion, and tomatillo, all fresh from the farm market. Don’t forget the corn chips!

*Grate corn off the cob, saute, and add to pasta.

*Make creamed corn. I’m sure it’s better than canned.

*Grill corn in husks on a BBQ or open fire.

AUTUMN

By September, the farmers sometimes offer the entire corn stalk for sale.  Tie a bunch up with some twine and tie it securely to a post.  Add a pumpkin or some raked up leaves, and have an instant fall decoration.  You may also find a variety of multi colored, dried corn cobs, also called Indian corn, for hanging on a front door.   If there are young children at home, perhaps a craft making Indian corn with bubble wrap would appeal to them.   http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2008/11/lend-me-your-ear.html

Autumn days are sometimes spectacular and a good way to enjoy weather is at a local corn maze. 

http://www.cornmaze.com/Pages/Corn%20Maze%20Cornfield%20Maze.aspx   The older kids will love running around and “getting lost”.

WINTER

With everyone at school or work, winter is the time to think about comfort foods and what is more comforting than old-fashioned corn bread cooked in a cast iron skillet.   In Crescent Dragonwagon’s book, The Cornbread Gospels, there is a fabulous recipe, Sylvia’s Ozark Cornbread, so easy, Dragonwagon states, “…you could eat it daily.”    

Popped corn is fun no matter the season but have you ever popped it on a stove? As an after school snack, it’s easy and clean-up is quick.  Tastier than microwave versions and healthier, too, popping corn is different than the variety eaten off the cob but easily purchased at any grocery store.  http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/perfect_popcorn/

After the popping is complete add your favorite topping such as butter, salt, tamari or grated cheese. 

SPRING

Spring is a time for renewal. The farmers are thinking about preparing their land to support the summer corn plot.  The seeds planted may have been saved from the previous year crop or purchased from a supplier. Each kernel on a cob of corn has the potential to be a new corn plant.  

Home gardeners can plant corn, too.  Browse the seed catalogs and choose heritage or heirloom varieties that will resist pests and require less need for chemicals of any sort.  In the catalogs you will also find useful information on the specifications of growing corn. You also can save seeds and learn more about it at www.seedsavers.org

https://kidsongs.com/lyrics/the-muffin-man.html/      Perhaps renew a time from your own past and share this traditional English nursery rhyme with the young children in your life.  And if you’re interested to know more about the muffin man and how he came about, read the Wikipedia article:

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

Dragonwagon, Crescent, and Andrea Wisnewski. The Cornbread Gospels. New York: Workman, 2007. Print.

Fun websites if kids are interested in learning more about corn:

http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-53137/At-the-top-of-a-mature-corn-plant-is-the

http://botany.about.com/od/PlantAnatomyAndMorphology/a/The-Anatomy-Of-Corn.htm

Johanna Staton, Me, Shiela Fuller at one of the NJSCBWI events.

Johanna Staton, Me, Shiela Fuller at one of the NJSCBWI events.

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!

The Disappearing Butterfly…How You Can Help!

This post originally ran last year, but I find it so important I am running it again.  Help keep monarch butterflies in our world.  Pass it on.

While many insects make a lot of people say “yuck”…butterflies are in a category of their own.  There is no ick factor to these beautiful and amazing creatures.  One of the most recognized – and perhaps most popular – butterflies in North America is the MONARCH. Sadly, this beautiful insect is disappearing at an alarming rate.  In the 1990’s up to 1 BILLION monarchs migrated from the Northern US and Canada each fall to the OYAMEL FIR forests of Mexico.  Another million wintered in forested groves along the California coast.       monarch Now, scientists estimate that only 56.5 MILLION remain.  This represents a decline of nearly 80%.  Most of the decline is blamed on changing use of land; but we homeowners can change that.  You can use your property to create “monarch way stations” by planting MILKWEED and other nectar filled plants.  These plots allow monarchs to successfully produce generations and sustain them for their annual migrations. Milkweeds are the ONLY plants on which monarchs deposit their eggs and on which their larvae feed.  Without milkweed, there would be no monarchs.     To learn more about monarchs and way stations visit: http://www.monarchwatch.org Milkweed is easy to grow from seed.  And, here is a link for free milkweed plants.  They require little care and will spread easily once they take hold.  They can take over a garden, so be careful where you plant them. Go to: http://www.livemonarch.com/free-milkweed-seeds.htm          

Milkweed from my garden.

Milkweed from my garden.

  Not only will you bring beauty to your own habitat, but you will be helping an endangered species. Here’s a link to a wonderful post to start a discussion about Monarchs from Terry Jennings.: http://www.kcswildfacts.com/KCs-Blog.html?entry=monarch-butterflies-amazing-travelers

Happy Birthday National Parks!

August 25, 2016 marks the 100th birthday of the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.  As film maker Ken Burns said…it was one of America’s “best Ideas”.  Some of the most beautiful and breathtaking views are preserved for us and future generations thanks to the system that set aside land in all 50 states for public enjoyment.  http://www.nps.gov

How many National Parks have you visited?  Which one is your favorite?  Here is a view from ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK in Colorado.  2014-09-17 01.39.11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Parks feature some of the most amazing sights and opportunities to view wildlife.  On a recent hike in Rocky Mountain National Park  I spotted these wonders.

2014-09-17 01.33.312014-09-16 04.43.552014-09-16 04.44.44HERE ARE SOME FUN FACTS:

Can you name the National Park that is home to mountain goats and bighorn sheep?  (Glacier National Park)

Which park’s mountain range grows 1/2 inch each year?   (Grand Teton National Park)

Which park features more than 300 geysers?  (Yellowstone National Park)

For more FUN FACTS about the 10 most visited national parks in the US visit: http://www.Parade.com/bestparks

For a round up of some of the best National Parks in all 50 states visit: http://www.familycircle.com/nationalparks

Why not celebrate the Centennial of our National Parks by visiting one soon.  You’ll be amazed.