Winter Olympics – Backyard Style

With the Olympics taking place in SOUTH KOREA this month, it’s easy to get the urge to want to go outdoors and have some winter fun. While it’s still cold and – maybe snowy – you can try a few games of your own and enjoy some homemade Olympics.  Check out these sights for winter snow fun.

1.  How to stage your own backyard winter Olympics:  Check out this site from PARENT MAP.  Everything from luge, to curling, all in your own neighborhood.

2. Got snow?  Try these Olympic inspired activities at home:

Watch ski-jumping. Skate, ski, jump and slide on the ice.  Or, are you a bob-sledder?  Curling?  Try sliding smooth rocks across a frozen driveway or sidewalk.  (NEVER ON A POND OR BODY OF WATER!!!)  Enjoy the games and be inspired to create some winter fun as well.


It’s Maple Syrup Time.

What comes from the sap of trees, doesn’t freeze in below zero temperatures, and is native to North America? 

MAPLE SYRUP.  In the eastern part of the US, maple trees fill our parks and forests.  While Canada and Vermont produce the most maple syrup, you can get sap from ANY maple tree that is at least 45 years old.  Sap runs like clear water when tapped; the texture and color we enjoy on our pancakes comes from reducing the sap into syrup through WOOD-FIRED EVAPORATORS.  It takes 40 gallons of sap to yield ONE GALLON of syrup – the reason why pure maple syrup cosst a lot more than pancake syrup which is made with high-fructose corn syrup and maple flavoring.  Once you’ve tasted the real thing, pancake syrup just doesn’t cut it.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly road trip, why not check out some of the Maple Sugaring Demonstrations in NJ and PA that usually run from late January through early March.  Here is just a sample of some of the many sites in the Eastern US.  Check each specific website for dates.  Some charge admission and require advance registration.

1. Great Swamp Outdoor Education Center in Chatham Township, NJ offers one-hour programs that teach you to identify and tap maple trees for sap collection at 1 and 2:30 PM every day rain or shine.

2. Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ:

3. Duke Farms, Hillsborough, NJ:

4. Environmental Education Center, Basking Ridge, NJ:

5. Peace Valley Nature Center, Doylestown, PA:

6. Howell Living History Farm, Lambertville, NJ:  In addition to syrup making demonstrations, this program also offers butter making, flour milling and pancake eating! Admission is FREE.

Check out the listings for farms near you and Have a Sap-Happy time!

For a detailed tutorial on how to tap your own maple trees:

It’s Not Too Late For Halloween Fun and Games.

I came across a great site with lots of kid-friendly fun and games for Halloween and beyond.

To keep the kids busy before or after trick-or-treating, or if you’re planning a party, why not try some PUMPKIN BOWLING?

Every kid loves to knock things over. That makes Pumpkin Bowling really popular.

Age Group: Kids up to pre-teens

Object of Game: Knock over the bowling pins. Make a strike or a spare.


  1. Select several small pumpkins about four to six inches in diameter. You need extras in case a few split or break.

  2. Remove the stem.

  3. Place plastic (children’s set) of bowling pins several feet away on the lawn or floor of the room. 

  4. A great alternative to bowling pins are plastic liter bottles. Let the kids decorate them with Halloween objects before the game.

Playing the Game:                                                                

  1. Measure off several feet.

  2. Give each child two tries to knock down the pins.

  3. A strike is worth two pieces of candy.

  4. A spare is worth one piece of candy.

Visit the site for other fun and games such as: Penny Pitch or Pumpkin Ring Toss.

For Halloween Party treat ideas visit:  The site has everything from Bat’s Eyes to Wormy Fruit Salad.

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!                         


15 Years and Counting: Another Great Book Festival in Collingswood, NJ.

On Saturday, October 7, 2017, I attended my 4th Collingswood Book Festival as an author and this one was finally held outdoors thanks to the beautiful, sun-filled day.  And, as one of the featured authors at this year’s event, I was privileged and thrilled to talk about WHEELS OF CHANGE with many 4th and 5th graders from the local schools, as well as to reconnect with fellow authors and friends.

Here are a few  photo highlights:

During the Wheels of Change “Book Talk”

Meeting with some enthusiastic students after the book talk.

With fellow children’s book author Patricia Lugo.

Finally meeting Liza Royce Agency sibling and my favorite YA sci-fi author: Joshua David Bellin

YA panel on writing fantasy.

Kid Lit Author’s Club author David Teague

 IF you missed this year’s event, mark your calendar for next year.  For a lover of books, it’s one of the best festivals around.


Picture Book Author Colleen Kosinski and her husband keeping cool.

Hanging out with my daughter and “gal Friday” before the festival started.


Get Your Jam On!

Saturday, August 26, 2017 is Play Music on the Porch Day.  Musicians from 17+ countries will be meeting with friends on porches for a jam session.  You and your family can join the fun.  In the spirit of peace, harmony and fun for all ages, with nothing offensive or demeaning, make some music.  Share your celebration of music – the international language –  by posting your celebration on social media with the hashtag #playmusicontheporchday


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.

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

DIY Backyard Activities.

There is still plenty of summer left to enjoy.  You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids.  Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed.  There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.

Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.

Happy summer fun!