Hug a Tree…And Celebrate Arbor Day.

We take trees for granted, so having a day that reminds us of their wonder and life-giving presence should be celebrated. Tomorrow – April 27, 2018 is ARBOR DAY.  Here are some fun facts about trees:

The tallest species of trees in the world include the Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, Coast Douglas Fir, Sitka Spruce and Australian Mountain Ash.

The Giant Sequoia is not only tall, it is also wide. Because of its amazing size, some believe that the Giant Sequoia is the largest living organism in the world!

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Trees produce oxygen and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They purify the air we breathe. If it weren’t for trees, we wouldn’t be alive!

For more tree facts visit: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/plants/trees.html

For fun, printable worksheets about trees visit: http://www.kidzone.ws/plants/trees.htm

There are lots of picture books that honor trees.  Here’s one I especially enjoy.

THE LITTLE TREE by Muon Van (Creston Books 2015) The Little Tree

Visit this blog on Monday, 4-30-2018 for my poem honoring the Oak Tree.

Now, go outside and hug a tree!    tree hugHAPPY ARBOR DAY!

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Spring Flavors Feature Earthy Delights by Marilyn Ostermiller

Spring awakens fruits and vegetables from their slumber, providing us with local produce that’s crisp, colorful and bursting with flavor. Locally grown asparagus, sweet peas, scallions and rhubarb are the seasonal treats I most anticipate when visiting farmers markets or pick-your-own farms.   asparagus

 If you’re looking forward to spring produce, check with your state Department of Agriculture for an approximate arrival date. The list New Jersey posts is an example. http://www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/find/availability.html

 Fresh radishes, strawberries or spinach is a treat, but it’s also fun to incorporate them in your cooking. I especially like to prepare a quiche for spring brunch or lunch that incorporates asparagus, green onions and mushrooms. Recipes for spring quiche abound. Basically, you prepare a pie crust, or — my personal favorite — buy it frozen. Then find a basic recipe online that incorporates a mild grated cheese, eggs and milk or cream. Chop a cup or more of spring vegetables and saute for about five minutes. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of a mild shredded cheese on the bottom crust of a 9-inch pie shell, add the vegetables, pour the egg mixture over it and sprinkle another 1/2 cup of cheese on top. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until the mixture sets. Let it rest for five minutes, slice and enjoy warm. A simple salad and crostini or soup fill out your meal.  getPart

 About the time rhubarb is ripe, I start thinking about a pudding my great aunt from Denmark fed me when I was a child. This recipe comes close to the flavor and texture I remember. The Danish name for it is Rabarbergrod.

                rhubarbClean and cut 1 pound of rhubarb into small pieces and cook together with 2 1/2 cups of water 7 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add 2/3 cup granulated sugar when almost done cooking.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed first with a little cold water. Heat and stir until thickened and clear. Stir a few times while cooling. Makes 4 cups. Add a few drops of red food color for a brighter color. Serve chilled.

 Despite their bright colors, it isn’t always easy to convince children to try fresh vegetables. A book that some parents found helpful is Little Bento: 32 Irresistible Bento Box Lunches for Kids by Michelle Olivier. It’s a collection of recipes that offers bite-sized combinations of fruit and vegetables by season to prepare for school lunches. Published by Sonoma Press, it is available at Amazon.com

 Please consider leaving a comment about your favorite spring fruit or vegetable and how you prepare it.

Marilyn Ostermiller

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

Fun Facts on Flying Squirrels by Shiela Fuller.

GLIDERS OF THE NIGHT

Most of us are familiar with the gray squirrel that is found in parks and backyards but did you know there is a squirrel, also found in parks and backyards, that flies?  They do not fly with wings as birds do but glide through the air with a web of skin connecting their wrist to their ankle, called apatagium.    This excess web of skin is easily observed in this photo.

Flying squirrels like to eat nuts, seeds, insects, bird eggs, flower buds, mushrooms and fungi.

Usually the flying squirrel nests in cavities in old trees but occasionally will build a leaf nest called a drey, like the gray squirrel, or use a nest box.

Build a flying squirrel nest box for shelter and place it on tree in your own neck of the woods and try to attract them with food, and a source of water.

In this picture, the nature walk guide opened up the nest box.

In winter, many flying squirrels of varying ages will occupy one cavity or nest box to maintain warm body temperatures during the cold.  When supplying nest boxes,  it is important to put up more than one box, so the squirrels can chose among them.  Once you know your boxes have squirrel families residing in them, give them their space, as you would any wild animal, otherwise the squirrels may relocate.

Flying squirrels are nocturnal and because of this they have extra-long whiskers, better for touching things in the dark, keen eyesight, and very sharp hearing.  Because they are nocturnal, the flying squirrel is a preferred food for nocturnal predators like eastern screech owls, great horned owls, martens, foxes and coyotes. Of course, squirrels also fall prey to snakes, hawks, and domestic cats.

The best way to see flying squirrels is on a guided night hike in an area where they are known to live.  Reach out to your local state park for more information on night hikes and ask about the kinds of animals seen.  Each February at the Eagle Festival in Mauricetown, NJ, a guided walk is taken along the Glades Wildlife Refuge.  If you’re lucky, you might just see a flying squirrel.

https://www.cumauriceriver.org/event/eagle-festival/

http://www.animalspot.net/northern-flying-squirrel.html

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

http://www.nestboxbuilder.com/pdf/FlyingSquirrelNestbox4.pdf

 

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.

 

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.      http://www.parentmap.com/article/backyard-winter-olympics-for-kids

2. Got snow?  Try these Olympic inspired activities at home:    http://rainorshinemamma.com/5-olympics-inspired-backyard-games-for-winter/

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.      http://www.morrisparks.net

2. Reeves-Reed Arboretum, Summit, NJ:  http://www.reeves-reedarboretum.org

3. Duke Farms, Hillsborough, NJ:  http://www.dukefarms.org

4. Environmental Education Center, Basking Ridge, NJ:  http://www.somersetcountyparks.org

5. Peace Valley Nature Center, Doylestown, PA: http://www.peacevalleynaturecenter.org

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.  http://www.howellfarm.org.

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:  https://kaitoridge.com/

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.    http://www.holidayinsights.com/halloween/index.htm

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.

Preparation:

  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.

http://www.pumpkinnook.com/halloweenrecipes/index.htm

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.

http://www.collingswoodbookfestival.com

 

Picture Book Author Colleen Kosinski and her husband keeping cool.

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