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:


Hess Truck = STEM Smarts.

While my son was growing up, one of the favorite traditions during the holiday season was the gift of a new HESS TRUCK.  These toys made their debut at Hess gas stations in 1964 and have gained in popularity over the years. Many kids receive these toys and have kept them as part of a collection.  My son has three such trucks tucked away and will no doubt hand them down to his children one day. The toys are considered collectibles and not available in stores.

This season features a DUMP TRUCK AND LOADER – with an added component: STEM lessons!

Available for FREE DOWNLOAD is a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum with eight lessons – all featuring the truck.  The curriculum can be used for home or school use and teaches kids about LIFTING FORCES, LEVERAGE, DEGREES OF FREEDOM, and other concepts.


Digging For Fossils in Our Own Backyard.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I had the rare experience of digging for fossils.  Thanks to the Edleman Fossil Park at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ, people from all over the country  – and world – can find, and keep, treasures from the Cretaceous Period.  The park –  located in Mantua, NJ – was once covered by the ocean, so the marine fossils are easy to dig for and worth a family trip.



You won’t unearth dinosaurs since they were land animals, but the marine life we found was still pretty cool.  We dug for under two hours and found the remains of  oysters, brachiopods, sponges,  bacteria “poop”,   and a rare blue mineral called vivianite.  There is also a stream for shark tooth hunting.

The fossil park has two public “dig days” each year but the spots fill up fast.  More than 400 schools are on a waiting list for class trips.  But for all your little – and big – paleontologists out there, it’s a rewarding place to begin a life-long love of pre-historic things.

Alive and Well: Our Monarch Butterfly Project

I’ve posted a few times about our efforts to help save the endangered Monarch Butterfly.  By planting milkweed, the insect population will lay eggs and produce the caterpillars that make the next generation.  While these butterflies might be attracted to other plants like the popular Butterfly Bush, they ONLY LAY EGGS ON THE MILKWEED. AND THE CATERPILLAR ONLY EATS THE LEAVES OF THIS PLANT.  

Perhaps because we’ve had such a mild fall, the last Monarch cycle occurred just a couple weeks ago.  And, I am happy to say, we “hatched” SIX butterflies this season- up from TWO last year.

That may not seem like much, but  every bit adds to the total.


After the caterpillar is done feeding, it attaches its chrysalis underneath the siding of our house.  We went out and checked them each morning and one day…three weeks ago…we found this:

It’s a small effort, with such a beautiful reward.  Long may these lovely creatures live!

To learn about the monarch and how you can help save this endangered species and to get free milkweed seeds to plant for next year visit:

Let’s Make Some Rain!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had the power to make our own rain, especially with so much of the country  experiencing drought?  We may not be able to make rain in the real sense, but with this activity, you can hear the soothing sound of rainfall anytime you wish.

All that’s needed to make a RAINSTICK is a long cardboard tube from a roll of paper towels or foil, construction paper and stickers for decoration, dried couscous, and duct tape.

1. Cover the tube with paper and seal the seam with stickers or the tape.

2.  Cut out two circles for each end of the tube. Drape one circle over one end and seal shut with tape.

3.  Pour about 1/4 C couscous into the tube.  Drape the second circle over the end and seal shut with tape.

4.  Decorate the tube with stickers. 

5. To make the sound of rain, slowly and gently tilt the tube from one end to the other.  Close your eyes, breathe in the rain scented air, and the illusion is complete!

Slimy Summer Fun!

What Kid doesn’t enjoy a fresh pile of slime to play in?  On days when it feels too hot to play out in sand or make mud pies, you can still give your kids a tactile experience by making your own SLIME.  There are plenty of recipes out there.  Here are two that will help you create colorful slime for indoor fun.  One glows in the dark and has glitter.

Happy Sliming!

The first one is borax, glue and chemical free:  Glitter-glow-in-the-dark slime recipe


Enjoy Your Own Solar Eclipse Compliments of the US Postal Service.

Mark you calendar: On August 21, a total solar eclipse will be visible from coast to coast in the US.  It will be the first total SOLAR ECLIPSE visible only in the USA since our nation’s founding in 1776.  It will also be the first one to sweep across the ENTIRE country in 99 years.

The eclipse will start on the west coast in OREGON and trace an eastern path 67 miles wide, exiting in SOUTH CAROLINA.  The eclipse will last 2-3 minutes in each location.

If you aren’t able to get out and observe this phenomenon first hand, you can enjoy your own personal SOLAR ECLIPSE thanks to the US Postal Service “Total Eclipse Forever Stamp”.  The stamp – released on Tuesday 6-20-2017 – is a photo of a total solar eclipse taken in Libya on 3-29-2006 by NASA astrophysicist Fred Espenak.  Thanks to the use of THERMOCHROMATIC INK, rubbing the stamp with the heat from your finger or blowing warm air over it, reveals an underlying image of the moon.  The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.       

The eclipse is temporary, but the stamp is forever.  How COOL is that?