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.   

LOVE IS KIND:Celebrating Acts of Kindness with Laura Sassi (and a give-away!)

photo promo with text love is kind instagramSince a central theme of LOVE IS KIND is spreading love and kindness, Darlene asked me to reflect on three acts of kindness that have touched me as a picture book author. It’s a delightful topic and one that makes my heart sing with gratitude and joy for the many, many examples of kindness that I have both witnessed and been the recipient of.  However, as I ponder which to choose, one stands out – and it’s one that I’ve for a long time been seeking a way to honor – so I hope that it’s okay, Darlene, that I have chosen just one. It involves the editor of LOVE IS KIND – so it’s really a perfect fit. Zonderkidz editor, Barbara Herndon, edited not just this book, but my first two as well, and she is a remarkable person with a very kind heart. I hope her example will inspire us all to spread love and kindness as the opportunities unfold before us.  
Here’s how this act unfolded:
It was October 2013 and my mother was dying of ALS. Except for labored one or two word bursts, had lost the muscular ability to speak and was growing weaker day by day. One morning as I was praying for my mom – who lived 6 hours away in Virginia – it suddenly struck me that she might not live long enough to see my first book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, published. My mom had been a great encourager to me on this journey into children’s book writing and I’d always appreciated her artistic perspective (she was an artist) as she read and critiqued my manuscripts. She and I had been so excited to learn that Jane Chapman would illustrate, and now, I realized, she might not get the chance to see those illustrations. 
 A wave of sadness poured over me and I emailed my editor, Barbara Herndon, at Zonderkidz, to ask she if she had a sketch or illustration sample or anything that I could share with my mother while she was still able to communicate – even if only in a limited way.  Within the hour, she responded that yes, of course, they could send something  – and not just anything – she had already special ordered two folded galleys of the entire book – and when would I need them by.  
Already feeling blessed beyond measure at this act of kindness, I now added that my sister and I had a special trip planned for mid-October to see our mother – we’d both be swooping in from our faraway homes for a special mother-daughter weekend. It was short notice, but Barbara did not hesitate. She said she would do her very best to make sure they arrived in time for that visit and immediately made arrangements for them to be mailed by overnight express to my parents in Virginia.  
The pictures here show me with my mom and dad opening the package from Barbara and then enjoying the folded galley together. 

Because Barbara responded so quickly and so kindly, my mom was able to enjoy Jane’s illustrations and she even got to communicate her love for the illustrations with Jane via a short email. Then, Jane – in her own act of kindness – sweetly responded to my mother’s thoughtful artistic reflections about Janes’ illustrations.  

It was a very special shared moment made possible by a compassionate editor who responded above and beyond the call of duty to make something special happen for a dying woman (my mom) and her daughter (me). I will forever be grateful for that act of kindness and it came just in the nick of time. My mom passed away a month later – and that trip with those folded-galleys turned out to be our last -and very treasured – time together. 
 
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Zonderkidz has offered to give one copy of LOVE IS KIND to one reader of this post. To qualify, you must be a U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box) and at least 18 years old to enter. Leave a comment describing an act of kindness you were the recipient of.  One name will be drawn at random from all who entered.
Darlene here:  LOVE IS KIND is a beautiful story that is destined to become a classic.  Here is my review of this special book:

Owl takes the coins he’s saved to buy his beloved grammy a box of chocolates for her birthday. When he drops the coins, and they are picked up by beaver, Owl sees how happy beaver is and doesn’t ask for the coins back.  Owl has other opportunities to buy the chocolates, but things happen along the way and Owl returns to grammy feeling sad because he has nothing to give her for her birthday. After he tells grammy  what happened, she reminds Owl of all the love he spread everywhere he went and how that was the best gift a grammy ever got.

Based on LOVE as described in 1 Corinthians 13, this heart-warming story of kindness celebrates the love between kids and their grandparents. The sweet and delightful illustrations remind readers of all the ways we express Love. A rare treat and the perfect gift for parents and grandparents to share with their little “Owls”.

BIO: Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme.  A graduate of Princeton University and UCLA, she had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She is the author of four picture books including the best-selling GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) which was a Christian Book Award Finalist, GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) which was featured on BBC’s Cbeebies Bedtime Stories, and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018).  She lives in
New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.

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Laura Sassi
Children’s book author and poet
GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, August ’14)
GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, October ’15)
DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, Spring ’18)
LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, Fall  ’18)

twitter.com/laurasassitales

More Ways to Be Green.

Last month I shared ten simple ways to reduce our footprint on Mother Earth.  Today I will share ten more.

  • Collect rainwater and use it for landscaping. If you’re worried about mosquitoes, put a cover on it after it rains.
  • Bring your own mug or refillable cup to your favorite coffee spot.
  • Buy Fair Trade products.
  • Carpool as much as possible. And, combine errands so you drive more efficiently.
  • Choose reusable rather than disposable products. (razors, pens, cups, cloth napkins, diapers, etc)
  • Buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Donate old cell phones and help save the African gorilla. http://www.eco-cell.org
  • Don’t charge your cell phone overnight.
  • Reuse Ziploc bags when you can.
  • Purify indoor spaces with plants instead of artificial room fresheners.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to re-purpose something:

car planter

Got any more good ideas? We can all make a difference in many small ways.

 

Don’t Throw Away Orphan Toys. Do This Instead.

With summer winding down, we often want to welcome fall with a bit of cleaning and getting rid of some of the “stuff” that accumulated all summer long.  If your children are tired of their old toys and books or you just need to make some room, try donating the items to some of the following:

http://www.stuffedanimalsforemergencies.org  delivers gently used toys to children in need. Go on the website to check for your local community chapter.       

http://www.Babybuggy.org  takes kids and baby gear along with maternity and children’s clothing that is in good condition.  They distribute it to needy families.

For books contact:  www.donationtown.org    to schedule a pick up along with others in your area.  Just enter your zip code and choose from local charities you’d like to sponsor.

Another way to re-purpose books is at: www.booksforafrica.org     You pay for shipping to the Atlanta warehouse, but it is tax-deductible.

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You can also donate unwanted items to your local GOODWILL, SALVATION ARMY, VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA   www.pickupplease.org    And, Habitat For Humanity will accept household items and furniture at their ReStore outlets to use in their building projects. Check out their needs at: www.habitat.org

Don’t Throw That Away…Make Folk Art!

There is no question that we are a throw away culture.  Just stop by any neighborhood on trash day or on any college campus during moving in or out day.  Many of us don’t see value in reusing everyday objects once their purpose has been served.

But thankfully, there are also some unique artists who use everyday materials in their art and create some amazing things as a result.  The definition of FOLK ART is:

“artistic works, as paintings, sculpture, basketry, and utensils, produced typically in cultural isolation by untrained often anonymous artists or by artisans of varying degrees of skill and marked by such attributes as highly decorative design, bright bold colors, flattened perspective, strong forms in simple arrangements, and immediacy of meaning.”

A more simple definition is: Turning what other deem as junk into works of beauty, whimsy and fun.  

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

Haitian folk art iguana made from recycled steel drum.

There is no end to the creative expression found in this art form.  Every medium is used, from glass, metal, paper, wood, stone, shells, clay.  Visit the Coral Castle, a Bottle Village, or the Magic Gardens of Philadelphia.  These are just a sample of some amazing folk art installations throughout the US.  Here are some more:

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/10-unforgettable-folk-art-environments

You might also want to check out these roadside attractions made from recycled materials…including a house made entirely from beer cans.

http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/eco-tourism/photos/8-roadside-attractions-made-from-salvaged-materials/must-see-places

Have you ever tried your hand at Folk Art?  Or seen some amazing examples?   What are some of your favorites?

"stash" doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.

“stash” doll made from fabric scraps and vinyl film.

 

 

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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