Give Your Backyard Critters, and the Earth’s Creatures Some TLC.

We are ALL interconnected and part of the chain that feeds and sustains life on earth. Wondering how you can help protect the most vulnerable critters on our planet? There are FIVE simple things all of us can do to help make a difference for the creatures who share the earth with us. 

1. Bee populations are disappearing, which effects food crops around the world. Help LOCAL HIVES by adding a “bee bath” to your backyard. Fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and pebbles or marbles to welcome these pollinators into your garden.

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2. You can help protect CORAL REEFS by replacing your regular sunscreen for one that does not contain OXYBENZONE. This ingredient damages the delicate reefs.

3. I’ve mentioned this one on numerous posts: FEED MONARCH BUTTERFLIES by planting MILKWEED in your garden. This is the only plant these endangered creatures lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat. You can get get milkweed seeds in your local National Wildlife Federation office.  http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org

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Milkweed from my garden. Bonus: it also attracts bees.

4. Eat seafood that is sustainably caught and protect whales and dolphins from getting trapped in fishing nets. Download the Seafood Watch app to identify businesses that serve and sell sustainably sourced seafood.

5. Help the endangered Sumatran tiger from losing its habitat to coffee growers. Make sure your brew is Rainforest Alliance certified. This means the beans are grown  and harvested in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

Summer Fun: Crafts For Kids of All Ages.

Summer vacation is here!  While your children enjoy a break from school, you still want to make sure they are active and spending time in constructive pursuits instead of vegging out in front of the TV or computer.  Trips to parks and playgrounds, lakes and beaches, are a great way to enjoy the outdoors.  For days when it is too hot to go outside, or for times when quiet activity is preferred, there are some great sites for summer crafts.

The Long Thread offers 50 Summer Crafts for kids of all ages including Stone Dolls, Recycled Crayons, and Fairy Wings.

http://thelongthread.com/?p=4054

Try the awesome crafts for kids of all ages and abilities on the HAPPINESS IS HOMEMADE  site. No special skills or tools are required.

https://www.happinessishomemade.net/easy-summer-kids-crafts-that-anyone-can-make/

Finally,  check out the RED TED site for videos on some amazing crafts that will keep your children entertained all summer long.  http://www.redtedart.com

Happy Summer!

What Rhymes With Rhubarb?

I haven’t been able to find a word that rhymes with RHUBARB. But, I have found some interesting facts about this unique vegetable (no, it isn’t a fruit). And I have also found something that goes really well with rhubarb…strawberries.

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Today, June 9, 2022 is NATIONAL RHUBARB PIE DAY. To celebrate this tasty and often overlooked wonder of the vegetable world, I am sharing a favorite recipe for STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP.

 

First, here are a few tidbits about this amazing vegetable. Facts are taken from the website: https://laidbackgardener.blog/2021/05/19/17-fun-facts-about-rhubarb/

Did you know:

  • Unlike most vegetables, rhubarb does not need to be planted every year from seeds. It is an perennial that sprouts from the garden as soon as the soil begins to thaw in early spring. (Like asparagus). Plants live as long as 60 years!
  • Rhubarb originated in China over 2,000 years ago where it was used as a medicinal plant. It wasn’t until the 19th century – when sugar became more readily available –  that its medicinal properties were abandoned and it became an edible food.
  • Rhubarb leaves are not as poisonous as often thought. The oxalic acid in the leaves would be harmful if ingested in huge quantities. For instance, a 145 pound human would need to ingest 9-10 pounds of the leaves to reach toxic levels. They’re not worth eating anyway. It’s the stalks that have the amazing tart and tangy flavor.
  • A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked rhubarb provides 26% of the DV for vitamin K1. It’s also a good source of fiber. Otherwise, it’s not a significant source of essential nutrients, but when you cook it with STRAWBERRIES, you add sweetness, Vitamin C and another layer of deliciousness.

strawberries

If you’ve never tasted rhubarb, a good way to try it is mixed with another fruit such as the strawberries in this recipe. I prefer my rhubarb on the tart side, so I only add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the fruit mix.

 

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP

 

recipe

SERVED WITH A SCOOP OF VANILLA ICE CREAM OR GREEK YOGURT, THIS IS A TREAT FOR THE TASTE BUDS.

What’s your favorite rhubarb recipe? I’d love to hear it…always on the lookout for more ways to enjoy this garden delight.

Happy Eating!rhubarb crisp

Got Burgers? Celebrate National Hamburger Day with Marilyn Ostermiller.

Firing up the grill for the first burgers of the season is a time-honored Memorial Day Weekend tradition. This year, National Hamburger Day, May 28, falls on the first day of the holiday weekend.

Americans devour nearly 50 billion burgers each year, according to food industry sources. The origin of modern hamburgers can be traced to 19th century Germany where beef from Hamburg cows was minced. combined with garlic, salt and pepper and formed into patties. Buns were introduced later, when hamburgers became a popular food cart offering in the streets of New York and Chicago.

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A major factor in their popularity is that burgers are inexpensive. It helps that they also are easy to prepare. Grab about a quarter pound of ground beef, shape it into a ball, flatten it and fry it quickly in a skillet on the stove, broil or grill it.

For the most flavorful burgers, Food Network Chef Bobby Flay recommends 80/20 ground chuck, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked in a cast iron skillet with a splash of canola oil.

Looking for a leaner burger?  A four-ounce cooked sirloin burger has  about 225 calories, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat and 27 grams of protein. Nutritionally speaking, it’s an excellent source of niacin, vitamin B 12, zinc and selenium. It’s also a good source of vitamin B 6. Iron and phosphorus.

burgers

Turkey burgers are an option for people who want to avoid beef, or want a flavor change. A four-ounce cooked turkey burger, made from a combination of dark and light meat, has about 200 calories, but is leaner than beef. Suggested seasonings include a tablespoon of dried bread crumbs, grated onion, salt and pepper, a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of white wine vinegar. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Whether burgers are made at home or eaten on the go, they also appeal because the meat is easy to chew, according to http://www.epicurious.com.

For some folks, the toppings make the burger. Nearly three out of four people surveyed said they typically use cheese as a burger topping. Other popular enhancements include ketchup, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and mustard. At least, one in five surveyed say they also like bacon, mayo or aioli, mushrooms and fries on their burgers.

The best burger buns are soft and slightly sweet, but strong enough to soak up the juices.

How do you like your burgers?

Cookbooks for kids can help children discover their role in the kitchen.

Kid Chef: The Foodie Kids Cookbook written by Melina Hammer, is designed to introduce 5- to 11-year olds to the mysteries of cooking. It includes 75 recipes with simple directions.  kid chef book

The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs: 100+ Recipes that You’ll Love to Cook and Eat, produced by America’s Test Kitchen Kids, is geared for 8-11 year olds. Alongside the recipes are lots of basic cooking information. kid cook book

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Marilyn Ostermiller is long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.

Author Annette Whipple Presents: RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS.

Ribbit Cover

Did you know there are more than 7,000 kinds of frogs worldwide? Ever wonder why frogs blink their eyes so much? Blinking helps them swallow. The eyes help push food down into the stomach. Unique and interesting details like this have become a trademark for Annette Whipple’s books in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

This newest entry, RIBBIT: THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS (Reycraft Publishing) follows the Q & A format of previous books (WOOF: THE TRUTH ABOUT DOGS, SCURRY: THE TRUTH ABOUT SPIDERS) and provides many fascinating and kid-friendly facts about these amazing amphibians.

Ribbit p 6-7

The book also includes a craft, glossary, and numerous photographs to complement the text. It is  a welcome addition to a classroom library and science resources.

You can order this awesome book here: https://www.amazon.com/Ribbit-Truth-About-Annette-Whipple/dp/1478875879/

About MeAnnette Whipple celebrates curiosity, especially through her informational books for children.
Annette Whipple
Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books, 2022)
Scurry! The Truth About Spiders (Reycraft Books, 2021) 
Woof! The Truth About Dogs (Reycraft Books, 2021)
Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (Reycraft Books, 2020)
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press, 2020) 
The Story of the Wright Brothers (Rockridge Press, 2020)

In Celebration Of the Pretzel by Marilyn Ostermiller

There’s no need to get tied up in knots deciding how to celebrate National Pretzel Day which happens to be tomorrow, April 26. While hard pretzels are a popular snack, the pretzel celebrated this month is the soft, chewy cousin to baked bread that is enjoyed hot, often with mustard.

soft pretzels

Soft pretzels are served at restaurants, bars, sports arenas and Auntie Annie’s retail outlets. Their humble beginnings have been traced to a monastery in northern Italy about 610 A.D., according to “The History of Science and Technology,” by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellmans.

Tradition credits the first pretzels to a young Italian monk, who was preparing unleavened bread for Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter. Using a glob of leftover dough, legend has it he formed the first pretzel shape. To the priest’s eye, the shape resembled how Christians prayed, with their arms folded across their chests, each hand on the opposite shoulder. The priest treated the children he taught to a pretzel as reward for saying their prayers. Pretzels grew in popularity as they were introduced in monasteries over the Alps into Austria and Germany.

The circular pretzel may also be related to a communion bread used in Greece a thousand years ago. In the Catholic Church, pretzels had a religious significance for both ingredients and shape. The loops in pretzels may have served a practical purpose; bakers could hang them on sticks.

Soft pretzels were introduced in America by Dutch immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. The Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, traces its roots back to 1861, when Sturgis purchased a house on Main Street and opened the first commercial pretzel bakery in America. sturgis house

Factory tours are available by appointment. Visitors get a hands-on pretzel twisting lesson and can observe bakers twisting pretzels by hand. 

making pretzels

pretzel

For information visit:  juliussturgis.com. Popular flavor combos include hot cheese sauce, honey mustard, chocolate sauce, caramel and icing.

Among the children’s books that tell of the origins of the pretzel is “Pretzels by the Dozen: Truth and Inspiration with a Heart-Shaped Twist,” by Angela Hunt and William Dodge.

If you’d like to try your hand at making your own soft pretzels, here is an easy, fool-proof recipe from Darlene. She used it in her classroom every year and the results were delicious. Don’t worry about trying to shape the pretzels in the traditional way. Have the kids shape them into their initials so they are guaranteed to eat the ones they make. I doubt there will be any leftovers.

SOFT PRETZELS:

INGREDIENTS:

1 PK YEAST,  4 C FLOUR,  1 1/2 C WARM WATER,  1 EGG BEATEN FOR GLAZE,  1 T SUGAR,   1 T SALT, PARCHMENT PAPER FOR LINING COOKIE SHEETS

MIX TOGETHER YEAST, WATER, SUGAR AND SALT. STIR IN FLOUR. KNEAD DOUGH UNTIL SMOOTH. SPRINKLE FLOUR ON YOUR HANDS AND SHAPE PIECES OF DOUGH INTO DESIRED LETTER, CIRCLES, EVEN BREAD STICK SHAPES. BRUSH WITH BEATEN EGG AND SPRINKLE WITH YOUR FAVORITE TOPPING. SESAME SEEDS, POPPY SEEDS, COARSE SALT, CINNAMON/SUGAR MIX, ALL WORK WELL.

BAKE ON PARCHMENT LINED COOKIE SHEETS AT 425F FOR 15 MINUTES OR UNTIL BROWN. THEY HAVE THE CONSISTENCY OF BAGELS AND ARE ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.

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Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist, who also writes stories for children.

52 Ways to Celebrate the 52nd Earth Day.

Today is the 52nd Anniversary of the first Earth Day held in 1970. While the idea of and complex issues of Global Warming seem daunting, there are many ways to care for, celebrate, and honor our collective home, planet earth. Here are 50.

1. The single most important thing you can do is PLANT A TREE. If the world’s people planted 3 billion trees in all the available open spaces (not taking away any farmland), we would eliminate global warming. Learn more about tree planting in your community at  http://www.arborday.org

2. Make your garden POLLINATOR FRIENDLY by planting native bushes and flowering plants to attract bees, butterflies and insects. Find the right blooms for your yard at: http://www.xerces.org

3. Find out how you can help endangered species in your community: http://www.fws.gov/endangered

4. If you see litter, pick it up.

5-9. Collect rainwater for landscaping, compost vegetable scraps, plant a vegetable garden, buy organic, stop using pesticides on your lawn.   lids

10-14. Buy in bulk to use less packaging, stop using single-use plastic bags (reusable and machine-washable ones are available online. (see photo below)  I use them every time I go to the store. You can store the vegetables in them as well. Pack lunches in reusable containers, recycle as often and as much as you can, stop using plastic wrap for food storage. Check out the reusable silicon lids in 6 sizes to fit over every bowl you own. The number one recycler of plastic bags? http://www.trex.com/recycling  lists drop-off stations in your area.

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15. Find uses for old things.

16. Turn off lights when you leave a room.

17. Eat more veggies, especially those grown locally.

18. Get a library card.

19. Leave only footprints when you travel.

20-25. Wash clothes in cold water, don’t let the sink run when you brush teeth or wash dishes, turn off the dishwasher’s drying cycle and let them air dry, use concentrated soaps/cleaners that use less packaging,use unscented products, Use greener cleaners like baking soda and white vinegar.

26-30. Ride your bike, skip the elevator and take stairs, buy things that will last, try to fix things that break instead of tossing them, eat what’s in season.

31. Buy products made from recycled materials, and gently-used second hand clothing.

32. Use a push lawn mower.

33. Buy Fair Trade: http://www.fairtrade.org

34. Carpool

35-39. Unplug electronics when you aren’t using them, shut your computer down when you leave work, print on both sides of paper, reuse blank paper as scrap paper for notes, use shredded paper for packing instead of styrafoam peanuts.

40. When you finish baking, turn off the oven and leave oven door open to heat the home.

41. Eat sustainably harvested fish to protect the ocean : http://www.oceansalive.org

42-45. Give your car a tune-up so it drives more efficiently, drive a hybrid, keep tires inflated to proper pressure for better fuel efficiency, driving under 60MPH saves gas. Consider an electric vehicle.

46-47. Buy shade grown coffee, switch to reusable coffee filters.

48. Use rechargeable batteries.

49. Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to eat local: visit  http://www.localharvest.com

50. Use cloth napkins and towels.

51. Switch to a search engine that plants trees. Ecosia plants a tree every time you search the web using it’s search engine: https://www.ecosia.org

52. HUG A TREE… these amazing plants are the reason we are alive on planet earth.

The earth is home for us all. Every little thing we do to honor our home counts.

Stay Safe and have a HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Author Nancy Viau Brilliantly Presents a New Picture Book: PRUETT AND SOO + A Chance to Win a Signed Copy

It is always a treat when a new book debuts from author Nancy Viau. I had the pleasure of attending the launch last week at WORDS MATTER Bookstore in Pitman, NJ.  http://www.wordsmatterbookstore.com

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Nancy’s latest book PRUETT AND SOO (Two Lions Press) (illustrated by Jorge Lacera) is a wonderful addition to her collection.

pruett cover

Here’s the blurb:

Pruett is from Planet Monochrome, where everything is black, white, or gray; everyone follows the rules and walks in straight lines; and they never, ever ask or answer questions. But then Soo arrives from Planet Prismatic. She’s bursting with brilliant colors! She zigs and zags all over the place! When she asks Pruett questions, he finds he wants to reply…and his whole world starts to change.With a palette that shifts from grayscale to full color, this engaging story reminds us that what you feel defines who you are—and, sometimes, a friend can help you see that best.

Here’s my review:

A lively and kid-friendly story that lets young readers know something important. That it is okay to be yourself and do what feels good. Different doesn’t mean wrong, because once we get to know each other, we find things we have in common. Whether it’s blending in or standing out in a unique way, it’s A-Okay!

I am giving away a copy of this brilliant book to one lucky reader chosen at random from those who leave comments. If you share this post on social media, let me know and I will add a second entry in your name.

An Oldie, But Still a Goodie…Artie Bennett Presents: POOPENDOUS: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop.

I don’t know about you, but I could always use a good laugh. And light-hearted picture books can often be the best remedy when we need to smile. On that note, it gives me great pleasure to present a book from a few years back that still delights kids young and old. A book about something all creatures have in common. POOP.

Just saying the word makes kids laugh, and this hilarious picture book will make those laughs come…along with some educational insight into the various uses for the substance no one talks about in polite company. Kick off your shoes (but be careful where you step) as we explore the world of #2!

POOPENDOUS: The Inside Scoop on Every Type and Use of Poop by Artie Bennet (Illustrated by Mike Moran) is a pun-filled and entertaining look at one of nature’s most reviled, maligned, and misunderstood substances.

Poopendous_CVR

Here’s the blurb:

“Everyone poops—yes, it’s true—from aardvarks to the humped zebu.”  

Artie Bennett, author of the award-winning and much-acclaimed The Butt Book, delivers the inside scoop on every type and use of poop in his “number two,” spanking-new picture book. In hilarious verses, with eye-popping illustrations, Poopendous! relates the many, often remarkable uses of poop throughout the world while paying homage to its prolific producers, from cats to bats to wombats! Virtuoso illustrator Mike Moran gives us a Noah’s Ark of animals doing their less-than-solemn doody. So pick up your pooper-scooper and come along for a riotously rib-tickling ride. You just may agree that poop is truly quite . . . poopendous! 

Here’s a sampling of the delight found inside the pages:

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Great Combination of Fun and Facts! 

“3 cheers 4 a great poet who 
Lets kid know all about number 2. 
Artie’s 6 sense of fun 
Makes his book number 1, 
And I give it a 5-star review!” 

—Judy Sierra, celebrated children’s author 

http://www.amazon.com/Poopendous-Artie-Bennett/product-reviews/1609051904 

Artie Bennett:  author of the superfun children’s books   thumbnail_Artie_Prospect Park Zoo

The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn’t 

The Butt Book 
 

Belches, Burps, and FartsOh My! 
 

Poopendous! 

Peter Panda Melts Down! 

What’s Afoot! Your Complete, Offbeat Guide to Feet 

The Universe’s Greatest Dinosaur Jokes and Pre-Hysteric Puns 

The Universe’s Greatest School Jokes and Rip-Roaring Riddles 

ArtieBennett.com 
 

The Joy and Magic of…CRAYONS.

Close your eyes and take a trip back to your childhood. No matter what age you are, wasn’t there a time when getting a brand new box of 64 colors Crayola crayons rocked your world? The smell of new crayons, fresh from the box, the array of colors begging to be used, awaiting your creativity. It is hard to find someone who hasn’t used, enjoyed, or created something special with crayons.

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Today is NATIONAL CRAYON DAY. To celebrate, I thought I’d share a few fun things about these magic wands of creativity.

THE FIRST BOX OF CRAYOLA CRAYONS MADE IN 1903 COST ONLY A NICKEL AND INCLUDED THE COLORS RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, VIOLET, BROWN, AND BLACK. When I bought my first box of crayons, this 8 Pack cost a quarter.

IT’S BEEN SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN THAT THE SMELL OF A CRAYON IS UNIVERSAL. A study done by Yale on the 20 most recognizable scents ranked crayons number 18.

THE AVERAGE CHILD WEARS DOWN 720 CRAYONS BY THEIR TENTH BIRTHDAY. Talk about creativity…I’m willing to bet many of those crayons were used to make “I LOVE YOU” cards for parents.

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CRAYOLA MAKES 3 BILLION CRAYONS A YEAR. That’s enough crayons to circle the world six times!

AMERICA’S FAVORITE CRAYON COLOR IS BLUE. We like it so much that the top ten favorites included these other shades of blue: cerulean, midnight blue, aquamarine, periwinkle, denim and blizzard blue.  

Big Blue is the world’s largest crayon.
Big Blue

Getty Images

The giant was made from 123,000 leftover blue crayons collected from kids around the nation. It weighs a whopping 1,500 pounds and is almost 16 feet long!

Crayons are so popular, books have been written about them:

For ideas on how to enjoy the magic of crayons, visit: https://www.crayolaexperience.com/

THREE CHEERS FOR CRAYONS... Long may they continue to inspire creativity.