Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

We were incredibly lucky during Hurricane Sandy. We only lost power for a few hours and we had no property damage. This afternoon we went out to survey the damage behind our house.

I'm thinking of all of the people who may still be suffering without water, electricity, flooding, or even worse, especially in the NYC area. Stay safe everyone.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Play Outside!

My sister and my 2 1/2-year-old niece are visiting from San Francisco this week. On her first morning here, my neice couldn't wait to get outside. My sister and I were still both a little sleepy and didn't really want to go outside then.

But she kept saying, "I want to go outside."

So I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my cup of coffee and trailed her out into the yard. She didn't even wait long enough to put on her shoes- she just went right out into the autumn morning in her bare feet.

I had forgotten how much my children used to ask to go outside when they were her age. I think the main difference with my children now is that they're older so they don't need me to go outside.

They might say, "Mom I'm going out," or "I'm going to ride my bike," and then they head out the door.  But my niece isn't old enough to be running around the yard by herself. Especially since she doesn't know my yard and we live on a busy street.

My niece spent maybe 10 minutes outside. She ran in the grass, dug in the sandbox, and played on the climber. Then she decided she was hungry and went back inside. That little outside stint was enough to satisfy her. Later, once my kids were home from school (her "big cousins") she chased them around the yard and jumped in our monster leaf pile with them.

The outside fun with her cousins continued yesterday with an investigation of what's left of our garden. When my sister went out to check on them, they were huddled around a rosemary plant picking and eating the leaves. They also tasted some alpine strawberries, fennel seeds, and garlic chives. Later, over dinner, my niece said, "You have a nice garden."

So today, I have no particular suggestions... Just a reminder that kids need unstructured outside time. If you have a yard, just let your kids go explore. If not, try to take them to an outdoor a space like a public park. Have no agenda.  Let them wander aimlessly, watch the clouds go by, or explore as they wish.

When did your kids last enjoy unstructured time in nature? How can you provide more opportunities for them?

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Richard Louv in New Bedford, MA

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Deep and Permanent Change

Machu Picchu, Peru
I have a busy week hosting Otha Day of "Drum to the Beat" at my kids' school and then my sister and niece from California. So today, rather than a lengthy post, I offer this quotation as food for thought.

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.  ~Miriam Beard

What do you think? Does this ring true for you? 

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Go Mushroom Hunting With Your Kids

Photo taken in Bartlett, NH 6 Oct 2012
Many people associate autumn with aging and the approach of death. Indeed many poems have been written about being in the "autumn" of one's life. Sure, annual plants die during the first frost. Deciduous trees lose their leaves and  look dead to some. But around here, mushroom/fungi seem to come to life out of nowhere during September and October.

Have you noticed how many are around? Last year, I took a walk and focused on locating and photographing the variety of mushrooms I saw. Yesterday, I left my camera at home but saw just as many when I was out in our woods.

So here's a nature adventure for you and your kids this weekend- go out mushroom hunting! Maybe hand your kids a point and shoot camera and see how many they can photograph. (Use the "macro" setting to get good shots. The symbol looks like a flower on most cameras). Later, you can try to identify them using a field guide, if you choose.

CAUTION: Just remember that many mushrooms are poisonous. Only trained experts should pick and eat mushrooms. In fact, I generally encourage my kids not to touch mushrooms because I can't identify the poisonous ones. If we do touch them, we immediately wash our hands thoroughly.

How many different kinds of mushrooms do you think you can find? Have your kids make a prediction before you go out. Then, I hope you'll report back to us!

If you don't live in the northeast or an area with lots of mushrooms right now, what organism can you search out this weekend? I'd love to hear what you find.

Related Posts:
Mushroom Hunting
Stress Therapy: Get Back To Nature

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Leaf on Rock

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Fall Leaves- This post suggests fall leaf crafts you can do with kids, including a modern twist on an old placemat activity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Real Travel

Real travel is not comfy,  says Ilan Stavans. It’s not tourism.  It’s a journey.  Maybe a pilgrimage. A search.  A getting lost. 

Back in July, Tom Ashbrook featured Ilan Stavans on his show. I was just back from our latest travel adventure and missed it at the time. I finally listened to the podcast last Friday. It offers an interesting perspective on travel. I hope you 'll find some time to listen. You'll likely want to download it and listen on a portable device in your car or something- it's about 45 minutes long.

If you want to be a more thoughtful traveler and perhaps turn your journey into a sort of pilgrimage, check out The Way of the Traveler by Joseph Dispenza.

I first read this book more than ten years ago and I confess-I did not initially connect to all of the content. Over time, however, I've grown to see the wisdom of Dispenza's words and have found that the more I follow his suggestions, the more transformative my trips have been.

What do you think about the distinction between travel and tourism? What is "real" travel? Is one kind of travel inherently right while other options are wrong?

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Close to Home

This weekend my family spent the long weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with friends. Without traffic, it's about a three and a half hour road trip, so it's pretty close to home.

We climbed a mountain on Sunday. It's funny to see how kids choose to go up vs. how adults (with longer legs) go. My daughter went through a skinny gap in the rocks. Right around here is where my she said, "This is fun!"

Here we are at the top.

Whoops. We almost lost a few kids over the edge. (Don't worry...it's only an optical illusion. Boy did they have fun with this!)

On Monday, we went spelunking at Lost River Gorge. Ok, so not the serious kind of caving that serious spelunkers do, but we had a great time. My husband and all the kids went though the lemon squeezer but I opted out... too claustrophobic for me. 

This one was a tight squeeze but I managed it!

I know I've written often about traveling internationally on this blog, but that's not the only way to travel. We love exploring natural places close to home. Every part of the world has features that make it unique. And, if money it tight for your family, perhaps a road trip is more manageable. 

How was your long weekend? Did you get out in nature? What did you see? What local area is your favorite to visit?

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Travel Tuesdays: Mount Desert Island in Chatham, MA.
Travel Tuesdays: Top 10 tips for Traveling With Children
Travel Tuesdays: Be a Traveler in Your Hometown or State

Friday, October 5, 2012

Cooking With Kids

On Tuesday, I shared a list of my favorite cookbooks. Then, on Wednesday, when I was at my kids' Pediatrician's office, I was reminded of another cooking resource I wanted to share with you:  ChopChop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families that is distributed free through Pediatrician's offices in our area.

From their magazine:
"ChopChop's mission is to inspire and teach kids to cook and eat real food with their families."

"We believe that cooking and eating together as a family is a vital step in resolving the obesity and hunger epidemics."

If cooking as a family is new to you, you won't find a better resource than this quarterly magazine. The recipes are kid-friendly and kid-tested. Every step is explained in language accessible to kids (and adults who may not be comfortable in the kitchen). Beautiful photographs show a variety of kids cooking together and enjoying what they cooked.  Kids can complete some of the recipes alone while others require adult assistance. All clearly indicate when adult supervision is needed. The magazine also provides fun activities related to cooking and healthy living. For example, the fall issue includes as an article written by a teenager about beekeeping and directions for sprouting celery on a kitchen windowsill.

One unspoken part of the magazine that I also love is the children who are shown in the photographs. Children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds are shown engaged in cooking and having fun in the kitchen. The fall cover shows a variety of children including a girl who may be Muslim since she's wearing what appears to be a head scarf. I'm happy to see a magazine that portrays all kinds of kids doing the everyday job of cooking. (If only there were more children's books that did the same!)

ChopChop is a non-profit organization. Readers can pick up the magazine in Pediatrician's offices or subscribe. A Pay-It-Forward Subscription, which costs $14.95, gets a subscription for you plus a family or community in need. There are also many other ways you can donate to help bring this resource to families or communities in need.  Communities in need can contact ChopChop through their website. They offer bulk rates to Doctor's offices, community health centers, teachers, etc.

If you haven't seen ChopChop, I hope you'll check it out. You can also visit their website through the links I've provided in this post. Even if you can't access the magazine, the website includes tons of great recipes.

Does your family Read ChopChop? Do you know of other resources that may be helpful to readers?

A few of my favorite fall recipes:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Travel Tuesdays: Cookbooks

By now you realize how much I enjoy cooking. I especially enjoy cooking foods from other cultures. Today, I'll share my favorite cookbooks that will take your palates on a little vacation.

Note: Try checking them out of your local library and taking them for a test drive before you buy them. That's what I did with many of these.

1. Hands down, my favorite, go-to cookbook is Where Flavor Was Born by Andreas Viestad, photographs by Mette Randem. Part geography book, part history lesson, part photo book, it also has amazing recipes. I haven't cooked every recipe, yet, but all of the ones I've made (and that's many, if not most of them) have been awesome. Last week we made "Cumin Toasted Chicken Drumsticks with Honey" for a dinner party. Our 9 year old guest said, "This chicken in heavenly!"

2. The Essential Asian Cookbook by Wendy Stephens. Noticing a pattern? I love cookbooks with lots of photos. Especially when I'm cooking something I've never seen, never mind eaten. How else am I supposed to know what it looks like?

3. Rice and Risotto by Christine Ingram. Can you say wild mushroom and Parmesan risotto? Mmmmm. Many other delicious recipes, too!

4. The Vegetarian Table: North Africa by Kitty Morse. North Africans are not typically vegetarians, but this cookbook captures the flavors of the Maghreb. One of my favorite recipes is "Couscous T'Faya" (Couscous with Caramelized Onions and Raisins). I made it before our trip to Morocco and was pleasantly surprised to have this exact dish when we were there.

5. The Iraqi Cookbook by Lamees Ibrahim. I've already shared the recipes for Timman Queemah and Timman Jazar from this cookbook. It offers a wonderful look into the culture of a country many people only associate with war. 

6. My favorite cookbook for those just venturing into cooking from other cultures is Global Feast Cookbook: Recipes from Around the World by Mystic Seaport Museum. It was my first cookbook of this sort and it eased me in. Many of the recipes have been altered slightly to accommodate American ingredients and cooking styles. It's a good place to start. Two drawbacks: 1. no photographs, 2. it's out of print. (Amazon offer used ones for sale).

7. The Usborne Internet-Linked Children's World Cookbook by Angela Wilkes and Fiona Watt. My kids have been cooking with me for long enough that they love to use my "adult" cookbooks. For budding chefs, however, this offers a nice, easy way to start. (Usborne also offers other cooking titles).

There you have it: my favorite cook books. What are yours?