Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day-Activities, Kids Crafts, Photography, Baking, Cooking

I love Earth Day kind of stuff. This should give you plenty of ideas to do, things to think about, or maybe even something to inspire you with!

How about Fairy Gardens?
I love doing as many outdoor activities as I can, with my children. This is their Fairy Gardens, that they made all by themselves. There is one pot for each of them. One day I will show you directions for this and some closeups of the neat parts to this. I made a few things for my kids. One fun thing was a glider swing out of popsicle sticks and walnut shells! Anything goes here, and it is only limited by your imagination. Google Fairy gardens and you will find that you can even buy some fun things for these kinds of gardens like gnome homes, fences, or accessories! I loved all the tiny magical doors that I found in these stores! Our Fairy Gardens were made only out of recycled materials that my kids found around the house or yard (though in all fairness, for my kids to make things out of the house is quite easy as they do have a FULLY stocked craft room!).
Other ideas for outdoor fun with the kids would be to have them grow their own playhouses! Not build them, grow them. This is a bean and Pea teepee. First make sure to prepare your soil very well. Just map out a circle and prepare the soil along that circle. We used branches from our own trees and tied them together at the top. Then, you plant beans and peas. As the plants grow, their teepee will fill in! Sorry the photo isn't the best, this was taken years before I blogged and thought about setting up a nice shot, and before I had a nice camera!

What about a sunflower playhouse? Again, this was taken before I blogged! ;) But I love doing these kinds of playhouse/gardens for the kids! Do you know why sunflowers have their name? It's not because they look like the sun, it's because their flower head follows the sun through the course of the day! I love these kinds of facts.

Or what about just starting a garden with your kids? My kids love gardening with me. I always make sure to at least find room in the yard for a salsa garden, as we really love our fresh salsa and guacamole. Right now I'm even using Avacados straight from a friends trees! I usually get my lemons or limes from my Mother's trees. All the rest of the ingredients come from my own garden. When we make salsa I have my kids go and gather the ingredients for me. It not only keeps them involved in making the salsa, but also gives them a more complete understanding of where our food comes from. My littlest one even knows which plant is Cilantro, because he helps gather it for me! I give them parameters for picking things. This way they learn (by doing) when a plant is ready for harvest. They also learn that if they touch tomato leaves, their hands will smell like tomatoes! My kids help me with every stage of this process. Because of this, my kids know that when we thin out the carrots, we can still eat even the tiniest sliver of a carrot and it already has that great carrot taste! The above picture shows my daughter puffing up some of those soil pellets, in preparation for planting seeds. We live in the dessert and so are able to start our seeds in January, and then plant as early as February and March. I actually have quite a few plants that are still growing from the seeds that we planted January of 2008! So, my production of tomatoes, carrots, green peppers, cilantro, green onions, and salad greens are already producing veggies!

When you do gardens with your kids be creative (such as growing their playhouses!). Here is one of the pots my daughter painted. In it are her zuchinni plants that she chose to grow (I always let them pick one kind of plant that they want to grow. Next to it are those plants that eat bugs. Kind of gross to me, but fantastic for kids to get to watch!

You don't have to have a large area, either. I fit my garden in, a little here and a little there. That tiny garden in the picture above is only about 8 inches wide by 24 inches long. I prepared the soil, planted some poles deep, stapled a net up for the vines to grow up instead of out (since there is very little space here) and enclosed it with cheap bricks. Because of the location (afternoon shade) of it, it packs quite a wallop for it's size! Last year I grew zuchinni, yellow squash, carrots, green onions, and tomatoes out of it, all at the same time!!! This year I am doing tons of my salad greens, instead of the carrots there, as I try to rotate my crops.

Do you want something easier and quicker, that you can do tomorrow, for this year's Earth Day, with your kids?
Just be outside with them! There are so many outdoor activities to do. Again, this will just be limited by your imagination. Have a picnic. We love having picnics on my recycled jean quilt. I made this thing over 10 years ago and it's the perfect go-to quilt for picnics. You just throw it in the washer when you are all done and you are good to go for your next picnic or watching fireworks.

Using a quilt like this is a great conversation starter. Discuss the theory behind the concept of reduce/reuse/recycle. Talk about it being Earth Day and what that means. Brainstorm all your favorite outdoor places to be, or places you would like to visit. Plan outings with your kids. We love hiking, camping, kayaking, sailing, hanging out on the beach, etc. Plan these kinds of activities because they won't just happen on their own. After planning a few fantastic trips (last year we camped at Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon for the first time), ask how the kids would feel if those places were gone. This is a great seg-way to why we need to reduce/reuse/recycle. Maybe make a commitment to not buy anything new this year. Or make a commitment to reduce your carbon footprint. Here are some ways that we are trying to do just that:
Oh my lovely compost! I am not kidding you, this thing makes me so happy. I have always wanted one and didn't have one for so many years. This beauty was super cheap at Walmart! Great, right?! Not only is it fantastic because our garden loves it so, but it is reducing our carbon footprint. We throw our kitchen and yard scraps into here. All that green in there is the tops from our carrots! You can also see some eggshells in there! I will admit, I'm a bit...in love with this whole system! Of course the triple threat of this is that all that trash stays out of our landfills! Yay!
Other things we do to reduce our carbon footprint are giving our old toys and clothes to the DI and Goodwill. We also shop in these stores and other second hand stores. Not only is this fabulous for the wallet, it's so smart. We love Craigslist and Freecycle, and garage sale-ing as well! These are things that are just win-win! We save lots of weird things like boxes, ribbons, etc for use in our crafts. Anjeanette has that neat-O lunch box system called laptop lunches. It helps reduce packaging and should help you plan and make healthy lunches for your kids. I use reusable tupperware for my kids foods, and not the disposable ones or ziplock baggies. I also try to buy things in large containers, to cut down on packaging. I try to make up batches of things on the weekend, that I can then just throw into their lunches in the morning and they are good to go. This would be things like, applesauce. I buy a large container of applesauce and then pour it into small tupperware containers. I also do this with fresh and canned fruit, nuts, crackers, and even their juice. Although their drink I put in a thermos. I also like to use the thermos for hot soups or other warm leftovers from dinner! The kids also can use these as afternoon snacks. When they come home from school they can get themselves their own small container of yogurt with fresh strawberries and blueberries already diced up into it! They love getting to choose their own snacks, and I love the ease of it and the fact that their was only one large container and not a million little ones to add to our landfills.

We run a business from home that has lots of stuff being mailed to us. We always reuse those boxes, and many times we have things that are shipped on pallets. We take those pallets apart to reuse them. Right now I have a dresser that I took apart and is awaiting it's new life. I can't wait to show you how that project turns out! Aren't those boards just screaming for a makeover? I also mow our lawn with a handpushed lawn mower. The kids rake up the grass and leaves and add it all to my compost! My Mom has these glorious citrus trees. The only problem is that most of it becomes ripe at the same time. Even with all of us taking lots of the bounty, she is still left with way too much. So, I take lots more than we can ever eat before it goes bad.
Yup, we make Orange Juice and Lemonade!
Even that I make too much of. Then, I freeze the Orange Juice in ice cubes for future Juice, or to use in cooking. Don't forget to grate the peels. I even freeze this for use in my cooking. But that's a lot of peels still going to waste. So, I throw plenty down the drain. They are perfect for your garbage disposal. Freshens that thing right up.
The rest, I blend in my Magic Bullet (man how I love that machine) and throw it into my compost! Every bit of those oranges can be used!!

Back to what to do with your kids on Earth Day. How about Kayaking?

We love kayaking, sailing, boating, ATVing, going to the beach, water skiing, camping, hiking (did I say those 2 already? love them!), ice block sledding. Want something more simple or closer? How about get back to that quilt on the grass. Lay on the ground and watch the clouds move. Really, just lay there. Teach young kids how you can "see" the air by watching the clouds or plants and trees move. Feel the sun. Listen to the wind and all of the animals. Really take the time to use all your senses here. Spot as many animals and creatures in your backyard as you can. We spotted all of these following things in my backyard during our last picnic. Let's play the "Where's Waldo?" game and see if you can spot the animals or insects.

Oh I love when gecko's do push-ups. Have you ever seen how they hold still, and then push their bodies up and down? I swear they are doing push-ups and I love it. There were 3 of these guys chasing each other around in a circle. I only got 2 of them in this picture. We often see them without a tail. Yuck.
Easy to spot this butterfly! Gorgeous!
And the bee? Do you see it inside of the yellow flower?
This is my Mom's favorite-a Quail. She always has Quail move in to her nest. I kid you not. She has this nest on her patio that is home to many birds every year. All different kinds of them, too. It's in a perfect spot to keep your eye on it because it is right outside of the kitchen window where you would do dishes at the sink. While my Mom loves watching all of her bird families, she is totally partial to Quail. They are so cute as they run across your yard with the 2 parents in front and all the little kids in a line behind them! And the feathers on top of their head are so neat!
OK so this is a cheat. There is no animal to be found, and it's not from my backyard that same day. This is a nest my kids and I watch on our way to the bus stop. I love the hole on the side of that thing. Boy do the parents get squaky at us when we walk by it! We love it.

What about going geo-caching? This has taken us to some neat places that we would never have seen had we not been on the lookout for a geo-cache. There are tons right in your own neighborhood, even! We do the ones in our neighborhood, find ones that will be a drive and then a hike, and also look up ones for wherever we will be camping or visiting. That picture is of one of the actual geo-cache "bugs" that you can find.

You all know about this by now, don't you? If not, look it up on the internet. It's basically a treasure hunt! My family even made our own! It's a great way to get kids excited for a hike!

Things to do at home!
How about making something new from fresh foods. We tried out applesauce for the first time this year. Talk about super easy and soooo yummy! Make shakes or slushies with fresh fruit.

Do recycled crafts with your kids. We are always making things out of toilet paper tubes, boxes, fruit baskets, leftover ribbon, etc. Cut fruits and veggies in half and stamp with them! Puree them up and paint with them. Do a taste and smell testing. Use garlic, onions, strawberries, vanilla beans, tomato leaves, bananas, oranges, limes, lemons, cilantro, rosemary, flowers, etc. These things really help a child think about the foods and where the come from (and what forms they naturally come in!)

Go for a walk around the neighborhood. Do a color, shape, or alphabet hunt out of nature (plants, clouds, animals, etc).
Once you start looking they are easier to find. This carrot is a "Y" to me. Try finding the rainbow. Start looking for something red, then orange, etc. Or only look for certain colors.

Either you get behind the lens, or even let the kids!
On your walk, bring cameras. Let the kids take pictures of the things you were in search of. Wouldn't this be a fantastic red?
Or what about those cherry tomatoes for a red?

Even in the dessert they can find so many colors, in just one picture. Red, orange, yellow, and green! This is all from the same plant even! For older kids you can make the photo challenge a bit tougher and try to make them find the whole rainbow in a shot, or at least a few colors in each shot!

Once they start doing this, they may start seeing how beautiful even their neighborhood is. I really love the flowers from zuchinni! I may even start planting them in my front yard because I find them so beautiful. I also think the lush green leaves and vines are so amazing!

Or even grapes are so ornamental! Peas and beans can also have these gorgeous tendrils! So beautiful!

And you thought the dessert was colorless! Look at this beautiful cactus!
A perfect heart for a shape search!

Last, what about an all out fun photoshoot with your kids, out in nature?!

There really are a limitless number of things that you can choose to do for Earth Day. If you don't have time to do them on Earth Day, any day is a perfect day to be Earth Day and do any of these activities!


Katrina here....

I save containers like glass jars and those plastic peanut butter jars. I use the glass ones to hold some of my baking supplies. The nicer glass jars may end up as gifts-in-a-jar with decorated lids. The plastic jars are great for items like pretzels, nuts, chocolate chips and anything else that comes in a bag. They make traveling with that kind of thing nice too. I have also used these jars for homemade goodies, like the chicken noodle soup I just made for Anjeanette as part of a get well basket!

My boys are always catching bugs and going into my kitchen to raid the plastic containers we use for left overs. I am not so keen on that. So I wash out and remove the labels to large plastic jars. I use a corn cob skewer to poke holes in the lid. In the past I have even cut out much of the inside of the lid and glued in a piece of light cotton. A jar that would have ended up in the recycle bin and a piece of remnant fabric left over from some other project made into a bug jar.

Often times I buy my salad greens in those plastic tubs. In my laundry room I used two of them. One to hold the Baking Soda (that I add to every load) and the other to hold the Oxy Clean. I usually get both in bulk at Costco. I found that the containers they come in aren't easy to get in and out off when on the shelf. The salad tubs are perfect for this. Also, we keep one around to put our kitchen waist in so we can take it out to our compost bin. When it gets beat up, we put it in the recycle bin and use another one. Recently, I used one to put the boys bubble wands in.

Speaking of bubbles. Do you have corn syrup in your cabinet that you have had there forever? Try this bubble recipe. 1 cup dish soap like Joy or Dawn (they are suppose to be the best for bubbles), 4 cups water and 1/4 corn syrup. The corn syrup acts like the glycerin. Raise your hand if you have corn syrup in your cabinet.............me! I do and it has been there for years!! I had a jug of bubble solution that we just finished. So I made up my own bubbles and refilled the jug. Don't have a jug of bubbles, use a juice container, or milk jug. Use those plastic soda bottles. Get out your pipe cleaners and wire coat hangers and make some bubbles.

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