Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kaleidoscope Winter Celebration

Kaleidoscope Winter Celebration
Join us for a FREE Open House!
Wednesday, December 21, from 1 to 5 pm, FREE, All ages!
Join us for light snacks, crafts and more! We're hosting four hours of fun demonstrations and activities, as a thank to all of the amazing people who have made Kaleidoscope's first year so wonderful!

1 to 2 pm - Paper plate pop up snowman craft! A fun winter decoration that's easy to make.

2 to 3 pm - A holiday-inspried demonstration of Lango language programs, coming to KLC in 2012. Learn more about Lango's innovative, engaging, immersive program at

3 to 4 pm - Winter constellations exploration. Make your own star wheel and discover all that the night sky has to offer this season!

4 to 5 pm - Marybeth Journe will be sharing a fun nature-based craft as a demonstration of her exciting new art class, Creative Expressions, coming in 2012!

All day - Robin Slaw will be on hand to help you start your new year off with great health. Come learn about preventing breast cancer!

All day - Come and play in our playroom, enjoy a cup of coffee, tea of cider, have a cookie or some fruit and just relax.

All programs held at Kaleidoscope Learning Center, 2 Footbridge Lane, Blairstown, next to Footbridge Park in the first floor of the red building.

KLC is available for rental! Host your next meeting, class, small party or activity with us. Have an idea for a program? We would LOVE to hear from you and support your vision!

Gifts certificates are available! Give the gift of learning this holiday season! For every $50 in gift certificates you buy, you'll get a $5 certificate for yourself! (And yes, you can buy them for yourself and pocket the savings!) Email or call 908-283-0020 for information.

Keep up to date with Kaleidoscope Learning Center at our website Or get DAILY updates on our Facebook page,

Rube Goldberg

Later today, I'll be taking my Crazy Contraptions class into my daughters' school for their independent project day. It's basically an extension of the Rube Goldberg project I used to do with my 8th Grade physical science class.


Rube Goldberg machines are basically contraptions that do in many, many steps what any reasonable person could do in one simple step. They are named for an American cartoonist (and engineer and sculptor), Rube Goldberg, who published drawings of these crazy devices while working at a San Francisco newspaper. He went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

Why did he draw these machines? Goldberg is quoted as saying his cartoons are a "symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results." In other words, he thought people simply liked to do things the hard way, and if technology was involved, all the better.

Each year Purdue University hosts a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for high school and college level students. It has become so popular that winners appear on national T.V. shows like Good Morning America and Late Night With David Letterman.

The cool thing about these machines is that they are awesome ways to explore engineering, physics and art. I like to build in a lesson on simple machines. After reviewing wedges, inclined planes, levers, screws, wheels and axels and pulleys, challenging students to create a complex machine a la Rube Goldberg with as many simple machines included as they can manage is really fun. The task can be made as formal or informal as desired. For my Crazy Contraptions class, students 4th grade and up can usually create a 3-5 step machine with a simple goal in 2 hours, using toys and junk from around the house. For a more formal class, select a harder task (watering a plant), require more steps, limit material choices, expand materials choices or require that all the simple machines be included (or that all of Newton's Laws of Motion be demonstrated).

So, I encourage everyone to get out there and build some crazy machines. It's fun! And it's science! As we part, please enjoy this inspiration.

If you're a MythBusters fan (and who isn't) you may also enjoy their Christmas themed machine. And when you start feeling down because your machine isn't working just as you planned, watch this Honda ad, The Cog. It took 605 tries to get this one good take!

World of Goo!

Since Caitie got to do her Spa Day, Gwen wanted to help me plan a class as well. We came up with The World of Goo. Once again, I tried to plan too many projects, but I guess that just leaves me with more for another class.

The toughest of the projects was the bouncy ball. I used a recipe adapted from an American Chemical Society activity, but wasn't very happy with it. After some experimentation, I had a better ball. (More on that tomorrow.) However, I guess I had made so many of the darn things by then that I took for granted the finesse involved. It's one thing to do the chemistry, quite another to actually mold the ball by hand. About half the balls worked out perfectly. A few kids over mixed and got crumbles. Some kneaded the mixture a bit too long and got odd shaped balls. I think if I do it again, I'll have extra set ups so that kids can repeat the experiment if needed.

From the science end we mostly talked about mixtures in all their glory. We discussed the differences between a solution (the most homogeneous mixture), suspensions (the most heterogeneous) and colloids (somewhere in between the two). We demonstrated colloids with one of my favorite non-Newtonian fluids -- Oobleck. The old cornstarch and water mixture has so many interesting properties and is just fun to play with. (And MESSY!) Then we made a Borax solution and tried our hand at polymerization. Yea, slime!

Anyway, below are the recipes we used and some others we didn't get to. Have fun!

World of GOO!!!


½ cup school glue – white or gel
1 tsp Borax powder
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. Pour the glue into a bowl. If desired, add food coloring.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix water and Borax. Fully dissolve Borax into solution.
  3. Slowly pour the glue mixture into the bowl of borax solution.
  4. Place the slime that forms into your hands and knead until it feels dry. The more the slime is played with, the firmer and less sticky it will become.
  5. Discard water in bowl.
  6. Store your slime in a zip-lock bag in the fridge (otherwise it will develop mold).


1 ½ to 2 cups cornstarch
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. In a bowl, mix 1 cup water with 1.5 cups cornstarch.
  2. Work in more cornstarch if you want a more 'solid' oobleck.
  3. It will take about 10 minutes of mixing to get nice homogeneous oobleck.
  4. Mix in a few drops of food coloring if you want colored oobleck.


1 tsp Metamucil
1 cup water
Food coloring

  1. Mix Metamucil with water in a microwaveable bowl. Add a drop or two of food coloring if you wish.
  2. Place bowl in the microwave and cook on high for 4-5 minutes (actual time depends on microwave power) or until the goo is about to bubble out of the bowl. Turn off the microwave.

  1. Let the mixture cool slightly, then repeat step 3 another four to five times.
  2. Pour the flubber onto a plate or cookie sheet. (HOT!) Allow to cool.

No Cook Playdough

1 cup of flour
1 cup of boiling water
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1/2 cup of salt
1 tablespoon of oil
Food coloring

Simply mix all the ingredients together! Be careful as it can be quite hot.

Basic Salt Dough

1 cup of fine salt
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup of water (may add more)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the salt and the flour.
  2. Make a well in the salt/flour mixture and add the water.
  3. Knead until smooth and shape into a ball.
  4. When not in use, wrap in plastic or store in an airtight container.
  5. This will air dry, but to speed it up, place in a 250 degree oven until dry (1 hour for flat shapes, more for 3D.)

Bouncy Ball

1 tsp Borax
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp glue
1 tbsp cornstarch
Food Coloring

  1. Heat water until hot. Add borax and mix well. Add color if desired.
  2. In a separate cup, put glue and cornstarch. Do not mix.
  3. Add borax solution to second cup. Let sit for 10 to 15 seconds. Mix well.
  4. When you cannot mix anymore, remove from cup and knead well with hands. Form into a ball.

Spa Day

So Caitie wanted to do something special with her friends. She and I put together some recipes for "spa" products and then created a class, which we held on Monday. We definitely tried to fit too many projects into the time we had, but it was a really fun day. The lip gloss and bath bombs were the biggest hits.

One fun thing we talked about was the idea that there are top, middle and bottom notes in fragrances. Top notes are fresh and light. As the most volatile scents, they're the first you smell, but the scent evaporates quickly and doesn't last too long. Citrus and mint scents generally fall into the this category. Middle notes are the heart of a fragrance. They balance the rest of the notes and create the warmth and body of a scent. This note can make up as much as 80% of the fragrance. The bottom notes last the longest and are deep and rich. Woodsy and spicy scents form the bottom notes. So I challenged the kids to try to hit all the notes in their body sprays.

Since we didn't get to play with soap as much as we had hoped, we're going to plan a whole class devoted to soapmaking, probably in January. Fun!

Here are the recipes we used!

Special Spa Recipes

Lip Gloss:

1 tbsp shortening
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp olive oil (optional, for a thinner, glossier product)

To tint and flavor:
Wilton cake decorating icing colors
Concentrated flavor oils for candy making
OR… Dissolve one packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid into ¼ tsp hot water

Mix base ingredients together until thoroughly blended. (You may heat for 10 seconds in a microwave to aid mixing. Do not melt.) Add desired color and flavor. Store in a covered container.

Bath Bomb:

1 cup baking soda
½ cup citric acid
½ Epsom salts
½ corn starch
2 tsp water
1 tbsp oil (olive, almond, coconut)
1 or 2 drops of food coloring as desired
Scent (essential oils or commercial soap scent)

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. Mix liquid ingredients ina  small jar and shake until mix. (They will separate. It’s ok.) SLOWLY add wet ingredients to dry, a tsp at a time, whisking as you go. When all wet ingredients are added, form the bath bomb by pressing it into a mold. The compact it is, the better the end result. Let dry and unmold. Store in a plastic bag or container and KEEP DRY! Use within 6 months.

Foot Soak:

3 cups Epsom Salt
2 cups sea salt
1 cup baking soda (optional)
Several drops of peppermint essential oil
Food coloring as desired

Combine all dry ingredients. Add color and scent drop by drop, mixing to achieve desired result. Store in an airtight container. Use ¼ cup in warm water for a foot soak.

Cleopatra’s Milk and Honey Bath Salts:

2 cups of powdered milk
1 cup of Epsom salt
1 cup of sea salt
1/2 cup of baking soda
2 tbsp. Honey
1 tbsp. oil (olive, almond, coconut)
Vanilla scent (optional, extract or commercial soap scent)

Combine all dry ingredients. Combine honey and oil. Add liquid to dry ingredients. Mix well. (You may need to use your hands.) Add scent. Store in an airtight container. Use ½ cup in a warm bath to soothe and moisturize skin.

Body Spray:

¼ cup ethanol
¼ cup distilled water
2 vitamin E capsules
Essential oils

Combine ethanol and water in spray bottle. Pierce vitamin E capsules with a pin and add liquid to bottle. Cap and shake well. Add essential oils until desired scent is achieved. Cap and shake well. Shake before each use.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Annex

After falling trees, floods and freak snowstorms, Kaleidoscppe has had a lot of trouble settling into a space for classes. We've been very lucky to have the support of our community, particularly that of EcoZOica Consciousness Lounge, who provided us with space for programs while we waitied for renovations to be completed.

Though our little yellow building is still in the works, we have been able to complete a cozy space nearby. Kaleidoscope is now operating out of the first floor of 2 Footbridge Lane, the large red building where Dr. Magalio's dentistry practice is housed. We like to call it "The Annex." There we have a large classroom, a smaller playroom, and a tidy bathroom.

Work will continue on our larger space, but at least we have a home!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sick Day

On Friday both girls had sore throats, stuffy noses and coughs. I decided to keep them home, presumably so that they could rest and regain their health... or barring that, to keep them from spreading the germs to the entire school!

Since throats were scratchy, I wanted to make something soft for a late breakfast. Gwen is a pancake fanatic, so it was an obvious choice. But how can a Mom make it extra special?

I'd seen somewhere that you could use metal cookie cutters to create shaped pancakes and decided to give it a go. I whipped up a batch of our favorite buttermilk pancake mix from my tried and true copy of The Joy of Cooking. Vinegar and milk stepped in for buttermilk, because, really, who keeps that around?

I pulled out my griddle, handed down from Grandma, got the butter melted and dug out the heart cookie cutters. I love cookie cutters, so I actually had many to choose from, but I figured snowmen or stars were less appropriate. Once the butter was sizzling, I placed the cutters on the griddle, poured in batter to fill them about 1/3 of the way and waited for bubbles to show on top and for the pancakes to rise. I flipped the pancakes, cutters and all, and waited for the other side to brown. Then I removed them to a heated plate and started again.

A couple of things I learned:

  1. Use metal cookies cutters that do not have handles on them. It blocks the shape when you try to add batter.
  2. Avoid shapes with intricate patterns or fluted edges. It's harder to remove the pancake later.
  3. Spray your cutters with non-stick spray first. You'll be able to slide the pancakes out more easily. Have a butter knife handy too, to trim "leaks" or remove the pancakes from the cutter. 
  4. A thick batter, like the buttermilk one I made, works better than a runny batter, like that for crepes. A thin batter will tend to slide right under the cutter. Having the griddle nice and hot helps too, because the pancakes set the shape faster.
  5. I let the pancakes cool for a bit before removing them from the cutters. While they cooled, I did a batch of normal round pancakes, which I froze for later. I just alternated back and forth until my double batch of batter was all used. You could also alternate rounds of different cutters.
When they were done I plated the pretty pancakes up on the plate with some maple syrup, a few rainbow sprinkles and a side of peaches. Yum! Even a sick day can be special!

Friday, November 4, 2011

November Programs!

We have many exciting programs scheduled for November. Please join us!

Newton Winter Farmers' Market
Saturdays starting November 5, 10 am to 2 pm, Newton High School, 44 Ryerson Avenue, Newton, NJ! Free crafts and activities for children!

Recycled Geodesic Dome 
Monday, November 7, 3 to 5 pm
Patented by engineer and writer R. Buckminster Fuller, the geodesic dome is super efficient, fast to build and amazingly strong. When constructed, the geodesic dome uses the least possible material to create the largest possible structure, and because of the way weight is distributed, it can demonstrate amazing strength.  Use nothing more than recycled newspaper we’ll build a geodesic dome large enough to sit under! Geometry has never been this all-out cool. Hosted by Sandra Roberts. $5/person plus your own stack of newspaper (the more the better!). Ages 5-13.

Change the World
Wednesday, November 9, 1 to 4 pm
What do you want to change about the world? Civics is the study of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Everyone -- adult and child alike -- can and should be capable of making their voices heard by representatives at every level of government. In this civics class, the emphasis isn't on memorizing how our government works but, instead, on learning and practicing the skills needed to fully participate in our democracy.  By the end of this workshop, every student will come away with a sense that they have the power to change the world around them. Hosted by Elizabeth McCarthy. Best for ages 7-12. $25/person.

Rube Goldberg Machines
Wednesday, November 16, 1:30 to 3:30 pm
American cartoonist, Rube Goldberg, is best known for his detailed drawings of crazy contraptions that were able to complicate simple tasks. The idea has grown into a fun physics and engineering activity, with worldwide appeal and an annual college-level contest in its honor. We’ll use common household materials to create our own machines, learning about forces and simple machines as we go! Hosted by Sandra Roberts. $15/person. Bring some items to include in the machine! Ages 5-13.

Math MAGIC Land
Mondays, November 14 and 21, 3:30 to 5 pm
Based on the popular Disney Movie, Donald in Mathmagic Land, we’ll explore the ways that math is tied to music, architecture, nature, our bodies and much, much more! Students will apply math concepts through experience and hands-on projects. Depending on individual strengths, participants may choose to explore concepts through calculation as well. Hosted by Sandra Roberts. Best for ages 7 to 13. $30/person.

All programs are subject to change. Check the website at for changes. Most programs need at least five students to run. Programs may be cancelled or combined with lack of interest. We suggest registration. Full refunds will be provided if a class is cancelled. Programs in November will be held at EcoZOica Lounge, 23 Main Street, Blairstown, NJ. For more information call 908-283-0020.

Why I love dioramas

When I was in elementary school, we seemed to get assigned a lot of dioramas. It seemed like the diorama and the book report were the de facto methods for summarizing a reading assignment. I can't have been the only one who experienced this phenomena. Heck, it's a running gag on the sitcom Community.

"I can't believe our assignment is to make a diorama of us making a diorama."
So maybe for the Gen X parents of today, the humble diorama may seem cliched. I get that. But here's the thing: I LOVED making them. There were no better words a teacher could utter than, "You can make a diorama." It was like heaven.

I distinctly remember working on an interactive diorama with a moving shark in honor of the amazing book, "Shark Lady: True Adventures of Eugenie Clark." There was also a story about a leprechaun and tying red scarves around trees to hide a pot of gold. I barely remember the story, but I do remember carefully placing trees in my little shoebox and tying tiny strips of red cloth around every one of them.

As I got a bit older, my love of miniature grew to encompass dollhouses. Ah dollhouses! It's like a diorama with lots of shoeboxes strung together! And you can play in it! My Dad and I spent one Christmas break building a dollhouse together in the basement. I've loved it ever since. It's taken years to decorate and furnish it, not that I'll ever be done! My dollhouse has a home now in my basement. Though I've let them look, I haven't yet been brave enough to let my daughters touch my precious dollhouse. I'm working on it. I think it may be easier to build another.

And who can forget the wonderful dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History. As a kid, we took a school field trip there, and walking into the first hall just blew me away. I'd never considered making a life-sized diorama. With REAL stuff! Through those exhibits I visited the plains of Africa and the Arctic tundra. It was amazing. It sparked the young scientist in me and solidified my future as a biologist. And thanks to Stephen Quinn, I can read about how they were made and enjoy these amazing Windows on Nature any time I like.

Alaska Brown Bear Diorama
The bears were my favorite. I have a deep love for bears.

Coming forward to the present day, I still love dioramas. I was planning a new one just yesterday. It'll be a small theater and will feature actors that can be moved with a magnetized wand under the stage. I'm hoping to have it finished as a gift for Gwen by Christmas. 

Anyway, let's get your creative juices going too! Below are some great links to get your started.

This whimsical Winter Lake project isn't technically a diorama, but I think it incorporates many of the ideas. I love that it's also interactive and a great sensory play idea for young children. "Crafting a Nature Inspired Up-cycled Diorama" is more classic in form, but uses natural and found objects that the child strings together to create a story. Love it! Perhaps you want to go totally "old school." That's ok too. There are many resources available. One of my favorites is Enchanted Learning. Looking for a more grown up approach to dioramas. We can do that too. The Diorama Man has the most incredible website, filled with tons of ideas and instructions on making detailed dioramas!

Before I leave you, I wanted to share one last tidbit. The video below features the Bedford Gallery, which hosted an exhibition called The Art of Diorama. There are so many approaches to the form, and so many interesting stories about the artists and their process. It's certainly worth taking a few minutes to enjoy.

Have a great day everyone. If you spend some time making diorama this weekend, please don't be shy! Come on back and share some pictures of your work!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Lunch!

As I believe I have mentioned before, I LOVE Halloween. So of course, I wanted to do something special for the girls when I packed up their lunchboxes on October 31st!

I started with the citrus. It's really easy to use a sharp knife to carve little jack-o-lantern faces into the rind of oranges or clementines. They'd dry out if you left them out for too long, but they'll survive to lunch time without a problem.

Next up, the main event: a classic PB&J turned into a spooky ghost. I just made my usual sandwich, being sure to use gooey strawberry jam. Then I cut with a favorite cookie cutter. Use a little peanut butter to stick on dried cranberries as eyes and place into the reusuable container with black bean chips to create a backdrop. (I used scraps of wax paper to secure everything into place when I packed it up.)

On to the treats! I pulled out my cookie cutters again to cut a piece of cheddar cheese into the shape of a bat. Then I wrapped up some roasted pumpkin seeds in a bit of wax paper (secured with invisible tape) and topped the packet with a cute sticker.

Once that was all packed up, I made some quick Happy Halloween cards. I just ran premade cards through my embosser, inked the front to add depth and then added some sparkly stickers. I stamped the inside with a sentiment and wrote in "Love, Mommy and Daddy!" I slipped that into the lunch box and called it a day. Happy Halloween!

We have to do something equally fun for dinner. We're planning Hotdog Octopi in tomato sauce, served with sliced orange and green bell peppers. Should be pretty creepy and super quick, so we can get out to trick-or-treat!.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let It Snow? Caitie's Photo Blog

On the last day of the Blairstown Farmer's Market, a big Harvest Festival was planned. Pig roast, trick or treat, great crafts! And then the weather man predicted snow. Did the festival get postponed or cancelled? Heck no! Intrepid souls showed up and set up, defying the oncoming storm! "You may be right, I may be crazy..."

So I handed my 8-year-old daughter, Caitie, my camera and set her out to take photos of the a truly unusual day. This is the kind of experience that our kids will still be talking about 40 years from now. "Remember when we went trick-or-treating in the snow at the Farmer's Market??

Despite the crazy weather, the event pushed on, keeping pretty close to schedule. The crafts, the pig roast, the bluegrass band...

Despite the cold, the vendors kept on selling,as if it was perfect summer's day, making sure the brave, winder-clad customers got all that they needed, despite the weather...

As for the kids, they had a fabulous time! They had snowball fights, caught snowflakes on their tongues, danced and just generally had a blast, despite how wet and cold they were. The dogs and the adults seemed to have a pretty good time too. 

So, it was weird day, but a good day. A magical day. The only downside was that we had to pack up early and didn't get to say goodbye to all the friends we'd made this season. But hopefully we'd traded information, or would be getting together for the winter market. What a crazy end to another wonderful year of the Blairstown Farmer's Market!

According to Caitie, "This is a day I'll always remember." That is a good, good thing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Building a Blog

Wow. I'd forgotten what is was like to write more than 140 words. There was a time, so very long ago, when I blogged regularly. Then came kids. Then kids and working full-time. Then kids and work and a husband who travels. You get the idea. But lately I've felt like I actually have something to say. And I'm learning to fight against that voice in my head that says, "No one would read it anyway."

That means I'm working hard to build this blog. I want to create a place where I can share ideas about learning and engaging in our world, especially through science and family. And, heck, yes, I'm hoping to raise a bit of money for the business too. (You may have, ahem, noticed the little "Donate" button?)

So please, share, post, email and generally spread the word. Tell me about other blogs you love. Let me know what you'd like to talk about. Your ideas are vital to my creativity!

Here's to the future of the KLC Blog!

Oh and pay no attention to the mysterious numbers below.


Reflections on the Farmer's Market

This summer and fall, Kaleidoscope has had a tent at the Blairstown Farmer's Market, hosted by the Foodshed Alliance, in the heart of our town. It's a small market, but well-loved. Every week I schlep in our canopy, tables and assorted craft materials to share freely with children at the market.

I got to experience first-hand what Michael Pollan, popular author of In Defense of Food and The Ominvore's Dilemma has been holding up as a gold-standard for local food. As he explains "By shopping at a farmers market, you support local agriculture, which has a great many benefits. You keep farmers in your community. You keep land from being sprawled with houses and shopping centers. You have the experience of shopping in the farmers market, which is the new public square. You support a lot of values when you shop at the farmers market."

See, my favorite thing about a farmer's market isn't the just food, it's the people. Everyone has a story. Take Lou Tomasso as an example: he's the owner of LL Pittenger Farms and the only man from whom I'll buy beef. Lou knows his cattle, his farm, his heritage and his food. He's proud of what he does, and it shows. Heck, the man posts pictures of the new calves every year on Facebook! I can skip the market for weeks, and he'll remember my name and favorite cut. He'll give me a break on a porterhouse, because I'm a regular. He'll tell me the best way to grill my London Broil. I know how he raises his animals in open fields. I know how he grows the hay they get in winter. I feel connected to my food, and I feel blessed to have it and the people who raise is.

But I don't just talk to the farmers. When you go to a market like ours, you'll find that there is always some friend there to chat with. Maybe you haven't seen them all winter, but now you can stand in the sunshine, fresh leafy produce in your canvas bag, and catch up. You can extol the many virtues of kale, taste test cheeses for an upcoming party, and figure out what the heck you do with bok choy. The market is a powerful place of connection.

To be a part of the market every week has been so exciting. We painted, colored, collaged and stamped. We explored fossils, built catapults, played games and compared leaves. We blew bubbles, chalked the parking lots and dressed up in costumes. And we did it under both blue skies and gray (including one hurricane named Irene). I made friends with whole families of farmers and market shoppers, because my tent provided a fun, safe place for their children to create.

My daughters were able to wander the market independently, trying the samples (sometimes two or three times at Sugh's Southern Sweets), meeting the farmers and playing with other children. My 8-year-old soon took on the task of planning the meal and buying food for our Saturday night dinner, with a budget and guidelines from mommy, of course. (Two veggies, only ONE dessert.) The market became a kind of home for the kids, and in that way, it became my home too.

Even more impressive was watching a group of "market kids" (children whose parents worked at the market) provide support for others. They helped set up tents and tables, manned the Foodshed Alliance's booth to sell shirts and even stood in for a farmer one day and sold produce on his behalf. (And, man, could those kids haggle!) These children all stepped up and became responsible for their market, for their local food economy, for their food. What better lesson could they learn?

So, I'm looking forward to this weekend's All Hallows Harvest Festival complete with pig roast, hayrides, cider making and music. And in November, the area's first winter farmer's market will be coming to Newton! We get to keep the fun going all season long! Suffice it to say, it'll be worth schlepping tables around Warren county.

Friday, October 21, 2011

You don't scare me!

I love Halloween. Seriously, I love it. Taking on a new persona for a day. Planning a costume for months. Making creepy decorations. Transforming my home into a spooky scene. And let us not forget the chocolate!

When I had my daughter, Caitie, I made her the cutest darn Winnie-the-Pooh costume for her first Halloween. Oddly enough -- what with nursing constantly, changing a neverending stream of diapers and constant sleep deprivation -- I didn't get much time to decorate. But I did (re)discover the cute in Halloween. All was well.

That was, until the following year. Caitie was about a year and half old. As she played in the leaves, I decorate the outside of the house with my standard grim reaper and giant spider. The problem was when she stopped playing in the leaves and saw my morbid creation... and burst into hysterical tears. Clearly, Caitie did not enjoy the dark side of Halloween.

My reaper and spider were sent to languish sadly in the garage. And we went off to the local department store for some happier decorations. Caitie chose colorful, smiling, corn-husked scarecrows. Happy and cheerful. Not my vision of Halloween, but what can you do?

So, for years my yard has been a haven for wrangly, dangly scarecrows. The collection has grown, because I can't help but throw myself into anything Halloween. On top of that, I have made pretty fairy and princess costumes by the ton. The glitter. The rhinestones. The pink tulle. It may not be a horror show, but Caitie -- and her little sister, Gwen -- understood the most fun premise of Halloween. It's your opportunity to transform. And eat chocolate.

Last year, something odd began to happen. You see, Gwen is not Caitie. (Kids have a weird way of becoming individuals.) Gwen fell in love with the movie "The Nightmare Before Chirstmas." Gwen likes spooky. She likes scary. She LIKES grim reaper decorations! Granted she still wanted to dress up as a fairy, because that's what her older sister was doing, but a shift was certainly happening. Scarecrows beware!

Which brings us to 2011. Gwen is helping me make a scary mummy costume to wear this year. Caitie actually wants scary decorations. They want a jack-o-lantern with the face of a wicked witch. Suddenly, we all agree on Halloween! I can pull Ole' Grim out of the garage! Oh glorious day!

Then my mommy brain stepped up, late one night. She had noticed that my girls, Caitie especially, were growing up. Caitie now had bigger fears than plastic spiders. Real fears. Fears of fitting in. Fears of doing well at school and remembering all her lines for her play. Fears of being pretty enough, or smart enough, or both. I can calm many of those fears and help her learn to process them, face them, overcome them. But they are real. The transformation from toddler to big kid is real.

Soon she won't want to trick or treat with me anymore. She'll want to be with her friends. She won't want me to make her costume with her. She'll just do it on her own. Or buy one at Party City. And soon, far too soon, she'll want to skip Halloween all together, because it's not "cool."

So this year, I still put out my scarecrows, right along side the reaper and the spider. I'm trying to squeeze every moment of Halloween fun from the end of the month. Time is precious. Time with my girls is my harvest. And those scarecrows remind me of how quickly childhood can pass.

I think it's time to build some new scarecrows of our own. Of course we can take out some old clothes and stuff them. I've found that grocery bags filled with newspaper and attached to a frame of 1x2 wood with duct tape works well, and is easy to recycle later. For inside I want to make miniature versions. Since I always seem to have popsicle sticks and leftover fabric around, I think I'll try this Wee Scarecrow Craft from