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