Ode To The Morning Glory

This summer I let a little swatch of lawn at the edge of the backyard get a bit out of control. Well, okay, way out of control. But now I am glad I did. The weeds offer a barrier, a sort of natural privacy fence. I’m a sort of lover of weeds, if you may. I love flowers that grow in the wild like Queen Anne’s lace and goldenrod.

So I was delighted when bunches of colorful ones sprang up on my neglected lawn. They were morning glories and I was amazed at the colors and variegations, so I took photos, wrote a bit of prose and did some research on the common morning glory.

Ode To The Morning Glory

I can always count on your pretty face to grace the day’s beginning.

Your soul unfurls wide open,

No secrets to hide,

To embrace each morning, no matter how misty.

As the sun climbs high you seem to disappear

All shriveled, faded and spent.

But you’re still there.

The cool darkness nourishes your soul with dew

You rest

And I see you again the next morning.

Facts About Morning Glories

  • Morning glories bloom in the early morning and then fade and curl up a few hours later.
  • Cultivars have been developed and seeds are available to grow them in gardens.
  • In the Australian bushland, morning glories grow dense with thick roots and are seriously invasive.
  • Some species of morning glories were used in ancient China for medicinal purposes.
  • Mesoamerican civilizations used one species of morning glory along with other plants to produce rubber.
  • Aztec priests used the morning glory’s hallucinogenic properties.
  • One species is used as a vegetable in culinary dishes in East and Southeast Asia.
  • The Japanese were the first to develop cultivars for morning glories.
  • One species known as moonflower blooms at dusk instead of the morning.

Pretty Pink with White Throat

 

White tinged with dark purple

White tinged with pale pink

Powder Blue

Bright Orange with Yellow Throat

Royal Purple with Dark Purple

Summer Reading:10 Reasons Why Teens And Adolescents Should Dig In

What is Summer Slide

The long Summer break most traditional schools experience can cause the average student’s learning to regress by one month and is referred to as “Summer slide.” This can spell trouble for the students who have left the apron strings of the elementary school where the focus was on learning to read. Now the game has changed and it means reading to learn instead. The best solution? A Hot Summer Reading List that will keep them wanting to read all Summer.

Educators of younger students are all aware of how important self-selected reading is. Self-explanatory, this method of reading entails the child selecting a book himself, one that appeals to him to enjoy in a comfortable setting. Why should we change this for the older student? While there will probably be required reading assignments for the Summer, the teen and adolescent should make the time to select a few books that they really feel will be enjoyable to them.

It is estimated that even as few as 6 books will keep “Summer slide” at bay and more. Following are 10 good reasons for Summer reading for adolescents and teens along with 6 great books that will keep them engaged.

1. Improving Vocabulary

Summer reading fun can improve vocabulary. In middle and high school, vocabulary words aren’t sight words anymore. They are those “hard” words that show up in the content areas-general science, history, economics, etc. Reading for pleasure provides practice in making connections between familiar and unfamiliar words by using word structure (roots, affixes) and context clues. Studies show that the amount of reading time influences the size of both the reading and speaking vocabulary.

2. Improving Decoding Skills

Summer reading for fun is a good way for the budding middle school student to reinforce the decoding skills they learned throughout elementary school. Once an adolescent is out of grade 4, decoding instruction will likely be reserved for remedial reading classes. The middle school student will be required to read more supplementary materials for learning in the content areas. The vocabulary in these (expository) reading materials will be more difficult to decode than those in narratives.

3. Keeping the Mental Processes Active

Summer reading for fun keeps the mental process active. Scientists believe that attention, memory, and thought rely on the brain’s active neuron patterns. The firing of one memory network causes other memory networks to fire. Impulses travel through neurons and jump from dendrite to dendrite via the synapses in a sort of dominoes fashion. The reader can make connections between events in the story to events in her own life. Activation of related networks in the brain will strengthen the synaptic connections of neurons. It’s sort of the brain’s way of getting exercise. Additionally, a good riveting tale can stir the emotions which will also help connect memory networks.

4. Improving Concentration and Focus

Summer reading for fun can improve concentration and focus. A well-written story of high interest is a good attention grabber. The reader will be focused on the outcome of the story, paying attention to the details that contribute to the plot. The ability to concentrate and focus will essentially help in all subject areas.

5. Reading for Interests

Summer reading for fun is a good way to increase interests and hobbies. As students move through middle and high school career choices become issues. The purpose of school begins to be seen in the context of preparing for the workforce. For example, a story about a sick or wounded animal could spark an interest in veterinary medicine. Or a story about a social issue could encourage volunteering for a cause.

6. Reduce Summer Boredom

Summer reading fun can help reduce boredom. The bored adolescent or teen can get into trouble more easily. Boredom on long hot days can set in, especially toward mid-summer when interest in the beach, pool or lake begins to fizzle. A good story can be entertaining. Unlike TV shows or movies, the written story will be more mentally engaging. It will be like a “movie in the mind” and can stimulate creativity.

7. Reading to Improve Test Scores

Summer reading fun can help test scores. Like it or not, high stakes testing is a fact and is probably not going to go away. Not all high stakes testing is used to determine school funding. Students everywhere must pass the end of course tests, high school competency tests and attain certain scores on the SAT or ACT to get into higher institutes of study.

8. Learning About Other Cultures and Places

Summer reading for fun can create an awareness of other cultures and places. With the internet and travel life has become more global. Chances are the adolescent or teen will travel to other parts of the world. They can “travel in an armchair” and learn about their destinations through descriptive literature. They can “time travel” and read about other times in history and learn how the culture was different.

9. Solving Personal Problems

Reading for Summer fun can help teens with life’s problems. The adolescent and teen years can be bewildering times. New freedom gives rise to new issues. Or sometimes they feel they don’t have the freedom they should have for their age. Peer pressure, bullying, feeling left out of groups, problems getting along with parents and siblings and new attractions to the opposite sex are all issues that many authors write honestly on. Reading about the problems that characters face can be like receiving advice.

10. To Develope a Lifelong Love of Books and Learning

Whether ebooks or paper books, they will always be the door to learning. Kids who learn to love a good book will always have that love.

If you are an adolescent, teen or the parent of one please pick out at least 6 good books that you really think would be fun Summer reading. Don’t forget that required Summer reading list. But do have fun reading! Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

DIY Organic Beauty Products: Pamper Yourself On Mother’s Day

Pamper Yourself for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for many restaurants and florists and is second only to Christmas in retail sales.

Although some may argue that it is just another commercialized holiday, it does have roots dating back centuries. Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated a day in honor of mother’s of pagan gods. Early Christians in England celebrated a day to honor Mary, Mother of Christ.

By religious order, the holiday was set to include all mothers and was called Mothering Sunday. At that time many of the poor peasant servants of the rich were from a distance away. They were given the day off to return home and visit with their mothers.

Today a version of Mother’s Day is celebrated worldwide. In the United States, Mother’s Day roots can be traced to Civil War activists to promote the rise of women against war, a mother’s day of peace.

Mom’s often put themselves last on a daily basis. Those cute new shoes can wait-the kids need winter coats. She will leave the last piece of pie on the plate for someone else.

This Mom’s Day try giving yourself a dose of self-love to boost your self-image. Kids pick up on the nuances of self-confidence and well being. With your role modeling, they will learn to be confident, self-reliant adults. After all, if one can’t take good care of themselves first it may be harder to take of care loved ones. Sending this message to kids is not selfishness but rather preparing them to be confident and assertive adults.

DIY Hair Conditioners, Facial Masks, and Skin Softeners

Do it yourself, or DIY cosmetics have been popular recently. Not only are they more economical, we know exactly what’s in them. Food science developments and research have helped us identify natural products that tend to benefit skin and hair, even teeth and nails for health and beauty.

Try these DIY beauty tricks or one of the new products containing natural ingredients. There is no need to scramble for essential oil, glycerin or any harder to find ingredients. These DIY hair conditioners, facial masks, and skin softeners use products that you already have in your kitchen cabinet. Turn your bathroom into a spa for Mom’s Day and pamper yourself from head to toe.

Light some candles, have soft music and a relaxing cup of tea.

DIY Hair Conditioners

Olive oil infuses the scalp with moisture and can help with dry scalp. Locks will be stronger and shinier and scalp healthier.

Rosemary has been indicated as a stimulant for hair follicles helping to prevent hair loss. It conditions the scalp, acting as a natural conditioner to prevent dryness. Used over a long period of time rosemary will darken graying hair.

Try this: whip an egg with 1/2 cup of water. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 cup dried rosemary.

Or buy this: Avalon organic shampoo and conditioner.


Avocado is rich in fatty acids that are essential for good health in our diet. Applied topically avocado strengthens and fortifies the hair shaft.

Try This: mix a ripe, mashed avocado with 2 TBS olive oil for a conditioner that will give shinier and stronger hair.

Or try Naked Naturals products will Shea butter and avocado

DIY Facial Scrub and Mask

Strawberries are very good for the skin, giving benefits from inside (eating them) and out (applied topically). They are loaded with vitamin C to help fight free radicals and promote strong tissue in the skin for a youthful look. The salicylic acid gets rid of dead skin cells making strawberries an excellent exfoliate.

Watch the tutorial to make an easy strawberry exfoliating scrub using mashed strawberries, sugar, honey and an egg for oily skin.

Or try a strawberry-rhubarb scrub by Eminence.

DIY Chocolate Facial Mask

Chocolate contains antioxidants that can prevent or repair damage to the skin from free radicals. Like strawberries, these antioxidant benefits can be applied directly to the skin. Chocolate facials are quite popular and there are several different recipes. The basic ingredients are cocoa powder, cream or curds and honey. Having the ability to retain water, honey has long been used in skin care products for cleansing and softening. Add oatmeal if desired for a soothing scrub. Oatmeal, with anti-inflammatory properties, is also good for any sort of rash or sunburn.

Suzanne McMinn at Chickens in the Road had the great idea to use cream cheese as the binding ingredient for chocolate facial masks. The cream cheese will give a smoother product that is easier to apply. Curds, or cottage cheese has a lumpy consistency that may be “yucky” to use and cream may be a bit runny. I opt for the cream cheese!

Try this basic recipe for chocolate facial mask:

  • 1/3 cup powdered cocoa
  • 3 TBS cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey

Or try Freeman’s Feeling Beautiful chocolate-strawberry facial mask:

DIY Bath Salts and Soaks

Do – it – yourself bath salts and soaks are incredibly easy and inexpensive. All you need to do is take a trip to the kitchen and bathroom, and your herb garden if you have one. Bath salts can be created using Epsom salts, baking soda and any crushed and dried herb. You can even break open herbal tea bags to use. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and voila! you have great smelling, soothing bath salts.

Basic recipe for bath salts:

  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 3/4 cup ground-up herbs

Bath soaks:

Using milk as a bath soak provides the skin with plenty of the antioxidant vitamin A, protecting the skin from both acne and aging. Powdered milk combined with common kitchen ingredients like baking soda are easy and economical bath soaks that soothe.

Try these easy bath soaks with powdered milk as a base:

1. Add one cup boiling water to 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1/4 cup honey.

2. Add one cup boiling water to 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup crushed herbs (fresh, dried or from an open tea bag).

3. Add one cup boiling water to 1/2 cup powdered milk, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup ground oatmeal and 2 TBS cinnamon. (Use old fashioned oats not instant and grind in a blender along with the baking soda).

Or consider a great Canus goat milk bath product or Calgon Ageless Nourishing Milk Bath for stress relief!

 

Doing Your Own Manicure and Pedicure

The key to good at-home manicures and pedicures is having the right tools. Kristin Logan, MSN blogger, and beauty writer explains in 8 simple slides the basic supplies for a manicure at home from nail polish remover to a fast dry top coat spray. A pedicure is a little more work that a manicure. It’s fun to get a professional pedicure, and not really expensive. They are good Mom’s Day gift choices!

For giving your own manicure and pedicure, skip down to the toes and do those first. Save the manicure for last. You don’t want to use those great looking nails right away! Begin by prepping hands and feet with a sugar scrub made with 2 Tbs. of sugar and a few drops of almond oil. Most grocery stores carry almond oil in the aisle where the other oils are. If not, check the health food store for almond oil. You can use olive oil in the sugar scrub as well. Follow with a refreshing foot soak. Add slices of fresh lemon and rosemary to warm water in a foot basin. Remove any nail polish from the toenails. Soak for at least 20 minutes. The lemon juice will help lighten the yellowing we get on the nails from nail polish build up. Then follow these steps to finish your pedicure.

  1. Trim nails with a strong toenail clipper
  2. Trim cuticles with cuticle scissors
  3. Apply baby or olive oil to the cuticles
  4. Apply a soothing, moisturizing foot balm
  5. Apply polish in a flirty color

Celebrate Mom’s Day

A few makeup tricks and a cute outfit will have you looking and feeling your best. So polish your badge and shine on your day! You deserve it! Everyone will admire you even more. And even if just for today, go ahead and have that last piece of pie.

Makeup Tips for a Natural Glow

  • use makeup to accentuate positive features
  • use concealer or camouflage cream to cover dark spots and blemishes
  • use fingers instead of a sponge to apply foundation. The heat from fingers helps it blend better
  • Look for makeup with light diffusing micro crystals
  • Highlight top of cheek bones and brows with an illuminating powder
  • Apply bronzer with a brush to temples, chin and jaw lines
  • Apply a peachy or pink blush to the apples of the cheeks
  • Mix cinnamon in Vaseline and apply before lipstick, or just as a gloss.(Cinnamon brings blood to the surface and plumps up fine lines and lips)
  • Follow the video tutorial for creating Smokey Eyes!

DIY Easter Candy Holder: Re-purposed Plastic Chip Container

How to Make a Cute Bunny Candy Holder

I knew I was saving those plastic potato chip canisters for some reason. I usually buy the cardboard ones because they are more earth-friendly, but somehow over the summer and the holidays, those plastic ones found their way into my cupboards.

With a little imagination and some crafts supplies I had on hand from cutmyplastic.co.uk, I came up with the idea of this cute Easter Bunny candy holder. Tuck one in an Easter basket or give them to older kids, friends, and people at the office. I’ll bet your kids’ teachers would love one to sit on her desk year after year. Let’s get started.

Suppiies needed for DIY Easter Candy Holder:

  • Plastic chip container such as Lays Stax
  • Pink & white craft foam (you can use construction paper, but it won’t be as durable)
  • White spray paint
  • White felt
  • Medium pink pom pom
  • Large white pom pom
  • White chenille stems
  • Googly eggs
  • Decorative ribbon
  • Black Sharpie
  • Hot glue

Spray paint the canister. Spray the lid separately.

 

 

Make ear patterns. Trace and cut from the craft foam. Assemble with hot glue.

Cut a circle of white felt to fit the lid. Other colors work too.

 

To assemble bunny: Glue the eyes on the back below the lid. Add googly eyes, pom pom nose, and chenille stem whiskers. Make him a pretty bow tie, and draw on the rest with the black Sharpie.

 

Don’t forget the bunny tail! I used a shimmery one because I had it left over from Christmas. You could also use cotton balls.

Now fill your DIY Easter Bunny Candy Holder with candy and you have a great gift. And you have done God’s creation a small favor.

How To Remove Pet Messes From The House

Love your pets but not the mess? Here are some methods for dealing with the downside of pet ownership. Some involve new technology and others are from collections of more common tried and true methods.

What constitutes a pet mess to one may not bother another but the number one pet “no no” messes are of course poop, urine, and vomit. Even the fish have “to go” and of course they do so in the tank. Hopefully rarely, but sooner or later your dog or cat will throw up somewhere in the house. My dog accidentally drank hydrogen peroxide once and threw up profusely. Fortunately,I caught this in time so that he didn’t drink enough to damage the stomach lining.(I learned from the poison hotline that hydrogen peroxide is actually used in antidotes for poisoning but in amounts controlled by weight.)

How to Clean Dog Messes

The number one mess that dogs make are going potty in the house. Most dogs will be easily trained as puppies but it does take some time and patience. Just as a child, there will be accidents on and off before training is fully established. Older dogs that were once well-trained will have accidents in their declining years. If you have a new puppy be prepared to do some cleaning of doggy poops and pees. The following products and methods can help.

Tried and True Testimonials

  • Blessed is the pet owner with all wood or tile flooring. If you happen to be purchasing a home or remodeling- eliminating carpet will eliminate a lot of pet elimination problems for you.(loaded sentence, isn’t it?)
  • Use puppy training pads or newspaper to catch a lot of the mess.
Older dogs sometimes lose control and need to wear a doggy diaper.
  • If the poop is not diarrhea use a disposable plastic glove or a plastic grocery bag to pick it up. If you wait until the poop cools to room temperature it will be more solid, but don’t wait longer than 15 minutes.
  • For diarrhea, soak up with heavy duty paper towels and try cleaning with a mixture of warm water and a good enzyme based laundry detergent.
  • I always found urine hardest to manage. Probably because the molecules in a liquid are moving, causing the mess to spread to deep dark crevices. It is important to get the urine out as completely as possible because the puppy that is training or other animals that come for a visit will be tempted to urinate on the same spot. Dilute the urine with water or club soda. Use a wet/dry vacuum or heavy toweling to blot. Place heavy books on top of the toweling to absorb. This may take several hours.
  • Try covering accidents with baking soda. Let dry for two hours then vacuum.
  • Once your dog is trained keep poop picked up off the lawn with paper bags and a good pooper scooper. The paper bag is greener because it is de composible.
  • For cleaning vomit pick up solid pieces with a disposable glove or plastic bag. Pour on club soda and then blot with heavy toweling. Sprinkle baking soda on the area and vacuum.
  • Use this “pee recipe”: One cup hydrogen peroxide, 2 tsps baking soda, and a few drops of dish detergent.
  • Most carpet cleaning companies have special pet odor removers. This can get expensive so use only when things get out of control.

New Technology For Cleaning Dog Messes

Bissell all-in-one pet stain tool.
  • Bissell has an all-in-one pet stain tool that is endorsed by Pet Adviser Products. They claim that deep lasting odor can be eliminated by using 3 easy steps. Definitely less chance of germs on hands- there is a tool for scooping up, a sprayer for spraying the special solution and a scrubber for scrubbing away the stain. A free trial sample of the recommended cleaning solution is included with the first purchase.
  • Poop Off is a spray cleaner that uses natural enzymes to eliminate both stain and odor. Use on carpeting, bedding, furniture. You can also use it in bird cages.
  • Zero Odor is a spray-on product that guarantees odor elimination totally and is used often to remove any and all pet odors. Based on a breakthrough in molecular chemistry, it has earned 7 patents for unmatched effectiveness. The name zero odor is descriptive of the fact that it also leaves no odor of itself behind. I have used this product and can personally endorse it as being satisfactory in pet odor elimination
  • For Outdoor poop clean-up Doggy Dooley Leach System uses enzyme and bacterial action to turn the poop into a liquid that is safely absorbed into the ground. Just put in the poop, add water and digester and reduce poop to an eco-friendly substance. This product has a 5 and 3/4 star overall rating.

How to Clean Cat Messes

Cats are by far the neatest pets. They are easily trained to use a litter box. It almost seems to come natural to them. They hate dirty litter boxes. If you keep a clean litter box your cat will reward you with good potty habits. I once had a cat that religiously used the bathtub if I left her with a dirty litter box. In the proper setting, many cats will go out to potty if you provide a safe place to go in and out of the house. This is usually best accomplished in more rural settings. Many cats that belong to owners in apartments and condos never go outdoors. De clawing is an option many of these cat owners choose. A great cat litter system is very important in these cases.

The spraying of urine is a common problem for some cats, both male and female. It often occurs in cats that are not spayed or neutered because of sexual excitement from a passing cat. Be sure to have your cat spayed or neutered to avoid this and other problems, namely unwanted kittens. Cats will sometimes spray due to emotional upsets such as moving or a new person or pet in the household.

Other clean-up problems for cats include vomiting and coughing up hairballs.

Tried and True Testimonials

  • Use one part white vinegar to one part water to the area after blotting with toweling or use a wet/dry vac. After the area is dry sprinkle with baking soda. Then mix a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide with a teaspoon of dish washing liquid. Work this solution into carpet or fabric using an old toothbrush. Allow to dry and use a hard bristled brush to loose the dried substance, then vacuum.
  • Use the same clean-up method as dogs for vomit or poop.
  • For those nasty coughed up hairballs pick them up as soon as possible with a paper towel so that the cat’s digestive juices don’t soak into the carpet. Flushing these down the toilet is preferable to putting them in the trash due to odor. They won’t stop up the toilet unless you have a panther-sized cat.
  • Adding a box of baking soda to any cat litter, no matter how cheap or expensive, can lengthen the life of your cat litter.
  • Be sure to have a strainer-type cat pooper scooper on hand to make your cat litter box clean up easier.
  • Use a laundry detergent containing enzymes to wipe cat urine from any surface.
  • Try to diagnose and eliminate emotional problems in your neutered or spayed cat that sprays. Talk to a Veterinarian about the problem if possible.

New Technology for Cleaning Cat Messes

CatGenie self-washing self-flushing cat box.
  • Feliway is the legendary pheromone which works on a cat’s sense of smell. When it is applied to the areas marked or its dispersed into the air it will calm your cat and reduce his urge to pee “in a naughty place.” It is available in spray form or electrical outlet plug in form, like the air fresheners.
  • The Breeze Cat Litter System works with a unique design that keeps poops and pees separate. The system has a bottom tray for pee. Change the pad in the bottom tray and scoop the poop from the top.High sides eliminate spillage.
  • Cat Genie is a high tech self cleaning and flushing cat litter system. When your cat pees the liquid drains away from the granules so that only the waste gets flushed. For solid waste, the GenieHand jumps into action by scooping it out, where it is then turned to liquid for easy removal. Fresh water then fills the basin and the GenieHand scours both box and granules clean. A hot air blower then dries the entire box. The sound is not any louder than a regular hot towel warmer for the bathroom. Cat Genie hooks up to your bathroom or laundry room water supply with a T adapter. An amazing high tech advancement in cat litter systems; very green as you never have to dispose of and replace cat litter, only replace the filter cartridge (smaller than a soda cap) after 120 washings.

Cleaning Fish Tanks

Fish poop. The poop needs to be able to pass through the fish tank filter for removal. This may require methods to stir up the sand in the bottom of the tank where the poop gathers. Use an air stone or power head to stir the sand and stimulate the removal of waste. A turkey baster can help in a pinch but the best way to remove fish poop is by having a good filter system.

If you like white sand in your fish tank you may want to rethink and add some black sand. A few pieces of fish poop may drive some OCD people nuts in all white sand. The black sand will help camouflage fewer poops. Unlike people fish can deal with a few turds swimming around their “atmosphere” as long as the water doesn’t get too dirty. Replace about 15 percent of the water in your tank weekly by siphoning out the water and replacing with treated water.

Snails can help keep your aquarium clean, but they poop too, so keep that filter going!

Cleaning Bird Cages

Birds are such cool pets. Take care in selecting them as pets though. Some birds have life spans equal to humans. They may actually out live you! Plan accordingly.

Bird cages can be messy. Like all the other critters, they poop and pee. Those nasty white and gray droppings that you see on your car window are the same as the ones in your bird cage, just minus the purple mulberry droppings.

As with fish tanks, the larger the cage the less the mess appears to be. Choose a cage with a removable bottom grille and pull-out drawer for easier cleaning.Use a cage liner and change often. Plexiglas can be attached to the sides of larger cages for catching seed spillage. Use a plastic runner under larger cages to catch seed hulls that spill out.

The following video from About.com shows an easy and efficient bird cage clean-up routine.

Problems with Pet Hair and Removal

One of the best ways I have found to reduce the amount of animal hair around the house is by keeping the animals groomed. Brushes and clipper tools are available to help with this.

Lint rollers, damp sponges and fabric dryer sheets can help remove dog and cat hair from furniture and clothing. Regular vacuuming will help reduce pet hair and dander. Many people are allergic to pet dander, not actually to pet hair itself. Use a vacuum cleaner filter designed to remove allergens . H/AC system filters are available that do the same.

What Makes Your Dog’s Favorite Toy A Squeaky Toy

 

If you are a dog owner you may have noticed-they just love squeaky toys, more so than any other toy. After I first got one of my dogs, a spirited German Shepard mix, she used to find stray tennis balls while walking by the public tennis courts with me. She would carry the balls home and we would play catch and fetch.

I would bounce the ball and she would jump high in the air to catch the tennis balls. We always took one to the pond at the off-leash dog park. She learned to swim by chasing the beloved tennis ball. Needless to say, as winter approached our supply of tennis balls dwindled with the number of tennis players. So I went to the Pet Store to buy more; only I happened to buy the Air Dog squeaky balls. Now, she cares nothing for regular tennis balls.

Theories Explain Why Dogs Prefer Squeaky Toys

There are at least two theories that try to explain our canine friends’ preferences for squeaky toys. Dogs were domesticated from the Gray Wolf about 15,000 years ago. Gray wolves are pack hunters. Pack hunters are predators. They work together to distract and attack the prey. Complex behaviors that dogs inherited from their Gray Wolf ancestors are thought to be what helps humans to form relationships with their dogs.

The squeaking toy may work to remind our dogs’ natural instincts of the captured prey. The smaller rodent type animals that are caught in the gripping ripping teeth of the wolf will make a high pitched squeaking noise.The squeaking of the prey lets the wolf know that it is dying and will soon be ready for feeding upon.

I noticed that when my dog would catch her squeaky ball she liked to take it under an azalea bush I had growing in the backyard. Here she would rip and tear at the ball often to the point of disabling the device inside that made the squeaking noise. Could it have been that the Azalea bush represented going into a cave? Was the ripping until the squeaking stopped representative of killing and readying the prey for food?

Another theory exists that the squeaking provides continuous reinforcement as in operant conditioning. The squeak is a reinforcer or reward associated for playing with you. Or it could be that the dog just enjoys the squeaky toy because it is interactive and helps to keep the dog entertained.

Some dogs seem to care nothing for squeaky toys and may even be afraid of them. I once had a dachshund that did not really care one way or the other.She considered herself more human than a dog anyway! This may be explained as some dogs breeds having a stronger prey instinct than others.

Whatever the reason or reasons ( I tend to think there are more than one) for dogs loving squeaky toys safety can be an issue for them. The more squeaking the more excited the dog becomes. Many dogs will chew the toy until it “kills” its prey.

The result could be pulling out the squeaker and presenting a choking hazard. It is important to choose safe toys for your dog. There are new squeaky toys available that are practically indestructible.

The squeakers are large, well hidden and keep on squeaking even when punctured over and over by the dog’s sharp teeth. Not only are they safer they are more economical as well. You don’t have to keep replacing boring toys that don’t squeak anymore!

Make sure that any “features” on the toy such as eyes and noses are stitched on and can’t be easily pulled off. That can provide choking hazards as well.

Can’t take all that squeaking? Thanks to new technology there are even squeaky toys available that only your dog can hear! These toys have ultrasonic squeakers and are no more expensive than regular squeaky toys. Check them out!

Have safe and satisfying fun with your dog and these great new toys!

 


False Dandelions: Free Food Source?

Catsear False Dandelion

Will the real Dandelion please stand up?

I have been betrayed by the weeds on my lawn. They are impostors. Catsear, one of several False Dandelions, impersonate Dandelions so well that everyone I know calls them Dandelions and seem to “have never heard of Catsear.”

I found out about Catsear, and other False Dandelions when hundreds of them sprang up on lawns, fields and road sides after recent Spring rainy days. I thought they looked rather pretty, even though my lawn was in bad need of a good mow. And didn’t I hear somewhere that dandelions were very nutritious and have some healing benefits? Knowing they would only last as long as the mower blades were silent I decided to investigate. That’s when I learned about Catsear and false dandelions.

Question: Can Catsear and other false dandelions be consumed for the same health benefits as dandelions?

Benefits of Dandelions

Not only do dandelions have nutritional and medicinal qualities they also make good garden companions The longish taproot brings up nutrients for shallower rooted plants. Dandelions add nitrogen to the soil and attract pollinating insects to the garden.

Dandelion leaves are loaded with vitamins A, K and C, calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium. They have long been used as a folk remedy for liver and kidney problems and high blood pressure. Dandelions are a natural diuretic and are safer than other diuretics because they add potassium back that we lose through water elimination.

What is Catsear?

Catsear are perennials and will shoot up and bloom every Spring and Summer. They are native to Europe and are introduced, or invasive In the United States. Catsear is found from the southeast north to New Jersey and westward to Mississippi. As with dandelions and other false dandelions, the seeds of Catsear are dispersed on a breeze and can travel far.

Those who wish to eliminate Catsear from the lawn can do so by using lime and nitrogen fertilizers for healthier grass. Healthier grass will discourage the growth of Catsear. There are also herbicides available that will eradicate them.

False Dandelion Types

Common Name
Scientific Name
Characteristics
Location
Catsear
Hypocaeris Radicata
Tall stems, basal rosette, hairy leaves
Southeastern United States, west to Mississippi, North to New Jersey
Texas Dandelion
Pyrrhopappus Caroliniaus
Deeply lobed and hairy leaves, distinguish from Catsear by purple middle
Eastern United States
Smooth Catsear
Hypocaeris Glabra
Smooth leaves, less bitter
Souteastern & Northeastern U.S. Western U.S, parts of Canada
Mountain Dandelion
Agoseris Glauca
waxy leaves, basal but not rosette
Western United States & Canada
Hawksbeard, Elegant & Narrowleaf
Crepis, Crepis Tectorum
Has both basal rosette and hairy leaves on stem, annual, not perenniel
Northern Hemispjhere, Tropical Africa, invasive in Northeastern U.S. & Canada
Autumn Hawkbit, Fall Dandelion
Leontondon Autumnalis
Resembles Catsear, flowers reddish underneath, appear June-October
Parts of Europe, Great Britian, Ireland

Ways To Eat Dandelions,False Dandelions

Add freshly washed leaves to garden salads

  • Make dandelion tea from the flowers
  • Make dandelion wine from the flowers
  • boil or saute leaves and eat like spinach
  • use the leaves in stir fries
  • Make into a batter with flour, onions, spices and a little milk to fry in a healthy oil

Are False Dandelions Edible?

To eat or not to eat…..that is the question. I am 99.9 percent sure that my “imposters” are Catsear. Although I found overwhelming support that Catsear is safe to eat I am not going to munch on my weeds. There is evidence that invasive weeds can mutate. In the state of Washington, False Dandelions are listed as noxious weeds. Best practices for weed eating is to consult an expert.

The possibility of insecticides or other chemicals in the soil is another reason to take care in eating weeds. Never eat weeds from an area that has been treated within in the past two years.

While I definitively would like the health benefits these weeds may offer, I am going to order Dandelion seeds, Taraxacum Officinale to plant in my garden. Then I know what I am eating is safe, and my garden will benefit as well.

Solar System Cupcakes: Make A Cupcake For Every Planet!

 

A Fun Cupcake Recipe

Kids today have such an advantage when it comes to both learning and being entertained at home. There are so many interesting topics to explore on the internet! When I was growing, up glossy color photos in an encyclopedia and television was as good as it got.

One of the most fascinating topics to explore is outer space. There is a multitude of cool websites that feature fantastic “close-up” and real photos taken by satellites sent into space. Some of the sites are interactive. Kids at home for the summer or on a cold winter weekend have no excuse for boredom anymore.

Some kids have to be motivated more than others to seek out knowledge. The way to a kid’s brain may be through the stomach. Grab their interest in learning about the solar system by helping bake and decorate solar system cupcakes! Each cupcake represents one of the planets in the solar system and orbits around a big yellow sun cake!

Supplies for Solar System Cupcakes

Use your favorite cupcake mix and various items to help decorate. Browsing the cake decorating aisle at a couple of different supermarkets first is a good way to plan the cupcakes. Here is a list of what we used for decorating the sun cake and the cupcakes.

  • 2 boxes of cake mix (add eggs, oil)
  • 1- 7 oz. tube red decorator icing
  • red, & yellow food color (mix to make orange icing)
  • blue food color
  • Wilton decorating gels in green, pink, purple, yellow and sparkle white
  • Cake Mate decorator cupcake gems
  • Shimmer white sugar sprinkles
  • Cinnamon drop sprinkles
  • 16 ozs. Betty Crocker Frosting Starter
  • Packets of mocha almond, caramel and cotton candy flavor packets for frosting starter
  • Red sugar crystals
  • 16 oz. can white cake frosting
  • life savers
  • For each of the terrain planets, fill the cupcake tins half full with batter and let the kids add a dollop of red icing to cook inside. This will teach the fact that they have hot molten cores.Fill the giant gas planets up a little fuller with batter so they will look bigger.Bake and decorate as described below. For the sun, bake two single layers of round cakes. Frost one yellow and one orange. Cut the orange cake into “pie wedges” and place around the yellow cake to represent a glowing sun.

    Acronym For Learning The Order Of Planets From The Sun
    • My-Mercury
    • Very-Venus
    • Educated-Educated
    • Mother-Mars
    • Just-Jupiter
    • Served-Served
    • Us-Uranus
    • Nine-Neptune
    • Pizzas-Pluto, dwarf planet

    Mercury

    2

    With an orbit equivalent to 88 Earth days, Mercury is the fastest planet around the sun. However, it rotates very slowly, about one rotation for 59 Earth days. Like Earth, it is a terrain planet and is thought to also have a molten iron core.

    Mostly composed of rock and metals, Mercury is full of craters like the moon. Although it is dry, hot and airless this planet has H2O ice at both poles that lies deep in the craters-so deep the heat of the sun does not completely melt it. It is dusted with a thin layer of minerals called silicates.

    Decorating Mercury: frost Mercury with white icing and add white cup cake gems to represent a rocky planet with craters.

    Venus

    3

    Also known as the morning and evening “star”, Venus is a terrain planet that is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon.

    Similar in size to Earth, it is the closet planet to Earth and is referred to as our sister planet.

    It is also thought to have a hot molten core. Images for Venus show a variety of land forms-mountains, rolling plains and volcanoes made of hot lava.

    With a very dense atmosphere, this planet probably had water like Earth but it boiled away-which is exactly what would happen to Earth were it closer to the sun!

    Decorating Venus: frost Venus with caramel icing (use just enough of the caramel frosting starter mixed in 1/2 cup white frosting, do the same for mocha chocolate). Swirl in some of the mocha chocolate frosting.

    Earth

    4

    Home sweet home! Earth is the only known planet in the solar system that supports any form of life. That’s because it abides by the “Goldilocks Law”-being neither too hot nor too cold but just right.

    The distance that Earth is from the sun allows us to live in comfort as far as temperature goes. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes it is hard to believe that our home planet is three quarters water. Images of Earth show a beautiful blue ball spun with green, brown and white.

    Since scientist live here, we can of course learn more about this planet. We know that it is about 4.5 billion years old, and that the temperature of the inner core is 7500 degrees Kelius-that’s 13,040.6 degrees Fahrenheit- hotter than the sun! The surface of Earth is constantly changing due to things like erosion and earthquakes.

    Decorating Earth: tint some of the white frosting with blue food color. Swirl with green and white decorator gel. Use a toothpick to swirl in a bit of mocha chocolate icing.

     

    Mars

     

    5

     

    Mars is known as the red planet. It has been easy for spacecraft to get images of Mars because they actually landed on the planet.

    For a long time, it was voted “planet most likely to have life other than Earth” and science fiction writers liked writing about it. The last terrain planet, Mars has about the same land as Earth-but it is much smaller and has no oceans. However, scientists think Mars might possibly once contained bodies of water.

    This dusty, rocky planet has a cold,dry atmosphere. Like the other terrain planets, it probably has a hot,molten core.

    Decorating Mars: Frost Mars with the red icing, sprinkle with red sugar and place cinnamon sprinkles around for Mar’s rocky, dusty surface.

    note: don’t try to color white frosting with red food color, it will just get dark pink.

    Jupiter

    7

    Jupiter is the largest planet and the third brightest object in the night sky. With no solid surface, it is the first gas planet in our solar system. It is composed of mostly liquid hydrogen with traces of methane, water and ammonia.

    Jupiter has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases and is surrounded by small, faint rings. The vivid bands of color seen on images of this planet are probably due to chemical reactions of trace elements in the atmosphere. There are wind bands of high velocity winds on Jupiter and a giant red spot, a high pressure region with higher,colder clouds.

    Decorating Jupiter: Frost Jupiter with caramel frosting and swirl in mocha chocolate and red frosting. A red life saver represents Jupiter’s giant red spot.

    Saturn

    8

    Saturn, the second largest planet, is composed of gases much like that of Jupiter with liquid hydrogen as the main ingredient. It also has a rocky core made of various ices, or solid gases.

    This planet is surrounded by very thin rings made of rocky particles coated with H2O ice. Images of Saturn also show bands of color like Jupiter, only fainter. Helium, the gas that makes balloons float on air can be found here.

    As Earth is the most dense planet, Saturn is the least dense. Some scientists think this planet is so light it could actually float on water! This could make sense. Think about how light helium is. How easily the balloons filled with helium float away~

    Decorating Saturn: Frost Saturn with white frosting. Use the purple, pink and yellow gels for Saturn’s rings. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar to represent the ice. Gas ices have formed on Saturn, a cold planet far away from the sun.

    Uranus

    9

    As we travel through the solar system the planets farthermost from the sun get harder to see. They are also the hardest to learn about. Uranus is the next gas planet in the solar system. Images of Uranus show up as being a beautiful shade of blue due to methane gas in the upper atmosphere. Scientists think that this planet probably has bands of color like Jupiter but they are hidden by the methane layer surrounding it.

    Decorating Uranus: Frost Uranus with frosting starter that is mixed with some of the cotton candy flavor packet. Shimmer white sugar shows it’s cold surface.

    Neptune

    10

    Neptune is the last gas planet in the solar system. Now getting still colder and darker, images of Saturn appear as deep blue in color. Hydrogen and helium are the two known gases to make up the composition of Neptune.

    So far away from the sun, it takes Neptune 165 Earth years to orbit the sun once. In fact, in 2011 the planet completed it’s first orbit since it’s discovery in 1846. Neptune is whipped with very strong winds, up to 2000 km per hour.

    Decorating Neptune: Tint some white frosting with blue coloring. Use more to make it darker than the icing used for Earth. Sprinkle with shimmer white sugar.

    Pluto

    11

    Poor Pluto was dropped from the list of planets in our solar system in recent years. It is now considered one of the dwarf planets. So far from the sun, it is in constant darkness. Only Hubble has been able to show very faint images of the largest of Pluto’s features.

    Decorating Pluto: Frost Pluto with mocha chocolate frosting. Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles and shimmer sugar.


    How To Make Letter Shaped Pancakes

    A Breakfast Family Tradition

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    Years ago, the popular children’s book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett inspired me to establish Saturday morning as family pancake morning with my children. This delightful story opens with Kate describing Saturday morning breakfast with a jolly grandfather who makes pancakes. He prides himself on the art of flipping pancakes. On this morning he flips a pancake so high it crosses the room and lands on her brother Henry’s head. They all have a good laugh and the event kicks off the “best bedtime story ever” that night.

     

    Grandpa creates a wild tale about the town of Chewandswallow, a town where the food supply doesn’t come from grocery stores. Instead, the townspeople walk out with a plate and utensils to catch food the sky serves up three times a day. It may rain tomato soup, snow mounds of mashed potatoes- or maybe a storm of hamburgers blows in. All is well until the “weather” turns yucky and extra large and the people are forced to set out in search of a new town.

    Children (and adults) love pancakes. A family pancake morning can promote togetherness for the family and create fond memories. It provides a chance to connect and talk about the week’s events. Children can pitch in and practice measuring and cooking skills. Pick any day of the week that is best for you.

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    Children will Enjoy Making Letter Shaped Pancakes

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    C is for cherries!

    Children will especially love making shaped pancakes. Making letter pancakes is one idea for pancake fun. Letter pancakes are created using your favorite pancake batter and a turkey baster. After mixing the batter simply draw the mix up into the turkey baster just as you would with meat juices. Release the batter by squeezing the bulb. Now “write” your letter onto the hot griddle. Brown and flip just as you would an ordinary pancake.

    Making letter pancakes is especially good for preschool children learning to identify letters. Activities using letters will help children learn the alphabet more easily. If you have a preschooler you may have noticed certain activities they do- like gluing macaroni on a large letter M for example. Preschool teachers usually introduce one letter per week and conduct activities with that letter each day. Find out what your preschooler’s letter of the week is for the following week. On family pancake morning, introduce that letter with letter pancakes. This will give your child a head start on letter mastery. For phonemic awareness (a necessary reading prerequisite) practice the sound that letter makes.

    Whole Wheat Pancakes

    Studies have proven that whole wheat flour is the most nutritious for your family’s pancakes. Whole wheat significantly lowers the risk of many chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes,  a risk of heart attack and colorectal cancer. It is thought that whole wheat aids in maintaining a healthy weight. Following is a quick and easy recipe for whole wheat pancakes courtesy of Cooks.com.

     

    Ingredients

    • 2 Cups Whole wheat flour
    • 2 tsp Baking powder
    • 1 tsp Salt
    • 2 Eggs, Well beaten
    • 2 Cups Milk
    • 2 Tbs Vegetable oil

    Instructions

    1. Stir the dry ingredients together.
    2. Then add the eggs, milk, and oil.
    3. Cook pancakes until browning and bubbly around the edges.
    4. Turn with a spatula and cook until done.

    Add to the taste, fun, and nutrition of pancakes with fillings and toppings. Choose a different filling or topping each week, or perhaps have two or three choices and let each child choose a personal preference. Chop very finely or sprinkle on the pancakes as they cook for the letter pancakes.

    In recent years research has produced results labeling certain foods as being super foods. Super foods are high in anti-oxidants. Anti-oxidants, as the term implies, attacks damaging oxidation in animal tissue. They contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes (proteins that assist in chemical reactions) thought to prevent the development of several chronic diseases.

    Older children, between ages 8 and 10 are old enough to understand the dangers of unhealthy eating. Discuss diseases and causes, particularly the ones that may be genetic in the family. Talk about the benefits of food research and super foods so that they become aware of them.

    Nutritious Pancake Fillings and Toppings 

    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter shaped pancakes
    Healthy fillings and toppings for letter-shaped pancakes

    Dried cherry filling: red cherries are packed with anti-oxidants. Plenty of research indicates tart cherries as having anti-inflammatory value, reducing pain from gout and arthritis.Heart health benefits are also linked to the cherries.

    Fresh blueberry filling: blueberries are naturally sweet and children will love the taste without added sugar. Research indicates blueberries as highly beneficial in protecting neurological damage to the brain. Lifelong consumption of these antioxidants could slash the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in future seniors.

    Semi- sweet chocolate morsels filling: dark chocolate is very rich in poly phenols which are good news for chocolate lovers. Poly phenols are known to be inhibitors of the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that a small bar of dark chocolate a day thins blood as well as a baby aspirin reducing the risk of blood clot formation that can lead to strokes.

     

     Other Fillings and Toppings

    Have fun with family pancake morning! There are so many possibilities for fillings and toppings that can add variety and nutrition to your pancakes. The whole family will look forward to family pancake morning!

    Other filling and topping ideas:

    • stir finely chopped walnuts into the batter. Top pancakes with sliced bananas and cinnamon.
    • add chopped fresh in-season fruit to the batter, such as strawberries or whipped cream.
    • top with bananas, strawberries, and honey.
    • add finely chopped apples and raisins to the batter.
    • top pancakes with homemade fresh cherry pie filling.

    Get creative and I’ll bet you will come up with your own yummy and nutritious creations!