Category Archives: Activities

Activity: Simple Autumn Applesauce

One of my all-time favorite parts of autumn is applesauce. My granddaddy taught me how to make his mother’s applesauce from scratch (although they threw RedHots, a candy, into theirs to make it pink – I have a different method), and now I’ve adapted it into my own simple treat. If you’re not much of a cook or nervous to try applesauce homemade, this recipe is perfect for you – it’s easy, relatively quick, and fun. When you share it with family and friends for the holidays, they’ll gaze at you wide-eyed and compliment your culinary prowess. Just shrug and smile smugly, ‘cuz you got this in the bag. (Also, they’ve probably only ever had applesauce from the grocery store, which is terrible by comparison, so it’s win/win.)

First: You must select your apples.

Apples come in two kinds: good for cooking and good for eating. It’s not that there’s a huge flavor difference, it’s more of texture difference – apples that are good for sauce are mushier and mealy, and fall apart when heated. Apples that are good for munching raw are crispier and not mealy. (Sidenote: for something like an apple pie, you may want them to stay firm, in which case do not select mealy, sauce-type apples!) It doesn’t matter which one you want to try, it’s just that the stronger, harder apples for eating raw will take longer to cook down and may not create a smooth sauce. But who cares? Experiment to see what you like best.

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[Activity] Display Your Own Curio Collection

This month we wrote about the history of curio collections and we thought we’d also give you some ideas on making your own at home!

Your personal “curios” don’t have to be nature-only; they can be whatever trinkets you collect. When I was a little girl, my great-grandmother kept a huge, wide metal bowl on top of her bedroom wardrobe. When I visited, she’d pull it down and let me pick through the old tin toys inside that she’d kept since her childhood. Some of them were just colorful, others moved when you cranked the knobs or pumped the spinners. Although she’s passed now, her memory lives on for me in that bowl of toys and her smiling face when she’d take them down for me to play with.

That was the first curio collection I ever knew, and although mine aren’t comprised of toys, I hope that they speak to my nieces and nephews when they visit me.

display your curios

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[Activity] Make a Nesting Materials Hub for Birds

I never forget to feed the birds. Every time I go outside, my muscle memory moves my eyeballs to the feeders to see if they need to be refilled.

But what I do forget is that, judging by how vocal they’re becoming, they’re getting into the mood for finding a mate and building a nest. The daylight clings a little longer, and all the trees – I just know it – are starting to stir. So this year I wanted to add another element to the backyard: a little depot for nesting supplies. Now most birds are going to use natural goodies, like twigs, moss, and (if you’re a hummingbird) even spider web silk, but birds are opportunists and if they decide yarn or dog hair would benefit the nest, they’ll certainly use it.

Cross the jump to see what I did this year!

nesting materials

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[Activity] Count Birds for Science in February

The Great Backyard Bird Count is this month and you can participate! Sponsored by Audubon and Cornell, this is the GBBC’s 17th year. The event lasts four days, from Feb 14 to Feb 17, so mark your calendar now and sign up here, at birdsource.org. Counting birds is not only fun, but helps bird scientists know where the birds are and how many there may be.

From the site:

Everyone is welcome–from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds.

Participants tally the number of individual birds of each species they see during their count period. They enter these numbers on the GBBC website.

So go on, count you some birds. Click here or on the image to register!

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[Activity] Natural Homemade Sweet Potato Dog Treats

dog treats

Today is Sunka’s fifth birthday! It seems like just yesterday I brought him home and shamed him into eternity by dressing him up as often as possible with camera in hand.

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This little guy has been with me on many, many adventures and I wanted to make his birthday special this year. There was a brisk winter walk, some soccer in the snow, and even a homemade bow tie! I think mint green is stunning on his handsome visage.

One of the other things I love to do for my pups is make my own treats for them. I know where the treats have come from so I know they’re safe, they’re made out of just one or a few ingredients, and they’re cheap – I paid $.89 a pound for these sweet potatoes. If you want to try them, all you need are sweet potatoes, an oven, and most of a day to piddle around the house. (Perfect for bad-weather days!) If you’re not into sweet potatoes, I’ve also included an insanely simple frozen yogurt treat at the end of the post.

It’s a twofer birthday Tuesday!

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[Activity] Easy Sushi Fun

Although making sushi isn’t something I usually do whilst interpreting, I’ve discovered that eating delicious, raw food is a great way to connect with nature (at least in my little world). I thought it would be fun to put together a little tutorial since a lot of people seem to want to know how to make sushi, but have never taken the plunge.

The fact is that it’s REALLY easy, not terribly expensive, and is fun as heck. It’s also a brilliant way to get people making food together. In fact, whenever I have a dinner party, it’s almost always a sushi party. Everyone must bring a vegetable or any seafood they may want, and I provide the rest.
This is a super basic way to make sushi and once you master the basics, you can go on to learn more of the complicated methods. I personally prefer doing it this way because it’s simple for everyone at a dinner party to learn and it tastes great. It involves basic vegetables and rice-inside-nori, rather than just rice or rice-outside-nori.

Step One: Assemble your ingredients. You’ll need: sushi nori (seaweed), sushi rice, several vegetables of your preference, and rice vinegar. Nori can be purchased in the “Asian” section of the grocery store, or in natural foods stores. Use any veggies you love; my favorites are green peppers, tomatoes, green onions, and cucumbers. Extras: many people love the burn of wasabi and the soothing tang of ginger. (Many people like to put the wasabi right in the sushi roll.) Add these if you like that kinda thing. Most people also use soy sauce either to dip their sushi, or to mix with the wasabi (personally I love dipping my rolls in the rice vinegar). If you are interested in meat but not ready to take the raw plunge, use wild-caught smoked salmon, it’s delish. Also, if you’re a cream cheese fan, cream cheese makes an excellent addition to sushi rolls.

Above, starting at top left: nori seaweed sheets, sushi rice, rice vinegar, salmon and cream cheese, sliced veggies.

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