Crafts and Hobbies

May Baskets: An Old Tradition Makes New Friends

Officially, May Day is the 1st of May, but really anytime during this splendid spring month is a perfect opportunity to share small gifts of the season with everyone: teachers, friends, neighbors, and family. You can do that with May baskets—a wonderful, old-fashioned tradition.

Kites for a Blustery Day

Outside the wind is lifting just so, ruffling the new leaves on the trees and chasing the old ones away. It's spring, a time to celebrate the rebirth of the flowers and the greening of the trees. It's time to go fly a kite and watch it buck and soar in the breeze.

You can make a simple kite all by yourself, paint it or color it with markers, and let it fly up in the air. 

Spider Power

"Will you walk into my parlor?" said the spider
to the fly;
"'Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did
spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show when you
are there."

--Mary Howitt's classic poem, The Spider and the Fly

From this spider's dread invitation to the silly fly to J.R.R. Tolkien's mammoth spider-being Shelob, these eight-legged wonders have developed a nasty reputation. But spiders are a part of nature and have many fine qualities.

Plant a Tree for You and Me

Have you ever been in a place where there were lots of buildings but no trees? New housing developments or parts of a city that have been neglected for a long time may not have the shady spots and fresh air that trees give. As trees breathe, they let out oxygen that humans and animals need to survive. Their roots hold the ground together, making sure the soil doesn't blow away in the wind. When a tree dies naturally in the forest, its wood becomes a home for insects and a cafeteria for the hungry birds who eat those insects. Trees provide so many good things for the Earth.

Your Own Little World: Create a Terrarium

Whether it's filled with mossy rocks and ferns or sands and cactus, a terrarium is an amazingly fun way to learn more about nature. With a terrarium in your room, something of the outdoors can always be inside.

Terrariums that feature plants (not animals!) lock water inside to keep the soil moist. When the plants transpire, they let out water vapor. When the soil gets warm, it lets out water vapor. All this vapor collects against the top and falls back as rain.

Orange You Glad It's January?

Oranges bring a warm sweetness to the dreariest winter day. They are full of good things: vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some oranges are used to make juice while others are eaten just as they are.

Where Do Oranges Come From?

When we think of oranges, we think of sunny places, such as Florida, California, Spain, and Brazil. But oranges were not originally (oranginally?) grown in those places. A long time ago, the first oranges grew wild in China and India. The word orange comes from a Sanskrit word--naranga. The first oranges to travel to Western countries about 1,000 years ago tasted sour. Five hundred years later, sweet oranges made their way to Europe.

The Hidden Cost of Freemium

free-to-play logo image

Free.  Everybody likes free.  I mean, what’s not to like about free?  It’s free!  Free, free, free - use the word often enough, however, and it begins to lose its meaning.  “Free special offer (some rules and restrictions apply)!” “Free entree (with purchase of equal or greater value entree)!” “Free ski trip (after we badger you into investing in a timeshare over the course of an eight-hour 'seminar')!”  Free just isn’t what it used to be, and nowhere is this more evident than the world of electronic games.  Users are steeped in phrases like “free-to-play” and “freemium” to a degree that free really does start to sound like a four-letter-word.  Free they say?  Nonsense, we say.  Let’s take a look.

Dying for Tie-Dye

Image courtesy of Paula Burch's All About Hand Dyeing, http://www.pburch.net/dyeing.shtml

Feel like putting a little free spirit in your summer? Get on your oldest clothes, grab some buckets and rubber gloves, and head for the backyard to create beautiful tie-dye crafts.

You can use natural or artificial dyes, depending on whether you want your design to be a real eye-popper or something subtler that bespeaks being at one with nature. You can use a tie-dye kit or collect wild things from nature for earthier tones. Heck, even unsweetened Kool-Aid can be used as a dye to produce vivid color.

Going to the Zoo!

May is the perfect time to visit a zoo. It's not too hot or crowded, and the animals are at their springtime best. If your kids are begging for pandas, then the National Zoo in Washington is the place to go, but there are some places about an hour's drive from our area where kids can get a different kind of beastly experience.

MonkeyShines

Whether leaping through the vines of a rainforest or the pages of a book at the library, monkeys have lots to teach us about the ways animals live, our responsibilities in caring for the last wild places, and just how to have fun.

I'll bet you know that monkeys are furry, cute, and swing in the trees, but there's so much more to learn about them:

A Monkey is NOT an Ape

Monkeys have tails, but apes do not. Chimpanzees, gibbons, orangutans, and gorillas are all apes. They use their powerful arms and legs to swing through the trees. Many New World monkeys from South America can use their tails like another hand to swing. Monkeys from Asia and India can't do that! Monkeys, apes, and humans are all part of a family group called primates.