Fall Back! Daylight Saving Time Ends

When Benjamin Franklin wrote An Economical Project, his 1794 discourse in which he proposed the idea that would become our current Daylight Saving Time, it probably didn’t occur to him that the world would be using his system of adjusting human activities to maximize natural daylight more than 200 years later.

It also probably didn’t occur to him that others would take so long to embrace it. Attempts to legislate Daylight Saving were still widely ridiculed at the beginning of the 20th century. (It took the energy needs of WWI for many to finally enact them.) Standard times, brought about in the U.S. and Canada by the needs of the railways, which straddled various locales, also took a few decades to eventually pass into law.

While there was some reasoning behind the idea of idea of Daylight Saving Time and of course a need for time zones, the system is home to tremendous quirkiness and variations. (One year, 23  different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone.) Indiana only adopted Daylight Saving Time in 2005. Arizona opts out of Daylight Savings, although the Navajo nations within it opt in. Hawaii also does not observe Daylight Saving Time, as its proximity to the Equator makes for relatively consistent sunrises and sunsets year-round, regardless of season. (Why mess with success?) While some states are trying to do away with Daylight Saving Time, there was a movement (which did not pass) in Arizona to join the rest of the continental U.S.

In addition some Amish communities, particularly in Ohio, remain on Standard Time, which they (wonderfully) call – wait for it – Slow Time.

Cities and countries around the world begin, end and practice Daylight Savings at a variety of times and in a variety of ways.

Most of the U.S. begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.

How does Daylight Saving Time impact safety, particularly on the roads? Apparently the first dark evenings in Fall, when the time changes back, see an increase in pedestrian and auto accidents, as some people readjust to driving in darkness. In 2007, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. was moved to the first weekend in November, in the hopes of getting more Halloween Trick-or-Treaters out during daylight and presumed safety, which may be good for the youngest Trick-or-Treaters.

Daylight Saving Time negatively affects our sleep, much the way jet lag might. Even cows get flummoxed by the time change, dairy farmers say.

Research on the value of Daylight Saving Time is decidedly mixed. Here are some ideas for helping your kids cope with Daylight Saving Time.

Here’s hoping you enjoy Slow Time, seasonal change, and the wonder of time in general, whether you practice Daylight Saving or not.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman; Railroad photo: ctempemplymentlawblog.

Join the Minecraft City Champs Tournament!

San Francisco parents: Does your child love Minecraft? This Saturday, Oct. 21st, instead of just playing at home, they can enjoy the game while meeting new friends as part of a local team representing San Francisco, thanks to Super League Gaming and their Minecraft City Champs Tournament, run in partnership with Nickelodeon. It’s like Little League for Minecraft players! This event is fun, positive and a special opportunity to get out and play with other kids the same age, against players all around the U.S. Past players clearly have had a GREAT time!
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Tickets are on sale now. The tournament begins on Sat. Oct 21st and continues for the following three Saturdays. One skilled player has a chance to win a grand prize for their family – 4 tickets to Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Awards 2018, inclusive of round trip airfare to LA, 2 nights in a hotel and a $500 spending allowance. There will be other giveaways for all players, including an official San Francisco Ionics team jersey. Use this special promo code, for Bay Area locals, for 10% off: SFIONICS10.
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Not in San Francisco? Find your City Club for the Super League Minecraft event near you.
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Unlike many other digital games and social sites, there are benefits to playing Minecraft, which is open-ended and encourages creativity,  problem solving, teamwork and improved math and other skills.
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Super League’s Minecraft City Champs tournament is now its third season. The events take place in a movie theater, which means players also get to see their favorite game on the big screen. Kids 6-14 will love the custom game modes designed by Super League.
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To learn more and get tickets while spots are available, visit Super League’s Minecraft City Champs San Francisco Event Details Page.

Use this special promo code, for Bay Area locals, for 10% off: SFIONICS10.

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Parents attend for free, although Super League provides full coverage if you need to drop off. Of course if you’re there, you can cheer on your Minecrafter to victory!
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This post was sponsored by Super League Gaming. The views expressed are my own.

Solar Eclipse Viewing and Fun for Families

Since ancient times, solar eclipses, like the one due over North America on August 21, have inspired fear and wonder. Ancient people in what is now Asia and the Middle East thought that an eclipse indicated the attack of a sky or sun god, and made loud noises or created offerings to scare and appease whatever was threatening their god.

Today, that fear has been replaced by awe, the feeling of being in the presence of something larger than ones self. We often experience awe in the natural world, and during the unexplainable or communal. Perhaps the 2017 solar eclipse will involve all of the above! (Awe and its many benefits to the human spirit have been explored by The Greater Good Science Center.)

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the earth and the sun and temporarily blocks the view of the sun. The 2017 solar eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental U.S. in 38 years. Read more about how eclipses work.

If you’re ready to create some awe and memories of your own when the solar eclipse occurs on August 21, check out these links:

How to view the eclipse safely and what to expect, from Space.com

An animation that shows exactly what the solar eclipse will look like from your zip code, from TIME.com.

NASA’s Total Eclipse Site, which shares how to view the eclipse safely, lots of great educational and geographical information, eclipse activities, and citizen science opportunities that allow you to be a scientist for a day or longer, and help NASA study the eclipse.

How to make an old-school pinhole eclipse viewer, from Washington Post.

9 facts about the solar eclipse, from TimeandDate.com.

Jacquie at KC Edventures shares eclipse snacks, reading and citizen science activities that you can engage in, even after the eclipse.

Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten offers terrific space-themed projects for kids, so you can keep excited and learning about science.

Easy eclipse foods to make or buy, from Today.com

For adults, this list of eclipse-themed drinks (moonjito, anyone?) from Food Network will surely inspire your celestial cocktails.

However you celebrate the 2017 eclipse, remember to view the eclipse safely. I hope you’ll also make some memories, get in touch with your awe, and stay connected to science.

Photos: Time and Date, NASA, Mrs. Plemons Kindergarten

 

7 Ways to Play in the Mud on Kids to Parks Day

When my daughter was in pre-school, we used to rejoice when she came home with dirty feet. Sand between the toes? Yes! Caked-on mud? Bring it on!

Why? While we weren’t necessarily enamored with long scrubbing sessions in the bathtub (though those were fun, too), we knew that muddy feet–and fingernails and knees–meant that profound play was happening. We since learned that dirt can even be good for your health!

The 7th annual Kids to Parks Day, Saturday, May 20, is a national day of play. You can register for one of more than 1,200 events around the U.S. and join the fun, get out with your family and friends, and win prizes at the height of spring.

You can also enjoy Kids to Parks Day, or any kids-to-parks day on your own, in your local playground or park. Here are a few suggestions for creating some memorable, and maybe a little muddy, experiences.

… Before you head out, don’t forget to grab some good sports shoes that are rugged enough for play; affordable enough that you won’t be afraid to let your kids wear them outdoors; and ventilated, washable and drainable for those times when a little mud happens, or is even sought out. These are from Kids to Parks Day sponsor, Northside USA. (Keep reading for a giveaway featuring Northside USA Shoes!)

Make a Mud Pie or Garden Soup

The perfect kitchen may be outside! Find dirt or sand and a water source and pour batter-like mud into used measuring cups, pans, cupcake and pie tins, and pails. Decorate with leaves, petals and rocks. Or pour water into cups and bowls and add flower petals, food coloring or glitter inside to make potions and soups. Make a bench or a tree stump your cooktop, and “bake” away without any of the typical kitchen clean-up.

Read more from Jackie at Happy Hooligans (where these fantastic photos come from):

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Mud Kitchen Activity

Adopt a Flower and Watch it Grow

Do you often return to the same park or garden? “Adopt” a flower for the season and watch it grow over time. Bring a ruler or yardstick or measure it against your own body. Have space at home to plant a flower? Get some large seeds that little hands can tuck into the dirt, and plant easy growers like nasturtium, pea, beans, sunflowers or gourds. Growing edibles? You might want to sing this song:

Dirt Made My Lunch

Dirt made my lunch,
Dirt made my lunch.
Thank you Dirt, thanks a bunch,
For my salad, my sandwich
My milk and my munch ’cause
Dirt, you made my lunch.

Read more:

Beginner’s Guide to Getting Your Garden Growing
11 Ways to Make Gardening Extra Fun for Kids

Make and Sail a Paper Boat

This is a timeless idea that we got from our friend, Curious George, who made boats from the newspapers he should have been tossing on his paper route. Make your own paper boat and sail or race it in a creek or other body of water. Some of these boats have strings attached, so they can be launched without actually sailing away.

Play Pick Up Sticks or Pooh Sticks

The original pick-up sticks were ancient fortune-telling devices, but you can play this game anywhere, indoors or out, without even attempting to see the future. Hold your sticks in a bundle, then release them so that they land in a pile. Take turns trying to remove one stick at a time, without disturbing any other sticks. When a stick from the pile is disturbed, the next person takes a turn. When all the sticks have been removed from the pile, players total either their number of sticks – each one is worth one point. Near a creek or stream? Try your hand at Pooh Sticks, a stick-racing game inspired by Winnie the Pooh.

Build a Sandcastle or Make Sand Art

It isn’t officially spring until you get some sand between your toes at a beach park or sandbox. Pack the wettest sand you can find into mounds to make castles or carve them into other designs.

Decorate your creations with flags, or twigs, shells or other found objects.

Raise your own tadpoles

What better way to explore the cycle of life than to raise tadpoles and then release the frogs back into ponds and streams? Kids won’t soon forget this fun project. Looking for more pond activities? Try making a collecting cattails, making a water scope, or one of these other activities for a day at the pond from KCEdventures.

Photos: Rainy Day Mum, KCEdventures

Explore a Tidepool 

When the ocean recedes, the mysterious undersea world is revealed, and creatures like barnacles, crabs, periwinkles and sea stars can be seen if you walk among them gingerly. Read how and where to explore tidepools and how to preserve tidepool habitats for the enjoyment of others.

See more photos from our trip to the tidepools.

How will you play outside on Kids to Parks Day?

Register to be counted on Kids to Parks Day and you may win one of many cool prizes, including a special camping package from The North Face (4 sleeping bags, tent, and duffel bag), or one of the additional prizes from CamelBak (family hydration pack), Eastern National (Jr. Ranger package including a park pass for a whole year), and National Geographic (a set of kids’ books about nature and parks). How great is that?

Plus, every person who signs up will receive a special promo code from Northside Shoes. Keep checking the list of Kids to Parks Day events as we get closer to May 20th. There are new park events added each week!

… And, remember how I mentioned the importance of having shoes you can feel good about wearing for mud and other outdoor play? I’m giving away a pair of Northside Shoes! To enter, take the pledge to play outside on Kids to Parks Day Saturday, May 20, and then leave a comment here, telling me that you pledged and how you plan to play outside. If you have a favorite mud-play activity, I’d love to hear about that, too. The giveaway will end Friday, May 19, 11:59 p.m. PST. A random winner will be chosen. The winner must reside in the U.S.

Good luck!

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman, Public Domain, Happy Hooligans, Rainy Day Mum, KCEdventures

12 Ways to Celebrate Screen Free Week

Screens! They dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our children’s lives.

 

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has proclaimed May 1-7 to be Screen-Free Week. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in Screen-Free Week. And, even if you don’t go completely screen-free, you might want to pledge an hour or so a day or night to have some good screen-free fun. Who knows? That fun might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 ways to celebrate Screen Free Week:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day and spring.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

You might enjoy these related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Here are some more ideas for screen-free from Parents Place:

18 Ways to Unplug as a Family

Graphic: Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

Give Tech a Rest: It’s National Day of Unplugging

When I speak to families about slowing down and enjoying family time, one of the things that comes up over and over is screen time. Those shiny screens dominate many of our lives, often to a greater degree than we wish. While many of us parents can attest to the addictive nature of technology, we struggle with ways to reduce it in our and our kids’ lives.

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Cell phone resting in its sleeping bag

It is perhaps a bonus, then, that Mar 3-4 (sundown-sundown) is  National Day of Unplugging. Sometimes this kind of added incentive is all we need to inspire us to action. More than once, parents have told me that their children’s favorite memories include episodes of family game nights by fire- or candlelight during power outages. You can create your own “power outage” by participating in National Day of Unplugging. Who knows? This might just become a habit or your own favorite family memory.

Here are 12 things to do while the power is out:

Make a Paper Boat and sail it in a creek, pond or bathtub.

Make a Bird Feeder. Our local birds have gone nuts for ours and we plan to make more.

Make easy Wreaths, Crowns and Baskets to celebrate May Day and spring.

Enjoy Loom and Finger Weaving. You can do this anywhere!

Keep a Moon Diary as a way of observing the night sky.

Slow your pace and have a Cloud Race.

Get a jump on summer by making S’Mores. Camp under the stars if it’s warm enough.

Start a Backyard Garden.

Bake your own Soft Pretzels. These are really easy and fun.

Play a different fun board game every night. We like Boggle, Sorry, Taboo, Pictionary, Scrabble, Mancala, Masterpiece, Monopoly and Hi-Ho Cherry O.

Discover The Joy of Quiet.

And, if you’re really missing your screen? Make your own Shoebox TV!

You’ll need:

Shoebox or a square-shaped box and lid
Cardboard tubes, from paper towels, foil or plastic wrap, or wooden dowels
4-10 pieces of printer paper (8 ½ x 11”)
Drawing materials
Scissors, craft knife and tape

Cut a large opening for the TV screen into the bottom of the box, leaving an even border of 1” or more all around.

Holding the box horizontally, cut two holes on the top, each about 2” the side and 2” back from the cut-out section. Your dowels or cardboard tubes should fit into the holes.

Cut two bottom holes that line up with the top ones.

Cut the cardboard tubes, if necessary, so that about ½ “ sticks out on the bottom and 1-2” on top.

Decide on a story you want to tell that primarily uses pictures.

Place the paper horizontally (cutting, if necessary, to fit the tube length) and draw one picture on each page, adding words, if desired. Leave at least 1” on each paper edge and at least 2” on the left edge of the first picture and the right edge of the last picture.

Lay the pictures out, left to right, in the order they will appear. Turn them over and, keeping the order, run a piece of tape down each back seam where two pictures come together.

Tape each end of the paper story scroll around a tube or dowel and roll on the back sides of the scroll, so that the paper image is at the front of the tubes and the paper is tight and sized to the box.

Place the tubes into the holes and place the lid on the back. Decorate the front of the TV, if desired.

Gently turn the tubes to make the pictures move.

Slow Tip: You can also use images from magazines or comic-books to create your story.

You can make multiple story scrolls and change them through the back of the box. In doing so, you’ll join nearly every ancient civilization in telling stories using scrolls, starting with the Egyptians, who created them on papyrus.

The Shoebox TV craft is adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more ways to enjoy screen-free family fun.

Here are some more ways to unplug as a family from Parents Place:

18 Ways to Unplug as a Family

You might enjoy these related posts from Slow Family Online:

Eight Fun Things to Do While It’s Still Summer

Six Fun Family Activities to Enjoy This Weekend

Hooray for Low-Tech Toys

Graphic: Parents Place, Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

How to Host a Holiday Cookie Exchange

Even bakers who turn out beautiful cookies year-round seem to particularly relish baking them at holiday time. At a cookie exchange, each guest brings a large batch of his/her favorite holiday cookie, and each guest returns with a few of each type. Cookie exchanges define win-win: They’re fun and festive events that provide warm tradition in both the baking and the gathering–and then there are all the yummy cookies you take home! I’ve been a happy guest at my local Girl Scout Leader Cookie Exchange for many years.

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Hosting? Here’s how:

Send Your Invites

Invite enough people to ensure a variety of cookies, but still work within your space. Although there are usually close to 30 people at the cookie exchange I attend, cookie swaps can work with 10-12 guests as well. Instruct each attendee to bring 4 dozen homemade cookies and a large container in which to take their cookies home. Ask people to bring copies of their recipes, or start a group email message after the party to share them. Cookie exchanges can work at various times of day. Mine occurs at 7 pm, so that guests arrive after dinner. If the party is earlier in the day, consider having some filling or savory treats on hand.

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Prepare Your Space

While one long table is best for a cookie exchange, a counter or several small tables will work. Remove chairs and arrange the table/s so that people can walk all around them as they gather their cookies. Have some pretty platters on hand, for guests to place their cookies on, or ask people to arrive with serving dishes. Provide wax paper sheets, so people can line their containers and separate the layers of cookies. Have pens and index or tented paper cards handy, so guests can write the names of their cookies, and perhaps their names, so others can know which recipes they’ll want to collect.

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Line Up Your Guests

When you’re ready, have guests form a single line and prepare to travel around the table, picking up one cookie from each plate as they pass. If you have a lot of guests, have them join the back of the line between each trip around the table.

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Consider Other Foods, Decor and Activities

Cookie exchanges are pretty festive on their own, but that doesn’t stop my host extraordinaire, Mimi, from going all-out with holiday decorations; drinks such as coffee, hot cider and punch; and an ornament exchange game to boot. Here are some other fun holiday games and Christmas games.

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Choose a Great Recipe of Your Own

Should you want to contribute a cookie to the mix, try one of these:

Easy Christmas Cookies  from Martha Stewart

Three Great Christmas Cookies (including the Spritz cookies I grew up making) and My Favorite Orange with Sweet Orange Glaze from Slow Family

Greek Melomakarona Cookies (another favorite of mine) from Food.com

Shopping for kitchen accessories to make the perfect cookies? You’ll find what you need for reasonable prices at Target.com. Through Dec. 24, use promo code KITCHEN and get an additional 25% off Target kitchen items!

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Happy Holidays!

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

This post contains affiliate links.

Belli Offers Terrific Skincare Products for Women of all Ages

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If you have any skin issues (and who doesn’t?), you’ll be happy to learn about Belli Skincare. Belli’s extensive product line is safe and effective for women during various life stages, from adolescence and pre-pregnancy through busy motherhood and beyond. With lovely scents and textures, the products manage to combine affordability, luxury, gentleness and effectiveness. Belli even offers routines to help you create your own at-home spa.

Belli’s founders created their products after being discouraged by the lack of safe and effective skincare during their own pregnancies. As a result, each product is allergy tested, and free of paraben preservatives, phthalates, and artificial dyes or fragrances. They’re also made in the USA. Learn more about Belli Skincare’s ingredient safety and testing.

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My family was fortunate to receive Belli Skincare’s Healthy Glow Facial Hydrator (1.5 oz., $39), Eye Brightening Cream (.5 oz., $39) and Anti-Blemish Facial Wash (6.5 oz., $22) to try out. We love them! I’m especially enthusiastic about the Healthy Glow Facial Hydrator. It goes on very smoothly and moisturizes throughout the day without being remotely greasy, which is a concern I have with many moisturizers. I love the sunny citrus scent, which owes largely to mandarin orange peel oil, flower extracts and other therapeutic ingredients. Since I’ve been using the Healthy Glow Facial Hydrator, my skin looks and feels especially fresh.

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The Eye Brightening Cream is very helpful and gentle for the tender skin around the eyes. It seems to minimize fine lines and help with undereye circles. I appreciate the Eye Brightening Cream’s ingredient list, which boasts Vitamins K and B3, olive oil, arnica flower extract, ginseng root extract and green tea leaf extract, among other items. Both the moisturizer and the eye brightening cream work very well under makeup, and help foundation apply easily and last a long time.

belli-anti-blemish-facial-wash-tube-792734300265Belli’s Anti-Blemish Facial Wash has earned raves from our local young person. It’s sufficiently gentle to use daily, yet is also effective at cleaning and clearing skin. She also liked the cucumber and green tea scent. Because of Belli’s care and testing, this wash is especially safe to use during pregnancy, something that’s noted in the testimony on Belli’s site.

As mentioned, these are really nice products in generous packages for the price, something I appreciate as a beauty product enthusiast. I also appreciate Belli’s obvious care in its product formulations, which include numerous tested and therapeutic ingredients. Clearly, my daughter appreciates these things as well. Both the Anti-Blemish Facial Wash and the Healthy Glow Facial Hydrator went back with her to college. :)

Would you like to sample Belli Skincare? Use code BELLI749884646 and receive 20% off the entire Belli line through November 30, 2016. In addition to the products mentioned, I’m eager to try Belli’s Pure Radiance Facial Sunscreen and Fresh Start Pre-Treatment Scrub. The Stretchmark Minimizing Cream appears to be a post-pregnancy must, as well.

My family received Belli Skincare products in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed are my own.

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Photos: Public Domain, Belli Skincare

DIY: Lavender Distillation and Home-Cleaning Products

This post is generously sponsored by Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Bay Area. Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Bay Area specializes in all residential plumbing work,  from installations to maintenance and repairs. They have been serving the San Francisco Bay Area for over 25 years.

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Lovely-smelling lavender has been prized around the globe for centuries, for the soothing quality of its distinct scent. The ancient Egyptians used it in cosmetics. The ancient Greeks and Romans employed it for perfume and for healing practically everything, from stomach and kidney ailments to dropsy, jaundice, migraines and insect bites. In late medieval times, doctors carried walking sticks with lavender and other herbs tucked into their tops. Queen Victoria is credited with bringing lavender into the home for scenting and cleaning, where it remains popular today. Learn more about the history of lavender.

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Luckily it’s easy to create your own gentle yet effective lavender cleaner for bathroom and kitchen counters, and other areas throughout the house. Pour distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle and add 10-40 drops of lavender essential oil (available at many markets and online sources), depending on the size of the bottle and your taste for the scent. This simple formula offers a natural way to clean and sanitize bathroom and kitchen counter tops, bathtubs and toilets.

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Why is lavender so effective for cleaning? The herb is an antifungal and an antimicrobial. While it works hard, it smells lovely. Learn about other DIY cleansers to make with lavender and other herbal cleansers you can make yourself.

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I’d long wanted to take part in a lavender distillation, the process by which lavender is separated into essential oil and hydrosol, which is the byproduct of oil creation. I was thrilled to take part in a lavender distillation led by Cheryl Fromholzer of Gathering Thyme, a woman-owned herb store and education center in San Rafael, CA.

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We began by separating lavender buds from stalks and packing them pretty tightly into the column of the traditional copper still, or alembic.

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The column was placed onto water-filled urn and sealed so no steam would escape during the distillation.

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Cheryl attached the pipes, which led to a small condenser.

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Then tubing was added from the condenser, and the columned pot was brought to a boil. When the water heated and boiled, the steam from that process caused the lavender to release its oils, which collected at the top of the alembic. The oils then traveled to the condenser, where they cooled, and out through tubing to be collected in jars.

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The lavender essential oil floats to the top and can be separated by skimming it off or by using an essencier. The remaining liquid is lavender hydrosol, which can be used much the same way as essential oil, though it is much less potent. (It takes 30 pounds of lavender to make a 15 Ml bottle of  essential oil!)

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You don’t need an alembic still to create oils and hydosols at home. Hydrosols make wonderful and calming sprays for rooms, face and body, in addition to other uses.

Best yet, lavender is easy to grow, even in a small or container garden, with decent sun, moderate water, and an alkaline soil with good drainage.

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Our distillation process took a few hours, so we enjoyed the San Geronimo Community Garden and explored the medicinal properties of the plants there, many of which would also make terrific hydrosols and oils.

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More herbal classes and resources, including a Lavender Distillation workshop on July 10, can be found at Gathering Thyme.

More lavender and herbal crafts and activities can be found in Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ more fun family activities.

Thank you again to sponsor Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. The views expressed are my own.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman  (Top photo courtesy of Cheryl Fromholzer)

 

 

7 Ways to Celebrate the 2016 Olympics with Your Family

If you’re like my family and many around the world, you’ll be glued to the TV at all hours, watching the 2016 Olympics from Rio de Janeiro, which start Friday, August 5, and run for 17 sports-filled days. The Olympic Games have been fascinating us since 776 B.C. in Ancient Greece, where they were a one-day event featuring running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, equestrian sports, and a martial art called pankration. Five city-states (think Athens and Sparta) competed for the prize, a crown made of olive leaves.

In addition to watching them, there are many ways to celebrate and enjoy the Olympics right from your own home.

Learn Something about Another Country

With 206 countries competing in the 2016 Olympics, from Afghanistan to Zimbabawe, there are plenty of countries and cultures to become acquainted with. (Kosovo and South Sudan will be participating for the first time.) Try finding some of the more obscure ones on a map or globe. Or try one of these Olympic Map Activities from Creative Family Fun.

I’ve long been fascinated with the flags of other countries, and I bet many others are, too. Make a fun flag handprint wreath, using these wonderful flag printables from Activity Village.

There is also no shortage of interesting food you can make from every corner of the globe. This list of food from around the world will certainly get you started. Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Indian and Japanese food always sound good to me and my family, but we can be convinced to branch out even further, especially during the Olympics. For additional inspiration, see what school lunch looks like in 20 other countries. (Below, Ghana and Japan.)

Explore Rio de Janeiro and Brazil

Did you know that Brazil was home to inhabitants 32,000 years ago? Learn about Brazil‘s geography, nature, economy and more from National Geographic Kids. Learn about Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, a yearly celebration that features more than 200 samba schools and dates from 1723.

The Olympics offers a terrific excuse to try some Brazilian recipes, such as Pão de Queijo, a yummy cheese bread from The Kitchn  or other  recipes from Brazil, such as this Molten Brigadeiro Cake from Latin Kitchen.

molten_brigadeiro_cake_photo_credit_-_kate_sears_-_from_inteview_with_leticia_m._schwartz_for_tlk_-_denise_browning

Get Inspired to Achieve Your Dreams and to Be a Good Sport

Most people can’t help but be inspired by watching Olympic athletes — indeed, that’s a large part of the fascination of the games. Just about every Olympic athlete sacrificed something to get to the top of his or her sport. While all great athletes show tremendous dedication, discipline and ability, some have overcome more setbacks than others. These 10 inspiring Olympic athletes have endured such hardships as debilitating injuries, abuse, and growing up during wartime.

Queen_Underwood

U.S. Boxer Queen Underwood

The Olympics can inspire you to be active and healthy, and also to achieve your dreams. While urging you to do your best in any endeavor, they can also teach good sportsmanship – as they invariably demonstrate that achievement often comes with disappointment. Sometimes, no matter what your training and background, it’s not your day to win. The best athletes know how to lose with grace, too. These are a few great Olympic sportsmanship moments. “The most important thing is .. not to win but to take part” reads part of the Olympic Creed.

Get Active with a Backyard Olympics

So you don’t have a balance beam or a javelin handy? You can still create your own version of the Games with a Backyard Olympics. Ucreate offers lots of ideas for Olympic-inspired games and activities that are fun and easy to pull off. Don’t forget your homemade Olympic torch from Hoosier Homemade. (See more craft ideas for your Backyard Olympics, below.)

DIY-Olympic-Torch.on_.HoosierHomemade.com_1

Explore an Olympic Sport

You may find yourself so inspired by one of the 34 Olympic sports, from archery to wrestling, that you want to get involved in a local club. Learn more about each Olympic sport from NBC’s Gold Map.

Make Olympic Crafts

These ribbon wands from Sunhats and Wellie Boots will make anyone feel like a rhythmic gymnast or, at the very least, an enthusiastic celebrant.

You can also make these cute and clever DIY Olympic gold medals using clay, courtesy of Cindy Hopper from Alphamom.


 

No Time for Flashcards offers more easy Olympic crafts for kids. Because I love alphabet-bead projects (and have some in my book), I’m partial to these fun Go Team Go beaded bracelets.

And, for those who want to get in touch with their inner Ancient Greek, this is a fun laurel crown and toga project from Creekside Learning.

Make Olympic-Themed Food

Yes, we’ve circled back to food. The Olympics offer lots of great opportunities for fun themed food to go with your celebration or viewing.

From Sweetology 101 comes these super-cute Olympic Torch cupcakes.

Or you might want to let the Olympic rings inspire these colorful Olympic ring cookies from The Decorated Cookie.

Cheers to a wonderful, fun-filled 2016 Olympic Games!

Photos: About.com, Activity Village, whatsforschoollunch.blogspot.com, oprah.com/food/School-Lunches-Around-the-World-Gallery-Steven-Stern/6, Latin Kitchen/Kate Sears, Bleacher Report, Fiskars, Sunhats and Wellie Boots, AlphaMom, No Time for Flashcards, Creekside Learning, The Decorated Cookie

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