Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year 2017

Closing out the year always brings reflection.

Ending 2016 may be an emotionally-charged closure for many. It was a year of a lot of events (both nationally and globally), more election drama than any one person needed, and many tragic & iconic passings of people near and dear to our collective hearts.

But another year awaits, right around the corner. A fresh start. A hope and a promise of potential ahead.

What will your year bring you?  More importantly, what will you bring to the new year?

As you get ready to celebrate "out with the old, in with the new," may these serve as inspiration for your year ahead, resolution-making or not:

  • For some excellent New Year motivational & visual quotes to set you off to an inspirational beginning this 2017, check out HappyNewYear.Net.
  • If you want to look for ways to give back to your community in the year ahead, here's a wonderfully comprehensive list of 35+ service activities from Kid World Citizen for you and your family to get involved with. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Helping the Homeless Rest Easier

During the holidays as we are thinking of our loved ones, we often also think of those in need.  The homeless population who have to battle the elements of wind, weather, snow, and chilly temperatures come to mind. I've written about ways to help the homeless hardships many times before.

News stories have been popping up over the last 2 years of different women and groups engaging in a new kind of quilting bee.  Turning plastic bags into "plarn" (or "plastic yarn"), the "bag ladies" are making a difference--making plastic bags into beds. 3' x 6' bed mats, which then in turn recycles like a champ given each bed takes 600--700 bags out of landfills and turns them into something useful, helpful, and important!

For directions about how to make it, check out one of these three links to websites that will show you how to put your old plastic bags to good use!

Image from; video from

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, & Joyous Kwanzaa for All

In the aftermath of #Election2016, even the words "Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas," & "Season's Greetings" have a resounding resonance of political correctness (or not). Yet I find it fascinating how the "holiday planets" are "aligning" this year:
  • Winter Solstice is December 21st
  • Christmas is December 25th
  • Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 24 and goes until January 1st
  • Kwanzaa's 7 nights begins December 26th to January 1st
  • New Year's Eve/New Year's is December 31st/January 1st

For me, Christmas (which is the holiday my family and I celebrate) is a season, a frame of mind, an optimism... not a definitive day. It's about who you are with, and the love in your heart. Let's make the holidays more about that, and less about politics!

Here's wishing you an amazing holiday, no matter what holiday you and your family celebrate.

Shared video from; My video of photos from our holiday house using Adobe Spark, image from

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wishing You A Wonderful Winter Solstice 2016

Today's the day... Winter Solstice.
The shortest day of daylight per year.

A myriad of winter holidays happen during this time period, with many centered around Winter Solstice particularly. (Perhaps the ones that aren't specifically came to be to give us a little bright light in the darkest of winter nights.)

Here are two videos to brighten your day of limited light. One an overview of Winter Solstice that I created at, & the other a time lapse of the solstice from Fairbanks, Alaska, upwards toward the Arctic Circle. May these visual images help you enter the season ahead, looking for the brightness where you can find it as our daylight swings upwards, a litte bit with each passing sunrise & sunset.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tinker Crate to Create & Innovate!

Here we are....T-minus-one week to Christmas. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa too, as they fall almost right on top of each other this year. Visions of sugar plums are dancing in people's heads. Especially the younger set, as schools start letting out for break, and anticipation is at all time high.

With a week to go, where are you with your holiday shopping?
Still need some ideas?

If that's the case, the Kiwi Crate family might be the place to investigate.
The Kiwi Crate Company (and it's five thematic family members of hands-on kits for kids) help build imagination through STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. "Our goal is to inspire kids to see themselves as scientists, artists, creators, and makers."

Their kits can be ordered monthly, in 3-month blocks, 6-month blocks, or a whole year subscription to keep the creativity come every month for a year. For the crafty, experimenter, innovative kid...this could be the perfect gift you are looking for.

Their brands & kits are all hands-on, developmentally-appropriate activities for each age, with STEAM in mind.  Likewise, they can grow with your kids and their interests, always bringing mystery and invention to your mailbox!

  • Tinker Crate--for ages 9-16, for those who thrive on science & engineering
  • Doodle Crate--for ages 9-16, for those who lean toward art & design
  • Kiwi Crate--for ages 5-8, for the art, science, & engineering kids who like to tinker
  • Koala Crate--for ages 3-4, geared to inspire kids to play and learn through stories and games
  • Cricket Crate--for newborns ages 0-2 to build a foundation for a love of learning

All images from

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Nothing says Friday night like an #eco documentary.  That was me a few weeks ago watching Before The Flood" Leonardo deCaprio's & Fisher Steven's eye-opening 2016 documentary on climate change.

I'd like to invite President Elect Trump to watch it, especially as he is considering drawing America out of the Paris Climate and has positioned a climate skeptic to be the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  I am glad to hear that he met recently with both Leonardo and Al Gore.  I'm sure they both were more persuasive than I could be in getting Donald Trump to watch the film. I hope Trump watches, listens, and soaks in the facts.

By November 17th (which takes us post election), 60 million people had viewed "Beyond the Flood" either on National Geographic Channel (during the week of Oct. 30--Nov. 7 when it was offered for free) or On Demand (where people had to rent it, which is how I watched it).

When in doubt, he can always check these 13 pictures attached to the Upworthy article: "13 Devastating Photos to Show Your Friend Who Doesn't Believe in Climate Change."

Here's the short list of startling facts that I jotted down while watching the National Geographic
  • 97% of climate scientists believe in it.
  • "We Don't Have the liberty of time to combat climate change."

  • Given Florida's location, it's ironic that both Governor Rick Scott and State Senator (and former presidential candidate) Mark Rubio both oppose the idea. There was an indepth conversation with Miami's Mayor about how they are putting in a major investment on the city's infrastructure to raise the roads. Unfortunately, this will only buy us 40-50 years.
  • "The Ocean is not republican or democratic...yet it is rising all the same."
  • This link takes you to the Worldwide Air Quality Map--a geographic database that updates hourly monitoring the pollution data from factories. The map of China is particularly shocking, especially given it has recently surpassed the United States as the #1 global polluter.
  • "We all have a responsibility to set the example and help the developing world transition before it is too late....Facts are crystal clear: ice is melting, earth is warming, sea levels are rising."
  • "We are losing our status of forefront on innovation and problem solving as we have people, leaders, future-elected leaders burying their heads in the sand, not seeing the undenyable future in front of us."

Be sure to check out the "Beyond the Flood" website, or watch it at any of these places:
The more we watch, learn, and know about this, the more we all can fight (should President-Elect start to counter all the gains that President Obama has made over the last 8 years).  Given the fact that large populations live near oceans, it's not just an environmental issue.  It's a national security issue. It's a global issue, and certainly a human issue. Let's hope that sanity reigns and helps guide our leaders.  To take action, the "Before the Flood" website can help you with that too!

Video from; documentary image from, climate change image from, Google search image shows where you can find the movie.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why Only 1 Week? Computer Science Education Week EVERY Week

We are wrapping up Computer Science Education Week (CSEdWeek), which was December 5th through the 11th. This is an annually dedicated week to intrigue and inspire all students, kindergarten to 12th graders) to take the mystery out of computer science, coding, and other STEM-centered activities.

Initially, it fell to this week to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born on December 9, 1906, a woman ahead of her time, and one of the first computer programmers in 1944

Since its beginnings in 2009, CSEdWeek has grown over time and in its own magnitute. is an affiliate dedicated to furthering this education, feeling it should be part of core curriculums in all schools.  As we become a global community where technology advances are exponential, computing is certainly a core of many industries.

Of course, it begs the question--why only a week?!

Whether you missed it, want to relive it or extend it, or try your hand at the "Hour of Code" (or more), there's no reason that you should stop at only a week.  Here are some great resources to stretch your own awareness and build your coding and computer science curriculum--both in your school and in your own homes.  Who knows, you might find a resource or two along the way that might make a great Christmas present.

Articles & Information:
  • CSEdWeek maps and stats comparing computer jobs to computer science graduates in a clickable map. The numbers for both my home state of Illinois and my current state of Maryland were staggering and differed by a factor of 10-20! The overall overwhelming stat: "There are currently 517,393 open computing jobs nationwide. Last year, only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.
Resources for Educators:
  • ScratchED: Online community for Scratch users and teachers
  • Kids Get Coding: Find both children's books about coding as well as online exercises from blue{shift}, a West London coding school.
Reviews from Common Sense Media:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It's True! "Kazoo" Might Be the New Magazine for You (& Your 5-10 Year Old Daughter)

My daughter was not the typical "girly girl" as she grew up (she still isn't, now that she's in high school).
  • She didn't play with dolls.
  • She only ever had one Barbie, which I believe eventually became headless.
  • She had my old Barbie Corvette and camper (relative antiques!), but her "stuffed dogs: drove them around.
  • "Dress up" looked like stuffed animals wearing Build-a-Bear outfits.
  • She once wore a pirate costume to a Princess party of one of her Kindergarten buddies.
  • She's not a fan of painting her nails, wearing dresses, or playing in my makeup.
  • Heaven-forbid if I want to play with her hair. A pony tail or a regular braid was as fancy as it could get.
  • Pink and purple were not feasible wardrobe choices. Nor were hair ribbons or anything with flowers.
Instead, she was an insect-investigating, tree-climbing, soccer-playing, Lego-building, artistic, creative, techie kind of kid. Thomas the Train was a favorite in her preschool years, and she had strong feelings about naming her new brother Thomas. (We didn't.)

My daughter would have loved a magazine like Kazoo, back in the day!

I first learned about Kazoo in an article at Connections.Mic. Created by Erin Bried to fill a missing niche for her daughter, Kazoo is geared to inspire girls to reach their inner potential, and not be tied to the harsh beauty messages that many girls/teen fashion magazines enhance. It began from a Kickstarter, which raised over $171,000 in 30 days. This definitely showed that other parents were also wanting something with more depth to speak to their girls.

From their website, Erin shares the mission of her magazine:
"There’s no other magazine like Kazoo. All of our stories are either developed or inspired by top female artists, explorers, scientists, chefs, athletes, activists, writers and others. Regular features include: science experiments; comics; art projects; recipes; interviews with inspiring women from Olympic athletes to astronauts; and fun activities, like secret codes, jokes, mazes, search-and-finds and more.... By celebrating girls for all that they are—smart, inquisitive, creative, brave, strong and, yes, loud—Kazoo will help shore up their foundation, so that by the time they enter adolescence, they’ll be more likely to question anyone who makes them feel small than they’ll be to question themselves."
Additionally, Erin lists some startling statistics on the Kazoo "About" page that make you take pause about teenage depression, girls' emphasis on their own weight, and girls' negative self image and self esteem issues that can start as young as 10 or 11. Some of those statistics are listed in their "Possibilities" video below.

Sounds like a great resource for young girls to inspire them to get outside, to be active, to be themselves, and ultimately to be leaders! Might be just plain perfect for some of the young ladies in your life!  #GoGirls!!

Kazoo logo from from, pictures from my own personal archives!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

Ahh....Christmas season.

By this early part of this time of the year, you are getting your tree up, decorations out, and the whole shopping started (unless of course your heritage has you celebrating a different holiday).

For some, Christmas is eggnog flowing as the musical sounds of carols through the radio/stereo. I can see a twilit room, illuminated by twinkling lights on a tree, sipping hot cocoa in my minds' eye.

Of course the real version tends to be a tad more stress-filled.

What we all need is a li'l time, love, and tenderness.

We actually can make that happen, by giving the gift of kindness. (That and love are what makes the world go round!)

Following our Thanksgiving Theme of gratitude, here are two great places to go do just this:
The big "moral of the story" is that these are the ways morale is built.  Not just for others through the empathy you show them, but it also helps warm your own heart, bringing to focus what the real meaning of the season is!

It's the perfect type of advent calendar to bring into your holiday!!