September 30, 2005
September 26, 2005
A fall cornmaze is a lot of fun
After trying our hand at orienteering and geocaching this past year, and thoroughly enjoyed each activity, our curiosity was peaked with a brochure we saw for a giant corn maze. We couldn't resist the urge to try it out.
It took us an hour to navigate our way through the "Fire Engine" corn maze at Pumpkin Valley Farm. It wasn't as easy as it seemed thought. And, there are no maps, GPS units (although the girls did suggest using one near the end of our trek) or compass to assist. But, we did play a trivia game card that offered clues on which way to turn at the numbered markers inside the maze. We didn't know a few of the trivia answers so we guessed. But, I had a big "duh" moment later that night when I realized that the answers were actually on the trivia game paper. Not a shining star moment for me.
If you're planning on trying a corn maze, most operate on weekends through the end of October. Pumpkin Valley evens offers an additional nighttime challenge the last weekend of October. There are also giant mazes in Corinna and Caribou. The Corinna maze is actually an interesting tribute to the Red Sox.
The two bridges in the maze offered a great view of the field.
We had a little fun in the maze with the Flat Stanleys.
The kids were tired by the time we reached the last marker but they still had enough energy left to do a little victory dance with the Flat Stanleys.
After making our way through the corn maze the kids made a beeline for the "corn box." Getting buried was one of the afternoon's highlights but we could have done without all the fine, white corn dust in the car.
September 23, 2005
Opening day at the fair
My family spent yesterday afternoon and early evening at the Cumberland County fair.
Highlights include the carousel action shot, our nutritional dinner, the rabbit and poultry barns as well as our volunteer time in the 4-H Snack Bar.
Check out the photos of our visit.
Cumberland Fair opens Sunday
The Cumblerland Fair opens Sunday and my kids' 4-H Club has spent the last few weeks putting the finishing touches on their projects for the 4-H Exhibit Hall.
The Fair has a ton of great activities happening everyday so it takes a few minutes to sift through the complete schedule. If you're looking for a few "highlights," here's what my family has taken note of this year:
Monday and Wednesday are "Children's Day" and an all-day ride pass is $10 (from noon-10 p.m.). A great deal if you can get to the fair on one of these days.
There is no entrance fee for kids 10 and under. Adult tickets are $6/Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; $8/Sunday, Friday and Saturday.
The Cumberland County 4-H clubs host a food booth at the fair staffed by 4-Hers and their families (it's at the 4-H Exhibit Hall). The booth is a fundraiser for the county clubs and is typically cheaper than other fair eateries. My family has been busy practicing our burger-flipping technique on the grill at home this past week to get in shape for our opening day shift.
The Grand Parade at the Race Track is on Sat., Oct. 1. The parade starts at 10 a.m. and usually features at least a couple of floats made by 4-Hers. If my kids' club float is any indication, the parade should be highly entertaining. If you go, look for the float with the rubber lobster singing Elvis tunes....
September 21, 2005
New Outdoors with Children column
A new hiking column about our visit to Acadia National Park is now live in Outdoors with Children.
As I blogged about last month, Acadia was beautiful even though we hardly even scratched the surface of sites to see during our weekend visit.
And for a chuckle, check out the "Where are the Mainers?" video clip that my 7-year-old narrated.
September 17, 2005
Speak Francais? Not exactly....
Last night the girls and I were chatting during dinner and a turn in the conversation lead to a discussion on strangers.
I've spoken with the girls before about not talking to people they don't know unless they are with an adult they DO know. My usually more reserved child, G. said she had a new plan to deal with a stranger asking her to help him find his lost puppy....
"First I'd kick him in his privates like daddy told me to do."
"Well honey, you don't kick everybody. Just someone who tries to touch you."
"Yeah mommy, I know that. "
"Then I'd say (to the stranger), 'Monsieur. Pas de Bourree Francais. (Then in a really inaccurate French "accent") I do not speak English Monsieur.' "
"Mommy, it's French. I would pretend I didn't understand him because I speak French."
"OK. But honey you don't know how to speak French. And don't you think the English words might give that away?"
"No! I'd speak like a French person so he would think I was French."
"Honey, if you're going to pretend to speak another language, why not Spanish? You at least know words in that language. The only French you know is from ballet class." (Pas de bourree is a ballet step.)
"Yeah mommy, but it's not as weird."
"So you're going to scare off the stranger by speaking in French to him?"
Once I picked myself up off the floor from laughing, I suggested she stick with our original plan when dealing with strangers - find mom or dad or another adult she knows and leave the "French talking" to her weekly drama class at the theater.
September 14, 2005
Massachusetts is a goat
L., my 7-year-old, always has an interesting perspective on things. A couple of months ago she thought the state of Texas looked like a pair of underwear. And for a while she was on a roll about what some of the other states looked like (Florida was an arm, California was a broken arm, Maine was a big head and so on).
The novelty wore off after a week or so and she hadn't mentioned the state shapes again until last night.
Just out of the blue she said, "I think Massachusetts is a goat mommy."
"What are you talking about honey?"
"You know, Massachusetts is shaped like a goat."
"I don't see that. How?"
Patiently she replied - as if I wasn't too bright, "The horn is Cape Cod and the head is the bottom part of Massachusetts. Look at it and you'll see."
So over to the wall map I went to investigate.
And you know I think the little firecracker is right.
September 10, 2005
Apple picking season is here
Apple picking season just opened and we've already made 2 stops to the farm near our house. We can pick our own, which the kids always enjoy, but I also like to buy "utility" apples at the farm. It was only a couple of years ago that I found out about utilities. These are slightly bruised or scarred fruit that make them less-than-perfect and are sold at a reduced rate. Always happy to find a bargain, I usually pick up a bag of these apples because they are great to bake with.
On our first trip to the orchard, G. said she wanted to pick apples every day. Why? "Because it is soooo much easier than picking blueberries!"
We can fill up our 1/2 bushel bag of apples in about 15 minutes while it takes several trips and a couple of hours to pick the 22 pounds of blueberries we currently have in our freezer from this year's harvest.
But cooking with apples is a lot more time-consuming than blueberries so every fruit has its drawbacks. Last night I made a deep dish apple pie (I specify deep dish so you know I peeled a lot of apples to make it) and it was gone by breakfast this morning. The rapid disappearance of that pie means this is the year the kids learn how to peel apples!
There are lots of apple orchards in Maine and since the season usually lasts until the end of October, everyone has plenty of time to pick-your-own this fall.
The trees were heavily weighed down at the orchard with all the ripe apples.
I had turned my back for a minute and there was L. trying to climb a tree to get that elusive "perfect one" near the top. With the number of times she's broken her arm, I did not encourage her to climb any more trees.
September 07, 2005
Beautiful day for an island celebration
Yesterday the MaineToday staff celebrated our 10-year anniversary on the web with a trip to House Island in Casco Bay. My kids were envious and wanted to come but since the day included a staff meeting and some business-related discussions, it wasn't the time for family members to tag along. I did however agree to bring their Flat Stanley with me. Flat Stanley travels to places the kids can't see for themselves sometimes so it seemed the perfect time for me to "host" the flat guy.
It was a gorgeous day and during our boat ride to the island, we were treated several to fly-overs by the Navy's Blue Angels. According to our captain aboard the "Chippewa," the Blue Angles were having some promotional photos taken at Portland Headlight that day. But if you missed the short Casco Bay "show," don't worry. The flying team is performing at the Brunswick Naval Air Station this weekend.
House Island is a small island with an interesting history and our staff was treated to a walking tour of the island and Fort Scammon along with a traditional lobster bake lunch.
Once home, I shared the story of my day with the kids and although upset they couldn't go, they did enjoy the Flat Stanley photos I took.
Blue Angles flying over Casco Bay.
Flat Stanley enjoys the view of Portland (and the distant MT offices) from the island.
Editorial staffer, Carl Natale goofing around inside one of the dungeons in Fort Scammon.
The full MaineToday.com staff with Fort Gorges and Portland in the background. The kids loved the bunny ears on Flat Stanley donned by editorial staffer, Colleen Stone and marketing director, Monica Wright.
Flat Stanley assisted the captain of the "Chippewa" on the ride back to the mainland.
The captain thought the kids should have a photo of me and Flat Stanley aboard the boat as well.
September 03, 2005
Giant sunflowers are finally appreciated
Yesterday afternoon a photo enthusiast with a new digital camera knocked on our door to ask permission to take photos of the sunflowers in our garden.
I was pleased the sunflowers had an admirer and after talking with her for a few minutes, I realized that maybe our sunflowers were more unusual than I first thought.
Last year my husband planted a few sunflowers and had great success with them. And they were a great and inexpensive way to supplement the chicken feed (it always goes back to the chickens at our house). So this year's garden planning included a larger area dedicated to sunflowers.
Fino is the green thumb in the family so I can't take any credit. He diligently mixed chicken manure (which is high in the nitrogen the plant needs) with the sunflower's soil a few times in the spring and summer. The result was the biggest sunflowers we've ever grown.
So the girls and I took the digital camera out after dinner to document - and appreciate - a gardening job well done.
G. is five feet tall so we estimated our sunflowers to be about 7 feet tall.
Gas prices are really going to affect Maine kids this fall
Everyone's talking about the spike in gas prices and my husband and I are moaning and groaning too. What's really going to be an issue in our household is the reduction and/or elimination of several kid-related activities, including play dates with friends who live outside our town. The kids are not happy about being forced to make choices about what they aren't going to do this fall.
We drive the kids to their various activities/classes every week from our not-close-to-anything house. Now with the price of gas so high we simply can't keep the same driving schedule we've had going for the past couple of years. And our outdoor adventures hiking and geocaching are not going to be as frequent either.
I think the big story that has not been told yet in Maine (but I'm sure will be soon) is what the public schools are going to cut to absorb the cost of fuel for buses (and heat for buildings this winter). I read a story yesterday that in Utah there are several public school districts considering passing the expense of gas on to parents of kids involved in sports and extra-curricular activities. And other stories coming out on the web are talking about cutting field trips, school programs and consolidating bus stops (fewer stops saves gas) today. It will be interesting to see how Maine schools handle the issue in the coming weeks and months.
But I'm going to stop complaining about gas prices now and get busy finding families to set up some carpools. Of course I'm sure the "I told you so" people from today's story would tell me that I should have done that years ago. Well, better late than never I guess.