I stumbled across a cool sky observation activity to do with your family that is going on now through March 8.
Many people have never seen a sky full of stars because of the increase in light pollution. The website GLOBE at Night is asking people all over the world to sign up as an observer to help create a map to record what stars are being seen in different places around the globe.
You don't have to know all your stars/constellations to join the observation team (just Orion). The website presents a series of sky images and you choose the map that most closely resembles what you can see in the sky on the night you make your observation.
It does take a little effort on the part of the observer to find their lat/long coordinates for their observing location (i.e., your house) but the rest is pretty easy. No GPS is required (Google Earth can help find your coordinates as well as other mapping websites that are listed on GLOBE's site).
The observation recording started yesterday and continues through March 8. You can sign up at any time before that date to record your observation. You can do it once or multiple nights, it's up to you.
They had 60 countries participate in the observation project last year and the results were pretty interesting.
The girls did some cross country skiing at Fuller Farm yesterday before having a snowshoeing adventure in the backyard with Fino.
L.'s friend made a jump on the hill and L. thought it was really fun. Its great to see how at ease the girls are on their 'skinny' skis.
Fino borrowed two pairs of snowshoes from his friend Amy and we had one pair of our own. Since I was feeling under-the-weather yesterday anyway, I opted out of the backyard adventure.
I was crashed on the couch for about 30 minutes (two hours of skiing wiped me out) before G. came flying in to the house.
"Mommy! Mommy! Daddy fell in the river!"
(It's actually a narrow stream about two feet deep at the most.)
In my groggy, not quite functional state I asked, "Is he still stuck?"
"Well no, but he says his foot is hurt."
"OK, but is he walking back home?"
"Yeah he is but he says he can't feel his foot. You have to help him!"
G. watched me slowly pick myself off the couch (abdominal pain does not lend itself to fast movements) and decided I wasn't going to be much help so she darted back outside again.
A few minutes later Fino walked in the door just as I was reaching for my coat.
His snowshoes and boots were covered in a thick layer of snow and ice and he was making the ooooh and aaaah sounds of someone in pain.
"What happened?" I asked, still at little out of it.
He recounted the events leading up to his icy tumble that included "joking around," "teasing the girls," "they warned me about the water but I didn't listen to them" and "I jumped on the log without checking it out first."
Once he finished, my sympathy for his plight waned and I continued to watch him fumbling with the equipment straps while walking around on the hallway carpet.
"Fino, you're going to rip the carpet with those snowshoe spikes. Take those things off."
"I can't get them off. My feet are frozen."
So I reached down and pulled off the snowshoe straps and his boots while the girls were twittering around him.
"Mommy, will daddy's feet be OK?"
"Yes, his feet will be fine. Are you ever going to do what he did?"
"No way mom."
"No, daddy didn't make a good decision today."
As I ran warm water in the bathtub for Fino to soak he reddish/purplish feet, he summed up the incident.
The girls have been working on their Girl Scout Maine Lobster Patch and it's been fun learning experience for all of us.
After several weeks of lobster worksheets and trivia games at home, we were able to coordinate a visit to a lobster boat on Commercial Street in Portland thanks to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute for putting us in touch with Dave from the Lucky Catch.
The girls were introduced to lobster bait.
Then shown how a trap is baited. A dead fish is put in a mesh bag then a metal rod is threaded through the netting and placed in the center of the trap.
Dave explained how the lobster crawls in to the trap. We learned from an interesting website we found, that the first room of the trap is called the "kitchen" and because the lobster isn't smart enough to go out the way it came, it continues forward into the "bedroom" of the trap and gets stuck there.
There are small openings in the trap to allow for lobsters too small for market (under 1.25 pounds) to escape the trap while the legal catch size can't make it out of that hole. There is also a special tool used to measure the lobster's back to verify its size.
There are tanks in the boat to store the lobsters in salt water until they reach shore.
The girls learned that each lobster boat has their own special buoys. The lobsterman choose their colors and stick with them because that's how other lobstering boats can identify their traps. The girls were amused to hear that some lobstermen choose pink and/or purple for their buoys. The Lucky Catch uses green and red stripes.
The highlight of the lobster boat tour was the banding demonstration. L. was the first to get her 'claws' banded.
And of course everyone had to have a turn getting banded as well as operate the pliers.
Lobster claw elastics
My Girl Scouts learned a great deal about lobstering during their time on the Lucky Catch and can't wait until summertime when they can actually go out and bait, drop and pull traps as well as band claws on a Lucky Catch lobstering tour (I can't wait to try it too!).
We have our own cross country skiing terminology. It was inspired in part by a snowy disc golf game a few years back along with some terms the girls learned in ski school at Attitash while learning to downhill ski when they were younger.
Since L. is working on an outdoor education project for 4-H this year about cross country skiing and I have been serving as her camerawoman on the trails taking video and photos of the various techniques of skiing that she knows, I thought I'd share the basics for those teaching their children how to cross country ski.
Note: I'm not a great skier so this is really basic info and based on my own family's experience these past couple of years...
DUCK WALK (aka the Herringbone)
This is one of the ski positions used to climb hills. On less powder, you really have to dig your edge into the snow (which is not as sharp as downhill skis so this takes some practice) to climb a steep hill. Side-step is another way to climb a hill.
FRENCH FRY (aka the Straight Run)
This is the 'fast' position when going down hills. It's also the position for classic skiing.
PIZZA PIE (aka Snowplow, Stop)
This is the slow down and/or stop position. It's important to teach kids this position and make sure they don't cross the tips of their skis while doing it. Another way to slow down is to drag the ski poles on the snow behind you. We've done that a few times this winter when the conditions have been particularly icy and controlling ski edges has been hard.
One of the games we play at our 4-H Ski Club is Simon Says. It's a great way to teach the kids these positions in a fun way. Plus, learning to jump in to the various positions (with or without poles, depending on their ability and/or soft powder conditions for falling down ;) is a great way to learn balance while training legs and feet to get in to the positions without having to look down.
L's ski lesson #1
And sometimes you go down a hill in fairly icy conditions, like we did a Riverside Golf Course in Portland this past Sunday, on a wing and prayer that you won't fall down. The kids made it look easy; Kate and I obviously didn't pray hard enough ...
The girls and I have watched several felting demonstrations over the past couple of years (most recently at the Alpaca farm) but we'd never actually tried to do it ourselves until this past weekend.
It wasn't nearly as hard to do as I thought it would be (of course we chose the easiest project possible) but it was more time-consuming than I realized and a little messy.
The kids loved it.
We started off with a pile of loose felted wool and a warm bucket of soapy water (a few drops of dish detergent was all the soap we used).
It was important not to squeeze the wool but just work it around in our hands so that it became saturated while forming a ball shape. If we squeezed too hard we made dents and cracks, which we wanted to avoid.
The class was designed for kids but when we were told that the adults could do it too, Fino and I jumped right in.
L. used several different colors of wool for her ball and spent about 40 minutes working the shape until it was solid.
The test to know if we were done felting was to try and bounce our ball on the floor. If it bounced, it was firm enough to stop working.
Fino enjoyed this particular step and bounced the ball not only on the floor but also off the wall. A couple of the kids followed suit and we had to put a stop to that. Yes, fathers are a lot more fun sometimes.
It not only takes a while to form the ball, it takes another couple of days for it to dry completely. Some of the kids used multiple colors because they planned to cut the ball in half and see the design formed inside the ball. (We have yet to find a good, sharp knife to make our cuts but I'll post a photo when we do.)
If you're interested in felting -- it really is a lot of fun -- here are a few resources to get you started:
The diversity of groomed trails - from the open field track to the wooded trails - made for a fun cross country skiing adventure at Twin Brooks in Cumberland this past weekend.
We parked at the trail head on Tuttle Road and explored the trails in that area. There is another trail head on Greeley Road but we didn't make it over to that side because we had so much fun on this end of the trails.
The wide field track was a great way to practice our skate skiing skills and enjoyed the open space to pick up speed while doing it.
Then we veered off the field and enjoyed a nice trek through the wooded trails. Dogs are not permitted on the trails near the Tuttle Road trail head (skiing competitions are held here) but are welcome on the Greeley Road side.
The wooded trails were more narrow and required us to ski in a line behind each other to allow for passing skiers.
There were some hills on the trails but they were small and we all thought that beginner skiers could manage them without too much trouble. Of course my kids loved them, especially because it didn't require much effort for them to climb and ski down a second time.
Trail: Twin Brooks, Cumberland
Length: approx. 10 kilometers of looping trails.
Getting there: There are two trailheads for Twin Brooks trails, one on Tuttle Road and the other on Greeley Road.
Fee: $2 suggested donation.
Equipment Rentals: None.
Ski Level: All
Dog-friendly: Dogs not permitted on Tuttle Road trails to keep competition trails open for skiers but dogs are welcome on Greeley Road side trails.
Kid-friendly factor: GOOD
Kid Rating: Both girls gave this trail 4 stars (on a scale of 1-the worst to 5-the best).
11-year-old: I liked the ski trails and they were nicely groomed. I liked skiing through the forest. 10-year-old: I liked the pretty trees covered in snow in the forest and I liked going down all the small hills. I liked the classic ski tracks in the field. The trail was a little too narrow in the woods so we had to watch out for other skiers. We sometimes had to wait for other skiers to go by so we could ski next to each other.
The snowmobile traffic was light while we were out on the trails, which was great since we were a very big group yesterday.
We took at water break at Otter Pond ...
... and the kids indulged me with a group photo that including throwing snow. They do prefer their silly shots.
We found several ice fishing holes and turned around before looping around the whole pond. There was a little too much slush for my comfort and everyone was getting tired so we headed back to the Standish trail head.
By the time we returned to our cars the wind had kicked up and the snow started coming down again. We lucked out on the trail with the best couple of hours of the day.
G. absolutely loved Mr. Pipsqueak (who was anything but small). But after last summer's incident with a rabbit that leaped out of her arms, used her face as a springboard and scratched her cornea on the way to the ground (and required a trip to the ER), we have a ban on adopting bunnies at our house.
G. and L. liked the "kitty castle" idea they found online and decided to make some, not only for the ARL but also for their own cats.
We asked for boxes from the produce manager at our local Hannaford and were given as many as we could carry out of the store.
The girls decided to stack the 'castles' to make a kitty 'hotel' instead.
And although the cats are posing for this shot that G. took, our cats really do enjoy hiding out in those boxes.
If your kids like making crafts, the ARL has a list of fun crafts you can do at home and drop off at the shelter. Check out "Comfort Crafts"