Archive for June, 2013

Fun, Family, and the Fourth of July!

CupcakesHow does that song go? Summertime and the livin’s easy…or something like that.  Anyway, it’s almost the Fourth of July.  Yep, that magical night when kids everywhere get to stay up late and watch fireworks in their jammies.  What a great tradition.  And the picnics and barbecues…mmm, mmm, what a great holiday.

But just to make sure we’re all here for another year’s display, here are some safety tips to keep in mind from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.  (I broke them up with some lovely pictures, you know, to lighten the mood and entertain the right brain!)

Fireworks 1

Make sure fireworks are legal in your area before buying or using them.

Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks.  Always have an adult supervise fireworks activities. Parents don’t realize that young children suffer injuries from sparklers. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals.

Fireworks 2

Avoid buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.  (Disclaimer:  author is personally skeptical of anything purchased in a brown paper bag!)


Light fireworks one at a time, then move back quickly.  Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse.  (Again I feel I must chime in…Doesn’t this extremely flammable attire scream “Danger, Danger”?!  She could melt all of her bangles!)

Fireworks 3

Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.  After fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

Fireworks 4

Never point or throw fireworks at another person.  (Is it just me, or does it look like a witch burning in that fire?  Maybe some tips for fire safety are in order!)

Fireworks 5

And last, but not least, never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.  We want the fireworks exploding in the sky, not in your hands.  And I don’t think showers of glass are as fun to watch as trails of the grand finale!


Grown-up Tree Houses

Tree TrunkI was on my way to do some research for an article when I discovered luxury tree houses.  No, that’s not the opening for a stand-up routine, it’s true!  I was looking for information on voluntourism and eco resorts—which I found, and they are amazing—but, hey, I am right brained.  I am susceptible to wayward tangents and going waaay off course; frequently.

Hutch on the Beach

What I was really looking into was traveling to far off lands, like the middle of the Indian Ocean.  Instead of a house in a tree, I was interested in a hut on stilts in the water.  These eco resorts are so dependent on tourists to help them maintain their environment, it is quite fascinating.  The tourists are rewarded with free nights in paradise for their efforts, so don’t go feeling all bad for them just yet!  Nonetheless, what a great circle-of-life concept; it is definitely win/win.

Tree House

Anyway, I stumbled on a list of the top ten tree houses.  I know, tree-houses, it’s crazy.  What could be more sustainable or eco friendly than a house nestled into the natural habitat of the woods?  They have one in France that looks like a castle.  That may be a little over the top, but it is very intriguing.  They have one in Sweden that is mirrored and nearly invisible.

Rickety Platform

Not exactly the old scrap boards haphazardly nailed together like we had when I was young.  These tree houses have electricity and water.  One even had a hot tub.  I know, right?  What the heck?!  If we’d have had one with a toilet when I was a kid, I probably never would have gone in the house.

Backyard Treehouse

I guess sometimes it pays to have a hard time staying on task.  How else would I have known about grown-up tree houses?   Now if I could just add on to this hidden one in my back yard…

Grandma’s Marathon-Good Times on a Great Lake!

Commemorative MedallionEvery year about this time there’s an electricity in the air in Duluth, MN; it’s the week before Grandma’s Marathon and the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon. It’s kind of the unofficial kick-off to the busy summer season in our area. With almost 20,000 runners in the races, not to mention family members who come to cheer for them, local hotels and restaurants will swell to capacity. We host a group every year in our home, starting with the traditional pasta meal on Friday night.Pasta!

Some people like to run in teams or groups.  Some people prefer to go it solo.  There’s no right or wrong way, just as long as you’re having fun.  At least that’s our motto.  Clearly we’re not really in it to win it!


Spectators and Leaders

These people, however, are winning!  These are some of the leaders coming down a stretch of residential road.  There are over 5000 volunteers that register and do “assigned” stations.  Hundreds, if not thousands, just come out to cheer.  They are sitting in lawn chairs, standing and ringing cowbells, even school bands and cheer squads line the streets starting in the wee hours.  I cannot tell you what an impact that makes for the people running.  When someone yells out your name or number, or references an outfit/uniform, it really does give you an extra jolt of energy.  There are some people who participate every year at the same place on the course; we love those people!  There’s Elvis, Bagpipe Guy, and a Beer Station (that would be for those of us extremely not-serious participants!).

Finishers Cheering

Since the half marathon and full marathon are both run on the same course, the half starts earlier.  Often times you’ll see finishers sporting their shirts and medals go back and cheer on the remaining runners.  It really is an unbelievable camaraderie.


Our group has a tradition of meeting up in the same spot for a couple of beers when we finish.  It’s a good place to watch the others come in and rest our feet.


Sometimes the weather gets the best of you and you’re forced to run in the rain.  This is the agony of “da feet”!

The Finish Line

So next Saturday morning, when the cars are gone and gates and bleachers line this street, think of us.  Whether we’ve just run 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles, the sight of this line in the road will be the happiest point of our day.  At least until we’re showered and sitting with our feet up.

Drinking from the Hose and Snapping Caps

BoxAnyone remember being shoved outside in the morning with a pocket full of caps, left to stave off dehydration at the garden hose?  Looking for the perfect rock and snapping those caps could take hours, heck, maybe all day.  We always had something to do.  Nowadays if you’re a parent you’ve probably heard, “I’m bored” more times than you care to count.  But here we are, at the beginning of another summer vacation, with months of free time ahead of them.  You know you’re busy, and the last thing you have time to do is play activity director.  Yet the thought of them in front of a screen all day is probably not what you’d like to see happen.  What can they do?

Well, it kind of depends on their age, but there are plenty of safe things for kids to do in our technology-heavy life that do not involve electronics.  I’m not saying your children will love this idea.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet they’ll throw a fit at the mention of severing that cord.  However, if you’re willing to join in and really encourage this (yes, it may involve bribery and negotiation to get started!) they will definitely benefit over time.  Here are some options for them:

  • Schedule time for unscheduled time—how can they be creative if every minute is planned?
  • Outdoor activities—build a “fort”, tree house, swing, etc.
  • Take a friend on a hike, bike trip, or backyard camp-out… They don’t have to be alone to be screen-free!
  • Build a game, castle, or fort from a box (like when we were young!)
  • Clean out their closet, garage, attic, or basement and have a sale
  • Help a neighbor with a chore
  • Read—if your kids are older, read the same book and discuss it
  • Volunteer—through your community, church, school organization, etc.
  • Take a class—dance, drawing, craft—why not do it with them?
  • Have a skill?  Teach a class—even if it’s just to a group of your neighborhood kids
  • Practice their entrepreneurial skills…form a group of babysitters, lawn mowers, laborers, etc. and connect them with the people who require those services.

If you think children need to be scheduled every minute, I encourage you to watch the video about a young boy named Caine who made an actual arcade out of cardboard.  Yes, an entire arcade of games!  There is also a follow-up video that shows what has transpired since the word of his creativity got around.  It has earned him nearly $250K for college.  Now that is a worthwhile use of cardboard and a summer vacation!