We had to hike a few miles up a steep trail but once we made it to the mountain lake, we knew this was going to be a fantastic weekend. The kids were being troopers, carrying backpacks with the lighter items, hopping like billy goats from one rock to another. We scaled a couple of downed trees to find the perfect camping spot on the edge of the lake, with water so clear you could see right to the bottom.
With only a couple of other tents around the lake, this spot was so serene. We could hear the wind whistling in the trees and bumblebees buzzing around. Bright orange butterflies added a splash of color to the browns and greens of rocks and trees. Once the tent was set up, we took a swim to cool off and sat down to relax a bit before starting dinner. That’s when we saw it. A beautiful osprey, first flying high above the lake before suddenly swooping down to catch a fish.
This happened several years ago but I still remember it clearly. There was just something magical about this moment. I've always enjoyed watching wildlife and grew up with a dad who was constantly looking out for birds of prey, while my mom kept reminding him to keep his eyes on the road while driving. :0) I’m really not all that knowledgeable about recognizing birds but I do enjoy watching them and the osprey is pretty easy to spot.
If you enjoy wildlife and bird watching, I wanted to share with you that I recently learned about a cool program by Cowlitz County PUD, a utility company here in the Pacific Northwest. When an osprey couple decided to build their nest on top of a power pole a few years ago, the utility company helped them to relocate the nest to a safer place… successfully. The ospreys are back again this year. A live cam has been set up to allow you to watch their nest as we wait for the eggs to hatch. Science in action for the kids!
I hope you enjoy watching these magnificent birds as much as I do. Please know that sometimes it takes a few minutes for the live feed to show up.
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I’m all about celebrating the simple joys. So then, why am I talking about science fair projects?! Most moms in the middle of “science fair season” wouldn’t list science fair among their simple joys. Ha! Hear me out though….
Our kids just got done with science fair at their middle school and pffff… it’s always a lot of work. This year, they had such cool science fair projects though that it made the whole process more exciting and fun. As I mentioned in my last blog post, we have been reading the book The Nature Fix by Florence Williams as a family. This book inspired the projects both our kids chose to work on.
I wanted to share them here as it’s hard to find cool projects that will help your kids learn while at the same time making the work relevant to something they can relate to in real life.
While the materials for these projects are not free, both projects can be completed for less than the cost of taking the family to the movies. For both projects you will need a blood pressure monitor which you can buy for about $17.
Project 1: “Can you smell health?”
This project questions the effects of Hinoki oil on our blood pressure and pulse. Hinoki oil comes from the Japanese cypress and is an essential oil that has been used for meditation and relaxation. You can purchase it for about $10 online. After your child completes their project, you can use it in your diffuser to help your family to relax after all that science fair work! :0)
To do the experiment:
Project 2: “Seeing Health in Nature”
This science fair project studies the effects of seeing nature images and city images on your blood pressure and pulse. Since we spend a lot of time in nature, we have a lot of nature photographs (you can check out some of my favorites on my instagram). We printed these on a larger sheet of photographic paper along with city images on a separate sheet. The printing cost about $8 for both sheets but you could certainly print the images at home if you have a good color printer.
To do the experiment:
The best part of doing these science fair projects was that as our kids asked people to participate to be tested, others were so curious about the effects on their blood pressure, they volunteered and asked to be tested as well. In our kids’ experiments, both the Hinoki oil and the nature images lowered the subjects’ blood pressure on average.
While I’m not going into the details of how to interpret the results of the data or what information to include on the project presentation (I trust your child's teacher has given clear instructions), I wanted to share these projects here. I hope they will inspire your kids to enjoy their science fair project and possibly consider a nature inspired project (one of these projects or a variation) that helps them learn about the positive effects of nature.
If you don't have a child working on science fair, count your blessings! ;0) Just get out there and know it's good for you!
Does your child’s school conduct a science fair? How do you support your child's learning to make it relevant to real life?
Please share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks!
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Most weekends, our family enjoys exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest nature. Recently, we had the chance though, to head up to Seattle for some exploring in the city. Our son had a special performance at MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture) and since our family loves to travel, we grabbed the opportunity to make a family fun weekend trip out of it!
MoPOP was so fun! After the performance, we ended up roaming the exhibits and playing the musical instruments the rest of the day! Besides visiting MoPOP, we didn’t really have a lot of plans set in stone. This unstructured time allowed us to find a place we would have otherwise never known about, as it opened very recently. However, we were all blown away by the experience.
As we were walking the streets through the South Lake Union neighborhood on our way to play tourists at Pike Place Market, we noticed an eye catching building at the end of the block. We couldn’t help but move closer and asked a person who looked like someone who would know, standing near the door, what this building was all about.
We found out this building was named “The Spheres” and that these peculiar buildings were amazon’s new offices. He invited us to come in. Really?! Inside, the atmosphere was transformational as huge close-up images of beautiful plants greeted us. The room’s exhibits explained the unique architecture of “The Spheres” and the philosophy behind it.
While we couldn’t access the upper floors of the buildings, videos and photographs gave a pretty clear picture of what these spaces looked like. The middle of the building had a huge tree in it and thousands of plants from all over the world were brought in to create a green, natural environment.
The conference rooms were built like a bird’s nest and a tree house connected by wooden walkways that reminded us of suspended bridges in the forest. Amazon encourages their employees to have meetings in these inspirational places.
Based on scientific research that shows people think best when walking, employees can move on the wooden walkways to gain new insights or figure out the creative solution to a problem.
My husband and I have been reading the book “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams. This book discusses the scientific evidence behind nature making us happier, healthier and more creative. We have been very intrigued by this book and have certainly found that spending time in nature has added much happiness and joy in our own lives.
Here are 3 ways:
1. Go out into nature as often as you can
Find outdoor activities you enjoy to stay fit and have fun with your family. Maybe instead of going to that matinee at the movie theater, go for a hike?
2. Bring nature in
Indoor plants benefit the air quality and beautify our home.
3. Walking meetings
Can you do some of your work while walking? Meet a friend for a walk instead of sedentary coffee or lunch?
What is your favorite way to incorporate these concepts in your life? Which one of these ideas most speaks to you? Please share your thoughts in the comments. Would love to hear from you!
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To share some joy this week, I wanted to let you know that I'm running a giveaway on my instagram page. If your New Year’s resolutions included learning a new language or if January is the perfect time for your family to connect through playing games or reading captivating books, you may want to head over to check it out! I'm giving away one printable of YOUR CHOICE from my etsy shop to two lucky winners (the digital file is only for personal, non-commercial use).
You can read more details about this giveaway on my instagram page but I wanted to make sure you knew about it so you don't miss out! Of course, you can always receive a free gift tag printable just by joining my email club. Check the sidebar of my blog to sign up! Thanks so much!
When I learned that the book Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells made it onto the Oregon Battle of the Books list, I was so excited! Marcia Wells is one of my favorite kids book authors!
After reading the first book in the Eddie Red, Undercover series (Mystery on Museum Mile), we eagerly looked forward to the sequels as soon as they were published and read all three books as a family. We really enjoyed the suspense and relatable characters which made these books fun to read (yes, even as adults!).
Considering our family’s international background, I appreciate books that embrace diversity. I felt that Eddie Red being a smart and funny African American protagonist was refreshing and definitely an added bonus. Sitting in the living room, we sat on the edge of our seats and stayed up a bit too late to finish just one more chapter.…
Being a big fan of her writing, you can understand I felt beyond thrilled that Marcia Wells agreed to do an interview with me! I will not be giving away any details of the Eddie Red books because I want you and your kids to enjoy the experience of reading these captivating books yourselves but reading Marcia’s responses to my interview questions gives you a sense of the wonderful person she is. Enjoy!
Eddie Red has a photographic memory and talent for drawing. Museums and art play an important role in your books. How has art had an impact on your life?
MW: I studied Asian art in college, and then when I lived in Spain during my Master's program, I studied Spanish art and would haunt the art museums in Madrid and Barcelona regularly. I love art museums; I think they're some of the most beautiful places on earth. I wish I could draw like Eddie, but alas, I am quite hopeless:)
What are your hopes when kids read your books? When did you start writing?
MW: I love it when kids learn from my books, but mostly I just want them to have fun, to find joy in reading. I began when I was 35- I was teaching middle school, and the students made for great character fodder.
My art celebrates the simple joys in life. What are the simple joys you cherish most?
MW: I love being with my family, no matter what we happen to be doing. I love quiet mornings and a beautiful view. Living in Vermont is perfect for that!
Do you have any special routine that helps you to focus when you are writing? Any favorite places to write?
MW: It really depends on the year- lately I find that although I enjoy the quiet, I am most productive at a cafe and being around the hum of other people. I take walks with a voice recorder, and find that the ideas really flow when I'm moving.
Our family has an international background and our kids are enrolled in Spanish Immersion School so I was interested to read that you have a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature. What inspired you to learn Spanish?
MW: I think that's terrific that your kids go to an immersion school! Everyone should have a second language. I always studied Spanish in school, and I just stuck with it in college. I was a business major and wanted to be bilingual; at some point I realized that I love language a lot more than business, so I got a degree in Spanish and became a teacher/translator.
Where do you find inspiration?
MW: Everywhere! Stories are all around us- we just need to open our eyes.
As a mom, how do you manage your schedule to make time to write?
MW: My kids are growing up fast (they're 14 and 11), so I find that I have a lot of time in the morning because they sleep in, and also when they're at school. I would say to any busy parent that you still can write, you just need to grab 15 minutes here and there. I also write a ton in the car. Again, with a voice recorder:)
Your bio mentions you live with farm animals in Vermont. My kids are über-curious to know what type of farm animals. :0)
MW: We've had pigs two different years, and we always have chickens. They eat the ticks from the yard, and lay great eggs:)
What are you working on right now? Any new creative projects?
MW: Yes! I'm working on an upside down fairy tale.
Thank you so much, Marcia! And to all of you who are participating in the Oregon Battle of the Books, best of luck!! I hope this interview with Marcia Wells inspired you!
If you are interested in reading more about Marcia Wells and her award-nominated books, please visit her website.
If you read the Eddie Red, Undercover series, which book was your favorite? Is your child participating in the Oregon Battle of the Books? What other books do you recommend that captured your child’s attention? Please be sure to share in the comments!
If you enjoyed reading this interview with children's book author Marcia Wells, please sign up for more inspiring stories and news from my art studio. You even get a free gift tag printable!
PS. Did you know that I offer educational and bilingual printables in my etsy shop? Please visit the "Printables" tab or click the image below for more information. Thanks!
Illustrations and nature inspired, handmade art that celebrates simple joys.