Sunday, October 23, 2011

Discovering Nature In Mystic Connecticut

Recently, National Geographic Adventure Magazine named Mystic Connecticut as one of the top 50 places to live and work. Home to one of America's leading aquariums, the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, it's no wonder how Mystic was awarded this title. Visitors can view living collections, science and conservation work and sea research through exhibits, demonstrations and educational programs. Mystic Aquarium houses Beluga whales and rare and remarkable sea creatures. The Institute for Exploration is a base for famed oceanographer and explorer Dr. Robert Ballard.

The Mystic Seaport, The Museum of America and the Sea is the nation's leading maritime museum. This museum offers visitors a unique interactive link to seafaring of the past.

The Denison Pequtsepos Nature Center is a combination wildlife sanctuary, visitor attraction and educational facility. If you are interested in learning more about the habitats and wildlife of southeastern Connecticut, this is the place to visit. It has eight miles of trails that cover its 300-acre wooded preserve. There are natural history exhibits and educational classes.

In addition to great educational experiences, Mystic is home to two Vineyards. Stonington Vineyards and Jonathan Edwards Winery

For specific information about hotels and restaurants in Mystic, visit my TripAdvisor account.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Sea School!!

On a trip to Mystic Connecticut, we discovered Sea School at the Mystic Aquarium. This preschool is the first and only licensed preschool housed in an aquarium in the country!! Wow!!

Similar to a nature preschool, Sea School's curriculum is designed to promote science, math and literacy skills through exploration. The outdoor learning area is eco-friendly and provides the opportunity for children to play and learn about nature!

What a wonderful and exciting addition to nature based learning! To find out more information on Sea School visit

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Your child completed a nature preschool now what?

Unfortunately there are no nature-based elementary schools close enough to where I live. Like most people who choose this type of early education for their children, I saw my son off to a traditional elementary school this fall. My biggest concern was how he would transition from spending most of his time outside to an indoor classroom. I felt sad that his learning would be primarily done inside and that he would not have the opportunity to explore the natural world around him. I hear that this is a concern of many who are considering nature preschools. I am happy to say that so far the transition has gone great and  I am an even bigger fan of nature preschool programs.

I observed that my son entered kindergarten as a confident boy. My biggest concern was that unstructured learning was familiar to him, kindergarten is structured. How would he fit in? The daily explorations that he experienced at his nature preschool provided him with valuable skills. He brought these skills to his new learning environment. Though his physical surroundings were much different he was able to fit right in and observe, experiment and learn. Attending a nature preschool sparked a love of learning. This foundation he brought with him on his very first day of school.

I am learning that the one area where my son needs more attention than the other children in his class is in regards to his writing. Due to its unstructured nature, nature preschools do not bring a structured approach to  learning and he was not so interested in perfecting his writing. It is good practice to work with your child on skills that need extra attention at home. For us it was writing, each child is different. You will be able to identify the areas that you need to work on with your child.

Now that we left the comfy and nurturing environment of our nature preschool we are finding ways to enrich his learning through nature and it is helping to strengthen the foundation that was laid during preschool. We are doing this by:
  • Nature-based camp during the summer. We signed our son up for a full day, week long camp. He attended this camp just before school started. Not only did it help introduce him to what it would be like be away from home for a full day, it continued his learning about nature in a fun way. We plan to send him to a nature-based camp every summer.
  • Nature-based classes throughout the year. Local Audubon Societies and town programs offer these types of opportunities. My son and I take one nature class a week and I pepper special programs throughout each month.
  • Outside Exporation. Have your child play outside one hour before or after school. We go out no matter what the weather.
  • Walk to school. Make nature observations along the way. If you do not live within walking distance. Drive to a point where you feel comfortable walking. If the mornings are too hectic, walk after.
  • Volunteer. Volunteering your time in the classroom and make suggestions on how to incorporate nature opportunities.
  • Family Nature Vacations. Incorporate nature in your family vacations.
My child has become a nature ambassador and a confident student. I strongly believe that this foundation was laid by his nature preschool and will continue to guide him through his elementary education.
I will continue to post observations and suggestions along the journey!! For additional information check out the Education section.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Top Five Summer Activities

Go On A Nature Scavenger Hunt

Often times when I arrive at a beach I find myself staring at the ocean. The kids start digging in the sand or jumping in the water. This summer our family set out on our vacation to not only enjoy the ocean playground but to explore all of its nature offerings! We grabbed our copy of National Audubon Society Regional Guide to New England (National Audubon Society Regional Field Guides) and embarked on a nature scavenger hunt. If you are not in New England, you can find a National Audubon guide for just about any location in the U.S. With guidebook in hand we set out and found amazing discoveries. Because the beach lies between the ocean and the land, it provides a great opportunity for nature findings. Be on the lookout for:
    Beach Plants
  • Seaweed: Seaweeds are greatest abundance in rocky areas between high tide and low tide as well as floating after a storm or even washed up on shore. Green seaweed populations fluctuate with the seasons. Refer to your guidebook for species and identification.
  • Grasses: Tidal marshes are some of the most productive biological systems in the world. Salt Meadow Cordgrass and Amulet Spikegrass grow in areas less frequently inundated by saltwater, typically closer to dry land. Sea lavender, Salt Marsh Aster, Seaside Gerardia, and some species of Glasswort can often be found and are beautiful to look at.
  • Cattail marshes: In areas where salt water is more diluted with freshwater from rivers. Cattail marshes replace salt marshes. Various types of grasses, including wild rice, and sedges, including bulrushes, are found here.
  • Eelgrass meadows: Eelgrass is typically found in protected bays, coves and other areas of brackish water. Sea Rocket and Dune Grass occur here, but not in abundance. Dune Grass and plants that thrive on dunes are largely responsible for the creation and growth of the dunes. On the seaward side of dunes can be found Beach Pea, Dusty Miller, and Seaside Goldenrod. Other beach plants to identify include Orache, Beach Clotbur, Seaside Spurge, and Jimson weed.
  • Fish
  • If you are able to go fishing the ocean provides an endless abundance. Fishing from the shore and spotting fish that swim along the coast is just as exciting as taking a boat out. Mollusks are perhaps the most fun to explore! Grab a pail and set out for an adventure. Mollusks to look for include periwinkle, blue mussel (a popular, edible species), Eastern oyster, Atlantic slipper shell, hard clam (also known as the quahog, little neck clam or cherrystone clam), Atlantic bay scallop, mud snail, Blue Mussel and salt marsh snail.
  • Crustacea:Crustaceans include crabs, shrimp and lobsters. Green crabs are common crab found on the shore, where it feeds on Eastern oysters and soft-shell clams). We like to catch these crabs and release them. They are fun to catch and interesting to examine. Blue crabs, red crabs, and Jonah crabs are found in deep water areas. Other crabs found include the lady crab, spider crabs, and fiddler crabs; hermit crabs and mole crabs. My son recently participated in a hermit crab race. Not sure how we felt about this as we spent the rest of our vacation trying to explain to him that although they sell these crabs as pets, we do not have the proper habitat to provide the crab a happy home. The sand shrimp Crangon and two species of grass shrimp are plentiful along the shore, especially in late summer and fall. The American lobster is fished commercially and is found in deeper waters.
  • Birds: Birds are my favorite and I was so thrilled to see a female red-winged black bird on the beach this year!! Birds use open water areas, tidal marshes, mudflats, sandy beaches, offshore islands and mainland uplands to habitat. Some birds come for just a season while others stay throughout the year. Coastal migrants (also called "transients") are interesting to note and identify and summertime is the perfect time!
Shop a Farmers Market
    Farmers Markets provide a great opportunity to buy locally grown foods and products. Many farmers markets also provide great entertainment for the whole family by featuring local artists, musicians and story tellers. If visiting New England check out our wonderful Farmers Markets!
View the sky
    With comfortable evenings and often clear skies, summertime provides the perfect opportunity to brush up on your astronomy. Visit for daily reports on what to observe each evening. The other morning while watching the news I learned about a new planetary nebula found by an amateur astronomer! Great stuff!
Catch Fireflies (Lightning Bugs)
    What summer is complete without catching a few lighting bugs to light up the evening? This year we took a firefly class at our local Audubon sanctuary. There has been talk of lighting bugs being on the verge of a rebound. In 2008, the Museum of Science in Boston launched a project to track lightning bus and have counters. The past ten years has brought about a decline in fireflies and now scientist are saying that there could be resurgence in the numbers! Read more about amazing fireflies!
Exploration by Kayak

    The skills needed to kayak can be learned in a day and being out in the water affords the most amazing way to view wildlife in its natural habitat. Since there is no motor needed to ride in a kayak, you have a far greater chance to view wildlife without disturbing their habitat. My favorite part about being on a kayak is the quiet opportunity to view nature. If you are planning a visit to New England and want to explore on a kayak, check out's 10 Greatest Places to Kayak in New England.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Top Five Spring Activities

Start Plants and Flowers From Seeds
Growing plants from seed is a wonderful project for adults as well as children. It can be habit forming as well as a science so be prepared to get involved! Many different techniques will produce healthy plants and it is best to experiment with different methods until you find what works best for you.

Starting seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the average date of the last  frost can extend the blooming or production time. We began our seeding in the beginning of March to transplant outside by the beginning of June. When danger of frost has passed, harden off the plants over time to acclimate them to the outdoors and transplant them into the ground.

Just like people, seeds and bulbs have needs that must be met in order for them to thrive and grow. Show kids a variety of seeds and bulbs, explaining that this is where most plants come from. To help kids understand more about planting seeds and bulbs, allow them to grow some of their own. Give kids the responsibility for watering and observing the growth of their plants. A fun project is to paint the flower pots you are using.

To learn more about seed starting there is a lot of information online and at your local nursery.

Boston Flower and
Garden Show 2011
Visit a Flower Show or Nursery
Spring is a wonderful time to visit a flower show or nursery. We attend the Boston Flower and Garden Show yearly, and find the show to be a perfect kick-off to getting ready for spring gardening. Its a wonderful opportunity to find out what is trending in landscape design as well as gaining information about timely garden topics. The focus this year was on celebrating the container garden.

It is also an opportunity to support local gardeners and artisans. Children do very well at Flower and Garden shows as the exhibits are bright and interesting. Often times involving birds or other animals that frequent the outdoor garden habitats. This year we bought our son a butterfly kit with live caterpillars.

If there is not an opportunity to attend a flower show in your area, heading to a local nursery will give you some springtime inspiration.

Visit a Farm or Wildlife Sanctuary

Sheep Sheering
Woolapalooza 2011
Visiting a farm or sanctuary in spring provides an exciting array of activity. From babies being born to sheep being sheered, there is no lack of things to see and learn. Check out your local farm or wildlife sanctuary, you will be surprised at the many opportunities!

Observe Birds and Wildlife
Springtime brings about lots of activity. The common wood frog freezes solid every winter and then defrosts in the spring. After spending the cold months underground, salamanders emerge in late winter to migrate to their aquatic breeding sites, most likely the very site where they were born. What's amazing about this is that they often migrate on the same night and in towns across Massachusetts, wildlife enthusiasts wait for the night of the big migration and get out there to help. The salamanders need a first rainy night over 45 degrees Fahrenheit, after the ground has thawed, to trigger the migration. If you have children, A Big Night for Salamanders written by Sarah Lamstein is a wonderful book about a young boys attempts to protect the salamanders on their big night. Vernal Pools play an important roll in the spring. A Field Guide to the Animals of Vernal Pools, is a great resource.

There is plenty of bird activity outside. Robins can be seen looking for worms, some birds are leaving, others arriving. Check with your local Audubon Society to join in on a birding class. Another fun activity is to purchase a bird journal. If you want to make a journal with your children, Bird Log Kids: A Kid's Journal to Record Their Birding Experiences is a perfect tool!

Raise Your Own Butterflies
Recently we purchased an Insect Lore Live Butterfly Pavilion. It is an amazing way to observe the wonder of the butterfly life cycle. This experience has provided us with a close hand look at caterpillars eating and growing to form their chrysalis, then emerging as Painted Lady butterflies. We love feeding the butterflies in their included observation habitat and then releasing them into the wild. Last year we purchased a butterfly bush and several butterfly attracting plants for our garden. It will be a a nice habitat to release our next batch in over the summer.

Enjoy spring!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Captivating Carnivorous Plants

During our spring seed shopping outing, we stumbled upon a Venus flytrap at the local nursery. Our son was immediately captivated and we began a new adventure in gardening.

Venus Flytrap
Plants that prey on animals are called carnivorous (meat-eating) plants. They are not only nature's great oddity, they are unique in their nutrient-gathering abilities for survival. Learning about them and keeping them in our home is becoming a great science project for the whole family.

Cobra Lilly
 There are fifteen groups of these fascinating plants in existence with 500 species of plants within these groups. The plants we are learning about include Venus flytraps, bladderworts, sundews, butterworts, pitcher plants and the cobra lilly  My son is most fascinated with the different ways in which each plant traps its pray. The Cobra Lily is of particular interest to him because of its clear cells on top of its pitcher-like trap. These cells work like little skylights. When its prey sees the spots it thinks there is a way out, when it tries to escape by flying to the light it crashes into the plants wall, falls into the water-filled trap.

Pitcher plant included in
container arrangement.

The Croatan National Forest in North Carolina has the widest selection of Carnivorous plants in one area. Once you learn about these exotic plants you will start to see them in many different places. We just attended the Boston Flower and Garden Show and saw pitcher plants in a beautiful container arrangement.  

There are many resources available to help in learning about theses captivating plants.
When involving children in the care of carnivorous plants we found useful information on the New England Carnivorous Plant Society Website under Youngsters Guide to Carnivorous Plants.
We took books out of the library and enjoyed:
  • Venus Flytraps, Kathleen V. Kudlinski
  • Carnivorous Plants, Nancy J. Nielsen
  • My son's favorite book on the subject is Hungry Plants, Mary Batten
Growing these wonderful plants is a fun hobby as there are so many varied species. They are a beautiful addition inside and outside the home. Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

U.S. Destinations that will take your breath away!

Exploring a canyon, visiting a desert with awe inspiring rock formations or taking in the summit at the highest peak in the Northeastern United States, will inspire the nature seeker in anyone. If you are looking for taking in the natural wonders that the U.S. has to offer, consider visiting these three destinations.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The U.S. is home to one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. I will never forget the moment I took in the canyon. It seemed like everything around me grew silent as I marveled at this natural wonder. To truly experience the canyon, it is best to spend a couple of days either hiking to the bottom or staying at the rim and doing day hikes. We chose the day hike option due to different fitness levels. Staying in the park is the best option as you can take your time and enjoy the beauty of the canyon during different times of the day. There are several lodging options, the El Tovar is beautiful, its location right at the south rim and its location can not be beat. Reservations must be made at least one year in advance. There are six other accommodations which offer different amenities and experiences, all worth staying to enjoy the canyon. Canyon Reservations

There are many activities to enjoy while at the Canyon from guided tours to mule trips. Doing research and deciding in advance is recommended especially if traveling with children. Canyon Activities

Sedona Arizona: Red Rock Country
Approaching Sedona,  you can't help but take a gasp, it is a true nature playground, offering captivating red-rock monoliths named Coffeepot, Cathedral and Thunder Mountain. In addition to the awesome rock formations, Oak Creek Canyon is a must see.
One of the wonderful things about Sedona is that it serves as a four season playground and many visitors take advantage of the abundant sunshine and clean air. The annual average high and low temperatures are 74.7 and 45.7 degrees.

While it is easy to spend days in Sedona exploring its many red rock trails, sacred sites and vortexes, it is not so easy to to fit all you may want to do in the time of your visit. The hiking is amazing, our family enjoyed the mountain biking, you can camp, fish, horseback ride, take a jeep tour, ride in a hot air balloon, gaze at the stars, if there is an activity you can think of, Sedona offers it.

The White Mountains, New Hampshire
Home to the Northeast's highest peak, Mount Washington, the White Mountains in New Hampshire offers one exciting experience after another. The White Mountains offer year round opportunities to engage with nature. From beautiful foliage in the fall, fantastic skiing in the winter, refreshing hikes in the spring and all kinds of outdoor fun in the summer, a traveler can never run out of things to do.
While visiting the mountains, there are a few must see attractions.
  • The Flume George is a must. As you enjoy your nature walk, you will discover amazing waterfalls, covered bridges, caves, pools and gorgeous mountain views.
  • The summit at Mount Washington. To get to the top is an adventure. You can either take the Mt. Washington Auto Road, or the Cog Railway.
  • Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves, offer many scenic wonders and adventures. Exploring boulder caves and panning for fossils are among the nature activities that await visitors.
  • Ski Mountains. Both Loon and Wildcat Mountain both offer unique ways to explore the mountains. From the adventurous zip-line to amazing views of Tukermans Ravine (a glacial cirque), visiting these two ski mountains offer a variety of options!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's Maple Sugar Time in New England!!

Mom the buckets are filling, the buckets are filling!! I heard an excited voice call to me from across the woods. Throughout New England from the beginning of February to around the end of April, trees are being tapped and buckets are over flowing with the sweet sap that becomes New England's world renowned maple syrup! New England generates close to  500,000 gallons of maple sugar per year, Vermont is the largest producer, New Hampshire produces approximately 90,000 gallons followed by Massachusetts who produces about 50,000 gallons. Maine and Connecticut produce as well. If you live in New England or are planning a trip to the area, include a maple sugaring event!

New England Maple Sugaring Events:


Mass Audubon Maple Sugaring Events
Old Sturbridge Village Maple Days

New Hampshire


  • The Maple Syrup Book, Janet Eagleson and Rosemary Hasner
  • The Maple Sugar Book: Together With Remarks on Pioneering As a Way of Living in the Twentieth Century (The Good Life Series), Helen and Scott Nearing  
Childrens Books:
  • Maple Syrup Season, Ann Purmell
  • Sugaring, Jessie Haas

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowed in? Strap on your detective hat and get outside!

With feet not inches of snow on the ground and more snow coming, you may be wondering what to do when you are all snowed in. Try throwing open the front door and embracing Mother Nature's gift! Strap on your boots or a pair of  snow shoes and set out on a hunt for animal tracks.

If you have children, this is a wonderful opportunity to create a mystery as you try to figure out where an animal was going and what they were doing. By looking carefully at animal tracks you can learn more about their comings and goings. No children in tow? Animal tracking is just as fun for adults and can be very addicting!
First, you will need a helpful resource to get you started. Check out the Outdoor Action Guide to Animal Tracking. A pocket guide to animal tracks is a must. There are simple guides and more sophisticated guides.

After your tracking adventure is finished, there are many books written about animal tracks that are perfect for reading to kids. Some of my favorite books for children are:
  • Big Tracks, Little Tracks, Selsam, Millicent
  • Tracks in the Wild, Bowen Betsy
  • Whose Tracks are These?, Nail, Jim
  • Wild Tracks!, Arnosky, Jim
  • In the Snow: Who's been here?, George, Lindsay Barret
  • Tracks, Scats and Signs, Dendy, Leslie
If you are in search of an adult read:
  • Scats and Tracks of North America: A Field Guide to the Signs of Nearly 150 Wildlife Species (Scats and Tracks Series), Halfpenny, James
  • Peterson Field Guide to Animal Tracks: Third Edition, Olau, Murie J.
  • Tracking and the Art of Seeing: How to Read Animal Tracks and Sign, Rezendes, Paul
Your local Audubon chapter should offer tracking classes and is a great resource to learn more about this fun activity. And, tracking does not need to end when winter is over. A fun project is to make an animal track box in your own back yard.

Don't forget that there are plenty of activities that include the familiar sledding, ice skating, and skiing so go on outside and embrace!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Experiencing Boston’s Local Food Movement

If you are in the Boston area and in search of restaurants that serve locally grown food look no further than Za and Evoo. Appealing to tourists and locavores, both provide the opportunity for diners to savor seasonal flavors while enjoying the freshest ingredients available.

Za is known for their unique pizza’s and family-friendly atmosphere. Evoo, Za’s sister restaurant serves up eclectic cuisine and is perfect for those looking to experience a unique twist on locally prepared food. If dining on local fare is your thing, Za and Evoo are a must when travelling to the Boston area. Read on to be tempted by these unique restaurants.

Za- 138 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington MA 781-316-2334

With pizza options like Roasted Butternut Squash, Apples, Smoked Goat Cheese, Maple Vinaigrette, Walnuts, and Micro Greens, one can truly appreciate the local seasonal offerings Za has to offer. For the adventurous types, the "Mac 'n' Cheese" pizza is a great option. After eating this pizza one wonders why it is not a common topping.
Za’s salads are a perfect blend of ingredients from the farmers that the restaurant partners with. The restaurant touts serving the highest quality produce available and after eating one of their mouth watering salads you will agree.

Za does not take reservations but does have a call ahead option. If there is a wait list they will add your name for a better chance at getting a seat upon arrival. Calling ahead to see about the wait is not a bad idea.

Evoo- 350 Third Street in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 617-661-3866.

Evoo serves up local produce and livestock and changes their "Home Grown" menu daily. A changing menu that includes local ingredients like Carlson Orchard's Peach-Basil Relish or Sesame-Hoisin Braised Boyden Farm's Beef, you can go on a tasting adventure that will lead to new and interesting culinary combinations. The wait staff is very knowledgeable and should be consulted with for their recommendations.

A nice option that Evoo has is a three-course daily menu and a seven-course tasting menu. A great way to experience different menu choices.

Evoo accepts reservations both by phone and online.

The Nature Playground will feature restaurant reviews and area farmers markets regularly so be sure to check back often!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Incorporating Nature Into Family Travel

Since I can remember I have been in love with traveling. I love everything about it from getting in the car, to arriving at an airport, to seeing my final destination for the first time. Every step taken when traveling makes me feel alive. I am addicted to it.

There is no better way to learn about a culture or experience what it may be like to be from a different place than through travel. True, you can read about different places but to experience a destination, its people, flavor, sights and what it has to offer or not offer is a true experience.

When my son was born four years ago, I experienced for the first time anxiety
over travel, I was concerned that I would have to put travel on hold. I spent hours online trying to find resources for planning the perfect family trip with a young child. I was able to find some information but not exactly what I was looking for. I was looking for two things, comfortable destinations for traveling with children under 5 and trips that included nature experiences. I was able to put together two trips that worked out well for our family.

Disney and Sanibel Island
As a new parent, I was worried about my first time on an airplane with my son. I was that traveler who would silently sigh and scream inside when I saw a young family coming near me on an airplane. I hate to admit it especially now since I have become a member of that family walking on to an airplane kids in tow. I was so certain my karma was due. With that mindset, I set out to find the perfect trip, I wanted to be around other families. Not at all how I traditionally traveled and not how I travel now but had to be done for our first trip.

We set out for Disney, being a lover of environment and culture and heading to Disney seemed to be an oxymoron. I decided that staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for a few nights would satisfy our needs perfectly.  It was wonderful. The Animal Kingdom Lodge resort is located on a 43-acre wildlife preserve. The resort has awesome views of the surrounding savanna and its animals. I learned that the Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to the following animals, Ankole Cattle, Bontebok, Eland, Zebra, Greater Kudu, Impala, Okapi, Red River Hog, Nyala, Reticulated Giraffe, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Thompson's Gazelle, Waterbuck, White-Bearded Wildebeest, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Blue Crane, East African Crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Marabou Stork, Ostrich, Pink-Backed Pelican, Spur Winged Geese, Guinea Fowl and Ruppel's Griffon Vulture. We stayed in a savanna room and saw giraffes right outside our balcony.

Also impressive were the African artifacts that can be found throughout the resort lobby.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge has been designated by the Florida Green Lodging Program, recognizing the Resort's environmentally responsible practices.

After three days at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we headed to Sanibel Island about a three hour drive. Sanibel Island is world renowned for its shelling beaches and the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. We ended our vacation with a restful couple of days exploring beaches and the Refuge.

Beaches Turks & Caicos
Our second family vacation was to Turks & Caicos Islands. Turks & Caicos islands are known for their beaches and most of the islands are considered to be an undiscovered part of the Caribbean. We chose to stay at the Beaches resort and could not have been happier. Beaches provides Sesame Street Caribbean Adventures camp. With programs like bird watching with Big Bird and story time with Elmo, my son was able to learn lots of new things. He went on nature walks and learned about habitats.
You can access reviews for both the Disney and Beaches trips through my TripAdvisor account at:


It's that time of year for us New Englanders. The time of year where we curse the snow and cold and jet off to a warm destination. Due to the current state of the economy, many families have opted for what is referred to as a staycation. A staycation is a type of vacation in which an individual or family stays and relaxes at home, possibly taking day trips to area attractions. Living in New England, provides a wonderful playground for a perfect staycation and winter time is just as good as any to brave the elements and enjoy all that New England has to offer.

I live in the Boston area and have taken advantage of a staycation by taking my family to many great destinations. The destinations listed also allowed for nature exploration as well as great fun!

Winter Destinations:
Spring Destinations:
Summer Destinations:
Fall Destinations:
*Some of these outings required a night or two at a hotel but are close enough that a day trip can be managed. Future blog posts will provide details about each trip. You can access reviews of some of the listed destinations through my TripAdvisor account at:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Educating Children Through Pet Ownership

Caring for a family pet provides many benefits for children. Studies show that children who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma. It is also known that playing with a pet may help lower blood pressure and require fewer visits to the doctor. Children who own a pet get outside more and are able to reduce stress and anxiety through their relationship with their pets. Children who are learning to read often feel more comfortable reading aloud to their pet. Sharing love and caring for a family pet brings a family closer together and encourages childhood responsibility.

There are many different pets to choose from. Dogs and cats make wonderful pets and we all know the advantages and disadvantages to both choices. Its fun to think outside the box of traditional pets such as dogs and cats and look to other types of animals.

Our family includes a ferret, fish and one very spoiled Budgie. We live with an interesting combination of amphibian, bird and mammal and it has given our preschool-aged son a hands-on lesson in science.

Ferret Ownership
Our ferret Guiness is teaching our son what it means to be a mammal from Mustela putorius furo group. Ferrets are domestic animals, cousins of weasels, skunks and otters. (Other relatives include minks, ermines, stoats, badgers, black-footed ferrets, polecats, and fishers.) They are not rodents. Ferrets are crepuscular which means they spend 14–18 hours a day asleep and are most active around the hours of dawn and dusk.

My son learns a lot about what it means to be patient as he waits for his friend to wake and play. Since ferrets are smaller in size than a cat or dog, learning to play with a ferret teaches children to be gentle and careful.

Ferrets are known to suffer from several distinct health problems. Among the most common are cancers affecting the adrenal glands, pancreas and lymphatic system. Our ferret currently suffers from adrenal gland disease which requires a monthly shot. Caring for him is teaching our son compassion and he learns a lot from our monthly vet visits. Keep in mind that this disease is unfortunately very common in ferrets and presents itself as early as 2 year of age. It can be a costly disease to manage so research before making your decision to add a ferret to your family.

Ferret Central is the best online resource I use. Its best to research owning a ferret thoroughly prior to adding one to your family.

In Massachusetts, the best veterinary office for ferret care is Angell Animal Medical Center. Massachusetts Ferrets Friends ia a great resourse to ferret owners as well.

Our fish, Blue Paxton the Third teaches our son about caring for a friend that lives in a completely different habitat. Not being able to touch or play with the fish has brought on some creative interactions between the two. Blue Paxton is a Betta fish, very easy to care for.

We are the proud owners of a very spoiled Budgie named Ziggy. A Budgie is a parakeet. Living with Ziggy has been great fun for my little aviculturist. Ziggy tolerates being handled, is easy to care for and has developed a vocabulary that includes "pretty bird." She is very bonded to the whole family which she views as her flock. Most hand-fed Budgies are very sweet natured and will gladly oblige!

I recommend that you purchase a hand-raised parakeet. We got Ziggy from Peaks Parrots in Middletown, CT and could not be happier with her!

Backyard Chickens
Would love to add backyard chickens to our home. Found this resource for those of you who are also in the process of researching!