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Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Blue Backpack Chronicles: A-mazed at Mazza’s

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 3:44 PM

PHOTOS BY ALISON NOVAK
  • photos by Alison Novak

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A three-mile-long corn maze is a pretty intimidating prospect for a person with a terrible a sense of direction like me. But it also seems like a quintessential New England fall thing to do.

That’s why, on a whim, I purchased a two-for-one admission deal to Sam Mazza’s Corn Maze. On a recent chilly September day, I headed to Colchester with my trusty 3-year-old sidekick, Theo, to check it out.

After an unplanned detour in the Big Lots parking lot in Essex — that should give you an idea of my poor navigational skills — we arrived at Mazza’s farm market.

The three-mile maze is actually comprised of two different mazes, the woman at the cash register explained as she handed us a map. The easier one is .9 miles, while the more challenging one is 2.1 miles. Theo and I decided the shorter one was more our speed.

En route to the maze, the menagerie of farm animals behind the market beckoned. We admired the beastly yak and fed the goats — or, in goat-phobic Theo’s case, threw a handful of food into the goat’s pen and hoped for the best.

The corn maze has numbered checkpoints with hole punches at each one so you can track your progress. Theo and I punched out numbers 1 through 3 handily but got a little turned around after that.

Despite the warning at the maze’s entrance to “stay on the established maze paths,” impish Theo kept trying to burrow into the thick stalks of corn. I managed to pull him out of the corn long enough for us to find checkpoints 4, 5, and 6, albeit in reverse order.

As we snaked through the pathways, we participated in another maze game: making crayon rubbings of plaster animal tracks that were sprinkled throughout the maze.

After 45 minutes enveloped by seven-foot-walls of corn, both of us were ready to break free. Finally, we emerged into the open air.

“That was kind of confusing,” Theo said.

“Yeah, that’s how mazes are supposed to be,” I replied.

Theo looked at me plaintively. “Why?”

Guess my trusty sidekick still has a lot to learn.

If you go:

Sam Mazza’s is located at 277 Lavigne Rd. in Colchester. Sam Mazza’s Corn Maze is open seven days a week from early September through October, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 3-11 and free for children under 3. No tickets are sold within an hour of closing.

alison.jpg

This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids. Every week this fall, she and her 3-year-old son, Theo, will embark on an inexpensive excursion to someplace they’ve never been. The Blue Backpack Chronicles — named for Theo’s trusty travel backpack — is a blog series about their adventures.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Home Cookin': Applesauce

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 9:27 AM

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With so much local apple picking to be had, it seems only natural to share an apple recipe today!

This homemade applesauce is so quick and easy that even my kids can make it without much assistance from me. We like to use a mixture of sweet and tart apples, such as MacIntosh and Golden Delicious. Enjoy.

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Homemade Applesauce

3 pounds of apples (about 9 medium apples) — peeled, cored and diced
1/4 cup lemon juice (approximately the juice of two lemons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
a sprinkle of nutmeg and ground cloves (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together in a pot over medium heat. Cover and cook about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from pot and let cool slightly. For a chunky applesauce, leave it as is or mash it roughly with a fork. For a smoother sauce, blend it as desired in a food processor.

Enjoy the applesauce warm off the stove, or refrigerate it to eat later!

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Blue Backpack Chronicles: Muffins and Motion on a Rainy Day

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 9:42 AM

"Cool Moves" exhibit and "My Child and Me" cooking class - PHOTOS COURTESY OF ALISON NOVAK AND ECHO
  • photos courtesy of Alison Novak and ECHO
  • "Cool Moves" exhibit and "My Child and Me" cooking class

Blue_Backpack_Chronicles_header.png

Cool Moves exhibit and My Child and Me cooking class
  • photos courtesy of Alison Novak and ECHO
  • "Cool Moves" exhibit and "My Child and Me" cooking class

Rainy days with little kids are tricky — there’s little incentive to leave the house. But if you decide to stay in, there’s a good chance you’ll still be in your pajamas at 11 a.m., nursing your third cup of lukewarm coffee and playing Memory in a room that looks like a bulldozer plowed through it. Major cabin fever will start to set in.

The wet-weather strategy I’ve adopted to avoid situations like these is to get out of the house as early as possible. Just go. Somewhere.

That’s how my 3-year-old son, Theo, and I found ourselves at Burlington’s McClure Multigenerational Center at 9:30 a.m. this past dark and dreary Monday. City Market was hosting the first of its “My Child and Me” cooking classes for parents and kids ages 5 and under. It’s a series the food co-op plans to offer monthly throughout the school year.

September’s featured recipe was Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins. I often bake muffins at home with my kids, so I didn’t expect to learn anything new. But Caroline Homan, City Market’s food and nutrition education coordinator, proved me wrong.

Homan passed around a mixture of whole-wheat pastry flour, rolled oats and buttermilk that she had let sit on her kitchen counter overnight. Soaking grains in buttermilk or yogurt for eight to 24 hours before incorporating them into a recipe “unlocks” minerals and vitamins contained within the ingredients and also makes them easier to digest, she explained.

Kids took turns measuring out the remaining ingredients and mixing them into the batter. Theo was particularly proud of his egg-cracking skills.

“I didn’t even get a shell in it,” he announced.

While the muffins baked, kids snacked on organic heirloom apples and Shelburne Farms cheddar, and decorated paper-lunch bags. Everyone left with a warm, golden pumpkin-raspberry muffin, which Theo quickly gobbled up.

The day was still young, so next we made a stop at nearby ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. ECHO is one of our rainy-day staples, and I was curious to check out its new traveling exhibit, “Cool Moves! The Artistry of Motion,” which opened earlier this month.

The exhibit’s 13 interactive stations — including the Ripple Tank, Touchable Tornado and Dancing Wall — aim to teach kids about different types of everyday motion.

Theo is crazy about Matchbox cars, so it was no surprise we spent most of our time at the Three-Wheeled Racers station. There, Theo attached different wheels to wooden cars and changed the incline of a long ramp to see how the car’s speed was affected.

The Swinging Art station was another favorite. Two pendulums held pen and paper. By giving them both a push and then lowering the pen to paper, all sorts of cool patterns emerged.

“Look what I did,” Theo said when he saw his design. “Wow. That’s awesome!”

If you go:

City Market is offering monthly “My Child and Me” cooking classes at the McClure Multigenerational Center, located at 241 North Winooski Ave. in Burlington. The next class is Nourishing Fall Soups on Monday, October 21, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Cost per parent/child pair is $5 for City Market members and $10 for nonmembers. To register, visit citymarket.coop and click on “News and Events.”

“Cool Moves! The Artistry of Motion” runs until January 6 at ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington. Museum admission is $10.50-13.50, and free for ECHO members and kids under 3. For more information, visit echovermont.org.


alison.jpg

This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids. Every week this fall, she and her 3-year-old son, Theo, will embark on an inexpensive excursion to someplace they’ve never been. The Blue Backpack Chronicles — named for Theo’s trusty travel backpack — is a blog series about their adventures.

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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Blue Backpack Chronicles: Beavers and Birds in Huntington

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 at 10:27 AM

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Theo Novak at Green Mountain Audubon Center and Birds of Vermont Museum

“I feel like a real adventurer now,” my son Theo announced as I secured the straps of a beat-up blue backpack around his shoulders.

The pack, a mini nylon one from L.L. Bean, was mine from the 1980s — it accompanied me on many childhood adventures. On this crisp, early fall day, it was packed with snacks, a water bottle and a pair of plastic binoculars.

We were ready for an outdoor excursion in Huntington.

Our first stop was the Green Mountain Audubon Center. We drove up the steep, unpaved Sherman Hollow Road and parked near the main office to find out what parts of the five miles of trails would be fun for a 3-year-old.

A staffer gave us a map and suggested we explore the Peeper Pond, Hemlock Swamp and Beaver Ponds, accessible from a trailhead across the road.

We descended a woodsy path, stopping along the way to marvel at a spiky black-and-yellow caterpillar, and ended up in a sunny meadow by the Peeper Pond. We didn’t see any peepers there, but had fun dissecting a milkweed pod and discovering the silky strands and seeds inside.

After traversing the wet, mossy Hemlock Swamp, snacks beckoned. We settled down on a wooden observation structure overlooking the Beaver Pond. Even though a trail marker told us that beavers are nocturnal, we hoped we might see some action. We had to settle for frogs. As soon as we started looking closely at the bank, we spotted about half a dozen.

Noticing that some of the trees were just beginning to adopt their autumn colors, Theo suggested that “the beavers can jump in leaf piles.” I smiled, imagining that scenario.

Birds of Vermont Museum is just a short drive up the road from the Audubon Center, so we stopped there before heading home. The museum houses more than 500 wooden birds carved by naturalist Bob Spear.

A helpful employee — a bird watcher for 75 years, he told us — gave us a bar-code scanner which we could swipe over some of the wooden birds’ descriptive labels to hear their sounds. Gadget-happy Theo loved that.

Most impressive, though, was the carved male turkey that took Spear 1300 hours to complete. Pictures on a nearby poster showed how he transformed a hunk of wood into this incredibly lifelike carving.

There’s also a large window for observing real birds. Theo loved peering through all the different binoculars provided. Within 10 minutes, we’d spotted morning doves, two woodpeckers and six large wild turkeys that emerged from the woods to peck at food on the ground.

If you go:

Green Mountain Audubon Center
is located at 255 Sherman Hollow Road in Huntington. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk. Admission is free; donations are appreciated. The center also offers programs for preschoolers once a month on Wednesday mornings. For more information, visit vt.audubon.org.

Birds of Vermont Museum is located at 900 Sherman Hollow Road in Huntington. It is open daily from May 1 through October 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 3 and up. For more information, visit birdsofvermont.org.

alison.jpg

This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids. Every week this fall, she and her 3-year-old son, Theo, will embark on an inexpensive excursion to someplace they’ve never been. The Blue Backpack Chronicles — named for Theo’s trusty travel backpack — is a blog series about their adventures.

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Home Cookin': Strawberry-Banana Muffins

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM

I love baking muffins. I'm constantly trying to make a tasty muffin that I can also feel good about my kids eating for breakfast. This recipe came about when I had both bananas and strawberries about to go bad. The results were delicious. Bonus: The recipe is super easy; even my 8-year-old can make them!

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Strawberry-Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup strawberries, diced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with paper baking cups.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in the coconut oil until it's fully worked into the dough.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, honey, vanilla and mashed bananas. Add to flour mixture, stirring well. Stir in the diced strawberries.

Pour the batter into baking cups until they are about three-quarters full. (We use a small measuring cup to keep each muffin the same size and make filling the muffin cups easier.)

Bake for about 12 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.


Tasha Lehman
  • Tasha Lehman

Tasha Lehman is a regular contributor to Kids VT. She lives in Vermont with her husband, Matt, and their three sons.

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