Archive for Fun for Kids

March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , , , on March 12, 2014 by Pat Hansen

Making maple syrup is a traditional right of spring, signaling the end of winter. Several species of maple trees grow in Michigan. Although all produce sap suitable for the production of maple syrup; two species, sugar maple and black maple are the source of sap for most commercial maple syrup production. Sap suitable for conversion into syrup may also be obtained from red and silver maples, although such sap usually has a lower sugar content.

**NOTE: The E. L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
is hosting “A Day in the Sugarbush Maple Tapping
this Saturday, March 15, 2014.
Details are noted at the end of this article**

Necessary Equipment

Collection-PailMaple syrup can be produced with a minimum of equipment, but a few standard items increase the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the product, including:

  1. A drill with a 7/16 or 1/2 inch bit for drilling tap-holes in trees.
  2. A metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole.
  3. A collection container (bucket or plastic bag) or tubing line for each tap-hole.
  4. A large pan and a heat source for boiling down the sap. The size needed will depend on how much sap you intend to handle.
  5. A large-scale thermometer, calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  6. Wool, Orlon or other filters for filtering finished syrup while hot.
  7. Storage containers for the finished syrup.

Tapping the Tree

TapTo obtain the earliest runs of sap, tapping should be completed by the first week in March in Michigan. Minimal trunk diameter for trees suitable for tapping is 10 inches at 4 feet above the ground.

To tap a tree, select a spot on the trunk of the tree 2-4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood. At this point, drill a hole approximately 2-2.5 inches deep into the wood. Then insert a collection spout and tap lightly into the tree and attach a bucket or plastic bag or a tubing line to the spout. Open buckets used for sap collection should be covered to keep out rainwater, debris, insects and other foreign materials.

Collecting the Sap

Collecting-SapSap flow in maple trees will not occur every day throughout the tapping season. It occurs when a rapid warming trend in early morning follows a cool (below freezing) night.

To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket. This should happen quickly, though there will be little drips that won’t amount to much at first. Place a lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.

After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you are satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat to take inside to start the syrup making process. Do not store the sap as it can spoil.

Turning Sap into Syrup

Syrup-KettleWhen you have a large quantity of sap, it’s time to cook it up to make the syrup. This is done by boiling the sap in a large pan on the stove as long as you have a vent fan and a dehumidifier on hand. When you boil sap, it can produce considerable moisture in the air. Professionals prefer to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to avoid the moisture build up in their homes. There is also a hobby-sized evaporator available.

Boil the sap until it becomes thicker as the water boils off. You will need to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of the pan.

As the sap is boiling, you need to skim off any foam that might be on the top. Using a candy thermometer, boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you have reached this level, let the syrup completely cool. The sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off the good syrup into a glass bottle. Let it cool and you are ready to serve homemade maple syrup.

If you plan to can the syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into sterilized glass containers to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.

Sugar-ShackIf you feel that making your own maple syrup is a task too daunting to undertake, you can visit the Bloomfield Hills’ E. L. Johnson Nature Center this Saturday, March 15, 2014 and participate in tapping the trees, collecting the sap and visiting the sugar shack to watch the boiling process that produces pure maple syrup. Then, you can visit the log home for a taste of nature’s sweetener!

For a guided tour, meet at the Visitor Center:

  • Tours are from noon to 4:00 pm.
  • Tours are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour.
  • Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time: click here for details

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI; phone: 248-341-6485; website: http://naturecenter.bloomfield.org/

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How To Make Your Carved Pumpkin Last Longer

Posted in Holidays, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Worth Repeating with tags , , , on October 23, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Did you carve your pumpkin, creatively, last year only to have it rot days before Halloween? What causes the pumpkin to decay? There are several primary causes of “pumpkin rot”:

  • Dennis Haunted House v23 (Gene Granata | MasterpiecePumpkins.com)

    Photo credit: Gene Granata | MasterpiecePumpkins.com

    The intact skin of a pumpkin protects it until you carve it. Then, various organisms (fungi, bacteria, molds, protozoans and insects) can get inside and break it down.

  • Oxygen in the air can also easily enter and break down the pumpkin.
  • Simple dehydration (drying out) will begin the moment the pumpkin is carved.

All of this will turn a happy pumpkin face into a sad old man in a short period of time.

How to stop pumpkin aging:

  • Sterilize the pumpkin’s carved surfaces to kill fungi, mold, bacteria and bugs.
  • Seal the surfaces to prevent drying and to keep out new little organisms.

Essentially, it is like embalming your pumpkin. Follow these simple steps:

  • Remove dirt; wipe the exterior surfaces of the pumpkin clean using a damp cloth.
  • Make a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and put it in a spray bottle.
  • SPumpkinspray the pumpkin inside and on all areas of the pumpkin with the solution. This will kill much of the surface bacteria and mold that causes rotting. This is best done outside and away from children and pets.
  • Let it penetrate and dry for about 20 minutes.
  • Next, rub all of the carved or cut surfaces with petroleum jelly. This will keep out new bacteria and molds as well as dramatically reduce the dehydration.
  • Wipe away excess with a paper towel.
  • Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and try to keep it as cool as possible, but above freezing.

A little, simple Halloween magic with household items will make your Jack O’Lantern last longer.

Decorate Your Yard for Autumn

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle, Worth Repeating with tags , , on September 25, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Autumn has arrived and it is a beautiful time of the year. The leaves are beginning to turn color and the fields are full of bounty. Take a drive into the country and stop at a farm stand or farm market where cornstalks, gourds, pumpkins and colorful cobs of corn are sold. Use the bounty of the harvest and other natural items such as bales of straw to bring your home alive with color and texture.

Porch DisplayWhen you arrive home with these items, choose a place that will allow your focal point to be easily seen from the inside of the house and from the street. Stand the corn stalks behind the bales of hay and place the gourds, pumpkins and corn-cobs strategically around it to make a colorful and beautifully textured autumn display. Sit a scarecrow on a bale of straw or in a chair on your porch. A scarecrow is easy to make. Just stuff some old clothes with newspaper or grocery bags. Add a hat and a pair of old boots for effect.

  • Flower Beds – Remove the dead annuals from your flower beds and window boxes. Place a variety of pumpkins, cornstalks and straw to transform the beds and boxes into beautiful displays. Pumpkins and large gourds are available in different textures and a variety of colors. Window boxes can be filled with straw, gourds and chrysanthemums. Add a few pieces of evergreens or a garland of artificial leaves for color and texture.
  • Corn StalkStairsIf your stairs are wide enough to do so without creating a safety hazard, set colorful chrysanthemums on the side of each step. For a different effect, place a rust-colored chrysanthemum on every other step and a pumpkin on the steps between. If the stairs have a railing, drape a garland of colorful artificial leaves along it.
  • Door DecorationIf you have cornstalks left over, tie the husks together with colorful ribbon and hang on your door. Craft stores sell straw wreath forms, which can be decorated with picks of leaves, flowers, pumpkins, pods, etc. These items are often on sale at this time of the year.

There are many ways to use items from nature to bring your yard and garden alive in the fall months from now through Thanksgiving. All it takes is some imagination and creativity, and your yard will be the talk of the neighborhood.

Explore the Paint Creek Trail

Posted in Dining with Pat, Holidays, Local News with tags , , on May 22, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Paint Creek Trail (Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia | wikipedia.org)

Photo Credit: Cjunker1 at English Wikipedia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you are looking for an outing this up-coming Memorial Day weekend, consider walking or biking on the Paint Creek Trail. The Paint Creek Trail connects the communities of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Orion Township and the Village of Lake Orion in Oakland County, Michigan. It is an 8.9 mile linear park and was the first Rail-to-Trail in the State of Michigan. It was converted to a trail from the former Penn Central Railroad.

The non-motorized trail is 8 feet wide and has an all-weather surface of crushed limestone which was chosen because it is an environmentally friendly surface for the trail’s close proximity to Paint Creek. If you like to hike, jog, bike, ride a horse, cross-country ski, fish or just watch nature, the Paint Creek Trail is for you.

The Paint Creek Cider Mill, a favorite stop along the Paint Creek Trail, is now open year-round, 7 days a week from 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/PaintCreekCiderMill for more information.

Paint Creek Cider Mill (AcrylicArtist | morgueFile.com)

Photo Credit: AcrylicArtist | morgueFile.com

Bike Fixit Station: The Friends of the Pint Creek Trail donated their first gift to the trail – a bike fixit station located at the Paint Creek Cider Mill. Cyclists can inflate their tires and make adjustments or repairs utilizing the tools attached to the station. In addition, with an iPhone or Smartphone bar code scanner app, cyclists can scan a QR code and read repair instructions onsite.

Trail Hours: 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily

Parking: The Paint Creek trail offers 8 parking locations:

Rochester: Visitors may park at the Rochester Municipal Park, located off Pine Street north of University, and west of Main Street (Rochester Road).

Rochester Hills: A 12-space lot is located on the north side of Tienken Road just west of the Paint Creek Trail between Livernois and Rochester Road. A portable restroom is also located at this site from May-October.

Oakland Township: Four parking lots are available:

Dutton Road: The first is located on the north side of Dutton, west of the Trail, between Livernois and Orion Rd. This lot is the smallest of the parking lots as it only fits 5 vehicles.

Silver Bell Road: This lot is located on the south side of Silver Bell, west of Orion Road, approximately one mile north of Dutton on the Trail.

Gallagher Road: This lot is located on the north side of Gallagher, just west of Orion Road, approximately 0.6 miles north of Silver Bell on the Trail.

Paint Creek Trail Office: This lot is very close to the Gallagher parking lot. It is located at 4480 Orion Road in Rochester and is at the corner of Orion and Gallagher; this is a public parking lot that can hold up to 80 vehicles.

Orion Township: Parking is available at the intersection of the Paint Creek Trail and Clarkston & Kern Roads. There are two parking areas at this intersection. The parking area south of Clarkston and west of Kern is suitable for horse trailer staging. A restroom is also located at this site.

Village of Lake Orion: The Trailways Commission owns a 12-space paved parking lot located behind the Atwater Commons Plaza. The Plaza is located at the corner of M-24 and Atwater. The parking area is located behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken, near Converse Court and is marked with signage.

How To Make Your Carved Pumpkin Last Longer

Posted in I Wish I'd Thought About That with tags , on October 24, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Did you carveyour pumpkin, creatively, last year only to have it rot days before Halloween?

nted house carved pumpkin

Photo Courtesy of Gene Granata / MasterpiecePumpkins.com

What causes the pumpkin to decay? There are several primary causes of “pumpkin rot”:

  • The intact skin of a pumpkin protects it until you carve it. Then, various organisms (fungi, bacteria, molds, protozoans and insects) can get inside and break it down.
  • Oxygen in the air can also easily enter and break down the pumpkin.
  • Simple dehydration (drying out) will begin the moment the pumpkin is carved.

All of this will turn a happy pumpkin face into a sad old man in a short period of time.

How to stop pumpkin aging:

  • Sterilize the pumpkin’s carved surfaces to kill fungi, mold, bacteria and bugs.
  • Seal the surfaces to prevent drying and to keep out new little organisms.

Essentially, it is like embalming your pumpkin. Follow these simple steps:

Happy Halloween

  • Remove dirt; wipe the exterior surfaces of the pumpkin clean using a damp cloth.
  • Make a bleach solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach per quart of water and put it in a spray bottle.
  • Spray the pumpkin inside and on all areas of the pumpkin with the solution. This will kill much of the surface bacteria and mold that causes rotting. This is best done outside and away from children and pets.
  • Let it penetrate and dry for about 20 minutes.
  • Next, rub all of the carved or cut surfaces with petroleum jelly. This will keep out new bacteria and molds as well as dramatically reduce the dehydration.
  • Wipe away excess with a paper towel.
  • Keep your pumpkin out of direct sunlight and try to keep it as cool as possible, but above freezing.

A little, simple Halloween magic with household items will make your Jack O’Lantern last longer.

Oktoberfest ala Frankenmuth

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on September 14, 2012 by Pat Hansen

In 1990, in honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frankenmuth initiated an Oktoberfest.

In 1996, Lord Mayor Christian Ude of Germany officially sanctioned the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest celebration, making it the only city outside Munich to receive such an honor.  In homage, Munich-based brewer Hofbrauhaus became the festival’s official sponsor, making this the first city in the U.S. to import this German beer.

Dubbed Michigan’s Little Bavaria, the city is as head-to-toe German as an American city can get, from its cuckoo-clock store to the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion, a scaled-down version of an authentic German beer hall. The German band performs annually and authentic German fare is served daily.

A German dinner buffet is offered for $11.00 per person. It features typical German fare such as Black Forest Ham, Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, Jaeger Meatballs, German Potato Salad, Buttered Spatzle and Sweet and Sour Cabbage.

American Fare is also available with Chicken Tenders, Pizza, Hotdogs and French Fires for the kids

This year, the Oktoberfest runs from Thursday, September 20th, through Saturday, September 23rd.

Daily Admission: Thursday, September 20th through Saturday, September 21st is $8.00.  Sunday is Free; Kids (12 & under) Free

Gates Open:        Thursday 3 pm – 10 pm

                 Friday & Saturday 12 pm – Midnight

                 Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm

Free parking for the Oktoberfest is located on the festival grounds as you arrive at Heritage Park.  Heritage Park is located on the banks of the Cass River, behind the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth. This tourist driven town is the perfect compliment to the festival – offering an array of activities to occupy your time before and after the festival. You will enjoy more than two miles of hands-on demonstrations, unique shops, wonderful food and hospitality you won’t find anywhere else.

Directions from the Detroit area:

Take I-75 North to exit 136 for Frankenmuth/Birch Run

Turn right onto M-54 S/M-83 (N Birch Run Rd)

Turn left onto M-83 (N Gera Rd) and continue north until you enter Frankenmuth

Turn right onto E Jefferson St and then take the 2nd left onto Weiss St

Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest is located at 601 Weiss St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

The Taste of Clarkston is Back

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , , , on September 6, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Save the date, Sunday September 23, 2012 for the 15th annual Taste of Clarkston.  This is the signature event put on by the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Independence Township Parks and Recreation and the Village of Clarkston. The event is structured to be family friendly, providing a safe and fun environment for a community block party celebration.

More than 30 restaurants and exhibitors will be participating this year. A list of restaurant participants can be found online at: Clarkston.org, a week prior to the event. Click on Taste of Clarkston 2012 for details. There is sure to be something tantalizing for everyone, from soup to sliders, BBQ pork to black bean chicken chili, and sweet endings from frozen custard to cheesecake.

Tickets are available in $1.00 increments. They suggest you purchase a pack of $10.00 or $20.00 to get started. Tickets will be available at four locations:

  • Taste Entrance
  • Church St. and Main St.
  • Washington and Main St.
  • Depot Park

Entertainment will be featured on two different stages starting at 11:30 AM. The stages are located on Church St. and Washington St.

Two free KidZones with games and activities are located at Depot Park and Washington St. parking lots.

According to marketing studies, Taste of Clarkston is attended by 70% of Clarkston area residents and their friends and relatives. Merchants and volunteers work hard to promote their businesses and take great pride in their promoting their historic village.

Hours are: Noon to 6:00 PM. Note: Main St. will be closed from Waldon Rd, on the south, to Clarkston Rd on the north.

Free Parking and Free Shuttle Buses are available at these school lots

  • Clarkston Elementary
  • Clarkston Jr. High School
  • Renaissance High or Clarkston High School
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