Thursday, October 30, 2008

AH! Argiopes!!!

Everyone knows I love animals, but I must admit that I'm not the biggest spider fan! The end of the month will mark the close of spider season at the Nature Center. We have argiopes EVERYWHERE September through October. And when I say everywhere... I mean EVERYWHERE... just web next to web next to web... they have bizarre, angular, alien-like legs, and the females get BIG... we're talking size-0f-my-hand, "don't-you-belong-in-a-jungle?" BIG. Adios argiopes!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Howl'oween Parade Hilarity

The annual Haute Dog Howl'oween Parade was held this past weekend, and it was lots of fun. Last year, the event was featured on a TLC special called Halloween Madness. If you missed it, take a smile-inducing peek :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mad Monster Party?!

Halloween is not complete at my house without a viewing of Mad Monster Party! For those of you who've never seen it, it's sort of like the Halloween version of those classic Rudolph Christmas movies (the ones with Bumble, etc.) The characters move around all wonky-style (kinda like the guys from Davey and Goliath... remember that show?) and there's lots of wacky musical numbers. Good cheesy fun.

Kids are fascinated with monsters (of the tame, child-friendly variety, of course!) You can make your viewing of Mad Monster Party even more monstery with snacks like these little nummies: skeleton face samis (made with cream cheese & raisins), mummy dogs, and monster eyeballs (deviled eggs with olive pupils, and desserty delicious, sliced-in-half marshmallows with fruit loop & mini chocolate chip centers.) Monster fabulous!

Super silly monster books (besides those listed in my previous post): Jumpy Jack and Googily, by Meg Rosoff, and (of course!) The Monster at the End of This Book, by Jon Stone (staring famous Sesame Street monster, Grover.)

Fun monstery (science tie-in) activities: make skeletons by gluing pasta noodles to black construction paper... ("what are bones?"), or create monster masks by decorating paper plates with markers, feathers, felt, fabric scraps, crepe paper, pompoms and whatnot (precut holes for eyes and glue a Popsicle stick for holding in front of faces... I find this works better than the stringy tie type masks... "We have skin covering our bodies, what covers your monster's body? What's your monster's name? How old is she? Where does she live? How does she move? What does she sound like?")

Creating imaginary creatures requires creativity and imagination ...Woohoo for monsters!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Fall Feet!

Target has these wonderful shoes right now... they're xhilaration ballet flats lined with faux Sherpa. They look quite lovely but feel just like slippers! Sooo comfy! And unlike many traditional ballet flats (that leave me clumsily sliding across floors) the bottom of these have a fairly grippy texture. A lot of Target flats can dig into your heel/ankle area... but not these! Great for dog walking, chasing after toddlers, and even respectable enough for niceish outings, errands, meetings, & whatnot. I bought one pair in each color. Stacy and Clinton would be proud.

And speaking of cool things worth buying... I have discovered the perfect body lotion for fall. It doesn't smell the way pumpkin pie smells... this lotion smells exactly the way pumpkin pie tastes. Ohsoyumyumyummy...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NS Seeks NP

This Saturday, October 25th, 2008 is our annual El Dorado Nature Center Native Plant Sale. For those with a green green thumb, this is a superexcellent way to stock up on hard-to-find, CA Native and CA-friendly plants (including strawberries and lots of yummy-smelling sages.) Besides being climate ideal, drought tolerant, and lovely-to-look-at, Native Plants (NPs) attract Native Species (NSs.) Watch them grow... and then delight in your new neighborhood visitors (butterflies, hummingbirds, squirrely squirrels, and so on...) Botany-obsessed staff will be on hand to answer your questions, and (shh...) the prices are really, really great. Plus, proceeds go towards our habitat restoration & educational programs. The sale begins at 9:30, and we usually sell out by noon. Be there or be square (SQ.)

Oh! FYI: No Dogs Allowed... preschoolers OK :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Equals Apples!

Anyone who's ever read The Apple Pie Tree (by Zoe Hall) knows that this is the season for apple tastiness! Visit little momma and co. for the world's most simple, yummy, preschooler-approved apple dessert recipe that you can make together. Have fun with sciencey tie-ins: measuring scoops, mixing, talking about seeds, how apples come in different colors, etc. Learning can be delicious!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Autumnal Image

Artist Kelly Louise Judd's Moonlight Procession seems to capture a season of windy, foggy, Gormenghastian, bat-filled nights just perfectly. Plus... isn't that fox wonderfully, dangerously adorable? Take a peek at her Swan Bones site (if you dare!) and Etsy shop for more Halloween-friendly, thought-provoking art.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Little Critter Creepies

I recently stumbled across the wonderfully weird work of diorama artist Laura Plansker. She creates the most beautiful, curious, cute-creepy creatures, and sets them up in mysterious, odd-lovely lands to picnic, dance, and mischief-make.

Drop by her website to find out how to purchase her prints & things, and to feast your eyes on even more imagination inspiration (I especially love her beatnik poodle and trio of furry gunslinger outlaw ladies...)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Leaf Man Making

Fall is a great time for making leaf men (and women, and kids, and puppies....) Start by reading Lois Ehlert's book, The Leaf Man, and follow up with your own outside art. Be sure to name those leaf people & critters. Talk about where they might go on their adventures...(some of my favorite preschooly answers: "Grandma's house!" "Disneyland!" "Albuquerque!") The kids at Playful Learning like to make keepable pressed leaf friend collages, but we like to leave our leaf buddies outside and check back on them the next day or two to see if they've embarked on their explorations. Some leaf friends leave right away. Others take their time.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

NEW! Puppy Politics Shmolitics

The latest Fat Cat Doggy Hoots political dog toys line is finally available for purchase on their website! Past squeaky greats included goofy renditions of Bush, the Clintons, and Governor Arnold... the new 2008 collection features Obama, McCain, and a new (and improved?) Hillary Clinton. Each toy is super rugged, about 9" long, and you can get the complete trio for under $20. Chomptastic!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scrumptious Spiders

Take a peek at these darling spider snacks from littlenummies! They're perfect for Halloween... and not only are these cute & easy to make, they're also healthy, and serve as a great science unit tie-in for preschoolers (as you nibble, count the legs, talk about webs, etc.)

My favorite funny spider book?... Diary of a Spider, by Doreen Cronin (the silly genius who also wrote Click Clack Moo; Cows That Type.)

Favorite spider activity?... Spider-sighting walks with stops for serenading (sing the itsy-bitsy song with your preschooler's own twists... is the spider you see really itsy-bitsy? she really climbing up the water spout? The medium-sized spider might climb up the neighbor's fence...)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Oprah Loves Piggies

Today on Oprah, they'll be talking about Prop. 2, which is a measure on the CA ballots that's really important to animal lovers. Oprah's guests (including the president of HSUS) will be discussing the details of this anticruelty measure, and also addressing the concerns undecided voters may have. If you love animals, but still feel ambivalent about how to vote, be sure to watch (or program your Tivo.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Peeps in the Hood

Am I the last person on the planet to find out that the people who brought us Easter chick & bunny marshmallow peeps make Halloween Peeps, too?! Check out this adorable graveyard (yes, I said "adorable graveyard") cake featured on the peeps website (yes, they have a website. They also have a fan club...) These little spooky peep friends would look equally cute on top of cupcakes, maybe with some sprinkles. How perfect for upcoming costume parties! Personally, I can't wait to get my hands on some ghosties so I can plop them in a hot mug of cocoa... YUM!

*Reminder for Pet Parents: Please remember that sugary treats are for humans only, and should never be shared with our furry friends, most especially dogs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

No-Sew Gnomes

I love me a squirrely little bearded gnome! Just imagine a pack of them, running through the night on those wobbly-toddler legs... creepycuteness!

The Family Fun site has lots more unique, truly easy-to-make costume ideas like this one, with a special category just for little kids. If you have a superitsybitsy at home, visit the Wondertime site for interesting infant options, too.

There's really nothing quite like a comfy, realistic-looking costume (especially those custom-ordered & made with love from Mom.) My husband still to this day speaks with pride about the Halloween he claims he "looked exactly like Crockett from Miami Vice"... and becomes dramatically sullen when recounting that, quote, "traumatizing year" he had to wear one of those flimsy drugstore outfits, referring to the ordeal as: "The PacMan Halloween..."


Hooray for nonplastic fantastics!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Salamanders Rule!

Rare giant salamander sighting
Rare giant salamander sighting

If you love cute chubby amphibians, take a peek at this charming accidental environmentalist.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy Halloween Puppy Dog Prep Tips

Much of canine communication is through body language. For this reason, it's common for many pups to be suspicious of people wearing or carrying stuff they've never seen before: like guys with cowboy hats, or a senior with a walking stick... these accessories change the typical human silhouette, and a dog will often wonder "what is that person... or creature?... trying to communicate to me? why is he moving like that... why is his head misshapen?"

As you can imagine, from a pet's perspective, Halloween can be a really freaky experience. It's as if pretty much all the planet's humans have suddenly shape shifted and changed their forms. Mass Mutation!

On top of that, as night falls, gangs of little mutant humans descend like refuges at the front door, asking for food.

The whole thing is really strange for a pet to understand. Actually, if you think about it, the whole thing is really strange... period.

Here are some tips to help make your pet's experience less stressful, and more fun:

*Keep candy away from pets at all times, and be sure your kids understand that sharing their loot with their furry friends is not OK. Explain that some foods are for humans only, and that candy can make pets sick. Remember that chocolate can be especially toxic to pets. Some dogs (listen up hound parents!) will even scrounge for wrappers out of the trashcan... and eat the paper, which can also lead to choking or serious stomach/intestinal problems.)

*Be sure that all candles and jack-o'-lanterns are out of your pet's reach. Even non-curious critters can get hurt or cause unintended accidents with tail movement, etc.

*If you will be entertaining guests, be sure to provide your dog with a private, quiet area to retreat to. A peaceful room with comfy bed and toys will help ease stress, and keep them from the being overstimulated by the festivities.

*If you will have your dog with you as trick-or-treaters will be coming and going, you may want to have your dog on-leash for the trick-or-treat portion of the night (you'll have more control over any possible escape attempts, plus it will help put any dog-fearing visitors at ease.) When you head towards the door, use very calm energy. When you want to encourage calm behavior from your dog, being calm yourself is often the best first step. Before you open the door, have your dog sit-stay politely a few feet back from the door (it helps to have a visual threshold marker, like a carpet or even a strip of masking tape.) Be sure to reward. If you have time during the weeks leading up to Halloween, it's a good idea to specifically train polite door behavior by practicing the scenario with a trainer or an appropriate friend.

Please note: Dogs learn through repetition, so if your dog is currently unable to respond to visitors with a calm, polite sit-stay, and instead consistently becomes frantic, overstimulated, rushes the door, jumps up, hyper-barks, etc. repeating the experience over and over with trick-or-treaters will reinforce this poor door behavior, and make it an even more difficult habit to fix. Each time a poor behavior is repeated, the more it tends to stick.

*If your dog will be out in public with other dogs, remember that dogs communicate with their bodies, and that many costumes can restrict their ability to let other dogs know important things like: "Relax, I'm friendly!" or "Please leave me alone, I'm feeling shy right now..." It's best to choose a costume that's simple, allows free movement of the tail, ears, & legs, and leaves the entire face area open (like a doggy camo tee, Hawaiian shirt, sports jersey, bandana, etc.)

Some pets don't like wearing clothes... period. If yours is one of those dogs, please respect their wishes and invest in a simple snazzy ghost or pumpkin print collar, instead. They'll look just as festive, and it'll be one less thing for them to be stressed over... what with the human mutation outbreak and all...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Delicious Bloody Worms

Kids who love gross stuff will thoroughly enjoy digging into a plate of simulated worm remains. This is perfect for Halloween, and it's also really supersimple. Take a hot dog and cut it into long skinny strips. Curl each strip around your finger. Plate, and microwave for about 15 seconds. Plop your worm curls atop a slice of toast and drizzle with ketchup. Enjoy the pretend carnage... YUMMY!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vampire Kittens Unite!

Here's my ham of a kitty all dressed up for Halloween last year (she vants to suck your blood...) Her Daddy is an actor, so getting into character was easy peasy.

Trainers Tip: If your cat is going to be a vampuss this year, and you'd like to capture her making a vampy fangface, simply take a photo during a mid-yawn. Please do not harass your feline into actual aggression... or you will likely get exactly what you deserve (a bloody scratch across the face!)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Shadow of The Vampuss

Older kids (and nerdy grownups like me) will love this cheeky book from the brilliant weirdos at Baba Studios. It's a witty retelling of the Dracula story... staring cats! Superstrange, with huge, oddly beautiful illustrations.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kooky Spooky Music

It's sort of embarrassing to admit, but my ipod has a Mega Halloween playlist with over a hundred songs (and if you think that's excessive, my Mega Christmas playlist will really scare you...)

When supercheap, programmable robotic-slave hands are invented, I'll be able to happily list all the songs for you (and will also never change the litter box again!) Most people are already aware of the classics (The Monster Mash, Purple People Eater, Thriller, Ghostbusters, etc.), and some of the wonderfully silly-cheesy stuff, too (like Sponge Bob Scaredy Pants, Werewolves of London, and so on), but if you're looking for a few quirkier-cool picks, these are 13 of my more unusual, less-mix-list-listed favorites.

A note for moms and dads: these particular songs are also pretty tame and kid-friendlyish (no bad words or scary-loud heavy metal), but, as always, each child's spook threshold is different (as are parental values regarding topics like death, witches and whatnot), so if you do have little ones, you'll want to use your own best judgement. Happy listening!

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Pup By Any Other Name Would Still Smell As Sweet...

The AKC recently revealed the most popular dog names for the past year:

Male Names: 1. Bear 2. Blue 3. Max 4. Duke 6. Jack 7. Prince 8. King 9. Bailey 10. Rocky 11. Harley 12. Jake 13. Shadow 14. Lucky 15. Hunter 16. Dakota 17. Lou 18. Midnight 19. Cooper 20. Buster

Female Names: 1. Lady 2. Belle/Bella 3. Princess 4. Mae/May 5. Rose 6. Daisy 7. Grace/Gracie 8. Baby 9. Molly 10. Maggie 11. Sadie 12. Ann/Annie 13. Star 14. Lilly 15. Angel 16. Coco 17. Sophie/Sophia 18. Lucy 19. Abby/Abigail 20. Marie

If you're ever thinking about getting a new puppy, and find yourself perplexed by the name-picking process, try the puppy name data base for thousands of computer generated ideas based on gender, appearance, personality and lots more!