Green Time: Evergreen Trees

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We’re still enjoying our first edition of Travis’s subscription to Ranger Rick Jr., which has already been the inspiration for scrapbooking, animal crafts, and more! There appears to be a recurring monthly feature called Green Time, encouraging play or activities outdoors. Me being me, my plan moving forward is to highlight these adventures on the blog!

January’s suggestion to get outside was to get to know an evergreen tree, an up-close-and-personal exploration of these verdant trees. Travis and I took advantage of mild temps (for January) and headed off to the park. When I told him we’d be getting to know a pine tree, Travis asked which one was going to be our friend!

Soon enough we’d spotted it, a majestic pine. We listened for sounds, although it was hard to distinguish much nature with cars nearby and plane traffic overhead. But we did get to use our sense of touch on the tree bark…

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Sense of smell on the needles…

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And simply got to know our friend. Travis was dusting him off here with an extra pine needle.

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Needles and pinecones were easy to spot. It wasn’t the right time of year, unfortunately, to see insects or bird’s nests.

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But we loved this burl on the trunk!

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Thanks for getting us outside, Ranger Rick!


Veggie-Packed Mac ‘n’ Cheese

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For kids who won’t eat their vegetables, mac and cheese is the perfect venue to slip in a little extra veggie goodness while they are none the wiser. Here’s my super-speedy version, starting with your favorite store-bought mac ‘n’ cheese mix.


  • 1 package vegan macaroni and cheese
  • 1 large sweet potato
  1. Prepare the mac and cheese according to package directions; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and cube the sweet potato, and cook in boiling water for 20 minutes, or until very tender.
  3. Transfer the sweet potato to a blender, along with a little of the cooking liquid; process until smooth.
  4. Stir 1/2 cup sweet potato puree into the mac and cheese; reserve the remaining sweet potato for another use. (Note: The puree is perfect for babies, if you’re feeding kids of multiple ages!).

From here, the varieties are almost endless. You could also use the same amount of butternut squash puree, cauliflower puree:

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or carrot puree:

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Sometimes I also leave the veggies a little chunkier, as with the carrot version shown here.

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Rock Snowman

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A recent burst of warm(ish) weather got us outside over the weekend, and my little collector is always eager to bring home treasures from our walks. In fact, I always carry a zip-top plastic bag with me when we outside just for this purpose!

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Today we returned him with a variety of rocks and sticks, so thought we could build little winter snowmen.

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First the rocks needed a good coat of white paint, and we left them to dry overnight.

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When we settled in to build our snowmen, it turned out we really only had one rock large enough to be the base, which meant only one snowperson could be built. The rest of the rocks ended up as little “snowballs.”

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I put together the snowman for Travis with hot glue – three rocks glued together, two little sticks for the arms, and buttons and googly eyes hot glued on.

The finishing touch was a little top hat I simply made from construction paper.

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Don’t have rocks on hand to make a snowman? Check out our shredded paper or glowing bottle versions instead!