Friday, April 27, 2012

National Park Service & MichiMom offer sweet adventure sugs

Hi all and happy Friday. From kayaking to cycling, letter-boxing and reading -- on a sun-drenched beach or beneath a green-leafed canopy -- there are dozens of ways to experience the inspiring, natural environment that characterizes our state and community. 

As National Park Week 2012 wraps up Sunday, April 29, I'd like to share some some sugs from the National Park Service and National Park Foundation  for planning excursions to Michigan's five national parks --  Isle Royale National Park , Keweenaw National Historic Park , Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks National LakeshoreNorth Country Scenic Trail -- and beyond. And while we're at it, also planting a few seeds of inspiration for enjoying our local, Huron-Clinton Metro Parks: 
* Yoga on the beach at Lake St. Clair Metro Park beginning Saturday, May 29 at 8 a.m:

* Nature, wildlife or action adventure photography. Exploring on your own is often the most convenient (read: cheapest) route, but don't rule out the benefits of working with with a guide via  Either way, once your film has been processed, (read: downloaded) share photos and videos, along with stories from your national park travels at This site also contains a calendar of events and lots of information on how to visit and support the national park system.

* Half-marathon running at Stony Creek:

* The 16th annual Astronomy at the Beach event, Sept. 21-22 at Kensington Metropark.  Using a portable planetarium, visitors will take part in simulation tours of the constellations and other current objects. A children's sky tour treasure hunt will be featured and organizers urge early arrival to check out sun spot or late departure to observe dozens of celestial objects moving through the night sky., weather permitting. Go here for more information about this event.

* Sheep sheering, fireworks, discovery cruises, etc : For more information, visit
Now, for 8 great ideas for getting fresh air and exercise through park experiences anywhere as thoughtfully detailed by the NPS and NPF. 

* Take a Hike: Explore the 18,600 miles of trails built especially for you for short hikes or a day-long expeditions. Cross the Continental Divide on the High Line Trail in Glacier, go vertical on the Moro Rock Trail in Sequoia & Kings Canyon, or tackle a section of the Appalachian Trail. If you’d like to hike with an expert, many parks offer daily ranger-led guided tours, including the Everglades, Jean Lafitte, and Hot Springs.

* Dive In: Enjoy 43,000 miles of national park shoreline. Walk on the beach, go for a swim, snorkel an underwater trail in the Virgin Islands, dive the aquamarine water and fish-bejeweled coral reefs of Biscayne or the kelp forests and sea caves of Channel Islands. Take a canoe or kayak ride through Big Cypress to observe manatees and birds.
* Go Underground: Travel below the surface and discover the dazzling sights found along more than 900 miles of cavernous passageways. Visit Mammoth Cave – the longest cave in the world or the 14-acre Big Room in Carlsbad Caverns. Sign up for a spelunking trip.
* Sleep Under the Stars: Experience the simple pleasure of an evening campfire, sleep in the great outdoors, and wake up in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the world. Choose your setting – mountain view, ocean view, or even city view. The NPS's 12,000 campsites include New York City and Boston.
* Go For a Drive: Some of the prettiest scenery you’ll ever see is along the 5,450 miles of paved, NS roadway, with 1,100 miles specifically designated for sightseeing. Just be sure to get out of the car at overlooks or trailheads to stretch your legs. Wander a short distance to a waterfall at Shenandoah or meander through a meadow at Rocky Mountain

* Check out Wildlife: Take advantage of some of the best places to view wildlife in their natural habitats. Don’t get too close, but if you're patient you'll catch glimpses of everything from baby birds to two-ton bison. Appreciate the strutting grouse's  annual courtship dance at Grand Teton or the spring migration of grey whales at Point Reyes. Encounter prehistoric wildlife including the saber tooth cat at Badlands or a Stegosaurus at Dinosaur. Some 233 national parks showcase preserved fossils, some of which date back two billion years.
* Be a VIP: Check out a list of volunteer opportunities at 
* Cycling: Set your own pace and stop to take in the view. One of the newest bike trails was charted at New River Gorge where more than 1,400 Boy Scouts and leaders donated 78,544 man hours to carve out a 12.8-mile mountain bike trail. Other popular bike trails include Acadia which has 45 miles of old carriage roads, Canyonlands, home of the 103-mile White Rim Road loop, and the C&O Canal and its 184-mile long towpath.  
For more information, check out

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kids gardening workshops mark Earth Day

One of the best things about my job as a writer and editor for The Macomb Daily and Daily Tribune is the opportunity to meet superstars.
John Cusack, Cybil Shepherd, Doris Roberts, Jerry Lewis and Suzanne Sommers spring to mind.  
Talking to a Hollywood diva who once dated Elvis was cool.
But what I really love is the opportunity to get to know the superstars in my own community, who share their passion and expertise in so many warm and wonderful ways.  
Since joining the Macomb County Food Systems Collaborative last year, I've met a whole team of said whiz kids, including Jean Persely, mom, Marine vet and Master Gardener extraordinaire.
In addition to her own military service, Jean is also the wife of a former, active duty marine. As such, she and her family transferred to Macomb County’s L’Anse Creuse school district some nine years ago.
Soon afterward, Jean embraced her signature “bloom where you're planted” philosophy and started a school garden at LC’s Atwood Elementary.
Building on that accomplishment she has continued to bring people together around her love for good food and agriculture by establishing the Macomb County School Garden Initiative. She also serves on the 2011-2012 Kids Gardening board,, an advisory group to the National Garden Association.  
But lest you see her in too responsible of a light, she is also the person to whom I confessed eating a Hostess lemon pie on the way home from MCFSC’s first, Farm to Fork conference in February. She was OK with it.
With her “outdoor classroom”, Jean has done everything from design, build and install gardens, to teach Junior Master Gardener classes. Science lessons have been incorporated; but so, too, have lessons in math, social studies, Spanish, Language Arts, music and PE.
What's really neat is that when the conversation turns to Victory Gardens, Native Gardens and Sunflower Houses or demos on take-home salad pots and worm composting, students become especially motivated to "dig in!" Jean said.
To further spread the love  – and celebrate Earth Day, April 22 -- Jean and Kathe Hale, an educator for the MSU Macomb Extension and MCFSC’s fearless leader, will present “School Gardening 101”, May 14 from 5 to 8 p.m. The cost is $20 a person and identical workshops will be offered in Oakland and Wayne counties, May 3 and May 10 respectively. Topics include: How to choose the best site for a garden; soil improvement; crop selection based on a spring or fall harvest; incorporating garden lessons into existing curriculum and much more. Ideal participants include school (community and faith-based) garden coordinators, teachers, food service directors, volunteers and parents who want to learn more about how to work and play in the dirt with kids.
The Oakland County workshop takes place at the MSU Tollgate Education Center and in Wayne County, at the MSU Extension office. For more information or to register, visit or call (586) 469-5180  To check out Jean’s school gardening blog, visit: To further immerse yourself in Jean’s humor and expertise, “Compost Happens”, go to  Searching for ideas to develop your own, garden-based lesson plan? Visit For a chance to win a Growums Gardening in a box kit, “Like” Macomb Daily Features on Facebook. 
If all goes according to plan, my 8-year-old daughter and her friends will soon be learning more about vegetable and herb gardening via Jean’s too-cute pizza garden project – it calls for an actual pizza box.  
Watch out Little Caesars. Your competition is green, but growing.
Thank you, Jean. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Babe Ruth's got nothing on this Mom

Greetings friends, info-junkies, parents of the tech-age.
I'm not usually given to sports analogies, but being married to an extreme sports writer and the mother of two multiple-sport, youth athletes, such items are bound to pop up now and then.
"Yesterday's home runs don't win today's games" -- words of wisdom from the immortal Babe Ruth.
Like many Tiger fans who caught bits and pieces of last weekend’s season-opening series against Boston, I’d love to sock away an excess blast -- or two, or three! -- for all those low-scoring games guaranteed to cross our calendar this season.
But alas, as Ruth pointed out, banking home runs is not a part of our reality.
In our relationship with other people, however, we can and do bank “emotional” home runs all the time. Not to mention singles, doubles, pop-ups, ground-outs and double plays.   
For example, the 20 minutes you cheerfully spent scavenging for stones – “Only the round ones, Dad!”– to decorate that milk jug/turned birdfeeder with your third-grader-last weekend, can and does build compound interest into the future.   
As a full-time working mom, I worry every day that I'm not doing enough to give my kids the support and validation they need to grow into healthy, happy, caring and responsible adults. (Not to mention Hubby -- but that's a whole 'nother blog post)
This is, at least in part, because actively listening to rambling monologues, often delivered in high-pitched tones at the exact moment dinner’s coming out of the oven, every hot pad in the house has gone missing and the family dog barks to go outside – now! – isn’t easy.
Since the answer to successfully handling all-the-above is to remain wickedly calm before responding to each demand -- rambling concerns in particular – we can begin to see the past popularity of “mother’s-little-helpers.”
On Easter Sunday, before our guests arrived, my family started our day with its annual, front-yard egg hunt; followed by basket-opening, the traditional Eastern European Easter Sunday breakfast: hard-boiled eggs, kielbasa, fruit, cheese, wine and home-baked rolls, followed by a slightly bemoaned trip to church.
Later, my 8-year-old daughter and I made bunny-themed napkin rings out of paper towel rolls and tackled deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, rib-eye roast and asparagus.
After our guests left, all I wanted to do was sit on the sofa, chew ice and gaze into oblivion.
Instead, my husband and I took a brisk walk through the neighborhood. Our daughter came, too, and so did her girlfriend. Fun, invigorating, cozy.
Next, my 10-year-old son and I took in highlights of that day’s Tiger victory. Awesome.   
With bed-time upon us, all four hunkered down for a movie, our new favorite: "We bought a Zoo”. Munching popcorn, hubby and son hung out on the loveseat while I braided daughter’s hair on the sofa.
Was it enough? Will the family remember Easter 2012 as sweet and magical? Did I succeed in addressing the most important things, the emotional needs of my husband and children?
If not, hopefully, I built up enough “out-of-the-park” homeruns from interactions past.
Because positive or negative, we humans do bank an emotional history with every person we come in contact with.
So there you go, Babe Ruth. Baseball isn’t always a metaphor for life.
On the look-out for creative bonding ideas with your kids? Here are a handful of favorites from readers of
  •    “We always try to watch TV as a family....I really like to know what they are watching.  I do let them watch it on their own when I am making dinner, but it has to be something that I have watched with them previously.”
  •    “We definitely share music that we both love....I remember doing this with my mom as well”.  “To this day, I still love Kenny Rogers and Olivia Newton John... I can remember singing those songs with my mom when I was way young :)
  •    "We would give them a list of household chores to do each week. At first we thought this would have a negative effect but they soon came to compete with each other to do the best job. Of course they would earn a little treat but they knew that it wasn't guaranteed. They are now teenagers and it still works today. “
  •    "I have them help me with things we can all enjoy. Like cooking. The 12-year-old will help cook the hot things while the 4-year-old will stir things or break up lettuce for the salad. And after we are done we all get to eat what we made together :)
  • As busy Moms and Dads, what kinds of things do you do to connect with children of any age? What works? What doesn’t? And what are your biggest challenges?