Halloween Snacks

We had fun making Halloween themed snacks.  We started with my favorite - roasted pumpkin seeds!  These were left over from our pumpkin carvings but with just a little bit of work they turn into a wonderful fall snack.

We poured about a tablespoon of oil over them then mixed in a little brown sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  We roasted them in the oven at 250 for about 45 minutes.  The sugar caramelized and added a wonderful crunch to the pumpkin seeds.  It is so delicious!

For lunch we had Mummy Dogs.  They are even easier to make!  We used refrigerated crescent roll dough cut into strips and wrapped around hot dogs then baked according to the crescent roll package directions.  I stuck some peppercorn eyes in them to make them just a bit more mummy-riffic. 

As if we needed more sweets around here, we also made our traditional Halloween treat, Candy Bones.  We used mini marshmallows, white candy melts, and pretzel sticks.

The kids stuck a mini marshmallow on each end of a pretzel stick.  There may have been a few marshmallows sampled during this process.

They used forks to dunk their bones in the melted candy and then placed them on parchment paper to dry.

I like these Candy Bones because the saltiness of the pretzel tones down all the sweetness from the marshmallows and candy.  It's just the perfect combination!

Halloween Spooktacular at the American Girl Store

Rachel was excited to dress up in her Halloween costume this morning as we went to the Halloween Spooktacular at the American Girl store in Dallas.

We got there early and watched the line curve around the store.  It was fun looking at all the little girls in their cute costumes with American Girl dolls in hand.

Once inside, everyone got back into another line to make a Halloween craft.  Rachel was so disappointed when we finally got up to the craft station and discovered that in the interest of time, the store workers were making the craft for the kids and then just handing it to the kids.  Rachel loves crafts and she was obviously not happy with this craft experience.

But she also got to enter a drawing for a free American Girl doll and she got a free book and Halloween stickers.

We spent a little time looking around the store.  She enjoys looking at all of the dolls and learning about the historical times that some of the dolls are from.

Then we spent an hour or two just playing with all of the dolls and furniture in the store.  It's our favorite part of visiting the American Girl store!

Fossil Mania {Glen Rose}

Nicholas and Stuart headed north to Oklahoma for a primitive campout while Rachel and I headed south to Glen Rose for Fossil Mania!

We visited with lots of vendors showing off their cool fossil and mineral collections.  Rachel and I were impressed with this giant ammonite.

An ammonite is an extinct marine mollusk in the Cephalopoda class.  Here is a collection of halved and polished ammonites.  I don't think I would do this to an ammonite that I found but they do look really cool like this.

Another one of my favorite fossils is the trilobite which is an extinct marine arthropod of the class Trilobita.  It was neat seeing so many large ones all together.

Of course, every fossil show is going to have a little coprolite on display.  Coprolite is fossilized poop.  The name coprolite comes from the Greek words, "kopros" which means dung and "lithos" which means stone.  Yep, stony dung.

There were some unusual fossils like mosasaur vertebra and plesiosaur paddle bone.

This is a cool display of lots of ammonite embedded in a matrix.

A lot of vendors offered free fossils and rocks for kids.  This table had a bucket of sand that kids could dig through and keep the first thing they found.

Rachel knew what this was as soon as she found it - a piece of a nice sized ammonite!  She was so excited to have her own ammonite!

Here is a big trilobite.  The description on the card sounds like it is authentic but it almost seems like too perfect of a specimen to be real.

What we were most excited about at Fossil Mania was the opportunity to go on a fossil hunt in Glen Rose with the Dallas Paleontological Society!  We met the group in front of the exhibit hall and we were all given pink flags to tie to our antenna so we would know who was included in our caravan to the fossil site.

We lined up.  There was quite a line behind us as well.  I was a little worried about getting separated from the group but it all went well.

We made it to the fossil site, which was just an outcropping on the side of a road!  Sometimes those are the best places to find fossils!

We were equipped with a trowel and rock hammer.  Rachel, of course, had to start with the tools.  But you see all of those rocks on top of the ground around her?  There were  plenty of fossils to be found just by looking through those rocks.  No tools were actually needed.

We found quite a few neat fossils.  HERE are some fossils typically found in Glen Rose.  The hunt leaders were from the Dallas Paleontological Society and they were really helpful.  They talked to us about the types of fossils we might find and what to look for.  They even found some fossils on their own and passed them out to the kids.

After the fossil hunt I thought we'd stop by Big Rocks Park before heading home.  We first visited Big Rocks when Rachel was two years old so she doesn't remember it. 

She loved it!

Big Rocks Park gets its name from the giant rocks gathered together on the Paluxy River.

It is fun to climb the rocks and jump from rock to rock.  It's a natural parkour course!

There are crevices and caves between and under rocks and little pathways between them.  Lots of places to explore and hide.

And of course, lots of tall places to conquer as you rule the world from high above.

This is a cool little spot to sit and rest under two big rocks!

Following the rocks you will work your way down to the Paluxy River.  It is usually shallow enough to walk through.

And....dig mud out of!  Fortunately I know my kid enough to bring several towels, a change of clothes, and a spare pair of shoes!

Rachel wandered the river and played around the small waterfalls. 

It is such a beautiful spot to visit.  I just wish Nicholas had been with us.  He loves it here too!

It was getting late and we cleaned up and grabbed a bite to eat before heading home.  But all during dinner, Rachel kept asking to go back to Fossil Mania because they were having an auction and she wanted to see what that was all about.  The auction didn't start until late and we had a good hour and half drive home.  But somehow she suckered me into staying.  She was so excited to get her bid number.  I explained how to use it and said that she couldn't bid on something without my approval!

She won some shark teeth and then got into a bidding war with someone over this giant ammonite.  Once the lady saw who she was bidding against, she let Rachel win the auction.  Rachel was so excited!  Mama was too :)

Here are my fossils from the hunt after I had a chance to clean them up. 

There are several sea urchins like this one.

This is a Leopard Rock.  Cool looking!

This is a type of extinct oyster.

This one is called "Devils Toe" but it is really the oyster Texigryphea.

This is a cool spiral gastropod called Tylosoma tumidium.

We had such a great time at Fossil Mania and enjoyed learning from the Dallas Paleontological Society so much that we signed up for a one year membership.  They have monthly meetings and frequent field trips.  I've even signed the kids up for a special educational program through the group called the P.I.T. Crew (Paleontologists In Training).

Exploring Nature with Kids

It was a nice day so we had to get outdoors and enjoy it.  We took a bike ride to one of our favorite sites to explore.

I used to make Nature Scavenger Hunt lists for the kids when they were little but it has been a while since I've done that.  I decided to try it again so I made a long list of things that they could look for.

They started on the bridge looking down and around at everything they could see.

I should have known that my kids would be bored with a Nature Scavenger Hunt list.  They just wanted to explore the area on their own.  I love their curious nature and I would much rather they experience discovery learning as they play than follow a silly list that I made at home.

Nicholas was quick to get down low to get a good look at little creatures swimming through the creek.

Then he found a cool vine that is now the perfect swing!

The kids spent hours just exploring and studying the creek habitat.

It's really the best way to learn about the world around you. We often have field guides with us so we can look up and identify things we find but today we were just exploring. 

Nicholas is sure to always find the largest stick around and claim it as his own.  A boy and his stick!

We found this cool stone with some neat looking impressions in it.  Diane at Lake Lewisville Environmental Learning Area says that they were caused by water dripping on it and/or running over it for a very long time.  Given enough time, water is stronger than rock. 

Rachel found a big piece of what looks like slate.  As I look back at this picture now, I'm thinking that this would be cool for them to use later this year when we study colonial times.  It could be their slate writing tablet!

It is important to get kids out in nature.  Fresh air, exercise, using their senses in a natural setting, and learning about their world.  It's also good stuff for adults too!