Spiral – Monthly Unplugged Project

By , January 31, 2010 7:17 pm

Welcome to the new Monthly Unplugged Project!

February’s Unplugged Project theme is spiral.  Remember, the theme will be up for a month now instead of just a week.  I will close this linky on March 1st and also open up a new one for a new theme.

The “rules” are basically the same:

  • If you do a spiral Unplugged Project, then please link to your project post, not just your blog.  I am trying to build a library of project ideas, so we want people to always be able to find your project in the future.
  • If you don’t do a spiral project, then please DO NOT LINK.  I will remove any links that clearly do not fit the theme at all, no matter how nice your blog is.  Sorry, nothing personal, but I just want to keep this organized.
  • A link back to Unplug Your Kids in your project post would be greatly appreciated!  :-)
  • If you have the time, energy, and inspiration to come up with more than one project for spiral, then feel free to link to each spiral project separately in the linky.
  • If you have no blog, then please leave a comment on this post with a description of what you did.  The more ideas we get, the better!

The Unplugged Project is very flexible.  The point is to be creative and have fun!

(I will have the buttons available later in the week.)

Gorgeous nautilus shell photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


The New & Improved Unplugged Project!

By , January 29, 2010 2:03 pm

It appears to be unanimous!  Thanks so much for all the great comments and feedback.  We’ll keep the Unplugged Project, but it will become monthly instead of weekly.

  • On the first day of every month, I’ll post the theme.
  • Reminders:  I’ll put the theme prominently in the sidebar and I can probably also put on one of those countdown timers to let everyone know how many days are left.  I’ll also write a reminder post when only one week is left.
  • Anyone who wants to do more than one project per theme can link to each of their projects.
  • On the last day of the month, I will close down that project’s linky.
  • I will make some sidebar buttons available to anyone who wants to take one, however you certainly don’t have to.


A few of you mentioned that you were confused as to how to link.  For anyone who has never linked before and who has been trying to link to an old project theme, you will find that you can’t.  That is because I have shut down all the old linkies since I can’t monitor them all continuously for spam.  Links already there can be followed, but no new links can be posted.

When the new, open linky is there I think you will find it fairly obvious.  You just enter your name, and the link to your post, not simply your blog, so people can always find your project.  To link to a post, click on your post, that should open up your post as a page.  Copy the address from the address bar in your browser and paste it in my linky.  The address should usually be something like http://www.”Your blog”/”Your Post,”  (or other words, dates and numbers).

Thanks again, and I hope to see you all February 1st for our next Unplugged Project theme!

The Unplugged Project

By , January 25, 2010 8:01 am

I have been a bit burned out on the Weekly Unplugged Project lately.  We just don’t seem to get to it every week and it has become more of a Blog Burden for me, then a Blog Benefit.  Plus, public participation seems to be waning along with mine.  Sigh…  Time for a change.

I have heard from a few people who are still interested.  I am still interested too, but now that my children are older I can no longer get to it every week and it MUST NOT become a chore. The point is for it to be fun.   So, I have a new plan.

How about a Monthly Unplugged Project?  I will announce a theme on the first day of the month, and close the Linky on the last day of the month.  That will give everyone (including me) a month instead of a week to come up with a project, do it, write about it,  and link to our posts (and/or leave our project in a comment).  Those with more time and enthusiasm could do as many projects as they want for each theme.

Over the years I have also been contemplating creating “Unplugged Project Buttons” that people could download and which would link to the project.  Button display would be entirely optional of course, but I have had some requests from people over the life of the project, so I guess interest is out there.

After about two years, I am finally getting to the buttons, and have even created a few!  Once I figure out some of the technical issues, I’ll put them out for any interested readers to take.

How does it all sound?

Don’t Forget The Birds! (Homemade Bird Feeder Ornaments)

By , January 23, 2010 7:37 pm

Today we sit stranded at home after a week of snow days and over four feet of snow!  The hungry birds hop busily about the bird feeders trying to fuel up before a cold night’s sleep.  It seems a good day to write that post about edible ornaments for the wild birds.

As I mentioned not long ago, every Christmas Eve the kids and I sit down and make edible tree decorations to hang on our trees outside as gifts to our wild birds.  We call it our Bird Christmas, but you could have fun making these at any time of year.  The squirrels often make off with many of our treats, but I don’t mind!

(By the way, although wire and dental floss are easy, if I can, I like to use natural cotton yarn or string for hanging since this is recycled by birds in the spring for cozy nests!)

Classic Pinecone Feeders: Send the children out to collect pinecones.  The bigger and more open, the better.  Mix peanut butter and bird seed together in a bowl.  Tie string or yarn around the pinecones to use for hanging (I find that it is a bit less messy to do this step before covering the pinecones in peanut butter).   Roll the pinecones in the mixture using a spoon to push it down between the scales if necessary.


  • No pinecones where you live?  Then use bagels!  Spread with peanut butter, sprinkle on birdseed, and the hole makes them really easy to hang.

Orange Cup Feeders: An adult should prepare the cups. Cut oranges in half and scoop out the insides to set aside for a healthy snack or a fruit salad (a grapefruit knife makes this job easy).  Use a metal skewer, knitting needle, or large darning needle to poke three approximately equidistant holes around the edge of the orange cup, near the top.  Thread string or yarn through the holes forming a hanger made of three strings.  Now for the kid part: Fill the cups with a peanut butter/birdseed mixture.


  • Fill with softened suet and birdseed, although peanut butter is more kid-friendly.  Suet is a great alternative for kids with peanut allergies though.
  • If you have orioles in your area, fill the cups with grape jelly.  Orioles like jelly and they are attracted to the color orange!
  • Easiest option – Don’t hollow out the oranges and just hang orange halves as is.  Orioles, robins, mockingbirds, tanagers, grosbeaks and cardinals like the fruit.

“Bird Tinsel”: Decorate shrubs and trees with strings of cranberries and popcorn (no salt or butter).  Thread the treats using a large needle and string, heavy duty thread, or dental floss.  Our popcorn didn’t string so well this year for some reason (perhaps our needle was not sharp enough) so we ended up just doing cranberries.  Use frozen or fresh berries.  I prefer frozen.  Frozen are less messy to string and thaw quickly once threaded.


  • Try dried fruits such as cherries, craisins, blueberries, papaya, apples or apricots.  How about peanuts in the shell?
  • String fresh orange slices.
  • Try other fresh berries such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or rasberries.
  • Raisins come in many colors and sizes.  Experiment with different varieties to make pretty patterns.

FUN TIP:  When threading a variety of foods, have your children create repeating patterns.  The garlands will be pretty to look at and your children will exercise their art and reasoning skills!

Bird “Cookie” Ornaments: You can use cookie cutters to make shaped ornaments for your wild birds.  The easiest variety are made with stale bread (although fresh is fine too, but might be harder to cut).  Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of the bread.  Poke a hole near the top using a skewer or straw. String yarn, string, dental floss or wire through to make a hanger.  I have even hung these using a wire Christmas ornament hanger poked directly through the bread.  Very easy.


  • If you want to get fancy, you can decorate your “cookies” with peanut butter and sprinkle on birdseed designs.  The seed will stick to the peanut butter and you’ll have instant “fancy” ornaments that the birds will love!
  • For those with peanut allergies, or for a change, brush the bread shapes with egg white.  Sprinkle with bird seeds and bake on a baking sheet at 300 degrees for about 5 minutes (this will cause the seeds to stick to the bread).
  • Melt suet, mix with birdseed and pour into greased, shaped molds (or lined muffin tins).  Put in freezer to harden, or outside if it is very cold.  Use a skewer to poke a hole through when they are getting solid but not yet truly hard.  Remove from molds when frozen and hang outside.  (NOTE:  You can use commercially available rendered suet, get some from the butcher, or make your own suet mix from a recipe in the links below.  Be careful of vegetable based fats, they are not supposed to be as healthy for birds.  Also, ordinary animal fats can spoil and melt easily if the temperature is not cold enough.  Think – greasy mess on your deck and birds with indigestion.  More on all these issues here:  The Great Crisco Debate).
  • Try wiping your bread ornament in bacon grease.  I once read somewhere that Blue Jays and squirrels love this.  Perhaps a good way of recycling sink-clogging bacon grease?  The bread plus bacon grease would probably work a lot better in summer than straight bacon grease which melts very easily.  Also, since bacon grease is salty, it is advisable only in moderation and when a fresh supply of water is available nearby.  I have a heated bird bath that is hugely popular with my birds in winter, since it provides fresh water when all other sources are frozen.

Bird Goody Bags: Save your nylon mesh produce bags (the kind fruit, tomatoes, or onions come in).  Stuff them with suet, seeds and dried fruit.  You could even put in shelled peanuts or other nuts, unsalted is best.  Make sure they can fit through the holes – crush them if necessary.  Hang outside.  You can decorate these with fancy bows if you want them to look festive.



Ta Da!! (2010 Newbery & Caldecott)

By , January 19, 2010 2:06 am

Yesterday morning was the big announcement of this year’s Newbery and Caldecott children’s book award winners. Drum roll please…


John Newbery:

“The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”


2010 WINNER – When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2010 HONORS –

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (YIPPEE!! Bought this for my 9 year-old for Christmas!)

Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick


Randolph Caldecott:

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”


2010 WINNER – The Lion & the Mouseby Jerry Pinkney

2010 HONORS –

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton Scanlon

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Joyce Sidman


PS: How well do you know your children’s book awards? If you can’t tell your Theodor Seuss Geisel Award from your Pura Belpré Award, then you can read up on them all here.

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