Monday, June 30, 2008

Week 5: Trains

With two young sons we have a thing for trains in this house. Over the years we've collected quite a few pieces to the Fisher Price GeoTrax. We love to pull them all out and set up a train track all over the family room.

Our theme this week is trains and we plan to learn a lot more about them. Utah has some great "train history" and several fun train sites to visit.


Big Book Of Trains by DK Publishing

The Goodnight Train by June Sobel and Laura Huliska-Beith

All Aboard Trains (Reading Railroad Books) by Deborah Harding

Thomas and the Freight Train (A Chunky Book(R)) by W. Rev Awdry and Owain Bell


The last spike was driven in the train tracks linking the east and west on May 10, 1869. Golden Spike National Historic Site was built to commemorate this historic moment. Located in Promontory, Utah, it is a long drive but is worth the trip. The visitor center is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the summer there are even locomotive demonstrations. The website also offers a virtual tour.

Take a train ride on the steam engine Heber Valley Railroad as it follows the Provo River in the gorgeous Provo Canyon. Check out their website for schedule information and to purchase tickets.

Ride on TRAX. It's a great way to get into the city to visit a museum, park or other event. It will save on gas and it's fun. Link to UTA's website for schedules and fares.

The Museums at Union Station in Ogden, Utah features a model train exhibit and many other fun activities including a classic cars museum. All museum are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The admission price is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (62+) and $3 for children (2-12).

Save the gas and take FrontRunner to Ogden.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Week 4:Art

We're home from our "vacation" and trying to climb out from under the massive pile of dirty laundry. I'm also operating with an allergy haze. I went out to weed my garden this morning and now I can't stop sneezing.

I choose to have our theme on art this week for the benefit of my five year old daughter. Right now, she wants to be either an art teacher or "the person who holds the stop sign so the kids can cross the street" when she grows up. She loves using various mediums to create art.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." -- Pablo Picasso


The Art Book for Children, Book Two (Art Book for Children) by Editors of Phaidon Press (Hardcover - Oct 1, 2007)

Learn about a wide variety of art with this book. It includes large, color reproductions of famous art work through the centuries.

The Art Lesson (Paperstar Book) by Tomie dePaola

A sweet autobiographical picture book by beloved children's author Tomie dePaola, tells the story of Tommy who wants to be an artist and those who encourage him.

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning) by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga

This book is full of art activities that teach the styles of the great artists such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt.

Let's Meet Famous Artists by Harriet Kinghorn (Author), et al.

Learn even more about the great artists with this book.

Museum ABC by The (NY) Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is a basic "A is for Apple" ABC book. However, it uses incredible full page artwork for the matching illustrations. This is a great way to introduce the alphabet and great art to youngsters.

Look for these books too:

Visiting the Art Museum (Unicorn) by Laurene Krasny Brown and Marc Brown

You Can't Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum (Picture Puffins) by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser

Vincent's Colors by Vincent van Gogh and The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Collins Big Book of Art: From Cave Art to Pop Art by David G. Wilkins

I Spy: An Alphabet in Art (I Spy Series) by Lucy Micklethwait


Pull out all your art supplies (the ones you're willing to share anyway) and do some fun projects with your kids. We have an art table in our loft that is reserved for all the art projects my kids create. I also have a protective cover for my dining room table when we want to do larger projects. Mine is soft felt on one side and plastic vinyl on the other. I had it cut to size at JoAnn's.

Dot Drawing: (pointillism)
* Draw a picture very lightly in pencil.
* Fill in the drawing using any of the various methods:
1. colored dots using colored pencils or fine-tipped markers
2. dip either end of a pencil in paint to make the dots
3. colored dot stickers
4. make various colored dots with a hole punch and card stock. Glue the holes to the picture
5. use glue and seed beads or fine pebbles to fill in the design

Crayon Rubbings:
Place a sheet of paper over an object, then rub the side of a crayon on the paper. The texture of the item will come through. Vary the color of crayon for added interest.

Crayon Melt:
This was one of my favorite activities as a kid but it definitely requires adult supervision. Turn the flat electric griddle on low. Place a paper on top and let your child draw with old crayons. The wax melts to the paper and creates an interesting effect.

Paint with various objects:
1. dip string in paint and drag it around the paper
2. roll marbles covered in paint over paper
3. drop thinned paint on paper and blow it with straws
4. paint with an old toothbrush

Paint inexpensive pots to use as gifts.

Sand Painting:
Color sand by mixing it with powdered tempera paint in different containers. Leave some sand uncolored. Use glue and sand to "paint" a design on a piece of cardboard. Shake off the excess sand.

There are hundreds of great art projects for kids.


Art Kids Rule has a plethora of creative ideas and activities, as does KinderArt.

The National Gallery of Art has a fun "Art Zone" for kids.

Learn about Degas, VanGogh and Cezanne on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website for kids.

Find art prints or cards on the Global Children's Art Gallery website.


The Springville Art Museum is the oldest art museum in Utah and houses over 2000 works, the majority are Utah works. The Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 5pm, Wednesdays 10am to 9pm, and Sundays 3pm to 6pm. Closed Mondays and Holidays, except the first Monday monthly from 6pm to 8pm for Community & Family Night. Admission is Free.

See various art exhibits at the Utah Museum of Fine Art on the University of Utah campus. Don't miss the coming exhibit of "Monet to Picasso" coming this summer (opening June 23rd). It is open Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5 pm; Wednesday 10 am – 8 pm; Saturday and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm. The museum is closed Mondays and Holidays. The adult rate is $5, children over 5 are $3 and children under 5 are free.

The Brigham Young Museum of Art is open on Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and on Saturday from noon to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free although special exhibits may require an admission fee. The current exhibit is titled: American Dreams: Selected Works from the Museum's Permanent Collection of American Art.

The Kimball Art Center is located in Park City. Currently it is featuring the art of Robert Glenn Ketchum and Aaron Fritz. Participate in a "Gallery Stroll" on Friday evenings. It features 23 art galleries in Park City. Admission is $7.

The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art is affiliated with Utah State University and is located in Logan. It is open on Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is free. This museum has several exhibits including Klompen.

The Museum of Church History and Art of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints features many exhibits. Currently, there is an exhibit of art created by women. The museum is open on Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

The Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Art is located in the center of Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. It is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and noon to 5:00 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Admission is free.

There are many other art galleries, museums and centers in Utah.
Eccles Community Art Center
Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery
Union Station Gallery
Kaysville LeConte Stewart Gallery of Art
Bountiful-Davis Art Center
Finch Lane Gallery/Art Barn
Salt Lake Art Center
Fairview Museum of History and Art
Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery
St. George Art Museum

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week 3: The Farm

We're spending the week at my parents' farm. We'll be feeding the horses and cows (hopefully we won't be chasing/herding cows); weeding the garden; catching tadpoles in the pond; watching my dad cut and bale the hay (and being grateful we're still not strong enough to help haul it); and a variety of other farming activities.


Some of my favorite books are about farms or take place of a farm. My little kids love to look at books about farm animals and make the sounds.

Night Is Coming (Picture Puffins) by W. Nikola-Lisa

This book is a sweet lullaby with "farm" pictures that are as cozy as your grandma's quilt.

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

This is my husband's favorite "coming-of-age" story. It's a novel for the older kids or for you.

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle

Eric Carle's books are fun and colorful. My toddlers love this board book. They make the sounds for each of the animals and enjoy rubbing their fingers over the texture of the "spider web".

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White and Garth Williams

This is the ultimate "farm" book. There's nothing better than cuddling up with your kids and reading aloud. This is definitely one of my favorite books to read to my kids. Either of the movie adaptations are fun and enjoyable as well.

Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

I've written previously about how much I enjoy this book. It is fun to read out loud to the kids. It's clever and funny and the illustrations are great.


Plant a garden. It's not too late in the season to put the seeds in the ground. In fact, considering that it was still frosting last week in parts of the state, you might be smarter to start planting a garden this week. You can avoid running around in the middle of the night covering your plants (brr! It was really cold last week).

It doesn't take a lot of space to grow a garden. Check out Square Foot Gardening: A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work by Mel Bartholomew for ideas on growing gardens in a small area.

Stop by a local green house with the kids to pick up plants for your garden.

Talk with your kids about where food comes from. This can actually be a pretty funny conversation. One night at dinner, our family was talking about food and the animals that provide it. We were talking about pigs and cows. My daughter was three years old at the time and she asked what we get from horses. I answered "rides". Then she said, "rabbits give us carrots."


Wheeler Historic Farm is conveniently located in Salt Lake County. It's open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and offers a variety of farm activities. Admission is free but there are small fees for some of the activities such as taking a ride the tractor-pulled hay wagon or milking a cow.

Visit Farm Country at Thanksgiving Point. The kids will love the petting zoo, the pony rides or rides on the hay wagon. It's open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. The admission rates are $3.50 per person young or old (children under 2 are free). The admission includes one ride ticket.

Pet the farm animals for $2 or ride the ponies for $3 at Gardner's Village. It's open from 11 am to 6 pm daily.

On Saturday stop by the Farmer's Market at Historic Pioneer Park. It's open from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. Enjoy the fresh produce and eat better.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vinyl Lettering

Vinyl lettering is hot! With Vinyl Lettering Decor you can customize your lettering. Check it out and put your own favorite sayings on your wall.

Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies

Pillsbury awarded Carolyn Gurtz $1 million dollars for this recipe. We love cookies in this house and we decided, if these are worth $1 million dollars we better try them. Personally, I believe a dessert worth $1 million dollars ought to have some chocolate in it, but these were pretty good. They have a creamy peanut butter center that makes this cookie different from most.
Mine look a bit different from the recipe for several reasons: first, I'm not a professional. Second, I didn't have "Pillsbury Create n Bake" refrigerated peanut butter cookies that the recipe requests. I made the cookie dough from my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, which is good enough by itself. Third, I didn't have peanuts and I didn't want to take a trip to the store, so I left them off. Fourth, I never leave my cookies in the oven as long as the recipes say to. They don't get as brown but they're softer and more gooey--the way we like them.
There are only three cookies in the picture because that was all that were left by the time I got a chance to grab the camera. The neighborhood kids found out we were baking cookies and the cookies disappeared quickly. In fact, I heard the front door open and came downstairs to find the three-year-old from next door helping himself to another cookie. They're that good! Now, if I can just figure out how to add some chocolate.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week 2: Dinosaurs

My family is headed to Vernal this week so naturally our theme will be about dinosaurs. We'll be going to the Field House Museum in Vernal (it's too bad the Dinosaur Quarry is closed right now) but there are plenty of dinosaur-themed activities in other parts of Utah as well.


Kids love dinosaurs and so dinosaurs are the stars of plenty of books for children. From board books with great pictures to more elaborate encyclopedias, you should have no trouble finding books about dinosaurs (we have dozens).

Dinosaur Roar (Picture Puffins) by Paul Stickland and Henrietta Stickland

This board book has been a favorite in our home for years. It doesn't teach so much about dinosaurs as opposites but the colorful dinosaur drawings are cute and the kids love them.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Jane Yolen has written an entire series based on these dinosaurs. The books are humorous and clever.

The Usborne Internet-Linked Atlas of Dinosaurs (Usborne Internet Linked) by Susanna Davidson

Informational guides such as the one published by Usborne are packed with pictures and information about dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals.

You'll find plenty of books about dinosaurs at your local library. Here are a few more to look for:

The Big Book of Dinosaurs (Big Books) by Angela Wilkes

National Geographic Dinosaurs by Paul Barrett, Raul Martin, and Kevin Padian
Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff (A classic -- it takes me right back to my childhood.)

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, No. 1) by Mary Pope Osborne and Sal Murdocca

First Dinosaur Encyclopedia by DK Publishing


Find information about each dinosaur species and print out pictures to color on the Enchanted Learning website. Take a fun quiz about dinosaurs to test your knowledge when you're done.

If you were a dinosaur, which one would you be? Find out at the Natural History Museum website.

Dinosaurs have some really big names. Have you ever wondered how they get them? Now you can know.

Test your memory with a dinosaur matching game.

Watch clips from When Dinosaurs Roamed America on the Discovery Channel website.

Do you know how dinosaurs became fossils? Watch a video on the American Museum of Natural History Museum.

Print and make a flip book about a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the Field Museum website.


My knowledge of dinosaur movies is limited to Jurassic Park and The Land Before Time. If you're looking for some with more "accurate" information on dinosaurs check these out:

National Geographic - Dinosaurs Unearthed (Dino Autopsy / Dino Death Trap) ~ National Geographic (DVD - 2008)

Dinosaur Secrets Revealed (A&E DVD Archives) ~ Dinosaur Secrets Revealed (DVD - 2005)

The Complete Walking with... Collection ~ Stockard Channing, Larry Agenbroad, Frank Fish, and Larry Witmer (DVD - 2006)


The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point is centrally located in the valley. Watch movies about dinosaurs or ancient sea creatures on the Mammoth screen or check out the great exhibits. It is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Prices vary so check out their helpful website.

BYU Earth Science Museum is located just west of Lavell Edwards Football Stadium. Learn about paleontology and even touch real fossils. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and is FREE. Whoo Hoo!

Utah Museum of Natural History is located in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. It boasts a large collection of dinosaur fossils and many other interesting exhibits. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission rates for adults and youth over 13 - $6 (unless you happen to be a student or UofU alumni. You can get discounted or free admission rates). Children from 3 - 12 years old - $3.50. Check out the website for more information.

Utah Field House of Natural History State Park and Museum is located in Vernal, Utah. It is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily. Adults - $6 and children over 5 - $3. There are lots of exhibits and activities inside but my children especially enjoy the dinosaur gardens outside which has full-size replicas of many of our favorite dinosaurs.

Check out the Dinosaur Museum in Blanding Utah. It has many informative displays including an exhibit of dinosaur eggs. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Adults - $2 and children - $1.

Utah loves dinosaurs and you find more at Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park in Ogden, Utah. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Adults - $6, Children 2 - 12 - $4. (There are additional fees to participate in some activities.) This place is an adventure. Plan to stay awhile.

By the way, these ideas are just meant to enhance your summer. I believe strongly in the value of "free play" and hope my children will spend most of their time playing outside with each other and their neighborhood friends. But, when I hear "I'm bored . . .", I'll be ready.

Friday, June 6, 2008

"Safely Gathered In" Blog

Being prepared is something that we're all concerned about. The "Safely Gathered In" blog is another great resource to help us all get the food storage and other essentials that we need to be prepared. The writers are especially conscious of those living on a tight budget. They include recipes that can be made with dry storage ingredients and weekly assignments to keep us on track.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Week 1: Birds

The theme for our first week of summer is "Birds". My kids and I are excited about this week because we love birds and have been looking for an excuse to study more about them.


We'll start out the week by doing a search of our own book shelves for books about birds. Here are a few classic stories that we found on ours:

Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen

I highly recommend reading this book. The language is pure poetry. Each word falls easily from the tongue, wrapping the listener in a warm blanket to protect them from the cold night. The illustrations are secondary and only enhance the image in the reader's mind created by the words.
The story portrays a real-life situation, that shows the relationship between the father and child. Together they experience the thrill of nature, specifically the great horned owl. This story also teaches the rewards of patience, anticipation and hope.

Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey

Another classic, "Make Way for Ducklings" tells the delightful story of a family of ducks in Boston, Massachusetts. It's a sweet story that shows the thoughtful and considerate actions of the community to help the family reunite in the "perfect" place to raise ducklings. Surely, you've read this book before, but it's one to enjoy and savor often. If you haven't read it yet, you're in for a wonderful treat.

Next, we'll take a trip to our local library to see what other books on birds we can find. This is a great opportunity to teach younger children how to search the library database for books on a certain subject. Please let us know what great bird books you find.

Some books to look for:

Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky and Jon L. Dunn

The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher: Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens by Robert Burton and Stephen Kress

Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take-Along Guides) by Mel Boring

There Is a Bird On Your Head! (Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems


Yahoo Kids has a section on birds that answers qestions about birds such as "how does a bird fly?" and "why do birds sing?". It also includes lists of birds with pictures and information.

Watch a video of a hummingbird on the San Diego Zoo website.

Get to know more about a penguin or soar with a Golden Eagle on the Animal Planet website.

Find a wealth of information, games and activities, including print-out coloring sheets on the National Aviary website.

Learn to identify birds by their songs and find cool facts about birds on the BBC website.


Planet Earth: the Complete BBC Series features several sections on birds. Be especially sure to check out Disk 3: Jungles: Chapter 1 which shows tropical birds of paradise engaged in dances to attract a mate.

March of the Penguins is a beautiful documentary that follows the struggles and life of the emperor penguin in Antartica.

The Life of Birds is a multi-disc series produced by BBC that focuses on bird behavior.


Build a bird house together. If you don't have a lot of tools on hand, kits can often be purchased at hobby stores.

Consider building a nesting box to attract a barn owl. Did you know that a family of barn owls can consume over 3000 rodents a season? Check out sites like to learn more.

Hang a bird feeder in your yard. A hummingbird feeder can attract beautiful birds to see and enjoy.

Keep a list of birds that you see. Birds are everywhere and watching for them can be very enjoyable and rewarding. Just the other day my children enjoyed watching a common European Starling search for food in a dumpster while we waited in the drive-thru line.

Consider purchasing a book to help in identifying the birds that you see. Our family has two. "Birds of North America" published by DK has beautiful full-page pictures of the birds in North America and detailed information about each bird. It also weighs ten pounds and is difficult to take with us when we go bird watching. We have a second bird guide that is smaller and easy to pack. A good pair of binoculars are nice but not necessary for the casual bird watcher.

Keep your eyes open and you will be amazed at how many different species you can see. On a fishing trip last week to Strawberry Reservoir, the fish weren't biting but we did enjoy seeing many American White Pelicans, four Great Blue Heron, Western Grebes, a Golden Eagle, two Red Tailed Hawks, California Gulls and a pair of nesting Canadian Geese.

Utah Wildlife Resources has a great website to help in the identification of birds. It lists the species found in Utah and includes maps to show the area where each species lives.


The Tracy Aviary is located in Liberty Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tracy Aviary is open from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm every day and features bird shows at 11 am and 1 pm. The rates are: adults - $5, children 4-12 - $3, and children under 4 - free.

Feed the ducks and geese. Most ponds at parks have ducks and geese. Children love to feed them. Bring the old bread and enjoy.

The Hogle Zoo hosts a bird show each day. It features many different species including tropical birds and birds of prey. Enjoy the other animals while you're there. The zoo is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm each day. The rates are: adults - $8, children 3-12 - $6, and children under 3 - free.

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is in Northern Utah. The auto route is open during day light hours each day and the James V. Hansen Wildlife Education Center offers interactive exhibits from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm week days and from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturdays.

Ideas for Summer Fun

It's summertime. The kids are out of school. Yay! Wait a minute. What are we supposed to do with them now?

Each Monday on Utah Mom's Life, I'll present ideas for great books to read, activities, projects and field trips based on a specific theme. It'll be a great way to keep the kids entertained. They'll definitely have fun and maybe they'll even learn something.

Below are the links to the weekly posts:

Week #1 : Birds
Week #2 : Dinosaurs
Week #3 : Farms
Week #4 : Art
Week #5 : Trains
Week #6 : The Great Outdoors
Week #7 : Heritage