Start Your Own Container Garden

Start Your Own Container Garden

Start Your Own Container Garden

It is not difficult to start your own container garden, in fact for many people, it is an enjoyable hobby and can be an economical option to save money on fresh vegetables or herbs. The process of setting one up is the same, whether or not it is geared for indoors or outdoors. Winter is a perfect time for planning your upcoming container garden.

First, write down a list of plants that you are interested in growing. Perhaps, group them in similar categories. For instance, do you want to plant an herb garden, a vegetable garden, and indoor flowering plants, pin point your goal.

When you have your basic list, now is the time to do some research on the specific plants on your wish list, and their growing specifications. The internet, library or seed or nursery catalogs can be great sources for finding this information out. While you are doing this, be open to plants sharing common growing conditions, as these might make great companions in a specific container garden, roommate, so to speak.

The specifications you’ll need to find about is plant is how much root space will be needed, how much sun or shade needed, best type of soil, how much typical watering will be needed, and considerations to frost and season if they will be containers grown outdoors.

Materials Needed

You will also need to research the supplies you’ll need once your gather your plant specification data. Some of those needed supplies will be:

Containers – you can get very creative with these. They may be purchased, large decorative type containers, to the small, basic black pots, to making your own out of various materials. The photo is an old wooden barrel converted into a strawberry container garden. Just make sure the proper drainage can be ensured. Don’t forget, raised beds built from scratch also fits into this category.

Potting Soil – you can purchase potting soil specially designed for container gardens, or you can use compost as well, or a combination of those.

Water – Depending on hot and dry the area is where the plants will be growing, you may want to add garden crystals to the soil that help hold water and reduce the frequency of watering. The same principal is used for the glass bulbs as well. These are optional supplies, but can be real time savers.

Tools – hand trowels, gloves, water can or a watering wand that fits on the end of a hose. If your containers are going to be indoors, be sure to put a dish or something underneath the pots to catch any water runoff.

Plants – you can plant either full grown plants, seedlings, or opt to start yours from seed. This is completely up to your preferences, and budget. For seed starting, be sure to follow the directions on the package for germinating. Most any vegetables can be successfully grown in containers.

Assembling Your Container Garden

After you have gathered your supplies, and your plants or seeds it’s time to get our hands dirty and the fun begins.

Some folks put a ½ inch layer or so at the bottom of the container of charcoal or small pebbles, to assist with drainage. This is optional however.

The next step is to lightly fill your container with potting soil, but not completely to the top. If you are planting seeds, you will fill higher with soil, than if you are planting fully grown plants.

Gently take your plants or seedlings out of their container taking care not to disrupt the roots too much or pull much on the top of the plant. Dig a hole slightly bigger than the plant and put the roots in, then cover with potting soil. Water thoroughly. Now gently with your hands lightly tamp the damp soil near the plant and soil to get a good connection, and water again.

Place your containers in your desired location. Pay attention to any fertilizer feeding schedule you may want to opt for. Rotate your containers periodically for balanced light exposure. If these are indoors, you may need to supplement the light with plant grow lights.

By starting your own container gardens, it can not only be a fun hobby, but can save you money in the long run, and provide fresh vegetables, plants or herbs for a tasty and healthy addition for your family.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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How To Care For and Prune Hydrangea Flower Shrubs

Blue Harlequin Hydrangea Flower

How To Care For and Prune Hydrangea Flower Shrubs


General Care When Growing Hydrangea Flowering Bushes

Hydrangea shrubs or bushes are among favorite flowering plants for many people. They grow in a wide variety of sizes, colors and shapes. The flowers are gorgeous dried or fresh in bouquets, craft projects, and simply left in the garden. They thrive in varying conditions from full sun to full shade, depending on the variety. Before planting a hydrangea, find out its sun/shade requirements.

They all need moist, well drained soil with rich compost and other organic matter like implementing the use of cover crops for optimum soil conditions.

Feeding Hydrangea Flowers

Hydrangeas shouldn’t be fertilized at all until new plants are firmly established a minimum of 3 months after planting or transplanting.  Should you decide to fertilize, do so sparingly, as too much nitrogen will cause the plant to stop flowering.

Hydrangea Color

Much of the finished color of hydrangea flowers depends on two qualities.  The variety of the plant itself, and the soil PH.  Acidic soil PH gives blue shades, and more alkaline soils encourage pink tones.

The trick is aluminum ions in the soil, so aluminum sulfate is a good quick fix, but prolonged use year after year, may cause a fatal build up in the soil. Iron sulfate is a safer amendment, or try alternating between the two. If pink is the shade you want to bring out, top dress with dolomite, or drench with a quick lime solution.

Problem – Why Doesn’t My Hydrangea Flower?

Hydrangeas fail to flower for a couple of reasons. Most commonly is frost damage, the other main reason by late pruning. Too much shade or nitrogen, are other factors to consider.

Partial shade means more than four (more like six) hours of sunlight. Planting in a more sheltered spot may be useful.

Reasons for Pruning Hydrangeas

Let’s look at why you need to prune these shrubs. Regrettably, many individuals intend to make them a smaller sized plant, which not a good reason to prune a hydrangea shrub. Unless you’re growing it in a bonsai dish, you’re bound to lose that battle.

Generally, plants ought to be pruned to improve look, certainly not to manage size. The adult hydrangea is a shrub that can’t be made into smaller sized bush. If an individual cuts a big leaf hydrangea down, 1 year later it will grow in size, all the more in the next season. If you would like keep them small in stature, substitute your large growing variety with one that is genetically designed to stay small.

Some short sized hydrangea bush varieties are:

  • Pink Elf
  • Hornli
  • Blue Deckle
  • Diadem
  • Involucrata Tama Azisai
  • Harlequin
  • Quercifolia PeeWee
  • Serrata Shirofuji
  • Blue Billow
  • Pia
  • Mathilda Gutges
  • Hortensis Compacta
  • Glowing Embers
  • Tovelit
  • Red Star
  • Todi
  • Trophy
  • Miranda
  • Amethyst
  • Bottstein
  • Enziadom
  • Forever Pink
  • Masja
  • Blue Danube

Proper Pruning Techniques of Hydrangeas

The dilemma is that the big-leaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea macrophylla (the type that form big round balls of flowers), form their blossom buds in the previous summer season, if you decide to cut them short they don’t bloom very much the following summertime. Almost all the renowned types of the blue mop-head varieties in blue, pink or white lace-cap hydrangeas produce their blossoms on old growth wood.

Not every hydrangea plant flowers on second year growth, and this increases the misunderstandings. The very sturdy tree type Pee Gee hydrangea, ‘Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora’, flowers on new growth along with the white-flowering ‘Annabelle’ variety hydrangea. There are also some varieties which blossom on both new and old growth, to further muddy the waters, so to speak.

The big leaf hydrangeas, lace-caps and mop-heads, ought to be pruned as follows:

Prune early in the year when the plant has begun to break dormancy. At this time of the season, you can discern which canes are alive as opposed to which ones are dead.

Begin by eliminating all dead canes, cutting them right down to the ground. This can be best attained by sitting next to the plant, so you’ll not leave ugly, six to 8 inch tall stumps.

When all dead canes are eliminated, analyze what is remaining. If still you have many living stalks, many of the being over 3 years in age, cut out a third of them, again cutting these to ground level. This will encourage fresh growth. If the plant is just not congested with a quantity of older stems, skip this part.

Tidy the shrub by just removing any old flowers that remain, taking care to trim the smallest amount possible, basic deadheading.

Cut leftover stalks back by working from the top down, stopping and making the cut just above the top of the first or second pair of buds you come to. Using this technique, some canes will be cut little or not at all, although some will have living buds only near the base of the plant, thus in that situation, you’ll end up taking away a considerable amount of that stalk.

Step back and examine the shrub. If you find one stem that is a much taller than the rest of the canes, cut it to be in range with the other stalks. If there are any curvy, fragile and spindly looking limbs, and those that trail on the ground, eliminate these at the ground.

Remember the fact that any green buds you get rid of have the possibility to produce blossoms later in the summer. Would you like a tidier plant or more flowers? Bear in mind you can always cut those blossoms for bouquets, thus tidying the plant later in the summertime.

The white Annabelle mop-head variety is one of the hydrangeas that bloom on brand new growth. They are going to still bloom if heavily pruned, even so, and if cut down too far the brand new growth that results may be weak and bend underneath the weight of the flowers, so don’t be too aggressive.

Be sure to use sharp pruning shears when pruning, and sterilize your shears between pruning different plants, so any disease is not spread.

One method to disinfect your pruning shears is to dip the blades in a disinfectant solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water, or use 70 percent wood alcohol. Dip each time in between every cut of diseased plants, or you risk spreading the disease. Do not allow those diseased canes to remain in the area, or it can also spread to more plants.

With proper care of your hydrangea shrubs, you will be rewarded with healthy, thriving flowers for many years to come. They make great indoor décor for the home, and you can learn to easily make your own hydrangea wreaths.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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A Guide to Extreme Coupon Savings

A Guide to Extreme Coupon Savings

A Guide to Extreme Coupon Savings

12 Tips to Couponing

Many people use extreme couponing to save money. Those that are good at this process will save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year as they shop. A how to guide to extreme couponing will allow you to become a big saver as well. Check out these 12 tips to be on your way to saving significant money on your groceries, as well as other household items.

1) Get the weekly circulars from your grocery store and look to see what is on sale that week. Match the coupons with the sales that come out in your Sunday paper for deeper savings.

2) Use printable coupons available on several coupon sites to use at stores, such as, couponsponge but there are many to choose from, spend some time to research sites that carry coupons of products you regularly use.

In addition, many stores such as Target have their own coupons on their website. One useful site is It will actually take you to local circulars that may be offering coupons you can use. It also features coupons from redplum and smartsource and the local P&G inserts that come out in several papers.

Coupon Strategies

3) Shop at stores that offer double and triple coupons. There are probably several of these in your local area. Most stores advertise this on their storefront banner, but in some cases you need to ask if this is their policy. Find out the details on when they offer this and do your shopping on those days and times.

4) Take advantage of store loyalty programs. Some websites such as allow you to enter your store loyalty cards, and get credit for purchasing certain items with coupons that are posted on the site. This is a great advantage because it does not involve taking any physical coupons to the store. You will be paid via paypal or once you have redeemed 5.00 worth of coupons.

5) Use social media sites such as facebook to your advantage, often coupons from various manufacturers can be found. In addition, some companies will have coupons available if you sign up on their website, or express an interest in their products.

6) Find out local store policies on accepting coupons, some stores will limit coupons on buy one get one free items. See if you can use one coupon per each item, also make sure your local store will accept electronic coupons. Most stores will accept these coupons as long as there is a barcode and expiration date showing.

Couponing Tips

7) Certain stores allow price matching…so if you can show them the particular item you are interested in, is cheaper somewhere else, they will match the competitors price on the item in question.

8) Read the fine print on the coupons. Some coupons can not be combined with any other special offers or coupons, but some coupons will allow you to combine coupons on special store prices. This is another area where you may need to check with the store first, to see if two coupons can be combined on the same item.

9) If a specially priced item is out of stock, get a raincheck for the item. Most stores have this policy. It is better to go back to the store than miss out on the item altogether.

10) Get organized, being disorganized is the downfall of many would be extreme couponers. For paper coupons find a coupon organizer that you can use, alphabetical is good for the products your regularly buy. Some individuals also choose to organize their coupons, by expiration date, so that they have the coupons that are about to expire first in their organizer.

Final Tips on Saving Money

11) Host a coupon exchange party, you can often exchange coupons for items that you do not want or need, with coupons for the things you do want and need. Some stores also will have sections in the front where people will leave coupons they do not want or need and will leave coupons for others. This can be a great way to meet new friends as well.

12) Get into refunding like extreme couponers do. Refunding is where the product purchased is sent in with a rebate form and usually a receipt of your purchase and mailed back is either products, deeper coupons, or cash back. A good resource that’s been around for many years is:

Following most of these tips may allow you too to get into the extreme couponing mode. Saving hundreds per year couponing, is certainly a possibility. Obviously it takes work to accomplish extreme couponing, but the savings can be powerful.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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The BEST Homemade Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

The BEST Homemade Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

The BEST Homemade Hot Buttered Rum Recipe

There is something so festive about hot buttered rum drinks during the holiday season.  Warm.  Cozy.  Conversation flows.  Below, here is a family favorite for making homemade hot buttered rum batter, perfect for keeping in the freezer for when guests arrive.


  • 1 pound real butter (softened)
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream (partially thawed)
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. nutmeg

Blend all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thoroughly mixed. Transfer to a container to store in the freezer.  When ready to make hot buttered rum, add 1 – 2 T. (to taste), to a cup of boiling water, and 1 oz. rum (to taste), and stir well.  Serve in glass mugs and garnish with cinnamon sticks or nutmeg sprinkled on top.

This recipe is smooth and creamy.  It’s also delicious without the rum.

Until next time,


Check out this beautiful soy hot buttered rum candle below.

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Shine and Polish the Dirtiest Room in the Home Fast in a Few Minutes Daily

Shine and Polish the Dirtiest Room in the Home Fast in a Few Minutes Daily

Ugg…a dirty bathroom, the worst room it seems.  Toothpaste on the counter and sink, a scary toilet, towels and other dirty clothing on the floor, clutter everywhere.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  With a little planning, it can be a simple room to keep clean and tidy.

Ready to tackle it?  Put a bit of toilet bowl cleaner into the toilet and close the lid.  We’ll re-visit this in a few minutes.

Tackle the clothes and towels next.  If they are dirty, put them into a laundry hamper.  If not, hang them up.  If you don’t have a place to hang the towels, install a place the next time you have a few minutes.  Put out clean towels.  Not only will guests and family appreciate that, you are reducing the spread of germs.

Dive into the clutter that may be on the counter.  Put everything away in it’s place.  If you find it doesn’t really have a place, time to designate a home for said object.  You might need to get an organizer or basket to place items in, and tuck in a drawer or under the sink to get it out of sight.  The less stuff on your counter, the more stream-lined and clean your bathroom will look.

Give your mirrors, facet, and counter  a quick wipe up.

Hitting this room quickly, keep 2 main goals in mind.  First is that everything is neatly presented, and that items displayed are clean.

The tub and shower are next.  Again, de-clutter.  Throw out any empty bottles hanging around and everything that’s not used on a near-daily basis.  If you have time, give it a quick clean or wipe down.  If not, consider a quick rinse, then close the shower curtain, for when there is time for a proper cleaning.

Wipe down the outside of the toilet, then scrub the inside quickly with a toilet brush. Flush and it’s done.

Lastly, the floor.  Do a quick wipe up with a clean damp cloth (don’t use the same cloth that was used to wipe the toilet).   Most bathrooms are fairly small and this can be done relatively easily and quickly.  If you have a large bathroom, just wipe down the areas that need it most.

Just by doing these quick steps will help your bathroom, often times the dirtiest room in the home, to stay presentable in between the major cleaning days.  It’s amazing how much it helps with feeling caught up, and looking nice.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner


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Quickly Get and Keep the Kitchen Chaos Free

Quickly Get and Keep the Kitchen Chaos Free

So often, the kitchen becomes a catch all for clutter, due to it’s being one of the most used rooms in the home.  Is it possible to rid it of clutter and chaos in as little as 15 minutes? Yes, if you have a plan, which is what we’d like to offer you here.

Take an overall look at your kitchen for a quick assessment.  Imagine breaking it up into 3 main sections in which you’ll be spending 5 minutes on each section.  If you need to use a timer, do so.  When you’re ready to start, begin at one end of one section and work your way around the room.  Stay focused on putting away the clutter you are handling at the moment, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted by other tasks nearby.

Usually counter space in the first thing to keep in mind.  Chances are it has mail, food items (like spices or cereal), appliances and other items.  Keep a rule that if you don’t use it daily, find a place out of sight for it, and keep it there.

Keep dirty dishes off the counter, its just as easy to put them in the dishwasher as to lay them in the sink or counter.

Paperwork tends to be a problem in the kitchen for many families.  School papers, mail, take out menus, you name it.  The problem with it, is no matter how organized it may be, visually it always looks like clutter.  Take a decorated box and put the paperwork in there, with the lid on.  Just make sure you frequently go through it and handle it as necessary, throwing out that which is no longer needed.  You don’t want the box to get out of hand either.

If there is still too many items laying out, a pantry or other kitchen related cupboards can be a good solution.  For things that don’t belong to the kitchen, but migrated there, have another box or basket to tuck the items away, so they can be put in the proper place in the other locations in the home.  Again, don’t let that build up too long to become it’s own chaos mess.

When everything is put away, give the counters and sink a quick wipe down.   Your appliances may also need a light wipe up for any fingerprints or grime.

Doing this once a day will go a long way at keeping kitchen chaos at bay.  It also makes it so much more pleasant to be in there, whether you’ll be entertaining friends, or cooking up some delicious food.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Reduce Bedroom Clutter in 15 Minutes for a More Peaceful Space

Reduce Bedroom Clutter in 15 Minutes for a More Peaceful Space

There’s just something special about it, – even though most people are only in their bedrooms a few hours a day, the peaceful sense of going to bed in a clutter free, clean bedroom area. It helps us unwind and letdown, and is just in fact, comforting.

It’s an area that tends to get neglected however, because most of the decluttering that needs to happen, such as putting away clothing and making the bed, are done in the morning, which can be a time we are really crunched for time.

However, another alternative to doing this in the morning is to give it a quick decluttering treatment, only 15 minutes or less after you get home from work, get the kids off to school, or running errands. Many people can find a couple of minutes to squeeze it in somewhere in the day, even if it isn’t first thing in the morning.

In your quick declutter time, make the bed first, and fluff up the pillows. This one task instantly transforms the look of a room and instantly makes it look neater.

On the task list next is clothing. Are they thrown everywhere? Put the dirty ones in the hamper and shut the lid, (of course unless you are ready to do a load of laundry now). Do you have piles of clean clothes? Fold and/or hang them up and put them away. For me, I don’t enjoy this process, so I want to make it as easy as possible, so I try my best not to make a mess in the first place. It’s just as easy to toss dirty clothes in a hamper as it is to drop them on the floor. And clean laundry is put away immediately after coming out of the dryer, otherwise it gets wrinkled beyond hope and many times simply gets recycled into the dirty hamper when really they are clean. If you work at not making a mess in the first place on this task, daily decluttering will be a quick breeze.

Do you have clothing that needs a little attention, yet are clean? Perhaps, missing a button or needs a hem? Designate an area in the closet or a drawer for these, until you get that completed. If you have clothing that needs to be dry cleaned, set aside an area for those dirty garments, so they can be taken in, or picked up by a laundry service at one time.

With these two biggest elements handled, straighten up or put away miscellaneous things. Try a daily rule of thumb – if it’s not used daily, it needs to be put away, then do that. Don’t get distracted when putting things away. For instance, when you go to put an object away, you see the drawer to place it in is messy, so then you may be tempted to clean that drawer. Restrain yourself. That’s for another day, when re-organizing that drawer is the focus. Just place the object inside and move on to the next, remember this is a quick tidy-up.

Sometimes that’s why we procrastinate tidying up in the first place, this tendency to get distracted and bogged down, and not completing what we were after in the first place, which was quick tidy up.  It’s ok to just tidy, and not clean.

For items that do need to be kept out and used daily, keep them organized, neat and clean. Perhaps a basket or a container needs to be used, so it is contained and visually more appealing. Books and magazines look better in a basket or stacked neatly, rather than strewn around a chair, floor or nightstand.

If you have time and it needs it, give the mirror a quick wipe. Same goes for night stands or dresser drawers to keep it dust free.

You might need to schedule a time to do a more intensive organizing effort. If so, schedule it when you can, but remember; you don’t have to tackle the entire room in one setting. Perhaps its only a closet, or a couple of sections of a closet. It might be a dresser, the top of the dresser, or a couple of drawers done. Break it down so its manageable for you. Even getting 1 drawer done, will help motivate you to do more drawers, whether that’s in the same time frame, or another, do what works for you.

You might want to spritz a little room freshener in the air, perhaps add a little bouquet of flowers, or some other nice little personal touch to end with. As you do this daily, you might be surprised at how little time this actually takes. You’ll love the reward it offers you,when its time to turn in for the night.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Ideas For Successful Science Fair Projects

Science fair projects are investigations aimed at answering certain scientific questions. Science fairs involve a number of kids who showcase their findings at the end of their investigations and are mostly done in schools to help children know why certain things happen the way they do. The kids are allowed to discover things on their own. Although the projects target students, parents and guardians are allowed to help them where they need assistance.

The following are ideas to help parents assist their kids to learn.

• Talk about the Project Ideas with your Child.
Allow your child to talk about the project they would want to do. It will be detrimental for him or her if you choose it for them. Therefore, even if they appear to have problems coming up with one, it is not your responsibility to create one for them.

If they are totally unable to come up with something, you can give them ideas to provoke their thinking. One aspect may be helping them decide on what category of science they would like to focus on. Perhaps it’s biology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, biochemistry, health, environmental science, math or computer science, engineering, earth science, or others.

You can ask them why certain things happen the way they do. Allow them to think through the issue and give you a feedback. If they are enthusiastic about the project, you can rest assured that it will likely be a smooth ride all the way. Never push a project down your child’s throat; remember they are the ones doing it and not you. It is important for them to feel in control of the project and not dad or mom.

• Take your Child to Places where they can Access Research Materials

Your responsibility is to take your child to a library or any other place where they can research about their project. From there, leave them to do the rest. Of course if they do not how to do it, you can help them learn how to get the information. For instance, if they need to use a computer and they do not know how to get the information they need, you can show them how to do it and leave them to continue.

• Help them to Confirm their Hypothesis

Discuss with the child about their hypothesis and how relevant it is to her overall project. All you need to do is to allow them to think through and help them where they seem to falter; that is all. If you feel like they are taking the wrong direction, you can brainstorm the whole idea together and help them rewrite their hypothesis. You may need to leave them alone if they feel that they are right; they will learn that they were wrong at some point and correct their mistake. For that reason allow them to go through the whole process of learning, and do not learn for them.
• Supervise your Child as they do their Experiments

This is critical because some of the experiments that they will need to do may be dangerous. For that reason, you must be available to confirm with them the steps, and be there to supervise. To put it more clearly, in this project you are an assistant and not the one calling the shots; kindly bear that in mind. Once the experiments are through, get feedback from the child and help them to record their data. If they need to fill a graph allow them to do it on their own, and if they require your help offer it wisely. In other words, your child should be able to redo the whole project, and show another audience why they support their hypothesis without you. They should answer questions and defend their hypothesis in your absence. In fact that is the essence of science fair projects.

• Never Scold your Child during a Science Fair Project

Respecting your child is very important, and no matter what mistakes they may make, you should never make them feel inferior. Encourage them during the whole process, and be their number one fan. When a child feels supported unconditionally it encourages them to step out and risk even more. Some of the greatest scientists learned more from their failures than their successes.

Check out our post also on Super Fun Educational Opportunity Program for Kids and Teens in Science, Technology & Robotics

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Traditional Backyard Games For Kids

Traditional Backyard Games For Kids

It appears as though many traditional backyard childhood games, which were played outside with little or no gear, gadgets, and the like, are being forgotten. Kids may not be learning these kind of fun, wholesome activities; much less how you can participate in them.

Many of these timeless games provide exercise and fresh air (benefits that sports provide as well), cost nothing, and best of all make great childhood memories. They can be played for countless hours, providing stimulating fun and bonding times that are relational. Many can be played with adults, and various ages, giving a rich, child friendly community of activity. By teaching your children and some of their friends to play some of these games, it also fosters a more active lifestyle in general.

Red Light Green Light

One person takes on the position of the “stop light person” and the rest makes effort to touch that person. Whoever touches them first wins that game. To begin with, all the children form a line about 15 feet away from the stop light individual. That stop light person turns away from the line of kids, with his or her back towards them and calls out “green light”. At this time the children in line are allowed to move towards the stoplight, some run, a few walk, or creep, their choice. At any point, the stop light individual yells out “red light” and turns around to face the participants. If some of the kids are found moving after this has transpired, they are out. The stoplight person identifies who they see moving after saying red light. This carries on until the first player to touch the stop light person wins the game, thus earning the privilege to be “stop light” for the following game.

Red Rover

The people separate into two teams. They stand in lines looking at each other with a broad area between the lines. The players must hold hands or wrists, and then the players on one team call out: “Red Rover – red rover – let “Billie” come over. Then your youngster who had been called upon by name, must run toward the opposition line and try to break the handhold uniting the line of the opposite team.  If they fail, they join the team whose handhold they couldn’t break. If they do break the rank, they will get to take one of the participants’ hostage, returning to their initial team’s line. The team that gets the majority of players wins.

Kick The Can

This is a mixture of hide-and-go-seek, as well as tag.  Someone designated as “it” closes their eyes and counts to some high number, while at the same time everyone else hides from view. After that, the individual that counted and defending “the can (any can)” runs around the neighborhood, to seek out everyone. The challenging portion is that when a person is found, there is a mad race, where the one who recently was discovered, makes an attempt to run and kick the can over, before the “it” tags or touches them. There seems to continually be individuals who will hide in a obvious, close by place, with the intent of sprinting for the can as soon as they are caught, actually hoping to catch “it” off-guard and out race them.

Mother May I?

All the children line up side-by-side, except the person who is the caller. The caller stands far away from the lined up players. He calls on every player in turn to take a few actions toward him. The steps permitted are:  baby steps, giant steps, or scissor steps (walking each step criss crossing over the previous step.) The participant responses “Mother, may I?” The mother answers “Yes, you may.” The player will take the approved quantity of actions towards the caller. If the person forgets to ask permission after he gets his instructions, and takes steps toward the caller, he gets sent back to the beginning of the line to start over. The first person to reach the caller is the winner and new caller.


A relatively smooth, flat area is needed, usually in dirt. A little hole is formed in the middle of the playing location. Each player antes up a marble, and they’re randomly scattered surrounding the area. Every participant utilizes a large marble called a ‘shooter’ to knock the other marbles into the hole; similar to shooting pool.  People take turns shooting, and when a person knocks a marble in to the hole with his/her turn, they be able to keep the marble they bumped in, and shoot again. Naturally very simple marble exchanging is usually a popular activity too.

Duck Duck Goose

Children sit down in a circle facing each other. One person is “it” and strolls around the circle. As they stroll around, they touch individuals’ heads and pronounce whether they are a “duck” or a “goose”.  When someone is announced a  “goose” they jump up quickly and chase “the it person” around the circle. The aim is to tag that person before they’re able to sit down in the “goose’s” spot. If the goose is not able to make this happen, they become “it” for the following round, and play continues. Should they accomplish the tag the “it” person, the individual tagged has got to sit in the center of the group. Then the goose becomes “it” for the next round. The person in the middle cannot leave until another person is tagged and they are replaced.


Hopscotch is a wonderful hopping game which can be played on a sidewalk or pavement or on a floor indoors. You will find hundreds of versions of the diagram which are then drawn. Use your preferred pattern to get youngsters to play. Use chalk to draw a hopscotch pattern on the ground, or masking tape on a floor. Generate a diagram with eight portions and number all of them. Each player has a marker, say for example a rock, beanbag, bottlecap, shell, button, etc.

The first player stands at the rear of the starting line to pitch their marker in square 1. Jump over square 1 to square 2 and then proceed hopping to square 8, turn around, and hop back again. Pause in square 2 to pick up the marker square 1, and jump to the end. Then continue by slinging the rock into square 2. All jumping is conducted on one foot unless the hopscotch pattern is such that two squares are side-by-side.  Only then can two feet touch the ground, one in each square. A participant must always skip over any block where a maker has been placed (theirs or someone elses).

A person is out, if the marker ceases to land in the accurate square, the hopper steps on a line, the hopper looses stableness when bending over to pick up the marker or puts a second hand or foot down. The participant puts the marker within the block they will resume playing on the next turn, and the next player starts.

Sometimes a dome-shaped “rest area” is added on one end of the hopscotch design where the player can rest for a second or two prior to turning around to jump back towards “home”.

Swinging Statue

You only need two players for this activity, but any number can be involved. One player grasps the other by his wrist and gently swings him slowly before letting go. The released player must then stabilize themselves in a statue posture as they landed.  They have to then remain as still as a statue, till all the other players are swung.  This will not have winners or losers. It’s just fun to see the statues made.

Farmer In The Dell

This game needs about 12-15 people or more, to stand up around a circle. One individual is selected as the Farmer and stands inside the middle. Everyone sings, “The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell; Heigh ho, the Derry-oh the farmer in the dell” and walk around in the circle. The next verse is “The farmer takes a wife . . .,” which is sung as the first person chooses another person from the circle to come to the inside as the wife. The next verse is “The wife takes a child . . .,” when the second person inside the circle chooses a third person to be the child. This continues with “The child takes a dog . . .,” “The dog takes a cat . . .,” “The cat takes a rat . . .,” and “The rat takes the cheese . . ..” The final verse is” The cheese stands alone . . .,” when all people on the inside of the circle go back to the outer edge of the circle and sing as the last person chosen “stands alone” in the circle, the game is then finished.

Bobbing for Apples

Bobbing for Apples, although this is traditionally played in the fall and autumn season, it makes an excellent choice for a hot summer day.  Fill a huge tub with water, and toss some apples into the water.  Have players kneel on their knees around the tub with hands clasped behind their backs, and some yells start.  Players must keep hands clasped behind their backs at all times.  They attempt to pick up an apple with only their mouth; they may NOT use their hands in any way.  The first person, who gets an apple out, wins.  You can also do a variation of this game, blindfolded.

Stick Ball

The overall game is enjoyed with a baseball bat and ball, usually a tennis ball to prevent breaking windows. There are no teams, just one individual up to bat and everybody else in the outfield. The person with the bat tosses the ball upward and hits it. Then they set the bat on the ground in front of them. The person who gets the ball, rolls it to the bat from the place in which the ball was picked up somewhere in the outfield. When and if the ball hits the bat it pops up into the air. In the event the batter doesn’t catch the ball, the person who rolled it is then up to bat. If a person in the field catches a hit preceding it touches the ground, they are immediately up to bat.

Our course in modern times, there are also amazingly fun outdoor fun, games (including science and technology activities to help students learn) that can be played with reasonably priced equipment, gear and rules. Check out the resources on this page for ideas.

Try to remember some of your favorites and add to the list. Recreate the lost games of childhood and pass on to your children and grandchildren to enjoy. This can be such rich and amazing family times you’ll remember for years to come. Consider inviting others from the neighborhood to join in and get to know your neighbors better.

I remember playing so many of these games with family and neighborhood kids until it was pitch black, the darkness of night calling an end to our play times.

Hope you enjoy some of this classic outdoor games from times past.  Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

Many of you may not have heard of chocolate zucchini bread, and I admit, at first it sounds pretty terrible.  But, I ask you to keep an open mind and give this recipe a chance, because it is fabulous! Think instead of a cross between a brownie and cake, I’m not sure why exactly it’s called bread, but it is.  It can also be a way to sneak some vegetables in for kids who hate veggies.

It’s also a great addition to make for those gardeners with zucchini ripening fast & furious and you don’t know what else to do with it.

So here it is!

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda

Stir these ingredients into a bowl and set aside.

Next, using an electric mixer, blend the following until smooth:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract

When these wet ingredients are smooth, add the dry ingredients and stir until blended.  Then fold in:

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 package chocolate chips

Pour this into a greased bread loaf pan, and bake at 350° F. about 65 minutes, or until a knife inserted in, comes out clean.

A couple of things I did a bit differently.  I used a bundt cake pan, and it took 55 minutes of baking and turned out perfectly.  You could also dust a little powdered sugar on top if you wanted.

I hate shredding zucchinis, ok I’m a bit lazy.  I don’t have a food processor, but I do own a Vitamix I use all the time (best investment I’ve made in my kitchen!).  Here’s how you can shred zucchini using a vitamix.  Put several cups of water into the blender portion, in fact fill up the blender about 1/4 of the way.  Then add large chunks of washed zucchini, then pulse on low until all the big chunks have processed through.  Pour this into a strainer in the sink then press out the excess water.  There you have it, now just scoop the grated zucchini into your measuring cups.  Fast and easy.

Until next time,

Valerie Garner

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