Entries tagged with “kids”.

This is another great guest post by Niko Johnstone, a writer and recording engineer from Portland, Maine. You can contact Niko at nikojohnstone@gmail.com.

How to Make a Carrot Recorder

Sometimes it is okay to play with your food. In fact, with a little bit of ingenuity, your vegetable bin can become an amazing toy box. If you’ve ever carved a pumpkin, you can make a carrot recorder. This simple guide will show you how.

What You’ll NeedP1000287-300x225

  • 1 Large Carrot – An ideal carrot will have no visible cracks and will be at least one inch in diameter. The best place to find carrots of a larger size is at an organic supermarket.
  • A ¾ inch, and ¼ inch drill bit, or a vegetable peeler
  • Chisel or knife

Step One – Hollowing Out Your Carrot

The first thing you’ll want to do after selecting your carrot is cut it to the proper length. There isn’t a set length your carrot must be, but the end of most carrots will be too thin to carve. Make sure you save the end, after cutting it off, we’ll be using it later on. The easiest way to hollow out your carrot is by using a drill. Carrots are soft enough that you can do this by hand, without the use of a power drill. If you don’t have access to a drill bit, a long, curved vegetable peeler should do the trick.

Step Two – Carving the Lip

The sound a flute makes is produced when air is forced against an edge of some sort, splitting the airflow. On a recorder, this edge is called a lip, P1000288-300x225and the rectangular opening just before the lip, the aperture. To make the aperture, cut out a rectangular piece of carrot, ¾ of an inch from the big end. The aperture will need to be ¾ of an inch wide, and ½ of an inch in length. To thin the lip, hold your chisel at a 20 – 30 degree angle, and start cutting ½ of an inch from the edge of the lip. For those using a knife, the slope will be more difficult to cut, but not impossible. Begin cutting at the edge of the lip first, and work your way back ¾ of an inch. It’s a good idea to start with a wider angle, and cut away more carrot, as needed.

Step 3 – Making the Mouthpiece

This is where the carrot piece that you saved will come in handy. Make sure it is about ¾ of an inch in diameter and length. If it’s too thin, you can use a baby carrot, or cork. Cut off 1/16 of an inch of the circular part of the piece, making sure that the cut is perfectly smooth. Now, insert the carrot piece into the large end of the carrot, lining up the opening you’ve made, with the aperture.

Step Four – Making the Tone HolesP1000362-300x225

Use your ¼ inch drill bit, to make holes along the length of the recorder. Alternately, a sharpened chopstick, or other skewer will work well for this task.


If your recorder isn’t making a sound, the problem is most likely a result of two things: an air leak in the mouth piece, or an improperly shaped aperture and/or lip. If the sound is too soft, try re-cutting the piece inserted into the end, so that it is 1/8 of an inch at its opening, and half that size where it meets the aperture. If the carrot cracks, there’s little you can do, but duct tape works wonders.

Now that your carrot recorder is complete, you can enjoy a true feast of music. Just make sure to keep to your instrument nice and cool, so it will last as long as possible.

Having people over shouldn’t totally stress you out or completely drain your wallet. Here are some helpful tips:


  • A week or two before the event, make a list. Try to do one or two items at a time, rather than leave everything to the last minute. goodie-bags-300x225You can do things such as buy the drinks or the crackers for the cheese and crackers way in advance.
  • Cook ahead of time. For my son’s birthday party this past weekend I made a chili. I put everything in the crock pot Friday night before I went to sleep and it was ready for our family gathering Saturday afternoon.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help. Maybe your Mother-in-law could watch your children while you clean or your spouse could pick up some of the supplies. If someone offers to bring something, take them up on it. They wouldn’t have offered if they didn’t mean it.
  • Even if your house isn’t perfect, try not to stress out about it too much. Your guests will understand. With two young boys and a dog, it’s just impossible to keep our home clean for very long.
  • Decorations don’t have to cost a fortune. Get creative. For my son’s truck party, I hung yellow and black caution tape everywhere.

What is your best tip for hosting a gathering, get-together or party that is enjoyable & stress-free for both the host and guests?

This is a guest post by Niko Johnstone. Niko is a writer and recording engineer from Portland, Maine. You can contact him at nikojohnstone@gmail.com.

Gone are the days of Raffi and Puff The Magic Dragon. In recent years, children’s music has, well… grown up. Here’s a list of modern and classic children’s albums that are so good, mommy and daddy might just have to borrow them from time to time.51y5sekGFzL._SL500_AA300_

1. Lead Belly Lead Belly Sings for Children

Some of the most intriguing works by blues pioneer Lead Belly are to be found in this collection of 28 songs for children – each brimming with character and down home Louisiana charm. Truly a delightful listen.

2. Various - Colours Are Brighter

Organized by Belle & Sebastion bassist Mick Cooke, Colours features a variety of indie artists – rocker Franz Ferdinand, and instrumental electronic artist Four Tet, to name a couple. The album, which is a fundraiser for Save The Children, features kooky lyrics and an art-rock sensibility. This one is a personal favorite of mine.

3.Björk - Gling-Gló

Between days in a pop-punk band and her debut as a solo artist, Björk released this unusual gem, which is perfectly suited for precocious children. It includes 16 jazz standards and originals – sung mostly in the artist’s native Icelandic tongue. It may not be a kid’s album per se, but with its playful vibe, and Björk’s child-like voice, the album would fit in nicely with a children’s music collection.

4. The Innocence Mission Now The Day Is Over

Bedtime is a battle every parent knows well. But with a good lullaby, you might have a fighting chance at putting the little angels to sleep. The Innocence Mission’s 2004 release is everything a parent with sleepless newborns could ask for. The 14 covers of classic favorites will surely lull both baby and caregivers to Dreamland, fast.

510f+fGEoLL._SL500_AA300_5. Chick Corea - Music For Children

The title says it all. This classic album by critically acclaimed jazz pianist Chick Corea contains 20 short pieces ranging in form from complex counterpoint to simple jazz miniatures.

6. Dan Zanes - Family Dance

Since first listening to Zanes’ Family Dance, I’ve found myself unconsciously singing these tunes out loud, sometimes in the most embarrassing places. With lyrics like, “All around the kitchen/Cock-a-doodle-do … Spin around in a circle/Cock-a-doodle-do,” Family Dance may seem like your typical goofy kids album, but propelled by roots-rock guitar riffs, and backed by an eclectic mix of tuba, accordion and harmonium, this album packs a powerful punch.

Okay admit it – what children’s music do you like to listen to?

My older son received a gift certificate for Christmas from his Great Aunt and Uncle. He used it to buy a drawing set which came with a sketch pad, graphite pencils, colored pencils, a sharpener and an eraser. He opened up the package yesterday night and I swear there are already hardly any blank pages left.

I’ve always loved to draw myself, but haven’t made the time to do it in quite a while. Him choosing his kit motivated me to find my sketch pad and pencil set too though. We had a lot of fun drawing together. My younger son has a favorite truck book so one of the things I drew was the dump truck from the cover. He loved that.

Do you draw with your children? If so, what are your favorite things to draw together?

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” ~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

According to Merriam-Webster, opportunity is a favorable juncture of circumstances or a good chance of advancement or progress. Some otherimages words for an opportunity are a big break, a chance, or a shot.

It is a fact that the more people you get to know, the more opportunities you will be presented with. This year why not spend more time with friends, do some online or in person networking, or attend local events? I know that there are some opportunities that I am wishing would come my way, but if they do will I be too afraid to take advantage of them?

Come this New Year’s Day, how will YOU handle the opportunities that are being presented to you?

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, a friend from work told me about this site where you can make a free Santa video for children. I did it for our older son yesterday and he loved it. He’s already watched it four times.

The site is called Portable North Pole. You provide some details like your child’s name, their age, where you live, what they want for Christmas and what you’ve asked them to do this year. You can also upload photos of them and a couple of occasions from the past year. The video includes a story about the elves making a machine so that Santa can find out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. It’s really cute.

If you make a video please let us know, what was your child’s reaction?

Somalia is facing a food crisis and famine.


Al Shabab, a group aligned with Al Qaeda, forced Western aid organizations out of the country in 2010 during the worst drought that they had 73577336_f51d0f7df8_oexperienced in sixty years.

This month, Shabab pulled out of the capital of Mogadishu. The city is now in the hands of the government and is filled with 100,000 famine victims that are looking for help.

I don’t know about you, but the images of starving Somalian children have been absolutely breaking my heart. How can we help? There are many organizations who are doing great work, that could use our support. Here are a few of them:

  • Save the Children – Saves lives with food, medical care and education and remains to help communities rebuild through long-term recovery programs
  • CARE – Humanitarian organization fighting poverty that places a special focus on working alongside poor women
  • Unicef – Provides children with health care and immunizations, clean water, food, education, and emergency relief
  • Doctors Without Borders – International medical humanitarian organization who operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas

The stock market plunged today in reaction to the credit rating for the United States changing from “AAA” to “AA+”. This followed a week of people worrying about the European debt crisis and among fears of a new recession happening in our country.

What does this all mean for the average American? Since this rating cut is unprecedented, nobody knows for sure what the impact will be. Somenasdaq-quotes experts say it might be a little tougher to borrow money and when we do that we may see higher interest rates on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and other consumer loans.

What will need to happen for the United States to achieve the higher credit rating again? Our government will most likely need to cut more spending and raise taxes.

Am I an expert on any of this? Not even close, but times of financial uncertainty are a great reminder for me of why our family has been trying to live more simply. The American middle class has been hit hard over the past couple of years – our houses aren’t worth as much, oil and gas prices are high, and we face huge health care costs.

Over the past year our family has been getting more in control of our money by decreasing our debt, trying to put more money into savings, and spending less. Days like today help me remember that even when the economy is strong, our family really needs to be careful not to over extend ourselves again.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want this summer to end. We have had a lot of fun and the summers in Maine are just beautiful.


It will soon be over whether I like it or not, so I might as well start getting my older son ready to go to school. Here is a list of some of the things we are doing to prepare:


  • School supplies - My son already has a backpack and lunch box. His new teacher sent home a list that said he needed to buy crayons, erasers, and glue sticks. We also picked up some pencils, a pencil case, a notebook, and a folder for him to keep his papers in. I will put his name on all of his new supplies with a permanent marker so he can keep track of them.
  • His room – I need to organize his drawers and closet by making sure all the clothes are the right size and season.


  • Food – I will stock up on snacks and drinks and start planing for some healthy, eco-friendly lunches I can send with him.
  • My car –  With all of the driving around our family does sometimes it is hard to control the clutter that goes on in there, so I will clean it out.
  • Rest – I will make sure he gets plenty of sleep at least a few nights before school starts to help with the transition.
  • Getting ready - We’ll read lots of books before bedtime about school and riding the bus to get him more excited.


  • Staying organized – I will have one spot for him to put his backpack when he gets home. I’ll go through it and take any dirty clothes or lunch containers out right away and check to see if he has any homework or papers that need signing. We have a clipboard in our kitchen to make sure school papers stay safe. We keep it there because he normally sits at the kitchen table whenever he’s working on something.
  • The night before - I will try to make lunches, pack bags, and lay out clothes to save some time and stress in the morning.

Hopefully all of these preparations will lead to a successful and more organized school year!

What else is your family doing to prepare?

Since I started this site over a year ago, I have been doing things here and there to clean out the clutter in our home. While we were on vacation we rented a house that was nice, clean, and had only the necessities. Coming back to our own home I realized how far we still really have to go. So now it is time to get serious.

I am going to do a series of posts on organizing, called Operation Home Organization. If I haven’t done one in a while, I am going to ask you to keep me on task. Please also let me know if there are any specific areas that you’d like to see me cover and maybe we could tackle them together.

Let me start by saying I am far from an organizational expert. I really struggle with keeping things for our family neat and organized. If you are a beginner like me, I am hoping that recording my experiences will be helpful for you. I will also be including some photos that might inspire you.

Between work, a husband, and two small children I don’t have as much time as I would like to devote to this project. The tasks I will be doing will be quick and hopefully can fit in with your busy schedule. I also do not have a ton of money to devote to it, so the fixes I come up with should be rather inexpensive.

Room #1 – The Kitchen

The first task I am going to take on is in the kitchen. In our house the kitchen is the room where you enter, where people gather whenever we have people over, and where we all sit down to eat dinner together every night . The areas where we have the biggest problems with clutter are the counters, cabinets, by the sink, drawers, the pantry, and the fridge.

Task #1 – De-cluttering the Counters

One of the problems we face is that the mail ends up getting stacked up on our kitchen counters. To address this problem, I have added a basket for mail.

Some of the other products we used to organize our counters are a spoon rest, an utensil caddy, a paper towel holder, and a couple of knife blocks.

We used to keep bananas on top of the fridge. I have moved fruit such as bananas, oranges, and apples to a bowl.

I tried to keep only the things we use everyday on the counters and put everything else away in the cabinets (we’ll worry about the clutter in there soon.)

The great thing about de-cluttering your counters is that it is such a visable thing. Because you can see the results it should encourage you to keep going to do more organizing.

In future posts in this series we will move on to some of the other problem areas in the kitchen – cabinets, by the sink, drawers, the pantry, and the fridge. Please contact me if you have ideas or products that you think I would find helpful for any of these areas.