New November tradition

It is so easy to fall into negative thought pattern!  Who hasn’t traveled down the “woe is me” road? 

It’s even more pronounced is gifted individuals  and/or those who have ADHD. With the awersome superpower comes great burden. When you hear, see and process more input than average person, the output sometimes comes in unexpected form. 

All-or-nothing attitudes, expectation of the worst case scenario, negative self-talk, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive experiences: all these thoughts and experiences are  persistent, automatic and damaging. 

Having a gratitude journal is one of the  ways to employ mindfulness mindset. 

Recently grumpy attitudes have been widesoread with kids and grown ups in our house and all of us needed a daily visual reminder of how blessed we are. Simple Gratitude Tree is now a focal point of our living room. 

I started by sketching a tree trunk and branches on a large sheet of paper. 

*Note to self: do not use Sharpie marker on a thin paper next time. 

**Pro tip: to remove sharpie from ceramic tile, trace the stain with dry erase marker and wipe it off with a paper towel. 

Next step, I added painters tape to the back of the tree and attached my creation to a wall. It was not easy! One of my kids asked me why I was wrestling with an octopus.

After the octopus has been defeated and the tree was taped to the wall, I printed out some cute pinteresty leaves. Skip this step! I spent entirely too much time cutting out maple and oak leaf patterns.  Just free hand it! Improvise a là Edward Scissorhands. 

Evert day, we write something we are grateful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree. One by one, fun memories and blessings fill up the Gratitude Tree and our hearts. 

Top 10 podcasts for kids

Whose kid can repeat radio commercials verbatim, usually the most inappropriate ones and in the most unfortunate times? After the infamous Panera Bread drive thru incident,  I had to ban radio during the car rides (it was bad. So so bad.)

Audiobooks and podcasts became our go-to options for car rides. Sometimes backseat gets so quiet, I have to check if kids are still awake. 10 times out of 10 they are wide eyed and completely mesmerized by the podcasts.

These are our favorites! I hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!

1. Brains On We love this one and binge listen to this podcast on long trips.  This show  is one of the reasons we survived 8 hour road trip this summer screen free and scream free. Mystery sounds and the moment of ummmm are my kids’ favorites!

2. Wow In The World I can’t believe we just recently discovered this amazing podcast! WOW! The combination of fun and engaging hosts,  interesting and challenging topics, coverage of wide variety of scientific topics creates an addictive educational show.

3. But Why? It’s the question that I hear often from kids and it usually leads to amazing learning adventures. But Why?  is a show led by kids and their questions.  Bonus episode for parents on how to talk to kids about tragedies in the news is a great resource, thought provoking and thorough.

4.Tumble. “Mommy, can we please have podcast screen time today?” The whole family enjoys exploring scientific discoveries while building LEGO, coloring, making playdough creations and tinkering.

5.  The Alien Adventures Of Finn Caspian is a serialized science fiction story for kids. Engaging fun stories,  humour and special effects appeal to both, kids and parents.

6. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel  is a high quality serial mystery story performed by actual kids.

7. The Past The Curious Each eposide features 2 short stories that are linked in some way, music, art and more. This family friendly history podcast quickly became one of our favorites.

8. Spark Stories Occasionally, read alouds are outsourced. When mom/teacher is unable to sit dows and read, Spark Stories come to the rescue. Each podcast shares a free story from original series.

9. Short and Curly show is filled with tough questions. This thought provoking show contains great conversations starters for a family debate.

10. Clark Howard Show  Nationally-syndicated consumer expert Clark Howard shares practical money saving advice to help you save more, spend less, and avoid scams and ripoff.

While kids aren’t this show’s target audience, they will benefit greatly from listening to Clark. He is the kindest radio talk show host and is always unbelievably sweet and patient with his callers. If he disagrees with his listeners, he handles it with grace and respect without sacrificing his beliefs.

What are your favorite podcasts and resources? Please, share in the comments! I’m always looking for new ways to learn.

For more podcast ideas check out this post.

Leaf Chromatography. Why do leaves change color?

Many deciduous trees have green leaves during the spring and summer, but something magical happens in the fall: the leaves take on shades of red, orange, yellow, brown and purple before falling down on the ground. 

What triggers the change? Where do the colors come from?

Turns out leaves contain different pigments which give them their color: chlorophyll (green,) carotenoids (yellow and orange) and anthocyanins (red.) Chlorophyll helps carry out photosynthesis during warm sunny months. It  masks other pigments and makes leaves appear green. As fall arrives, days get shorter and temperatures drop and green pigment breaks down letting beautiful vibrant colors become more visible.  

With the help of chromatography we can see leaves’ hidden mysteries. 

Chromatography is the process of separating a mixture by passing it through another medium. 

For this experiment you will need 


Glass jars

Coffee filters cut into 1″×5″ strips

Rubbing alcohol


Step 1. Sort leaves, too them up in small pieces and place them in the jars. 

Step 2. Pour enough rubbing cool to cover the leaves. Let the mixture sit for couple of hours. 

Step 3. Optional.  Forget about the experiment for 2 days. Now the color of rubbing alcohol is very pronounced.  The same effect is acheived by baking the jars with the mixture at 250°F for 1 hour. MAKE SURE JARS COOL COMPLETELY BEFORE HANDLING THEM. Don’t ask me why I included this tip🔥. 

 Step 4.  Secure one end of coffee filter on the pencil, craft stick or the side of the jar; place the other end of coffee filter in leaf+alcohol mixture, make sure it is narely touchong the liquid. 

Step 5.  This is where we got sidetracked and forgot about the experiment for 3 days, but leaving it overnight would have given us the same great result. 

Step 6. Let the color climb to the top.lf the coffee filter, then dry it. 

Step 7. Observe and analyze the results

31 days of Halloween crafts and books

This post contains affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here.

OCTOBER IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!  Cool weather, sweaters, pumpkin patches, nature walks, apple cider, pumpkins, treats, hay rides, corn maze, trick-or-treating, beautiful colors…my favorite season!
Pairing books with simple activities is our favorite way to start a day and explore new subjects. I am excited to share what we have planned for the next few weeks!

1. “>Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Where is he heading? No one’s quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man’s got to go where the wind blows. With illustrations made from actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscape vistas, here is a playful, whimsical, and evocative book that celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children. 

Activity ideas: gather leaves outside and use them to recreate leaf man from the story, or improvise and create your own leaf art, or try coloring on the leaves instead of the paper. 

2. There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“>There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!by Morteza E. Sohi.  Look What I Did with a Leaf! will show young art and craft lovers how to use nature’s bounty to create fanciful animals and natural scenes. Readers will develop their artistic eye and soon learn to see the artistic possibilities that surround them. Morteza E. Sohi gives careful directions on how to choose leaves for shape and color, how to arrange them in an animal form, and how to preserve the finished work of art. A field guide helps young leaf artists learn more about the tools of their craft.

Activity: gather beautiful leaves while hiking,  playing in the park or exploring the backyard and follow Mortexa E. Sohi’s directions on how to create leaf art. Our family enjoyed making suncatchers and window collage from the leaves. 

3. We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt“> by Steve Metzger. Join three friends on a fun leaf-finding adventure! This bouncy new version of the popular song begs to be read out loud.  There are lots of beautiful fall leaves to find! Three friends have a big adventure hiking over a mountain and through a forest to collect leaves of all kinds and colors.

Activity: What will they do with all their leaves at the end of the story? Let your imagination and creativity flow freely! We pretended that our leaves were snowflakes and had snowball fight in the park!

Leaf Chromatography

4. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!“> by Lucile Colandro. This spooky twist on the wildly popular “There Was an Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly” is perfect for fun Halloween reading! What won’t this old lady swallow? This time around, a bat, an owl, a cat, a ghost, a goblin, some bones, and a wizard are all on the menu! 

Activity: bat mobile made with a stick, fishing line and bat cutouts. We made this craft 2 years ago and we look forward to displaying it every year! 

5. Bats at the Library (A Bat Book)“> by Brian Lies. Join the free-for-all fun at the public library with these book-loving bats! Shape shadows on walls, frolic in the water fountain, and roam the book-filled halls until it’s time for everyone, young and old, to settle down into the enchantment of story time. Brian Lies’ joyful critters and their nocturnal celebration cast library visits in a new light. 

Activity: turn boring constriction paper into cute bat bookmarks! Twist: make a few extra bookmarks as  presents for friends, family, neighbors or hide some in the library books to brighten somebody’s day. 

6. Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich“> by Adam Rex. Being a monster isn’t all frightening villagers and sucking blood. Monsters have their trials, too. Poor Frankenstein’s cupboard is bare, Wolfman is in need of some household help, and it’s best not to get started on Dracula’s hygiene issues. What could be scarier? 

Activity: Pair the nineteen hilarious poems with some hot cocoa, pumpkin cookies or sandwiches for a scary good poetry tea party.

7. The Monsters’ Monster“> by Patrick McDonnellOnce upon a time, there were three little rascals who thought they were the BIGGEST, BADDEST monsters around. Then along came an even BIGGER monster who changed their minds. And all it took was two little words.

Activity: make spooky fun Frankenstein from green balloon

  • draw Frankie’s face on it with permanent marker;
  • use a funnel to add 2 tablespoons of baking soda  inside the balloon;
  • pour half a cup of vinegar inside empty plastic bottle;
  • carefully place the balloon on top of plastic bottle;
  • lift up the balloon. Baking soda will drop into the bottle with vinegar triggering a chemical reaction that will inflate the balloon.

    8. Five Little Ghosts“> by Julia Woolf. Five little ghosts at the end of the day are on the lookout for somewhere to play. Follow the adventures of five little ghosts in this comical rhyming caper! 

    Activity: make five little teabag ghosts! Adult help required for this activity. 

    Step 1

    Step 2.

    Step 3. 

    Step 4. 

    9.  Ghosts in the House!“>  by Kazuno Kohana. At the edge of town lives a clever girl with a spooky problem: Her house is haunted! Luckily, she happens to be a witch and knows a little something about taking care of ghosts. She catches them, puts them in the washing machine, airs them out to dry, and gives them new lives as sofa covers, table cloths, and, of course, bed sheets to cozy up under. Fresh and charming illustrations in dynamic orange, black and white bring this resourceful heroine and these spooky ghosts to life. 

    Activity: ghost rockets with clear cup, corn starch and alka seltzer. 

    10.  There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts!“> by Emmanuelle Eeckhout.  When we moved to our new neighborhood, I had to promise my mother that I would not go near the strange old house on the corner. 

    People say it s haunted, she whispered. 

    Haunted? There is no such thing as ghosts! 

    But if there is…I am going to catch one! 

    Activity: cornstarch, water and goodly eyes! Oobleck for messy sensory fun!

    11. Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell The first pumpkin Tim ever carved was fierce and funny, and he named it Jack. When Halloween was over and the pumpkin was beginning to rot, Tim set it out in the garden and throughout the weeks he watched it change.

    Activity: following books storyline, we carved a pumpkin and will observe the decomposition process. I can’t wait to see what happens! Keep the seeds!

    12. Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino With bouncy, rhyming text in verse from the classic nursery rhyme and bold, dynamic illustrations from acclaimed author-illustrator Dan Yaccarino, Five Little Pumpkins is a must-have Halloween board book!

    Roll along with the pumpkins and their spooky friends as they get into some spirited Halloween fun.

    Activity: using cloth pins and Popsicle sticks, build a gate for five little pumpkins to sit!

    13. How Many Seeds In A Pumpkin? by Margaret McNamara “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she’s talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn’t have a guess.

    Activity: This adorable picture book for curious kids explores skip counting and estimation in a fun pumpkin-themed experiment. Remember the pumpkin from Pumpkin Jack ? Can you guess how many seeds were inside that pumpkin? Count, skip count, make patterns and designs with the seeds!

    14. Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman The witch has grown the biggest pumpkin ever, and now she wants to make herself a pumpkin pie for Halloween. But the pumpkin is so big she can’t get it off the vine.
    It’s so big the ghost can’t move it, either. Neither can the vampire, nor the mummy. It looks as if there’ll be no pumpkin pie for Halloween, until along comes the bat with an idea to save the day.
    How can the tiny bat succeed where bigger and strong spooky creatures have failed? You’ll be surprised!

    Activity: use tape, rulers, strings, pieces of fabric and hands to measure the pumpkin you used for Pumpkin Jack activity. Compare the measurements to a soccer ball or a watermelon.

    Or make this fun geo board pumpkin:

    15. Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum Pumpkins! Who can resist the sight of big, round, orange pumpkins ripening in a field? Children piling off school buses to pick one out. Carving out funny faces, smiles, or scary frowns to illuminate Halloween doorsteps. Making room for that last piece of pumpkin pie after a delicious Thanksgiving feast. In this book, pumpkins aren’t just a fruit, they’re a symbol, a scent, a flavor of the entire season. Celebrate the flavor of fall on every page of this beautifully photographed picture book.

    Activity: let’s make pumpkin pie, roll, muffins or waffles!

    16. Aaaarrgghh! Spider by Lydia Monks Don’t let this lonely spider frighten you! She just wants to be a family pet—and she thinks she would make a better pet than the typical dog or cat. But every time this clever spider tries to impress her chosen family, she scares them instead, until the day she unwittingly enchants them. Aaaarrgghh! Spider! spins a lively tale about one creature’s efforts to find her place.

    Activity: make spider handprint art! If you prefer not to get messy, trace little hands on the black paper and use the cutouts to make a silly spider.

    17. Be Nice To Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham When Billy left his pet spider, Helen, at the Zoo, the animals suddenly became happy and contented. The lions snoozed all day long, the elephants enjoyed their baths, and the zebras ate their hay in peace — all because Helen was spinning webs and catching flies.

    But one day Helen’s webs were swept away. The Keeper had the cages cleaned for the Mayor’s inspection tour. Soon the flies were back again and the animals were miserable once more. But not for long…

    Activity: make your own spider web! We used painter’s tape to make a web design on the floor. Kids pretended to be flies and hopped around the web.

    18. Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler Skeletons are a little less scary when they have the hiccups. This particular skeleton can’t seem to shake them–not in the shower (nice fuzzy bat slippers!), not while brushing his teeth (woops! there goes the bottom jaw!), not while polishing his bones, carving a pumpkin, raking leaves, or even when playing baseball with his friend Ghost. Ghost, instead of Boo-ing! away his buddy’s hiccups right away as we might expect, advises Skeleton to hold his breath and eat some sugar and drink water upside down. When he finally does Boo! it still doesn’t work. But when Ghost finds a mirror and holds it up to Skeleton’s face, he sees his reflection and screams in fright! The hiccups jump away, hic, hic, hic. While it’s novel to see a skeleton eating sugar, drinking water, showering, etc., it may be tricky to find the right audience for this unusual picture book that’s more about hiccups than Halloween.

    Activity: We used our October friend, Mister Skeleton (kids named him) for anatomy unit. After discussion of a skeletal system, we built playdough towers with and without “bone” (noodle) and compared which tower was taller and sturdier.

    19. Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barner With a lively rhyming text and vibrant paper collage illustrations, author-artist Bob Barner shakes the dust off the dinosaur bones found in museums and reminds us that they once belonged to living, breathing creatures. Filled with fun dinosaur facts and an informational “Dinometer,”

    Activities: make dinosaur “fossils!” Playdough and plastic dinosaurs will keep the kids roaring with delight.

    20. Shake Dem Halloween Bones by Mike Reed It’s Halloween night. The city is quiet. The city is still. But as the lights go down, the music comes up – and the guests start to arrive at the hip-hop Halloween ball! And oh, what a party it is. Told in hip-hop rhyming text, L’il Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, Tom Thumb, and all of their fairy-tale friends come together for a rapping, stomping, shaking Halloween romp.

    Activity: dance party? Why not!!!

    21. Goodnight Goon: a Petrifying Parody by Michael Rex It’s time for bed, but one little goon still isn’t ready for sleep! With lively rhymes and cheeky art that’ll get readers howling, this hilarious take on the beloved classic will have a whole new audience saying, “Goodnight monsters everywhere!”

    22. Little Blue Truck’s Halloween by Alice Schertle Beep! Beep! It’s Halloween! Little Blue Truck is picking up his animal friends for a costume party. Lift the flaps in this large, sturdy board book to find out who’s dressed up in each costume! Will Blue wear a costume too? With the delightful rhymes and signature illustration style that made Little Blue Truck a household name, Blue’s new adventure is full of festive costumes, fall colors, and plenty of Halloween fun!

    Activity: lets build a Little Blue Truck out of LEGO, playdough, magna tiles, Popsicle sticks or cardboard boxes. Beep beep!

    23. Llama Llama Trick or Treat by Anna Dewdney With short and simple rhyming text, the Llama Llama board books introduce Llama Llama to babies and toddlers before they’re ready for longer full-length stories. And their small size and durable pages are perfect for little hands.

    In Llama Llama Trick or Treat, little llama finds the perfect costume, picks out a pumpkin for a jack-o’-lantern, and then goes trick-or-treating with Mama and his friends!

    Activity: tin can bowling!! Doesn’t it sound fun? if you prefer a quieter activity, toulet paper can be used too.

    24. The Little Shop of Monsters by R.L. Stine Welcome to the Little Shop of Monsters! Do you want a SNEEZER? A TICKLER? Or one of the CREEPIEST monsters of all? Come on in and choose your favorite, if you dare (before one of them chooses YOU!).

    Activity: create  your own silly monster! We used pine cones, leaves, acorns and pebbles. These sweet monsters love performing in puppet show or a concert.

    25. Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds Jasper Rabbit loves carrots—especially Crackenhopper Field carrots.
    He eats them on the way to school.
    He eats them going to Little League.
    He eats them walking home.
    Until the day the carrots start following him…or are they?

    Activity: Slime time for a creepy squishy fun messy play.

    26. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans Known across the land for his infamous appetite, Finnigin is never seen without his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his gigantic eating mouth.
    When Finnigin finds himself in a new town on Halloween, he hopes to join a great feast with the creatures who live there. But not a body or soul will share any of their food with the ever-famished Finnigin. So what’s a hungry skeleton to do? Armed only with his wits and a special ingredient, will Finnigin be able to stir up a cauldron’s worth of Halloween magic?

    Activity: time to go outside and make a soup! Twigs and sticks, leaves and pine needles, sand and dirt, water and mud: whatever you can find outside!

    27. Scholastic Reader Level 2: Inside a House That is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli With illustrations that make the scariest creature look extremely funny and romping repetitive text, readers will never expect what happens when this haunted house has a trick-or-treater knock on its door. Ghosts, spiders, owls, skeletons and monsters take turns accidentally scaring each other in this silly, slapstick story.

    Activity: make a pumpkin catapult!

    28. Click, Clack, Boo!: A Tricky Treat (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin Farmer Brown does not like Halloween. So he draws the shades, puts on his footy pajamas, and climbs into bed.

    But do you think the barnyard animals have any respect for a man in footy pajamas? No, they do not. For them, the Halloween party has just begun. And we all know these critters far prefer tricks over treats.

    There are big surprises in store for Farmer Brown!

    Activity: ghost rockets? Tea bag ghosts? What fun surprise will you pick?

    29. The Berenstain Bears’ Harvest Festival by Mike Berenstain Autumn is a beautiful time of year, and the folks of Bear Country are looking forward to everything the season brings. So when the Chapel in the Woods holds its first ever Harvest Festival, people gather at Farmer Ben’s for a wonderful time of family, friends, fun, and praising God for his gifts.

    Activity: learn about Harvest Festival in different cultures.

    30. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Kara McMahon Spooky tricks and hilarious treats abound in this retelling of the beloved Halloween special that comes with holographic foil and embossing on the cover!

    Activity: make spooky dry ice bubbles in the pumpkin.

    31. The Nightmare Before Christmas: 20th Anniversary Edition by Tim Burton n this beloved picture book that could only come from the visionary mind of author and illustrator TIM BURTON, we meet Jack Skellington– a well-intentioned inhabitant of Halloweenland. Jack is bored of “the scaring, the terror, the fright….tired of being something that goes bump in the night”. And so, in an effort to bring to joy to his town, Jack kidnaps Santa and takes his place as the jolly old elf. But instead of bringing joy to the world Jack, who is a little more than a grinning skeleton, brings fear by delivering creepy toys and riding a sleigh carried by skeletal reindeer. Only through a number of things going horribly wrong does Jack learn the true meaning of Christmas.

    Activity: Make an articulated mechanical hand for Jack…you know, just in case!

    ​STEAM from trash! DIY Hovercraft.

    Most of the experiments performed at the School For Peculiar Children are either free or very low cost. We try to use recyclable materials, odds and ends from my husband’s wood shop, clever tricks and substitutions. We are incorporating things most of us already have in our homes.   This air cushion vehicle (ACV) demonstration is no exception. Let’s  explore the science behind ACV, also known as a hovercraft. 

    Hovercraft glides over the flat surface on a cushion of air.  Because of the thin layer of air between the surface and the hovercraft, it doesn’t matter whether it is over (flat) solid ground or water: it is amphibious. 

     ^This will never be not funny (double negative, I know. It’s here for comedic effect.) Pat Venditte is ambidextrous, not amphibious.  Hovercraft is amphibious: suited for both land and water. 

    For this experiment you will need:

    – CD or a paper plate 

    – pop-up bottle top

    – baloon

    – glue

    We used a mystery CD (paper or plastic plate can be used instead), sports drink pop-up top,  hot glue (epoxy or super glue work just as good) and a baloon bought for a birthday 3 years ago. 

    Step 1. Glue the pop-up bottle top to the CD (if you’re using a paper plate, cut a 1″ diameter hole in the middle of the plate.)

    Step 2. Make sure that the pop-up top is in closed position. Blow up a balloon and place it over the closed pop-up top. 

    Step 3. Open the pop-up valve. The air from the balloon will rush down throught the hole in the CD and create a cushion of air. 

    Play around with the size of the balloon (will it go faster or slower if we increase the size of the baloon?), surfaces (wood floor? Carpet? Countertop? Does it make difference?)

    Our entire family enjoyed this demonstration and I’m contemplating building a bigger hovercraft. Should we do it?