Why Leaves Turn Color

One of my favorite things about the fall is the beautiful colors of leaves changing. Bright orange, red and yellows flood college campuses, homes, parks and add a collage of natural beauty to our cities and forests. But have you ever wondered how or why leaves turn this color? Obviously its in preparation for fall and those beautifully colored leaves will soon escape their branches and flutter to the ground, to be laboriously raked up by a high school kid earning extra money for the Homecoming Dance. But before that, before the fluttering, why do leaves TURN such beautiful colors?

National Geographic has a great explanation: “Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color throughout the growing season. The compound is essential for photosynthesis, a chemical reaction that converts sunlight into carbohydrates. Leaves also contain carotenoids. These natural pigments, which produce yellow, orange, and brown hues in plants, from buttercups to carrots, are always present. The colors of carotenoids are easily masked by green chlorophyll, at least until shrinking daylight and a nip in the air signal fall’s arrival. At that time broadleaf plants slow and eventually stop their chlorophyll production, thus revealing the distinctive golden, orange, and yellow hues of carotenoid pigments.”

A lot of big words to basically sum up that the beautiful colors that we see in fall leaves before the cold and stark winter are actually the TRUE colors of the tree, and that the process of photosynthesis that shuts down in fall and winter actual reveals these varied and beautiful pigmentations. So the next time you see one of the most beautiful and rich examples of winter’s eminent arrival, you’ll be able to appreciate the scientific process through which these leaves signal the coming of a dark and rainy winter.

Going Green Commitment: Day 25…Making Newspaper, New!

Well, our ‘Going Green Commitment’ is coming to an end. Only six more days left until we’ve completed the month long commitment in our house to make small changes in going green. It has been a wonderful experience and changed a lot of the things we have done around our house. One of the most prevalent changes has been the way we look at paper. Such an effective tool at home and at work, we devalue paper and don’t always take care of properly recycling it or using it the way we should.

One daily flow of large amounts of paper in many homes is the newspaper. Important to stay current on daily local and world news, the newspaper is a part of many’s morning and evening routine and yet often gets stacked up in the closet or garage until it just seems too overwhelming to recycle. One of my most dreaded chores growing up was putting the mountainous pile of newspaper we had built up in our garage over the last six months into paper bags, putting them into the car, and taking them to the recycle station at our local high school.

While I was proud to play my part in recycling newspaper growing up, I was equally excited when I came across some NEW ways to use newspaper around the house, making further use of and recycling newspaper that is in our homes. There are some great ideas on reusing newspaper at The Green Guide and NWA News. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Packing supplies–A standard use for old newspaper, but nonetheless, very effective. Wrap your old dishes and plates to put in the garage or wrap breakables when moving. Newspaper will provide an effective covering for your items so that they don’t rub together or crack.

2. Window Cleaner–Surprisingly enough, newspaper can be used to clean your windows, rather than flying through paper towels which are much more expensive. Use a minimal amount of window cleaner, but newspaper will get the job done.

3.Top Soil–Newspaper can also be used in your garden as top soil. Place two or three sheets down, then mulch on top and the newspaper and mulch will decompose together, preventing weeds from springing up AND nourishing your garden.

4. Tablecloths–Especially for those spaghetti dinners or pumpkin carving nights coming up, lay the newspaper down on your table to collect all of the gook, then wrap it up and throw it away, making for easy cleanup.

5. Fireplace logs–A great way to start fires on those cool autumn days, reuse your newspaper as fire starter and send it up in flames.

6. Make it art–A fun family project, let your kids go through the newspaper (exposing them to current events and issues) and let them cut out different pictures or phrases and decorate a board or wall in their rooms or in your house, allowing for healthy (and educational) self-expression.

Other ideas on how to recycle newspaper in your home? Leave a comment or idea below.

September Recycled Clothing Challenge

Well I made it a couple of weeks without going to the Goodwill or any store besides the grocery store. I haven’t bought anything, new or used for two weeks. Yes I am proud of myself but I am finding it hard not to hit the Goodwill for some treasure hunting.

Recently we visited my parents and my daughter inquired about my mothers prom dress from 1958. A short time later my daughter came out onto the deck with her grandmothers dress on, it was so pretty on her and she decided right there that she would wear it to the Snowball in December. So my next project is to find some great vintage shoes for her to wear with it. Also I am looking for a place to take it to get it cleaned. It has some coffee that was spilled on it way back when. If anyone has an idea of where to take it to get it cleaned, please share that with me.

I got my sewing machine fixed and have started sewing again. I pulled the sewing machine out to the living room, so I could still be part of the family and my daughters had some requests, so I got a pencil case and a 3X5 card holder made pretty quickly. I like the pencil holder but the card holder wasn’t my best work. I did put together a makeup bag too, I just need to learn how to sew zippers correctly.

I have 18 more days to keep myself from slipping into the Goodwill. I think I can make it. I’m sure I can. We will soon see.

How to Successfully Add Family Exercise to Your Daily Routine

As parents, we feel that exercise is important but we can hardly find the time for it with our busy schedules, or if we do find the time for it, we feel guilty because we are sticking out kids in day care or leaving them at home to go to the gym. Here are some practical ways you can add exercise into your daily routine that gives you bonding time with your kids, while getting the exercise you need.

1. Take family walks. No gym membership required, just simply take a walk around the block or as far as the kids can make it. Take the dog with you if you have one, this is great exercise for everyone, including the dog.

2. Go for a family bike ride. Take the kids out on a bike ride. Before the trip try to calculate how far you want to go and what the best route is for safety and time. Try to stay in bike lanes and make sure everyone has a good fitting helmet.

3. Go to the park. Swinging on monkey bars is a great strengthening exercise for kids and adults alike. Climbing up and down the playground equipment is also a good way to get exercise. Make it fun for the whole family.

4. Play basketball or catch. If your kids aren’t interested in either of those games, try hopscotch or the hula hoop. These all will get your heart rate up, helping you and the kids get the daily exercise you need.

5. Set up a home gym. If you have teens, a home gym may be the answer to get them to enjoy exercise with their parents. You can use a lot of items you have around the house.

Don’t let the rain come between your family and exercise. You have options, by taking the family to the gym for swim time, or to the nearest school to play basketball in the undercover area. Make exercise a priority and make it a year round activity.

Green Your Halloween ~ Recycled/Homemade Costumes

Halloween is just around the corner, 50 days to be exact, and instead of going out and buying those cheap vinyl, fall apart costumes at your local grocery store, why not make your own or revamp an old one that’s laying around. Aside from the fact that creating your child’s costume will be a homemade original, it will also allow you to bypass the unknown element in pre-made costumes, by assuring quality and content you know you can trust. Vinyl(polyvinyl chloride) releases carcinogenic dioxin into the atmosphere during production.

For some great recycled costumes that were made to last, check out your local Thrift store. They carry some great costumes from way back when. Recently my friend found a Spider Man costume and a Buzz Light Year costume for just a couple bucks at the thrift store. They will have a lot to offer at this time, but if you wait too long, they will be gone.

Costume Idea Zone has some great ideas of how to use what you have already to make a costume. I love the Jack and Jill idea for a couple. And who can resist the Piece of Gum Stuck to Your Shoe? They even have ideas for groups of people, like the Survivor Cast or 3 Men in a Tub. With Traditional ideas, Quick and Easy, Unique & Unusual, you are sure to find something you can use. And you can submit your own brilliant costume ideas to share with others.Another great site with ideas for the items you have laying around the house is 1Halloween.Net.

If you know your way around a sewing machine you can find plenty of patterns for costumes on these websites. At About.com they offer free patterns for Costumes for Halloween and Stage, from Pirate skirt to Nurses Cap to a Bunch of Grapes. Knowledge Hound The How-To Hunter is another site with free Halloween costume patterns.

If you are low on cash this Halloween or have several children needing Halloween costumes this year, Preschool Rock and Any Time Costumes have come together for the 2nd Annual Halloween Costume Exchange to provide parents-in-need free costumes for their families.

If you have some original ideas of your own, please share them with us.