Here’s to a 2012 that’s full of fun, nature, crafts, health and happiness!

No one ever said it was easy to dress up a horse for Halloween — but that certainly didn’t stop Alex.  She had a lot of great ideas but since time was short we went with one of the easier ones — her as an artist and Houdini as her artwork (aka Pony Picasso).  Houdini was a sweetheart, even when we used twisty ties to put paintbrushes in his mane.

Special thanks to Full Circle Farms for a wonderful Halloween at the stable complete with horses, games, bonfire and lots of fun!!

Without further ado, here they are — Alex and Houdini for Halloween 2011:


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Really, they are, especially when you’re a kid.  But even as an adult this can still be true.  I think we lose track of that in the busy world we tend to live in nowadays.  I wish I could find an easy way to remind myself of this on a daily or, at least, regular basis — sometimes it helps to slow down and look for the fun (free) things that are out there waiting to be discovered and explored.

One of our favorite things to do that is free but which we often forget about in the rush to do so many other things is the creek at Mastodon Park.  It’s a wonderful place to explore, splash about, hunt for crawdads and tadpoles and little fish, and just cool off on a hot summer day.

We always keep water shoes, towels and extra clothes in the car for just these sorts of stops.  That way everyone get get wet and have fun without worrying about having to ride home soaking wet!  We also tend to keep some extra tupperware bowls handy for chasing crawdads, etc.

It takes a lot of patience sometimes to find and catch the crawdads — Mac figured out pretty quickly that they like to hide under rocks.

Alex headed out to deeper water to try and snare a small fish but she found that they move fast!  She never did catch one but she had a lot of fun trying and we talked about the different kinds of fish that might be found in the creek and how the different parts of the creek (shallow, deep, brushy areas, etc) provided different critters with the habitats they needed to survive.

It took them a bit to figure out that catching crawdads works better as a team — once they decided that they were able to catch several with both of them scooping together they did a lot better.


A couple of the crawdads they caught — they always name them, observe them for a while and then release them.  A family who was there at the same time told the kids that they taste really good — Alex and Mac said there was no way they would cook their new friends!

The creek area is so pretty.  There are also trails, a playground, picnic areas and just a lot of beautiful scenery.  We really need to remember to visit more often to enjoy this part of our local natural resources.  Or, as the kids say, let’s go have some fun!

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Well, maybe not snuggling — but after petting the stingrays during a Saint Louis zoo visit both Mac and Alex came away with a much more positive view of them.  Even I had to admit that they were pretty neat!  One of the zoo workers explained to us that there were several different kinds of stingrays in the exhibit as well as four different kinds of sharks (small ones).  The sharks never came close enough for touching but the stingrays are well trained to self-improvement and glide past whoever has their hands in the water.

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It was a rather strange experience to stroke down their backs as they glided by — they have unusual looking eyes and to me they felt like wet velvet.  The kids were fascinated and asked a lot of questions about what the stingrays eat and where they live — we walked around the perimeter and read the various exhibits which explained that they like various clams etc. to eat and they live mostly along the coasts of Florida, South America and Africa.

The kids had a great experience and learned a lot in the process.

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Alex is in love with owls lately.  She has almost finished the entire Guardians of Ga’Hoole series and has watched the Guardians movie so much she wore out the dvd (I told her to try and make the second one last longer!).  She has expanded to reading non-fiction books about owls and collecting owls for her bedroom.  She even has owls on her back to school messenger bag.

So it was really exciting when we went to the St. Louis Zoo recently and discovered an owl on display in the Children’s Zoo.  Alex enjoyed talking the zookeeper about the owl but the biggest thrill was getting to actually touch it!   I think I will add the book about Wesley the Owl to our reading list this fall, I read it and really enjoyed it, and it would probably give Alex a lot of useful information about owls like the ones at the zoo and how the zookeepers take care of them.

Isn’t he (or she) just gorgeous!  S/he can’t be set free because of an injury which has left it blind in one eye.

And here is Alex getting to touch the little owl, I don’t think Alex is breathing here at all :-)

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Alex tends to think of riding as being “her” talent and Mac should do something else and that’s that.  So she wasn’t very happy when Mac got to ride Josh the other day at Dublin Farms (where Alex rides regularly) and said it was very “cool”.   Alex subscribes to the theory that horses and girls are just meant to be together.  Mac, on the other hand, thought Josh was just great and I must admit that he looked very happy and composed on his “steed”.

How cute is this?  (At the Saint Louis Zoo)

It’s on the wall of the main building in the Children’s Zoo with these really cute froggies right outside:

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I was contacted by Costume Supercenter to do a review of one of their costumes.  I was really excited about this because my kids love to not only play dress up but they are also very excited each year about Halloween.  As soon as Halloween ends they are already planning what they want to be next year!

My daughter and I looked over the many girls dress up costumes available on the Costume SuperCenter website and were amazed at just how many choices were available!  They not only have the Halloween costumes that you would expect but even St. Patrick’s Day costumes, Easter costumes and Biblical costumes for kids that would be perfect for that nativity play when you have to have a shepherd costume or else!

Alex and I talked for a while about the Historical costumes — I thought the Colonial Girl costume was really cute.  But Alex has had her heart set on being a Native American Indian since last October so we looked over the selection of Indian costumes that Costume SuperCenter offers.

Alex fell in love with the Indian Girl costume because she liked the colors of the dress and the fact that it came with a matching headband.   I wasn’t sure how it would look on her but we agreed that it certainly looked cute in the photo on the Costume SuperCenter site.

The costume arrived promptly and was carefully packaged.  As soon as I opened it up Alex rushed to try it on.  The dress was of a much better quality then I would have expected — the material, a faux suede, is very soft and Alex appreciated the fact that it wasn’t itchy like some of her dress up outfits and costumes have been in the past.   The headband slips on easily and the included feather makes for a very sweet Indian princess.  There is also a tie that goes around the waist and hangs down to finish off the look.  The costume is very easy to get on and off and fits Alex quite well.

Alex loved the costume!  She tested it thoroughly by running through the house and up and down the stairs pretending to be an Indian princess — the dress is sturdy enough that it should hold up well to being used for dress up until she can use it for Halloween later this year.  She also plans to use it for the costume contest at the stable where she rides — we’re going to add some war paint for both her and her horse, along with some extra feathers and a bow and arrow and she’ll be ready to impress the judges!

Here are a couple photos of my Indian princess — doesn’t she look cute all dressed up:

Thank you to Costume Supercenter for the neat dress up/Halloween costume, Alex is looking forward to using it for dress up as well as for her Halloween costume this year — it’s just perfect!


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Giblet had his surgery (neutering) the end of the last week which did not make for a happy kitten. He was so happy to be back home and with his buddy, Joel Gray, who very patiently let Giblet snuggle in  for some much needed recovery time.

It’s always better to recover with a buddy who doesn’t mind if you use him as a big fuzzy pillow!

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The kids and I wanted to make Irish Brown Bread this year.  Since Grandma and Grandpa were coming down on Sunday for a traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner we decided to make the bread to go with the dinner.  (Alex is wearing blue so we can include this for Blue Monday — isn’t that thoughtful of her to plan ahead for me!)

I can remember my Grandmother talking about the Brown Bread that her mother (my Great-Grandmother Annie Finnegan) used to make based on a recipe she brought with her from Ireland.  Unfortunately, the recipe was lost through the years, so I had to find one that sounded similar enough to the family stories.  I decided on one that I found at because it had the whole wheat flour, oats and buttermilk  that seemed to figure prominently in the family version.

The ingredients:

*  2-1/4 Cups Whole Wheat Flour

*  2-1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour

*  1-1/2 Cups Oats (I used the quick cooking oats)

*  1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

*  1 Teaspoon Salt

*  1 Tablespoon Sugar

*  2-1/2 Cups Buttermilk

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine everything, except the buttermilk, in a large bowl and stir the ingredients with your hands.  The kids thought it was really neat to get to stir with their hands — Alex said it felt so silky smooth!

Alex read each step of the recipe and we talked about the various measurements, the differences between whole wheat flour and white flour, why buttermilk tastes “funny” and the importance of baking soda.

Mac had a hard time mixing gently but we managed to keep most of the oats and flour contained!

Make a well in the mixture and pour in 1-1/2 Cups of the buttermilk.  Alex knew what a well was and she took care of this part of the process for us.

Continue mixing with your hands, adding the remaining cup of buttermilk as you combine the ingredients.  The resulting dough will be wet and very sticky.  It was *very* sticky and the kids had a great time gushing the ingredients together!

Dust your hands with flour, shape the dough into a ball, and place it on a floured cookie sheet.  It was hard to make a nicely shaped ball since the dough was so sticky to work with, even with floured hands, but the kids decided it was close enough.

With a knife, score a deep X in the top of the ball, widening it with the sides of the blade as you cut.

Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Our bread certainly wouldn’t win any beauty contests but it tasted wonderful!

We served it with the Corned Beef and Cabbage (made in the crock pot which turns out so well!) and everyone enjoyed it.  Alex ate several pieces and said that she thought Annie would be pleased that we made something so traditional in her honor.  We will definitely be doing this again next year, if not before since it was a lot of fun baking together!

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Bonkers in Barnhart is a friendly blog. I love to find and try out great products and share them with my readers. We are a family of four including two school-age children, four cats, one dog and two guinea pigs. So if you need a product or book review or would like to host a giveaway please contact me. I would be happy to work with you.