Christmas Gift Subscriptions

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Recently, I have had a few inquiries about the best way to handle Christmas gift subscriptions and I am now happy to report a new option in the SHOP. By purchasing through that option, you can delay the first shipment until January, when a new theme will be introduced. This is perfect for gift-giving and I will even mail you a card that is suitable for wrapping, that you can tuck under the tree for the recipient.. Don't forget that you can purchase an add-on pack of consumable materials if there is more than one child in the family that wants to join in the fun.

While a subscription is a great gift for kids, please don't forget adults that might enjoy one as well. As a grandmother, I have nearly every "thing" I need, and am finding myself yearning for gifts that keep on giving or have an experience attached to them. Grandparents, aunts and uncles who no longer have a house filled with toys and craft supplies will be thrilled to get a box in the mail that contains everything they need to have wonderful experiences with a special child. And they don't even have to go to the store!

My Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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Some people find that Thanksgiving is a difficult holiday to explain to young children. Their concept of time is not yet very sophisticated, so last week seems like years ago to them. And I guess, in view of their short lives thus far, it really is a long time ago. Below, I've pictured and described some of my favorite books for this time of year and have divided them into a few different categories. Of course, there are many more books out there, but these are the ones that I have in my personal library.

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The First Thanksgiving - Since I do want to at least introduce the story of the First Thanksgiving in America to them and I have found a few books that seem to do it pretty well: (Affiliate links to find these books on Amazon are included if you click on the name of the book.)

The Littlest Pilgrimby Brandi Doughtery  This books tells the story of a very young little Pilgrim girl as her family prepares for the big feast. 

The First Thanskgiving by Jean Craighead George    Beautiful illustrations tell of the first Thanksgiving are accompanied by a very detailed story. It is too long for most young children, but you can re-tell the story in your own words using the pictures.

Thanksgiving Day -  by Gail Gibbons   This is a very simply worded story of the first Thanksgiving that many young children can enjoy. The illustrations and brightly colored graphics.

Oh, What a Thanksgiving!   by Steven Kroll    This story is about a modern day boy can imagine what the first celebration must have been like from studying it in school. 

My First Thanksgiving   by Tomie dePaola  Tomie dePaola is a favorite of mine and this simple board book is perfect for the very young child. It simply describes some of our favorite Thanksgiving traditions.

The First Thanksgiving Pop-up Book - A Golden Pop-up Book illustrated by Robert Sauber. This small pop-up book that I bought off of a sale table years ago is always a favorite of every child I read it to. It simply tells the history of the Pilgrims alongside several beautiful pop-up illustrations.

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Because Native Americans were so instrumental in the formation of America so long ago, I often find this is a good time to share some of their culture although, only two of these books are actually Thanksgiving books.

The Legend of the Bluebonnet and The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush  by Tomie dePaola  Both of these books tell the legends of native wildflowers with wonderful illustrations.

Young Pocahontas and Young Squanto  - Troll First-Start Biographies    While both books are biographies, the book about Squanto also tells the story of the first Thanksgiving.

Giving Thanks - by Rita Walsh   A young native American boy learns that there are so many things to be thankful for in this sweet book.

Indian Bunny - This is the sweetest book about a little bunny who sneaks through the forest just like the Native Americans. It is an old book with simple drawings that we love!

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The historical aspect of the First Thanksgiving may be a difficult concept for very young children, so I generally stress the idea of feeling thankful for all the wonderful things that we have. Here are a few books that explain that concept easily:

Feeling Thankful- by Shelley Rotner and Shelia Kelly, Ed.D.   Actual photographs of children are used to illustrate this book filled with things to be thankful for. 

Thanksgiving Is For Giving Thanks - by Margaret Sutherland    Simple text talks about many different things that young children can be thankful for.

 

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And, of course, there are some books that are just for fun!

Milly and the Macy's Parade - by Shana Cory   Based loosely on fact, this beautifully illustrated book tells of the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Five Silly Turkeys  - by Salina Yoon    The very youngest children will enjoy this silly book with bright colors and shiny tail feathers on each page.

Where is Turkey Lurking? - by Stephanie St. Pierre   A pilgrim boy goes in search of a Thanksgiving Day turkey. . . but not for the reason you might think. There is even a cookie recipe at the end of the book.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Pie - by Alison Jackson   Based on the age-old rhyme, this old lady has a ferocious appetite, but she ends up the center of attention in a traditional celebration.

 

 

To introduce them to things that happened long ago is sometimes difficult, therefore, I generally focus more on the concept of being thankful in the here and now.

Pasta, Pasta and Even More Pasta

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In our latest Connections box, Fall Fun, there is a bag of shaped pasta for you to enjoy with your child, along with some suggestions of ways to use it. Of course, you can always cook it for fun meal, adding butter, cheese or meat but, there are many other fun ways to use uncooked pasta in ways that kids will enjoy. I’ve listed a few below.

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SORTING - At first glance, this seems pretty basic, but you can find so many different ways to sort things that it really is appropriate for all young children. You might try mixing together several different types of pasta for even more options. With very young children, first try sorting it by color or by shape. Depending on what type of pasta you are using, you might be able to sort it by length as well. Older kids can sort shaped pasta (fall leaves, vehicles, etc.) by function or by features.

Kids love it when they can be in charge from time to time, so try switching roles—Let THEM come up with ideas of how to sort it and YOU do the sorting.

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MOVING PASTA - Use a clothes pin or chip clip (which are sometimes easier for small hands) to grasp the pieces of pasta and move them to another location. Encourage your child to only use one hand for this activity, if possible. Not only is it fun, but it is also a great way to build up strength in those small muscles that are used for writing.

PATTERNS - As long as you have at least 2 different shapes/types/colors you can make patterns. (Remember that a pattern must repeat itself over and over.) With very young children, start with a simple AB pattern, saying it as you go. (Ex: leaf, pumpkin, leaf, pumpkin, leaf . . . ) Then ask “What comes next?” Now, try 2 in a row—AABB; Let your children come up with other patterns. You may be surprised to find that they come up with some you had never noticed.

BEADING - Many types of pasta have some sort of hole that you can use for beading. Using yarn, your child can thread the pasta to make necklaces, bracelets, etc. To make it easier, I always wrap a piece of tape around one end of the yard to make it stiff enough to pass through the holes. If you have any pipe cleaner/chenille stems on hand, young children might find it easier to thread the pasta onto it.

PLAY-DOH  - Set out a small bowl of uncooked pasta with your child’s play doh so that they can add it to their sculptures. Pasta is perfect for birthday candles on a play-doh cake, turrets on a play-doh castle, legs on a bird, etc.

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PICTURES - With just a bit of glue, pasta can be used to make all kinds of cool pictures. The
shaped pasta that is included in this Connections box, is perfect for gluing onto paper to create a fall scene or even just a collage. Other shapes can be used for other types of scenes and ANY pasta can be used to make something creative. Try making a kite from pieces of spaghetti, or how about a house.

NAMES - On a piece of stiff paper (card stock or construction paper) write your child’s name in large block letters. Let your child glue pieces of pasta on the lines to make their name.

3D SCULPTURES - This time, encourage your children to build a 3-D picture/sculpture with the
pasta, gluing the pieces in place. It is helpful to use a thicker paper or cardboard as the base,
but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, especially since they will be covering it with glue and
pasta. Can they make a building? Or how about a tall tower? Let them experiment with ways to make sure it is stable.

Have fun with pasta that you have around the house and if you want some fun shaped pasta, check out our latest subscription box over in the SHOP. You can choose a 6- or 12-month subscription or just buy a single box!

It's Launch Time!

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It's officially launch time! The next box in our subscription series is full of fun and ready to be shipped! The theme this time is Fall Fun. Now, I know for some of you, fall has been in the air for quite some time, while others are just now getting the first touch of cooler temperatures. Regardless of your location, you are sure to enjoy this box with your child. 

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As promised, all the hard work has been done for you. In your box, you will find all the materials that you need, except for a few common household items (scissors, hole punch, etc.). This time, there are ten different activities included!! There are a few art activities, opportunities to get outdoors and explore and a couple of games that can be used by the whole family! We've even included a nice handmade element in this box.

Hop on over to our SHOP and take a look around and feel free to contact us at any time with questions. 

Quick Activity Using Fall Colors

Today, I wanted to share a quick and easy little indoor craft we did the other day. It took little to no preparation (the best kind of activity), but kept everyone entertained for a quite a while.

Materials:  Glass casserole dish (I like glass because you can see the colors through it, but any washable baking dish will work), paper towels, markers (such as Crayola), dropper or pipette and cup of water

1.  Line a glass casserole dish with paper towels

2.  Use markers to make marks, dots or shapes on the paper towels. In this case, I drew the leaves and he added all the marks around them.

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(In the meantime, let your baby brother play with markers on a sheet of paper. . . or possibly the table.)

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3.  Drop water onto the markings and watch the colors bleed and mix.

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He liked it so much that we did it all again with fresh paper towels. This time, he made the marks himself.

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Super easy and the mess is all contained in the dish. When you are finished, you can either let it dry as a piece of art or just toss the paper towels.

 

Fall Bucket List

How is your Fall bucket list coming along? What? Don't have one yet?  Well, me either . . . . until today, that is. I actually have had one in my head for a while. You know, all those things that you want to do once the weather gets cooler, the days get shorter and the colors begin to change?! Putting it down on paper somewhere seems to help me get organized enough to actually do some of them, too! 

This morning, I made a very simple printable Bucket List that I can post on our refrigerator. We've already done a couple of the items and there will probably be more that I want to add, as well. There is something so very satisfying about checking off boxes on a list!  

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If you would like to make your own list, hop on over to my shop and download the FREE file. Included in the download will be the completed bucket list that I am using, as well as a blank one that you can add your own activities to. I think I'm going to need to print it out as well, so that I can add a few more fun things to my list!

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Favorite Halloween Books for Kids

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I am a children’s book lover! While teaching, I developed quite a nice collection. While it was necessary a few after my retirement, I kept most and they now fill the shelves of my sewing nook. In my last post, I shared my favorite non-Halloween Fall books. What follows today is a few of my favorite Halloween books. While I particularly love beautiful pictures in a book, most of these are not my favorites because of the fun story they tell or the message they convey. I've included associate links to these books on Amazon, but many are readily available at your local bookstores, as well.

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Clifford’s First Halloween  by: Norman BridwellThis is a look back at the beloved big, red dog's very first Halloween, when he was just a tiny little puppy. Kids of all ages love it!

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Big Pumpkin  by: Eric Silverstein

Through rhyme and repetition, this book tells the story of a huge pumpkin grown by a witch, and how the tiniest character uses his brain to figure out a way to pick it. While there are various Halloween characters portrayed, they are not scary and all enjoy a party together at the end.

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Go Away, Big Green Monster  by: Ed Emberley

Large, graphic designs illustrate this simple story about a monster, then take the monster apart showing children that there is no need to be scared! (Kids LOVE this book!!!)

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Joey, The Jack-O-Lantern  by: Janet Craig

Joey longs to be scary, but no one is scary until Willie the Witch provides something special. This is a cute, easy-to-read book with simple illustrations.

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Five Little Pumpkins  pictures by: Dan Yaccarino

The classic fingerplay is re-told in this simple book that will delight even the youngest children.

This last book is a favorite from my own childhood. We had the book in our church library and when it was time for it to be discarded and replaced, I brought it home to live with me. 

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Mousekin's Golden House   by: Edina Miller

This beautifully illustrated book is about a little mouse who takes up residence in a jack-o-lantern in the fall. The book is a little bit longer than most I have mentioned, but the rhyming verse makes it flow nicely. This book was first published in 1964, but there are still some newer paperback copies available.

A few other favorites that I love, but no longer have in my personal library (although that is certain to change eventually).

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The Legend of Spookley: The Square Pumpkin  by: Joe Troiano

Spookley is different from all the other pumpkins in the patch. The other pumpkins tease him until he learns that being different can sometimes save the day.

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Humbug Witch  by Lorna Balian

This is a cute little book that helps children realize that spooky things at Halloween (like witches) are really just make-believe and often involve a child wearing a costume.

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The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid Of Anything  by: Linda Williams

A tale of a spooky chase through the woods that ends with a scarecrow hanging in the garden, this book is repetitive and for children to join in on the words and even motions.

You probably have your own favorites. Please share them in the comments below!

Favorite Fall Books for Kids

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Here in the south, our temperatures are still soaring, but inside I’m trying to harness the feeling of fall through some of my home decor. For many parts of the country, fall is the beginning of much cooler weather and significant changes in the way things look. Here, the changes are more subtle, but they are present, nonetheless. 

Another way I welcome fall around my home is to switch out the seasonal children’s books that fill my living room basket! Today, I am highlighting a five of my very favorites, followed by five books that I would like to add to my shelves. These books are not only fun to read, but generally are a treat for your eyes as well. The ones I am highlighting today are NOT Halloween books, although a couple of them feature a jack-o-lantern in some way. I am including some affiliate links to these books on Amazon in case you are interested in looking at them further. (just click on the TITLE below the picture) Barnes & Noble also carries most of them, as well as other book stores.

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Nuts to You  by: Lois Ehlert

You can tell by the wear and tear on my copy that I love this book! From the large pages filled with beautiful images to the cute story of a squirrel that sneaks inside a city apartment window, every child I have ever shared it with enjoys it as much as me.

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Fresh Fall Leaves   by:  Betsy Franco

Simple, colorful pictures and easy text describe the many things one can do with fallen leaves.

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The Little Scarecrow Boy   by: Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown tells the story of a young scarecrow boy and how he tries to be fierce enough to scare away the crows. The pictures by David Diaz are beautiful and the story, which is more lengthy than some, is sweet.

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Pumpkin, Pumpkin   by: Jeanne Titherington

Another one of my very favorites, this book is filled with beautiful soft paintings. It tells the life cycle of a pumpkin through they story of a young boy that tends it in his garden until it is big enough to be picked and then carved into a jack-o-lantern.

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Going On A Leaf Hunt   by: Steve Metzger

Based on the “going on a bear hunt” chant, this book explores many of the different leaves found on various trees and how they change in the fall.  (*Sneak peek:  This book will be included in the next Dot To Dot Subscription box!!)

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I love the books pictured above, as well---it is so hard to narrow down my very favorites!!

While it could be argued that I definitely don’t need another children’s book, there are a couple that I have on my wish list regardless:

            There Was An Old Lady That Swallowed Some Leaves   by: Lucille Colandro

            Ferdie and the Falling Leaves   by:  Julia Rawlinson

            Leaf Man  by: Lois Ehlert (I’m a sucker for a beautifully illustrated book)

            Fall Mixed Up   by: Bob Raczka

            Dot and Jabber and the Great Acorn Mystery   by: Ellen Stoll Walsh

Do you have a favorite fall book that I haven't mentioned? Please comment below--I love browsing through great children's books!

 

Vroom, Vroom Goes The . . . . Pasta?

A few days ago, with a little bit of free time on my hands, I set out to our new Home Goods store to do a little browsing. It has only been opened a few weeks and the first time I went, it was so crowded that I turned around and left. Fortunately, this time it was different. I got my buggy (just in case, you know) and turned onto the first aisle and Bam! -- there was this cute little bag of vehicle pasta!! With several little grandsons, I knew this would be a hit! There was only one bag, so I threw it in my basket and brought it home with me, anxious to make a little Mac 'n Cheese sometime soon.

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Of course, once I got home, the wheels started turning and I thought of all sorts of ways that pasta could be used. Yesterday, L came over and tried out some of the activities. He loves books, loves letters and numbers, loves trains and construction vehicles, but he is not usually too fond of most fine motor activities, so I wasn't sure how long he would stay engaged. But, I was in for a surprise. he LOVED them! My preparation took about 30 seconds, since I just looked in my kitchen to see what might work.

I recently purchase a small divided lunch container that was perfect for this first activity. I poured a few pieces of pasta into one section of the container and gave him a chip-clip magnet. 

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While I encouraged him to use one hand, his hands are small and sometimes he needed to use both of them to open the clip, but he was able to pick up the pasta and drop them into the other side. (I also encouraged him to use his "helper hand" to hold things still--great pre-writing practice!) I don't know if it was because they were vehicles or what, but I expected him to get tired after one or two Instead, he did them ALL and then wanted to do it again later!

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Next, I pulled out a divided plastic tray from the kitchen and poured some of the pasta into the middle slot. After explaining that he could sort them, and giving a quick demonstration of what I meant, he set to work, carefully looking at each vehicle and placing it in the correct section.

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He noticed that the wheels on some of them were kind of smushed and made up simple stories about what might have happened to them (got in a wreck, tree falling on it, etc.). A

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And, again, he stuck with it until the very end!  

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Then, he really surprised me. He asked if he could glue some. I grabbed a piece of cardboard I had laying around and some glue and suggested he pick one of each vehicle, but he insisted on gluing them all on.

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If you haven't seen this glue before, it is PERFECT for small projects and little hands. I like that you can hold it just like a pencil/crayon, which is good practice, as well and it comes in a pack of three from Dollar Tree.

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When I was teaching, I always kept a bundle of these in my car as I drove between schools and now, I find that they are just right for home projects as well. I had been buying a small pack (usually found near the checkout) almost every time I went to Dollar Tree, but they are also available online, as well. 48 packages may seem like a bunch, but you could easily share the shipment with a friend or a classroom.

I was amazed at how focused L was with this little project. His little brother was begging to go outside, but we had to wait until each and every piece of pasta was safely glued onto the board.

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There are so many more ways to use this pasta, and there are so many different shapes to choose from, but I will save those ideas for another day. In the meantime, grab some fun pasta, some glue and some kitchen utensils and have some fun! Post a picture on Instagram (#dottodotconnections) or send one via our contact page and show me how you used your shaped pasta.

Take Your Phone Photography Skills Up A Notch

I love photography and have enjoyed learning how to really use my DSLR over the last few years. Starting out, my goal was to be able to operate it on manual by the time I had grandchildren of my own. And I've accomplished that thanks to a wonderful friend who nominated me for a free slot in Karen Russell's photography class about 5 years ago. It was amazing!!  While she is not currently teaching, I am hoping she will decide to do so again and I will definitely sign up for the course once more.  I learned so much about my camera and how it operates, and I gained a confidence in using it that I never had before. 

An early photo of one of my grandchildren--I took the class just in time to hone my skills before he arrived.

An early photo of one of my grandchildren--I took the class just in time to hone my skills before he arrived.

But, let's face it. I don't always have my Nikon with me. As much as I'd like to keep it in my car or in my purse, it just hasn't been reality for me. What I DO always have with me, however is my iPhone. ALWAYS. I've learned that so many of the principles I learned in my DSLR class can also be applied to my phone photography, especially if I take an extra second to actually think about what I am doing before snapping the shutter. Capturing the little moments of life, whether it be through the eyes of my grandchild or through my own, are important to me and I want them to be the best pictures I can take. 

Phone cameras have come a long way! I currently have an iPhone 6, but I'm seriously coveting the 7+ simply because of its camera! My husband has a Galaxy 7 Edge and it takes amazing photos as well. But, what I've learned is that regardless of the camera, the best shots come from simple techniques that make your photos more interesting--to help them have depth or tell a story.

An example of using a different angle to get a more interesting shot.

An example of using a different angle to get a more interesting shot.

If you follow my personal blog, Mommy's Treasures, then you know that each month I create an Instagram challenge for my friends and me. We shoot a photo a day with our phones and post them to Instagram with the hashtag of the month. (We'd love to have you join us!) In March of 2017, I designed a challenge to help us all learn more about the little cameras on our phones and how to get the best pictures from them. Each day focused on a particular technique or feature and by the end of the month, ALL of our photos were improved! 

I have compiled all of that information, updated some of it and even added a page featuring some information about the iPhone 7+ to create an eBook that can be downloaded.  This 159 - page book is full of information as well as photo examples and comparisons. It includes information for both iPhone users as well as Android users and is sure to help you take your phone photography  from "so-so" to "Wow"! And guess what?!?  It is now available in the SHOP and it's on sale for a limited introductory time!! 

Downloadable eBook--on sale for a limited time.

Downloadable eBook--on sale for a limited time.

Click on over to the shop, add the book to your cart and you will promptly receive an email with a link to the download. I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to send me some of your new and improved phone photography samples!

Creating a Slideshow with your Kids (or what to do with the photos that they take with your phone)

When the boys are here at my house, we often go for walks around the neighborhood. We have our favorite places to stop--the house with the chickens, the magnolia trees to see if there are any seed pods and to peek between fence posts to see if dogs are out. Lately, though, one of the favorite spots has been the site where a house burned down. Fortunately, the owners were out of town at the time of the fire so no one was injured and recently, reconstruction has begun.

The site of the "burned down house". Reconstruction beginning.

The site of the "burned down house". Reconstruction beginning.

Of course, this time of year it is especially pleasant to walk with slightly cooler days and new things to notice. I recently began letting L use my phone to capture pictures of things that he enjoys. If you saw my Instagram post, you know that composition is not yet under his control. But, I've let him point things out and I'm showing him how to set the focus with the touch of his finger and then snap the shot.  Here are some of the things that have caught his attention lately:

To his credit, he did get the entire stroller. :-)

To his credit, he did get the entire stroller. :-)

a tiny flower

a tiny flower

a mushroom

a mushroom

More flowers

More flowers

Pine cones

Pine cones

maple tree leaves

maple tree leaves

another really cool mushroom

another really cool mushroom

A dead worm--the only kind he likes right now.

A dead worm--the only kind he likes right now.

He found this sign particularly funny. While he is not quite old enough to be obsessed with potty humor, I can see it coming.  To see a picture of a toilet with a face on it was quit humorous to him and worthy of a photo.

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So what do we do with these photos once he takes them? That's the fun part. I created a "Shared Album" in my iPhoto stream called "Nature Walks" and I add to it after each walk. From there, it is so easy to just hit Slideshow to watch the series of pictures that he has taken and we can talk about the walks all over again. Here is how to do that with an iPhone: (there are photos of several of the steps below)

  1. Select the photos that you want to save. Hit the "send" button at the bottom left of your screen (the square with the arrow in it).
  2. Choose iCloud Photo Sharing. If you have chosen a bunch of photos, it might take just a minute to load them. 
  3. Create a new Shared Album---you do not actually have to share it with anyone, but you can if you want. If you don't want to, just click through the part that asks you to invite people.
  4. Click POST and those photos will be moved to the shared folder.
  5. To view your photos as a slideshow, open your photo stream and click the SHARED button at the bottom of your screen.
  6. Select the Shared folder that contains your nature walk photos.
  7. Select ALL of the photos (click Select and then Select All).
  8. Click on the send button at the bottom of your screen and select Slideshow. 
  9. There is an option button where you can select a theme for how the pictures change, music and even speed. It generally starts automatically, but you can also hit Play or Stop.
  10. ENJOY!