Monday, August 31, 2009

Playground Picnic

In the last days of summer why not get out and take your kids to the playground with a wonderful picnic lunch. Some of my favorite memories of visiting the playground is the “down time” we had relaxing and eating our lunch on the “big blanket.” In keeping with the “playful” feeling I tried to bring food that would appeal to my kids sense of fun too. I tried to think rather unconventionally not the traditional “sandwich and chips” of an everyday meal.

I thought I’d give you a few ideas, maybe you haven’t tried, which my kids loved for packing fun into their playground picnics or you can use these ideas for lunchboxes and keeping them happy and full at school:

1. Dip it.

Kids love to dip things, so pack little containers of hummus or spinach dip and pita bread. The Mediterranean-inspired dips are packed with protein and a good source of fiber. Celery sticks with a cottage-cheese salsa dip, baby carrots and yummy salad dressing dip, (honey mustard is a favorite of my kids) or apple slices and peanut butter can contribute to the fruits-and-veggies quota.

Yogurt dip: this recipe has a “fresh” taste which my kids love!

yummy yogurt dip

• 1 medium hot house cucumber
• 1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
• 1 cup fat-free sour cream
• 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Greek seasoning, divided
• salt
• freshly ground black pepper

Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and grate into a medium mixing bowl. Add yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon Greek seasoning. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. Skewer it.

children love veggies and cheese kabobs

Eating the same old sandwich over and over again is boring. So mix it up a bit! You can put all the essentials of a sandwich on wood skewers. Thread alternating small chunks of turkey, ham, cheese and bread (add cherry tomatoes for fun) on skewers for a new dimension. This trick also works well with fruit. The following fruit make wonderful kabobs: Fresh or canned Pineapple, Bananas, Star fruit, Peaches, Nectarines, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi fruit, Cantaloupe, and Melons Cherries, Pitted Grapes Apples and Pears.

fruit kabobs with raspberry sauce

Colorful fruit skewers
12 wooden skewers
1 large ripe mango, peeled
2 large oranges, peeled
2 large bananas, peeled
250 small strawberries, hulled

Soak skewers in cold water for 20-30 minutes. Cut mango and oranges into 3cm chunks. Cut bananas into 3cm slices. Thread fruit onto skewers, alternating the varieties. Serves 12

3. Wrap it.

Add some pizazz with colored tortillas. Smear red and green ones with a ranch dip or cream cheese and layer in cold cuts. They're tasty, colorful and easy. I have even made a wrap of the traditional peanut butter and jelly with bananas and boy did my kids love them!

turkey and cheese wrap filled with veggies

4. Cut it out.

Make your kids favorite sandwich and make it just a bit more jazzy but cutting it with a cookie cutter, something this simple makes it feel that much more special to your kids, and you will be surprised how fast they eat it!

kids love fun shapes!

5. Fun Desserts
There are so many wonderful brownies and baked bars that kids love but this is a favorite of my kids which I got from Parents Magazine.

Blueberry-Banana Stacks

6 mini chocolate, caramel, or berry-flavored popcorn cakes
1 to 2 Tbs. strawberry-flavored cream cheese
6 banana slices
6 fresh blueberries

Spread cakes with cream cheese and top with banana slices. If desired, dollop with additional cream cheese and top with a blueberry. Serves 2.

Now go on take some time and visit a playground with your kids, one day you will look back and smile on the memories! Do you have a playground story you would like to share with us?
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Monday, August 17, 2009

What a "Special" Woman the world has lost.

Last week we lost one of the greatest women I believe this country has ever known, Eunice Kennedy Shiver. I think it serendipitous that her mother Rose Kennedy was born on July 22 the same day as me and she on July 10th the same day as my daughter Sarah. I believe Eunice and Rose had a special mother-daughter relationship. Rose Kennedy instilled a belief in family, faith, tradition and community involvement in her children which was passed on to Eunice and her to her own children.

For those of you who do not know who Eunice Kennedy Shriver was she was the fifth of nine children born to Rose and Joseph Kennedy, sister to President John F Kennedy. In May of 1953 Eunice married Sargent Shriver and they had five children.

Eunice grew up like Sarah with a disabled sister, Rosemary, and was influenced to change the world due to Rosemary’s disability. In the 1960’s she co-founded Special Olympics, so that all children could play. A motto I have shared through my work.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Shriver several times, as her son Mark became a member of our Board of Director’s for Hadley’s Park, and invited her to several events. I can remember one event in particular which was for Mark, who was running for Congress at the time, when she shared the story with me; a story most people don’t know, I’m not even sure if Mark knew this. But Mrs. Shriver had told me that when she was thinking of starting Special Olympics, she was contemplating starting an organization to build fully inclusive playgrounds. I thought how serendipitous, that she thought to do this in the 1960’s and I had gone to seek help from her son in 1996 with the same dream. I am glad that I could share this vision with her and carry it out to help improve the lives of children.

God Bless you Eunice, God has a great angel among him now!

“You are the stars and the world is watching you,
By your presence you send a message to
Every village, every city, every nation
A message of hope, A message of victory.”
“The right to play on any playing field?
You have earned it.
The right to study at any school?
You have earned it.
The right to hold a job?
You have earned it
The right to be anyone’s neighbor?
You have earned it.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriver 1987 Special Olympics World Games, South Bend, Indiana
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Monday, August 10, 2009

True colors of friendship are beautiful like a rainbow

In the spirit of International Friendship day which I missed last week, I would like to thank each of you for becoming a friend of mine and for letting me share my colors of the rainbow with you!

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small

But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful Like a rainbow

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there

And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow

In the spirit of friendship I would like to ask if you might help my friends at Shane's Inspiration with their annual 5/10K Walk and Roll Event. If you are in the LA area please join the cast of The Witches of Waverly Place Sunday, August 30th at 7:00am at Shane's Inspiration in Griffith Park. Even if you are not in LA if you would be so kind to donate to this wonderful organization what you can to support Shane's Inspiration's mission to create inclusive playgrounds and programs for children of ALL abilities! Thank you my friends!
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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Clemyjontri is more than initials, it's a wonderful playground for all

After working with me as one of first benefactors for Hadley’s Park, Adele Lebowitz decided she wanted to do something more with her estate, she decided that the joy she understood that came from the children playing at Hadley’s Park would be a wonderful legacy to leave on her property. So she decided to donate her 10 acre estate to Fairfax County Park Department with the understanding that they would create a fully inclusive playground like Hadley’s Park. Thus the birth of "Clemyjontri." You might wonder where this odd name came from or what it stands for. Wanting to commemorate her family the name Clemyjontri is made up of the initials of Mrs. Lebowitz children. Fairfax County authorities worked hand in hand with Grace Fielder and Associates to create a joyous and fully inclusive playground complete with a merry go round! Grace and her staff used many similar elements that we used at Hadley’s Park after learning from us the importance each play piece or element had.

To the casual observer, the playground at Clemyjontri Park looks like an ordinary playground, with swings, slides and play equipment fun to climb on, under and around. A closer look will reveal that some of those swings have high backs for children who need extra support. Instead of standard transfer platforms there are ramps to the elevated play components. Pathways between equipment are wide and colorful, and the ground surfaces are non-slip and porous designed to provide a greater level of access for children.

There is something for everyone - children will be able to find something to climb on, touch, read, do or create. Children will enjoy the challenges of balance and depth perception on the playground's balance beams. A mini-track can be used to race, playhouses and cubbies offer pleasant spaces for social interaction while also allowing children seeking quiet or separate areas to play in smaller groups. Tent sails provide areas of shade in the playground and benches are located throughout the play area. The playground is open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk, year-round.The Two Acre Playground Consists of 4 Outdoor "Areas" Surrounding a Centerpiece Carousel.

The Rainbow Room - With rainbow archway, surface with colors of the rainbow and a variety of swings:
Accommodates all physical levels
Integrates sign, Braille, pictures and language
Teaches colors of the rainbow

The Schoolhouse & Maze - With learning panels forming a maze that may be reconfigured:
Focuses on educational learning games
Teaches where am I reading, maps and a globe
Teaches what time it is using time zones and clocks

The Movin and Groovin Transportation Area Designed with transportation themed equipment such as a race track, motorcycles, planes, and trains:
Stimulates imagination
Teaches balance and special skills
Mimics true roadway situations

Fitness & Fun - Includes the largest piece of play equipment along with various jungle gym components:
Stimulates imagination
Progressive challenges for physical strength
Energy burner
Builds confidence

If you are in the Northern Virginia area or want to make a little day trip while visiting the Metro DC area I would strongly recommend this your children will thank you for it!

*i'd like to thank everyone who posted these wonderful photo's on flickr!
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