Let Kids Be Kids

All too often parents carry their busyness around as a badge of honor, and much of that busyness is in theory for the sake of their children. But if they’re honest with themselves, many parents may feel as though they are running on a treadmill, trying to keep up with the pace of those around them and worried that they could be depriving their children of future success if they jump off that treadmill. They fear they may disadvantage their child for life if they don’t sign him or her up for a wide range of classes and activities in order to build every skill and aptitude their child could possibly need for success in life.

But what if such overburdened schedules lead to unintended negative consequences such as stress, anxiety or even depression? What if an over-booked schedule deprives children of the simple joy of free play? Allowing children adequate time for child-directed, screen-free play fosters the development of a child’s imagination as well as cognitive, physical, and emotional strength. Active, creative play is also an important factor in healthy brain development, research suggests. Left to play on their own, children develop skills in resolving conflicts and advocating for themselves. They have the chance to practice decision making, discover their own areas of interest and do things at their own pace. Unscheduled time allows children to think, create and wonder. Importantly, unstructured play tends to increase physical activity levels in children.

With so many benefits to child-directed play, you have permission to jump off that parental treadmill. Consider the benefits cited above as good reasons for keeping your schedule free several evenings a week plus one full day on the weekend. If you’re likely to fill in those blank spaces on your calendar as new opportunities arise, then go ahead and put child’s downtime on the calendar, like you do for other important appointments, and don’t let your goal be easily derailed.

Resist the pressure to cram your schedule full of activities and instead encourage your kids to use those blocks of time to create their own homemade fun, ideally without electronics or a pop-culture-directed script. Allow them to become the authors of their own lives rather than puppets following someone else’s script. And when you’re tempted to compare your choices to those of overscheduled neighbors and friends, remind yourself that you’re giving your child a valuable gift: the luxury of time for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression. In the process, you may be cultivating healthy habits that could last a lifetime.

 

By Anita Dualeh

 

The Heart of the City 10K

On Saturday, September 10th, hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers will descend upon Burnsville for the 5th Annual Heart of the City 10K, 5K, and 1K races. The event is presented every year to benefit the Twin Cities Boys & Girls Club of America’s Kids Feeding Kids (KFK) program. This initiative helps to get food to area Club youths five nights per week and on school early-release days – times when children are often most at-risk for food security issues. This year’s event is also being billed as a “Run to Remember” – participants are encouraged to dedicate their race to a loved one they have lost.

Kids Feeding Kids

Nearly ten years ago, Brad Rixmann of Burnsville-based Pawn America met with local leaders of the Boys & Girls Club in order to discuss the serious issue of childhood hunger. Knowing this was an issue in his own community through his work with the organization, Rixmann took action and the Kids Feeding Kids program was born.

According to the non-profit organization Feeding America, 15.3 million kids under the age of 18 live in food-insecure households, meaning they, “are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.”

“What we found was that about 5 o’clock, a lot of kids would leave the Clubs and go home and weren’t getting the nutrition they needed,” Rixmann said in a video about the event.

“We see immediate benefits because there are a lot of kids that end of staying at the Club until the Club closes around 8 o’clock or so at night,” Rixmann added. “They’re getting the help they need, whether it’s with school, or learning how to shoot baskets – and with that nutrition, it helps them today.”

Since its inception in 2006, the KFK initiative has served nearly 150,000 nutritious meals per year to Twin Cities and Rochester youth.

The Heart of the City – Three Races for a Great Cause

The Heart of the City event is one that many people from across the area look forward to every year. Both the 10K and 5K courses are certified and cover a gorgeous area of the City of Burnsville, just a short drive south of the Twin Cities. The children’s 1K race is a fun way to get youth involved, all while benefiting KFK programs in the region. Race fees are $45 per person for the 10K and $35 for the 5K; all participants receive a long-sleeved T-shirt, refreshments, and goodie bag. There are also several amazing prizes up for grabs for teams and individuals, as well as a raffle.

A Run to Remember

This year’s Heart of the City race is dubbed a “Run to Remember,” in honor of loved ones who have passed away. In 2013, Jordan Huver, the daughter of one of the event’s founders and an avid volunteer, tragically passed away in an auto accident. At the 2014 Heart of the City race, Jordan’s mother Trish gathered 130 friends and family members in order to “Run for Jordan” and honor her spirit and dedication to children’s causes. This year’s participants are invited to dedicate their runs to anyone they may have lost and want to remember.

For more information on the Heart of the City races and to register or volunteer, visit the event website at www.HOTC10K.com.

 

By Rachelle Gordon

 

Everything You Need to Know About the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

The Minnesota Renaissance Festival is the summer highlight for so many Minnesotans (and even our neighbors in surrounding states!). While the future location of the Fest is in question, the land lease has been extended through 2019. That’s welcoming news to the die-hard fans, who now know we have at least a few more summers of donning our capes and chain mail and ordering a glass of mead. While you can, be certain to get down to Chanhassen and experience the RenFest in all its current glory. To make the most of your time there, consider planning your visit during one of the many themed weekends and be sure to check out the new features added this year.

New Attractions

New additions to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival this year are a “Wizard’s Flight School Zip Line,” whiskey and scotch tastings ($45/person, schedule posted online) and Renaissance Bingo. A new contest introduced this year is called “The King’s Karpool.” Contestants and three or more friends will decorate their car in a cohesive theme, using #KingsKarpool on both a social media post with a picture of the car/contestants and on the car itself. Winners will be announced daily at 1pm on the festival’s social media sites. Make sure you like/follow the Renaissance Festival on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram to see the winners – and maybe even get in on the action!

Theme Weekends

The opening weekend, August 20-21, is “Silk Road: Discover the Riches” and features a Fairy House/Garden competition as well as many Far East related activities. If you’re feeling confident about your ability to sway your hips to the beat, there’s even a belly dancing competition. Middle Eastern music will also be featured, so both your ears and eyes will be tantalized by the sights and sounds.

If you’re looking to spice things up a bit with your significant other, or to just enjoy some delicious treats, September 10-11 is “Wine, Chocolate & Romance” and includes a chocolate festival, chocolate pie eating contest, and free vow renewals for the true romantics at the Banner Oak Event Center. There is also a grape stomp to practice your wine making skills and a Ménage a Trois wine demo. A great addition to the weekend is “Sign Language Saturday,” at which American Sign Language interpreters will be at the festival all day to interpret at the front gate, for stage acts, and other daily events.

The season concludes the weekend of October 1-2 with “Oktoberfest.” This weekend, even though it’s the last of the season, is definitely one of the most entertaining themes. If you have a Dachshund with speedy little legs, consider entering him/her in the Weiner Dog Races – but make sure you pre-register! If you have a lustrous beard that turns heads (in a good way), make sure to be around for the Beard Contest. And don’t forget to save your appetite for the Sauerkraut Eating Contest. The Bavarian Village, a collection of shops, vendors, and more, is also an opportunity to learn more about German culture during Renaissance times.

Pro Tips

If you’ve never attended The Minnesota Renaissance Festival before, here are a few things to know: The festival is open weekends from August 20 to October 2 from 9am-7pm, regardless of weather. Arrive as early as you can in order to avoid traffic–as the day goes on it gets really congested the closer you get to the parking lots. Wear comfortable shoes. Be prepared in case of rain. There is a booth at the State Fair that sells discounted tickets, otherwise, tickets may be purchased at the festival’s front gate when you arrive. It’s a canine-friendly event, but make sure you visit their website, www.renaissancefest.com to make sure you have all the information you’ll need to know about bringing your dog. Their website also has more details on schedules, stage acts, and contest information.

2016 will be a great year for the RenFest, so grab your friends, make a cloak out of an old sheet, and let yourself feel the magic of history and imagination come together in this great Minnesota tradition.

 

By Whitney Grindberg

Annoying Pet Behaviors and How to Stop Them

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Any pet parent will tell you that their furry friends are like a member of the family – but just like your human relatives, no pet is perfect. Incessant licking, destruction, and barking are a few of the annoying pet behaviors that seem nearly impossible to stop. Fortunately, there are humane and effective ways to correct your four-legged friend’s unwanted actions – read on for some expert advice. Unfortunately, we can’t make any promises for your Uncle Rick’s constant pull-my-finger gag.

Whining, Meowing, Barking – What’s All The Ruckus?

When a dog or cat is making a lot of noise, there are a couple of typical causes. The first, and more serious, is that the animal is hurt or ill. However, it is far more common for a dog or cat to get loud simply because they want attention. Ensure your pet is well-exercised and has plenty of engaging toys around to keep their minds busy. This will prevent excitement barking when company comes and constant whining when you’re trying to relax for the evening. If noise-making is still an issue, try your best to ignore the animal. When Fluffy finally quiets, give them lots of positive praise – and belly rubs! This will reinforce the behavior you want – not the one you’re trying to eliminate.

Puppies of Mass Destruction

Uh-oh – you’ve been gone all day at work and come home to find your most expensive shoes chewed to bits. Why do dogs wreck our stuff and get into the trash? Again, this can often be attributed to boredom and/or excess energy. However, chewing on appropriate items can have benefits for your dog’s oral and mental health – so how do you get your dog to pick the rights things to wreck? When you catch your pup in the act with an inappropriate item, remain assertive and correct the action immediately by replacing the item with an appropriate item. Removing temptation is also helpful – keep shoes in the closet and recyclables in latched plastic containers. Out of sight, out of mind!

Begging – No You May Not Have a Bite

Does your dog or cat park themselves under your feet at the dinner table, hoping for a morsel to munch on? Begging is one of the most common – and rude – pet behaviors across the board. When it comes to doggy table manners, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Resist the urge to share human food with your pet, whether it’s during meal time or not. In addition, control Sparky’s access to the dining area. Keep them in their crate or another room during meals and give them their own chew toy or Kong to work with.

Final Thought

Man’s best friend is not always perfect – just like the humans in your life. Prevent unwanted behaviors by keeping animals active, both physically and mentally. If issues persist, reach out to your veterinarian for assistance. Having a pet is supposed to be joyful, so nip any problems in the bud before your furry friend becomes an enemy.

 

By Rachelle Gordon

 

Wild about Wild Rice

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For many of Minnesota’s earliest inhabitants, the coming of autumn was associated with wild rice. Just after the wild rice harvest in late August or early September, this nutty, earthy grain was a mainstay of Native American diets. Though most plentiful right after harvest, wild rice was also “finished” and stored for use throughout the year, often for thickening stews containing venison, fish, or wildfowl.

To this day wild rice is celebrated with fall festivals, including the Wild Rice Festival at the Harriet Alexander Nature in Roseville, Minnesota. The annual event, taking place this year on September 17th, is billed as “A celebration of wild rice, Native American culture and Minnesota’s harvest season.” At the festival, Minneapolis’s Pow Wow Grounds Café will be selling this year’s wild rice in the form of wild rice quiche, wild rice muffins, wild rice soup, wild rice scones and wild rice parfaits. Café owner Robert Rice, who himself is a traditional wild rice harvester, said he usually brings in about 300 pounds of wild rice from Leech Lake per season, which is enough to supply his café with nearly all the wild rice it uses in a year.

Wild rice is featured in the migration story of the Ojibwe people. As tribal prophets had predicted, the Ojibwe migrated westward from the east coast of North America until they found the food that “grows on water,” which they called manoomin. They still revere wild rice as a special gift of the Creator. And this aquatic grass still grows naturally in Northern and Central Minnesota. Historically its range included our entire state. Natural wild rice grows in streams as well as in lakes and marshes with some moving water from inlets and outlets or flowages, usually in water six inches to three feet deep. An annual plant, wild rice grows from seeds that have fallen into the water the previous autumn.

Up until the 1960s, all wild rice grown in Minnesota was truly wild, and our state produced half of the global market supply, most of it hand-harvested. Once cultivated wild rice was introduced, machine-harvesting and processing followed, bringing down the price of wild rice. Cultivated wild rice sells for about half the price of real wild rice. This hasn’t been good news for the Ojibwe, who still harvest the native aquatic grass two per canoe, one operating the forked push pole and the other knocking rice into the canoe with a pair of wooden flails.

The State of Minnesota website suggests a soak method for cooking wild rice that greatly reduces the cooking time, though it does require planning ahead: rinse a half cup of wild rice and soak in three cups of water overnight. Drain and add the soaked wild rice to a saucepan with three cups of water and a half teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain the rice and use in your favorite recipe.
Wild rice is quite versatile and a welcome addition to breakfast, lunch or dinner. For a fiber-rich start to the day, heat cooked wild rice with enough cream or almond milk to make a porridge. Add dried or fresh fruit of your choice and a sprinkling of toasted almonds.

Wild rice makes a tasty salad with the addition of some olive oil and your favorite chopped vegetables and/or fruit. Consider a combination of chopped celery and apple, dried cranberries or apricots and cashews. Or try cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers, parsley, and red or green onion with salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
For a classic side dish, cook half a pound of wild rice in water till tender and then mix in a pound of mushrooms that have been sautéed in butter. Alternatively, stir cooked wild rice to your favorite potato or mushroom soup recipe. Add it to a frittata or turn it into stuffing for fish or pork chops. However, you decide to prepare it (or buy it prepared), plan to eat local this month by enjoying a meal or two featuring wild rice.

 

By Anita Dualeh

Wedding Gift Shopping Guide

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The leaves are about to change and soon, the summer heat will cool –  but the Minnesota wedding season is very much still in full swing. Most couples use wedding registries at big department stores that are accessible no matter where you live, but that doesn’t help much in trying to decide what to buy. So how do you choose what to bring to the big day?

Ask the Couple What They Want

One of my favorite memories of our own wedding registry was a very kind and thoughtful gesture on the part of a friend of mine: she asked us what we would most like to receive. So if you know the couple well enough, don’t be afraid to just ask them what they want. Some things people add to their registry are filed under the category of “oh that would be fun” items, and some are “if we don’t get this we’ll have to buy it” items. The surprise won’t be ruined, as by the time they open their gifts they probably won’t even remember your conversation. Every time we use our giant two-person sized beach towel I am reminded of the kindness of the friend who gave it to us and thought to ask.

Utilize a Theme

Another fun idea is to shop for gifts with a certain theme. Working within their registry, pick out a few kitchen utensils, wrap them in a utensil holder with some tissue paper, and stick a grocery gift card in with your card. If you want to add more of a personal touch, compile your favorite family recipes in a three-ring binder, along with any history or anecdotes that go along with them. If kitchen items aren’t available, head to the bathroom aisle and wrap the toothbrush holder, set of hand towels, and some delicious smelling hand soap inside a laundry basket. Tie a giant bow on top, and you’ve got yourself a nice little gift ensemble.

Think Outside of the Box

Sometimes by the time you get around to buying a gift, the registry is completely picked over. In that case, you’ll have to think outside of the gift box a little bit. Breweries and winemakers have gotten very creative in the names of their brews, so look for a couple of funny (or ironically) named bottles, add a pair of appropriate glassware, and a thoughtful card. Feel free to include tags on the bottles like “For after your honeymoon” or “One Month Anniversary.”

 Buy Local

With the recent emphasis on things locally made, consider quality hand-made items as gift options. A nice set of cloth napkins, a kitchen apron with matching pot holders, or a simple quilt. If you aren’t creatively bent yourself, local craft fairs, boutiques such as The Farmer’s Daughter in White Bear Lake or Bibelot in Minneapolis, and even Etsy.com are all excellent resources for finding well-made handicrafts.

Whatever you choose, try to be as intentional as possible. But take comfort in that no matter what you choose, weddings are such a flurry for the families involved that any slight blunders will hardly be noticed. The point of a wedding, after all, is to celebrate the joining of two lives, surrounded by people who love them.

 

By Whitney Grindberg